Moscow / Dublin / London

Today three items are worth considering, and different as they may appear, they all fall under the category of popular music and the government.

Moscow

When John Lydon articulated his support in Blackpool on Sunday for three women on trial in Russia he probably didn’t suspect that his sentiments would be echoed by Madonna. He probably didn’t care either. What shocked me was not Madonna’s statement but the bile and the sexist, hateful comments posted about her. I read about her words of support for the three women who make up Pussy Riot on yahoo news. In the feedback section under the article comment after comment derided her in the crudest terms.

Madonna’s statements were widely reported, coming as they did at a Moscow concert. While she has never shied away from controversy, her career has been significantly advanced by that tactic, it would be interesting to know how many other artists would voice opinions about Pussy Riot particularly in Moscow.

The Daily Telegraph reported some of her onstage comments and that they were met with loud cheers from the audience. The paper described the event:

To huge cheers, Madonna said: “I know there are many sides of this story and I mean no disrespect to the church or the government but I think that these three girls – Masha, Katya and Nadya – I think they have done something courageous, I think they have paid the price for this act and I pray for their freedom.” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/9460580/Madonna-Pussy-Riot-have-done-something-courageous-and-deserve-freedom.html )

Some questions to consider:

Should Pussy Riot be jailed for their actions?

Should Western artists speak out on their behalf?

Where is the line between what is acceptable and what is worthy of lengthy jail sentences?

Dublin

Another situation where music and the law locked horns was highlighted by Jim Carroll from the Irish Times. His blog has been one of the best sources of information and questions about the recent events at the Swedish House Mafia Phoenix Park gig put on by MCD concerts.

Today he wrote about the deteriorating relationship between MCD and the Gardai. (http://www.irishtimes.com/blogs/ontherecord/2012/07/11/going-back-to-the-phoenix-park-to-ask-some-questions/ ). This could have significant implications for the live music industry in Ireland.  The Garda have been critical of MCD following the concert. Now MCD have publicly announced are threatening legal action against the Garda (http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2012/0806/1224321570192.html ). While some of this may be legal sabre rattling it is difficult to predict who will win this PR battle. Keep reading Jim Carroll’s blog for updates and analysis.

In his July 7th Blog entry (http://www.irishtimes.com/blogs/ontherecord/2012/07/11/going-back-to-the-phoenix-park-to-ask-some-questions/ ) he argued that the problems at the concert had to examined in the context of Macro as well as Micro factors. The Macro factor is that Ireland has a huge tolerance for public intoxication. The Micro factors relate to the specifics of this particular gig.

A few questions arising from this debate:

Should obviously intoxicated people be refused admission to concerts?

Would this make concerts more attractive to people?

Should obviously intoxicated people be arrested before they go into concerts?

Depending on how you answer those questions you have to consider who is responsible when trouble (fatal trouble as seen in Phoenix Park) occurs?

Assuming the promoter is responsible: would you be willing to pay more for a concert ticket if the drunks are excluded?

Assuming the police are responsible: would you be willing to pay higher taxes to have these people removed before or during the concert?

London

And finally…does anyone think it odd that before events in the Olympic Games the crowd are treated to a healthy section of the Clash song London Calling? A song about a ‘nuclear error’ and post-apocalyptic London sounds like an odd choice for the authorities to select. Does this mean pop music can change things? Or does it indicate that pop music lacks power to change things? Either way I love hearing the song under just about any circumstance!

The Wild Hearted Outsider

Jimmy McCarthy

 

I just read the autobiography of Cork singer-songwriter Jimmy McCarthy.Best known for composing songs covered by Christy Moore, Mary Black, Maura O’Connell, The Corrs and even Westlife!It is one of those books (like the Christy Moore one) where the author uses the songs he sung or played to describe his life at a particular stage.

McCarthy’s life is really interesting and he really captures the era and what it was like to pursue a life in music. He comes from the place in Irish history where a family like his, where the number of children was in double digits (twelve in his case), was not uncommon. What was rare was having a mother who took flying lessons despite taking care of this brood.

Despite the huge success enjoyed by McCarthy he struggled to make it in a small country with a very underdeveloped music industry. It certainly was not an industry that provided support for original artists. His prose is clear and insightful; it was a pleasure reading such a well written book.

