Fighting his way through the Hen Parties and chip papers, Brumlive’s Mark Veitch gets into the second half of the weekend at Rebellion Festival 2016 Day 3.
Saturday at Rebellion is traditionally the big day with the best bands. I’ve got a list as long as my arm of bands who I want to see and far too many clashes to be helpful to that end. Three hundred and fifty bands is never going to be conducive to straight forward choices throughout the festival.
First for an early beer and a speculative viewing are ARCH RIVALS who I believe are from Cumbria. It’s a slightly melodic Oi! sound that veers towards that American Oi/Hardcore crossover. Their debut album on Randale Records is getting good reviews but they are a little too one tempo / one sound for me. The guitarist throws in more than a few good rockin’ licks and this means they do retain my attention.
Down the other end of the venue we wait to catch TEAR UP on the new band stage. Again, no rock star attitudes are on show, and we spot Jeff Geggus from the Cockney Rejects hanging around waiting to see them. It’s great to see someone so well known checking out new bands rather than hiding away backstage. TEAR UP are a confusing mix of imagery. Three bands mixed in one. The youthful casual hooligan looking singer is sandwiched between a man mountain of a skinhead, who is so bi that he looks to be wielding a three quarter size guitar, and on the other side is the anarcho crust punk bassist. A full sound from the instruments is needed to counterpoint the shouted vocals. The singer, however young he is, does not want for attitude nor for a dictionary of four letter words. They were okay and kept our interest until the next band, for whom we were primarily there for.
HANDS OFF GRETEL sounded right up the street of myself and one of my buddies. As we share a love of 90s Riot Grrrl and the noisier end of Alternative Rock it was odds on that we were going to like HOG. Describing themselves as Grrrl Grunge, this Sheffield band have a striking front woman in Lauren Tate. Mixing Baby Doll and dreaded grunge glamour. The rest of the band mix hardcore, bearded hipster indie and grunge rock. It is striking band imagery but when you hear the sound they make then it makes sense. If you come to Rebellion I guarantee you some surprises and in HOG we get Babes In Toyland meet Hole meet the buzz noise of Daisy Chainsaw. Somewhat retro but still fresh and an antidote to some of the more base sounding generic bands. They look and sound like a band on top of their game making it look effortless. They give the impression of a band, knowing as individuals, that they can take care of their own business and the rest of the band will be right where they have to be. Tight, impressive sounding and visually striking. There is a Birmingham show (Nov 24) at the Rainbow as they relentlessly tour the debut album …. See you all there!
Back to the subterranean sweat box Arena venue for a back to back of Oi!/ Skinhead bands and these next two promise much. Another pair of bands moving up the bill over the last couple of years but back to the afternoon slot this year, which is fair enough given the depth of the line-up today. First up are Sweden’s CITY SAINTS with their Punk, Oi! and rock’n’roll influences. Classic 70s rock sounds mixed with street punk give it hints of AC/DC, twelve bar blues, Slade and god knows what else. Like so many Scandinavian bands they can throw out some rock’n’roll and make it appeal to everyone in the audience. For a special moment they cover ‘Home Sweet Home’ by the much missed Evil Conduct. Making it even better, they are joined on stage by Han from EC whose vocals lift the song and show just how good his band were.
We’ve just about recovered from that and we are tag teamed by Californian skinheads HARRINGTON SAINTS. Apologies for the wrestling phraseology but these guys are men mountains. Big guys…. Big sound. Like so many US bands in this style, and as with the previously mentioned Scandinavian bands, they can play their instruments with a style that makes them so much more than two dimensional generic shouters. They give each other the space to layer textures of guitars but still have that anthemic appeal. We get another cover in this set, ‘Razors In The Night’ from another much missed band, Blitz as well as a more obvious Cocksparrer cover.
The passion comes across from singer Darrel who seems genuinely touched at the close of their set by the reception from the crowd. Another much underrated US band who can put on a lively show.
A massive draw on the outdoors stage next are, in a tea time slot, BOOZE AND GLORY. This multi-national skinhead/Oi! band have melodies and singalong songs that the old school would kill for. They have punters going over the barrier from start to finish and the fact that they rarely gig make these shows all the more special to people. For me the band seem to be slowly going through a transition in exactly the same way that Dropkick Murphys did many years ago. Slowly they are becoming more a classy punky-rock band and less a skinhead band and this works in their favour meaning that they appeal to a broader audience. All the great tunes are there but it is the singalongs that bring the best out; ‘Our Passion’ ‘London Skinhead Crew’, ‘Only Fools Get Caught’ and ‘Swinging Hammers’ put smiles on the faces and lyrics on the lips of much of the large crowd.
Next up, same stage, the dubby punky anarcho sounds of CULTURE SHOCK from the second of the three Dick Lucas led bands playing this weekend. Not to dwell too long on these, as SUBHUMANS have already been mentioned but imagine a dubby version of those and yet a less ska version of his third band of the weekend, CITIZEN FISH and you’ll know exactly how CS sound. Consistent in their excellence.
