Imagine the scene. The Who are playing a tiny venue (less than 100 capacity) near where I live. The Sex Pistols are supporting. This will clearly be the best gig ever. I go straight from work and as it’s empty I help John Lydon shift amps. Only 17 people turn up to the gig, but I don’t care, I just drink,and drink…and wake up on the floor of the venue the next morning unable to remember anything about either band’s set….then I wake up again and find the whole thing was just a dream. Phew.
This dream that I had several years ago starts to haunt me. The reason is that I wake up at 6am ish in my B & B , fully dressed, sprawled on the wrong bed (nothing I can’t explain, I’ve been put in a double room even though I’m on my own) and I’ve got a headache. Today is the most important day of the weekend, and this doesn’t bode well. With the help of painkillers I sleep it off, still get up for breakfast, and don’t feel too bad. But the dream acts as a warning from my subconscious…I need to pace myself. There’s a lot of bands, and a big headliner.
There’s also more tension in the air than usual. There is an alleged nazi gig going on down. At the least the gig is well into a murky grey territory. This is not the first year that a rival gig like this has happened, but there seems to be more of an atmosphere this year. Plenty of people at the festival, bands included are making their anti-fascist views known. All of which means that Doc Martens who are doing some kind of sponsorship could get more than they bargained for with their slogan “What Do You Stand For?” The slogan seems to be everywhere around the venue. I’d like to think one thing I stand against is vacuous marketing slogans.
And on the subject of branding (literally) there is a tattooist in the venue, who I heard was offering a tattoo of the Rebellion Festival logo at a special price. Seeing as I’ve been a paying punter at this festival every year since 1996 maybe promoter Daz Russell should get a tattoo of me instead. Just a thought. All this sneaking corporate activity means that the award for…
UNLIKELIEST BAND TO PLAY REBELLION
…goes to Cress. Not a typo. A band from the underground d.i.y anarcho scene that I saw several times in the 90s. Anarcho anti-corporate types with waist length dreads who are probably on some kind of file somewhere, and an excellent band. Their sound back then was somewhere between Crass, Doom and Hawkwind(!). Today they no longer seem to have the synth player meaning the Hawkwind element isn’t so obvious, but they still sound distinctive among their fellow crusty hardcore merchants. Odd seeing them in the Winter Gardens though. They are very noisy but not …
NOISIEST BAND OF THE DAY (if we discount the headliners)
That award goes to FUK in the “car park”. Noisy buggers, but I like them. Several members are now part of the relaunched Chaos UK so I hope this isn’t the end of FUK.
FEMALE-FRONTED ANARCHO BAND OF THE DAY
A hard fought contest with the melodic A Heads and the increasingly shouty Lost Cherrees both appearing in the Pavilion. The undisputed winners for me though are Rubella Ballet sounding the best I’d heard them, with their industrial sounding new stuff standing up well to the best of the old songs. There’s also the usual overload of day glo visuals and guitar effects pedals to distinguish them from more generic bands.
MOST ANNOYING MOMENT OF THE DAY
Apart from schedule clashes that is. It’s about time for wyngate jnr to go to bed and I’d promised before I left that I’d try to phone every night to say goodnight. Time is short between bands. The problem is trying to find a quiet spot in the Winter Gardens to make the call. As I head through the venue my way is blocked by none other than John Robb finishing a Goldblade acoustic set by leading punters through the Winter Gardens on an impromptu singalong of “Fighting on the dancefloor, fucking in the streets”. I dodge this and head through the area known as “the horseshoe” where the traders have their stalls only to be met by John Robb again leading around 200 people my way singing “Fighting on the dancefloor” and taking selfies. There are times when you don’t want to listen to Goldblade.
BAND CLASH OF THE DAY PART 1
If you’re a fan of niche bands from the 80s with eccentric singers and their own individual take on punk then there’s the excellent Cult Maniax in the “car park”. If on the other hand you’re a fan of niche bands from the 80s with eccentric singers and their own individual take on punk then there’s the excellent Cravats on in the Pavilion …AT THE SAME TIME. I go for Cult Maniax first, and find myself in the middle of a big crowd – the only thing is that they’re leaving after watching the (to me) inexplicably popular Dirtbox Disco(couldn’t they have swapped places?). Someone later explains to me that Dirtbox are popular because “they wear costumes on stage”. On the other hand Cult Maniax singer Big Al’s big hat clearly doesn’t have quite the same crowd pulling power.
After watching just over half of the set I go to watch the end of The Cravats.
Both are great, but somehow I manage to miss my favourite songs by both bands.
Playing at the same time as both are Peter & The Test Tube Babies, who this year don’t even get a look in from me. That’s the kind of day it is.
