Here’s Niall McGuirk’s recap of day one of this year’s Rebellion Festival in Blackpool
And so we return. A little greyer, mostly a little bigger but no less enthusiastic. Blackpool 2017 for this first weekend of August is less kiss me quick and donkey rides and more punk rock nostalgia as the home of the 80s political conferences is taken over by the punks. Seven stages, kicking off with bingo from Max Splodge of Splodgenessabounds. Max regaled us all on Top Of The Pops with Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps Please and now he’s in the bar calling out numbers for bingo – and that very same order, over and over again.
Today’s festival began with a race against time. Four full days of live music ahead, and my 10.35 plane looks like it won’t get there on time. I will miss Max’s bingo, and Geoffrey Oicott, but I wait in hope that I can catch Epic Problem, The Spoilers and The Tuts.
One issue of having 7 stages is there are bound to be clashes. They usually work out, as 4 songs from a band you want to check out is far better than never being in the same room as them, but this three being on different stages at the same time was always going to prove problematic. It was a problem I didn’t need to give any thought to, as trains and planes conspired against me and time (or lack of it) was the winner.
Bratakus were the first band I caught. Two piece abrasiveness from Scotland. Some racket for two people, excellent stuff. In Evil Hour were on in The Empress and played to a large crowd. Strong solid rocking punk tunes.
Simon Wells and Carol Hodge came over to Ireland last year to play our We Shall Overcome festival and delighted the crowd. They were back today in the acoustic room as Simon played tracks from his new album, songs that are usually played with a fuller sound and lots of noise. It’s great to hear them stripped down bare and raw. Heartfelt music that is very special. Simon greeted nearly everyone personally from stage and we welcomed him and Carol from our seats. The set was mixed with some of Carols haunting yet soulful songs which added spice to the mix. Carol played again later with Slice of Life.
There are a few people who can do no wrong with the vast majority of the Rebellion crowd and Steve Ignorant is one of these. Steve will be singing some songs with Paranoid Visions later in the festival, a selection of songs that influenced so many. For tonight he is living in the now and it’s a good place to be. Steve can’t avoid the fact that he was in one of the most influential punk bands, a band that could easily be described as one that maybe not led a generation but guided a community. It was an accident and he is humbled by it all he wasn’t trying to lead anyone he was just being one of us. And still is.
The Pukes were a trimmed down version of their usual selves – 4 ukuleles and some washboard rhythms playing punk classics. They had a huge crowd in the acoustic room singing along and wondering when would they learn. There was something missing from the band on stage and when I did that head count I realised that Lorna was missing. Her infectious enthusiasm is a beacon on stage, but the colourful tunes still brought a smile to us all
This was my first time to see Bar Stool Preachers, despite them being perennial visitors. Sing along punk ska anthems that had the crowd singing along and me wondering what the words were so I could join in.
The Relitics were the only and I saw on the introducing stage. Powerful punky rocky sound. They proudly sang about being an anti fascist band which is worth proclaiming time and again.
MDC are one of those bands that just keep going but in reality it is just singer Dave Dictor. Dave, like many others here this weekend, pretty much acts the same as he did in the late 80’s early 90’s. There’s been hospital visits and scares along the way but he is still screaming, even at the acoustic show tonight. The acoustic shows leave singers with no place to hide and Dave coped very well stripped down to a bass and an acoustic and those songs about Reagan and the crazy state of the world growing up in the 80s seems as relevant as ever, maybe more so.
Zillah Minx from Rubella Ballet is like the offspring of Toyah Wilcox, with attitude and politics thrown in. Toyah flew a flag for women in a time when women were solely objectified in music. Rubella Ballet brought colour to an anarchist punk scene full of black with some red for good measure. Both played this evening in the seated arena. Rubella Ballet competed with the Puke’s for most colourful band. Maybe an anarcho Spizz Energy complete with illuminious dancers. I never really listened to Toyah before, and couldn’t tonight as there were no seats in the house spare for her performance.
I also never really listened to Good Riddance. Not sure why, but alongside Strike Anywhere they are on my list of “must find out more”. That list is increasing all the time but after tonight’s energetic explosion of hardcore I can strike them off.
Roddy Radiation had everyone skanking as if The Specials never stopped. Ska and reggae in an original style. While Roddy was skanking, TV Smith was punking. Tim is in the same mould as Steve ignorant – a legend of a musician, and still playing those Adverts songs as if it was his first time. Only two words to describe this set: TV Smith. That first album is a classic. I defy you to say otherwise. TV Smith is the boss.
Leftover Crack are in Dublin on Saturday. This may not be a warm up for that show but if it was, then the Gypsy Rose will be on fire. Hard hitting political US hardcore punk band. They were on top form tonight. Sem Futuro showed you don’t have to be North American to have that punky hardcore sound. These Brazilians sure did create a racket, can’t say if the words were politically motivated as my Spanish is pretty nonexistent
Pennywise and Bad Religion brought the tunes back in. It’s amazing to see Bad Religion still filling out halls and better again to see over 2,500 people singing along.
A flying end to the first day, despite my disappointing start of clashes and ultimately missed sets.
Next up, day two.