Day Five – Sunday
Sunday in Blackpool is an odd day. You know you’re going home the next day so you kinda have to get organised. You know, clear up your room, pack your shit and deliver any CDs or shirts that you’ve brought back to the digs for folk. At the same time, you want to savour every last second of the festival cos you know it’s going to be a year till you can do it all again. Responsibility vying with irresponsibility I suppose. Just makes for an odd feeling.
Anyway, after breakfast I set about doing the responsible bit and fling all the stuff I don’t need into my bag ready just to lift in the morning. I toddle downstairs ready to head for the pub and find we have to drop off some records at a hotel up the road. Of course it starts to rain when we’re half way up the road so by the time we get down to the town centre we’re decidedly damp. Someone else then decides they need a visit to the chemist so we make another detour. When we come out of the shop, it’s chucking it down so we have to run for the pub. I’m in the lead and just about there when it dawns on me that I have to visit the bank, so end up doubling back to get money out. Net result = drookit. Scruffys is pretty full when we look in so we elect to have a pint in the Rose & Crown a couple of doors up instead. Everyone is toiling a little though and there’s more staring at the beer going on than drinking of it. The realisation that the first bands are starting shakes us from our torpor and we finish up and head for the Winter Gardens.
Over the course of the short walk, I discover I’m not feeling too hot. A little pukey if truth be told, so I miss out the next round of drinks as we head to the Olympia for Scottish punks, the Prairie Dugz. We’d seen them previously in Edinburgh one time and thought they were pretty decent. Not today though. Whatever had been done to sort the Olympia sound appears to have been undone and, coupled with Ram Dug’s strong west coast accent, this renders anything he’s saying and singing into unintelligible mush. Everything is too fast and too loud. It takes me till nearly half way through the songs to recognise covers of Sonic Reducer and No Feelings. When you’re only got a 25 minute slot, why would you do two covers anyway? And then why would you bludgeon them to death? Not a good start to the day and I just want to sit down and have a cup of tea.
Which is what I do, in the cafe bar. And grab a Panini as well. I feel better for having it and decide to grab another cuppa and then head up to the Empress balcony for a comfy seat and some lazy reggae rhythms courtesy of The Beatdown. They’re a Canadian ska band formed a couple of years back. Instead of the frantic ska-core sounds of most modern bands of the genre, they go for the laid-back reggae and blue-beat sounds of the late sixties and early seventies/ It’s really authentic sounding and the lazy vibe suits this Sunday afternoon perfectly. It’s pretty much what I’d have been listening to if I’d been at home today as I did my ironing or prepared Sunday dinner. By the time they’re set is over, I’m a confirmed fan and scoot down to the merch table to buy their album.
A trip downstairs to the Olympia to see Charred Hearts is short lived/ They’re OK, but with the exception of the wee blonde guitarist, they look (both in appearance and demeanour) as though they’re strolling round Marks and Sparks with the Mrs. They look as though they’re having just as much fun as well. This lacklustre approach means we duck out after only a couple of songs and go in search of something more inspiring.
Oddly enough, this turns out to be at the Literary Stage (afternoons at the Bizarre Bazaar, fact fans) where John Robb is chatting with original Pistol, Glen Matlock. We spend a very pleasant half hour lounging on the floor of the room with yet another cup of tea while Robb plies Matlock with the questions and prompts. Of course the story of the Pistols has been told a million times over but, although he doesn’t drop any new bombshells, Glen is a genial raconteur and it’s good to hear the tale straight from his lips. For his part, Robb is a decent host too, never overshadowing his subject, letting him tell the tale at length, just prompting and steering discreetly when required. It’s an interesting and enjoyable break from the constant stream of bands and definitely something I’ll do more of in future years.
Another abortive trip down to the Olympia comes next when the acoustic, rockabilly shuffle of Monica & The Explosion proves too poppy for our liking so we elect to head to The Arena instead where professional Northerners Crashed Out are in full flow. Deciding I’m now ready to start drinking again, we meet DK at the bar, get drinks and find a spot near the front. They’ve been on the go for years, this lot, but surprisingly it’s the first time I can recall seeing them. Although almost all of their songs seem to be celebrating the fact they’re from the North, they’re astonishingly good. Punchy, tuneful and executed really well. They’re the latest band to be added to my list for checking out later.
