“Slow down Cunthead!”
I get to hear this profanity being hollered by a rather worse for wear Blackpool local just after 10am on a glorious Saturday morning and actually take it that its aimed at me as I admit I feel like death warmed up after our Fan-dabi-Friday spent in the unprecedented heat of the Winter Gardens with The Stranglers in The Empress last night possibly setting the record for the hottest gig I’d ever been in. It’s not though, the comment, it’s actually aimed at a local taxi driver who dared to pass the unhappy chappy on a pedestrianised area, but still I find it a life lesson worth taking on board as with the prospect of another full day spent in the punk rock pleasuredome ahead the last thing I really want to do is crash and burn with so many great bands still to check out.
To counter this I feel a bit of retail therapy is in order to restore some balance as I plough through the local second hand record shops looking for that ever illusive vinyl copy of Alistair Terry’s ‘Yonge At Heart’, which of course I never manage to find, but instead I come away with 10 cock rock albums that would make any grown man blush if they were ever caught in the possession of them. Let’s hope then that I don’t happen to bump into The Bar Stool Preachers on the way back to the hotel and become the brunt of some brutal ribbing for actually buying an album by a band called Dirty Blonde… oops!
With my sanity partially restored I head back into The Empress for my first band of the day at the still ungodly hour of 12:35 to catch the return of South Californian hardcore outfit Spider to Rebellion. Featuring former and current members of bands such as Channel 3, Walk Proud, Total Massacre and Bullet Treatment Spider provide a thunderous wake up call for those brave enough to leave their pits early doors. There’s a cover of Black Flag’s ‘Depression’ slotted in somewhere within their energetic blur and it’s a song which also features on the band’s new ‘Energy Gone Wrong’ EP. ‘Barcode Baby’ and ‘Metal Detector’ help them deliver some killer blows too. You know I’d pay good money to see a double denim rocker actually turn up at a show played by this lot thinking it was the 80s UK boogie band who went by the same name and get the shock of their baldy longhaired lives, I really would.
Taking a trip up to the Rebellion Punk Art show is always on my list of “must-dos” if not just to see my old mate Colin Creamcrop Scott who as always is entertaining the masses with his tales of 80s Polish hardcore bands as well as wowing them with his use of reclaimed items to deliver his stunning visuals. There’s always something that catches my eye here not least this year the ever-growing mixture of media being used but I must admit what I do miss having witnessed some right corkers over the years are the old John Robb curated literary interviews that used to take place throughout the weekend in this very venue. Still this year there’s Micky Geggus and Jordan popping up for some Q&As and signing sessions so all is not yet lost.
Heading back to the Arena just in time to catch kung fu kicking Swedish garage punks Zero Zero this bunch of mentalists leaves a lasting impression me both on and off stage with their intoxicated antics. There’s no nudity to write about this time around but bassist Felix later revealing to me and Dom that The Sick Livers are one of his all-time favourite bands was indeed a weekend defining moment.
Quickly shuffling over to the Opera House ready to catch The DeRellas playing what has become their Rebellion second home (and duly rechristened The DeRellaDome by yours truly) the immediate thing that hits me – other than the rather welcoming air conditioning – is just how packed it is down the front ready for Joe, Timmy, Luca and Billy to make their appearance, and this alone really restores my faith in the UK music scene right now as it’s great to see the guy’s continuous hard work making such a noticeable impact. Of course, delivering a set packed full of glam pop goodies like ‘Don’t Go’, ‘Rip It Up’ (where Luca channels his inner Spaceman) and the simply fantastic ‘High Rise Supersize’ is only going to help the fan devotion grow even further and a year on with Billy Chaos holding down the backbeat The DeRellas really are sounding like the band I think they’ve always dreamed of being. I once saw The Only Ones play the Opera House and they weren’t anywhere as good as The DeRellas were today. You better believe it brothers and sisters.
It’s at this point in our Rebellion Saturday that me and Dom normally find a local boozer and enjoy the first weekend of the football season unfold on a TV screen but this year Dom’s interviewing Mr Spunk Volcano for a soon to be published RPM exclusive interview so instead I tag along to listen to possibly one of the most in-depth discussions the masked man has ever given and trust me when I say this one is certainly going to make for some interesting reading.
