Day 1 didn’t phase him and nor did the sea air. Brumlive’s Mark Veitch gives us the low down on Rebellion Festival 2016 Day 2.
Now, for the last sixteen years my posse and I have woken up on the second day with thumping headaches, nausea and confusion, and I’m pretty sure that it isn’t the change in the environment. Blackpool may have an atmosphere that sends stag and hen parties loopy but historically the cause of our maladroit gait and confusion early on the second day is over-excitement on the night before. This year we have made the sad decision that it will be our last Rebellion. We’ve done our service; put our time in, drunk our share of beer and danced to enough great bands. This Rebellion is the best line-up ever and since it celebrates forty years of Punk and twenty years of Rebellion/Wasted/Holidays In The Sun festivals, this seems an appropriate place to bow out. How could they possibly top this year’s line-up??? So, for this reason we want to make the most of the festival and if that means remaining drunk instead of pushing on for slaughtered then so be it. Therefore, we wake up refreshed and ready to go. A strange feeling indeed!
First on my list, and indeed on our collective lists today are the rather splendid MAID OF ACE, however, in our confused state of sobriety we appear to be at the venue an hour early. A quick look at the program and we decide on a speculative look at the new stage and the strangely named BRATAKUS. A sparse crowd of youngsters awaits what looks to be a girl/girl plus drum machine duet as they nervously check cables and settings. Any nerves soon dissipate on the first chord. As a lover of the Riot Grrrl scene and the more mainstream girl Punk/Grunge bands like Babes in Toyland and L7, I can report that Riot Grrrl is alive and well! Blue haired, leopard catsuit guitarist shouter juxtaposed with little black numbered, blonde haired bassist with a slightly smoother line in vocal delivery mean that they come across like a Kat Bjelland and Kathleen Hanna duet. The rather excellent ‘I Know Nothing’ is catchy as hell, ‘No More Love Songs’ is an in your face shouter, and we are treated to a Lunachicks cover. I would love to see these girls with a real drummer.
BRATAKUS leave us happily skipping across to the outdoor venue to catch all-girl, all-sister band MAID OF ACE. Another band that has been slowly working their way up the bill over the last few years are seemingly relegated to openers today. However, this is a stroke of genius since it gets an early crowd packing the Tower Street stage to catch their straight-ahead punk rock. I’d like to say that there is a heavy dose of punk rock glamour in there, but that would be to distract from the fact that in the course of a few years they have developed into a class, slick professional act that are so very comfortable looking in front of a big audience. Bass player Amy looks extremely confident as does Anna and, when the band isn’t putting in a straight up punk wall of sound, they are given enough space to show their skills. In Europe on tour now, they are sure to be back in Brum soon enough. Catch ‘em! Girls need to be aspiring to this instead of insipid false glamour they are bombarded with! The only way is….. Real Grrrl Power!
We stick around Tower Street to catch a handful of songs by WONK UNIT. Nope,sorry, I don’t get it. Are they a comedy band? Cabaret? Cod-stupidness and mock-campness mixed with some kind of ‘street’ style. It’s different, and, whilst the band can obviously play, I remain confused over what they are trying to achieve. It’s too difficult to put them safely into a genre and that might be what makes them too confusing for me. They are unquestionably unique from the ska feel of ‘Horses’ with its NOFX style trumpet, to the Subhumans style delivery of ‘Nan’ but with purile humour. Catch ‘em and make your own mind up because this is a marmite type band for sure. Me? I’m not a fan.
We head back inside to the Pavilion to watch North-East Punk Rock’n’Rollers LOADED 44 who, as ever, put on a rock solid rock’n’roll show. Beki, looking glamorous as ever in all black with flame red hair is one of the coolest looking singers in this type of band. She has the stage presence and theatrical delivery to elevate their sets to a different level. Guitarist and founder member Dave plays incendiary rock’n’roll licks whilst bass and drums interlock tightly to form a solid bedrock. I try to catch some of their set every year they play but never understand why they seem to have reached a level that they don’t break beyond.
My modus operandi this year is to see as many bands as I can without just popping my head in , so having watched half of LOADED 44 and seeing them play the very catchy ‘Generation Idiot’, I amble to the new band stage and watch, based purely on the name, WOLF BITES BOY. Seemingly there are a lot of people that know something that I don’t, because when I get to the room that holds the new band stage, the two entrance doors are surrounded by people straining to see in. I morph into a some kind of X-Men superhero and fluidly seep my way in and to the front of the packed room. Two songs in and I have a massive grin on my face and I’m texting my buddies and telling them to get here quick. Catchy songs with awesome guitar and singalong choruses. Rock’n’Roll Oi (?) that is ever so slightly reminiscent of Dropkick Murphys when they were still a skinhead/Oi band. Skinhead bassist Stu provides the driving bass and powerful vocals whilst the silver swept back hair of guitarist Rob is as striking looking as his guitar lines sound. I find out later that they had a camera man filming the gig from the start who had to abandon his position due to the number of people trying to get in to watch them. The end of the set signals a rush to the merchandising stand which results in a good ten minutes to get served. So a set taken predominantly from their debut album has won them a lot of new fans. This is the great thing about Rebellion… you come away with a bunch of new bands to dig deeper into. This one made my day !
