Well, I hope we are all semi-recovered, taking multivitamins by the handful and washed the cider from our pores. That was a Rebellion to be remembered. The 25th Anniversary of this magical place.
After two years of you-know-what induced cancellations Rebellion came back with vengeance. Every single person had a grin the size of Blackpool tower as they queued up for their first pints of the weekend. The addition of the Farm Yard brewery in the middle of Winter Gardens was idyllic, I spent at least 15% of my time there ordering a conveyer belt of ‘a LÖf and a Chaff please’. Where would “the biggest punk festival on Earth” (Harley Flanagan of Cro Mags) be without a beer with an umlaut?
May I say that every single band, and every single member of the crowd brought sunshine to the soul. It was a wonder that we could all keep going till Sunday but we made it. Pretty much 2pm till 2am every day, what would we do without those boarding house breakfasts?
Now I’ll stop reminiscing and feeling all wow and get into writing this thing.
Janus Stark kicked off my weekend in the Empress Ballroom, the crowd was full of energetic fresh-faced festivalites and we loved every second. The Ballroom was as beautiful as ever, Janus finished with ‘Every little Thing Counts’ which was one of those moments when your heart flies into your head and you realize – Yeaaaaa I’m here for four days!
Pizza Tramp were up next. I’ve only ever seen them in a tiny Ipswich venue where I got so drunk my partner and I pretty much forgot what happened. So, it was truly something special to see their self-proclaimed ‘biggest gig of their life’. Their set was a story. Full of tales of Taggart and Evanescence being ‘Disney music for metal heads’. I want to wish the son of Jimmy the guitarist – Teddy a very Happy 6th Birthday for last weekend. We hope you enjoyed entire 3000 capacity venue of punks singing you a soft and sweet rendition of the Birthday song.
Next up I was excited to see Last Edition on the Introducing Stage, where – as I wrote in my notes ‘mega saxophone trills gave me the thrills’. They’re a ska punk band from Leicester. Their set started out with ‘Skank Only’ in which one guy had the absolute skank of his life up the front of the crowd and continued to do so for the rest of the set. Shout out to that guy whoever you were. ‘Half Drunk at Half Time’ was seriously good, especially because everyone in the crowd was 100% half-drunk halfway through the day. ‘Shorts Until September’ was one of my favourites of the set, got everyone bouncing around and feeling like they were on a beach in Mauritius with the vibe that everything’s gonna be alright!
Next up Wonk Unit brought their Croydon based DIY punk back to Rebellion in the Ballroom. Loved a bit of ‘Day Job Wanker’ while drinking a pint and taking it all in, great to see them again.
I left to buy said pint and caught a little of Fluffy Machine on the Pavilion who need a mention. They are self-proclaimed ‘Swiss idiots who pretend to play punk rock’. Definite Pennywise meets… your friendly neighbourhood punk band? They were a fun bunch of fluffy machines and a band I’d absolutely love to see more of.
Bouncing Souls were a new one for me, they are a New Jersey-based pop-punk band from the late 80’s – think Rancid/NOFX. They were the first entirely packed gig of the festival I saw, and it was a riot.
Anti-Flag were as great as ever, they ended up playing a big mash-up of songs and everyone was just having a bonkers good time.
Next up was my first escapade to the R-Fest stage for Levellers. R-Fest was new to Rebellion 2022 and had most of the veteran punks on their toes questioning change and life itself, I think it’s safe to say everyone was blown away.
Situated right next to the tower on the seafront R-Fest was a marvelous addition. I couldn’t imagine Disclose or LoC being allowed anywhere near it while kids waited at the tram stop beside munching on sticks of rock- though I’d absolutely love it to happen. The bands they chose were perfect and the sound levels were surprisingly loud. Long may R-Fest continue.
I went to bed, woke up, drank a significantly larger glass of orange juice than I was expecting and went straight back to it.
