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REBELLION PUNK FESTIVAL @ WINTER GARDENS, BLACKPOOL 2013 - PHOTOS & REPORT BY MELANIE SMITH

Rebellion Punk Festival is now remarkably in its 17th year, and still the flames burn brightly, as it continues to be the biggest and best punk festival in the entire world. So for four action packed days and nights during August Blackpool's Winter Gardens is transformed once more, into a colourful brigade of peacocks from all around the world. It’s the second year Mudkiss have been privileged to play a small part in it, and so armed with my  camera gear I went to capture the atmosphere and the music.

Now that I’ve rested up, after a break, from the whirlwind weekend of  music, its time to assemble my thoughts and photos into some kind of order. Rebellion although deemed as a ‘punk festival’ has really begun to spread its wings, and cater for music in all genres, but with the emphasis still firmly on the alternative radar. In one room you might be watching the highly entertaining cover band ‘Abba Sensation’ (and believe me the Pavilion was packed to the rafters with punters, a welcome diversion too.), or like me be checking out the ska rhythms of the Neville Staple band in the Empress Ballroom, then hot footing it down to catch ex Heartbreakers legend Walter Lure. It’s slowly becoming more diverse and eclectic, and where else could you find punk stalwarts Sham 69, a musical trapeze/circus act called the Good-Fer-Nothing Circus, and the atmospheric sounds of Peter Hook & the Light on the same bill? The answer not many places, apart from Rebellion, plus other forms of music such as punk, pop, rockabilly, ska, psychobilly, added to this mix a diversity of people, ages, nationality and styles. The one aspect I find most appealing is that people are so friendly, there’s no airs and graces, no competition, or hostility towards anyone. Every year is like meeting up with distant relatives, or friends who you only ever talk to on facebook. People come from all walks of life and for 4 days of the year, nothing matters but having a great time, listening to music, chatting to your favourite musician, (who you might find hanging out at his/her merch stall, or watching a band at the side of you) Jerry Only from The Misfits, Captain Sensible, TV Smith, Charlie Harper, Texas Terri and many others were only too happy to oblige in chatting to anyone passing by.

THURSDAY: And so it begins...Thursday afternoon, the first band of the day to warm my camera up was the hearty brigade from Fire Exit performing in the Arena. A jolly bunch of old skool punks who ripped into their set, as if their life depended on it.

Nicely warmed up we trotted off to see a couple of sets from various bands such as Scranton Pennsylvania punk band The Menzingers, Sick On The Bus, German heavy duty punks Slime, and Cornwall band The Surgeons. Next stop was the Pavilion (Bizarre, Bizarre stage) for something different called Good-Fer-Nothing Circus, after a long set up of trapeze gear I’d hoped it was worth the wait. It proved to be a bit hit and miss, with a bizarre food fight, amidst the trapeze acts, but in parts it was interesting.

However I missed the next act, which was a tribute band Abba Sensation due to the previous act over running and I wanting to catch a bit of ska in the form of Neville Staple Band over in the Empress Ballroom. Neville was greeted affectionate by the crowd, with chants of “rude boy, rude boy” as he walked carefully on stage with his fancy walking stick, and after a couple of 'Specials' tracks he informed us all that he’d had a stroke. This didn’t diminish his act in the slightest, and everyone loves to get down to a bit of ska don’t they?

It’s time to dash off after my 3 song allocation to catch Walter Lure in action in the blazing hot confines of the Arena. With fantastic lights and sound, the ex Heartbreaker hits all the right notes, with just the right mixture of rock n’ roll and punk as he hammered out their well known classics, which needless to say delighted everyone.

Another dart across to the Pavilion to catch four piece all girl band The Ramonas, now of course with a name like this it is only expected they are going to cover The Ramones. Initially I was sceptical, but the singer is just like a female Joey, even down to the moves. I really enjoyed the few songs I caught up with, but with no time to spare I have another band to shoot, and time waits for no one. 

 

Back at the Empress its our last band of the night New Model Army, fronted by Justin Sullivan. I don’t claim to be a big fan, but their legion of fans are in place, it's rammed and they go down a storm. By the end of the day I’d witnessed 10 bands and being a total lightweight was ready for bed. Tomorrows another day...

