What makes Rebellion Festival like no other? Well for a start you get seven stages all under one enormous roof so if it rains you stay dry. Plus you’re near the seaside so there’s always a beach if you want a break. The real difference though is the sense of family. It’s not about fitting in, it’s about acceptance and welcoming those that don’t. Rebellion also has more female acts and artists than any other festival of its type too, and they’re there on merit not because of any quota. 2019 showed a festival moving with the times too. Here then are the best, and the best of the rest of Rebellion Festival 2019 courtesy of Gary Trueman and Mark Bestford.
Gary’s five of the best.
The gothic clowns finally have a home
Playing for the second consecutive year this is the chance Pretty Addicted have been waiting for. A big stage at a major festival. Can the rave clown nutters seize the opportunity? You bet they can. While the audience starts off partly quizzical apart from the crackheads on the barrier it’s not long before the whole crowd is bouncing along. It’s a bold move to put a couple of slightly less tempo driven moments in the show but it pays off making the set more rounded. The finale of Mania is the perfect way to leave people wanting more. By the end Vish is running on raw emotion and that transfers brilliantly to the crowd. Rebellion needs bands like this to evolve and Pretty Addicted deliver a game changer.
Pint sized lioness and her pride
The introducing stage has seriously upped its game this year and that is epitomised perfectly by Pollypikpockets. They play a difficult mid evening slot when other more illustrious acts are heading up the bigger stages. It matters not though as the only barrier free stage at the festival is almost full. The band whizz thorough their brand of hard and heavy groove punk with all the aplomb of the seniors playing elsewhere at the same time. Myura Amara may be pint sized but her voice is huge. This little lioness roars and bounces her way through a half hour of pure fun. With the whole band energised Pollypikpockets produce a set that really should see them return to play again a year from now.
Speed punk fun
Music is a business these days and the wild times of excess have been replaced by number crunching and visits to the bank manager. Pizzatramp really didn’t get the memo on that at all. Quite probably they were out partying when it arrived. They simply blow the Casbah stage away in a wonderfully irreverent set that is played at a million miles an hour. This is speed punk with a healthy dose of metal thrown in the mix too. This is a band that make not taking yourselves seriously an art form. The Casbah loves them and it’s very noticeable this year that the trio have reigned in overdoing it before the show, at least a little bit. With some old favourites nearing forced retirement Pizzatramp announce themselves as potential future headliners.
A class apart
After already putting in a great shift with Hands Off Gretel Lauren Tate takes to the acoustic stage with band mate Sean McAvinue and produces something quite magical. It’s not often you get to see someone with the class of Tate perform in such an intimate arena and the audience know it. Every meaningful word, every beautiful note and every drop of emotion is lapped up. It’s no secret that Hands Off Gretel are one of the fastest rising young acts in the UK today because of the penmanship of this amazing young woman. Here in the little unplugged stage you see just how she connects to an audience, how her words are given such powerful meaning. As you leave you can’t help feel you’ve seen someone on the path to greatness. It’s an I was there moment and it feels fantastic.
A new breed of band
It’s a brave move to combine an already new sound with pole dancing. There are very obvious pitfalls, the accusations of gimmickry and that it’s all a diversion to hide musical flaws. The rub here is that the music is full on fresh, a blast of arctic air into the stuffy old halls of punk rock. Dolly Daggerz has a quite astonishing voice too, holding on to notes that would see mere mortals turn blue and fall. The music itself is a kind of mash up of grunge, pop, punk and heaven forbid lap top samples. Far from being a gimmick the pole is just an extension of how the band, and in particular Dolly express themselves. The great thing is that the women in the audience love it more than the guys. There are gasps when Dolly has the mic and is upside down in her pleasers. Tokyo Taboo are pure entertainment. A recall for 2020 is surely a must.
Mark’s five of the best
The most improved band
It has to be said that the difference in Healthy Junkies’ performances over the years is quite astonishing. Always energetic, always fun, but with a polished edge now that was only promised previously. Singer Nina commands the Arena Stage, with a presence that shows just how much the band has grown in what is still a fairly short time. She looks like she would be just as comfortable on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury as she is at Rebellion, and the show has an air of confidence to it. That’s not to say that confidence was ever lacking previously, but it certainly shows now.
