Rebellion Festival / R Fest – Blackpool, UK, Thursday 4th August 2022

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Rebellion Festival / R Fest

Blackpool, UK - Thursday 4th August 2022

Back in 2019 we limped out of our hotel to the car after four days of excess and the best soundtrack in the world, confident in the knowledge that we would be back in twelve months, and, well, we all know what happened next. There was a valiant effort by the Rebellion organisers to put something together as restrictions were lifted late into the Summer of 2021, the HITS25 (Holidays In The Sun 25th Anniversary – the origin of the festival we have come to know and love), but whilst this was a fine day out it wasn’t the full multi stage hit of punk in all of it’s forms. Now finally after two long years, and a lot box sets and movies, we are back where we belong for the annual four day celebration of the music we love.

Blackpool’s corpulent yet eternally vigilant gulls have been waiting for this weekend. While there is no shortage of chip-eaters in the town through the summer, it’s the annual migration of the alternative-minded to Rebellion that must surely provide the high spot of these airborne velociraptors’ summer season. It’s not that punks are careless with their food remains: I’m guessing that as a group, they’re probably more likely to be generous to the local wildlife. Blackpool has changed and not changed since the last full pre-pandemic Rebellion. The once-overgrown crazy golf course on the seafront has been transformed from eerie Walking Dead abandonment to a fully-functioning attraction where, for a couple of quid, you can actually play crazy golf. We preferred its post-apocalyptic derelict chic. The other change is the addition of a huge outdoor stage for R-Fest. We’re not sure what the R stands for (Retro? Rebellion?) but it’s to be the scene of many memorable – and some forgettable – moments in the days to come.

After the obligatory pints and reunions we eventually find the new location for the Almost Acoustic Stage for Sally Pepper. The Almost Acoustic Stage is a big space in an airy room upstairs and quite a daunting task to engage what is, for an early Rebellion Thursday, a big audience but Sally Pepper has it covered. Just one person with an acoustic guitar and big personality keeps this crowd enthralled with her vital and spunky set. Fuck the Tories is always going to be a good rallying cry, but there’s plenty more impassioned songcraft here. One to watch.

Over in the Empress Ballroom are Janus Stark who have been on our list to see since back in 2020 when Covid put paid to that Rebellion and the 2021 half Rebellion didn’t feature them, so this was it!. With the release of their latest album Face Your Biggest Fear back in July, and it possibly being their best to date, the excitement of catching the songs live was a no brainer.  So what did the crowd think then, well I’d have to say that this might have been the biggest crowd I’ve seen on the main stage at this early a time in the day. Gizz Butt was simply being the showman he is, and when Reassuring hit the speakers, it sealed the bands place in Rebellion history as a band that should have been a headline, but were just as happy to be rocking the fuck out of 1pm.

We then head over to R-Fest for Millie Manders & The Shutup which involves much negotiating of barriers and queues, but eventually you enter an arena of beer, food and even some seating, and I can’t think of anyone better to open this stage. Kicking off with The One That Got Away they bring the expected joy and energy to Rebellion and after two barren years it feels good to be back. They’re set covers their early EP’s through to their sublime full length, Telling Truths Breaking Ties, and is the kind of joyous life affirming ska fuelled punk that nails the start of a festival and the clouds part as they play Bacchus, and you know that there’s nowhere I would rather be this weekend. Their Little Mix cover and closers Right To Life, a frantic I’m Bitter and Your Story seals the deal for a glorious start to a weekend that has been sorely missed since 2019. 

The R Fest Stage, outdoors in front of the iconic Eiffel Tower’s little brother and on the dated Comedy Carpet, had the best sound and set up of the whole festival. Millie Manders & The Shut Up were followed by the man who can launch a 1000 words of truth at you in minutes and sing songs that mean so much more to many of us too. Beans On Toast is the man of many festivals at the moment, well deserved too. Then not to rest on their laurels, Rebellion organisers must have thought, ok how do we top that, well with Ferocious Dog of course!, the Celtic rock gods blasted out a set that had passers by reaching for they dancing shoes too I’d bet.  

A brief beer sponge and cocktail, which we recognise is counterproductive, at the fabulous Dirty Blondes bar (not a strip club) and we’re fuelled and ready to go for the post pandemic return of Svetlanas. There is massive anticipation for the Svetlanas in the Empress Ballroom. Perennial Rebellion favourites, Olga and her crew never fail to ignite the Rebellion crowd. As expected, it’s a full-on set of super hi-energy punk which is brutal, uncompromising and vitally thrilling. Real life in full effect that has the venue bouncing. What follows is a brutal masterclass in punk rock insouciance. New songs, no concessions. No fucks given. Svetlanas know how put out on a show. And then some. Awesome.

