For someone who has never been to Rebellion it’s difficult to really describe. There’s a sense of camaraderie that you simply don’t get elsewhere. This isn’t just a gathering of fans, it’s the coming together of a family. The best way to describe it probably comes from this quote from a Rebellion veteran: “The punk scene is a ready-made nucleus of degradation and disorder, but Rebellion is like an island of sanity and civility in a world of moronic barbarity and consecrated mediocrity. For the rest of the year we are drowning in apathy, systematically deluded and manipulated by the powers that be. There’s a collective eccentricity in punk rock and an overwhelming sense of belonging”– Kev Lloyd
This year Rebellion veteran Gary Trueman was joined by Mark Bestford to sample the unique flavour of the festival. Here are their hot picks from what was a breath taking event.
Mark’s five of the best.
Pretty Addicted – The shining star!
For any music fan it’s a given that a great show can be had when the audience makes a connection to the music and it feeds into the show an energy that is almost palpable. What’s less obvious is when the performer makes that same emotional connection resulting in them feeding on the audience’s energy. It’s like a feedback loop where both sides drive each other to higher peaks, creating something that can be truly breath taking. This was Pretty Addicted playing to the compact Introducing Stage, while the U.K. Subs played to the full to capacity Empress Ballroom. Hey Precious, look who you can be. You’re a star!
Stiff Little Fingers – The Emerald Isle legends
Of all the main headliners for the weekend it was Stiff Little Fingers that impressed the most. The crowd response between them and what can only be described as an utterly mediocre performance from PiL could not have contrasted more. Where John Lydon snarled, Jake Burns turned on the charm. And where the fans walked out of PiL in disgust they crowded into the Empress Ballroom in adulation of Stiff Little Fingers. At no other point were so many fans in harmony with the band, and as Alternative Ulster started playing it was as if every punk at Rebellion sang with one voice.
Millie Manders & The Shut Up – Two performances that rocked
To see Millie Manders off stage is to see someone who seems disquiet with their own talent. On stage there’s a confidence that belies the fears, and a vocal talent that exposes those fears as unfounded. It was her second performance, on the Almost Acoustic stage though where she truly shone. Without a backing band an artist’s vulnerabilities are exposed to the crowd, and Millie proved to be very at home as a solo performer. With people having to watch from the main corridor a room full of punks fell in love with her voice, and as the last notes fell from her ukele the entire room stood up to applaud.
Turbulent Hearts – The mic drop queen
With the punk attitude of Suzi Quattro and Joan Jett combined Suzi Moon rocks a stage like a true rock goddess. It’s a great show throughout, but it’s on the final song, I Wanna Be Your Dog by Iggy Pop, a Rebellion regular, that Suzi nails the show. It’s a sexy sleazed up version that sees Suzi take to the crowd to sing, before she drops the mic and simply walks out of the room via the back doors, leaving the band to finish the song on their own and the crowd asking themselves what has just happened. Pure and utter genius.
Dirt Box Disco – The crowd surfing kings
It’s always great to see bands grow into something bigger. Usually it’s a gradual change, but with Dirt Box Disco they’ve gone from a lower bill novelty to a monster in just a couple of years. Still great fun, and with a fanbase eager to please, they put the security on the barrier to the ultimate test with, at the last count, 200 crowd surfers breaching the barrier during their relatively short 40 minute set. They have everything going for them, an energetic crowd, audience participation, inflatable swimming aids, a full room of eager fans. A truly memorable show.
Gary’s five of the best
Choking Susan – Punk force Barbie means fun!
It’s astonishing to think that acts such as Choking Susan that are legendary within the punk family haven’t garnered more attention from the general music media. With Colleen Caffiene at the helm this is a band that have an eye popping dynamic and have the music to back it up. There’s an almost child like quality about Caffiene’s raw enthusiasm and presence on stage. Her outfits always erring towards cute are in stark contrast to the rest of the band. It works beautifully. For people who think punk rock is all about anger and being political Choking Susan are an eye opener. On the massive Empress Ballroom stage they prove to be an addictively fun band with a true punk force Barbie leading the way.