Walking into R-Fest on Friday afternoon was the same feeling as walking into any outdoor summer festival. The beer tents billowed in the wind, the stage shone bright, and The Vapors had everyone feeling electric and in love as we stood or lay sprawled across Blackpool’s comedy carpet. In good northern fashion it then started hammering rain. We got soaked to cries of ‘it will pass’ and pass it did. Leading us into a glow of hot summer sunshine for Jilted John.
Jilted John was another band new to me. They were a slightly less crass Kunt and the Gang. I won’t forget them and I’m sure that nor will ‘Mrs Pickering’. John (in character) told us the story of his life from first loves to dead mice and back to girls again. It was hilarious and emotive but at least he got laid.
Booze and Glory had us all ‘Drinking Beer and Blowing Bubbles’ back in the Empress Ballroom. I was fully immersed in the pit for this one and I forgot to write about it, but it was by far one of the highlights of the weekend. I didn’t see one person in there that wasn’t having the time of their lives.
Then came SubHumans on the Casbah stage. They were great, everyone was loving it but there were shouts at the sound guy to sort out the sound. From what I could tell everyone that weekend had the same issue, I don’t think it was the sound guy. They just needed to sort out a better PA or to proof the room a bit better. I think all the shouts at the sound guy were a little unnecessary (from all bands and crowd alike across the festival) and I won’t say any more on that.
I then got lost in a whirlwind of there being too many bands I wanted to see so I ended up seeing none of them. I saw the start of Sham 69 which I was later told was one of the events of the weekend. I entirely missed Steve Ignorant Does Crass (but I did catch up with him during the festival for what can only be described as a super-fan-girl photo), and I missed The Stranglers too. However, I did get to see a bit of the up-and-coming band from my hometown Colchester – The Meffs who did a great job of packing out the Introducing Stage considering all the clashes!
The Lovely Eggs were next 11 pm at the Pavilion. They really are lovely eggs. A couple from Lancashire who reminded us all ‘you’ve all got a fucking bed and breakfast in the morning!’. Psychedelic punk rock akin to Siouxsie and the Banshees/Yeah Yeah Yeahs. ‘I Wanna’ was a great track everyone by then was dead on their feet and were still dancing.
To be honest, at this point I wrote of the Pavilion Stage; ‘here’s like a magic onion – everyone’s in here from all the stages. It’s in the middle and everyone’s been drawn into it’. I have to say, it was cleverly done. It did keep drawing me in, whether by magical osmosis or by a good organizer on my way to other stages with interesting new sounds and bands that I unreservedly want to see again.
Saturday’s lineup for me was all about the hardcore crust that would be non-stop in the Casbah till late in the evening. So I tried to have a chill one. Didn’t work – and my legs pretty much fell off by Discharge but it was a magnificent day.
What a great Saturday when it starts with Tracy Tracy from The Primitives singing ‘Crash’ to an ocean of people singing ‘na na na na na na na na na’. It was better than a Bloody Mary.
I did a quick dash back to Club Casbah for Special Duties after this. They’re a punk rock band from Colchester, they even played a song about it. They have a special place in my heart having been to so many of their shows growing up. They’ve got a new single out ‘Rebel’ which they played alongside the classics ‘Billy Jones’ and ‘You’re Doing Yourself No Good’.
Next up was a hop and a skip back to R-Fest to catch the end of Spear of Destiny and see Pop Will Eat Itself who were ‘like a happy Rage Against the Machine or like a punk rock version of Five’ though I’ve since checked them out and I’d say I’m probably way out with those descriptions. Writing this article is like hanging out with drunk-festival me and sober-work me all at once. Their Wikipedia says their influences are Public Enemy and the Bestie Boys. Let’s go with that.
Then came the Casbah Quest – GBH, Discharge and The Exploited. What a set of three. It was wonderful, the pits were like being in a sea of joy and my legs – though they felt like jelly – somehow stayed attached. It was a great trio of bands and something I’ll remember a long time.
JOHN in the After Dark stage was also a great gig, they stopped playing mid-way through cause a fight broke out which was quickly reprimanded by JOHN and the two guys ended up hugging it out. It’s really nice when the drummer is a front man. Great voice. Great noise.
