REVIEW: REBELLION FESTIVAL 2019, WINTER GARDENS, BLACKPOOL, DAY FOUR
After three days of punk rock of all shapes and sizes, countless beers and indoor temperatures which wouldn’t look out of place on the Costa del Sol, the end is in sight for another year.
The last day of Rebellion Festival is always a bitter-sweet affair. Your feet hurt, your constitution can’t take any more beer or another full English breakfast, and you know it’s nearly over for another year, but there’s loads more bands to see, merch to buy and friends to say hello and goodbye to.
So it’s with a spring in our step that we head into the Empress Ballroom for the first band of the day, HANDS OFF GRETEL. Thankfully it’s a bit cooler than it was last night, but the South Yorkshire four-piece do their best to change that with a lively set of grungy punk. Think L7 or Hole crossed with The Distillers and you’re not far off the mark.
SNAKERATTLERS, from York, are making their Rebellion debut on the Arena stage, and pull a fair-sized crowd for such an early hour. Husband and wife duo Dan (guitar and vocals) and Naomi (drums) play an infectious brand of trash rock ‘n’ roll, and make quite an impact. As with most bands on this stage this weekend, the sound does them no favours, but I look forward to seeing them again.
We stay in the Arena for a band who are completely new to me, FAT ALBERT. A three-piece based in Workington, Cumbria, they play old-school punk with a hint of Oi!, and I make a note to look up their stuff before I try to see them again – I find knowing at least one or two songs helps you enjoy a set more.
HABITS, from Colwyn Bay, North Wales, are making an unholy racket in the Introducing room, their singer stripped to the waist, and I kind of like it – but not as much as the hardcore fans who are furiously moshing in front of the barely-there stage.
Staying in the same room, NOSEBLEED are a very different proposition, a no-frills rock ‘n’ roll band from Leeds who have an album out on TNS Records – usually a sure sign of quality. They’re another group I’d never heard before, but I’ll be checking out their back catalogue on Bandcamp.
SUEDE RAZORS, on the Empress stage, enter the same category. They came highly recommended by an Oi! fan from Amsterdam who’s staying at our B&B, and he wasn’t wrong. They come from the San Francisco Bay area and a little research reveals they feature members of Harrington Saints, Hounds & Harlots and Sydney Ducks. Their hard-hitting streetpunk hits the spot nicely, but sadly I have to give the merch stand a miss, as funds are running low.
In the Casbah, I hear the distinctive vocals of Dick Lucas as he performs for the third time in as many days with his third different band. This time it’s his ska-punk outfit CULTURE SHOCK who are on stage, rather than his anarcho band Subhumans, who played on Friday, or Citizen Fish, who played Saturday. It’s a welcome change of pace after all the shouting – we’ll have no shouting here!
The relative peace and quiet doesn’t last long, as ROTTEN FOXES, a hardcore/deathpunk band from Brighton, are displaying lots of sweaty flesh in the increasingly oven-like Introducing stage. They’ve giving it everything they’ve got, but pale into comparison when compared to thrashcore outfit SVETLANAS, whose fearsome reputation has gone before them if the impressive mid-afternoon crowd in the Empress is anything to go by. Singer Olga is a force of nature, so intense she’s actually a bit scary, and they can only go onwards and upwards.
Time for a sit down and change the pace again, which means a taste of the North East band ALTERNATIVE CARPETTES in the Opera House. A mix of Neil Thompson’s former punk/power-pop bands The Carpettes and The Only Alternative, and more bands to look up properly when I get home.
THE LIARBILITYS, down in the Arena, are another band who were asked back after debuting on the Introducing stage last year, and the five-piece from Birmingham smashed it with a great set which ended with their best song, Two Against One – an angry anthem for the underdog if there ever was one!
Hooray, hooray, it’s Dirt Box Day! Sunday at Rebellion means it’s time for DIRT BOX DISCO, who have gone from humble beginnings at my second festival back in 2013 to filling whichever room you put them on in. This year they’re a teatime treat in the Casbah, and even without larger-than-life frontman Weab.I.Am,, who left earlier this year, they remain a great band.
