Another year, another Rebellion. This one was always going to be special though because the mighty Cocksparrer are headlining the Saturday. After a pleasant train journey down to Blackpool and getting the wristbands and B’n B formalities sorted it’s time for the mayhem to commence. First on the agenda is the Barstool Preachers in the Empress ballroom. The lads turn in a passionate, powerful performance in front of a sizeable crowd and we leave the ballroom buzzing that the preachers first performance on the huge empress stage was such a resounding success. There’s not much more on the cards watching bands wise today though because I’m playing a gig with the Fuck Ups at the Temple Bar later on. After catching up with some mates and getting a bite to eat, its time to head to the other gig. The Cryogenics are blasting out their high octane thrashy punk when I arrive, and damn good they are at it too. After playing our set (which I think went pretty well), its time to head back up to the winter gardens to catch the Descendents. This was my first time seeing them and they do not disappoint (they aren’t the fastest band I’ve ever seen though). Opening the set with “Suburban home” they churn out classic after classic with “I’m the one”, “I’m not a punk” and the aforementioned “Suburban home” being just a few of the standout moments. This is punk rock at its life affirming best, a shining example of why I continue to love it so much. With power, passion, humour and melody in spades Prof. Milo and the boys give us perhaps the performance of the weekend, and its only the first night, it’s just a pity that they were playing at the same time as Fear, who I also wanted to watch. Thursday night probably has the worst set clashes of the weekend because Poison Idea and Flipper also clashed. Who thought putting all the old US Hardcore bands on at the same time was a good idea?
The first band that I watch on Friday is Riskee and the Ridicule on the Arena stage. If you haven’t checked out their top notch blend of Punk, Grime and Hardcore, then get on it immediately, cos you’re missing out. They turn in a great performance and Scott Pickering is a great frontman as well as a great lyricist and vocalist. The sound isn’t the best, but the band play a blinding set regardless. Definitely ones to watch and my current favourite band. Next up is Gimp Fist in an intensely hot Empress. Only manage to watch half of their set before having to scarper for cooler climes. The Opera house is the coolest room in the venue by far and it also happens to be where Interrobang are playing. Their performance is simply breathtaking and definitely one of my highlights of the weekend. The sound is crystal clear, and you can hear everything perfectly. The band looking dapper in suits is also probably the most truly rebellious act of a weekend surrounded by identikit punk and Skins. A stylistic statement against non-conformity becoming its own form of conformity. I decide to stick around in the Opera house for a while, mainly because its cooler and I have a seat, but also because Lost Cherrees are on next. I’ve always had a soft spot for Lost Cherrees and their brand of angry tuneful anarcho punk and I’m glad that I decided to stick around to watch them because they don’t disappoint. Firing out an incendiary set brimming with classics ( unfortunately no “still comes the rain” or “poem” though) The band put in a stellar performance made all the better by the vocal interplay between the two female vocalists and a surprise (and brilliant) cover of “common people” by Pulp.