Triumph over injury
After playing the Introducing Stage last year The Babes move into a well deserved slot on the Pavilion Stage on Thursday afternoon. It’s a high octane set, all the more memorable given that the band’s bagpipes player, Mao Holiday, plays the whole thing with his wrist still splinted after breaking it. It’s the first of several shows Mao will play over the course of the weekend, also guesting not once, but twice with the Brazilian band Subalternos, who play two separate sets over the weekend. If there was ever a Spirit of Rebellion award, it would be Mao’s.
The Rebellion stalwarts
The U.K. Subs are without doubt the most loved band at Rebellion. The Friday night slot in the Empress Ballroom is once again full to capacity, the crowd a hot, sweaty mess. From start to finish the barrier becomes a crush, unable to move as it surges forward. Welcome relief from the heat comes by way of a jug of water that now and then flies up into the air, to splash down on the crowd below. With sweat dripping from the sauna heat there’s no way the crowd could be any wetter. Jamie Oliver throws his cymbal out to the crowd, only to discover the set has finished short of it’s allotted time, finally finishing the impromptu encore minus one cymbal.
Wayne Barrett & Friends
The tough choice
The toughest choice for the top five goes to Wayne Barrett & Friends. His double set of Almost Acoustic shows narrowly nudges out both Henry Cluney’s acoustic set, and Alvin Gibbs’ solo show. The first set on the Friday includes members of The Derellas, Brian James, and the aforementioned Alvin Gibbs, amongst others. Closing the stage on the Sunday night there’s a short excerpt from his autobiography, Dog Tails, read by the author Chris Cummins, before he’s joined later in the set by members of the band The Bolokos. The anecdotes flow freely and give an intimate feel to the shows.
Showing them how it’s done
The Skids put on what must be one of the best shows Rebellion has ever seen. While many bands with over forty years under their belts have started to look like caricatures of themselves The Skids look like they’re just getting started. You’d be forgiven for thinking someone had transported the entire band from the 90’s as they have an energy on stage that belies their years. Either they’ve discovered the fountain of youth or they started the band while still in primary school. And for many in the audience they’re transported back in time to their teenage years as they sing along to Into The Valley.
The one we both agree on.
Millie Manders And The Shut Up
Gary: Already a firm favourite at Rebellion Millie Manders and The Shut Up seem to grow every time they perform here. You think they can’t get any better and then you see them just that bit tighter with a little more confidence. Millie has taken ska and given it the modern twist it desperately needed. In doing so she’s also given herself a platform to show off a voice that has become liquid gold. The intro to this set s a jaw dropping moment made even more impressive by the fact that the singer isn’t even on the stage. A multi-instrumentalist and world class vox you wonder if there’s anything at all that Manders couldn’t master given time. Right at this moment she and her band are an act making a difference and helping to make Rebellion the thoroughly diverse festival it needs to be.
Mark:There appears to be a running theme of injured rock stars this year, as Millie Manders walks out on stage with her knee strapped up. She apologises for not being able to be as active as she wants to be, before clearly ignoring any medical advice she’s been given and giving the show her all anyway. Mid-afternoon on a Thursday is clearly too early for this show and it’s without any doubt that we’ll be seeing her moving up to a later slot in the Empress Ballroom within a few short years. Vocally astonishing she captivates the audience for the entirety of her set.
Daily round up – the best of the rest
Thursday kicks off with Lead Shot Hazard who bring an old school ska feel to the introducing stage with twin saxophones and trombone. Emily Flea commands real attention early on in the day on the acoustic stage. The Muffin Heads prove to be ones to watch on the Introducing Stage. Kickback Generation then take on the Arena stage, and for the first bands opening the weekend there’s already a good crowd gathering. Murderburgers move up from opening the Introducing Stage last year to being the first band on the Casbah stage. It’s then over to the Empress Ballroom for the highly inappropriately hilarious The Baby Seals. Diablofurs and iDestroy both put on great sets on the Pavilion Stage before it’s time to catch Dead Objectives back on the Introducing Stage. In Evil hour take no prisoners over at The Casbah Stage. Sour Bitch bring the melody on the Introducing Stage. The evening is rounded off bouncing between stages to see Queen Zee, Anger Flares, and Menace. Total Chaos live up to their name before Spear of Destiny close out the Opera House.