As main songwriter, and now lead vocalist Spunk Volcano proclaimed: “We still are, and always will be, Dirt Box Disco!” With newer tunes like Joyce’s Voices added to fan favourites like Burning, Tragic Roundabout and My Life Is Shit, they’re still enormous fun, even if this performance perhaps didn’t quite hit the heights of the last couple of years.
Down in the Empress, THE CASUALTIES from New York City, are unleashing a storm of furious streetpunk, with new-ish frontman David Rodriguez stepping neatly into the shoes vacated by original frontman Jorge Herrera, who retired from touring a couple of years ago. The band have been going nearly 30 years, and are showing no signs of letting up. Indeed, their high energy 45-minute set was hailed by some as the best of the day.
Ears suitably assaulted, I was lured back into the Pavilion by some more tuneful sounds, which definitely weren’t Cress, the band who were billed. I found out post-festival that they were DESENSITISED, usually an all-girl trio from Nottingham, with Kyle from Hung Like Hanratty filling in for their absent drummer. I don’t know if this was because regular drummer Claire was unavailable, or because guitarist Libby and bassist Charlotte had played an acoustic set just a couple of hours before. Whatever, they were good fun, and were one of the first bands I looked up when I got home.
Staying in the Pavilion, up next are KID KLUMSY, who pull quite a crowd. If the singer looks familiar it’s the previously-mentioned Weab.I.Am, formerly of Dirt Box Disco, but without the oversized onesie and sad clown make-up. They go down well, but for me they’re not a patch on DBD.
It’s past eight bells, and with the final run-in still to come, we head to the Opera house for a sit down and a few songs from John Otway. He’s one of those curios who have been adopted by the punk crowd, and though his set is more comedy than music, it’s an enjoyable interlude.
Suitably rested, it’s back to the Empress Ballroom for one of the weekend’s main attractions, THE SKIDS. This is the fourth time I’ve seen them since they reconvened a couple of years ago, and if there’s a better live band around at the moment I haven’t seen them. It’s hard to believe it’s 40 years since we fell under the spell of songs like The Saints Are Coming, Masquerade and Into the Valley.
One part of the band is missing, of course, original guitarist Stuart Adamson, who is sadly no longer with us. The fact that it takes two men, dad and lad combo Bruce and Jamie Watson, to fill his shoes is testament to how good he was, and they make an excellent job of it, clearly enjoying every minute on stage. Centre stage belongs to frontman Richard Jobson, who dad-dances his way through their hour-long set, while leading the packed venue on a memorable journey through their youth.
For me, The Skids should have headlined, as they did two years ago, but that honour was given to THE DAMNED. Now, I’m about to commit punk rock heresy again here (remember my confession about The Stranglers?), and state that I’m not a huge fan of theirs. They’ve got a few decent songs, but I’ve never made it through a full show.
That’s maybe my loss, but the fact they start by celebrating the 40th anniversary of their third album Machine Gun Etiquette isn’t even enough to make me stay beyond the first three songs, even though they include Love Song and I Just Can’t Be Happy Today. They’re punk cabaret to me, and I’d rather see something I’d never seen before than same old, same old.
Which leads us into a quick dodge into the Casbah for THE DWARVES. Formed in Chicago in the mid-80s, they became notorious for self-mutilation, and having sex and taking drugs on stage. Still centred around two core members, vocalist Blag Dahlia and wrestling-mask-wearing guitarist HeWhoCannotBeNamed, they seem to have cleaned up their act a bit, but left no impression on me whatsoever.
Finally, in a last-ditch bid to wring one more band out of the weekend, we head to the Arena, to catch the last couple of songs by FRENZY, a psychobilly band who have been doing the rounds for years, but I’ve never seen.
I don’t know the songs, but like the fact they’re different to anything else I’ve heard all weekend, which shows the diversity this festival has to offer.
And rather than just sticking with the tried and trusted, it meant more than half the 20 bands I saw today were new to me. And that’s why I hope Rebellion Festival will not only survive, but thrive in years to come.