DK tells us he’s heading down to the Olympia to see Demob next and Davie and I tag along. We catch the last song or two from Picture Frame Seduction who are on the smaller Olympia 2 stage. They’re fast and hard – not as good as I remember their records being – so we push on down to the main stage to get a decent spot for Demob. This had got a billing somewhere as the original line-up. It wasn’t but it was the first time Andy K had shared a stage with founder member Terry Elcock in a while. Kicking things off with Once A Punk, they rattle through all the classics you could wish for like Anti-Police and Teenage Adolescence. Riot Squad is played in tribute to their Gloucester fans from back in the day. Although it’s enjoyable enough, I think I preferred the Noise Agents. Of course, there’s only one song to finish a Demob set with and that’s the evergreen classic No Room For You which they deliver in fine style.
Having heard him talk earlier in the day, it’s now time to see Glen Matlock play so I head off to the Empress Ballroom to see him and his current band The Philistines. The band also features guitar-for-hire James Stevenson (Chelsea, Generation X, Gene Loves Jezebel, The Alarm) in its ranks. They play in a pleasant RnB based pub-rock kinda style. The set is a mix of original Philistines material, some covers that showcase some of Glen’s influences, and a selection of tracks from his illustrious past. We get the Rich Kids’ Burning Sounds which fares pretty well but the Pistols tracks (GSTQ and Pretty Vacant), although getting the best response from the crowd, simply lack the bite of the originals and it sounds almost like it’s a wedding band playing them. It’s a shame because, as Glen comes across as such a nice bloke, you just want him to succeed, At the end of the day though, it’s the material that counts and this is just too MOR for my liking.
When they’re done, I go for a quick pee, get myself a pint and then secure a place on the barrier as the crew set up the stage for another of my much-anticipated slots of the weekend. It’s the return of Belfast’s The Outcasts. A plain blue backdrop hangs behind the drum riser with the band’s name spray painted onto it. Pure, simple, DIY punk rock. After a short wait, they amble onstage and take their places. Original guitarist Martin Cowan is looking slightly nervous, stand-in bassist Petesy Burns, confident and clowning around. The drumbeat starts up and the evocative, spaghetti western guitar ushers in Nowhere Left To Run as singer Greg Cowan takes his place in front of the mic centre stage. The sound is excellent and, once again, I feel my neck hairs standing to attention. The next forty minutes or so is a rollercoaster ride through the many high points of their small back catalogue with a fairly even representation between the poppier early Good Vibrations material and the later, harder sounding stuff. Debut single track F-F-F-Frustration is a highlight as is Gangland Warfare. The Cops Are Coming draws a great response from the crowd and Greg comments on how genuinely relieved he is that people have come out to see them. A quick look around confirms that the Ballroom is indeed full. The reggae tinged Magnum Force sits comfortably alongside the pure rockabilly rush of Seven Deadly Sins. During You’re A Disease, the stranger next to me flings his arm round my shoulder and we pogo in tandem, roaring out the chorus in unison. The only blip comes during Winter ( I’d asked Greg earlier in the weekend to make sure they played i) when they kinda lose the timing a wee bit, but they quickly hit their stride again. Justa Nother Teenage Rebel, Mania, Love You For Never are all rolled out. When they reach the end of the set, as for The Boys the previous day, I simply don’t want them to stop. I could quite happily listen to the whole set all over again. It’s another great gig and definitely in my top five of the weekend.
I take a final wander round the horse-shoe to check out the stalls for bargains. Many of them are packing up ready to leave. That reinforces the knowledge that the weekend is nearly over. It’s kinda sad. I briefly look into the Bazaar to check out The Astronauts but decide that my need for food is greater. I grab a wee pot of curry from the excellent stall in the foyer that I’d discovered earlier in the weekend, before meeting up with a few of the others in the central bar.
