Live Review: The Great British Alternative Music Festival (Saturday) – Butlins, Minehead, UK, 9th March 2019

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Great British Alternative Music Festival (Saturday)

Butlins, Minehead, UK - 9th March 2019

At the start of day two of The Great British Alternative Weekend jaded looking punks can be seen wandering the grounds of Butlins in search of breakfast, although a few head straight for the bar for a a hair of the dog that savaged them on the opening night. The slightly bewildered looks from the bar staff, who were probably hoping for a quiet start to the day, is testament to the enduring appeal of the perennial pissed punks Peter And The Test Tube Babies, who are joined on stage by yesterday’s opening act, Charred Hearts. Peter And The Test Tube Babies are the forefathers of everyone from The Dead Pets to the likes of Dirt Box Disco and Hung Like Hanratty, they deliver fast raw punk rock that doesn’t take itself too seriously and they well and truly blow the cobwebs away.

Next up is a pair of vintage acts starting with GBH, now a fixture on the festival circuit and, at least from a distance, defying the forty plus years they’ve been in existence. There’s no doubting GBH’s influence on the hardcore scene but what’s more surprising is that they are as fast and brutal as ever live, in this case punk might be getting on a bit but it certainly isn’t dead. The early afternoon in Centre Stage is a relentless wake up call from the second wave of the UK’s punk scene, the Angelic Upstarts are another band who haven’t mellowed or changed their outlook with the passing of the decades. The Angelic Upstarts have retained their blue collar left wing defiance and their fury and energy is undiminished, their appearance sees the Centre Stage absolutely rammed.

Department S bring a different vibe to the afternoon with a set that marks the final gig by long standing bassist Pete Jones, they were also joined by Ruts DC guitarist Leigh Haggarty. The post punk and new wave set makes for a welcome contrast to the bands that preceded them. Department S deliver a perfect set of tunes that spans their existence from 1980’s Is Vic There?, the one song that everyone present at Butlins knows, to 2016’s Wonderful Day. Department S are so much more than their hit single, catchy, bass driven punk-pop numbers such as When All Is SaidAnd All Is Done, Going Left Right and Kings Of The World mean that it’s no surprise that many present rated this as one of the performances of the weekend.

Sadly I have to cut Department S‘s set short as the Introducing Stage is kicking off with Criminal Mind, a band who bring a much needed burst of youth, energy and adrenaline to an afternoon that has been dominated by bands from punks history, they provide a welcome reminder that that our scene is not embedded in the past and that it has a bright future. Their blend of punk and hardcore makes them my personal highlight of the weekend so far and they get my vote for today’s Introducing Stage, and as one of the best live bands out there at the moment.

The Introducing Stage continues to bring new blood into The Great British Alternative Weekend with the wonderfully named The Fuckwits, like many of the bands appearing on the Introducing Stage they are already established but for many this is the first exposure to them. The Fuckwits deliver a set of old school punk rock that fits in with the vibe of a weekend that sits under the label of alternative but is mainly populated by punk bands. Which leads us nicely into Knock Off, fast, abrasive, fuck you punk rock that is summed up perfectly by their slogan of football, beer and punk rock, do I need to elaborate further? The final band on the Introducing Stage is Falling Apart, they bring another facet to the afternoon with a rock tinged version of punk that has a distinctly theatrical touch.

The Rezillos appearance is preceded by some apocalyptic music before they take the stage and launch into Someone Is Going To Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight. It doesn’t matter how many times I see The Rezillos there’s something captivating about their hyperactive kitsch that has an enduring appeal. Eugene Reynolds and Fay Fife still making for an enduring and captivating double act that retains the charm that they had four decades ago, something that makes them the only punk band of that era that has retained the exact attitude, image and style that made them so appealing in the first place. Anyone who has seen The Rezillos before will know they don’t do poor gigs, tonight was no exception.

You don’t need to be a punk or even be someone who is really into music to be carried along and engulfed by the infectious, guitar driven, bounce along perfection of aa gig by The Undertones. From their opening notes the whole of Centre Stage becomes a heaving mass of joyous pogoing as classic song after classic song that everyone knows and loves is delivered by a band that have not only got some serious attitude but who also clearly enjoy what they do. There’s no pretensions, just a flawless hour of songs that never seem to age. If people thought the floor was bouncing for The Skids last night then this took it to a new level, with some people watching Toyah downstairs claiming they could see the ceiling moving.

I am one of those downstairs underneath the bouncing ceiling in the Reds Stage for Toyah, I make no apologies for this being an exercise in nostalgia on my part as the Four More From Toyah EP was one of the first singles I bought, as opposed to stealing off my Brother, and I’ve never really had the chance to hear those songs live before. The diminutive eighties icon takes the stage in a sequinned dress and what strikes you is that she presumably has a truly horrendous portrait in her attic, other than a more conventional haircut she seems to be unchanged, this also applies to her set which is unashamedly nostalgic and is centred round Toyah’s heyday of the early to mid eighties.

The day ends with two tribute bands dedicated to two classic punk bands, The Clash and The Jam, personally I’ve never seen the point of tribute acts, whilst both are faithful to the originals I can’t help but feel that there are original bands, both established and up and coming, that could have filled their slots, nostalgia has its place and punks past can’t and shouldn’t be ignored but if people dwell too far in the past then what does the future hold for our scene? Tribute bands, with the sole exception of the Sex Pistols Experience, have never really done it for me so I decide to head off and end the day by investigating the selection of gin that’s on offer.

Tickets for Butlins 2019 Live Music Weekends can be booked here

Photography by AJ PhinkJohn King and Steve White. You can visit Steve White‘s Flickr site here, John King‘s Live Music Pix website here and you can click on any of the photos to view a slide show of the images.

Review co-written by Steve White