Rebellion Festival / R Fest – Blackpool, UK, Sunday 7th August 2022

  • Peter Hough posted
  • Reviews

Rebellion Festival / R Fest

Blackpool, UK - Sunday 7th August 2022

It’s the final day, Rebellion seems to have simultaneously been on forever and for about five minutes, after three days of near constant booze, bands and a lot of walking we are certainly feeling the effects, but we power through for one more day of sun, punk, sea and maybe not quite so much beer as we’ve been drinking since we arrived. The brilliant Thee Acid Tongue from Birmingham, UK are first up over at the Introducing Stage, despite it only being 12:30.  Here we have a trio that are firing on all cylinders to a sizeable crowd despite the early start, and they are proof (not that it was needed) that this is a band playing fast paced good old punk rock and roll and one you simply must go and see.

It is the reliable sound quality of the Pavillion stage that brought us back here for Death Trails, who keep the momentum going on this final day in the Winter Gardens. Watching the band sound checking confirms that it is a good choice. Death Trails veer from bouncy power pop to thrash and back again. They wail, they thunder and make a mighty racket for a three-piece. Just right to blow away the Rebellion Sunday cobwebs. Sweetly brutal.

I, Doris are dressed in their trademark tabards and they bring a jaunty feel good feminist post punk disco party, along with a good natured opposition to the patriarchy, and they cheekily reinterpret tonight’s R-Fest headliners Squeeze’s Up The Junction from the Girl From Clapham‘s perspective. The sun is shining and they bring a breezey poppy start to a day as the sun beats down on Rebellion. They reinterpret moments from the poppier side of alternative from The Go-Go’s through to the Fun Boy Three. We were happy that all of us became a Doris, at least for the duration of their set.

It has been 41 years since this reviewer last saw Altered Images and it’s likely the same for about a third of the R-Fest audience. This stage has presented different approaches to its nostalgia: Toyah‘s chirpy commentary versus The Primitives’ rather dour and unengaging approach. Altered Images are in the Toyah camp and this is showcraft pure and simple. Song 2 is the pop-perfect I Could Be Happy and we’re right back there in the day. But it still sounds fresh and wonderful. And better yet, there’s more to come. Clare Grogran is a modest but compelling figure at the front and is revelling in this exposure to such an enthused crowd. Wonderful. In a nod to the anticipated audience, we get Insects and Dead Pop Stars – two songs from the time before Top Of The Pops. Not strictly pop, not post punk. Both. Neither. Superb. No one predicted Altered Images turning out to be one of our favourite bands of the weekend, but that’s what’s happened.

Buzzcocks, well what can we say that hasn’t been said before? Here we have Steve Diggle and the band giving the crowd a good balance of old songs such as Fast Cars, Promises and Harmony In My Head, as well as some tasters from their forthcoming album, Sonics In The Soul, that is due out in September. This included their forthcoming single, Manchester Rain, that clearly shows Steve Diggle is prepared to move the band forward after the sad passing of his beloved bandmate Pete Shelley, who Steve fondly remembered during the set. Buzzcocks have a renewed energy and this bodes well indeed for their continued success, as does the jam packed R-Fest arena.

To keep the vintage feel, although this one from the opposite of the Atlantic, we also catch The Avengers, brutal old school US punk delivered with an authentic attitude. But After three-and-half days of frantic punk energy it comes as a bit of a relief to take a seat in the Almost Acoustic room for Cherry & Peesh to enjoy a sharp and observant set of socially aware … what is this? Punk rap? Poetry set to music? Two voices and guitar combine to make a powerful but understated statement performance. Cherry B‘s sharply observed raps are a natural fit for Peesh’s musicality. Punk spirit by the bagful and yes, poetry is rock ‘n roll.

Doyle, the eponymously named band of the former Misfits guitarist, eventually take to the Casbah Stage and bring a touch of crushing heavy darkness on a day that has so far had a distinctly poppy vibe to it so far. They seem to have upped the ante since we last saw them and they win the heaviest band of the weekend, and provide a distinct and brutal contrast to the majority of the acts we have caught today. Meanwhile over at R Fest Tom Robinson‘s got this. While not best known these days for his music career, it’s surprising to hear song after song and to register the occasional “I didn’t know that was HIM!” moment in the crowd. There are lots of pumped fists and plenty of rapturous applause. All the hits are here and,of course, there’s a special cheer for 2-4-6-8 Motorway. Tom Robinson is a great showman and can work a crowd with the best of them. A great set from one of post-punk’s great figureheads.

