FESTIVAL REVIEW: Blackpool Rebellion Festival 2nd August 2019 – Everyday’s a Fry Day!

Day two of this incredible festival and it was another hot one! The weather outside continued to be hot and the temperatures soared inside. When I saw the line-up for this year, Friday stood out for a number of reasons, too many to list and as it transpired, every day had it’s moments. If you’ve not read Thursdays review, it’s time to do so now but make sure you come back. 

The first stage for me on Friday was The EMPRESS, it was a band that had been on my radar for a while having heard so many good things about them. The Popes of Chillitown breeze onto stage like it’s any other gig and why not. It’s all one big happy family and the crowd never disappoint to support every act, big or small. Their brand of ska/punk/dub has the early crowd skanking. Matt (Vocals) moves around the stage with some purpose and leaps and bounds throughout the set. It’s already getting hot in the room as the shirt comes off and Matt finishes off the set picking up the acoustic guitar for the two last songs. He thanks the organisers and launches into “Culpa”. “Work Hard, Play Hard, See You In The Graveyard” is the name of their latest album and they certainly put their all into this performance but are far from dead! 

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Over to The CASBAH for what was a brilliant venue to launch the new album, “You Get One Life” and the boys kick off with the title track. The crowd are already in singalong mode and just as well, as every song gets the same treatment. “This ain’t no love song” is one of those songs you never tire of listening to and “1918” is an epic. These guys are on everyone’s playlist these days and pretty much have been for the last few years. There’s not a weekend goes by Knock Off are on the road somewhere but their spiritual home for this past weekend was Rebellion. It won’t be their only appearance on this stage but more of that later! For a three piece, they know how to maximise their potential and the packed venue simply love them. If you didn’t already know the signature song “Football, Beer and Punk Rock” then there was no hiding from it as it was like a cup final singalong. “Fingers to the bone” is a big favourite of mine and “This is who we are, this is what we do” absolutely nails what Knock Off are all about. 

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There will always be a clash at Rebellion as there are so many bands to see. I had a real dilemma as Knock Off were killing it on the CASBAH stage and Drongos For Europe were on The EMPRESS stage (but I had seen them at The Tache bar on Wednesday) so a band I just had to see as I had reviewed their new album “Body Bag Your Scene” recently were Riskee and the Ridicule.

The ARENA was the venue for this year’s Rebellion show for the grime punk outfit from Ashford, Kent. Scott Picking’s lyrical delivery of spoken street meets rap hip/hop and breaking into full harmonies brilliantly offset the hard-hitting thrash/metal/punk. With an agenda to deliver, Rebellion is the place to get it out. I walked into the room as “Kaboom” was belting out of the P.A., the band were already in full flow. As luck would have it, one of my favourite tracks from the new album was up next. “Out Time”.

An incredible performance from a relatively unknown band to myself just a matter of months ago but they are at the forefront of the energetic movement coming out of the south-east. I banged the monitor with my fist during “Body Bag Your Scene” much to the amusement of the band as they could feel it on the stage! As the band finished the song there was a massive scream from the barrier and I saw Millie Manders and Matt (Popes of Chillitown) absolutely buzzing. Get your browser open now and check them out, take my word for it! 

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Friday was always going to be a busy day but it was about quality today and not rushing between too many stages. I’m back at CASBAH for dragSTER. Having seen them two nights ago in a small venue, it was good to see them in this cracking venue. Fi Dragster (Vocals) didn’t waste any time getting up close and personal with the crowd as she leapt off the stage and onto the barrier. The band hammered through “United Decay” and  “Eat The Dirt” with Fi heading banging and throwing her self around the stage like she was possessed.”Speed, Whisky, Sex and Rock n Roll” I guess summed up a blistering performance!

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Regulars to The EMPRESS,  Gimp Fist played to another packed room. The ever-popular punk/oi band from Darlington have a new album “Blood” which was released just days before Rebellion. There was a great mix of new and old songs played out and they were well received. The band were joined on stage by Dougie for the annual singalong at Rebellion to “Here I stand” and there was a massive reaction from the whole crowd as they singalong. I always have a soft spot for any band that uses a Yamaha SG!

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The Aussie Rock’n’Rollers RUST culminate their busy European tour at Rebellion. What better place to do that than on the CASBAH stage where they could play their street punk/oi music. Judging by the number of RUST T-shirts I’ve seen today, it’s been a fruitful tour and playing around Europe and a couple of gigs in the NE/NW of England, it’s been well attended. Again, the room is filled to see these rockers give it they’re all. I saw Karl Morris (BillyClub’s Guitarist) filming on stage and he was loving it. Even though it was “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” for the band, “Oi, Oi Aussie Rock n Roll” summed them up to a tee. 