After checking out Argy Bargy doing their brilliant anthemic Oi! thing in an absolutely roasting Casbah stage for a bit I decide to head back to the relative coolness of the Opera house to watch original San Franciscan Punks The Avengers. This is another highlight of the weekend. I’ve loved this band for years and was really excited when I saw they were part of this years line up. Starting the set with my favourite song “We are the one” the band are on absolute fire and vocalist Penelope Houston’s voice is on point. They deliver a strong set and play with a hungry passion that a lot of bands half their age can’t muster filled with punk classic after punk classic. Other set highlights were “Car crash” (from the same Dangerhouse records 7” as “We are the one”), Their, frankly better than the original, version of “Paint it black” by the Rolling Stones and “The American in me”. If you haven’t seen this lot already and you get the chance to, then you should definitely grab it. You won’t be disappointed. After The Avengers set, its time to head round to the introducing stage to witness pals of the Fuck ups The Signal do their thing (extra shout out to guitarist Lindsey for sporting one of our T-shirts. Cheers mate) The Signal are always a top notch live band, but tonight they’ve came to destroy and easily lay waste to the introducing stage with their own unique brand of hardcore punk. The whole band, but especially frontwoman Nikki give the performance of their lives and with song titles like “You say banker, we say wanker” and “Never trust a Tory” we’re left in no doubt as to where they are coming from. The Signal are one of the best punk bands from Scotland and if you haven’t checked them out already then you’re like one of those aforementioned bankers. After The Signal I catch Red Alert on the Arena stage, some of the Angelic Upstarts on the casbah, the best part of which was Livi legend and Jocksparra frontman Hendo diving on stage to join in with “The murder of Liddle Towers”. Last band of the night for me was Infa Riot on the Arena stage, who are great but the heat’s got too much by this point so it’s time to bail to the comfier, air conditioned party central that is the Orbiston Hotel. Situated just behind the Wintergardens with a bar that stays open til 5am, It is the perfect place to continue the craic into the wee small hours if you’re still wanting to stay “on it” after the Wintergardens closes.
Saturday kicks of with the fantastic roots reggae stylings of the Rhythm-ites on the Casbah stage. Their Dub- heavy reggae is just what the doctor ordered, a welcome stylistic change from all the punk and the sweaty skanking that I indulge in during their set acts like a detox for the previous nights excesses. Lions Law and their anthemic aggressive Parisian street punk are up next in the Empress. Frontman Wattie comes out fighting from the start. He gives a 100% energy packed performance and his voice sounds amazing. His performance is so full on that he ends up projectile vomiting in the middle of the set (probably because of the heat) and then storming back out to give it 100% again like a fucking warrior. All in all it’s a great, memorable set from one of the finest Oi! bands on the planet just now. I was planning to stick around for some stomping glam rock courtesy of Guida, but couldn’t face it due to the heat, so retired to the pub with pals instead.
When we get back to the Wintergardens it’s just in time to see Hagar the Womb on the Pavillion stage. Angry yet tuneful Anarcho punk with a sense of fun is what this lot deal in and they deliver a solid, enjoyable set. It’s time for some more French Oi! on the Pavillion stage next. Kominitern Sect have been going on and off since the mid 1980’s, but I have only discovered them fairly recently so there was no way I was missing them. They don’t disappoint, proper old school anthemic Oi! with plenty of catchy riffs and terrace style sing-a-long choruses. All their lyrics are sung in French however, so I haven’t actually got a clue what they’re singing, but they sound great. After watching most of Kominitern Sect’s set I decide that it’s probably a good idea to head round to the Empress ballroom to catch the end of the Cockney Rejects set and to make sure that I get in to see Cocksparrer.
The Rejects are on top form as usual. Has anyone ever witnessed a bad Rejects show? I know I certainly haven’t. From our spot on the balcony (its way too hot to be mixing with the Oi! polloi on the floor) we have a perfect view and enjoy the Rejects while waiting for the main attraction. As soon as Cocksparrer hit the stage and blast straight into “riot squad” the whole room is transformed into a sweaty, singing, smiling, crying mass, as Cocksparrer tend to kick start all the emotions. The set list is a perfect blend of old classics and the best ones from the latest lp, the standout moments however are when “Teenage heart” turns into “Droogs don’t run” and then switches back to “Teenage heart” again seamlessly and an emotional “Gonna be alright” which is dedicated to Manchester punk legend and creator of the Rockers England clothing line Kathy Rocker, and when Colin Mcfaull explains (again) that “England belongs to me” isn’t about exclusion in anyway, it’s about being proud of where you come from and absolutely nothing to do with right-wing nationalism, it’s only England because that happens to be where the band comes from and everyone is welcome to add wherever they come from when singing along. He didn’t have to tell my partner in crime Ellen that twice as she promptly proceeded to scream “GLAAAAAAAAAAASGOW BELONGS TAE ME” all the way through it. All in all this is a flawless, life affirming performance from the mighty ‘sparrer, even the heat didn’t spoil it. After ‘sparrer it’s time to head round to the Orbiston for more borderline self destructive hedonism (we’ll leave that there though, I don’t want to incriminate myself or others).
