Rebellion Festival 2023: Part I – Thursday 3rd August

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Rebellion Festival

Rebellion Festival

Thursday 3rd August - Blackpool Winter Gardens

It’s that time of year again, Rebellion Festival is once more upon us, an event that sees thousands of punks from across the globe descend upon the Northern seaside town of Blackpool. This has become an annual pilgrimage for many to experience everything the punk world has thrown at us over almost 50 years. From the class of ’76 & ‘77 who are making their familiar appearances, to the new bands who keep the energy levels up and bring something new to the scene, and pretty much everything in-between. From the relative mellowness of the literary and acoustic stages to full blooded screaming hardcore, it’s all here for four exhausting days when Blackpool briefly becomes the punk capital of the world. 

Rebellion

Whilst the rest of Europe has baked under the relentless record breaking temperatures, the UK’s Summer has seen rain, a lot of rain, in Blackpool’s case almost 250% more rain last month than it usually encounters, which is one of the reasons why indoor festivals make so much sense in the UK, it also means that the omission of the open air R Fest stage this year is probably for the best. Rebellion’s line up always shifts and changes, and post pandemic and Brexit cancellations have become an inevitability, but sometimes they are for personal reasons and everyone at The Punk Site wishes Milo of the Descendents, Dave Vanian (The Damned) and HR (Bad Brains) a swift recovery after they were forced to pull out of appearing due to serious health issues, they would all have inevitably have been highlights of the Rebellion Festival and hopefully they can return in the future.

Rebellion Festival

Once more we’re heading into the greatest (punk) show on earth to catch up with friends and experience the old, the new, the familiar and the downright strange, not necessarily in that order. The reunions with old friends and rebellion attendees start before we even make it into the town centre, even the rain has relented and we’re back in what feels like our spiritual home, at least for the next four days. It feels like a long time since we were here in ‘22, time then seems to ebb and flow in the Winter Gardens and suddenly it’s like we’ve never been away as we meet friends and band members, often the same thing, we’ve met over the years as we re-familiarise ourselves and we’re off in earnest to cover a taste of what Rebellion has to offer. First up we manage to catch the tail end of Pinhead Larry’s set as the opener for our weekend, anyone familiar with the Mancunian DIY scene will recognise the members of the band. This is a gold lame clad spirited blast of fast and furious punk rock that we wish the queue and distractions had allowed us to catch more of.

Rebellion

Forget your purist principles, punk’s crossover with rock is a joyous thing. Ask Lemmy, if you could. And that’s an apt intro to Systeria because the Syteria / Girlschool connection puts rock firmly at the forefront of this band’s modus operandi. It’s sheer bad luck that there’s a need for a guitar amp head replacement during the first song, but the band soldier on and triumph. Syteria deliver almost perfect ballsy pop rock with a sweet West Coast undertone and bags of melody that holds this early Opera House audience enraptured. This is a tight and accomplished band with great songs that thunder and rock. Don’t fear the melody. This is great and timeless pop rock with a socially responsible theme that’s all killer. We love it.

Syteria

After putting in a tremendous late night set, headlining the sold out pre-Rebellion Fringe show at The Tache yesterday, today The Meffs are the opener in the Empress Ballroom. The Meffs kicked off with Broken Britain, a thought-provoking and emotionally charged track that offers a poignant reflection on the social, political and cultural landscape of contemporary Britain. The Meffs craft a powerful narrative that speaks to the challenges, hopes, and complexities of the modern world. The room was rammed yet this in no way distracted Lily as she strutted around the stage as if it were home, with Lewis looking equally as comfortable enjoying the usual banter with Lily and powering through the songs in equal measure. It was over far too quickly but judging by the rapturous applause the duo received at the end of their set they’ll be headlining many of the larger venues from here on in.

The Meffs

David Delinquent & The IOUs are making a welcome appearance after playing one of the Rebellion Fringe events last night, always a pleasure to catch and one of the most likeable men in punk, he returns with his new outfit, never predictable and never disappointing, they deliver a set of punk rock that pulls from their varied influences and spikes it with a Dundonian twist. If you imagine the scenario of transplanting the very very early days of the Manic Street Preachers to the mean streets of Dundee this may have been the unlikely outcome. What we lose in translation is made up for with a set of melodic power pop fuelled punk that maintains the standard set by the early acts we caught today. 

David Delinquent

Now Rebellion favourites and a fixture, Svetlanas remain hugely popular as the queue to the Empress Ballroom attests. Even in the sound check, the band sound mighty and there’s a huge sense of anticipation as the band prepare to hit the stage. This is a band well suited to this bigger venue, but the separation from the audience does not diminish this band’s furious energy. Olga, as ever commands attention, the living embodiment of confrontational punk rock. The band are brutally tight, a thunderous, glorious noise, unsettling in its intensity and viscerally thrilling. This is a band that only does 100% and leaves you battered and exhilarated. Mesmerising and a bit scary.

Svetlanas

Tits Up are an up and coming punk band appearing on the Introducing Stage, and they deliver a show that lets the audience know that this is a band to watch out for in the future. A trio who seem to rebound mostly off the drummer, this was made startlingly clear when a pep talk to the lead guitarist consisted of a slap across the face, worked perfectly we’d say. A powerful blend of indie and punk music that is driven by a vocal of devilish proportions, let’s guess these might be back for more another year, we’d say they deserve a crack at it.