FRIDAY: Here we go again ….after a hearty breakfast down at the Hilton and some downtime we emerge all refreshed and ready to get stuck into some music again. The first band on my hit list was the Argies, appropriately named as they are from Argentina, with an explosion of guitar action from the four piece, how could they not fail to be anything but entertaining. Next stop is the Empress Ballroom to catch hotly tipped Greece punk band Barb Wire Dolls (who have been the most talked about band on the punk scene since Mudkiss first interviewed them two years ago). Remember we saw them first ..and they were incredibly entertaining, it helps that the singer, blonde siren Isis Queen is a beautiful creature, a wild performer who holds nothing back in getting her message about the revolution across to the masses at the front of the house. Even down to groping the young security guard and climbing into the crowd to get her point across. Whatever your take on them, regarding punk cliques, you cannot take away from the fact they are superbly visually entertaining, and as an added bonus really nice people.

Hot footing it back down to the Arena (my favourite room) we snatched a song or two from a four piece called the Drones. I did wonder if this might have been the original Manchester punk band, but they turned out to be a couple of young guys, who played hardcore punk numbers. A bit like a more aggressive Green Day, but not a bad thing! Staying in the Arena we checked out three piece punk band, Eastfield on a recommendation, very much "77 style sounding and thought we’d move on down the track to see Chelsea at the Empress Ballroom. Vocalist Gene October, one of the original "76 London punks, as always gives an aggressive stance, and from what I heard had a whinge or two in the bargain. Didn’t stay long as Charred Hearts were sizzling down in the Arena, a few quick photos, and then racing down to the Olympia for the unmissable Pink Hearse. Blackpool’s very own colourful all female band, always entertaining. Frontwoman Nicki is a remarkable in yer face character, and how they have developed since I last interviewed them at Manchester's Strummercamp in 2009.

 

Heading out to the Empress Ballrooms again….. (I should warn you that it helps if your fitness regime is up to scratch at this festival, as there is plenty of walking to be done here.) Ska band The Skints are bringing a much needed bit of melody to the day with their ska and reggae inspired performance. Bring the dancing on! Then it’s back to the sounds of the 80’s in the Pavilion with Hazel O’Connor. I loved the movie ‘Breaking Glass’ so was interesting to hear a couple of songs from this period, her voice is still strong and passionate. Hazel was very popular, therefore the room soon became rammed to the max, and feeling quite hot and claustrophobic this was my cue to head out.

Berlin based band the Church Of Confidence are playing down in the Arena. Looking very sharp, they toy with a mix of punk, and rock n' roll, with the obligatory cool attitude. With no time to spare, and feet a flying its onto a bit of Maximum Rock N Roll a bunch of crazy Canadians, with frontman Diamond Brent Pantheras who is always on a high. One of STP Records finest and always guaranteed to put on a worthy show with their brand of punk, metal, hardcore rock n’roll shenanigans. It’s such a shame the Olympia sound isn’t as good as the other venues in the complex.

 

The artist Vince Ray & his Boneshakers were a great respite from full on punk bands, with their brand of rockabilly tunes, as were Brighton's Long Tall Texans. The psychobilly tunes really impressed me (and I especially loved the way six pack Mark Carew threw his double bass around). I'd love to see them again, a really fresh band, who have for some reason evaded me until recently.  

Meanwhile an unusual sound is emitting from the Bizarre Bizarre stage, as I pass, its The Beatlesons, a German folk-punk band from Düsseldorf, with a weird assortment of characters, playing a variety of instruments, fronted by a female singer with a moustache, reminded me a little of Gogol Bordello. We didn’t stay long as we had a date with a couple of Guitar Gangsters in the Olympia. The Three piece GG’s are well established on the punk scene, having cut their teeth 20 + years ago, a punk, rock n’roll type band with bags of energy and plenty of guitar licks you can sing along to.

Ok, its 9pm and I’m starting to flag a bit, back to the Pavilion for something a bit quieter. The Bellefleurs, are Miss Rich, Miss Farmer and Miss Harbour, collectively a trio of ‘dressed to kill’ glamorous vocalists, from Bath. They are  a change to the louder punk bands currently blasting out, its time to chill out, and check out their cabaret tongue in cheek style set. Playing cover songs in their own vintage style, with perfect pitch voices, they proved to be one of the most colourful of the day.

Decided to stay in the Pavilion to check out the next act Ed Banger & The Nosebleeds, well I couldn’t miss them, they were one of the first punk bands I ever saw back in "77 at Wigan Casino, obviously older and wiser, but still have the ability to knock out the good stuff.

