Rebellion Festival – August 2016 – Blackpool

Rebellion

No, I didn’t go to Bloodstock.  Not really my thing.  My personal genetic make-up is probably 40% Rawk, 42% Goth, 43% Punk, 12% Hiphop, 8% Indiekid and 6% Raver, with the remaining 11% being split between Industrial, EBM, Techno and Guilty Pleasure Pop.

I wouldn’t really have enjoyed Bloodstock.  And I hear there was some drama about press coverage and reviews and shit there anyway, so I fucked off up to Blackpool to Rebellion the weekend before instead, to indulge my 44% Punk side.

But in any case, Rebellion Festival is Best Festival. It’s better than all the others for five reasons. These are:

1)   You don’t have to rough it.  The stages are (mostly) indoors.  You don’t camp.  You stay in a B&B.  Blackpool B&Bs are dirt cheap.  I think I paid less for my Rebellion ticket, travel, and accommodation than I did just for the ticket to Download.  There are hundreds of B&Bs less than five minutes walk from the venue.  Which means that you’ve got a proper toilet, bed, and shower all of your own, as well as getting a decent cooked breakfast.  And aside from one stage, it’s all indoors.  So even if it’s pissing it down, you don’t have to give any fucks and can enjoy it all.  It’s the most civilised attack on civilised society that you could hope for.

2)   It supports new acts and bands.  It’s got a new bands stage that has broken some genuine talent.  Some people that were given a chance on the smaller stages at Rebellion have gone on to play on the main stages.  I saw a fuckload of people you’ll probably hear of when they make it.  The thing about punk is anyone can do it.  This is a chord, now form a band.  Louise Distras even started out by busking outside five years ago, and then got asked to play the new talent stage, then playing each year until this year she’s one of the main acts.  The only barrier to your band playing Rebellion is whether you’re actually any good, not whether you’re signed or have management or anything like that.

3)   There’s always something fucking excellent to do.  A load of my mates are there.  This is partly linked to section 2, in that being in a band that plays on the arse-end Pub-Punk circuit, much of the festival is drinking and talking shit with people I sort of vaguely know from some gig somewhere.  The reason I wrote a load of shite in between bands at Download (and cheers to those of you that liked that, by the way) was because there was a lot of downtime.  But at Rebellion there’s no downtime.  If you’re not watching a band, you’re putting your feet up and listening to Jello Biafra talking about why American TV news loves Donald Trump, or seeing Kunt and the Gang being a horrible bastard with a Jimmy Savile puppet, or wandering by mistake into a Rockabilly ukulele orchestra, or nursing a hangover by getting stuck into your hair of the dog with Hobo Jones’ weird skiffle punk, or… It’s not wanky nonsense like hipster head massages in a fake Stonehenge in the woo-slinging field at Glastonbury.  It’s the good shit.

4)   Legends.  Now, you might think that Slayer headlining at Bloodstock, or Maiden at Donington is legendary stuff, and yeaaah, okay, kinda.  But part of the reason you get so many American punk bands (and by that I mean ones that are approaching legend status themselves) coming to play Rebellion, is because they can hang out with the people that wrote the songs that defined the genre. Someone I know that was backstage was telling me that Lars Fredriksen (the guitarist wot’s out of Rancid, who are legit legends now too) was geeking out over meeting the singer from Peter and The Test Tube Babies this year.  I mean… we’ve all seen Peter and the Test Tube Babies in local pubs on the British Punk scene, but to Lars they’re legends.  Last year at Rebellion, I got to see Pete Perrett from The Only Ones play Another Girl, Another Planet (which is the bestest song ever in the entire world that isn’t Zodiac Mindwarp’s Prime Mover) in the damn bar.  And Arthur Brown tell everyone that he’d like to sing a nice, happy love song but he was sorry he couldn’t because he had to announce that he is THE GOD OF HELL FIRE.  And the Damned – the first band to release a punk single.  They were there.  And Captain Sensible was wandering around and had time to stop for a chat and a selfie with anyone that wanted.  And the Buzzcocks – wot did that Ever Fallen In Love song.  And Jello bloody Biafra.  And Charlie Harper of the UK Subs.  And one of the last living Ramones.  And Peter Hook.  And Don Letts doing a crazy spliffed out cosmic-level skanking DJ set.  And Jilted John.  (And alright Spizz, you’re a legend too, mate.)  And… fuck… I’m forgetting people… but it’s telling that there are so many damn legends around that I can’t even remember all of them, and that they aren’t too up themselves to hang around with everyone and chat with the punters or charge five hundred quid for a meet and greet thing. Living Legends.  They’re everywhere.  Only outnumbered by the ghosts of the fallen legends who haunt the stages and are conjured up when Peter Hook plays Love Will Tear Us Apart, or CJ Ramone does Blitzkrieg Bop.  Ghosts and legends.  Ghosts of legends.  But anyway, onto the next reason why Rebellion is the best of all festivals:

5)   DirtBox Day.  DirtBox Day is the day the band Dirt Box Disco play.  Dirt Box Disco are the best British band you’ve probably never seen or heard.  On the day that Dirt Box are playing, you can hear everyone singing the happy little refrain ‘hooray, hooray, it’s Dirtbox Day’.  If you’ve seen Dirt Box Disco then you know what I’m on about and are nodding in agreement.  If you haven’t, then… well… seeing Dirt Box Disco at Rebellion is sort of like having been there for The Who at Leeds, or Nirvana at Reading, or Pink Floyd at Pompeii or… no, look, I’m not being hyperbolic here.  When a singer gives up on the song and just grins because the crowd knows all the words and is drowning him out, then you know something special is happening.  Dirt Box Disco at Rebellion makes everyone smile like snow during term time, or the first time a sexual partner says to you that they’re okay with doing that thing you want to try that you saw that time in that video.  Let me try to explain Dirt Box Disco.  First, they’ve got tunes – they know how to write a pop song with a singalong chorus that would make the beetle-browed brothers Gallagher reconsider their life choices.  The singer is a Juggalo in a onsie, the guitarist, known to his friends as Spunk Volcano, sports a one-eyed terrorist balaclava with an orange Mohican embroidered on the top and too small Captain America boxer shorts and no trousers They hold the all-time Blackpool record for Most Crowd Surfers.  You’ll see more people wearing Dirt Box Disco t-shirts at Rebellion than any other band, because all the punks love them, because they’re so bloody good.  If you want to play the game where you have to say they’re x meets y that marketing folk like to do when pitching films (Schindler’s List meets Transformers, Shawshank Redemption meets Dumbo.  On Acid – that sort of thing…) it’s probably impossible, but I’ll have a go anyway.  They’re 23% Insane Clown Posse. 9% Gimp. 11% Van Halen. 13% Gary Glitter (the singalong bits, not the paedo bits) 34% UK Subs.  19% Ramones.  21.5% Gwar.  8% Lady Gaga and 2% Your Mum.  Look… this probably isn’t helping. Just take my word for it that DirtBox Day is like punk Christmas.

Now I’ve convinced you that Rebellion Festival is Best Festival, I’ll try and review some of the bands I saw.  There were bloody hundreds of bands playing, so I couldn’t see all of them.  And some of the ones I did see, I was a bit wankered for and can’t remember.  But I’ll give it my best shot.

Oh, bloody hell… who did I even see… Okay, let’s look at the programme and try and remember…

(By the way, all headings should be links to the band’s Facebook page. Go give them all some love.)

Headstone Horrors

I bloody hate Headstone Horrors.  That’s not because they’re rubbish, but because they’re great, and I’ve got a horrorpunk band that’s sort of a bit like what they do, but they’ve got this amazing song called ‘Alone we are the Dead’, which is just too fucking good and I wish I’d written it and it’s got a fantastic hook and I bloody hate hate hate them for being talented and sexy and really good at what they do.  Fuckers.

Army of Skanks

Didn’t catch much of their set, but enjoyed what I did see.  Nasty women that play nastier.  Punker than thou in slinky dresses.  Consider this an honourable mention.

Drongos for Europe

Rum had happened by the time I saw Drongos for Europe, but one of their choruses stuck in my head anyway.  It was from a song about the fash and other assorted bigots, that went something like “You’ve never even met the people that you hate”, which is a valid criticism that I can get behind.

The Dwarves

The Dwarves are one of those legendary American Punk bands that I know fuck all about, except that they’re a legendary American Punk band.  Apparently that used to involve on-stage bumming and self-harm and getting into fights with the audience.  Sad to say that mostly didn’t happen this time.  Well, the guitarist was naked except for a Luchadore mask.  And the singer wanked him off a few times. What was the music like?  Oh, fuck, I dunno… I was utterly wankered by then.  I could go on youtube and look at some of their stuff and fake a review, but You’d Know, wouldn’t you?

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Hobo Jones and the Junkyard Dogs

Okay, hang on, I was sober when this lot played, so it’s obvious I’m not reviewing things in order here.  I’m afraid I’m jumping around a bit, as my notes are in a bit of a state.  You don’t care though, right?  Anyway… Hobo Jones…  Well, they describe themselves as a Skunk band – a mixture of Skiffle and Punk, no relation to any herbal substances (that’s their joke, by the way, not mine).  They’re sort of like The Wurzels crossed with Motörhead (Which is a funny coincidence, because a bloke called Würzel was in Motörhead) or sort of a bit like the Levellers.  Folk Punk basically.  Except it’s not Folk, it’s Skiffle.  Oh bloody hell, I hate trying to describe bands by pigeonholing them in genres or portmanteau-ing other bands and genres in order to communicate what they’re like.

Anyway… to relate an incident from last year, the Boomtown Rats played, and Bob Geldof insulted everyone and was a bit of a knobend and had most of his audience walk out on him.

So, this year, Hobo Jones did a version of the Jilted John (more on him later, as I saw him too) song ‘Gordon is a Moron’ but changed it to Geldof is a Moron’.  And everyone sang along.  Because Geldof probably isn’t coming back to Rebellion without getting a few hundred bottles of piss thrown at him.  I mean, he might have singlehandedly solved the problems of famine in Africa and brought about world peace and tried to sink Nigel Farage’s boat on the Thames, but he is a total felchwizard.

So, yeah, a few thousand people singing Geldof is a Moron’ was good times.  

