FESTIVAL PREVIEW: Rebellion Festival 2023
Words: Dan Barnes
The problem with Rebellion Festival – and there is a problem – is there is just not enough time to see everyone you want to see. A First-World Problem, I know, but a problem, nonetheless. For a festival preview I usually like to go through the bill and say something about each band but, with Rebellion having upward of three hundred acts it would make it a feat of Herculean proportions; and no one wants to read me waffling on for tens of thousands of words. You can do that afterwards when I do the review.
Instead, I’m going through the line up and picking out the bands I’ll be aiming to catch at this year’s show.
Obviously, the biggest draws for Thursday are The Damned and Descendants, even though you could probably argue there is little or nothing commonly shared between the two. Both are seasoned Rebellion headliners, with The Damned seemingly cursed to roam over the past year. Their limited, original line-up tour was a hit and, with the release of the Darkadelic record earlier in the year and the subsequent tour in the spring, it’s a wonder any of their families still recognise them. It’s been a while since I last saw Descendants – I think it was at the Reading Festival – so I’m keen to make a reacquaintance as soon as possible. I know it’s been more than quarter of a century but I’m sure the boys are still as manic and as much fun as ever.
There is a real fixture pile up toward the end of Thursday, with Gang Green and T.S.O.L.’s sets clashing with the those on the Empress stage. Precision planning should allow me to see some of all four as, for me, the Boston Hardcore crew are a particular highlight of this year. As for the Californians, well they have the better part of fifty-years under their belts and know how to play a great show.
We’re coming into the final stretch of U.K. Subs’ career so every opportunity to catch Charlie Harper and crew should be taken. Good Riddance are making a rare visit to these shores and a sure to be a Thursday highlight, as will be Teenage Bottlerocket if their Slam Dunk set is anything to go by. Coming in hot from last year’s event are Riskee & The Ridicule, whose take on Punk is multifaceted and full of interesting moments, while Svetlanas might lack the subtly they more than make up for it in the energy department.
Other sets from the late afternoon / early evening I’m particularly looking forward to seeing are OG UK’76 mob Eater, Canadian agitators Dayglo Abortions and UK crew Billyclub. If you’re in early then how about Healthy Junkies or Pete Bentham and the Dinner Ladies? I’ll be making sure I get down there as early as possible to see Gimp Fist’s Jonny Robson on the acoustic stage which is bound to be a festival opening treat.
Elsewhere, across Thursday, I’ll looking to catch Menace, Tear Up and, as long as my feet are holding out, Hung Like Hanratty.
Friday is going to see a whole load of compromising as The Exploited, Steve Ignorant Band Plays Crass and The Anti-Nowhere League all overlap with Henry Rollins in the Opera House. Careful consideration is going to have to be given to the scheduling here; on the other hand, I could just go with the fact that I saw ANL at North West Calling, and both Exploited and Steve Ignorant are on at North East Calling in September. Decisions, decisions!
Elsewhere and earlier in the day it’ll be another Dirt Box Disco show as they are guaranteed to be making a right royal racket while bringing their brand of fun to the cavernous Club Casbah stage. It’s reasonable to suggest Neville Staple’s set will have added poignancy since the passing of Terry Hall last year, so I expect many a tear will be shed. The Barstool Preachers’ stock is growing with every show they play and the Above the Static record proves they can deliver on two fronts; Dick Lucas and his Subhumans haven’t shifted an inch from their original anarcho-goals, so it’s unlikely they’ll be hitting Rebellion with anything but rage.
England-loving patriots Resistance ’77 always attract a big crowd and for good reason, with their St George affirming Oi! and all-round good vibes they are what Punk is all about. Red London is a little more calm, taking their queues from the likes of The Clash and Chelsea, but with a name taken from Sham 69 and from a similar neck of the woods as Angelic Upstarts, this ain’t likely to be a walk in the park.