Time for a bit of light refreshments before we head out to the enormous Olympia stage, for The Damned, rarely disappointing they pound the stage in their own inimitable fashion. The sound in Olympia is notoriously loud, so I'm afraid the earplugs got pushed that bit deeper. The legendary Captain Sensible is playing up to his characters image, in his colourful clothes and trademark red beret, the handsome crooner/vampire Dave Vanian is strutting up and down the stage at the speed of lighting whipping his mic lead as he paces.

The Adicts, are on my photographic agenda, so its another march back to the Empress Ballroom, just in time. It all kicks off as the band emerge dressed in a 'Clockwork Orange' theme, Kid the drummer, holds his sticks up in readiness, and the guitarist waltzes in with huge Blackpool glasses on. Monkey in contrast appears in a glittery suit, complete with waistcoat and hat, flicking a pack of playing cards. The Adicts are a visual and aural delight, but I'm expected back at the Olympia for the two final bands of the night, so I'm afraid I probably missed something special. Its now 1am, on the last leg, The Vibrators are already on the smaller stage, there is no Knox but Pete is a fine vocalist and guitarist, and we witness some great action. It's always good to hear those old songs, memories of being a teenager, and the backstage area is packed with onlookers, probably thinking the same thing. And last but not least, we have our final band, a scorching performance from Buzzcocks. (who happened to be staying in our hotel btw). The crowd are a sea of happy faces, singing along albeit tired and sweaty, and it's been a great day.

Our work is done here, it's been a spellbinding day of bands, amidst the heatwave of the complex, completing a total of 21 bands on our checklist. Our weary bodies head for our hotel at 1.30am.

SATURDAY: After a good nights sleep we are refreshed and raring to go once more. The first band of the day is DragSTER, (another band we have featured here at Mudkiss) female fronted firecracker Fiona Friel leads the way, hardly pausing to keep still for long. Pounding those sleazy punk rhythms and attitude, this girl has balls, and writhes around on the floor screaming lyrics from the album 'Here Come The Meat Robots'  to a decent sized crowd, the band aint' too bad either.

Healthy Junkies, are up next, fronted by the Parisian beauty Nina Courson. It’s the first time I’ve seen them, and how very remiss of me. They offer us grungy psychedelic guitars, with pop sensibility, not as aggressive as other punk bands, but they can still command the stage, and I really liked them. Mental note must check them out again.

It’s always great to see female fronted bands, (if you haven't noticed they are my favourites) and of course we have the ultimate punk frontwoman Texas Terri Bomb. TXT is totally in charge as she rips through the set, an unmistakable female Iggy Pop, taking on a cover version of ‘I Wanna be Your Dog’. Also not averse to sharing the stage with other singers, she invites a couple of her friends to perform The Dead Boys ‘Sonic Reducer’, so now we have Colleen Caffeine, Nikki Hearse, and Tara Rez. It’s a free for all and the crowd love it.(Mudkiss interviewed TXT back in 2010)

After all that excitement, it’s time for a bit of a breather which leads us upstairs in the Spanish room, to check out the artwork/photos ect on display, then wander around the vintage stalls. We're just in time to see a couple of interviews conducted by John Robb. Author Teddie Dahlin - (interviewed here by Mudkiss back in 2011) is being grilled regarding her two recent book publications from Sid Viscous to Gary Holton.

It's good to just step back a bit from the live music for a while as there is so much going on, and we are doing a spot of people watching and photographing, there is a plethora of interesting looking individuals around, whether they are musicians, stall holders or Rebellion ticket holders, and we do a bit of social networking in the bargain. 

We catch a couple of songs from all female gang The Smears, from Nottingham, as they entice us into their lair, which happens to be in the Arena, blistering punky, and grungey, delivered with all the power of a sub machine gun, another interesting group which needs further investigating.

The Empress Ballroom beckons for vintage punk band Vice Squad with the gorgeous age defying frontwoman Beki Bondage, still a punk pin-up.What can you say about Vice Squad which hasn't been said before, they are still a great punk band whose longevity speaks volumes. Yet another (STP Records) band is playing in the Olympia, and its time for some sleazy fun, from the bunch of crackpots who call themselves Dirtbox Disco, performing songs from their recent album ‘People Made Of Paper’ they manage to pack out the large space. This band is certainly going places, if tonight is anything to go by, and the admirable thing about them is that they don’t take themselves too seriously. They are even joined on stage by Maximum R’ Roll singer wearing a lime green mankini costume and a balaclava.

