REVIEW: REBELLION FESTIVAL 2019, WINTER GARDENS, BLACKPOOL, DAY THREE
It’s day three of the 23rd Rebellion Punk Festival and the main topic of conversation as we arrive at the Winter Gardens is how good The Stranglers were last night and how unbearably hot it was in the Empress Ballroom, with lots of people unable to make it through their set.
I don’t know what’s changed from last year, but it does seem swelteringly hot in the venue, particularly in the Empress Ballroom and Club Casbah, where you feel a wall of heat rising to meet you before you’ve even descended the staircase.
Mindful that much of what I want to see later is in the main rooms, we start things gently with a visit to Introducing, where RATS FROM A SINKING SHIP, from Derbyshire, are opening proceedings with their rap metal/punk crossover sound, which sounds like a punkier Rage Against The Machine.
Bristol four-piece KEARNEY’S JIG were first up in the Arena after impressing on the Introducing stage last year. I’d never heard them before, but their slightly frantic punk, with the two guitarists and bass player taking turns at vocals, impressed enough for me to invest in the six-track EP on sale at their merch stall.
Browsing the stalls in the Horseshoe, I liked the noise emanating from the Pavilion, and wandered in to catch a few songs by PUNKO! UK, who, if I heard their singer’s banter correctly, come from Benidorm in Spain. With a hardcore sound somewhere between Dead Kennedys and a UK82 band, I liked them a lot, but couldn’t find merch of any description.
From the unknown to the familiar, it was time to join HOBO JONES & THE JUNKYARD DOGS in the Casbah. Quite how a skiffle-punk band from Maidstone who play a tea-chest bass, washboard and kazoo have become festival favourites is beyond me, but I’m glad they have. They’re a reminder that punk can be fun, and not-entirely-serious songs like Geldof Is A Moron and Should I Stay Or Should I Go have become a vital part of Rebellion.
Time to discover some new-to-me bands, with much of the afternoon spent finally catching up with bands that I’ve never seen before. First up are French Oi! band LION’S LAW, who several people have recommended, and they’re not wrong. They put on an impressive set of tuneful streetpunk, and are another name added to the ‘most find out more’ list.
Alvin Gibbs is best-known for playing bass with the UK Subs and Iggy Pop, but he has branched out on his own by forming ALVIN GIBBS & THE DISOBEDIENT SERVANTS. Here Gibbs takes the mic too, and he’s joined by Subs drummer Jamie Oliver and Ruts guitarist Leigh Heggarty. They’re not a punk band per se, but present their take on 77 punk, garage rock and glam, and very slick it is too. I must check out their debut album, Your Disobedient Servant, released earlier this year.
GIUDA are a five-piece from the Italian city of Rome who have played Rebellion before, but I’ve always missed them. This time I made sure I saw their teatime set on the Empress stage, and I’m sooooo glad I did. They play an infectious blend of anthemic glam rock (dare I compare them to the Glitter Band?) delivered with the punch of early UK punk, and have one of the most charismatic frontmen I’ve seen all weekend. Great stuff.
SPOILERS, from Kent, are on the Pavilion stage, are a melodic punk band whose debut album Roundabouts came out last year. A little pop-punk at times, they also have a tougher edge, and I add them to my listening list – the money you’ve set aside for merch won’t go far if you buy everything you like the sound of here, sadly.
After their main stage set yesterday, RUTS DC are back for an acoustic set, and after packing the Almost Acoustic bar for the last couple of years, thankfully the organisers have seen sense and moved this year’s set to the Opera House. Hopefully they’ll do the same to THE BAR STOOL PREACHERS, who had punters queueing 10-deep to get into their acoustic set on Thursday night.
Anyhow, back to the Ruts. Don’t Segs, Ruffy and Leigh look tiny on the huge stage? But demand to see them is such that the upstairs seats of the 2,200-capacity room are opened too, as they play wonderful stripped-down versions of songs new and old. They’re just as enjoyable as they were doing their electric set – the mark of good songs played by good musicians.
HARD SKIN, a comedy Oi! band from London, are playing in the Pavilion as we head out to the Casbah stage, but the room is rammed, and I couldn’t get close enough to form an opinion on them, one way or another. H.R. FROM BAD BRAINS is rocking the Casbah with a set which seems to consist mainly of mellow reggae, with a couple of more hardcore songs thrown in for good measure.
Over in the Empress, the ballroom is filling up for THE BUSINESS EVENT, which sees former members of the South London Oi! band reunited to pay tribute to their singer Micky Fitz, who died of cancer in 2016. Steve Whale, Steve Kent and Micky Drummer are joined by a revolving rota of singers, including Roi Pearce from The Last Resort and Beki Bondage from Vice Squad.
Homage was duly paid with classics like Saturday’s Heroes, Takers And Users, Hardcore Hooligan, Smash The Discos and Suburban Rebels, as the great man himself looked down on us from a huge Union Flag backdrop. Nicely done – but it was a shame Al Barr from the Dropkick Murphys didn’t make his much-advertised appearance.
MAID OF ACE, four punk-as-fuck sisters from Hastings, are another band who have become synonymous with my rebellion experience, and they were in tremendous form on the Casbah stage, smashing their way through songs like Boring, Minimum Wage, and Made In England. A main stage slot really can’t be too far away.
Speaking of which, it’s back to the Empress for the rest of the night, as the East End comes to town in the shape of COCKNEY REJECTS. They’re on blistering form from the off, wheeling out big songs like Join The Rejects, East End, I‘m Not A Fool, We Are The Firm, and the wonderful Bad Man. It’s so hot in here that a bloke behind me keeled over, and had to be held up and revived by the two guys behind him.
How many bands could follow that? Not many, but fellow Eastenders COCK SPARRER can, and do. Like the Rejects, they’re all about embracing who you are and where you’re from, and the most encouraging thing about this set is how many younger people are here, as well as those who have been following them for 40 years or more.
The opening riff of Riot Squad sees the place explode, and the pace doesn’t let for the next 75 minutes, even though most of the band are now in their 60s. It’s a slightly different set to when they last played here three years ago, with the likes of One By One and Gonna Be Alright from the excellent 2017 album Forever freshening up the set.
The latter in particular was one of the best and saddest moments of this year’s festival. Singer Colin McFaull, wearing a Rockers England shirt, revealed it was one of the late Kathy Rocker’s favourite songs, and I swear there was something in my eye as her husband joined him on stage to sing along. Respect, fella.
The home straight saw them remind us all what an array of top-notch tunes they have at their disposal, with Runnin Riot, I Got Your Number, Because You’re Young, Argy Bargy, England Belongs To Me and We’re Coming Back all prompting huge singalongs. What a band, what a headliner.
Saturday’s 6 of the best: Cock Sparrer, Cockney Rejects, Ruts D.C. Acoustic, Maid Of Ace, Giuda, Hobo Jones & the Junkyard Dogs.