Rebellion Festival, Blackpool, the weekend in review

Posted on 16 August 2010
By Peter Charles
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Saturday is very much about the old-school. Rebellion staples UK Subs, G.B.H and the practically jurassic New York Dolls are on this evening.

Although they have kept faith with these hugely influential acts, the organisers are conscious of the rapidly changing face of punk rock. They sure as hell know that the annual crop of ’77 era bands are only as durable as their last surviving/capable member and that young and varied talent is essential to ensuring the festival’s longevity.

With that in mind wecaught young whippersnappers The Human Project open the day’s music with their whirlwind post-hardcore sound.

Their highly technical riffs and frantic drum bursts lack nothing in innovation, but the absence of a natural frontman, coupled with ‘first band’ nerves lets them down a little. Still one to watch and would go down a storm in a smaller venue.

With several hours to go to the awesome live spectacle that is John Robb’s Goldblade, it’s time to take a gamble on the next act. Several yards from the exit, the dulcet tones of a blonde Swedish siren promptly haul us back into the Arena by the scruff of the neck.

This is Monica and the Explosion, which consists of said Swede on acoustic guitar, a drummer and Paul Slack of the UK Subs on bass. It’s nothing flashy, just rythmic Americana country done well, with maximum drawl and plenty of punk attitude. No flies on this one.

The Rebellion literary festival, hosted by John Robb, is worth a mention. We stumble in upon the Goldblade frontman interviewing former members of seminal anarchist band Crass Penny Rimbaud and Steve Ignorant.

For aficionados of the movement they helped create, one characterized by fierce anti-authoritarianism, animal rights and environmentalism, this is clearly something to shout about (applause ripples around the Bizarre Bazaar at every mention of influential protest artist and former band member Gee Vaucher).

Robb himself is straight off after the interview (which, in truth, is more of a monologue) to appear as the bare-chested frontman of Goldblade.

The massive sing-along chorus of ubiquitous opener ‘Fighting in the Dancehalls’ sparks the most furious moshpit so far and before long, Robb is leaning over the barrier beating his enormous chest and passing the mic to anyone and everyone.

It’s a hugely camp, over-the-top rock and roll show throughout and ends with no less than twenty girls dancing amongst the band (as well as a few toddlers who have managed to muscle themselves past security – seriously). ‘The Power of Rock and Roll’ has Robb almost solemnly asking audience members to affirm their belief in the power of rock and roll. No-one says ‘no’, which, it is tempting to wonder, must have happened before.

The final day at Rebellion is only really about one band. Foreign acts are few and far between this year, but surely no-one from across the pond can win over the British punks like Bad Religion? Too bloody right they can.

Pink Eyes, the rotund, bearded frontman of Canadian hardcore band Fucked Up is swinging, nay, Flailing a microphone around his head, carving a radius of about 20 feet through the air and coming perilously close to pole-axing several aghast onlookers in the front row.

All this while his band unleash a crescendo of pre-gig noise behind him. As he catches the mic, Fucked Up launch into the most devastating assault of hardcore heard at the festival so far.

With no hesitation, Pink Eyes launches his massive frame into the crowd and, clearly not comfortable on stage, stays there for the entire gig. In forty minutes, he covers the length and breadth of the audience, hugging people, crowd-surfing (did we mention he weighs about twenty stone?) posing for photos and videos and occasionally singing some lyrics.

Fucked Up’s deal is to take one driving riff and nurse it, caress it, layer it with distortion, stick thunderous, driving drum beats over the top of it and deafen anyone who has the balls to question it. It’s terrifying at worst, epic at best.

If Bad Religion can top that, we’ve got our money’s worth. Dwarves certainly don’t, unless you’re into blisteringly fast one-minute songs about fucking, fighting and getting high. You do? Sorry, in that case, Dwarves ruled.

The lights come down for the last time and Bad Religion show not just why they were asked to play, but why they are headlining tonight. They have ninety minutes of material, which they play with virtually no breaks, and they are tight as hell to boot.

It goes without saying Greg Graffin cuts an awkward looking frontman onstage, enunciating every other line with his index finger, but the absence of any kind of machismo or over-styling is refreshing in the presence of so many fashion punks. With cracking songs like ‘Hills of Los Angeles’ and ‘Do What You Want’ and album sales which have been steadily increasing even 30 years after the band’s inception, no-one can doubt their credentials, even less their performance.