Live Review: Rebellion Festival – Saturday, Blackpool Winter Gardens, UK, 4th August 2018

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2018 Rebellion Festival (Saturday)

Blackpool Winter Gardens, UK - 4th August 2018

It’s the Saturday at Rebellion Festival, the sun has decided to make it’s presence felt and temperatures have risen for what is inevitably the busiest day of the weekend, the Saturday has also established itself as the day when I find that the excess of the first two days builds to an inevitable hedonistic climax, and this year is no exception so I’m glad that we make notes as our combined memories of today are somewhat hazy. As usual the first stop is the Introducing Stage, today for the appearance of The Murderburgers. We arrived five minutes late for The Murderburgers. Way too late. The room’s already rammed and heaving. We can only report that The Murderburgers are making a glorious raucous racket and that you couldn’t squeeze any more people into the Introducing Stage. Sounds frantic and ace from from out here. Lesson learned – be on time.

The first band we can actually see today is The Gakk, it maybe an easy link to place them in the tradition of tuneful Irish punk pop, given that they’re from Dundalk. Maybe it’s that music is never far under the surface of the Celtic psyche. If you’re old enough to remember Rudi from back in the day, you’ll have a point of reference for this. The Gakk‘s melodic blend of power punk and ska is well received by an enthusiastic and swelling early afternoon audience in the Pavilion Stage. Straight ahead punk rock that is certainly deserving of a bigger stage.

It’s good to see Choking Susan bringing their Detroit punk rock to the main stage at The Empress Ballroom, the band recently lost their long time bass player Eric Horn, and like The Adolescents they are doing what their fallen members would want them to do and are carrying on, and they delivering a stunning set. As ever Colleen Caffeine is a mesmerising stage presence as she is in equal measure burlesque performer and dominatrix that is mixed with pure punk rock attitude. She is backed up by a heavyweight trio, including their new bass player, who bring that fuck you attitude that comes from the city where punk rock arguably originated with The Stooges, a link they cement with a version of I Wanna Be Your Dog that would make Iggy Pop proud.

It’s as if the intervening years haven’t happened. It has been some years since this reviewer last saw Vice Squad but it’s soon apparent that the passing years don’t matter at all. Vice Squad are better than perhaps they think they are. Totally in tune with their audience and full of punk rock swagger, this is not a blast from the past. This is alive and vital second wave punk rock from a band who have walked the walk and been there and done it. Massive charisma from the front but no arrogance – Beki Bondage still has it and you would be foolish to resist.

The Outcasts make a welcome return to the Rebellion Festival and they kick it off in fine style with The Stooges 1969, a band who’s influence runs deep at this festival. They follow this up with Self Conscious Of You, and I’m reminded just exactly why The Outcasts were one of my favourite acts of last years Rebellion Festival, they may have been overshadowed in recent years by other bands from Northern Ireland but for me they are one of the original, and I would argue best, bands from Belfast’s embryonic punk scene. They display the same depreciating and ironic humour as the first time I saw time and although dismissive of their role in Northern Ireland’s musical history The Outcasts are a band whose influence had been overlooked for far too long. Tonight was joyous low key celebration of punks origins, and like last year this is one of my highlights of the Rebellion Festival Weekend.

Well, you can’t kill a good song. Touted as the new Buzzcocks back in the day (themselves the new Beatles), Chron Gen carried the flag of tuneful punk rock through the new wave of British Punk. They should have been massive but never really broke out of that restrictive punk label. Glyn Barber IS Chron Gen and this intimate set on the Almost Acoustic Stage just underlines the quality of the songwriting. The set is a mix of old and new material along with a cover or two. It still gets you, as it did back then, and the newer material fits seamlessly. The energy is different (Chron Gen are playing later – we’ll see) but here is a man from the sharp end, undiminished. Familiar material for some, new for others but quality assured.

The Stupids provide a welcome flashback to the chaos of the eighties hardcore scene, another band I haven’t seen in around three decades, it’s hard to tell if they’ve changed as I have little recall of those shows, and it seems likely that I’ll have little recall of this one as well, but they’ve clearly lost none of their intensity over the years. A stumble following The Stupids set causes a minor head injury and minor blood loss but in true punk style this doesn’t slow me down and after a few recovery shots, I cannot remember who prescribed this but it worked, I manage to catch the wonderfully named Menstrual Cramps delivering a set of riot grrrl influenced punk rock.

There’s a growing buzz ahead of Antisect‘s Pavilion Stage set that Ian Dury’s chirpy cockney musings on the PA can’t dispel.  The Rebellion Festival‘s strength is its eclecticism and Antisect have pulled a fervent and enthusiastic crowd abuzz for what is to come. There is a cornucopia of anarchy-punk on offer at Rebellion: Antisect would have been better placed on The Empress Ballroom stage. It’s a heavy duty message well received by a packed crowd. You’re not going to mess with Antisect. In your face, motherfuckers. Brutal. the revolution has been legitimised. Fuck, that’s heavy.

I decide to head down to the front for Discharge‘s set as I’m neither old enough or wise enough to know better. Discharge are intense and although their line up has changed their attitude hasn’t, I catch a flailing boot from a crowd surfer to my already injured head and I remember little more of their set. Fortunately my co-writer was somewhere in the crowd behind me. I’ve seen GBH and Antisect, I have an idea what might be on the menu from hardcore pioneers Discharge. There are fans aplenty in Club Casbah – not least the ineffectual ceiling fans moving the dense, humid air around the venue. There’s something unsettling about Discharge that no amount of riffing will dispel.  But it’s satisfyingly unsettling and a timely reminder that music can energise the revolution, not just entertain the revolutionaries.

 Chron Gen are fresh and vital, there’s no sense that this is a tired nostalgia trip. Glyn is an engaging and self-effacing frontman, letting the music speak for itself. Have the Chronic Generation grown up? No. They didn’t need to and we’re still here. Then it’s Ruts DC, a band who have managed that trickiest of musical transitions, losing two high-profile and much loved founding members over the years but losing absolutely nothing of their distinctiveness or connection with their audience. There’s no distinction between the old and the new and the high points come from both eras. I don’t get the feeling that anyone in a packed and sweaty Club Casbah is there on a nostalgia trip. Still vital, still brilliant, still worthy.

I close the day with Popes Of Chillitown who are killing it on the Pavilion Stage, a place that more than other has become the second home of ska for the weekend, everything I thought about their last album, Work Hard, Play Hard, See You In The Graveyard, is confirmed by tonight’s show, their unique mix of ska, reggae, hip hop and punk livens up a crowd that has given it everything in every way imaginable today. What happened after the penultimate day at the Rebellion Festival is a mystery, I know we made it back to the hotel but what occurred inbetween leaving the Winter Gardens and arriving there is a complete mystery, I’m blaming the flailing boot to the head during Discharge‘s set and I’m sticking to that story.

The Rebellion Festival will return between the 1st and 4th August 2019 and early bird tickets can be purchased here

Photography by Dod MorrisonGary Hough

Co-Written by Peter Hough