“CLASSIC ALBUM” SET OF THE DAY
I’m not keen on the whole “Classic album” set idea. Don’t people want just a bit of unpredictability at a gig? On the other hand you can have too much unpredictability. Mark Perry of Alternative TV is a man known who can go off on “interesting” musical tangents, so when he announces that they are going to play the whole of The Image Is Cracked then I’m not going to complain. They take the sensible liberty of reducing Alternatives from 9 minutes to about 1 minute, and surprisingly Jools Holland doesn’t appear to do the boogie woogie piano intro to Viva La Rock N Roll but otherwise it’s all intact and brilliant.
“YOU DON’T LOOK LIKE A PUNK” CONVERSATION OF THE DAY…
I’m getting my dinner in the pizza shop when a tipsy middle aged man leans over to me. “Are you here for the festival?”Yep “You don’t look like a punk” I don’t. I’ve never actually claimed to be a punk, but there you go. He explains that he could never get into punk because “you can’t hear what they’re singing about” I point out that to be honest it’s sometimes just as well, but he’s not convinced.
He turns out to be a B & B owner, and tells me that his hotel his full every year for the festival. He chats for a while and turns out to be quite a nice bloke. He then asks how much I’m paying for my B & B, and tells me that if I get in contact he could do me a better deal next year. I don’t point out that he’s already told me he’s full every year. He is quite drunk.
GOTH BAND OF THE DAY
There’s an early bid from Part 1, although strictly speaking for genre classification nerds such as myself they are more Death Rock, with one foot in anarcho. Nevertheless they are the kind of band who you imagine have permanently blacked out windows at home. The guitarist looks like a small Pete Murphy and seems to have nicked Bauhaus’s complete set of effects pedals. Interesting stuff, but the winners are the livelier UK Decay later in the Bizarre Bazaar, allegedly the first band to ever describe themselves as “goth”. They seem too jolly to have invented goth.
CELEBRITY PUNTER OF THE DAY
Jello Biafra is at the front watching UK Decay…and ATV…and the Cravats. And that’s just the times I spotted him
A few days before the festival I was feeling a bit blasé about the line-up but actually this is one of the best line-ups I’ve ever seen in one day. Anyone else? Just Steve Ignorant and Paranoid Visions (much better than last year, having gigged together a fair few times in between). Oh yes, there’s also …
THE BEST BAND OF THIS YEAR AND ANY YEAR AT REBELLION
I’ve paced myself and I’m relatively sober. There’s a big crowd in the ballroom. There’s spooky intro music from Eyes Wide Shut playing. It must be Killing Joke! Five years ago when they last played here they were the best thing I’d seen full stop. I haven’t seen them since and I’m wary of my expectations getting too high. To counter balance this I remind myself that one of my mates who is prone to moaning is a Joke fan, and he has been complaining for the last couple of years that they’ve been crap when he’s seen them recently. I imagine him moaning in my ear to this effect, which dampens expectations nicely. They weren’t quite as good as last time (nothing since has been) , but the competition is still left straggling far behind as soon as they play the opening Wardance( the clip doesn’t get across how powerful it sounded on the night, best I could find though).
Last time Jaz was in full blown ranting mode so I eagerly await the end of the song to see what bizarre pronouncements we will get this year. A pause – “Good evening”. Oh well, can’t have it all. They follow Wardance with Complications, Requiem, Change, and Fall Of Because, making this possibly the best opening 5 songs at any gig I’ve seen. There is a complaint I hear a lot the next day though, which I think is fair, that after this the set loses some momentum concentrating on later stuff such as Exorcism and Asteroid, until the encore. Holding back some of the early classics might have made sense. On the other hand some also complain that they didn’t play Love Like Blood or Eighties – casual fans, what can you do with them? Joke are as intense as usual.
CLASH OF THE DAY 2
English Dogs are playing again this year! Hurrah!! At the same time as Joke…booo…
THEY THINK IT’S ALL OVER …
No, it’s Saturday, it’s off to Taches club again for an aftershow set. I can show the under-41s a thing or two, especially if there’s a decent chair in the corner to fall asleep in. First up when I get there are massively improved Anglo-American streetpunkers Wasted Life. So improved that I’m suddenly taken aback when the singer announces this is his last gig with the band. He gushes about what great guys they are in the way that only Americans seem able to.
Hopefully The Vile, spin-off band for Rat the chief Varuker, will bring some good old British stiff upper lip to the proceedings. Rat is (like me) disappointed that Varukers weren’t booked to play the main festival this year, but he bears it with a quiet dignity…bollocks, he rants drunkenly (more than Jaz tonight), starts chants of “No Varukers, No Rebellion!”, talks about organising protests, and finally announces that The Vile won’t play unless they’re offered £2,000 which at least confirms that his tongue’s in his cheek….I think…No clips yet so here’s a picture of an angry rat