(Not actually from Rebellion, but you get the idea)

CJ Ramone

As I said in the intro to this piece, one thing about Rebellion is the necromancy that occurs.  CJ Ramone was here (and to be fair, he did play some of his own original stuff) to conjure up the ghosts of the Ramones that have gone before by playing Ramones songs.  He kinda managed it.  Sometimes.  And, to be fair, he did actually sing in the Ramones sometimes, as well as playing bass, but I mean… it was good to hear those songs played live to a crowd like this, and everyone had a good time, but well… I think CJ misjudged the crowd somewhat by dedicating the song Commando to the Armed Forces and somehow failed to connect with the audience overall.  He was on safe ground with Blitzkrieg Bop and Sheena is a Punk Rocker and did bring some of the ghost of this old band back for these songs.  Although, talking of honoured ghosts, he closed with a version of the Motörhead song R.A.M.O.N.E.S, which was originally written by Lemmy as a tribute to the Ramones, but played here as a tribute to Lemmy.  That’s all kinds of recursive.

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Okay, look, I know they’re another of these Legendary American Punk Bands, or at least were part of one, or are important somewhere in the family tree of Punk in some sort of way that requires Venn diagrams, but they just didn’t do it for me.  I’ll leave it at that.

Bouncing Souls and TSOL

Okay, I’m gonna mention these guys together, because I was definitely well into the rum and several pints of fermented apples by then, and my memories are blurring together a bit.  What do you really want to know about a band in a review though? If it’s ‘were they any good’, then yeah, they were great and I had fun because they were playing.  The next question is ‘what were they like?’ which is a bit harder to answer briefly.  Well, to attempt to answer that, then how about: you know Blink 182 and Green Day and Less than Jake were kinda sweet Pop Punk that had some great songs, but you’re not sure whether you’re embarrassed by them or not, and they’re a slightly guilty pleasure, and you wish they were just a bit cooler, and a bit nastier, but still had good songs.

Well – Bouncing Souls and TSOL are that. Great Poppy Punk. But cool.

The Dickies

I was really looking forward to The Dickies. Never seen them before, but love some of their stuff – like the theme from the Banana Splits and Killer Klowns from Outer Space and Gigantor. The Dickies are a kinda novelty band that are deeply stupid but fun, and somehow managed to have become legends along the way by sticking to the stupid fun stuff.

However… when they hit the stage at Rebellion, the bass player had to tell the crowd that the singer had been taken into hospital the day before with something seriously wrong.  He wasn’t joking.  Now, that sort of thing would normally fuck a band, despite the goodwill of the crowd, but what we got instead was a scratch rota of guys from other bands all coming up and doing Dickies songs with them.

I’ve had to look up who was there (see above bit about booze consumption) but here’s the list:

Brad of Leftover Crack

Ross of GBH

Blag of The Dwarves

Spike of Conflict

Dean of Extreme Noise Terror

Wattie of Exploited

Eugene of Rezillos

Jackie of Girlschool

Knox of The Vibrators

Andy of The Witchdoktors

And one of their roadies did some stuff too.  And apparently some bloke from Wales who knew all their songs and fancied having a go and helping out.

Now, it would have been cool to have had Leonard, their singer do a set (and get well soon, dude) but damn… if you’re going to have a load of special guests fill in for you, that list was sure as hell one way to get the crowd on your side and make something of it.

The Pukes

After The Dickies, I somehow found myself sitting in the Opera House for The Pukes.  A rockabilly ukulele orchestra.  Sitting down was lovely.  So were The Pukes.  And then I had a few more drinks and hung out with people and then passed out.

Werecats

I think I saw Werecats the next day.  Or maybe it was earlier the previous day. I dunno.  Anyway, you should go listen to Werecats.  Their songs are a bit like the theme to the Powerpuff Girls cartoon.  This is a compliment by the way, as if you don’t like the Powerpuff Girls or their song, then I’m sorry, but we can’t be friends anymore.  Werecats were all razortight fringes and hit hard growly guitars and close harmonies.  I ran into one of their singers at another gig recently and told her how much I enjoyed their set, but also made a bit of a twat of myself by trying to be funny by asking whether they are cats (we’re cats), whether they used to be cats (were cats) or whether they turn into cats at full moon (were-cats).  Argh so embarrassed by when drunk Ali tries to be funny argh why am I telling you this now even argh

Wonk Unit

One of the British Pub Punk scene’s standard fixtures.  We all love them.  They’re stupid.  That’s why we love them.  Everyone that’s been in a Punk band in England has probably supported Wonk Unit at some point.  Wonk Unit somehow manage to have their own unique look and sound.  There’s not really anything quite like them.  If I’ve got to bandportmanteau to describe them, then the best I can do is Black Lace (that band wot did Agadoo) meets The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.  And I have no idea how that ends up being Punk.

Anti-Nowhere League

I probably should apologise to a few people for going to see Anti-Nowhere League.  There was a bit of a boycott suggested because some of their lyrics are supposedly not anti-nowhere, but anti-gay.  Now, the singer, Animal, has explained that the lyrics in question were taken from an overheard conversation and not his personal views and he’s trying to make some sort of point about society being homophobic, so I’ve taken the view that… well… I just wanted to see them do So What and We Are The League really… and they’re probably not homophobic.  And, well… they’re nearly up there with Judas Priest in terms of tight leather and studs and… you can probably see where I’m going with this.