Returning to the Winter Gardens with every intention of watching my old mate, ex- Glitterati and current Rich Ragany & The Digressions guitar dude Gaff, playing with Desperate Measures I arrive at the Arena for their allotted slot only to find the place in band changeover mode so I assume they are running a little late and get myself a drink. Then when Blitzkrieg finally do make it onto the Arena stage the penny drops and I realise I should have been in the Pavilion all along and even with a quick sprint to the correct venue I literally turn up just as the final chord is echoing out around the horseshoe. Bollocks! Sorry lads, that’s gotta be a first for me, but at least I’m man enough to admit it and hopefully raise a smile or two in the process.
Angry with myself at this band faux pas I make sure I’m in The Opera House well in advance of Alvin Gibbs and The Disobedient Servants taking to the stage and yes I do triple check my planner this time, because having see this band deliver one of my gigs of the year so far I was not about to miss out. Especially when today the core trio of Alvin, Leigh and Jamie that I saw just a few months back are being joined by the master of guitar crunch Steve Crittall and for just a couple of songs birthday boy Gizz Butt who looks positively delighted to get to shred his way through the solos on the raw power of ‘Clumsy Fingers’ and the Iggy tribute ‘Down On The Streets’ . The setlist is pretty much the same as the one I’d seen previously but with the added bite of Crittall on guitar, I can’t help but wish I’d seen this line up play these songs in a small club. Still here’s hoping for the future as with the band sounding this great the ‘Your Disobedient Servant’ album surely can’t be the end of the solo adventure for Alvin.
Moving back to the Empress Ballroom just as Italian boot boys Giuda are about to take the stage with an uproarious version of ‘Overdrive’ from their excellent if somewhat sonically different ‘E.V.A’ LP it’s the intensity of the slightly rejigged line up that immediately hits me. I admit I was half expecting them to have turned into Giuran Giuran (thanks to Jim Rowland at Uber Rock for that one) given the use of synths on the new record, but no, as they rattle through the likes of ‘Back Home’, ‘Number 10’ and ‘Get It Over’ they actually sound tougher than ever before, which with no between-song banter and this time around no cover versions makes for the almost complete version of Giuda yet. Leaving the stage with ‘Cosmic Love’ from ‘E.V.A’ blasting out of the PA was certainly a bit odd though.
At this point, I admit I could have just stayed in the Empress for the veritable smorgasbord of tasty Oi! bands that were about to follow but with the lure of Duncan Reid playing the Opera House and that venue’s rather splendid sound and air-con I decided to play it cool ahead of Cock Sparrer and catch the 1-2 of The Big Heads and then later Walter Lure before sweating out half my body weight back in the Empress.
Opting to catch Duncan Reid And The Big Heads proves very quickly to be an inspired choice of band as the quartet rattle through some of their very best songs including a poptastic ‘Baby Doll’, a huge sounding ‘Bombs Away’, along with the uplifting ‘Just Because You’re Paranoid’. It’s also guitarist/keyboardist Sophie K Powers’ birthday and that seems to add an extra bounce to the whole band tonight and as guitarist Nick Hughes takes to the microphone for a run through ‘Brickfield Nights’ and the whole band join in on ‘First Time’ (a song Duncan dedicates to the songwriting genius of Honest John Plain) the whole party atmosphere seems to engulf the front rows right through to the last chord.
Picking up a quick bag of chips to keep me going I’m soon back in the Opera House in time to catch the only remaining Heartbreaker Walter Lure and his all-star LAMF band that also features Mick Rossi on guitar, Mark Laff on drums and Nigel Mead on bass. Now the cynics out there might be thinking this has car crash written all over it, but I’d actually say after watching these guys live it felt a hell of a lot more like a real band than the last time Lure played Rebellion back in 2013 with a few (admittedly excellent) hired guns. In particular, Laff and Mead are a watertight rhythm section and Rossi has always been something of a Johnny Thunders disciple can barely hide his excitement tearing off the riffs to the likes of ‘Pirate Love’, ‘Chinese Rocks’ and ‘Born To Lose’. Lure again adds in a few Waldos numbers along the way plus this time there’s also a couple of Slaughter & The Dogs tunes sung by Rossi. What we have here ladies and gents is a highly entertaining set that once again treats the Heartbreakers legacy with the respect it deserves.