Tits Up

A brief refuelling stop at the superb Dirty Blondes (not a strip joint) bar for cocktails (espresso martinis have become a traditional mid afternoon pick me up for us at Rebellion), and pizza sets us up for the rest of the first day, starting with Teenage Bottlerocket, with the by now much stickier floor in the Empress Ballroom almost welding us to the spot. Teenage Bottlerocket do everything you’d expect, this is 1234 Ramones-core to the bone, relentless short and high energy from start to end this is a band doing what they do and doing it well, no frills, just 4/4 punk rock on stimulants, nothing more, nothing less, and the it provided the energy boost that was sorely needed and they keep the spirit of arguably the most influential band in punk alive.

Teenage Bottlerocket

It’s Pulley in the cavernous Casbah and their brand of rollicking, muscular skate punk is proving to be a big hit with a substantial and excitable crowd. Do this band need any introduction, not when you’re talking 90’s American melodic punk they don’t, hitting the stage and giving the audience exactly what they wanted.  It’s a mighty noise and fun, a joyous celebration of the popular genre, if not startlingly new. Slick and polished, this is a brilliantly lively and uplifting set from these Californian melodic hardcore veterans who know how to work a crowd.

Pulley

Fat Wreck Chords stalwarts Good Riddance have brought the party to the Empress Ballroom and it’s a full-on romp through a blistering set of accomplished Californian hardcore. There’s plenty to love in this joyous communion with a large and highly appreciative crowd. Tuneful and rousing, Good Riddance are clearly enjoying themselves and they’re bringing the crowd along with them. This is a good time and no mistake. Loud, raucous and relentless good times with songs like Weight Of The World and One For The Braves ringing around this historic Winter Garden, with the audience screaming the words right back at them, its easy to see why they still command a place on that stage.

Good Riddance

Rarely have we witnessed an audiences collective balls in the hands of an artist, yet here we have Fire Priestess OORYA (Pronounced Who Are YA!) doing just that during a delightful yet fierce set on the Almost Acoustic stage. Evan Pete Bentham and the Dinnerettes in attendance didn’t dare move, transfixed (or terrified) in their chairs. OORYA is a joy to behold whose songs blends fuse punk and disco with some interesting electro effects (Think Nina Hagen meets PJ Harvey). You might struggle to work out the algorithms in play here but I guarantee you’ll come away as one of the many left spellbound after seeing an OORYA performance.

OORYA

After a packed out performance in the Opera House in the afternoon, Pete Bentham & The Dinner Ladies deliver a second helping of art punk energy. The visual and musical story telling of the Goth Postman and Liverpool’s legendary Queen Victoria’s Knob remains as captivating as ever, but this time he’s joining in with the Dinnerettes interpretive dance in the relaxed Twin Peaks ambience of the Almost Acoustic stage area. We are also told if we want to get ahead ‘You Gotta Work!’ the band certainly does that alright by also doing another turn later at the dinnerladies disco in the theatre bar. Now a firm Rebellion favourite, may the kitchencore uproar continue as a refreshing change from the raucous side of the weekend. As we wander between stages we notice that the Rebellion attendees opinion of King Charles has been made clear on the suitably adorned Coronation photo, proving that some things are constant in the UK punk scene, God Save The King my son!

Rebellion

After what seems to be a fractious and extended soundcheck, Cherym explode into vibrant and joyous life. There’s a lot of sass on display from this Northern Ireland three-piece but it’s built on a solid base of raucous pop sensibility and gorgeous singalong tunes. Cherym also know how to work a crowd and deliver a strong inclusive message without preaching. Great songs and buckets of charm. They’re playing the Introducing Stage this year, but destined for bigger and better things, so they are.

Cherym

The Ramonas are another Rebellion regular and their acoustic set loses nothing from the electrified version that will appear later this weekend. They hit the spot with a selection of the Ramones greatest songs, and like Slady, who are playing later today, they embrace the spirit of the originals and provide a late night singalong for a crowd than covers at least three generations. When they ask for the crowd to accompany them they are not disappointed, as a raucous, slightly off key backing is gleefully provided by the crowd. 

Rebellion

We’re back in the Introducing Stage on a recommendation and it turns out to be an interesting steer. Northern Ireland’s Problem Patterns take no prisoners from the outset. It’s a very late night slot but there’s a good crowd that builds through the set. Problem Patterns have bags of attitude and a spunky Derry riot grrrl vibe that’s endearing and a little bit intimidating. After this we head off to catch Slady, the all female tribute act to glam rock legends Slade. And at this time of the morning they make perfect sense in their own way and offer a distinct contrast to the previous act. Those left at Rebellion might all have thousand yard stares, but who doesn’t love at least a few tunes by Slade

Problem Patterns

Utterly preposterous, the world’s only all-female Slade tribute. Preposterous but utterly brilliant and what a fantastically incongruous addition to the Thursday roster. Slade iconography (mirror hat, Dave Hill‘s glitter fringe and shoulder pads) front and centre, this is a timely reminder of how magnificent Slade were in their pomp. But this is also wonderfully punk because it’s so magnificently bonkers. Slady have Slade down to a tee, with Noddy’s trademark rasp faithfully reproduced for a super-enthusiastic crowd, some of whom are clearly of the original vintage. It’s an unsettlingly odd but uplifting experience that was well worth persevering deep into the early hours of Friday for.

Slady

Photography by Phinky, Mark Cartwright, Gary Hough (Shot From Both Sides) and Julie King (Julie King Photography)

Words by Peter Hough, Phinky, Mark Cartwright, Gary Hough & Cheryl Jolly.