My son Jack and I head down to the Olympia intending to watch Sick On The Bus. I’m only planning half a set as they clash with ATV and I don’t want to give up either of them. When we get downstairs though, we find that Citizen Fish are still skanking around onstage belting out their frantic ska-punk tunes. They’re a great band and front-man and Subhuman, Dick Lucas is a terrific front-man, never pausing for breath as he dashes around the stage, flinging out the words with sweat-soaked conviction. I marvel to myself at the wonderful contasting complexity of this whole weekend and, I suppose, the modern day punk scene in general. Here we are, watching the most literate of lyricists in one of the most politically correct right on bands onstage doing their thing, while we wait for one of the most unsubtle, boorish, non-PC bands in the country. Both equally as exciting as each other, equally valid, equally punk rock. It’s brilliant!
As the Fish finish up, Sick On The Bus are ready to go. Just about. In a hoarse croak, singer/guitarist Biff advises that he’s been shouting all weekend and that his voice is a bit fucked. You couldn’t tell though as they launch into the first song and he bellows out the words at full volume. “As well as my voice being fucked I ain’t playing too great either” he announces as the song finishes. “So ain’t you the lucky ones!” and then they tear into the next song at 100mph. The songs are short, fast and to the point. Willfully offensive, titles like Slut, Ugly and Whores Not Wars let you know where the band is coming from. Then again, I don’t suppose you’d expect a band so named to be singing “nice” songs, would you? I’m enjoying them immensely but, despite Jack’s cajoling, I need to bale out. It’s a really hard decision to make and I waver for quite a few minutes but finally head off.
Alternative TV are already onstage when I get to the Bazaar. The sound is decidedly lo-fi and the sparseness suits Mark Perry’s tales of injustice and alienation to a T. Always prepared to stick his neck out and fly in the face of popular opinion, I rather suspected that Perry would ensure the ATV set wouldn’t just be a cursory run through the greatest hits and so it proved to be. Sure, we got Action Time & Vision and Love Lies Limp, fine renditions at that, but they also played a chilling, avant-garde Release The Natives and a pulsing, droning Lost In A Room. Frank Zappa’s Plastic People gets an airing and the lyrical imagery fits remarkably well with the surroundings this weekend. Mark appears to be losing his voice as the set goes on and he needs a wee bit of help for You Bastard, which of course the audience is only too happy to provide. The closing Splitting In Two is a tour de force with the cyclic, nagging riff building in intensity till the song reached its climax. Brilliant stuff.
In a case of unfortunate timing, I stick my head into the Empress Ballroom just as Slaughter & The Dogs are plodding through their pedestrian cover of the Velvets’ Waiting For The Man. Shit even on the LP Do It Dog Style (which they’re supposedly playing in its entirety tonight), their live take on the song doesn’t do anything to improve it. I’m not inclined to stic around for more. As I leave, I ponder to myself just how much the shades and white trackie wearing Wayne Barratt resembles an ageing Shaun Ryder with his bowl-cut and bandy-legged swagger. Bizarre.
Back at the cafe bar, I meet in with Davie again and, after a couple of drinks, we decide to head down to the Olympia early to ensure we get a decent spot for Jello. It’s already busy down there but we weave our way in and eventually park ourselves a couple of rows back from the barrier to the right of the stage. Over on the Olympia 2, Red Alert are doing their thing. It must be soul destroying for them, having such a large crowd there but few of them paying attention to their band, instead chatting excitedly as they wait for the main event. To be honest, Red Alert aren’t very good. Admittedly, the sound over where we are isn’t the greatest but the two (yes, two – why would you do that?) Blitz covers they play sound pretty weak and toothless. Their own debut single In Britain doesn’t sound much better. I’m relieved when they finish.
