LIVE: Rebellion Festival 2017, Blackpool Winter Gardens
Back for its 21st year and now covering seven stages over four days at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, Europe’s biggest punk festival Rebellion draws in punks and skins from all over the continent for a weekend of punk rock, and maybe a beverage or two. We just about survived to tell the tale, so here are our highlights…
We did say in our preview piece that Maid Of Ace were not to be missed, and they certainly backed up our claim with aplomb on the Casbah stage this afternoon. Previously a covered car park out the back of the venue, the Casbah stages provides a little of the ambience of the outdoor festival (sunburn, fresh air, portaloos) to an otherwise indoor event. The Hastings terrors belted out some great energy to get us in the mood for the day, and with some good moshpit too from Disaster Of Noise onward, always a brave move on tarmac. Special congratulations to bass player Amy, announced as pregnant during this show! All the best from us here at Pure Rawk, Amy.
As he stands on stage and directs the audience to form one massive circle pit around the sound desk in the middle of the room, it is obvious Carter has this audience in the palm or his hand, hanging on his every word. Although, when he opines “it’s my show and I can do what the fuck I want”, you can’t help but wonder if he isn’t actually a massive arrogant cock. Good tunes though, there’s no mistaking that.Back in the relative cool of the Empress Ballroom, another highlight are the equally ferocious Petrol Girls. Taking an uncompromising feminist / activist approach to punk rock, I had wondered if this gang wouldn’t be a bit serious and unapproachable in the live arena, with songs dealing with oppression, sexual violence and safe spaces for women at gigs. But I am pleased to report that while yes, you are going to get political diatribe at a Petrol Girls show, it’s in a positive way, a rallying call for us all to be better activists, and you will enjoying some damn good rock and roll also.
One of only two acts main stage headliners this weekend where the singers are under the age of 50 (the other being Slaves, later this evening), Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes draw a good crowd on the main stage in the Empress Ballroom. The mania and energy that these guys have is evident from the off, with Carter spasming around the stage from song one, and by song two or three he is already in the audience.
As he stands on stage and directs the audience to form one massive circle pit around the sound desk in the middle of the room, it is obvious Carter has this audience in the palm or his hand, hanging on his every word. Although, when he opines “it’s my show and I can do what the fuck I want”, you can’t help but wonder if he isn’t actually a massive arrogant cock. Good tunes though, there’s no mistaking that.
We didn’t see them, but a big shout out to Hellbastard for almost setting fire to the Arena stage tonight with their fire-breathing antics, resulting in them getting shut down mid set and the whole area being evacuated. We found it quite funny, although I don’t think Sheer Terror who were supposed to go on after them did…
Starting the day with some sunny bubblegum pop-punk fun, we caught The DeRellas in the Opera House, who played like consummate headliners to the three rows of people who had braved the 1.25pm early start (“Good for you to join us for breakfast”, quipped Timmy). Affecting more of a straight punk aesthetic than their usual glam stylings, The DeRellas added a bit of extra snarl to their glam rock and roll tunes, and should have gained a few new fans here in Blackpool today.
A rather unexpected hit for me later that afternoon was one Duncan Reid & The Big-Heads. I mainly dropped in because I know plenty on these pages have praised him, and plenty of you out there like him, but I was not expecting to be sold so easily. The ex-Boys frontman has an easy charm on stage, and with a songbook of joyful and sweet pop-punk hits to hand, Reid wins over the mid-afternoon crowd with ease. A great singalong to First Time to close the set, leaving me with a melody that stays with me for the rest of the day.
This is the first chance this reporter has had of catching Louise Distras full electric with her new band, and first impression was one of unexpected familiarity, recognising one Mat Sargent (Chelsea / Sham 69) on bass and Moyano El Buffalo (King Lizard / Trophies Of Man) on drums. Though this grouping is new to us after seeing Louise solo, obviously a lot of work has gone on behind the scenes as these guys are a tight unit on stage, turning their hands to speed and power, or melody and introspection, with great ease. We get lots of material from the new album (currently sitting at 115% of target on Kickstarter, nice one), and the old tunes gets a new lease of life with the power of a full band complementing the power of the message to great effect.
Closing the main stage are Sham 69, who after many years of chopping and changing and wrangling, are currently sitting at about five years of being almost the original lineup again (Jimmy Pursey, Dave Parsons and Dave Tregunna) with the addition of the ever-present Robin Guy on drums. We can perhaps give them benefit of the doubt for the late hour, but while it may pretty lively at the front, mid to back of the room was pretty sedate for a lot of the set. All of which changed however when the hits came in, with a Clash White Riot cover and If The Kids Are United (hah! Kids, have you seen this crowd?) generating a whole arena singalong, with of course Hurry Up Harry to finish.
Groan. Sunday. As we plumb new dark depths of hangover, standing on a seafront as bleak on this grey afternoon as the stereotype leads one to expect, it comes as some relief that it’s not a late curfew tonight. A hot dog and a pint, and we’re back to it.
The Franklys kick off our afternoon, down in the cool dark basement of the Arena stage. An odd choice for Rebellion, given that at best they’re more of a garage psych act, but lead singer Jennifer Ahlkvist has donned a Fred Perry and the girls are more than game to give the punks and skins a run for their money. A valiant effort, although sadly most of The Franklys swirling fuzzy guitar sound, and with it much of their tunes, gets buried under some massively overloud drums, tut Mr Soundman! Still, good to see these again and hope to see them on more familiar turf again soon.
Over on the Rebellion Introducing stage, much excitement is being generated for gonzo thrashers Pizza Tramp, so much so that they filled this tiny side room to overflowing. We didn’t actually see them, but what we heard from a distance and later on YouTube looks like they could be pretty exciting. Keep an eye on these lads.
Another band we didn’t see today was The Ramonas, because they were playing outside and it was pissing it down. Sorry girls, hope it went well. Instead, like a lot of other water-shy bastards we helped fill up the Empress Ballroom for Dirt Box Disco. Now, I’m going to have to put my hand up at this point and say that, along with the guitarist’s side project Spunk Volcano & The Eruptions, I just do not get this band. It’s mainly puerile pub rock with people in comedy fancy dress and lots of swearing, which is fine to a point, but I don’t see how it’s got as popular as it has. But popular it is – they’ve filled the ballroom at teatime, between the two acts they’ve easily one of the highest numbers of T shirts on backs for the whole festival, and the faithful here are hollering along. All the best to ya lads, whatever the fuck it is you’re doing!
Tonight’s headliners, Scottish first-wavers The Skids give us a gentle guide through their back-catalogue to close the weekend, although if we’re honest they were a little pedestrian, or perhaps just the umpteenth beer of the weekend was dulling our edge. However, Into The Valley gave us all a good singalong to end the weekend on sometime past midnight, and it is a great tune to be humming your way home on. Anecdotally, ticket sales don’t seem to have been brilliant this year, and they may not have booked the most exciting headliners, but Rebellion fest does continue to go strong, and we will no doubt see it back again next year, as well as a few international jaunts in-between. See you next time!
Text and header image Dave Ashworth. All other photos by Dod Morrison.