 

The next band which takes my fancy are Duncan Reid & The Bigheads, (Duncan formerly the singer with The Boys) its a bit different to the punk bands around today, both easy listening and easy on the eye too…(plus he thinks women are wonderful). Duncan is bopping around with his sharp suit and Rickenbacker, with a bunch of rock n' roll riffs. I would have liked to stay and watch more but still lot's of bands to check out and photograph.

The highly popular Irish Canadian punk band The Mahones are highlighted next on the agenda over in the Olympia,and they almost blow the roof off, with their riotous infectious music, which makes everyone wanna dance their ass off and party,  they certainly painted Blackpool red tonight. I stayed and watched for a while before heading out to catch a duo I never thought I'd ever be photographing.

Chas & Dave are so far removed from the punk bands playing at Rebellion, but are a massive hit with this audience, as they hold them captive, with their pub singalong cockney rhythmic tunes. I can't say they did anything for me to be honest, but each to their own...so pardon the pun I won't rabbit, rabbit on anymore about it. I'd met the chirpy chaps from Cockney Rejects earlier at the merch stall, as they were in the midst of a stampede from fans buying their albums and latest 'East End Babylon' movie on dvd. We featured Mick on these very pages, in fact it was one of the first interviews we did in 2008 (you can read it here). I suspect half of East London had followed the band down as it began to get rammed full of faithful fans. The Geggus brothers are a punk band who've served their time since the late seventies, and they are still the leaders of the pack. 

We are on the last leg of bands and I'm starting to flag a little, what better way to recharge the batteries than with a touch of The Rezillos, a fun and lively band, with plenty of dancing and colourful outfits, revving up those memories of 'Top Of The Pops' before it became tarnished by the ghost of Jimmy Saville and his misdemeanour's. I darted across to the Pavilion and caught a quick glance over at dub rockers Ruts C, the room was heaving with people and the heat was unbearable, so after a few quick snapshots off I trotted.

American horror inspired punk band The Misfits became our grand finale for this evening. We'd met the 'devilocked' Jerry Only earlier as he did a little meet and greet at their merch stall. What a nice man, he turned out to be. Tonight is a different matter, and he is a mean looking horror machine, destined to scare you all shitless. The three piece managed to summon up all kinds of evil with their hardcore punk, and metal shenanigans, played at full speed. ...and so thirteen bands later we are zooming at break neck speed down the motorway back home.

SUNDAY: Due to an aviation show being held in Blackpool we got delayed after trying to park for what felt like hours. Therefore missing the four bands we had highlighted to see, Electric River, Wrecks, The Terraces and Goldblade. So feeling a tad disheartened we made our way to the Arena for our first band of the day, the street punk band Crashed Out from Tyne & Wear and they played it very loud with some rebel rousing crowd pleasers. Now we are ready to get started...

Heading out to the Olympia in readiness for Detroits punks Choking Susan I caught sight of a man dancing around on stage wearing a big bird costume, it was Geoffrey Oicott & The Dickie Birds. A bit of fun is much needed as people are starting to look a little bit weary, from all the late night partying, so Choking Susan fronted by Colleen is here to offer you a large helping of Caffeine. Warming up first with her stretching exercises, then launching into ' Waste My Time' strutting, posing and being the sensual deviant that we all love about her. A photographers dream, and....a delightful fun loving kooky set.

Billy Liar is playing down in the Acoustic stage, a quick photo call and away we go to get fucked up on something a bit heavier. I actually mean the hardcore punk band from Canada Fucked Up. Damn right it's fucked up, Damian Abraham is a beast of a man, with a heavy set beard, and a tad scary, although he's smiling so can't be all bad. Before the 3 songs are up, he's topless and in the pit, then amidst the crowd, drinking beer out of random cups, and shoving the mic in their faces. The last I saw of him he was lost in the middle of the crowd....who knows what happened next?...

I scrambled my way through the crowds to go and photograph North West punk band The Roughneck Riot. Its been a few years since I last saw them at Warrington Music festival, they can still delivery the energy and passion mixing folk and punk in their own style. You can't fail to keep still when the Roughnecks bomb the stage.

