Rebellion 2019 well what can I say? 23 years of giving the people what they want.
You would have to be an elite athlete to catch a glimpse of every band you wanted to see even though the venues are all in reasonable distance of each other. The music schedule could be as brutal or intense as you make it but common sense should rule the day and is the way forward with so much to see and do.
DAY 1 Thursday 1st August
I finally went into the impressive 1878 Victorian building complex and I could feel the energy and yes the intense heat, it was like a furnace, with people waving fans trying to keep cool. Last year was hot and they’ve now got portable AC to try and combat the conditions but it was still struggling to cope with the high temperatures.
My anticipation was now growing fast and the first band on my agenda was Kickback Generation who I know well because they’re from my local North East area of the country. As I walked into the Arena the first person I saw was James Thoroughgood lead singer/bassist with the band and we chatted for a short time. They’ve progressed from the Introducing Stage a couple of years ago.
So it begins, the first strings are strummed, the first drum skin is hit and the first vocal cords are stretched as Kickback Generation burst into action opening the festival with a flourish of old school belting songs and by now I could see so many familiar faces as the room filled up to near capacity.
I caught the first few tracks from the Cambridge trio Baby Seals in the Empress Ballroom, girls with attitude and who are filterless!
Next up was System of Hate on the Club Casbah Stage. They’re taking this opportunity to re-launch their album “There’ Is No Madness Here”. The explosion of sound from the backline was thunderous. They have a much darker side to their lyrics and music; I thoroughly enjoyed their set also.
One of the highlights of the day was Millie Manders and The Shutup, they nailed it with their cross over punk/ska style and Millie’s vocal range is breathtaking. They are brass, ukulele and skank madness at its best. I was fascinated with Millie’s wacky madcap dance to Teddy. I only caught the last couple of songs at an earlier festival they played in London and I was so impressed – I knew I was never going to miss this incredible show this time.
Brighton Punksters, The Bar Stool Preachers had the Empress Ballroom crammed to capacity and I struggled to even get into the room. They also had a headline set to do on the Almost Acoustic Stage later the same day. They jet off for several dates in Canada and the U.S.A. soon that’s if they find Bungles lost passport and visa which the U.S. visa embassy has misplaced, good luck with that boys. They’re always a pleasure to see and they add so much to the party.
Queen Zee was another band I’d already caught this year and they stepped up to the big stage with ease. These are ones to watch because they’re heading for the big time very soon!
Fear was recommended by my friend and I’m pleased she gave me the heads up with them having a good pedigree from Los Angeles, California. Their set rounded out a splendid first day.
Other bands I need to mention are Descendents and In Evil Hour just catching a few songs by these.
DAY 2 Friday 2nd August
This day was just as hot as yesterday so keeping cool and hydrating is an essential must as I drank about 3 pints of water in the first couple of hours. I also missed breakfast so took the opportunity to grab some food from one of the vendors and there was a nice choice of fast food for people such as me on the go.
Drongos for Europe were on the Empress Ballroom Stage so I made my way across to catch them. They’re a no thrills band, what you see is what you get! The Birmingham foursome has got incredible rawness and that’s what other punk bands would be envious of. It’s coming up to their 40th anniversary in a few months and having a back catalogue as long as your arm is impressive. A really good set from the Brum lads.
I missed Pretty Addicted last year so this was one at the top of my list of bands to see. They’re quite recognisable – I would describe them as The Prodigy meets Lady Gaga’s evil sister. Their very energetic set was a confident, highly entertaining, refreshing change to what I had seen so far.
Attila the Stockbroker must be one of the cleverest punk poets around at the moment. He can play a tune on his ukulele and sing or just recite his spoken word wonderfully with true stories about health awareness, life and some of the surgical procedures he’s had to endure which he delivers with such passion and humour. Anecdotes at their best and he is quite an inspiring captivating person with the whole of the Almost Acoustic bar in total silence listening to every word he says in verse.
Penetration played in June at the Albert Hall with The Skids and the Buzzcocks, it was a celebration of Pete Shelley’s life and I couldn’t make it so I was looking forward to seeing them here. They formed way back in 1976 and Don’t Dictate is such an Iconic classic punk track. Pauline Murray used the time well to sing her old and new songs perfectly. Murray came onto the stage wearing a jacket and hat but I knew that wouldn’t last because of the heat. The band belted out The Beat Goes on from their 2015 album ‘Resolution’ which is as good as any of her past catalogue. Pauline Murray & The Invisible Girls also did a special show at the Opera House on Sunday.