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Back to The EMPRESS to see Penetration. Fresh from the memorable gig at the Albert Hall with The Skids and The Buzzcocks which celebrated the life of Pete Shelley, Pauline Murray looked pristine in her tailored coat and hat. The connection to Pete Shelley was realised as the band played “Nostalgia”, originally written by Shelly and covered on the “Moving Targets” album. The fact that John Maher played the drums with both bands is very fitting but it was  Murray that stole the show with her velvet voice. “Don’t Dictate” brings out the best in the band and endeared them to the audience who were desperate to hear it. 

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As I pass through the venue from The EMPRESS to the CASBAH, I take in The Mistakes. Playing in The PAVILLION, these guys “Walk Tall” as their song says from their last album. It’s a fair treck for them coming from Poole, Dorset but it was all worth it considering the numbers in the room.

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Having skipped 2018 and taken a break from gigging, it’s a welcome return for Argy Bargy. These guys are always popular as the pride of Watford grace the CASBAH stage to a packed room. I just arrived in time to see them run through their set. It’s a busy weekend for guitarist Daryl Smith as he managed one of the stages at Rebellion but looked like he took it all in his stride as he powered through the performance. Watford Jon (Vocals) paces the stage menacingly and leaves the crowd wanting more as they roar for more at the end.

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A quick sprint to the Rebellion Introducing Stage and it’s a band I have followed keenly for the past few years. The Signal from Inverness make their debut at Rebellion and there’s a great turnout of eager fan’s to see them, including Steve Ignorant, the iconic frontman from Crass. Nikki Signal is a recognisable figure with her long braided hair and it wasn’t long before she was thrashing her head and whipping the air to the opening number “SuckIT”. There’s real venom in Nikki’s delivery and the band are on fire. It’s the Rebellion effect. With songs titled, “Wanker Banker” and “Never Trust A Tory”, you get a feel for what The Signal are about. Yes, they are angry about the state of society and the government and have something to say about it but it’s done brilliantly. “Get Tae Fuck” is the highlight for me and “Black Sheep” see’s them raise the roof as the crowd cheers for more. Alas, 30mins is what we get but if it was your first taste of the band, I hope I saw you at the busy march stall after their performance.

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After an intense performance by The Signal, it’s a short walk to see Spunk Volcano and the Eruptions. No rest for the wicked and The CASBAH certainly won’t get it. Spunk grabs you and doesn’t let you go. It’s still strange not seeing the bright orange guitar strapped around his waist but the batman pants are a give away he’s not on six-string duty. As the crowd started to fly over the barrier, it was business as usual. You got to love this guy as he’s larger than life, and I mean larger as he commands the stage and just loves to give you the middle finger when you snap a shot of him! Mid-way through the set we get a mini stage invasion as members of Knock Off, The Liarbilitys and Trigger McPoopshoot swell the numbers to singalong to “XR3”. There was a new 25 track double album released recently in June so even more material to choose from but it was the old tunes that had the crowd cheering.

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1979 was the year The Ruts released “The Crack” and who would’ve imagined that 40 years later, we hear it in a huge venue with over 3,000 people attended. Well, it’s a testament to that album that it still gets a mention in a lot of peoples top 10 all-time albums. The Ruts were always greater than the sum of their parts and the fact that Ruts D.C. is a three-piece defies logic. How three men can produce such exciting and layered music is down to their real-world approach of how music can be played live and loved by so many. Segs has a few words for the packed crowd before Ruffy and Leigh burst in with “Savage Circle”. Certainly took me by surprise but most welcomed. My all-time favourite Ruts song was next “West One” and sees Leigh reproduce those faithful chords first played by the late Paul Fox and Ruts D.C. continue the trip down memory lane with “SUS”. It’s not all about those early tunes as three songs from “Music Must Destroy”, the 2016 album which was touted as album of the year, get an airing and they slot in nicely but of course, the three big tunes “Staring at The Rude Boys”, “Babylon’s Burning” and the seminal “In A Rut” are what most people were there to hear. The much-loved trio takes their leave but would return on Saturday for an acoustic show.

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The curse of the time-slot clash hit me again as I had to dash from The EMPRESS to catch Booze and Glory. Having met Frank Pelligrino (Drums) outside the venue on Thursday and chatted about their recent tours and his video techniques used on the band’s video’s, I was keen to fit them in. The fact that Mark Marlowski (Vocals/Guitar) was in the same B’n’B was also a good reason, apart from the fact that I actually love the band’s music was almost immaterial. The band have so many well-crafted songs and were perfect for The CASBAH. “Violence and Fear”, “Leave The Kids Alone” and “Days, Months, Years” always have me closing my eyes and singing along, even though I was meant to be taking pictures!  Being mindful that I need to capture the moment, it comes easy when a band make you enjoy the shoot. Chatting with the band later that weekend, I’m hopeful they will be touring near me soon.