Saturday night at Rebellion 2019 is all about the return of the mighty Cock Sparrer to the Empress Ballroom, and trying to get a good vantage point from which to watch their set is proving an almost impossible task even a good 15 minutes out from the scheduled start time. Having previously watched them from the pit, from half way back by the sound desk and from when the stage was side on almost from the side, tonight I choose a balcony view from behind side stage which means I not only get to watch the band without obstruction but I also get to watch the huge crowd too. As the lights dim and the ‘Overture’ intro tape booms out the PA I can feel the beads of sweat already running down my head, heaven only knows how hot it must be onstage under those lights or down the front, as once again the opening trio of ‘Riot Squad’, ‘Watch Your Back’ and ‘Working’ send the (shock) troops into a veritable frenzy. I’ve seen Sparrer live a good few times now and tonight really is one of the very best performances I’ve seen to date (even right up there with that show stealing Hellfest slot a good few years back now) and its perhaps made all the more significant and special when mid set Colin asks Andy (the husband of Kathy Rocker) to join them onstage for a truly heart wrenching rendition of ‘Gonna Be Alright’. Elsewhere from the 2017 album ‘Forever’ we get the awesome ‘One By One’ along with the tongue twisting ‘Nothing Like You’ whilst the rest of the set is packed full of classics like ‘AU’, ‘Runnin’ Riot’ and ‘Where Are They Now?’ and never mind how many times I hear these songs live I never grow tired of them. That Sparrer play for 80 minutes and it feels like 10 minutes also shows what an immersive experience seeing them live really is, and yes, I’ll be doing it all over again when they hit the UK club circuit for one last time in 2020 along with support from Spunk Volcano & The Eruptions.
Joining back up with Dom at the Opera House for the end of The Godfathers set (and in fact as it turns out the end of that band) we ponder for a minute about going to watch another band before the night is out, but me, I need to go back to the hotel to wring out my T-Shirt as that really was the kind of day Saturday was at Rebellion 2019. (JH)
Whilst Johnny went off to lace his Doc Martins up and iron his Fred Perry I stayed in the Opera House, took five and waited for The Godfathers to take to the stage. Starting the set with ‘Birth, School, Work, Death’ seemed like a great idea as the band sounded thunderous and little did we know what was brewing. ‘This Is War’ had Steve Crittalls guitar slashing like a samurai sword through the super locked in and tight rhythm section. It was a ‘Big Bad Beautiful Noise’ and it was, a Beautiful noise that is. It was commented that the band was ripping it up and I think it’s fair to say that this was shaping up to be one of the performances of the weekend. ‘If I Only Had Time’ had never sounded so good and following that up with the flip flop of ‘Til My Heart Stops Beating’ throughout the fifteen or so songs the band played they were on fire and ending the set with ‘Defribulator’ seemed apt under the circumstances.
The band returned briefly for a romp through the Ramones ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ and then they were gone. Little did we know that some days later Peter was making the public removal of the whole band on Facebook!
Sure it’s his baby and his prerogative to shake the lineup and hire and fire but Facebook? From a fan of the music and the legacy of The Band I’m gutted – shit happens, I get that but this line up was channeling some incredible MC5, Stooges, Detroit sounds which makes it all the more sad to see it unfold so publicly and after such an electrifying performance.
Alex, Steve, Tim, and Darren’s contribution should be recognised because they seriously rocked, it’s a real shame that the legacy of The Godfathers might very well be damaged (I hope not) because I was buzzing after the set and that was largely down to the band who just played, Peter included. Who said Rock and Roll was boring? (DD)
Now over to Mr. Sutton to fill in the blanks of what else went on elsewhere in The winter gardens…
Saturday is something of a tactical battle as alcohol intake has to be tempered by an impending midnight gig to be played. As a result, many intended viewings fall by the wayside. ut there’s no way I could miss the Cockney Rejects and there’s also no way you can miss the full-blown Wonk Unit set after last night’s masterclass and it’s good to see a totally packed Club Casbah agree wholeheartedly. Two blinding sets in 24 hours? Wonk Unit shit them!!! The early day logistics meant that one of the bands I missed was Informal Society but that aforementioned midnight set we had to play at a fringe gig also happened to have Informal Society playing the 2am slot, so actually catching them was a real bonus, as the LA troupe really ripped out a high energy set for their second stint of the waking day.
Authors (JH) Johnny Hayward additional words from (DD) Dom Daley and Mr. Darrel Sutton.
Pictures of Alvin Gibbs, Gizz Butt, Cock Sparrer, Cockney Rejects courtesy of Dod Morrison Photography
All others from the shakey Dark Fruit sponsored phones of Hayward & Daley