In a way, even though it is his story, I think this is the best book I have read about the Irish music industry. It captures the early struggles, his band Southpaw managed by the legendary Elvia Butler, who did so much to foster original music in Ireland during the punk era.

The familiar pattern of Irish musicians forced to eke out an existence in London is really well documented. He even discusses sharing a squat with a gaggle of Scottish punks who were inspired by Crass.

Ultimately this book is inspirational. A triump of a life for a good guy whose life could have taken him in a different, more destructive, direction. He candidly describes his battle with alcohol and he decision to embrace a sober existence.

He gives a fresh first-person insight in folk and trad music in Ireland, as well as how career paths are advanced by decisons to record in what seem like random places like Switzerland. The variety of ways in which artists fund their recordings is better described in the book than anywhere else I have read.

Other music industry figures emerge from the pages too. The role they play in the networked Irish industry is illustrated well by the Cork songwriter. It is interesting to read about Louis Walsh’s advice. And Pat Egan’s input is singled out for high praise. The lack of high quality management in Ireland is noted.

Ultimately the life narrative of McCarthy seems to have been enabled by strong family support where parents encouraged their offspring to express themselves, in particular through the arts. This is contrasted with the type of abuse suffered by so many of their contemporaries at school during this era.

The book, without expressing it, asks the question of what Ireland would be like if young people were supported, nurtured, invited to express themselves and to think independently. In essence to follow their dreams. One answer is that we might produce more people like Jimmy McCarthy. And that would be a wonderful thing.

I will put more info up on the book (the reference etc) when I have it back in my hands again.

In the meantime here is a link to his website, although it looks a bit neglected in tersm of recent updates

http://www.jimmymaccarthy.net/website/

the wildhearted outsider

Blackpool Rebellion Day 1

Today it was back to Blackpool for the annual check-up on the medical condition of the venerable old institution that is punk. Punk nostalgia could not have found a more perfect temporary home than ‘the Paris of the North West’. There amongst the Ghost Trains, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, the sticks of rock, the tacky souvenir shops and every bit as colourful are the punks. The establishment’s dearest wish at the first sprouting of punk was that it would go away. It did go away. It went to Blackpool.
And every year, now as regular as a Christmas panto, or a back-to-school sale it enjoys a four-day celebration of community in the magnificent Wintergarden. The leather and studs are now as quaint as the outfits of the pearly kings and queens. Plus there was enough tattoo ink on display to paint a small country and the wrinkles were even more pronounced than ever before.  Yet here they all were again. A clump of punks sitting by the entrance had not paced themselves very well. They were sitting beside a huge, and literally nauseating, pool of puke before the event has even begun. Pace yourselves punks! It is not a cider sprint it is a liquid marathon.
One of the reasons I felt excited about emigrating from Dublin in the late 80s was because I wanted to see every band I possibly could. London is an incredible city. It is even more incredible if you are young and music is your biggest passion. That was my case. I saw so many incredible bands when they passed through. At the same time two London bands quickly became ‘must sees’. I did everything I could to see them every time they played. They were Snuff and the Senseless Things. Both were infused with effervescent pop energy, rock power and a great sense of fun.
And tonight I get reacquainted with Snuff. They are every bit as irrepressible as ever. They’re as tight and muscular as Husker Du with the madcap wit of the Goons and the cheeky chappie personality of London barrow boys. I can’t help but smile and sing along with delight. It feels good to be here. It feels good to be alive. And even the floor of the ballroom, already as sticky as a gum tree forest in high summer, can’t prevent me from springing up and down, but gently.The Filaments have boundless energy with the most elastic trombonist of the night. He cavorted and sprang around the stage with his instrument in hand. They have good highly charged songs and they also helped the punks to get a bit of a work out. They are anti-fascist and fun. During their set they successfully urged the crowd at the front to form a circle and move around. The following scene resembled an earthquake in the toilet brush and paint factory. The fans seemed to enjoy their punk-ercize; later their magnificent plumage was rightly saluted by Snuff. A riot of colour under the Blackpool illuminations.
The Buzzcocks were one of the most bright and brilliant things about early punk/new wave. Their vibrant singles were sparky, spiky and melodic three minute bursts of energy. I didn’t get to see them when they visited Ireland and played at barely audible levels thanks to the intervention of the authorities at Trinity College. It must have been frustrating for the audience to witness such a great band at such a low volume.
I got to see them in London twenty years ago. To be honest I had reservation about going to see them because they were ‘not of the moment’. They were exceptional. The gig reminded me of how many quality pop songs they had. And here I was again, over twenty years on from that gig.
Diggle and Shelly still give the impression of men enjoying what they do. And I don’t mean in some fake showbiz way. They indulged in some guitar work-outs that I suspect wouldn’t have escaped the punk censors in 1977. And as much as I appreciate that punk needs to be more open and to break the formulas I didn’t enjoy the guitar histrionics as much as the band probably did.
A fantastic thing about the Rebellion Festival is getting to sample bands I wouldn’t otherwise encounter. The Heavy Metal Kids sounded like a band I have read about in passing yet have never heard. And there they were looking every bit like Heavy Metal but not in any way like Kids. Their singer looked like ‘rock singer’ selected by central casting. The handy official Rebellion programme has info on lots of the bands appearing this year. Turns out the Heavy Metal Kids were formed in 1972! I can only imagine how much pleasure the original members get from performing songs and being on stage after all those years. I don’t necessarily want to see these bands. And previously I would have been glad if they never performed. Now I kind of admire them and wish them well even if it is from a distance. I am genuinely glad that people who made art collectively now meet up with old friends, and even new ones, and play their music. God Bless The Heavy Metal Kids.