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Just to show how diverse Rebellion is, you can walk away from the heat of the moment at Booze and Glory and into The OPERA HOUSE and see The Membranes complete with a Choir. Yes, surreal but this is Rebellion. Expect the unexpected. With the new album just released in June, ‘What Nature Gives… Nature Takes Away’, there was so much anticipation for the band to play it live. The first song was The Universe Explodes Into A Billion Photons Of Pure White Light” from Dark Matter/Dark Energy. The subjects of the big bang, sex and death set the scene. “Dark Energy” sees John Robb reaching for the skies as his fender bass is raised above his head pointing to the roof. It wouldn’t be a Membranes gig without “Do the Supernova” which always see John move alarmingly around the stage. It’s mid-set before we hear any tracks from the new album. The choir are in full effect for “Black is the Colour” as it kicked off the trio with “What Nature Gives…” played after the mercurial “Snow Monkey”. It’s hard to get the title track of the new album out of your head but with a brilliant version of “Myths and Legends” it was a great ending to the set. The choir blended in so well throughout the entire performance it’s hard to imagine what it would be like without them.

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From the dark, post-punk haven that was the OPERA HOUSE, it’s back to reality in The EMPRESS for the UK Subs. Another band celebrating the release of a 40th-anniversary album, “Another Kind of Blues” provided the backbone for the bands set. The UK Subs are a permanent fixture at Rebellion and it’s no wonder why the ever-popular Charlie Harper signifies everything about this weekend. It’s simply great to see him still performing. His fellow Subs are on top of their game as usual as Alvin Gibbs effortlessly swings his bass into action, Stephen Straughan plays a stormer and Jamie Oliver keeps the band on track hammering out the gems [sic]. “C.I.D”, “I Live In A Car” and “Tomorrow’s Girl’s” have the crowd bouncing, yes, you know what you’re gonna get at a Subs gig, but you have to be there to see the energy from this band even considering the age of some of the members. It’s infectious and is invigorating that it’s still possible to deliver your best regardless of age. As the last few notes of the 40yr old album fade into the ether and “Stranglehold” comes to an end, “Emotional Blackmail” fires the second part of the set back into life. It’s “Warhead” that sees the band at their peak as the crowd burst into life but it’s “Party in Paris” that brings the set to an end. Standing ovation and rightly so.

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How does anyone follow on from the UK Subs at a punk gig? Undoubtedly, there are a few bands that spring to mind but it’s a brand that I never expected to play Rebellion until today. The Stranglers are not your typical “punk” band, they never were. They did pre-date punk as we came to know it and those first two albums did fit the narrative in ’77 but when “Black and White” came along in ’78, there was a marked difference. We hear the famous “Waltzinblack” which signifies the men in black are here. The opening song, from the seminal ’78 album “Toiler on The Sea” puts an instant smile on the faces of members of the “FamilyInBlack”, it’s business as usual. The Stranglers have a hardcore following that see almost every date of every tour and the day tickets for Friday became a premium when The Stranglers were announced, there were a fair number of the “family” had booked weekend tickets. Jean Jacques Burnel and Baz Warne looked right at home from the off. The hits keep coming with “Grip”, “Peaches” and Nice ’n’ Sleazy” and JJ managed a killer jump in between karate kicks. The set-list may have been tailored slightly to suit this particular festival, but it still included a good number of tracks written for the last few albums. “Always the Sun” had even the most hard core rocker punching the air as the pop tune was played mid-set but it’s “5 Minutes” and “Something Better Change” that saw the faces grimace as they singalong. “Go Buddy Go” had me thinking of a friend who sadly passed away last year and how he would’ve loved seeing the band play Rebellion (R.I.P Rob). It was down to JJ to reverberate the whole room as he crashed his bass with his fist before that iconic bass intro to “No More Heroes”. It might be a few years before they come back, if ever, but that performance will live in the memories of those who were there for many years to come.

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The curse of the clash of bands saw me miss the “Angelic Upstarts”, ironically Newts Newton (Upstarts guitarist) was also gutted he missed The Stranglers but he had a gig to do!

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Raymond Thomson - Deputy Editor

I am a photographer/musician/engineer living in Scotland. My passion is music and motocross and I share my work on facebook/punk4RT and facebook/madmaxmedia. I do like a bit of throw back to the heydays of the 60’s/70’s/80’s when it comes to taking shots of bands. I grew up on the music papers (NME/Sounds/Melody Maker) and drew influence from Pennie Smith/Jill Furmanovsky/Anton Corbijn/Bob Gruen/Adrian Boot/Charles Peterson.
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