Anyway, dear reader, I did see them do those songs and they were lovely.  Anti-Nowhere League are sort of kin to Motörhead in the place they slot into in British music. Like Motörhead, they’re a big influence on US metal bands like Metallica and they play the kind of dirty fast Rock ‘n’ Roll like Motörhead, that Punks can get behind, even if it’s not strictly Punk.

Peter Hook and the Light

Let’s start right away with this one by saying that this set was the highlight of the weekend for me.  If you don’t know who Peter Hook is, then let me just explain quickly that he was the bass player in Joy Division and in New Order and ran the Hacienda nightclub, which was where British House Music and the Madchester scene came from.  He’s someone that’s one of those legends I was talking about earlier.  Because that’s not just one band or one event that changed music.  That’s three.  And tonight he was performing necromancy.  He was playing a set of the music he’d played in Joy Division, invoking the tragic Ian Curtis, his mate.

Now, Peter Hook wasn’t the singer in Joy Division, but his status as legend is more than earned, and tonight, playing those songs to this crowd – which probably included some people who’d even seen Joy Division the first time around – he couldn’t afford to be a half-arsed cover version.

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And, maybe it was because of the amazing acoustics of the Opera House he was playing in.  Maybe it was because I was right up at the front.  Maybe it was because he looked all of us there at the front right in the damn eyes as he was giving it his all.

But this was transcendent stuff.

This is great material, and the sound was perfect, and Hooky’s big hammering boomy clunking almost cello-like bass went right through us all, and by the time he hit Shadowplay, with its sinister, doom-laden opening bass riff that marked the birth of Goth back in the late 70s, there was no fiddling with phones, nothing but being lost in that song – and Peter Fucking Hook is looking me right square in the eyes and growling ‘To the centre of the city in the night, waiting for you…’ at me.

It doesn’t get better than that.

Except he then dropped Dead Souls.

Now Dead Souls also changed music and pop culture.  Not the Joy Division original as such, but Nine Inch Nails’ cover of it, on the soundtrack for The Crow, which was the album where grunge went dark and Brandon Lee running over rooftops and dying turned a pretty good film into something that meant a lot to us mixed up Generation Xers, it was a film and a soundtrack that brought back Goth and gave disillusioned kids something old, and something new, and something borrowed, to listen to.

I have taken the piss a bit in some of these reviews, and a lot of what I’ve said isn’t meant to be taken seriously, but there, that night, in that dark opera house full of phantoms, the dead souls of Ian Curtis and Brandon Lee came like Loa to rum and moved through us and I really fucking mean it.

You probably think I’m talking shit, but some of you… some of you… will know what I mean and have experienced your own version of touching the arcane in a time and place like that.

Oh, and he then played Love Will Tear Us Apart.  A bleak song about separation and alienation.

And every damn person in the place sang along like it was Dancing Queen at a hen night.

Kunt and the Gang

And then there was Kunt.  Go look him up on Youtube.  But not if you’re at work.  Kunt and the Gang is really just one bloke, called Kunt.  Kunt had apparently got stuck in traffic on his way to Blackpool, and had been supposed to play earlier on one of the smaller stages, but the opera house was pretty packed out for him, so that probably turned out for the best.

Now, let’s not beat about the bush. Kunt should be banned.  And incarcerated.  There should be no place in right-thinking society for someone that performs with a puppet of Jimmy Savile, which attempts to defend itself for being a vile paedo by blaming it all on sexy kids.  I mean, really…

But let’s face it, we’re all a bit broken.  We’ve all gone wrong.

Everything’s so fucked that we need a Kunt to talk about all those horrible things that we’re not sure it’s okay to think about, and make us feel a bit better about ourselves for thinking things like them too.

I think I got some sleep after Kunt.

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(me and Kunt and an octopus.  Upside down.  Because fuck you, that’s why)

Interrobang

Remember Chumbawumba?  The radical anarchist band that got accused of selling out when they decided to write a hit single with Tubthumping – the ‘I fall down, but I get up again, whisky drink vodka drink, fall down get up etc song.

Well, Interrobang is the bloke singer wot was in Chumbawumba’s new band.  I’m not going to give them much space here, as they were a bit pants.  With all the collateral material talk about ‘Agitpunk’ I was hoping for something like old Chumbawumba, and the singer walking in from the back of the room yelling into a megaphone was quite 90s Politicopop, but aside from the guitarist using a looper to build up tracks, which was kinda cool, everything else was a bit dull.  Oh well.  Not sure if it’s me that’s stuck in the past, or them, but actually, you know what, why am I wasting words on this?  Next!

The Kut

Okay, go and find their stuff right now.  The Kut were fucking excellent.  One of the bands on the ‘Rebellion Introducing’ newcomers stage, The Kut absolutely melted faces with epic guitar widdling.  I mean, yeah, epic guitar widdling isn’t usually a Punk thing, but damn… this was good… It’s a bit of a cliché to use Hole as a reference point for woman fronted guitar bands, but Hole are clearly a big influence on The Kut.

And I don’t want to risk appearing sexist by saying that you don’t normally see epic face melting guitar widdling from a woman, because there are loads of women playing in bands at Rebellion, but managing to get high level shredding into a riot grrl type punk set made me go ‘whoa… damn… The Kut are fucking excellent’.  Musically, they’re better than Hole and the Kuts’ singer, Maha, is a much better guitar player than Courtney Love.  If any of the bands on the Introducing stage are going to break through and get big, it’s these guys.  Or Werecats.  Probably both.  Hopefully.

