Rebellion Festival and R-Fest in Blackpool 4-7 August 2022 (Days 3 & 4)
Saturday morning. Arrgh. We went too early and sprinted on day 2 of this marathon. I can hardly stand up first thing. Legs swollen and generally in a mess after yesterday. I had to dip out of the morning excursion with my Rebellion gig buddies to find the blue plaque to mark the tram killing of Coronation Street’s Alan Bradley. They succeeded. I had to make do with a WhatsApped photo while I watched the Commonwealth Games on TV for several hours.
I started plotting how I could make today a bit easier than the previous two days (summarised in my previous blog).
I got the tram up to North Pier (nice little spot for a mooch about – a quiet coffee – Sooty started his first gigs here) and dropped down through the irritating zig zag queue barriers to the outdoor, seafront R-Fest stage for the bag search and pat down just in time for The Primitives – a 2.30pm kick-off. I plonked myself down on the floor near front, to the left, against a barrier. The crowd was spaced enough that I could see pretty well so I just got up for a few songs and to take some pics.
I have the first few Primitives albums on pre-recorded cassettes – every play is a risk these days but they still work. I saw them at Birmingham Powerhouse back when Crash came out – great single that.
There was quite a lot of faffing about on stage and they stopped at one point to sort things out. They were good though and the set was stuff I knew well but had left behind decades ago, so good to be reacquainted.
After that I thought I’d try a first beer of the day – it was busier on Saturday so the only bar selling ale had an offputtingly long queue, while the big bars, strangley free of proper beer, remained untroubled. Cider time….and yes a picnic table seat. Heaven. That was me sorted and I watched The Wedding Present from a distance, popping up to snap the odd pic on zoom.
I couldn’t stay back there for Spear of Destiny mind. I caught up with my mates and went for a side barrier position, front left. Good leaning spot.
Another case of a band playing to a much bigger crowd than they do on tour these days – a few hundred at the last two SoD gigs I was at – on the World Service album delayed 35th anniversary tour – and the thousands watching here.
A wonderful rendition of the World Service title track graced the set (which I captured here on my YouTube channel). Old favourite Mickey got an airing, and Spear of Destiny’s only top 20 single: You’ll Never Take Me Alive. Liberator to finish. That was lively. Time to head inside.
On a mission next as I made my way into the Winter Gardens and the Almost Acoustic Stage to find Pauline Murray, and a chair…ahhhh. Pauline Murray’s Penetration was the first band I ever saw live – I have all the albums and the solo albums so this held some significance. She played solo material and a few Penetration songs. She seemed unduly nervous but it all worked out. What an opportunity. I was sat right near the front.
Pauline introduced one of the songs – Dark Clouds – from her 2020 album, referring to depression and hinting at her experiences. Quiet hard hitting – bit of a choker.
After that treat I made my way back across the tram tracks to see Peter Hook and the Light. By this time on Saturday there mood was getting jolly. The tram tracks had increaded safety measures. Men in high vis jackets walked in front of trams slowly passing the R-Fest crossing point, while others marshalled the cavalier crossers.
Hooky and the boys delivered a classic Joy Division set – just that early New Order single Ceremony creeping in near the end – finishing with Transmission and Love With Tear Us Apart. Hooky always delivers.
I retreated further back after a bit, in search of seats, ageing legs ruined by the previous day, and sat on the floor for a bit with a cider mid-set. A relaxing sunny evening. Sound still good. Hooky’s bass rumbling.
Back across the tracks and into the Winter Gardens. I was intent on seeing Cock Sparrer. Who were these longstanding Oi legends? No free seats anywhere in the Empress Ballroom so I sat on the floor upstairs – lined up against a side wall with some skinheads stripped to the waist – them not me – it was boiling. The place was heaving. I made a move when the band came on but just couldn’t get a look in anywhere. First few songs sounded great but I had to give up trying to peer over and round pillars and people. I wandered down to the Pavilion area.
