Spring 2017. I’m busy cleaning out the fish tank, but I’m being pestered by an unwanted caller. Eventually I relent. It is of course the Rebellion organisers. “Wyngate you’ve been coming to the festival since it started, we need your advice. We’re stuck on how to finish off this year’s line up. What would you advise for Sunday”. “Well” I ponder, trying to disguise my annoyance at being interrupted, “it’s about time you showcased some of the new Oi bands, maybe start off with a few of them. After that you need to calm things down a bit. Have a few good bits, but people want to chill and socialise” “Good thinking wyngate- what about a headliner though. We were thinking the Boomtown Rats again.” I pause and imagine the excitement building as the punters gather for the return of the Rats …it would look a bit like this
“No” I warn “you need to end on a high, the Sunday headliner is crucial. It’s not too difficult. You just need a band that has never played before and preferably has barely gigged at all in the last 30 years…but who have anthem after anthem that 99% of the punters will recognise and singalong with …someone like that. Anyway, I’ve got things to do. This fish tank won’t clean itself”
This conversation didn’t happen – but nevertheless I think they got the Sunday pretty well spot on. I’m in fine fettle having successfully got undressed and into bed 3 nights in a row. The Pavillion has a..err.. crop of newish skinhead bands. First on is Royal Oi. One of my mates is obsessively anti monarchy and is concerned by this band name. I suggest that maybe it’s a new musical outlet for Prince Philip now that he’s retired from public duty. I don’t think I’m helping. This mate has refused to listen to the Specials since they “played on the roof of Buckingham Palace for the Queen”, despite us pointing out that it was actually Madness.
Speaking of ska, 90s ska-punks and old favourites of mine Ex-Cathedra in The Ballroom. Last time I watched them properly was in a small Leicester venue. I drank too much, started a one-man mosh pit, then trekked across Leicester to gatecrash a party and woke up the next morning genuinely unable to remember where I was. This time I steadily sip a pint.
Back to the Oi. Grade 2 are on, the youngest Oi band I’ve ever seen (toured Europe, on their second album, and just out of school!). Best of all is Crown Court. The best new Oi band for years, they sound as if they’re straight out of 1981 , but better. And they have a “crown court” logo, another opportunity to wind up our royal bashing friend!
Time to chillax to Urban Dogs in The Opera House. They started as a “supergroup” featuring Charlie Harper, Subs bassist Alvin Gibbs and Knox of Vibrators. The only thing today is – yep – Knox isn’t here. Poor health apparently, so I hope he’s okay. So how is this different to another UK Subs line -up? Only as a chance for Charlie to play different songs and indulge his love of garage and proto punk. Good chill out music if your idea of chilling is listening to a grizzled old punk performing I Wanna Be Your Dog.
I return to the B & B to chill some more before Chaos UK at The Casbah. This is bad news as the rain has now set in. As I set off back I can hear the biggest racket I’ve heard all weekend from several streets away – that’s them! As I get close the rain becomes torrential. I get into the venue and head for the Casbah to find a crowd of soggy mohicans giving up and heading back into the warm. I decide to take a quick look, and find shelter with a small crowd under the cover of the band merch stalls – I’m able to have my ears terrorised and stay relatively dry. A hardy bunch of hardcore punks in pac-a-macs stick it out at the front.
I later hear that a merch seller was unhappy about the stalls being temporarily crowded out. Because of course people would otherwise be queuing in monsoon-like conditions to buy £20 LPs the sleeves of which would be soggy pulp by the time they reached the exit. I’m in trouble again later when me and a mate chat in front of one of the largest record stalls. A stallholder gets irate because we are “stopping people getting to the records.” I decide not to point out that no one appears to be looking at their stall at all at this time on the last day. Not that people haven’t been shelling out this weekend. I only just deterred my mate from splashing out on the first Clash album. He already has 14 different pressings, but this one is orange vinyl.
I’m curious to see another band that have been climbing the bill despite passing me by, Dirt Box Disco. Speaking to someone in the know I comment that I don’t get the appeal. He nods sagely and says I’m the 276th person to say this to him. He thinks the backlash is underway. No sign of a backlash in the Ballroom just a massive crowd singing along with songs I don’t even know. They go in for a comical presentation – singer in clownish make up, guitarist wearing some kind of balaclava/giant sock on his head. I don’t get it but lots of people apparently do. Dirtbox, Wonk Unit and Slaves all seem to finally point to Rebellion having a longer term future – not sure if I’ll still be coming though!
Anti Pasti get a more select audience on the same stage. Being on their third singer since their comeback doesn’t help. The new singer looks the part. I decide he would look even more the part fronting Pasti’s contemporaries Chron Gen. Later I find that he is in fact Glyn Barber from Chron Gen! Maybe they should consider a McBusted style merger. Chron Pasti?
I head to the Arena to get in for the Casualties. Spunk Volcano and The Eruptions have pulled a big crowd. Their singer has copied Dirtbox’s guitarist’s balaclava/giant sock headwear. Hang on… it is the guitarist from Dirtbox! Are these bands completely interchangeable?
I saw the Casualties in this very venue in 1996. I then put them on myself and once tagged along with them on tour. They then went on to worldwide fame. They are now back with …a new singer! He looks exactly like Wattie in 1982. Perhaps he was cloned using DNA from Wattie’s gob (wouldn’t have been difficult to nab some of that at an Exploited gig). Once at a gig in Canterbury the previous singer Jorge , possibly suffering nerves, suggested that I go on and front them instead of him! He seemed to be serious!! I could have got hold of the band earlier and told them the vacant slot had already been offered to me. It’s good fun anyway, with the crowd joining in with a special salute to the chief.
They finish off with a Ramones tribute, which seems to be a theme of the day. There is a female covers band the Ramonas on at one point. realise there is a gap in the market for an anti-Brexit Ramones covers band , which I would call The Remoaners. I’ll let you know how it goes!
And in the Ballroom is 80s Ramones drummer Richie Ramone. He possibly plays a lot of Ramones stuff but I only recognise Blitzkrieg Bop. Then I recognise another song…the most unlikely cover of the weekend.
The big headliner are the Skids! I have a dilemma – one of my favourite UK82 bands Uproar are on in the Arena. They played there a few years ago and it was the most disappointing come back by a UK82 band I’d seen. But I just want to check. The risk is that the Ballroom reaches capacity and I can’t get back in. My mate agrees to phone me if this looks likely and I head next door. Annoyingly Uproar are good! I even consider buying the new album, but find that it’s a CDR – for £10!!! I reluctantly leave them to their unenviable slot.
When the Skids were announced a mate – I’ll call him Disgusted of Leicester – complained loudly about a band who’d had nothing to do with the punk scene for years playing headlining Rebellion. I pointed out that bands who’d had nothing to do with the punk scene for years were the festival’s foundation. Despite this curmudgeon the Ballroom is rammed and the Skids are brilliant! To be honest it would be hard for Saints Are Coming, Into The Valley and TV Stars to fail. The guitarist has the sound of the late Stuart Adamson spot on so it makes sense when it turns out he is Adamson’s co-guitarist from Big Country, Bruce Watson. Richard Jobson is a natural frontman, with his amusing banter and utterly embarrassing dad dancing (he declares that he is proud to be the worst dancer ever in the Ballroom). He tries to get us to sing “Simon Cowell is a wanker!” to TV Stars , but we just want to shout “Albert Tatlock”! The masses sing a long and there’s no need to dance because the floor is vibrating. One of the best headline sets I’ve ever seen here.
Somewhere in the Winter Gardens, Disgusted of Leicester is not watching the Skids. Hopefully he enjoyed his evening!