We briefly catch the unexpected pleasure of the accordion fuelled punk of Sinful Maggie before heading back into the Empress Ballroom for The Bouncing Souls, where the heat is already emanating up from the old school main stage. There’s a palpable sense of excitement screwed up another couple of notches as this popular band launch into a fierce set of uptempo punk anthems. Short sharp melodic thunder that’s a huge hit with the mosh pit. From the number of phones held aloft capturing this performance, it’s a much anticipated show. Big singalong choruses and 110% energy from a band clearly up to party. Possibly the hit of this first day and over much too soon

Playing their first ever Rebellion after years of attending Slalom D set off on the Rebellion Introducing Stage as if they had always been a part of it, the crowd was varied, from the young new punks all the way up to the likes of myself (yes I’ve been around a very long time), this to them was like a mosh pit to drive along at their will, Fiona Duncan with her lead vocal straight from the pubs of the North East was as angry yet as soft as she needed to be when needed, the band drove each song like a steam train at the audience, songs like Jerusalem from their earlier years were backed up by the likes of G.L.A.M “what the fuck do you think your looking at” being the best line and Final Girl which is just sublime in every way. 

Where do you start with Rites Of Hadda? the extravagant insect themed outfit, the soundtrack, the costume changes? no matter this is a unique experience and unlike anything else you’ll experience this weekend. Sex and drag and rock n roll. It’s a frankly bemused audience for Rites of Hadda. It’s a shame for them, because this is pure I-don’t-give-a-shit punk rock n roll. There’s not much here for you if you like your punk straight down the middle because this is straight out left field punk rock cabaret. vocalist Wasp is dressed as a kind of bee spider (and costume changes are on the cards). The sax gives this a X-Ray-Spex vibe and if you like your punk off-centre and gratuitously odd, this is definitely for you. Theatrical, odd and true to the original spirit of punk rock.

Back to the outdoor stage for Misty in Roots’ slick and heavy dub. This is a big hit with a substantial R-Fest crowd and the punk/reggae crossover has turned into a huge and super chilled out celebration in the sun. Credit to the R-Fest sound crew for a perfect mix too. A laid back yet also energetic set of first class reggae from the revered veterans for a wildly appreciative crowd.

Hawkwind are a band that transcend genres, hardcore punks mingle with stoners and die hard fans, all equally entranced by their set. Levitation is a striking opener, whilst their projections impact is limited by the fact it’s still daylight, Hawkwind deliver a hypnotic set that goes back to punks origins. The driven bass is hypnotic and few others can pull this off, although many have tried, they remain the original and best in this field. Whilst they might have meandered into self indulgence, and we have no idea how many songs they played in their extended sonic jam, we’re still glad we were here.

When at Rebellion, sticking to a list is not always the best way to find great music, Smiley & The Underclass proved this. Turns out this band out the big smoke (London), play a razor sharp and fully loaded style of Dub Punk that was going down a storm as I entered midway through the first song, a young and eager band that will defiantly be there when the old guard move over I’d say. Not having seen these or truthfully listened to them beforehand, the 2 songs that massively stood out were Jump The Barrier and the outstandingly brilliant  Babylon Is Spiralling Out Of Control.

Original punk/power pop combo The Boys’ brand of driving melodic slices of tuneful pop might be more suited to smaller, more intimate venues but a substantial crowd in the Casbah are grooving enthusiastically. Two songs in under about six minutes and this promises to be a crowd-pleasing set of singalong crowd pleasers. Super-melodic and a great mix captures the spirit of 78. No frills, all thrills. Ace. Meanwhile Anti-Flag are making their second appearance of the day after appearing in the Empress Ballroom earlier on in the evening. It was always our intention to catch them, and in this stripped back manner, they didn’t disappoint. A packed out Almost Acoustic Stage sees them give even more meaning to their songs of anti racism, anti government and anti everything else that needs to be called out. Whilst Rebellion rumbles on into the early hours we stagger back to our temporary homes with the welcome prospect of doing it all again tomorrow.

Words by Phinky, Peter Hough and Mark Cartwright with photography by Phinky, Mark Cartwright and Julie King.