Spizz

Oh, Spizz.  Spizz, Spizz, Spizz

Spizz is a sort of legend.  He had the first number one on the Indie music chart with a song about Star TrekWhere’s Captain Kirk?

He dresses in clothes with his logo all over them, that he makes himself, and is never short of glowing LEDs and flashy things.  His social media feeds seem to consist of him mostly eating Cornettos in the bath.  He seems to have kept going in the music business, somehow, since he had his few hits and has kept touring on a fairly low level, forever.

But… the Star Trek number one he had wasn’t his one trick.  He’s actually got a few decent songs, and a couple more really good ones, and knows how to get a Pop hook into a Punk track.  I think that makes him New Wave, if we’re going to stick a genre on what he does.  Not the world’s Rawkiest Rawkstar or Punkiest Punk, but with the Michael Crawford-ish voice and flashy stuff from Cyberdog and New Rocks, he’s sort of like Frank Spencer does Cybergoth.

Anyway, Spizz does what Spizz enjoys, and Spizz enjoys entertaining a crowd and working it.  And he did that.  His band are really bloody good too.  I reckon a song he wrote a couple of years ago –  City of Eyes – would have been a big hit if it had been released in the 80s, but times change, and well, I have no clue whatsoever what makes it into the charts these days, so am unqualified to judge anything’s contemporary hit-worthiness.  But Spizz writes great songs and always brings the fun.  And yeah, good backing band.

Jilted John

Jilted John is another one hit wonder, but what a wonderful hit.  The legend this time isn’t the performer, but the tale being told.

Every Punk knows the legend of Julie, stolen away from our hero by the nefarious Gordon.

And approximately 34.77% of the British population can’t hear the name Gordon spoken anywhere without it being followed up in their heads with the refrain ‘Gordon is a moron, Gordon is a mo-ooor-oooon’.

But what they might not have known is that there’s more than one song about Julie and John and Gordon, and here tonight, John sang the whole sordid tale for us.  I don’t really know what we were expecting.  I mean, I don’t think anyone thought that Jilted John would just turn up and sing about Julie and Gordon and crying all the way to the chip shop after being dumped, and leaving after one song, but expanding on the legend was like discovering that George Lucas had actually made more than three Star Wars films and hadn’t just given up filmmaking after Return of the Jedi, and the promised prequel series had been made after all and they had fascinating storylines and great acting.  What?  No, there are no Star Wars prequels.  Yes, I’m quite sure about that.  Shut up.

But yes, tonight John took us on the musical journey through his teenage lovelife in the era of punk, and a few thousand people sang along and called Gordon a moron too.

It occurs to me that despite the legend of Gordon the Moron being massively entrenched in pop culture, Jilted John had probably never played to a crowd this size before, so having that many people agree with him that Gordon was indeed a moron was possibly quite cathartic for the poor chap.

I really hope we helped him get over Julie.

Gordon, eh?  What a cunt.

The Old Firm Casuals

The Old Firm Casuals are one of Lars Frederikson’s bands when he’s not playing in Rancid – one of the great recent American Punk bands.  Rancid’sAnd Out Come the Wolves’ is genuinely a contender for a place in the top ten best Punk albums ever, although it’s probably more influenced by Ska and Two Tone and Jamaican rhythms than British Punk Rock.  But Lars is a massive nerd for British bands and probably has more records from all of the other bands on Rebellion’s line-up than anyone else there.

The Old Firm Casuals is Lars’ love letter to Oi bands and Skinheads and Football chants and working class British culture. From anyone else it might come across as a bit insincere and like someone from Guildford going over to Texas and touring with a Country and Western band they’d decided to call ‘The Alamo Cowboys’, but seeing as Lars isn’t just a massive fan of this sort of music, but has actually produced records for Oi bands like The Business, and wasn’t just watching from the side of the stage, but was right there in with the crowd when GBH were playing, he’s more than earned the right to be considered a part of the British Punk and Skin scene too on his own terms.

What was The Old Firm Casuals’ set like though?  Immense.  It started and didn’t stop and whilst, by its nature, it didn’t consist of classic songs that everyone knew, it was like being nutted in the face in the loveliest way possible.  It was distilled sonic violence. Like the feeling of getting into a ruck after pub chucking out time and winning every fight you started.

Talking of which…

The Damned

Or:– Ali Nearly Gets Into a Fight During The Damned’s Set But Sorts Everything Out Via The Healing Power Of Rum

Dave Vanian, being one of the undead, needed the sun to go down before he could emerge, but as darkness fell across Blackpool, it was time for The Damned to play.

I’d managed to secure myself a prime spot, right at the front and centre of the stage, although not quite up at the barrier.  Now, as it was summer-late darkness, and three days into a festival, much had been consumed in terms of booze and other delicious intoxicants.  Personally, I’d been relying on a squashy plastic pouch full of rum. You can get them on eBay to smuggle booze into venues with ridiculous bar prices where you’ll get patted down and actual bottles banned.  They’re sort of like a small colostomy bag.  But that this all meant was that the crowd was tanked up and heaving and sweating pure alcohol and Neat Neat Neat and New Rose make the pit go off big time.