Tomorrow I get to see some of the Irish contestants on Blackpool Rebellion Festival 2012. I suspect they will give a decent account of themselves.

Maximum Rock N Roll # 350 is dedicated to a wonderful Photo Issue. It celebrates the photographers of the punk scenes. One of the most interesting to me is the feature on Don Pyle and his evocative shots of the early Toronto punk days. Capturing bands like the Diodes and the Viletones, Pyle who went on to be in Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, brings to light moments of inspiration for the great Canadian city. Pictures of Iggy Pop, Cheetah Chrome and the Ramones demonstrate how visiting bands were often the touch paper for young emerging acts. The article remined me of great people like Catherine McRae and her friend Joanne Keading, Elliot Lefkoe, Dave Bookman and Kim Cooke who took inspiration from that underground scene and then made their own artistic and entrepreneurial contribution to the music world.

The Wild Hearted Outsider

Blackpool Rebellion 2012 Day 2

Day 2 Create. Community.

One of the most interesting things about punk is its invitation to create. Sure, like any other popular music genre, it is associated with tonnes of consumption: how many Ramones t-shirts have sprung from cotton plants around the world? How many bottles of dye have been sold to embellish punk heads? How many patches, zips, studs, leather jackets have been snapped up by eager punk consumers?

The really compelling element of punk is the urge to produce. The Rebellion Festival hosts an exhibition of art by and of punk. The pieces I love most are the really cheery and funny punk cartoons that also capture perfectly their punk subjects. The artist has an incredible talent. Depicting moments like the Clash London Calling video or the changing styles of John Lydon on a tiny drawing require insight and skill.
Viv Albertine

Speaking of Mr Lydon, and his name should always be celebrated when discussing the punk consumers producers, one of the performances today provided a compelling human history lesson. Viv Albertine from the hugely influential girl group The Slits played solo at the Bizarre Bazaar stage. As one of the key figures in the early blossoming of punk she provided some key insights. She described how Mr Lydon named her band the Flowers of Romance and how she and fellow member Sid Vicious spend the hot summer of 1976 rehearsing in the Ladbroke Gove basement of Joe Strummer’s squat. All of these human details illustrate how densely networked that early London punk scene was.

Before performing a song about rows of needles and rows of lonely people she told us how Johnny Thunders’ Heartbreakers introduced heroin to that London scene. It had been relatively drug free she shared: “we couldn’t afford them”. Apart from a little speed. It is funny to think how that creative, vibrant, chaotic community were affected by this America import.