After a few minutes making the final adjustments to their equipment, the Guantanamo School Of Medicine take their places onstage and start up the build up intro to the Terror Of Tinytown. Then master of ceremonies, Jello Biafra, leaps onstage dressed in a white lab coat splattered in blood. I spot that he’s also wearing his trademark rubber gloves, also bloodsoaked, as he leaps around the stage like a man possessed. He may have gained a few pounds and lost a few hairs since his Dead Kennedys heyday but he’s lost none of the energy or intensity that makes him such a compelling frontman. The audience respond in kind and a manic pit forms quickly and an incessant cycle of crowd-surfers begins to fly overhead. Although it’s fast and furious stuff, there’s no missing the musicianship this band possesses. As with the DK’s the dynamics within the songs lift them way beyond mere hardcore thrash. At the end of the song Biafra removes the lab coat to reveal a stars and stripes shirt, also blood-soaked. It’s potent imagery that complements his traditional between-song lectures. Some people don’t like this aspect of the Biafra performance but I don’t mind it at all. What he has to say is generally interesting and informative.
The bulk of the set tonight comes from their stellar debut album, The Audacity Of Hype, which, in my opinion, is as good as anything the man has done since the DK’s released Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables way back in 1980. New Feudalism and Electronic Plantation, with their scathing lyrics screamed and yelped out by the live wire frontman keep the moshpit ticking over but when the familiar drum and bass intro to California Uber Alles cuts across the PA, things move up a gear. Jello has typically updated the lyrics (as once before) to make them more topical. Although I can’t make out the new verses, there’s no mistaking the chorus as several people shout it out in unison. It’s getting pretty crazy at the front as the crowd sways wildly one way then the other while a constant stream of surfers keep the stage-front security team flat out .
I wonder how they’re going to follow this but they do it with ease with a raging version of Panicland. Forkboy, released in his Lard days, is an unexpected surprise while Strength Thru Shopping is a definite highlight, with its rockabilly rhythms and surf guitar breaks vaguely reminiscent of East Bay Ray. The biggest surprise of all comes after Jello talks at length about the riots currently kicking off in London and saying that he thought he’d retired this song, the band kick into Police Truck, my favourite Dead Kennedys tune. I honestly never thought I’d see this song performed live again but here it was. A full-on raging, spitting version at that, and once again the front of the crowd resembles a warzone with bodies flying everywhere. Brilliant!
The crowd get a wee breather after this as the band close the main set with Pets Eat Their Master, slower paced but no less intense. I’m absolutely drenched in sweat and absolutely fucked. I need a drink so wriggle my way out towards the edge of the crowd and head up the back of the hall, realising now just how big a crowd is crammed in. Unfortunately the bars have closed so I have to satisfy myself with a quick visit to the loo for a splash of cold water over the head. The band come back on for an encore and I watch them play The Cells That Will Not Die from the stairs at the back of the Olympia before calling an end to my festival, totally drained but totally satisfied. It’s been a wonderful end to a wonderful weekend.
While there was no single act that stood out above the rest this year, there was quite a few outstanding performances across the weekend and, overall, I think that this festival is probably the best I’ve been to.
As with the year Killing Joke closed the festival, this year having somebody special headline on the Sunday, a big finisher if you like, really makes all the difference. I hope it’s something the Rebellion team continues to do.
Not having to drive this year also made a big difference for me. Normally I stay off the beer on Sunday so I’m legal for the journey home. This means that I’m normally hungover and lethargic and find it hard to raise much enthusiasm. No such problems this year.
The train was definitely the way to go in more ways too. Despite the problems on the way down, just having the table to chat around, cold drinks, the toilet, and most of all, space to stretch out and walk around made it a far more pleasant experience. Normally, I’m so knackered when I get home and so punked out, it’s getting on for Christmas before I even think about the next year’s festival. This time, I’m enthused about it already and, with D.O.A. and the Zero Boys mooted to be playing, it’s already starting to look like a good one. Only fifty weeks to go!
Words and pics by New York Johnny.
Rebellion Festival 2011 – Day 1
Rebellion Festival 2011 – Day 2
Rebellion Festival 2011 – Day 3
Rebellion Festival 2011 – Day 4
More of New York Johnny’s photos from the weekend can be viewed here