An incredible amount of t-shirts, records and badges was on sale on the stalls around the Pavilion in the day. The Rezillos played in the stage those surrounded. Quiet a small stage for them I thought and I couldn’t get a decent view. I didn’t want to use up my last hour of legs by standing yet so I headed with enthusiam for another chair luxury at the Almost Acoustic Stage….and of course The Ramonas who obliged with a Ramones singalong.
I had saved myself for one more today…. The Godfathers in The Pavilion. So glad I did. I saw them twice back around 1989, after the classic 1988 album Birth, School, Work, Death but never since. A really aggressive, loud set – a real caldron of sweat. Yes, they played the title track (my clip). A wildly appreciative crowd and band by the end. New album coming soon. Got to be worth a listen.
That was me done for Saturday. I got back to our hotel to find my gig buddies had retired even earlier. More training required.
Last day. I was always going to take it easy on the last day but I didn’t think I would end up spending so long in the Literary Stage. It was a fascinating spot.
But my first target was Altered Images on the R-Fest Stage at 2.30pm and I was in just in time to find the others around our familiar front right spot. Altered Images were loads better than when I saw them recently in Southampton – I think that was just having a bigger better crowd – Clare Grogan was her same cheery self. Dead Pop Stars remains my favourite. It surely would have got up the charts were it not for the grossly unfortunate timing of the release and John Lennon’s murder.
I hung around a bit for Buzzcocks but I didn’t have much interest in seeing them without Pete Shelley – they were fine and everything moves on. Hearing Steve Diggle interviewed (well talking) later that afternoon I felt a bit guilty about that. I do see – he has to carry on and he has earned that right.
A few of us left early to go and see Chelsea in the Empress Ballroom. Gene October still at the helm. We sat up at the back. I appreciated both the seats and the performance. I can’t believe I’ve never seen these punk legends before – I missed them by a day once in Granada, Spain. I sat staring at that logo thinking where have the years gone.
After that we gorged on the Literary Stage. A round table, comfy chairs, dark and air conditioned room and a few bottles of Blue Moon. Maybe this was our day four surrender… no no it was really addictive. Fascinating.
First Alvin Gibbs of the UK Subs. I knew he had returned to the Subs but didn’t realise where he’d been. A World tour playing with Iggy Pop and all the stuff that goes with that. A real wow. Then listening to life returning to touring with Charlie Harper again with the Subs after other band adventures.
Great seats. I was staying put. Steve Diggle came over from his earlier Buzzcocks set. The impact here came from his recollections of punk hitting Manchester and the early gigs with The Sex Pistols: “It was chaos…. It was beautiful.”
He talked about Pete Shelley dying and the decision to carry on. I can see now…..he just has to. That is what he knows. Why wouldn’t he. He convinced me Pete would approve. Good luck to him.
As a Hammers fan and Stranglers nut, the Stuart Pearce ‘show’ was always something I wanted to come and find. The place was packed. All seats full and standing round the sides. A great raconteur of life with England and Brian Clough at Forest in particular. He spoke of his trips out to see punk bands and Gazza’s antics when he roomed with him. He got a huge cheer and I collared him after.
The end was nigh. Time for one last gig to round off this four day extravaganza. I headed down to the Club Casbah to see Kirk again… this time with Stan Stammers for the Theatre of Hate performance. I caught a bit of Gro-Mags when I got down there and nabbed a picnic bench towards the back while waiting and for the first bit of the set.
The set was quite short – starting late – but I thought this was a magnificent performance. The Theatre of Hate sound is markedly distinct from Spear of Destiny. More mystery, more edge, more aggression. The sound was excellent – the band seemed to be concentrating. No joviality. They started with Westworld and finished with Original Sin. The set was a masterpiece and it certainly crowned my Sunday.
I was done. I got a t-shirt from the ToH merch stand and headed in search of chips and a tram. What a great four days. My first Rebellion – last? I very much doubt it. OK I screwed up a bit by going for it on day 2 but all was not lost. We made it.
My Flickr album of Rebellion band pics over the 4 days here.