Friday starts with a quick look at the first four bands on. Rebel Station opens up the Introducing Stage while Dream Nails, and Audible Joes open up the Empress Ballroom, and the Pavilion respectively. Migrana Social paly a fine set of fast and furios songs Mexican style on Club Casbah. It’s then back to the Introducing Stage for Petty Phase. Drongos For Europe tear up the Empress Ballroom before it’s over to the Pavilion to watch Suzi of Turbulent Hearts put on her a great show before she finishes off for the second year running dropping the mic in the middle of the crowd. Dragster liven things up with a tight and punchy set of songs on Club Casbah. Miss Fragile puts her heart and soul into a well executed set of songs on the acoustic stage. The bonkers Martyrials show us that keyboards can be handheld instruments before Brazilians Subalternos play their first show of the weekend on the Arena stage. The Menstrual Cramps. They may get some stick for their politics but their call for equality should resonate with all. Likewise Pussyliquor look set to make valid points by taking feminism to the masses in a way that is incendiary. Not since the Slits have we seen women play like this. It’s a welcome return. Ruts DC fill up a very hot and sweaty Empress Ballroom before The Stranglers close the main stage. There’s just enough time left to catch some Ramones covers by The Ramonas before calling it a night.
Californian punks Informal Society start the day in Club Casbah, closely followed by Rats From A Sinking Ship on the Introducing Stage and Spider in the Ballroom.The first band to impress though is the Bristol band Kearney’s Jig on the Arena Stage. Brazilians Los Fastidios are on in the Empress Ballroom before Swedish punks Zero Zero rock the Arena Stage, closely followed by the traditional punk sound of Vomit. There’s just time to grab some 999 back in the Ballroom, the only band to have played every Rebellion Festival to date, before. Maid Of Ace are fast becoming unmissable and once again they perform a brilliant set. Look out for Abby on drums if you catch them anytime, she has to be one of the finest tub thumpers around right now. Alvin Gibbs & The Disobedient Servants play a great set of music, both originals from Alvin’s solo album and some covers from his guest Servants. The last band on the Introducing Stage is The Bolokos from Guadeloupe who bring some French charm to the Festival, before heading back to Club Casbah for Wonk Unit who put on a suitably crazy show. With a few minutes before The Exploited take to the stage there’s just enough time to catch the end of Henry Cluney’s acoustic set that is in full sing-a-long. It’s then time to catch the beginning of The Exploited who explain “We were supposed to be here last year, but there was a slight problem of being fucking dead”. Satisfied that they are very much alive still it’s off to the Opera House to finish the night with The Godfathers.
First band on the Sunday is Sunday Punk Club but it’s Hands Off Gretel in the Empress Ballroom who really kick the day off. They play to the sort of crowd normally reserved for the late evening acts. Whisper it for now but HOG could be genuine headliner candidates of the future.The White Ribbons put on a great show in the Pavilion. It’s then off to the Acoustic Stage for an afternoon of Weekend Recovery, Desensitised, Jessamine Finlayson Dirtbox Disco prove that they’re still a force to be reckoned with, even as a four piece, as the security guards are set to work on the crowd surfers. Radio friendly Tequila Mockingbyrd play the Introducing Stage before it’s off to the Ballroom for C J Ramone. With Cress pulling out much credit has to be given to Desensitised for filling in at such short notice. Can we have them back again next year please? Next up it’s The Professionals before we catch Subalternos doing their second set of the weekend. It’s then back to the Ballroom via the Arena, where Choking Susan play their always well received glam punk. Vice Squad never ever miss a beat and utterly rule Club Casbah. Wayne Barrett closes the bar on the Almost Acoustic stage before the night is closed off with The Damned.
While the heat in the Winter Gardens may have made things a little stickyat times it was the heat provided by the bands that really lit Rebellion 2019 up and turned it super nova. It has become very apparent that this is now a much more diverse event than it was a while back. As music moves forward you can see that the organisers want to keep pace with change and the now full four day Introducing Stage is key to this. With seven stages on tap there’s plenty of room for both the traditional bands and the new blood. All credit to Darren and Jennie Russell-Smith for being so pro-active in supporting new music. This year showed once again that music is global and it has a powerful voice. Let’s hope Rebellion 2020 roars just a loudly as this year.
Review by Gary Trueman and Mark Bestford
Photos by Gary Trueman