Punk pits are a bit different to Metal pits.  Metal pits have rules and are generally fairly friendly affairs.  If you fall, you get picked up.  Most Punk pits are like that.  But some of the old farts (and by that, I mean people older than me) and proper nutters will really give it some.

Now what happened was that there were a couple of smaller kids right up against the barriers, and a woman who was using a wheelchair who were right down at the front too (and why the fuck shouldn’t they be?) and were getting a bit squashed and battered.  But, having been a county-level Rugby player in my time, and a bit of a gym bunny of late too, if I don’t want to be moved, I generally don’t get moved.  Yeah, I’m fucking hardcore, okay.  So, I put myself between the kids getting squished and the woman in the wheelchair, and the pit, and I don’t fucking move.  A couple of people crash into me and I push them away.

Then, some guy gets all scratchy and pinchy and without actually hitting me, is clearly trying to hurt me.  So, I’m like, WTF DUDE and push him away.  Hard.  At this point, one of the people in front of me has had enough and looks like she’s about to faint, and another guy is going ‘argh fuck, my back’, but they’re in the wrong place and can’t get to the barrier for the security guys to pull them out.

And there’s still a pit going on all round us, and it’s mostly old Punks who have no fucks to give, which is cool, but we’ve got one guy who’s done something to his back and a girl who looks like she’s going to faint.  So, I use my arms and push a bit and try to get a channel out to the side for them, so they can GTFO of there.  The women in the wheelchair has a few people surrounding her who are quite enjoying pushing pogo-pillocks and mosh-monkeys away, so she’s okay now, and the people helping her out get the idea that we need to make an escape route, but I’ve still got to push the scratchy bloke the hell out of the way, and a couple of other aggro-muppets need bouncing the other way too.

I think everything’s sorted, when I get someone all up in my face, doing the stabby pointed finger thing in my chest. I shall relay our conversation below:

Old Punk: OI! MATE! IF YOU DON’T WANT TO GET FUCKING HURT, YOU DON’T GO DOWN THE FRONT FOR THE FUCKING DAMNED!

Ali: THOSE PEOPLE WERE FUCKED AND NEEDED OUT, WHAT THE FUCK’S YOUR PROBLEM WITH THAT? WE LOOK AFTER EACH OTHER.

Old Punk: WELL, YOU WERE BEING TOO FUCKING ROUGH CHUCKING PEOPLE ABOUT AND YOU WERE GOING TO SERIOUSLY HURT SOMEONE IF YOU CARRIED ON!

Ali: WELL, IF YOU DON’T WANT TO GET FUCKING HURT YOU DON’T GO DOWN TO THE FRONT FOR THE FUCKING DAMNED – THAT GOES BOTH WAYS, MATE.

Old Punk: (lunges at me) RAAAARGH YOU CAAAAAAAAANT

Rest of crowd nearby: (grabs him) IT AIN’T WORTH IT, LEAVE HIM. IT AIN’T WORTH IT.

Ali: (sticks hand out, offering it to him for peace and sorting this out) Come on, here, it’s sorted now, let’s shake and have a drink. (Offers colostomy bag with rum in)

Old Punk: Aaaaargh, alright, life’s too short (glug glug glugh on the rum)

Then he gives me a hug and we’re all friends again and then Dave Vanian turns into a bat and flies around a bit before landing back on the stage to stalk sinisterly about and sing some more legendary songs and then Captain Sensible grabs the mic.

The Captain: Right everyone, it’s that time of night where if you don’t cheer loud enough, I’m playing Happy Talk, but if you do, you get Smash It Up!

All the Punks in Blackpool: (sings) SEN-SI-BLE’S A WANKER! SEN-SI-BLE’S A WANKER! NA NAA NAA NAA, NA NAA NAAA NAAAH SENSIBLE’S A WANKER, SENSIBLE’S A WANKER NA NAA NAAA!

The Captain: Oh, that’ll do I suppose! (Plays Smash It Up)

All the Punks In Blackpool: (Go fucking nuts)

The Captain: (Shows his arse to the crowd and leaves the stage)

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Jello Biafra

After the Damned, I wandered back to the Opera House, where Jello Biafra was holding court and being interviewed by John Robb of the UK Punk band Goldblade.  Now, Jello’s another legend from his time with the Dead Kennedys, which are one of the most articulate and interesting of the American Punk bands, because they actually knew what they were protesting against.

The Dead Kennedys were the dark shadow of the hippy movement, born at the moment when it was obvious that peace and love weren’t going to get America out of ‘Nam and the religious right-wing and censorship from both sides of the political spectrum were going to have to be fought with articulate activism instead.

For purposes of space, and let’s be fair, I have gone on quite a bit here, (and congratulations and thank you to those of you that are sticking with it), so I’ll leave reviewing his set, and talk about his speaking, as Jello did drop some science here in the after-midnight Opera House that I’d retreated to once again.

The first thing was his thoughts on Donald Trump.  The question was something along the lines of ‘how the hell has this muppet gotten this far and could he really win?’ and Jello’s answer was along the lines of that Trump is such a ridiculous and offensive idiot that the American news, which is built on entertainment and outrage rather than actual reporting, loves him because he provides them with so much material.  He’s the political equivalent of a radio shock jock.  Trump can say whatever he wants and get away with it, and he knows it, because of the airtime it gets.