Charlie Harper (The Godfather of Punk) is part of the furniture at Rebellion; it just wouldn’t be the same if the UK Subs were not to play. UK Subs are a festival favourite and always play to a packed room. Charlie walked onto the stage with a beer in his hand and got the Empress Ballroom crowd in the palm of his other hand within minutes. The 75-year-old was dancing as if it was his first-ever gig way back and the audience is clapping in time. Mr Straughan was wearing a sky blue bike jacket style shirt swinging his guitar and joining in all the fun. Another highlight of the festival for me, especially when they played Warhead with the crowd in full chant.
The Stranglers are headlining the Empress Ballroom so we went out for a short break to try and cool off and prepare ourselves once again. They stepped onto the stage in their familiar black clothing to a loud cheer of approval. They’re one of the longest surviving punk bands and must be the most successful too with having so many hits over the years. Their bass-driven tracks are so recognisable like Peaches, Nice ‘n’ Sleazy, Always the Sun and No More Heroes and they did not disappoint with the setlist. This was a sweaty affair so I had to leave a little early for air, but it was another unforgettable show.
When I’d recovered I then went over to the Club Casbah to catch the all-girl Ramones tribute band called The Ramonas who knock out all the classic tunes without coming up for air at 100 mph and finish the party in true punk style.
Two great sets from The Deckchairs and Turbulent Hearts on the Pavilion Stage.
Day 3 Saturday 3rd August
The Conditions outside had changed slightly for the best as the temperature has dropped a few degrees so I thought it would be cooler in the tropical Winter Gardens, but the heat was still uncomfortable with the humidity rising.
Spider from Long Beach, California does not conserve any energy when they hit the stage. Lead vocalist Hector Martinez likes swinging and throwing his Microphone out into the crown and then quickly pulling it back. I was thinking if that comes off it could do some serious damage, but it all went pretty much to plan with a sigh of relief from me. They’re relentless with songs like Energy Gone Wrong none stop using the whole stage area with Martinez bouncing off the front sound monitors.
Los Fastidios are an Italian street punk/ska come Oi band whose songs deal with issues like equality, socialism, and discrimination and just what life has to offer. It was all about singing dancing and just generally having fun with this band.
Cherry and Peesh is a Southern female spoken word poet and a male Northern punk rocker. They first met each other on a punk tour bus going around Newcastle and struck up a friendship which has developed into an unlikely Rock n’ Roll poetry partnership. They live 300 miles apart which makes it very difficult to rehearse and perform shows together but against all the odds they have found a way to make it work. Their songs are very topical, political and easy to relate to with the likes of Punk Mum, Trump Card, Never Mind The Pistols and their new single Yesterdays Kids. They’re stomping old ground by being guests on the very same Tyne Idols Punk tour of Newcastle on August 18th where they first met. It’s their second time around at Rebellion on the Almost Acoustic Stage and the talented duo was very well received once again.
A short trek to the Opera House to see Duncan Reid & The Big Heads and yes finally found some air conditioning. This venue is all seated, so if you ever want to cool off and take the weight of your feet this is the place to be. The band was on the stage and ready, Duncan former bassist with The Boys was distinctive due to his signature purple attire and a purple Rickenbacker. The Big Heads are a very melody-driven punk band with their hooky songs being great to join into and their enthusiasm on stage is remarkable with them running across the large stage towards each other for some guitar interaction. Sophie Powers and Nick Hughes seemed to have a magnetic pull as they were drawn to each other and even all three sharing one microphone a lot of time. It’s not the first time they’ve played Rebellion but they sing the crowd-pleaser First Time and also Kelly’s Gone Insane. Duncan also did a solo set on the Almost Acoustic Stage on Friday.
The reason I like Maid of Ace so much is that they remind me of my favourite band Motorhead, not visually for the obvious reasons but the four Elliot sisters are fast and bloody loud. They were on the Club Casbah Stage and I always try and catch this cracking band! Another outstanding set from the girls.
Alex lead vocalist for Wonk Unit is like a vulnerable little boy, so his sound is rare and it’s impossible not to warm to him straight away. This band is all about fun, enjoyment, dancing and singing along.
Henry Cluney was on at his usual slot on Almost Acoustic Stage and these shows are always special. The Belfast Ex Stiff Little Finger guitarist has so must to offer musically wise and his anecdotes which are intriguing true stories are worth catching alone. His humorous banter between songs is a pleasure and he went down wonderfully.
Once again Rebellion proved that it’s the punk festival everyone wants to attend or play. It could easily be alternatively named The No Ego Festival as everyone is treated with a non-judgemental unbiased attitude which resonates throughout.
Words: Garry Urwin