REVIEW: REBELLION FESTIVAL 2019, WINTER GARDENS, BLACKPOOL, DAY TWO
It’s the second day of the 23rd Rebellion Festival and the big question is – can I keep up the pace from the opening day, when I saw all or some of a ridiculous 26 bands.
The answer, obviously, is ‘no’, but I still managed a very respectable 19, starting in the Empress with a band who were new to me, DREAM NAILS, an all-female DIY punk/riot grrrl four-piece from London who call themselves ‘punk witches’.
They are another band who made the huge leap from the Introducing stage last year, and their catchy songs seemed to go down well with the decent-sized crowd who’d managed to get out of bed after the excesses of day one, especially their best known song Deep Heat, which is about having said muscle massage brand on a rather painful part of a genteleman’s anatomy.
Next up were a band I’d seen before, THE FUCKIN GLORIOUS, who describe themselves as ADHD punk from Yorkshire. They’re fast and loud, and for some reason decided to play their set dressed only in their underpants. Once you’d got over seeing so much flabby male flesh they were pretty bloody good, despite the crap sound in the Arena, which was really starting to grate on people.
They smashed through most of last year’s excellent debut album Trite, with singer Beaker (who is either a brilliant frontman or utterly deranged, I can’t tell) going from clambering all over the speakers to writhing on his back in the middle of the crowd, without missing a line. Great stuff.
A first visit to the Introducing stage was in order next, to catch THE DOPAMINES, a four-piece from Cincinnati, Ohio, who were making their first appearance, despite being a going concern since 2006. I was surprised to learn they have four albums under their belt, and will need to check them out, as they sounded like a heavier version of one of my favourite US bands, The Menzingers.
Back on more familiar ground, Watford three-piece KNOCK OFF pulled a sizeable crowd in the Casbah, which is testament to their growing reputation on the UK punk scene. They’re difficult to pigeonhole – their early material sounds like The Partisans, though they’re not afraid to throw in the odd Oi! – so I won’t bother. I just know they made a great noise with catchy-as-hell choruses.
Their set included tracks from their new album You Get One Life as well as the pick of their back catalogue – 14 examples of which are generously included as a free CD in the new one. Football Beer and Punk Rock and This Is Who We Are This Is What We Do were the highlights of the set for me.
A friend had recommended I check out KARL PHILLIPS & THE REJECTS on the Introducing stage, and I wasn’t disappointed. A mash-up of ska, punk and grime, the Midlands six-piece reminded me of [spunge] – remember them? – with more of a hip-hop flavour. Another band to explore back at home.
The next band need no introduction. I heard GIMP FIST, from Bishop Auckland, County Durham, for the first time at Rebellion a few years ago, and their hook-filled streetpunk has made them one of my favourite bands. I’m still amazed they are further up the bill than a 3.30pm slot, but the fact they pull punters into the venue by filling the Empress Ballroom might have something to do with that.
Their set marked the launch of Blood, their seventh full-length album, and a handful of tracks made the cut. The likes of Pressure and Easy Target didn’t sound at all out of place alongside fan favourites like First In Line, War On The Streets, their excellent cover of Perkele’s Heart Full Of Pride, and traditional set closer Here I Stand. Great set, they smashed it as usual.
Not wanting the adrenalin levels to drop, the next stop was the Casbah stage, where Australian streetpunk/rock ‘n’ roll band RUST are tearing it a new one. They’ve played Rebellion half a dozen times now, so pulled a good-sized crowd for their set, which mixes early AC/DC riffs with early 80s UK Oi!
A short food break later and we’re back in the Casbah for the welcome return of Watford streetpunks ARGY BARGY, who were a noticeable omission from last year’s line-up. They’ve been doing this for over 25 years now, and I’ve never seen them play a bad show, so it was great to hear anthems like No Regrets again. A top-notch set, in front of a big crowd.
Time for a sit down I think, which meant a first visit of the weekend to the Opera House, and another band who were new to me (even though they were formed in 1977), THE AVENGERS. Singer Penelope Houston and guitarist Greg Ingraham remain from the original line-up, and they pulled a good crowd considering a lot of people, myself included, knew them by reputation only.
The San Francisco band famously played with the Sex Pistols at their final show at Winterland in 1978, and later worked with Steve Jones, hence the inclusion of Second To None, also recorded by The Professionals as 1-2-3, in their enjoyable 50-minute set. Another band to research further.
Over in the Casbah, London-based Oi! outfit BOOZE & GLORY pulled a massive crowd and are clearly becoming one of those bands who could be future headliners of this festival. Is it me, or are they moving away from their original sound a little?
One of the unfortunate clashes which Rebellion throws up saw RUTS DC take to the Empress stage at almost the same time, so I stayed for a bit of both. The West Londoners celebrated the 40th anniversary of their one proper album The Crack this year, and put on another side combining old classics like Babylon’s Burning and Staring At the Rude Boys with new ones like Music Must Destroy.
Blackpool’s very own post-punk band THE MEMBRANES aren’t to everyone’s taste, but their latest album What Nature Gives/Nature Takes Away is one of the best things I’ve heard this year, and the songs sounded great in the Opera House, where John Robb and co were accompanied by a five-piece choir.
One of those periods where there was nothing I really wanted to see led me back to the Introducing stage, where proud anti-fascist skinhead band THE BOIS were kicking up quite an impressive racket, and even had a crowd-surfer. They were the first band from Singapore ever to play Rebellion, and don’t be surprised to see them again.
Meanwhile, festival favourites UK SUBS were playing to a massive crowd in the Empress, with singer Charlie Harper in fine form, even at the age of 75. Their debut album Another Kind Of Blues, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year, made up much of their set, but the biggest singalong – and one of the best of the weekend – was reserved for the sadly-still-relevant Warhead.
GUITAR GANGSTERS, a London band who have been going for 30 years, are one of those groups who have never really had the credit they deserve, despite a run of excellent albums containing some of the best melodic punk you could wish to hear.
Based around brothers Pete and Philip Ley, they recently added a second guitarist, Ed Roulette, and it’s given them some very welcome extra oomph (not that they needed it)! They sounded absolutely superb in the Pavilion, and were up there with the best bands I saw all weekend as they mixed back catalogue gems like Radio Shakedown and Going To London and with songs like Guns & Knives and Obsession from their latest album, 2017’s Sex & Money.
One of the most-anticipated bands of the weekend were next, as THE STRANGLERS headlined the Empress. Despite their long history, this was their first-ever appearance at the festival, and the ballroom was rammed as they rolled out the classics like Grip, Peaches, Nice ‘N’ Sleazy, Something Better Change and Five Minutes.
I’ll commit punk rock heresy and admit that I’ve never been a huge fan of the Men In Black, and I left before the end for a quick taste of THE MEMBERS, who were closing proceedings in the Opera House. I got there just in time to see them murder their best-known song, Sound Of The Suburbs, slowing it down to almost unrecognisable pace. To say they left the stage to muted applause is an understatement. Serves me right for not sticking with The Stranglers.
So, 17 bands for the day. Not a patch on the first day, but still a decent tally, and a few new ones to explore, as well as some old favourites.
My 6 of the best: Gimp Fist, Guitar Gangsters, Ruts D.C., Argy Bargy, Knock Off, The Dopamines.