So the heavyweight American punk band The Bronx are on in the Empress Ballroom, currently rated one of the best live bands around (or so I'm reliably informed by managing editor Andy). It sure is a blistering performance from the hard rockers, if you like it hard and heavy - call me boring....shout me down...but I actually prefer their alter egos Mariachi El Bronx.

Lene Lovich is calling like a little bird from the Pavilion, its packed to the rafters of this beautiful vintage theatre. I got a nudge from a punter asking "is it really 'Lene Lovich' or just a band, if so I am not gonna be fucking pleased".  I assured him it was the real Lene. On with the show, as she appears dressed in her usual eccentric garb, head to toe in veils, plus assorted headgear. Wow she must be sweltering, but before too long it was discarded, and we could see her face and those long plaits. Lene still has a great stage presence, and THAT enchanting voice! 

Now I must admit when I heard the next artist might be doing something with a bit of nudity I couldn't resist having a gander, so with a dubious and enquiring mind I headed to the Arena. So complete with his band He Who Cannot Be Named walked onto the stage, under bright white lights, wearing a coloured face mask and shamelessly stark bollock naked. Now in my book that is what I call brave....ermm so to be honest I didn't hear much of the music as I was too busy trying to concentrate on my craft. It was one of those awkward moments but I think I held it together pretty good...and everyone had a beaming smile on their faces, including me or so a security guard informed me.

Time for some much needed rockabilly, and its the job of suave looking trio The Peacocks, from Switzerland to provide it. I really loved these rockers, as did the arena crowd as they danced their asses off to tracks from their album 'Don't Ask'. They have so much dynamic energy and enthusiasm, and I think I've just fell in love with singer Hasu Langart. I could have stayed to watch the entire set, but the infamous punksters Jello Biafra & The Guantanamo School Of Medicine were appearing in the Empress Ballroom. From the word go it was frenetic, the enigmatic Jello was pacing the floor in his colourful uniform with top hat and tailcoat, maniacally spouting political messages in his own zany fashion. Of course they pulled out some of the old Dead Kennedy numbers 'Holiday In Cambodia' and the singalong 'Too Drunk To Fuck'. Needless to say this was a totally explosive and well executed performance and much applauded by all the punters.

Cambodia, California and too drunk Too Fuck

Excitement was building down in the Empress as reunited old skool punk band Sham 69 were due to appear, (albeit a bit later than billed) featuring original line up of Jimmy Pursey, bassist Dave Tregunna and guitarist Dave Parsons. In walks Jimmy wearing a hoodie, a mask over his face, Guiness can in hand, throws this down, then kicks off with 'What Have We Got', followed by 'I Don't Wanna' and 'Ulster Boy' the crowd go wild. The boys are back and the classics follow 'Angels With Dirty Faces’, ‘Borstal Breakout’ and 'Hersham Boys'. I have it on good authority that they went down a storm, as I hotfooted it down for the final band of the night, to check out the Toronto psycho punk band with the big sound The Creepshow, fronted by singer/ guitarist Kenda. As I arrived the sounds of raucous rock n' roll was emitting from the venue, and I managed to jump into the pit for the last two allocated songs. They are a ferocious live act, giving it the full on dirty rock n' roll treatment. Loved them so much I even bought a tee shirt!

 

So that folks was the end of the four days, having photographed 50+ bands, and trying to remember it all. I hope I have managed to do some justice to them all, and convey the spirt of the event. It proved beyond doubt a triumphant long weekend, with something for everyone, and much better than last year, with more diversity and variety.

My wish list for next year would be a reformation of Generation X headlining the Empress Ballroom, with Blondie on their 40th Anniversary. Maybe Keith Levine (Ex PiL), and if I am being really greedy Emilie Autumn on the Bizarre Bizarre stage. A Burlesque performer would be cool, as would a specialised massage area, for all those weary stiff necks and shoulders half way through the day. But whatever next years line up will be I am certain that it will be a raving success. Apparently tickets are available right now, and NOFX are have already been booked to headline, so get your early bird tickets and B&B booked its gonna be another great weekend of fun & frolics down by the sea.

ONLY 1000 tickets Available at this price

Weekend 4 day tickets £115 inc VAT

Review & photos by Melanie Smith (full set of images will be here)
 
With thanks to Dod Morrison, Jenny & Darren for believing in Mudkiss and Fishbones Glover for his inspiration, and friendship.