The early afternoon will start with a bit of Zero Tolerance to settle the nerves, before Lumpen up the Oi! factor and Knock Off continue their slow and steady ascent up the Skinhead pecking order. The always reliable In Evil Hour take a slot in the Empress Ballroom, adding to the already strong list of bands playing on that stage today.
Also on the list of must-sees are Chubby and the Gang, The Outcasts and a late night rendezvous with The Ramonas.
Rebellion have fairly stacked the deck for me on Saturday, with a list of shows as long as my arm. The big draw for the day will be Empress headliners New Model Army, whose commitment to the cause over the years has been inspirational. With a few less years but equal number of miles under their belts is Millie Manders & The Shut-Up, who I’ll be seeing at the third festival of the summer but who always make the event go with a pop.
On a slightly different tack will be old-school Welsh anarchists, Icons of Filth who are still actively standing in opposition to this day. Equally defiant will be Wasted Youth and Boston Hardcore alumni The FUs who were both raging against the machine as far back as 1981. Last year’s five album reminder of Toxic Reasons was more than enough to whet the appetite for the band’s Blackpool set and Sensa Yuma are looking to repeat their triumphal show in the sweltering heat of 2019.
Ruts DC are every-present at any Punk show of note and their participation is always of the highest quality. 80’s Ska icon, Buster Bloodvessel is bringing his Bad Manners to Blackpool to turn back the clock; The Chisel is likely to be one of the more aggressive sets of the weekend – which is certainly saying something when you consider the company they are keeping – and Ferocious Dog are enjoying their meteoric rise with their infectious but serious-themed tunes.
There is something of the disconcerting about the awkward rhythms used by Midwich Cuckoos that is bound to enthral in a live environment; Philadelphia street-punks The Virus is now a decade into its reformation and show no signs a letting up, while The Insane from Wigan won’t have far to travel to replicate last year’s excellent set.
My big draw for Saturday has to be Gimp Fist who’re one of my favourite bands of any genre, any where. Other notables will be Paranoid Visions, The Rampstampits and Dead 77 as well as Los Fastidious and The Meteors.
Forty-odd years into their career and The Dickies are my late draw on Sunday evening – or night as it turns out – their rambunctious shows are custom made to ink the final line beneath Rebellion 2023. It’s amazing how far Bob Vylan have come in such a (relatively) short space of time as, at the time of writing, the duo is main tour support for the Generation Sex shows. Not too shabby considering a little over a year ago I saw them in front of six-hundred people at the Club Academy in Manchester.
Alternative Punks Kid Kapichi have a couple of sterling albums under their belts, the latest being Look What You Could Have Won from early last autumn. Clearly liable to attract a more old-school fan will be Conflict and DOA, both of whom, without fear or favour, are all about a more aggressive and straightforward approach to Punk.
My two big interests for Sunday come in the back-to-back appearances of D.R.I. and Murphy’s Law on the Casbah stage. Texans Dirty Rotten Imbeciles return to Blackpool after their 2018 show, bringing that crossover thrash to the cavernous Casbah, just a Cro-Mags did last year. NYC punks Murphy’s Law have imbibed some of the Big Apple’s hardcore sensibilities into their sound, but this is a pairing that sets the hairs on my neck a-standing.
Nothing is off-limits as inspiration for Eastfield’s brand of fast moving, driving punk rock; just as nothing is off-limits for incurring the ire of MDC. Bringing a much-needed nuance to the day will be the ever-cultured Spunk Volcano & The Eruptions.
Also of interest early in the day will be Borrowed Time, Blue Carpet Band and Fihhos de Inacio, with Republica and Evil Blizzard being of interest to the night owls among those still-standing.
Of course, this is just the tip of Rebellion’s iceberg and one of the joys of the festival is wandering around and catching bands you might not have seen or even heard of before. I’ve discovered a whole host of new-to-me bands at the Winter Gardens and I’m looking forward as much to finding my new favourite bands as I am in catching my old ones.