Punk in 2016
The English seaside: sandcastles, ice cream, seal watching trips, crabbing. That was our visit to Wells-next-the-Sea with the in-laws last weekend. This weekend is my return to Blackpool. As a comparison Wells was holding it’s carnival. What could they offer to compete with Rebellion? We were told that (Rebellion veterans) Chas N Dave would be performing. Instead it was a Chas N Dave theme night with a performance by top tribute act Daz N Chave. There’s also a performance by a local band who according to a quote from a proper music mag are “setting a new standard, and the standard is high”. They seem suspiciously like an indie covers band. I predict they’ll play I Predict A Riot and I am correct. Hmmm. I’m off to Rebellion to see who is setting a new standard in punk.
Last year I missed Bob Geldof upsetting the punters and a waterborne virus upsetting their stomachs. Can this year match up? It’s the 20th anniversary and it’s the biggest so far.
Despite logistical challenges (getting Wyngate jnr to nursery) we’re in Blackpool by 12pm courtesy of my mate driving. Our regular B & B suddenly closed down a couple of months ago. We have found a replacement although the proprietor seemed convinced that I’m called Warren and am only staying one night. We head to the venue and see a huge queue around the block. It may be the biggest Rebellion ever, but we weren’t expecting this. After joining the queue we find this is the queue to the back entrance for bands to get their passes. We’re British, if we see a queue we join it.
Knock Off are my first band of the day in the Arena, one of the smaller of the 7 (!) venues. They’ve pulled a big crowd for their solid Oi punk. Among old school punk bands there are several looks you can go for and Knock Off go for polo shirts and short hair. London-Italian band Blatoidea (Latin for cockroach) instead go for spiked barnets and cut off t-shirts circa 1983. Worryingly two of the band play flying V guitars but reassuringly one member has Violators and English Dogs on the back of his jacket, a much better sign. Great fast streetpunk with only a slight metal tinge. They are setting a new standard and the standard is high!
I have a look at Serbian streetpunks Vox Populi. I’ve never seen them before, but the singer once stayed at my house. He drank lemonade if I remember , although you wouldn’t guess that from his stage performance.
Mention of different punk looks brings me to a controversial subject – the proliferation of beards. They are everywhere. A mate of mine that I bump into proposes a “No beards in punk” campaign and I’m ready to sign up! That said the next band I watch is relative youngsters B Movie Britz and beards are in evidence. This band was recommended to me a few years ago by someone responding to one of my Rebellion reviews. He suggested I was sticking to old favourites and not giving new bands a chance. I’m glad I watched them – a bracing blast of hardcore punk fronted by an intense young man. I’m not sure about his headbanging (or his beard), but they were excellent. They are setting a new standard and the standard is high.
“Are you getting wasted?” shouts the singer. Everyone answers in the affirmative – apart from me. My funds are worryingly low and I’m sober having declared “frugal Thursday” to try to get through weekend. Britz like Blatoidea finish their set bathed in red light. Presumably the lighting man is trying to give the impression of the last band playing on a burning oil rig.
Mentioning punk looks, there’s a group of people wearing t-shirts that look like they’ve been made specially, emblazoned with various bands that are playing this weekend. Who are “Cock Sparrow” though? D’oh! There guy carrying around a big cuddly punked up penguin. Odd.
Peter & The Test Tube Babies are on tonight, but I don’t want to be accused of just watching the old favourites, so I don’t watch them! I did see Peter earlier sweeping up the Arena stage that he manages before Britz came on – a long way from Keep Britain Untidy. Instead I watch relative newbies System Of Hate who I was impressed by last time. Their enthusiastic merch woman describes them as a bit Killing Joke-ish. Killing Joke if they were formed in a Barnsley pub. They are confusing if you like neat categorisation – are they a punk band with goth overtones or a goth band with punk overtones?. It doesn’t matter, they pull a big crowd in the Pavillion with their mixture of heavy bass, synths and gruff vocals. I don’t regret missing Test Tubes just this once. They are setting a new standard , etc.
I stay for a quick blast of Lost Cherrees before making haste to the grandiose Empress Ballroom for Abrasive Wheels’ latest comeback. Bad move. We had their classic debut album on in the car, and they start of with three songs from it, but they sound suspiciously rocky. A recentish song and sounds like Saxon. I start noticing my feet aching and decide I’d much rather be putting them up somewhere and head for a bar.
After that I want something reliable, a band where I know what to expect. I want to watch The Dickies in the outdoor Tower Arena. I can probably predict every “ad lib”. As they come on the bassist asks us how we’re doing. That’s never happened before. Then they kick off with the instrumental Rondo. I’m getting the feeling something isn’t right. Then they explain that singer Leonard is in hospital (non life threatening says Facebook). Instead we get guest singers like Blag (The Dwarves) and Brummie GBH bassist Ross who does a fine job. Best though is Dickies merch man Ian who does a good Leonard impression vocally and bandy legged dancing-wise. Anyway, get well soon Leonard.
No surprises from Varukers in The Arena. I haven’t seen them for 4 years, but a their song says Nothing’s Changed, the same relentless hardcore punk pitched between Discharge and the Exploited and that’s what I want. What I don’t want is a group of very tall skinheads plonking themselves directly in front of me, so close that I can only assume they want me to check their pristine Ben Shermans for creases, but I get that as well. In the middle of set full of songs about nuclear war, Rat chuckles grimly “Just wait til Donald Trump comes to power, things’ll be much worse”. I hope he’s wrong.
Anyway , my legs are aching. I’ve got through the first day without falling asleep during a band or embarrassing myself. Back to the B & B where I crash out sprawled across the bed fully dressed as usual.