Woke up feeling rough on the Sunday, thankfully Fatal Blow were on hand to deliver a Fatal Blow (sorry) to my last day blues. Formed from the ashes of Anti-fascist Oi! legends The Oppressed, Fatal Blow play hard-hitting, no-nonsense anthemic street punk. Traditional, yet fresh sounding the lads tear up the pavilion stage with air punching anthem after air punching anthem. Kicking off with “Spirit of 69” which contains lyrics like “Skinhead forever, bonehead never” and “if you don’t know your roots, you better give up your boots”, then blasting out a set full of great tunes like “Riot Riot”, “Sharp as a Razor”, “Johnny come lately” and a brilliant cover of Blitz’ “Warriors” we are left in no doubt what this band is all about. They play a tight, powerful, enjoyable set that not even a malfunctioning guitar amp can derail. Ant-fascist, pro-working class Oi! at it best and definitely one of the bands of the weekend for me.
Suede Razors in the Empress are up next but when I arrive at the ballroom the unbearable heat is back. I soldier on valiantly and manage to catch most of their set which is an enjoyable mix of Rose Tattoo style bovver rock and punk. The musicianship and vocal performance are top notch and the band turn in a great set, I would have enjoyed it much better if I wasn’t sweating from my eyeballs though (who knew that your eyeballs could sweat). After Suede Razors I catch some of Culture Shock on the Casbah stage. Again, the band are putting in a great performance but it’s too fucking hot and I’m starting to get grumpy and pissed off because of it. After getting some air I head back in to see Birmingham’s The Liarbilitys on the Arena stage. Seeing this lot was one of the things that I was most looking forward to this year, having become borderline obsessed with their debut lp “Antagonisms”, and they’re even better than I expected. The songs from the lp sound even more visceral live, yet still retain their melodic edge. They are cursed with “Arena stage sound” (the sound is always shit in this room) but still manage to pull of a brilliant, memorable set. If you love angry, intelligent well played punk rock then this is the band for you. There’s no words in my, frankly limited, vocabulary to describe how good this band is.
After The Liarbilitys I see The Backstreet Abortions on the introducing stage. Been meaning to check this lot out for a while now and I’m glad that I’ve finally got the chance to check them out. While essentially a hardcore punk band, their sound isn’t Easy to pin down. There’s a real Poison Idea vibe to their songs but there’s also a slight Rockabilly under current. The Musicianship is good and frontwoman Jesse’s vocals are superb. This band does contain Biff of Sick on the Bus, The Varukers fame though, so I’d have been surprised if they were anything less than great to be honest. After catching up with the better half and friends for a few pints and a blether in the Spanish bar (it looks like the inside of a 17th century galleon and is, needless to say, both cool as fuck and where we spend a lot of time between bands. The plan is for me to go watch Uproar (which I do and, as usual they are great, playing an energetic set made up mostly of newer material. Which isn’t a problem when the material is as strong as it is here) and some of King Kurt (which I also do, but get bored very quickly with them. Maybe the heat’s starting to get to me again, because I used to like this lot back in the day, but here it just seems to be pedestrian, puerile pish.) then meet Ellen back at the bar to go watch the Damned. This doesn’t pan out however, because by the time they’re starting we’re both done with the heat and just want to go back to the B’n B. Our pal Laura, who came down with us this year only wanted to watch the Damned and ended up not going because she couldn’t be arsed dealing with the extreme temperatures in the venue. The heat would be my only major gripe about the festival this year. It was seriously ridiculous and, from what I’ve been hearing from quite a lot of people, will maybe put them of attending in future. This would be a shame, because otherwise it’s a great, well run festival in a unique setting with helpful friendly staff. Until next year……Baz.