The ever excellent ‘Sarf Larndaaan’ anti-fascist skinhead band HARDSKIN just keep this party rolling. Okay, so they are a jokey skinhead band (and they are hilarious) but with their superb musical pedigree through the ages ( THE TONE, SCHWARTZNEGGAR, THATCHER ON ACID, WAT TYLER and more) they stand as a very strong band. Original drummer was Chris Acland of LUSH who sadly committed suicide in 1996 and on their collaboration album ‘Why Do Birds Suddenly Appear’ they were joined by artists such as Joanna Newsom, Allison Mossheart (DISCOUNT, THE KILLS), Miki Berenyi (LUSH) , Debbie Smith (ECHOBELLY) and many more. Their punk pedigree, their collaborations and their humour elevate them beyond the straight forward skinhead/Oi sound. The last time I saw HARDSKIN was at a BYO beer gig, in a rain leaking rehearsal room in Digbeth supported by the Norway entry to the Eurovision song contest. Seriously! You couldn’t make it up!!
Guitarist Ben Corrigan, or Johnny Takeaway, to give him his non-de-plume, plays guitar licks that cut through the songs with ease and together with Fat Bob’s oft simple basslines make textured tunes where singalong lyrics are just the icing on the cake. The whole of the Pavilion sing their songs back to them, smiling during them and laughing at the in between song banter. Only Fat Bob make fun of the Cockney Rejects without fear of getting a clip round the ear. All the usual are there; ‘Oi Not Jobs’, ‘First Day Angry Song’, ‘Beer and Fags’, ‘Three Chords Two Fingers’. All tongue in cheek but all done with an impressive style and sound. An HARDSKIN set is never long enough!
Talking of the COCKNEY REJECTS, they are up next on the main stage in the Empress Ballroom as main support to the eagerly awaited headliners. As usual they produce a wall of noise that is hard to listen to if the sound is not good. Unfortunately the sound is too muffled and bouncing around to sound good, at least where we are standing. However we have a great view of the stage from the balcony and almost behind the stage. Too tired to move and entertaining enough where we are, we suffer the sound and enjoy watching the crowd. If you are unaware of the Rejects then I can recommend the recent documentary ‘East End Babylon’ which is a must watch for all music doc lovers. Here you will hear exactly how bad the eighties were for this type of gig (reference the infamous Rejects gig at the Cedar Club, Birmingham). Thankfully these events are now the polar opposite. A Rejects crowd of skins, punks and herberts all getting along! Jeff Geggus shadow boxes and bounces around the stage on the balls of his feet throughout the set of Rejects favourites. Me? I’ll stick with the vinyl which is the way I’ve always preferred them.
It’s been a long day and whilst most people seem to come out in the early evening I always like to see all that I can. So, after twelve hours drinking and watching I’m running out of steam. However, the mighty COCK SPARRER can always do enough to lift me out of a nadir. The build up to a ‘sparrer gig is always the same. The room goes dark and the Beethoven’s Funeral March, see Clockwork Orange, is played.
It’s a dark atmospheric counterpoint to the first bars of their opener, the guitar played police siren that explodes into ‘Riot Squad’. It’s the regular opener, that ode to an old friend who went from running with the boys to running with the boys in blue. The crowd are ready for a party right from the off and the set start strongs. ‘Riot Squad’ explodes into ‘Watch Your Back’ into ‘Working’ and it just never lets up.
They have a strong setlist that everyone in the ballroom knows and and sing back at the band throughout. The band have been going off and on since 1974 and whilst they look their ages for the most part, they don’t let up the energy, feeding off the dedicated crowd. It amazes people when they first see them live, that a band largely ignored by the press, who received no commercial success can have attained near legend status. The boogie of the twelve bar blues style guitars make a sound that even the most dubious watcher cannot be immune to whilst the street punk singalongs have the tough-guys covered too.
Even sound problems cannot dampen the atmosphere and energy. When the rhythm guitar stack dies on it’s feet the band just ride the wave. A short break to try to fix it fails so they just get on with it. Numerous crew and both guitarists fail to sort it during the next couple of songs, so after the amp head is swapped mid song, the sound fills back up. Straight into ‘Argy Bargy’ and back into a headlong rush.
A ‘sparrer gig isn’t just a gig, it is an event, and it has to be experienced. For me, I’ve experienced it plenty of times but I’ve never seen Jello Biafra being interviewed. So I bow out before the encores and wander down to a cool and only third full Opera House to take a seat and hear John Robb interview the ex-Dead Kennedys singer. They discuss the early days of the San Franciscan and LA punk scenes, DIY Punk, Donald Trump and Brexit. I fight the worlds heaviest eyelids and manage to hear out one of my influences to the end. A happy and gentle end to one of the most enjoyable days I’ve had in sixteen years of Rebellion.
To be continued…
Review: Mark Veitch
Photograph: PR via Facebook