Rebellion Festival 2016 Day 4

Stiff Little Fingers by Ashley Maile

Ending with a legendary band, Brumlive’s Mark Veitch completes his annual marathon at Rebellion Festival 2016 Day 4.

So to the final day of our final Rebellion. We’ve come a long way from sixteen years ago, sleeping in a tent on a camp site full of punks in desperate Morecombe, through to a nice warm bed in a B&B five minutes from the venue here in Blackpool. We’ve had a lot of blood, sweat and beers over the years and now the time feels right to bow out and leave things to the youngsters. The liver, myself and los amigos will today wave a fond farewell to Blackpool and to Rebellion.

First up is yet another Oi!/Skinhead band making recent waves on the scene. A S.H.A.R.P band in attitude though not overtly with their lyrics, LIONS LAW from Paris. Formed from the ashes of well regarded French skinheads ‘Maraboots’ with their anti-fascist stand and Redskins meets the Oppressed sound, the resulting band of LIONS LAW offer a faster more aggressive sound. The guitars cut straight through pounding drums and speedy bass whilst the booted and braced singer paces the stage, unable to stand still for more than a few seconds. It’s a little too shouty in the vocal department to really drag me in but the songs are there and the catchy choruses are enough to entertain.

I’m running late for the next act on my list but luckily I make it in time for the song I want to hear. That makes them sound like one of those one tune bands, that besides the ardent fans, people go to watch at these events to hear the one song that they are remembered for. We’re all guilty of that at some point and this year the ‘artist’ that typifies this is Jilted John with…. Oh I don’t know… some moronic one hit wonder I guess. In this case however, the band DEMOB, Colchester’s finest, are much more than a one song band. I want to hear the track ‘No Room For You’ because to me, this is one of the catchiest songs in Punk ever. It has a melody that I defy anyone to listen to a few times and then not be whistling it for days. Go on. Do it now!

The band have many more songs and are successful in keeping the small but growing audience entertained. Like most of the bands still around that started in the late 70s they have seen better days. Expect no youthful punk imagery for they look no different to the older end of the festival goers and instead have to rely on energy and hooks in their songs. For a fourth day they have plenty of energy. Chugga chugga guitar and bouncy bass lines push the songs along and whilst it is a straightforward sound they deal it out with style. It goes down very well with those there and is an enjoyable warm up for the next act on the Empress Ballroom stage.

Next up is the protest and agit-p(r)op chanteuse that is Louise Distras, and for me, this time of seeing her is the first time with a band. Believing that the stage and the size of the venue will swallow up her songs I find myself incorrect in the extreme. Her voice starts strong and gets stronger the further into the set. Her middle section of the set reverts to the acoustic protest songs that have gathered her plaudits aplenty and indeed a strong recommendation from no lesser luminary than one William Bragg.

Sometimes sounding out and out pop and other times with a foot stomping, pulsating punk heart and protest pop melody we hear an uplifting set. Throw in a little poetry, listened to with total respect by the crowd and a few little proclamations and there is a set with something for everyone. An explanation of why Rebellion is so important and offers a level of inclusive-of-all, regardless of sex, sexuality or race, is given and even the hardest heart melts for this troubadour with her Songs From The Factory Floor’.

Catch her at the Rainbow, Brum on 5th October and you will be hooked.

X RAY CAT TRIO from Leeds were next on the new band stage serving up standard punky end of rockabilly without straying into Psychobilly territory. It’s nothing overly special and you get what you see. Slick presentation, rolled up jeans, quiffs and flat tops, double bass without going overboard on the slap. Yep…. These guys are good and have me tapping and a-swaying.

I leave towards the end of the X RAYS set to catch ROUGHNECK RIOT, another band that I know nothing about or by except what I have seen on the ‘TUBE.

Think of the energy and Irish Punk dance-ability of the ‘Pogues’ mixed with ‘Blood Or Whiskey’ and you wouldn’t be a million miles away. I watch from side stage where, looking down the line of the band and the front row, you can see passion and pure unadulterated enjoyment from both. They’re a band that never lets up, a speedy and heady whiskey fueled race with the devil from start to end. Fans of Pogues, Ferocious Dog and The Levellers will get this completely. They should have been a Friday band in my opinion as we’re all feeling it a little bit now. Great stuff though.

