Live Review: Rebellion Festival 2023 – Friday
Words: Dan Barnes
Photos: Tony Ghirardi / Dod Morrison
An unexpected early Friday afternoon tailback on the M6 means I miss both Zero Tolerance and The Attack, and the first band I get to watch is Rum Lad who, supported by only a drummer, plays some darkly Gothic Post-Punk. Sadistic Slobs add a slice of shredding to their street sound and Redlightz have a European edge to their hardcore punk snap.
Watford Oi! trio Knock Off have a huge representation all weekend and the Casbah is full ages before they crank into opener One Life. Are You Offended is for the internet trolls, This Ain’t a Love Song is for all the people we’ve lost since the last time we were all together and newbie, London, is introduced by Andy’s now expected North vs South banter. After Football, Beer and Punk Rock he starts on a Burger King, dedicated This is Who We Are to Rebellion itself and We Are Proud to the memory of The Business frontman, Micky Fitz. It’s another hard-edged and enjoyable show from Knock Off who’re are steadily making themselves into one of the must-see Oi! exponents with every show. They finish with a call to make security nervous for the one-minute and twenty-seven seconds of Jack the Ripper.
Just like Svetlanas yesterday In Evil Hour have been terrifying audiences with their ballsy punk rock and, though possibly more refined than their Russian counterparts, the Darlington band have such fat riffs that they occasionally boarder on the metallic. 1983 also borrow from their metal cousins for their hard and heavy Oi! infused with a whole heap of thrashing. Red London could be thought of as being an archetypical Cockney Oi! crew, were it not for their proud Sunderland roots. There’s an obvious melancholy to the show today and Patrick Smith can barely hold back the tears during Long Night in Long Island, performed before a backdrop commemorating fellow-Mackem Red Alert’s fallen frontman, Steve ‘Cast Iron’ Smith.
Cat & The Underdogs are all about the power punk in the Pavilion and Fire Exit are just finishing off their set as I make my way back to the Casbah, though they declare they will be back at Rebellion 2024 as they are one of the early announcements. Like the Industrial Revolution and Parliamentary Democracy, Oi! has been a raging success across the globe – for the world is a ball – but its origins and roots are firmly implanted in the soil of Albion. This other Eden gets namechecked in many a Street Punk ditty, but few band wear their English hearts as proudly as Resistance 77. They get to the point as soon as they hit the stage with their abrasive tunes being seared through with a positive attitude and a can-do spirit. There’s even a bit of Ska throw into the mix and it looks like the band are having a whale of a time on the stage. There has been some disruption to the band’s schedule of late, due to illness, but that’s all behind them (touch wood) and we get a cover of the Angelic Upstarts’ I’m an Upstart, a dedication to all those who’ve passed on with Pass Me the Bottle and the scene-confirming True Punk and Oi! Of course, no Resistance 77 show would be complete without Spirit of St George and several thousand voices are joined in the veneration of our – and Ethiopia and Catalonia’s – Patron Saint.
Following last year’s show in the Pavilion Seattle’s The Drowns are bumped up to the Empress Ballroom for an early evening slot. Their take on Oi! is more aggressive and contains many of the elements that make up US Hardcore. The cover The Sweets’ Ballroom Blitz, introducing it as one of the greatest songs ever written and referencing Wayne’s World. Dick Lucas and his Subhumans draw a big crowd to hear the Crusty legends railing against the modern world of capitalism and injustice. Brimming with ire, they take aim at corporations during Mickey Mouse Is Dead, the beauty industry on Too Fat, Too Thin and the fat-cats on 99%. Society opens with a speedy bass run and, if you listen closely, you can hear the seeds of early Napalm Death in those fiery diatribes.
It’s clear that the Bar Stool Preachers have a big future ahead of them, especially considering the turnout in the Empress and the number of folks wearing BSP merchandise. I covered their new album, Above the Static back in March and, having seen the sextet several times over the past few years it’s obvious the time spent on the road has been paying off. Tom McFaull is just a dervish of energy as he spins and whizzes about the stage and the band’s three-guitar set up adds a thickness to the overall sound. Rooted in Ska, the Preachers aim to skank from the very beginning and the assembled mass are along for the ride. “The rules of the mosh pit are the rules of life” exclaims Tom to the seething throng, who hang on the band’s every note. It surely won’t be long before these lads are topping the bill here and at a large venue near you.
Not sure Dirt Box Disco will win many prizes for subtlety, but what they lack in sensitivity they more than make up for in the sheer enjoyment stakes. They are a collective that I don’t think I got at first, but continued expose to them has made me a fan, through their witty observations and bombastic attitude through songs like Tragic Roundabout, I’ve Got a Girlfriend and My Life is Shit, you just cannot but helped be caught up in the sheer exuberance of it all.
The Specials were - well, Special and pioneered the coming together of disparate element to form a cohesive whole. Back in their day, no one was bridging the racial divide by merging 2 Tone, Ska and New Wave in quite the same way and no one has since. The tragic death of singer Terry Hall in December last year reminded us we need The Specials now, more than ever before. As it is, Neville Staple is keeping the flame alive and gives a heart-felt set featuring some of the band’s most iconic and inspirational songs, like Rudy a Message to You and Ghost Town.
Henry Rollins did almost two hours in total but I’d butcher it if I tried to tell you what he said. Instead, know that he discussed Black Flag’s early days, making it big and playing shows with Ozzy and having to perform Rise Above with Cindy Lauper on Christmas special, even though he could manage it in his twenties, he was unsure how it would work now he’s in his sixties.
Unashamedly wheeling out the Metallica numbers, Anti-Nowhere League are their usual abrasive selves, with Animal prowling the Empress’ stage like a caged tiger. I Hate People, Woman, Can’t Stand Rock & Roll and Let’s Break the Law are staples of the band’s show and never fail to get the desired reaction.
Steve Ignorant Band’s Crass set does exactly what it promised and give us a run through of the Crust pioneer’s catalogue, including Do They Owe Us a Living, Punk is Dead and The Gasman Cometh. It really is a choice to make as while Steve and co do their thing, Wattie and his UK82 crew, The Exploited are savaging the ballroom. It’s mohawks, studs and anarchy all the way into the early hours of Saturday morning, with the prospect of The Ramonas treating the hardy to a late set.