The UK Subs up in the Empress Ballroom, they ran through a full on set in what seemed like 20 minutes, albeit it was probably more like 45 minutes.  As usual the place was packed to see what is now traditionally one of the longest serving punk stalwarts and there’s certainly no doubting Charlie Harper still has the passion and some energy to get up there each year to do Rebellion as he took the crowd through Stranglehold, Party In Paris, and many more. Emotional Blackmail was in a way a teaser as we all wonder every Rebellion if this will be the one that Charlie decides enough is enough. Hopefully this won’t happen anytime soon.

Billy Bragg is kind of immortal. From the amount of audience participation he encourages and receives, it’s clear that he’s preaching to the converted. Protest music is alive and very well thank you. And thank goodness. But Bragg’s no-holds-barred socialism is just a reflection of his understanding of the wider human condition beyond headline politics. Sexuality gets a fantastic reception from the R Fest crowd, updated as it is for more contemporary struggles. Good-natured diatribes, terrible puns and complicated anecdotes are part of the showmanship but at the end of it all, we’ve been entertained and informed in equal measure.

Even condensed into one short set, Squeeze deliver an astonishing masterclass in how to write timeless pop music. This timelessness makes this the antithesis of a nostalgia gig. Hit after hit in a relentless and joyous barrage make this a perfect closer to the R-Fest experience. Condensed in this way, you get a real helicopter view of the band’s changing styles, from the driving pop of Pulling Mussels From A Shell to the sharp and wistful country stylings of Labelled With Love. Glenn Tilbrook is a seasoned and affable frontman but the band are missing Chris Difford, who is recuperating from an operation but after a false start it’s a fan who steps up to deliver Chris’s trademark growling lead vocal to Cool For Cats, or as Glen Tillbrook’put it: “as if Sean Ryder joined Squeeze“. A celebration in every sense and over much too quickly.

Being the last band to perform is always tinged with a sense of pride, but can also be seen as a slot that is like the graveyard shift from a bands point of view.  To this end, Benefits stepped into the breach, a band that have taken the country by storm recently (and deservedly too), even the soundcheck found you picking yourself up from the back of the room even after clinging on the the barrier at the front like your life depended on it, the sound man was let mouth wide open and in ore of what was about to happen. Even as the streams of people coming out of the Stiff Little Fingers gig next door, this band were pumped and ready, so off we go, with songs of Empire and Flag waving, that seek to rip apart the actual need to be of an empire or hide behind a flag, and so much more, you need to listen and take what you need form these songs, but hopefully they speak to a youth and nation that should no longer feel the need to be anything other than inclusive and all hearing, all this layered over the top of an anti rock n roll, anti music even, soundscape.  Pure aggression is Kingsley Hall’s lead vocal stance, an untamed attack on the senses is what you’re getting here.  Afterwards the comments that came from around me, made so much sense of what had just happened, “best band I’ve seen in 40 fucking years of listening to punk rock”, “what the fuck just happened”, “the future of punk has just arrived”, and then there was a question to myself “so why does coming from Teesside make him so angry?, I’d never heard of Teesside until now” my reply was simple “if you lived there you would get it. Yes this was the best band to close Rebellion, for two reasons, they encompass what Punk Rock started out as, a music and movement that stood up for all that is wrong in the music!, And this is what punk should always do, evolve.

It’s been a welcome return to Rebellion with everything that it offers in it’s traditional Winter Gardens site and for us the R-Fest has been a welcome addition, one that offers another dimension to Rebellion, for the most part this has been enabled by the sunshine, with the exception of The Vapors, and it has embraced a good natured mellower vibe than its sibling in the Winter Gardens. From Svetlanas to Squeeze, Doyle to I, Doris, Benefits to Billy Bragg, Rebellion covers punk in all its forms and now embraces its distant cousins, something that can only see the Rebellion family grow, and that can’t be a bad thing. Did we see everyone we wanted to see and meet everyone we knew was here, well no, it’s impossible to keep up with the volume of acts on over the weekend and sacrifices had to be made, for me any day this weekend would have been a welcome Groundhog Day, and presuming there are no more apocalyptic events we’ll be back next year.

Words by Phinky, Mark Cartwright, Gary Hough and Peter Hough with photography via Phinky, Mark Cartwright, Gary Hough, Dod Morrison and Steve White. You can also read The Punk Site reviews of Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Rebellion Festival / R Fest.