Maid Of Ace – The sisters are doing it for themselves
Since they hit the scene a few years back Maid Of Ace have gained so much momentum it’s a wonder they’ve not jumped the tracks. Their performance at this year’s Rebellion just cements what many already know, that they’re one of the finest young bands around. Utterly professional and possessing near telepathic tightness and coordination (they are all siblings) they charge through a set full of songs crammed with sing along moments and mosh inducers. While Alison, Anna and Amy take the limelight up front there has to be a special mention for Abby back behind the drums. Her playing marks her out as one of the finest in the business, and gives Maid Of Ace real kick. This is a phenomenal performance that marks them out as future headliners.
Discharge – Fire in the hold
It helps that the sound on the Casbah stage is needle sharp but take nothing away from Discharge they could have played in a swimming pool on this form and still sounded like they could arm wrestle Godzilla to the ground. With JJ on point this is an incendiary performance that shows just why this band are so highly regarded. Credited as having helped launch a heavier brand of punk as well as the thrash metal scene you can hear and feel why in every note. Distorted guitars are made to make sense by the minimalist style while the vocals punch you in the face. The security do well to maintain order in a pit that froths like a stormy sea. Discharge are a hand grenade of a band and today someone pulled the pin.
The Droogettes – More than clockwork oranges.
It’s all in the name, or is it? The Droogettes clearly have some Oi influences in their music, and of course their name is synonymous with a certain Stanley Kubrick film. There’s much more to this band than simply following a well worn path though. For a start they appear on stage devoid of the Oi band uniform many expect. They’re not the first to bin it but it’s a refreshing statement none the less. Their music crosses over nicely to with a healthy dose of US punk-o-rama giving them a unique and memorable sound. This is a band that clearly love to entertain. They’ve taken a sub genre and brought it up to date. In fact they’ve done such a great job you can imagine them influencing other bands in the future. The Droogettes, remember the name because you’re going to be hearing a lot more of it.
Svetlanas – And the mad as a hatter award goes to…….
Olga Svetlanas makes you feel like every song is being sung just for you. That roving eye ball, the manic stare, and the literal in your face style has seen her become a punk icon in just a couple of years or so. The band play it tight and cool. Their music reverberates right across the spectrum giving them serious mass appeal. Rebellion seems to magnify some bands presence. With The Svetlanas the festival allows them to be more terrifyingly full throttle and more clinically insane than anywhere else. It’s like they’ve come home, kicked off their shoes and are ready to party. They fill the Casbah stage which can swallow some acts whole, and their music rips through the crowd like fork lightning. The sun may be shining out in Blackpool but the Svetlanas shine even brighter in the Winter Gardens.
The one we both agree on: Sem Futuro
Has it been mentioned that the Brazilians are insane? Sem Futuro (‘No Future’) has a reputation of being a little bit crazy. But the only way to really describe this show is completely bat-shit fucking insane. Wearing a make-shift nun’s habit the lead singer leaps about like the possessed from the Exorcist. It would not have surprised me to see him crawling on the roof while shouting out the lyrics to songs that I had no chance of ever understanding. But you didn’t need to know Portuguese in order to enjoy this crazy show. This is all topped off at the end by the singer being carried through the crowd, it’s not quite crowd surfing but it’s certainly fun.
Brazilian nuns with cardboard crosses are the order of the day this time round at Rebellion. While the straight jacket of old may have been more appropriate it’s great to see a band know when the joke is getting old. The thing with Sem Futuro is that for all the lunacy it’s their music that makes them so special. They’ve taken the heavier end of the traditional punk sound and turbocharged it and added groove. The result is a live show that is infectious, not to mention high quality. We’ve been waiting a while for the new breed to emerge, the ones who will become the leaders in a few years time. Sem Futuro may have to drop the Sem at some point because they are the Futuro.
The best of the rest:
It’s hangover Thursday for many as they settled into the Rebellion standard operating procedure of hitting Tache rock bar in the early hours. Some are still arriving as the doors open making gearing up an easy paced thing to do. If anything Thursday is the longest day of the Festival though starting 11:30 in the morning with the now traditional bingo with Max. Highlights of the day include Drongos for Europe in the cavernous Club Casbah, Hospital Food, who rock out on the Pavilion Stage, and the opening night headliner The Buzzcocks who close the Empress Ballroom at 1 am. For the more adventurous punks willing to brave the early hours of the morning there’s still 2 more bands to go, with Sons of Clogger and Lagwagon. Elsewhere The Soap Girls once again played to a vast crowd, their music standing loud and proud while Millie took the time to dismantle a heckler with great style. Later on they proved their worth in the confines of the acoustic stage, as do Desensitised. Vulpynes and Weekend Recovery shone brightly over at introducing, while Call Me Malcom and Bandits brought a bit of ska to the smallest but still perfectly formed stage. Hangover status: Groggy and fuzzy.
