Rebellion Festival and R-Fest in Blackpool 4-7 August 2022 (Days 1 & 2)
My first trip to Rebellion or any of its other earlier incarnations. The line-up was irresistible. I had to do it once and so this was the year, aged 59, that I headed north, very north, for my debut and to meet up with gig buddy Dave and Big Gra.
As it takes a day of expensive and failing trains to get there we arrived on the Wednesday night to dodge wrist band queues and not arrive wrecked. Already a sense that this was to be a marathon not a sprint. In the end I think I managed the four days as a leisurely stroll, a stagger, one long sprint and a gentle wander, not in that order.
Everyone’s wander through the four days must be unique. So much choice – bit of exploring but I probably played a bit safe on many band choices: maybe a bit heavy on the R-Fest, the separate and less punky outdoor section of the festival, on the seafront and about 10 minutes walk from the huge complex of venues in The Winter Gardens.
Hard to do justice to it all I know so I have gone for the wander through, in order, approach. There were eight venues and a cinema – I missed a couple of them.
Into the Winter Gardens to get our bearings. A pint in Club Casbah watching Litterbug before heading to see Pizzatramp in the beautifully ornate Empress Ballroom, largest of the indoor venues with three rows of seats up at the back of the balcony – those balcony seats were to become very sought after by day four.
Hard to remember seeing a band who give less of a sh*t about anything. Short blasts of song, some confrontational chat and amusing from the South Wales trio. “Who can afford £190? You can’t be real punks!” says Jimmy. “This one goes out to all those people at the other stages: I hope you f*cking die!” He introduces another very short blast of song called There’s Been a Murder, based on the TV series Taggart. He said he felt obliged to watch all the episodes and was annoyed to find that Taggart never uses the phrase once.
He mellows to call his 6-year-old son on his birthday and the crowd sing Happy Birthday. Jimmy crouches and is lost in emotion, blubbing. “I’ve got sweat in my eyes you English c*nts!” Pizzatramp: well worth the watch.
Off to look at The Literary Stage with Tim Satchell talking about his books about Clash albums, followed by TV Smith, once of The Adverts.
The Literary Stage was a lovely cool, dark and smart rest area to hear a wide variety of interviewees. Nearby were the best toilets in the place and a bar with bottles beers and no queues. More of a work conference feel than a punk festival.
More music next with one of the bands of the day: Knock Off in the Club Casbah.
Uncomplicated anthems – played fast – played with passion and punch – such as 1980; Football, Beer and Punk Rock and the wonderful This is Who We Are, This is What We Do. Charlie Harper is in for a look – Charlie is everywhere this weekend. What a legend.
Then down to check out the R-Fest, how far it was and how long it took to get in. The queues to get in there varied massively over the four days. Main hazard getting there and back was the tram lines and no one fancied ‘doing an Al Bradley’ (Coronation Street reference – a tram killed the rotter).
Had a quick look at Dreadzone with their buzzing bass notes before returning to the Almost Acoustic Stage for the quirky indie pop of Peter Bentham and the Dinner Ladies. Unusual room with model villages up in the ceiling.
I felt I should go and see Anti-Flag next, in the Empress Ballroom – recommended (PCu). I knew of them but can’t say I’d listened. Exciting stuff. Full-on American punk. They don’t seem that old but they’ve been going since 1988 and frontman Justin Sane, an original member, only 10 years younger than me.
After the band of day one I guess it was a nip back to the Club Casbah for me to catch the last three songs from Spizzenergi, including of course Where’s Captain Kirk? I say of course, but Spizz introduces the last song as Clocks are Big, Machines are Heavy, sings a few lines… and then Where‘s Captain Kirk starts.
After that I was back out to the seafront R-Fest to see Hawkwind.… yup Hawkwind. Well I had to. An interesting inclusion and respectful nod to these psychedelic rockers. It felt more 70s Glastonbury than 2020 Rebellion but I was happy – I didn’t know any of the songs and they didn’t play Silver Machine.
After that, I popped back to the Winter Gardens and watched a bit of The Boys at the Casbah for a few songs before heading off to see the added set by The Skids in the Empress Ballroom.
