Niall McGuirk on day 2 of his trip to this year’s Rebellion Festival in Blackpool
Before every trip to Blackpool I sit down, pore through the lineup and pick out the must see and the nice to see. I have a problem today. 34 bands are on the list. That may not have been an issue for my 18 year old self, but it is a problem. It will sort itself out over the 13 hours. The way I see it is that I’m a sponge and Rebellion is my education. I may never see some of these bands again, we may never even be in the same country together again, so I want to make the most of it. Let’s go for 34.
The Poly-esters were new to me. Playing in the huge Empress Ballroom – home to The Darts – they engaged and rocked the lunchtime crowd. I’d been looking forward to seeing Petrol Girls. There’s a scene of bands out there that have wiped gender breakdown away. Of course it doesn’t matter what gender you are playing in a band, but Petrol Girls are screaming out about misogyny and sexism and their toe tapping noise is a glorious soundtrack to that manifesto. Petrol Girls are top of the pile throwing away the punk stereotype and ready to challenge you if you’re too comfortable.
Matilda’s Scoundrels from Hastings have that folky punk sing along feel. You want to be in their gang. I’m struck by the fact that they seem to be the first band not selling merchandise as the 6 piece take over the stage. I guess The Real McKenzies are a Canadian version of Matilda’s Scoundrels. It seems bizarre to me but, Canadians in kilts singing about drinking and playing bagpipes is something I’ve missed out on. For years though I ignored Dropkick Murphy’s and am now a convert, so maybe there’s hope for me for The Real McKenzies. To be honest I hope not.
Interrobang are taking music and adding some theatre, trying to unsettle the crowd but playing angular music. It’s not in your face, but they are looking to reach into your heart. Dunstan sings like he is starting in Chumbawamba once more and he is still angry after all these years and will never calm down. We need bands like Interrobang telling us they as mad as hell.
I’ve been communicating with Doug from Flies On You in various guises over 30 years. It all started when he was bass player in Nerve Rack and talking about playing in Ireland. That never happened, and decades got lost. Now he is on the “new” band stage with Flies On You, who have two great albums out. Doug has dropped the bass but the acerbic sound remains and it’s a Fall-esque sound… well, starts with The Fall and Nerve Rack and mixes a whole lot more in. Great to see them on stage.
The Featherz brought some glam to the day, at least for the three songs I caught. Nice change to the wall of noise on offer elsewhere. Dave Dictor tempted us last night with acoustic versions, but tonight was the turn of the powerful MDC, more relevant than ever. I missed The F.U.’s when I started listening to American hardcore. The Boston punks exploded on the stage tonight, even treating us to some Straw Dogs songs, which is the band some of the F.U.’s became for a while.
Subhumans never change, even if some of the personnel do. They are still as good as they were, and playing many of the songs they played in the Youth Expression Centre in an early 1980s Dublin. These are another necessary feature of Blackpool. Again, more relevant now as our political structure becomes more similar to the 80s. It’s the same with DOA, Canadian punks who screamed for change in the 80s. Lead singer Joey Keithley ran for office. They wanted a better future. They got a different one, better in many ways but the question remains was it worth it? This three piece were are as fast and powerful as anything else today with some tunes there screaming out.
Attila The Stockbroker is on great form. Not just politics but emotions too. It must be so frustrating for any artist with all talking going on in the background in the acoustic room as people settle in for a drink and a chat. Attila defied them, and told us all about the band we should form called “winter vomiting bug” which was dedicated to the band sick on the bus. He gave us some newer poems which detail how working class people are still second class citizens despite all the years of words.
I never saw or listened to Frank Carter before, except when he was in Gallows who I didn’t enjoy that much. At one stage he got a circle pit going right round the hall and just like the junior b hurlers they ran – and ran badly – in that circle
It’s been an interesting festival as the politics of today has lead to a lot more statements from bands on stage. If we can’t talk about what’s going on what can we talk about? And bands grasped that. They have also reached out to those struggling with mental illness and this punk rock community should know it’s ok not to feel ok and just talk if things are getting to you. We are all in this together, whatever this may be. Frank Carter reminded us of words Petrol Girls had spoken earlier, it’s fine to be down just share it and let’s look after each other.
Membranes are special to me. This is their home town, well it’s not really but it’s the original bands birthplace and singer john Robb, is the sole remaining original band member. They have diversified in recent years and the post punk sound is still there but drone and power are the main traits on display. Tonight they have the backing of a choir which just adds to the sense of surreal spectacular in this car park stage.
Wonk Unit are increasing in popularity by the day. Each gig sees them getting more popular. Second last band on in The Empress tonight, after earlier playing a stripped down version of their set in the acoustic room. Not even room to stand. Empress crowd weren’t left standing, we were too busy moving our feet. I wasn’t sure if their style of humour would suit that big stage. But it did. Alex treated the crowd as if we were visitors to his regal home, sticky dance floor and all. Wonk Unit have been described as a modern day Snuff, and that’s not far off. They will play any gig, won’t get lost or worried in the trapping of success. And they listen to punk rock and know they are no different to us watching them. Perfect.
Kiss My Acid were the first of many Irish bands for me to see today. Snotty abrasive tunes with green day playing grunge feel. I Am A Car Crash are gaining interest. It’s easy to see why, more rock than punk and more post than pre, it was great to see the Dublin lads on the big arena stage. Protex played the opera house. It gave us a chance to sit down, relax and enjoy their power pop tunes. The Lee Harvey’s have a 1978 feel to their sound, but with power. Close your eyes and they could almost be part of that Northern Irish good vibrations scene. Great set.
Paranoid Visions pack some power. Deko says they are tjebhate of the city’s well there’s a certain section that’s proud of them. Singing and powerful as if Killing Joke had attitude for dinner. There is a large Irish contingent at Rebellion, both playing and spectating. Most of these were in the large Pavilion crowd tonight as the Visions played more recent material and are as strong, prolific and valid as ever
Ok I didn’t quite make the 34, but managed to squeeze in songs from Godfathers, The Professionals, and BONO! too
Next up, day three.