We arrive at the Temple Street open air stage from where we plan to see out our festival, get ourselves a beer and settle down for the second set of the weekend from COCKSPARRER. We are a little blessed here given that they rarely play more than a handful of gigs a year. They have, apparently, done the decent thing and stepped in to replace a late drop out and help out the organisers. So here we are gathered for their ‘hangover set’. We get much the same in the way of songs but a much more relaxed looking band, unhindered by sound equipment issues and the urge to put on a show. Instead they seem to concentrate on having fun and just banging out some tunes. It actually feels like the whole crowd is also there just to relax and enjoy the songs instead of the ‘show’. The same songs, the same crowd, the same sing-along. The one difference is song order with them not opening with ‘Riot Squad’ for the first time that I can recall, instead opting for ‘Running Riot’. It’s relaxed and fun, the way a Sunday afternoon should be and not even the one heavy downpour of the weekend can dampen our spirits.

Having taken a break to get re-clothed, watered and fed we return to the outdoor stage and await one of my musical and political inspirations. JELLO BIAFRA AND THE GUANTANAMO SCHOOL OF MEDICINE return after two or three years to entertain us with their unique brand of discordant, industrial meets hardcore punk with a tongue in cheek tin-foil-hat paranoia meets serious socio-political message.

The guitars start with the sound of a metal crushing accident before the pounding drums hit and the guitars turn to the screech of industrial machinery as Jello bounds onto the stage dressed in what can only be described as the appearance of an 18th century banker. They proceed to hammer us with that Dead Kennedys style hardcore sound circa ‘Bedtime for Democracy’. The initial onslaught is followed up by their own ‘People With Too Much Time on Their Hands’ which again is reminiscent of the DKs. Hey, I’m not complaining about that given that my ‘love affair’ with that band began thirty three years ago and it is a sound that has never dated. They go beyond the DKs sound though and throw in a surprise of ‘Forkboy’ by the Jello collaboration, that Industrial supergroup that was LARD.

It would be wrong of me to give the impression that this was a set dealing heavily in old songs because GSOM does, without a doubt, pick up the Jello ball and run with it. They play the style of music that Biafra has always dealt in and they do it incredibly well. The band is as tight a band as you will ever see. A rumbling juggernaut of sound, fast and totally in control to those that understand. So we get great tracks from their albums. ‘Road Rage’, ‘Mid East Peace Process’ and ‘Pets Eat Their Masters’ and these are not detracted from by the obvious DK songs that are thrown in. ‘California Uber Alles’ with it’s superb and distinctive opening bass line, ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’ is changed to ‘Nazi Trumps Fuck Off’ and they finish with the superb ‘Riot’. An excellent show.

The final band of our final Rebellion is very apt for us. STIFF LITTLE FINGERS are one of my all time fave bands and the first gig that one of my companions went to thirty five years ago. We never tire of SLF gigs.

It’s a fast and pacey set we get that is presented with a near perfect sound system. The band take to the stage and throw themselves straight into ‘Wasted Life’ and then ‘Fade Away’ and this greatest hits package never lets up right up until the curfew encore of ‘Alternative Ulster’. No curve balls, no unexpected covers or rarely played treats. Just a set of everyone’s fave SLF songs. There is some time for Jake to talk about some of the songs, explaining why and how they covered ‘Doesn’t Make It Alright’ and dedicating it to their late friend John Bradbury of The Specials. Jake also talks candidly about his depression and how a friend convinced him to talk about it, bringing him to write the song ‘My Dark Places’. The whole set goes down well with the partisan crowd, but the tail end of the festival after four days on our feet and on the lash, means there isn’t the dancing that would be expected at a Fingers gig. It doesn’t matter. It’s a party atmosphere still and as the band lead into the encores with ‘Gotta Getaway’ and follow with ‘Alternative Ulster’ it feels like a great end to this happy place of mine.

A visit to the chippy and back to our home from home as the end of an era arrives and it’s back to the real world.

I see that The Skids have confirmed for 2017. And The Vapours are reforming for it. Wolf Bites Boy and Hands Off Gretel, my best discoveries of this year have been snapped up to play next year. Sounds like an interesting line-up at this early stage. Hmmmm.

Review: Mark Veitch

Stiff Little Fingers press shot © Ashley Maile

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