They played the same set I had seen several weeks back in Southampton but that didn’t matter…same stories even. This was a big crowd compared to usual tour venues they are playing and that made it that bit better.
After that I was keen on seeing The Bar Stool Preachers, but the queue at the entrance to the Casbah was large and not moving. I had to concede. I settled for sitting in the Acoustic Stage with a pint, while members of Anti-Flag chatted to a few fans after their acoustic set. That was me done for Day 1. What a day eh?
Today was less wandering: much more standing, more sun and much more beer. Today was the day I ruined myself – my legs mainly – but it was a fun way to do it. We did start the day with a trip up Blackpool Tower – a must if you’re in town.
We watched the first five bands at R-Fest on the seafront. These started with The Vapors. A decent start and a set including News at Ten and Turning Japanese.
Jilted John was next. I wasn’t interested really. I sat on the floor, front right, by the barrier. Bit of a novelty but a novelty I think I had my fill of by the beginning of the 80s. Yes, the Jilted John song was still good to hear I suppose and there was smiling with the singing.
Then Toyah bounded on to the R-Fest stage – sparkly and happy. Maybe a bit Marmite but I’ve always loved Marmite. I was down the front at the London Rainbow in 1981 with Harrington jacket with Toyah on the back so yes I have a bias.
A few covers included that went down well: Echo Beach and Rebel Yell (I wonder if she will do that one when she supports Billy Idol later in the year). This set had a bit of more zest and the sun came out.
From the Jam kick off with Down in the Tube Station at Midnight – fantastic start. A one hour set packed with great songs.
Russell Hastings, looking up at the Tower above, commented that he hadn’t played Blackpool for many years. (He was also the only artist that mentioned the tramway death of Coronation Street’s Alan Bradley…which got a cheer from three of us anyway.)
Even though I’d seen them recently this was still irresistible, although a safe choice. They finished with That’d Entertainment and Start.
….and on to The Skids… again. I wasn’t going watch them again this weekend but we were here and didn’t to move. Lazy enjoyment of the same set as last night. I did wonder if I would miss out on any different inclusions in the set but Jobson pointed out that they had quite a new bassist, as well as drummer, and they’d learned the songs for the tour, so repeats it was.
After all that outdoor excitement I had a special visit to make to the Almost Acoustic Stage indoors. Lesley Woods, former singer-songwriter and guitarist from The Au Pairs was playing a solo set. I can’t recall seeing her play live at all since she left music behind for a career as a human rights barrister, so I had to witness this. I saw the Au Pairs several times in London back around 1980 and that brilliant first album, Playing With a Different Sex. When I moved to Birmingham as a student I saw them around there as well and found then living nearby when I lived in Balsall Heath.
These are short half-hour showcases. A few Au Pairs songs and some new ones. Extraordinary to be watching an artist I followed so strongly 40 years ago but haven’t heard since. I really appreciated that chance and would like to see another gig.
Back over to the seafront for The Stranglers. It’s busy but I’m back in time. The band of day – and the weekend I’d say. I would say I suppose – 36 Stranglers gigs now so I will be biased.
I loved the setlist, starting with Toiler on the Sea and finishing with Tank and No More Heroes. A crowd pleasing set with just one new one from the excellent Dark Matters album. Relentless from the Suite XVI gets better and better and so has established itself as one if the more modern (2006) faves – the first album with just JJ and Baz Warne on lead vocals. (My vid clip of that one.)
A lot of Stranglers t-shirts in for this. Maybe day tickets swelled the numbers so this was a partyinblack. I got swept along eh. Beer flowed. Another top sounding Stranglers live performance with all the variety their back catalogue can bring. I was pretty much done for the day…. but The Ramonas were just starting in theEmpress Ballroom. Hey ho… Let’s Go!
It was brilliant to see them playing to the big full hall of the Empress Ballroom. A chaotic loud frenzy of Ramones nostalgia – the air punching, the guitar stances, the Gabba Gabba Hey sign.. the lot. (Pinhead on my YouTube channel.) Loved it.
That was me well and truly done for Friday… how did we do two more days of this? Have I blown it? There is a sequel.