Friday is invasion of the Brazilians, with six bands playing across multiple stages. It’s quite an eye opener to discover that Brazilians love all types of punk music. No, to say they love punk is to understate it, they have a burning passion for it fuelled by the politics of Brazil, that taps into the heart of the British punk movements of the 70s and 80s. Subalternos, Sindicato Oi, Dedo Podre, Agrotoxico, Supla, they all bring this passion to their shows, and the Brazilian fans bring it to the dance floor. It’s during Sindicato Oi’s set that the weekend is nearly brought to an early end as a flailing dervish from the dance floor results in a rather sore jaw for the remainder of the day. Nothing’s broken though so it’s business as usual for the rest of the weekend. Sem Futuro are the highlight of the Brazilian invasion. Viki Vortex And The Cumshots turn up the heat on the Casbah stage, so much so they have to open the doors to cool things down even before the afternoon sun gets hold. Alongside the boys from Brazil were the equally mental The Babes, Devolution faves Healthy Junkies, and the legendary Anti Nowhere League who are the first band of many to completely fill the Empress Ballroom. Vertigo Violet smash it on introducing giving the festival serious food for thought about bringing them back next year. Hangover status: Pass the paracetamols.
There’s a running theme right from the start on Saturday as Murderburgers fill the Introducing stage to capacity. Soon afterwards their drummer Alex fills in for Pizzatramp and given just one night to learn the songs does a hell of a job. The band blow everyone away with their post hard core make it up as you go along vibe. For old school punks today is the day with 999, CockneyRejects, RutsDC, and Peter&TheTestTubeBabies all playing. The most popular band of the day though has to be U.K. Subs, who put on a great show. They’re so popular in fact that they have to turn people away and close the doors to the Empress Ballroom. It’s not all old school though with Antisect putting on a blistering performance in the Pavilion. The new kids on the block are well represented by the fabulous IDestrioy and Migrana Social whose bass player has to win the award for most astonishing hair do at the event. Diablofurs bring some rock n roll mixed with new wave and a whole other bag of tricks to introducing. They are another act that must be on the organisers radar for a swift return. Veterans Vice Squad show they still have plenty to offer with Beki Bondage now the subject of an investigation as to whether she owns a time machine. How can anyone stay looking that fresh for this long? Amazing. Hangover status: Hair of the dog
It’s the last day and everyone is scurrying around picking up last minute purchases from the many vendors at Rebellion. J’aime Rachelle plays her heart out on the acoustic stage. A specialist in the unplugged her set is a class apart. The Baby Seals put on a really fun show with their songs about women, not for the squeamish men in the audience. Informal Society from LA put on a highly energetic show and even have Suzi Carmichael guest on the last couple of tracks. Glittertrash pretty much do what they say on the tin. It’s full on US punk who with a front woman in Jenna Talia are always going to be show stoppers. Hands Off Gretel have newly bedded in bass ace Becky Baldwin on show and take no prisoners on the Casbah stage. While the older songs are always going to be crowd pleasers the new material stacks up well in a live environment. The new album should be a killer if this show is anything to go by. Slaughter & The Dogs get a highly energetic crowd going to a great set. The most colourful band of the weekend though has to be The Adicts who bring their circus to the Club Casbah stage to close the night. Michael Monroe rocks the socks off everyone at the sumptuous Opera House while something is stirring in the Empress ballroom. Yep, John Lydon is up to his old tricks again. The former Sex Pistol can’t help but wind up the audience with a little political speech. It sees many leave in dismay but those that stay watch a PIL show that is solid rather than barnstorming. Those that can party on well into Monday. Hangover status: Dead!
Rebellion is a huge festival. It runs for four full days on seven stages and hosts around 350 acts. It’s run by a small team with no corporate sponsorship and because it is independent it can book who it wants, can blood as many new acts as it wants and can truly support the scene. Darren Russell-Smith and Jennie Russell-Smith started Rebellion festival and have built it into something quite magnificent. They’ve given punks a spiritual home where everyone feels like they belong. Cheers guys. See you in 2019.