This is our fourth annual pilgrimage to Blackpool for the Rebellion Punk festival at the Winter Gardens. Having set off from home just after 7.30am, by the time we'd checked in and wandered down the beach to the Winter Gardens we'd already managed to miss the first band of the weekend. Shame, as we really wanted to see Geoffrey Oicott on the Casbah Stage at 12.35 and we didn't get in till 1.30! Bah!
So instead our first band this year was Spoilers: a young 4 piece who were on the Pavilion stage. They play modern indie punk that was rather forgettable and veered close to being landfill. The best song of the set was Whose To Blame.
Next up was Viki Vortex & The Cumshots who had taken a big step up from last year and were in the (as always) very impressive Empress Ballroom. They play some very cool tongue in cheek day-glo punk but the ballroom needs a good size crowd to absorb the sound which means at times I can hear the drums and bass echo back at us. It's a good mix of old and new material and they went down well with the slowly filling ballroom. The Highlights were Police Car (no, not the Larry Wallis classic) and You Suck.
We then went outside for the first time to the Casbah Stage, which is back in its old location, only this time the roof has gone and it's now an outside car-park. Albeit one with very loud speakers that can be heard from some distance away in downtown Blackpool.
We went out to see Hobo Jones & The Junkyard Dogs who are perpetual festival favourites, playing Skiffle punk on homemade instruments. They did a great version of Ace Of Spades that had everyone singing along. Rock & Roll pt 2 put a smile on my face and they did plenty of joking around both during and between songs. Should I Stay Or Should I Go went down particularly well and they closed with the brilliant Geldof Is a Moron to leave us all chanting along to the chorus of the slightly altered Jilted John classic.
We went back inside and into The Opera House to take a seat for the Bollock Brothers whose London gig in a few weeks' time I had been considering going to until I saw this set and now I don't need to see them again. Much as I admire the twin microphone art punk attack and like their version of Harley David Son Of a Bitch, I don't think I need to see them again for a good while. However, closing track Jack The Ripper was also pretty cool and they are certainly worth seeing at least once.
It was then back outside to the Casbah stage for one of the strangest bands of the weekend - Evil Blizzard - who all play in various horror masks and outfits and have a mere 4 bass guitarists as well as keyboards and drums to play some very PIL-style dubby sludge horror punk with a comic edge to it. After about five or six songs we'd got it and had enough even though I have spoken to more than one person who thought they were one of the bands of the weekend. Not for me they weren't.
On the tip of an old friend we nipped back inside to the Rebellion Introducing stage in the Dereham Lounge to see New Generation Allstars: a couple of whom look familiar from the late 90's when I'd guess I may have seen them playing in someone like Dead Century. Certainly someone who would have played at Big Bob's at the Rock Garden or Roadhouse. If not as a support act at some point in the 10 years they have been about as New Generation Superstars.
They played a set of semi-speedy, at times quite charged up Ramones-style punk that at times sounded a bit too generic to be really memorable at a festival like this. Whoever was doing the sound in the Dereham Lounge for them needed shooting as the levels were all over the place which didn't help them too much either.
Then it was back out to The Casbah for The Bar Stool Preachers who are a good solid bet to up the ante and get everyone going properly. They are a never off the road touring ska punk band who got the first proper mosh pit and crowd surfers of the weekend. They were seriously good fun even while singing about serious issues. Perfect for early evening at a festival but they'll show up in your town soon enough on that perpetual tour and I do love the song about being stuck on the M1 again.
After that we took a short mash potato break before I got dragged back out to the Casbah for a smoke break and so caught two and a half songs too many of Face To Face: a very non-descript American So-Cal punk band who make Green Day sound innovative. They may have been around since 1991 but I don't think I've missed anything by never having heard of them before.
I then dashed back inside to the Almost Acoustic Stage where Jo had kept me a good seat for The Pukes who were reduced to a mere 7 piece. Highlights of a very entertaining set included Baby Baby that had everyone singing along to it and the hilarious stage invasion before they played I Must Stop Drinking. They were also the first band of the weekend to pay tribute to the recently departed Mickey Fitz by closing their set with the Ballad Of Mickey Fitz after a suitable introduction. Very cool.
We then popped into The pavilion for some of Skaciety. A very young 6 piece ska punk band who seemed to have most of the room dancing along and smiling. They were cool to see for a bit of fun.
I then made the mistake of insisting we go and see Toyah in the Opera House to find out why she was on this bill. Apart from having been an actress in Derek Jarman's Jubilee she's about as un-punk as they come, a point she proved from the opening of We Are and the heaps and heaps of bad 80's keyboards that washed over us.
Yes she still looks great and her voice sounds great if you like Kate Bush style windblown epic-ness but it ain't punk and she managed to slaughter Echo Beach after going on about having a hit with it.
Telling stories of her mum performing in the Winter Gardens with Oliver Hardy and Max Wall or her performing in Calamity Jane made her sound all luvvie rather than punk and the very proggy Our Movie helped to start clear the hall. Most people seemed to give her 2 to 3 songs before moving on. So that when she did a laughable cover of Rebel Yell I was getting an ear bashing for insisting on seeing the whole set.
Now I've heard her sing It's a Mystery live I won't need to go and see next year's big 60th birthday tour and back catalogue re-issues that she was gamely flogging us throughout. She was on the wrong bill and was worst leg end of the weekend.
To cleanse our ears after Toyah we went back to The pavilion for Scottish legends Fire Exit for some proper old school punk that was soon making us sing about how Religion is the biggest cause of war. They also did a very cool cover of runaway and they closed with a bit of an all-star tribute to Mickey Fitz and a great sing along to Drinking And Driving. I felt so much better for seeing them after Toyah.
So then into the Empress Ballroom for Bad Religion who played a sort of greatest hits set with good versions of American Jesus and No Control getting the crowd going. Fuck You was nice and angry as it should be and Love Is Stranger Than Fiction went down well. Greg made a good point or two while introducing the rather prescient New Dark Ages that had to be followed with I Want To Conquer The World.
The song that got the biggest cheer and sing along was 21st Century Digital Boy and they also had a pretty large pit going for it too before they closed with You. It was a good set but not a stand out.
We finished our day's music slumped in the seats in the Opera house for Menace and some good old fashioned angry street punk from London. From the opening "1234!" Fin was taunting us and trying to get everyone going and having a pop at the Insane Society. They were frenetic even if we were struggling a bit, I Carry No Banners sounded really good.
As ever Man at C & A made me laugh a bit before they told us all to Fuck You. It was with a full on stage invasion backing choir that carried on for GLC, the band's classic single and rallying cry that was the last song we managed to hear as we were both tired and hungry and left in search of some donuts and a warm bed as we still had 3 more days to go.