Next up are a band that a friend has been telling about for the last twelve months. “You have to see FEROCIOUS DOG”, she says, “they are amazing”. So in the first couple of hours of being in Blackpool there is a guy from Nottingham, FD’s hometown, who tells me that I “have to go see FD, they are amazing!”. Best go see FD then I guess! I get into the outdoor stage a few songs in and the first thing I see is the guy from Nottingham crowd surfing in a kilt. Not just lying down on the crowd but standing aloft, huge green and black mohican, kilt and docs, in classic surfer pose on top of the crowd and there he stays throughout the song. FD go through a full set of Levellers / New Cranes inspired folk-punk, full of energy and vigour. Fiddle, mandolin and banjo infused punk that is catchy and uplifting. With songs entitled ‘Poor, Angry and Hungry’, ‘Gallows Justice’ and songs dedicated to Jeremy Corbyn, you know from whence they come. Later I find out that the guitarist is none other than Fruitbat (Carter USM). Catch them later in the year supporting the Levellers.
SUBHUMANS next, as Dick Lucas leads one of the trio of his bands through their usual speedy set of socio-political punk rock rants. His delivery is fast and furious in a John Cooper Clarke meets The Ruts but is effortlessly unique sounding. Subhumans have been around on and off for many years now and I approach them from the direction of his/their later band CITIZEN FISH and CULTURESHOCK all of which share members and are equally unique sounding. In fact, they have been around long enough that ‘It’s Gonna Get Worse’ is introduced with the announcement that amongst the other Punk rock anniversaries this year, this gig is the thousandth that the band have played. It’s the usual solid performance with ‘Apathy’, ‘Mickey Mouse is Dead’, ‘Waste of Breath’ and a host of other early anarcho classics getting an outing. Smashing!
Then it’s back to the Pavilion to catch a band whose first album I’ve had for many years. I’m not afraid to lend an ear to bands singing in other languages and when a band is this catchy it’s impossible not to find yourself singing along in a terrible South American-Spanish accent. THE ARGIES, as I tell anyone who will listen, are Argentina’s equivalent of The Clash and will usually drop in the odd Clash cover. This band, which acts more as a musician’s collective, thrash and dub their way through a fast reggae-rock set to a crowd made up heavily of Spanish speakers and sadly ignored by many locals. Enjoyable as ever, even though they didn’t play a single track from their first album, they do finish with a cover of ‘Guns of Brixton’.
I always look for the positive in any band but I think we can gloss quickly over the few songs I saw by LA ‘legends’ THE WEIRDOS.Imagine Ken Dodd pretending to be Keith Richards and fronted by Old Man Steptoe. Embarrassing!
So, when you have been on your feet continuously for twelve hours and drunk a few more pints than that, what you really need is a sit down. There isn’t anything else that I want to see for the next hour so I take a wander to the Opera House for only the third time since it’s been used as a stage for Rebellion, this year making a welcome return. I fancy a sit down, maybe even a little nap, who knows? I may keep one eye open for PETER HOOK AND THE LIGHT. I always found Joy Division depressing at best so I can’t say I’m enamoured at the thought of him playing a set of JD songs and interrupting my nap. Once again, I end up having to admit that I’ve been long-term wrong. Not only do I not get a nap up in the ‘Gods’ but I also spend the set enthralled and texting a mate, to tell him just how much I have been wrong. Not knowing the JD back catalogue I cannot tell you the tracks but I am led to believe that it was every important song they did. The Opera House seating is almost full and there are a large number of people standing in front of the stage so it’s a large crowd that Hooky presents to. His voice and bass booms around the venue and the guitars cut through and the crowd at the front are, at times, livelier than I could have expected. All the songs that I never minded too much are present; the very poignant ‘Ceremony’ being a highlight and is touchingly dedicated to Ian Curtis, as it was the last song he wrote, ‘so let’s hope we do it justice’. They do.
For the drummers amongst us there is some stunning hi-hat work on show here but it’s that overall sound that suits this beautiful venue so perfectly. ‘She’s Lost Control Again’ is achingly depressing but discordantly wonderful, and the obvious finale of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ gets a standing ovation from everyone who had remained in their seats for the closing few songs. Hooky looks and sounds genuinely touched by the reception, and then he is gone. This would have been a perfect end to a great day but we have one more thing to see before we hit the chippy..The Ramonas. I’m no fan of tribute bands, but in this case it’s a chance to see the all-girl Ramones cover band on a big stage. Last year they were on the old outdoor stage with its low ceiling and enclosed space that made a perfect venue for the leather jacketed and ripped jeans speedathon that is the Ramonas. We’re all a little bit tired on the balcony but it’s fun to watch the yoof bounce to the toons that we all know and love. Vocalist Cloey Ramona (see what she did there?) actually looks and acts the part and whilst female vocals are never going to sound authentic, she does a good job. The rest of the band do justice especially Cammy Ramona on drums who plays in a similar style to Tommy to enable her to get and to have the stamina for that authentic speedy hi-hat.The only acceptable tribute band. Ever!
To be continued….
Review Mark Veitch
Photograph: Chris Payne Courtesy of Sonic PR