Jello doesn’t hold back on Trump and his barely concealed racism, but explaining the root of his success as being a creature that feeds the news cycle and the exposure managing to reach people that his arseholery appeals to in a way that most arsehole candidates can’t usually manage, is fairly obvious really, but hearing someone actually put it that way is enlightening.

Jello also explained that the people that want someone like Trump to be president are extremely engaged with the political process, and definitely will vote.  They’re not apathetic or lazy and it’s a mistake to think that Trump might not win, because of the energy that horrible people have when they want to pick an even more horrible person to be horrible to people they hate.

The second thing Jello talked about that resonated with a lot of his audience of late night drunk punks is about punk’s relationship with anarchism and socialism.

Now – let me relate another brief anecdote – when I was on the train up to Rebellion, the carriage was full of Punks on their way to Blackpool, and the conductor who was checking the passenger’s tickets did that hilarious thing where he was trying to tell the Punks he was very glad that they were all conformists now and not being rowdy anarchists on his train.  There was also the really boring wank about ‘why do you say you’re individuals when you’re all wearing the same gear?’ (Seriously, if you’ve ever formed thoughts like that, please fuck off and stop reading things I write, because we really can’t be friends if that’s your thing.  Even if you give me rum.  No one actually says that shite about being an individual really, and in any case, tribal identify signifiers are not the same as uniform.)  The conductor thought he was being funny by implying that Punks being anarchists and individuals wasn’t true, and that this was an original thought of his that was somehow something he needed to impart to us all ad nauseum.  Fucking yawn.

Anyway, back to Jello and the purpose for that digression…

I didn’t write down his exact words, but Jello said that he started out as an angry anarchist, and just wanted to break and expose a system that didn’t work and was unfair.  But that when he got involved in campaigning on issues and blocking arseholes from the religious-right that were trying to get influence on schools and on other issues on a local level by making sure they weren’t voted into positions of influence, he realised that if organised effectively, voting could affect local outcomes to a significant degree that changed things for people in tangible ways.

He also explained – and this is where train wanker missed the point spectacularly – that his version of Punk, and that of many Punks he saw himself as aligned with, had evolved from anarchism to socialism because the penny dropped that even if you won and you beat the system and got into a position where you could redistribute wealth that was originally unfairly obtained, you still needed an administrative process for doing so.  And that’s socialism.

That got a big round of applause.   And, well, it’s hardly top-level economics, but it made a lot of sense in terms of how Punks managed to get old and not betray the values of their younger selves, or abandon the things they cared about, but evolve and mature.

Louise Distras

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Louise Distras is one of the best young performers in the country. She’s earned a place on the main stage at Rebellion with a mixture of hard work and talent and attitude.  And by ‘attitude’ I don’t mean being a crap cliche and posing and pouting with smudged lipstick and torn tights, but the attitude that if you want something, you need to get the hell on with it, and some people can just fuck off, and if something’s holding you back, you find a way round it and don’t wait for someone to give you permission to be a singer and make music.

As I mentioned in the intro, Louise started out at Rebellion by busking outside, and has made her way to the main stage with hard work and great songs.  Those songs are Nirvana chords and Billy Bragg lyrics, with a hint of the storytelling style of, oddly enough, Phil Lynott or Kirsty McColl. By that I don’t mean they’re unoriginal, but they’re a set of influences that work well together and are something we haven’t heard before.

She’s not afraid to pick a fight when standing up for a cause, and Louise is someone who’ll message you directly on Facebook to invite you to her shows, and has a bit of time for a chat, but whom you’ll also see diving into arguments with the kind of bigoted alt-right hate creep keyboard warriors that are threatened by any woman with a voice, let alone one with a loud guitar.

What’s the set like though?  Well, it’s raw. At times there’s feedback, due to not having fifty grand’s worth of gear and a gang of techs, like some of the other bands here have. The songs about fighting for a better life have an authenticity to them, and when Louise announces new material, it seems to have moved on from the poems of a girl with dreams and a cheap guitar, and to have a message for everyone else, and more bite, and are stories about serial killers and rape culture amongst anthems that advise us to ‘fall in love, don’t fall in line’.

Despite the anger, there’s love in her work too, and it shows on stage. Whilst obviously despairing a bit at the state of things, there’s no cynicism in terms of trying to write crowd-pleasers for the sake of shifting units, and of all the younger performers at Rebellion, Louise Distras has probably got the most to say about the world.  And damn… despite a lot of her singing style sounding like her vocal cords have been soaked in enough cigarettes and whiskey to keep Keith Richards happy for a few years, when she wants to hold a note or power through a chorus, the whole crowd can feel it.

Dirt Box Disco

Now, I’ve written about Dirt Box Disco in the intro, so I won’t go on about them at length here, but I’ll just say again that if you get the chance, go and see Dirt Box Disco.  I haven’t especially got any amusing anecdotes from their set this time.

(Video from last year.  I was there for this too and it was one of the best sets I’ve ever seen.  This year’s set was more mental, but last year had the better crowd singing.  Just watch this.)

Except for the little kids that were dressed as guitarist Spunk Volcano, who got brought on stage to rock out with the band.