Bob Vylan was up next – a band I have heard a lot of good things about, constantly, from a guy called Mike. I had no idea what to expect as we were told they’d been moved from the After Dark stage to the Ballroom and thank God they did cause the room was packed solid. Bob Vylan are something else. They are going to be big. They are uniting music and punk in a way I haven’t seen before. Bob came in and started doing yoga before crowd surfing into ‘I Heard You Want Your Country Back’. It was a performance art piece as well as a gig. They wrote, mixed and produced their first album which got to the top 20 in the charts and self-proclaimed to be ‘saving the punk genre’. They played ‘Northern Line’ where they explained for a while what trains were which I thought was very funny. ‘Wicked and Bad’ was next which was not punk rock for the sound – but for the lyrics, and had every punk past 40 in the room having the best time. It was a moment, a room which I’m pretty sure was 50% people who’d never heard of them watching them play their first Rebellion. All after a guy saw Bobby Vylan in a Crass shirt and it went viral. They captured the moment big-time as they invited everyone on stage for what I’m sure was the most supreme crowd photo of the weekend.
The great I, Doris kicked off the R-Stage in on my Sunday morning (2 pm). I sat and stared at them through a sea of denim jackets, and early pints as I clutched mine and smiled from the floor. They’re an all-female punk band from London. They announced that they are playing Loud Women Festival in London 2nd – 3rd September if anyone wants to catch them there. They played a bunch of great songs about masturbation, meeting friends in the girls’ loos and invited fans for photos in their pinafores and free CDs at the end of their set which I thought was a nice touch, bigger bands should do that more.
Altered Images were up next. My favourite fact I learned about them was that their front woman, Claire Grogan used to be Kochanski in Red Dwarf in the early days. Altered Images were wicked-good. The crowd was electric. The sun was HOT. They set out with ‘I Could be Happy’ to a roaring cheer from the crowd, ‘Insects’ which was apparently John Peel’s favourite song of theirs. They also covered ‘It’s Not My Name’ by the Ting Tings which I was ecstatic about and had a solid full-song grin-sway-singalong going on to.
Buzzcocks were next on the R-Stage. They played ‘What Do I Get’, ‘Senses Out of Control’ and the classic ‘Orgasm Addict’. The nostalgia of scratched-up CDs and MP3s flooded the grinning crowd as girls twirled and guys swayed to all the classics.
Pretty much danced our way to Club Casbah to see Spunge. They were joyful as ever and thanked all the stage and crew as we kicked some pigeons and found the angels in our centre folds.
Next up the horror pop-punk band Doyle where frontman Alex Story dedicated every song as a love song and let us know ‘you can dance if you want to’. It was the drums that got me with this band, they were just the right amount of twang and they kind of crawled into your body. With Doyle Wolfgang (ex-Misfits) on guitar they were really bloody good.
I had an interlude here where I had to take two bottles of Discharge branded hot sauce back to the B&B. Passed out for half an hour, drank half a bottle of Buckfast and was ready for Conflict.
Conflict and Cro Mags made a great pairing for a Sunday afternoon, everyone was in the pit and it felt like the beginning of something rather than the end. It was what Rebellion is all about. I’m pretty sure more than one of the members of the crowd had tears in their eyes, I certainly did, as Harry Flanagan (Cro Mags) dedicated ‘World Peace’ to drummer G-Man who suffered a cardiac arrest earlier in the summer and is now back on the drums. Honestly one of the best punk rock shows of my life.
We finished off the festival with Squeeze. A great choice. It was a piece of Rebellion history when they invited an audience member, Michael on stage to sing the entirety of Cool for Cats but he got stage fright and then Gaz hopped behind the mic and smashed it (Michael, Gaz, we love you).
If you want to experience events like these go to Rebellion 2023 – Tickets Available here.
Thank you to all the crew at Rebellion and everyone involved for pulling out all the stops for this one, it was sublime.