Think of two words that shouldn’t go together, and two that might spring to mind are ‘Punk’ and ‘Blackpool’ but guess what- with Rebellion Festival that’s exactly what you’ve got. For one weekend the UK’s most famous seaside resort becomes full of mohawks, Dr Martens and a whole lot of spiked belts. Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, Rebellion Festival 2016 boasted headliners Descendents, The Exploited, Cock Sparrer and The Adicts.
The perfect setting for a festival, this weekend saw no wellies, no glitter tattoos, and no one pissing up fences. Instead we were privy to a beautiful summers weekend at a lovely, ornate and historical coastal venue. Blackpool gets a bad rep, since the investment in the coastal defenses, the beaches and promenade are truly a joy to behold, and sprinkled with Punks?! It’s the best place ever.
We finally (after queuing for entry) got into the historic Winter Gardens home of this years festival around half way through the first day of the four, unfortunately we managed to get into the Empress Ballroom just as PEARS were finishing their set.
Next up on the Empress Ballroom Main Stage were Gnarwolves, risking a possible riot by bringing into question the whole existence of “the Punk scene” which at the same time slightly insulted pretty much anyone with any form of spiked hair who happened to be in the room.
The youth, freshnesh and enthusiasm of Gnarwolves was perhaps something that was missing throughout the rest of the weekend, at least in a male form.
Continuing on the Main Stage, The Dwarves brought an element of the downright bizarre, mainly down to the presence of a fully naked guy playing a guitar wearing a Lucha mask, literally zero clothing, just letting it all hang out.
If you ignored the penis in the room, The Dwarves were the first band of the weekend who brought that iconic 80s American punk sound to Blackpool.
With a couple of hours to kill we managed to have a bit of an explore around the other stages within the Winter Gardens, catching sets from the likes of Hobo Jones and the Junkyard Dogs,
System of Hate
and The Tuts, the later being a welcome break from what was quickly becoming a bit of a sausage-fest. The Tuts actually offered something very refreshing, a much quirkier Punk with a bit of an urban London sound thrown in.
The band highest on our wish-list for the first day of Rebellion Fest were legends Bouncing Souls, who did not disappoint and brought that famous New Jersey enthusiasm. Opening a set with a track like “Sing Along Forever” just sets the tone, and instantly gets a crowd moving.
Even if the sun hadn’t been shining on the only outdoor stage at Rebellion, I think everyone would still have been pogoing for Bouncing Souls.
One negative about Rebellion Festival was the fact that headliners Descendents didn’t go onto stage until 11.00, ‘cus some of us need our beauty sleep. Anyone who’d made their way to the Empress Ballroom that was starting to feel a little tired, would have instantly been blasted awake by noise that only Descendents can make.
Unlike some of the other ‘older’ Punk bands playing, Descendents still feel fresh, perhaps it is the thrill of releasing new music or perhaps there is some other drive which powers them, but they certainly aren’t looking to hand over the reigns yet, and I don’t think anyone would be asking them to.
Day two of the festival, and the last day for us (hotels in Blackpool in August aren’t exactly easy to find at late notice) was started with a trip to the outdoor Tower Street Arena Stage which is a special for 2016 and will be a one time deal due to the future development plans of the space.
Maid of Ace were exactly what was needed to blow away the cobwebs caused by sleeping on the worlds softest mattress (see Trip Advisor for more details), it would seem that girl fronted bands are making the most noise and gathering the most attention at the moment. Throughout the day, we were privy to some more excellent female fronted band including Kiss My Acid,
and the awesome Brix Smith who proved that it isn’t just the younger girls who can smash it!We found the female bands to hark back more to what we feel is proper Punk, the attitude to be who you want to be and say what you think needs saying.
Following Maid of Ace on the Tower Street Stage, were a band that offered a bit more humour to the line-up Wonk Unit, a band who easily won the award for best merch with a t-shirt that said “Dinosaurs Are Wankers”.
You quite often forget that Punk can sometimes be funny and not take itself too seriously, and that is something Wonk Unit did perfectly.
To finish our stay at Rebellion we decided forgo the Main Stage headliners The Exploited, and take in a triple of Discharge, UK Subs and all round legends Buzzcocks, all on the outdoor Tower Street Stage.
Discharge are easily the heaviest band of the weekend with frontman Tezz Roberts pacing up and the down the stage like a caged animal. Prior to UK Subs hitting the stage, we spied England’s greatest ever left back and all round boss Stuart Pearce in the crowd. It didn’t effect the band performance, but we just had to put that info out there!
UK Subs are one of those bands who seem to have achieved underground success but never seemed to breakout like some of their peers who emerged during the late 70s.
The Tower Street Stage headliners on the other hand were one of those bands who broke out in a big way in ’78, if you weren’t singing along to “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)” then you’ve clearly spent some time living under a rock.
About to head into their 40th year, Buzzcocks might be in their 60’s in body but clearly in spirit and enthusiasm they are still very much in their 20’s.
With that our first Rebellion Festival experience come to an end, as we walked back along the promenade in the shadow (metaphorical) of the Blackpool Tower. With the likes of Sham 69, The Creepshow and Zero Boys already confirmed for next years Rebellion, perhaps we’ll be back next year.