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And the blatant piss-taking of the head of security that had told them not to encourage crowd surfing.  I mean… that was never going to be a good idea, right?  I have no idea how many crowd surfers there were, but at one point they were going over every couple of seconds.

More good times.

Okay, this is going on a bit now.  I have no idea how many of you have got this far, but if you have, well done and thank you.  I’ve probably skipped a few bands, as some I saw and I can’t remember what the hell they were called, or much about them, but I’m not gonna leave without talking about Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons, and Extreme Noise Terror.

Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons

Off all the great bands and performances and legends at Rebellion, there’s one thing it’s rare to find.

Something different and original.

Pussycat is the sum of several influences – Soo Catwoman’s bihican, Julie Newmar skintights and tail, Cabronita RockNRolla Rockabilly beat via the Cramps and Meteors – but the sum of those influences is something we’ve not really seen before.

We’re back in the Opera House again, and at one point, Pussycat jumps off the stage, climbs over the seats (with the nimblest and most graceful cat-like elegance) and perches atop a seatback to purrrrrr at someone awhile.

I mean, if you’re gonna channel your inner kitty and not just keep that to Furry conventions but take it out to the Punkest of Punk festivals, you’ve obviously got no feline fucks to give.  So jumping off the stage to scent-mark a member of the audience is nothing.  I mean, sure, Jello Biafra stagedived during the Guantanamo Bay School of Medicine’s set, but he didn’t take the mic with him and purr and growl at the audience.

What the hell must it take for someone to go: I know – I’ll be a cat and start an amazing rockabilly-punk band’?

What decisions did they make in their lives that brought them to this point?  Maybe Pussycat’s not a human pretending to be a cat, but a cat pretending to be a human?  Maybe there was a teleportation accident and Pussycat was once a scientist who was heading for a matter transportation breakthrough, but a careless kitty had fallen asleep inside the telepod and they fused and the kittyscientist hybrid said ‘fuck science, let’s rock’.

We may never know, but I for one, am glad that whatever happened, happened.

Meow.

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Extreme Noise Terror

The greatest moment in Pop music?  No question.

It was The KLF leaving the music industry after playing 3AM Eternal at the Brit Awards with Extreme Noise Terror and Bill Drummond shooting a (sadly fake) machine gun into the audience made up of the music industry’s horriblest bastards, including Jonathan King and Stock, Aitken and Waterman.  (I’m kidding about wishing it weren’t fake, I wouldn’t really have wanted everyone there to die.  Well, except Jonathan King.)

Anyway – the KLF are the greatest Punk band that I’ve never seen play live, and in all likelihood won’t ever get to see, but being able to see Extreme Noise Terror sort of made up for that.  It’s a bit unfair of me to bring my feelings about the KLF to this show, but because that Brit Awards was such a massive big deal – a multi-million selling chart band that were taking the piss the whole time, that really did choose to chuck it all in at the height of their success and go out in a brilliant blaze of hellfire, I can’t avoid talking about it. 

But –  that hellfire, Extreme Noise Terror brought it again tonight.

You might think that you like some nasty music and have some pretty heavy tastes, but you can fuck off with your Megadeth and Slayer and Deftones.  In terms of near unlistenable energy-filled evil noise, then unless you’re going to talk about Merzbow or Lou Reed, then no one else even comes close to Extreme Noise Terror.

Why then, would you want to listen to ENT?  Or go and see them?

Everyone’s got a different answer to that, I suppose. For me a lot of it was paying tribute for the KLF thing, but leaving that aside, there’s something of the gazing into the abyss about a band like Extreme Noise Terror.

Sometimes you’re curious about how far things can go and how nasty they can get.  It’s not enough to say it’s primal.  Primal these days is a load of bollocks about not washing for a couple of days and sitting up all night drumming.  I don’t think Extreme Noise Terror have washed for decades.  They’re not primal or primordial.  They’re the Protogenoi.  They’re the sound of the void.  And that sort of puts everything else in perspective.

Yay though I’m strolling through the Valley of Death, I have no fucks to give because I survived an Extreme Noise Terror gig.

The End

Well, there you go.  That was Rebellion.  Apologies to the bands I missed, or did see but was too drunk to remember, or saw and enjoyed but forgot what your band was called.

Now the thing about all festivals is that on the first and second day you wish that this was what your life was like forever, but by the Sunday you’re longing for a bath and swearing you’ll never drink again and want some sanity back.

But Rebellion isn’t really like that.  I think I really could live there.  You lose a little bit of yourself at a festival like this.  Or get in touch with yourself (in a totally-non-hippy-bollocks type way), because you’re in a liminal space where you have to engage with it and go with it and make your peace with it all.  This isn’t peace and love.  It’s not bloody Glastonbury.  It’s more civilised that that, but at the same time it’s much darker and nastier too.  And there’s more truth here.  If truth is a thing.  And more art.  And soul. 

Despite the near fights and neo-fascists and broken down town, it really is Best Festival.

I’m supposed to give a score when reviewing gigs.  But you can’t score this shit.  If you had to, it would be a billionty-one out of ten. So:

Score:  A billionty-one out of ten

(NB. Pictures are all mine.  Videos are from Youtube and the copyright of their respective uploaders and/or the performers.  If you have a problem with their use here then fuck off please get in touch and I’ll be happy to amend them and/or give full credit.)

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