When it’s said that ‘punk is dead’ what exactly does that mean? It seems that punk rock is the only musical genre that gets this accusation laid at its door. Ever since the Sex Pistols imploded punk has been suffering from a slow and lingering death an affliction that doesn’t affect any other type of music. When Elvis died nobody assumed rock n roll would cease to be soon after. Or when Bob Marley sadly passed away that reggae would soon roll-over and fade out of existence. Yet punk is forever perceived as a terminal stretcher case, just minutes from flat-lining. However one only has to visit Rebellion Festival to see the truth is somewhat different and that punk rock is in rude health and very much alive and kicking. Taking place at the Winter Gardens entertainment complex in the seaside town of Blackpool, the Rebellion Punk Festival has steadily grown in strength since its inception in 1995, to become one of the biggest independent music festivals in the world. Mudkiss was there to join in with this year’s party. With well over two hundred bands lined up to play the six stages that make up the Rebellion, the festival is not for the faint-hearted. If you’re reading this review and expecting an in depth analysis of every band that played the festival then you’re going to be massively disappointed because there’s just too much to get through. So instead we’ve tried to pick out the bands that impressed us and the whole vibe of this event.
This year Rebellion has expanded to four days, though for the first day some of the stages are not in use so it isn’t yet a fully functioning death star. However, for the first time there is a platform dedicated exclusively to new bands that are making their debut at the festival. Of the thirteen that grace the stage during the course of Thursday the ones that take a gold medal is Mitford Rebel whose melodic rock has been a mainstay on my Mp3 player for weeks now and they turn in a lovely performance today full of confidence and verve. In Evil Hour who are becoming a force to be reckoned with. The Benwahs from Birmingham, who despite losing a bassist, still managed to play a great little set. I haven’t seen or heard this band before but was suitably bowled over by singer Suzie Smart to want to check this band out again when they come to Manchester. I was also particularly enamoured by punk/hardcore act Drones, who zipped through their set at a blistering pace. This quartet looks young but never looked fazed by the occasion and appeared to be having the time of their life. However the prize for most commanding and enjoyable performance by a new band goes to Healthy Junkies who pulled out all the stops for their inaugural Rebellion appearance. This band has everything; tunes, looks and in singer Nina Courson a true star in the making. It’s been a real joy to watch this fantastic band grow from strength to strength over this year and I’m so glad that they pulled out all the stops for Rebellion. If you’ve not seen or heard this band before, you should make every effort to check them out.
As well as the New Band stage there are two other venues hosting bands; the medium sized Arena which has a capacity of over 500 people, and the Empress Ballroom where the biggest bands will grace its stage and play to 3,000 people. The first band I see at the Arena is Girlfixer. If you like your music to punch you full in the face then this is the band for you. Straddling a punk/metal hybrid sound, Girlfixer go straight for the jugular and don’t let go until the last song. Rebellion perennials 3CR follow soon after and raise a smile with a mix of fiery punk and decidedly oddball humour. Sheffield’s reinvigorated Xtract treat a large gathering to a set of fast and aggressive punk tunes, but it’s the more sedate and slower paced reggae of Dirty Revolution that gets the crowd shuffling its feet and nodding their heads. Music like this is a nice counterpoint to the fury and breakneck speed of most bands that play at the Rebellion and it creates a little space where one can catch ones breath.
After grabbing a bite to eat we decide it’s high time we went to see a couple of the big beasts of display in the Empress Ballroom. First up is The Business who I’m never really enamoured by, though saying that ‘Harry May’ is still one of my all time favourite songs. Life’s strange, still I sit tight and enjoy the bands set, mainly because if I leave the Empress there’s a good chance I won’t get back in. Once the capacity of any of the stages is reached then it’s a case of one out and one in. I stay to catch Manchester’s premier punk band, Buzzcocks and am so glad I did because it’s a greatest hits set. Fresh from their two relatively successful ‘Back To Front’ gigs earlier in the year, the band revert to their current line-up and let loose with brilliant versions of their best and most loved songs mixed in with their current material. There’s not a face that doesn’t have a shit-eating grin on it when the band bring the show and the first day of Rebellion to a close and for me it’s been a really good day. Bring on tomorrow, this is just a warm up. Read day two here:
Review & photos by Phil King