Albertine’s performance is confessional. Highly confessional. She is compelling not comforting. Far from it. She used the stage to make uncomfortable points. She warned the audience about naive beliefs in standard myths. She peeled back fairy tales to unpack the real dangers within. Seeing her there, using her battered electric guitar to accompany her personal statements, reminded me of the eclecticism of Bjork, Woodie Guthrie, the sonic insistence of Suicide and the gender politics of the Birmingham School. She doesn’t use her guitar liked a meek folkie. She manipulates it with distortion and rhythm to highlight her words.
She spoke of the demeaning invitation to be the ‘hook-up’ of an unnamed man. Harsh lessons were delivered from this everyday warrior in a sparkling spangly dress.
She left us with the haunting image of a happy house/unhappy home. Designer kitchen and architectural wonder containing a prison for the expectations of the housewife. The song cresendoed with a chant of the expected duties of the ‘home-maker’.

“I hope he is still talking to me” she said of Mr Lydon. On the evidence of the chat with John Robb, I hope so too.

Lurkers

Another really compelling use of the stage was by Esso from the Lurkers. His book about what it felt like to be in one of the first wave of bands is very melancholic. The tone is wistful, direct, raw and human. It is one of my favourite insider accounts of that early punk movement. Loneliness, confusion, isolation and a wish for things to be better fill the pages.
He read a passage today about being on tour and dealing with the inevitability of being gobbed at by hordes of young people who thought was what you were supposed to do. That’s what the media can do. He also described how the band recorded with Mick Glossop and a conversation he had with Uriah Heap’s singer who was in the studio. The well coifed Uriah Heap front-man extoled the virtues of America. To Esso he contrasted America with Britain based on how much money could be won on their respective quiz shows. He also urged Esso to get in shape, to enjoy his body, to develop a physique like his: tanned and toned from exercising and the Californian sun.
Esso was somewhat surprised to find him crawling on all fours in the studio a few hours later. Two bottles of brandy consumed and his positivity and focused approach to life seemingly temporarily lacking.

Tom Hingley

Another highlight was meeting Tom Hingley and getting his autobiography. His time with the Inspiral Carpets, who Noel Gallagher famously roadied for, appears to be filled with learning about the music industry. His infections personality combined with the bits I read briefly make me pretty sure it is going to be a great document of what the music industry is really like.

The Mob

I had always, and incorrectly as it turns out, lumped The Mob in with the horde of bands that emerged after that initial flowering of punk. ‘The Class of 82’ as one magazine cover described them, went up a road that wasn’t appealing to me at the time. The Buzzcocks, and in particular that man, Mr Lydon, navigated a route that was more experimental and unexpected to me. So when I finally did see The Mob they were heavy and perfectly capable of delivering a powerful punch without stepping on the accelerator constantly. They had that interesting twist on dark music of the time that UK Decay and Killing Joke had. I did recognise ‘No Doves Fly Here’ and was really impressed by their songs of doom, disaster, drudgery and repetition. As Niall Hope says: “If you have something to complain about; you have something to change!” I must educate myself a bit more on their recordings.

7 Seconds

Speaking of positivity, 7 Seconds delivered an impassioned stormer of a set to finish the night. It was great to hear the songs about community, combating racism, confronting macho attitudes in society and in the music scene. Seeing the band, as well as Kevin Seconds on the acoustic stage earlier, is very life-affirming. He talks about how happy he is to get to do something he loves. Playing music with people he admires and travelling to perform that music. Part of his buoyant honestly stems from being 51 and still doing something he loves. His enthusiasm is infectious.

Los Fastidios

Also infectious was Los Fastidios’ rousing sing-along which had a few hundred assorted punks and associated tribes singing in unison about being anti-fascist hooligans. The band have such spirit and enthusiasm. Always inspiring.

Up The Irish

The Irish contingent were out in force today. Paranoid Visions did an acoustic set! A sure sign of the Apocalypse! It actually demonstrated that their songs can really work in such a setting. An acoustic album might get some of their lyrics heard by a larger audience. It was great to hear Penetration’s Don’t Dictate and New Model Army’s Vengeance. In fact, there is never a bad time to hear either of those songs. Interesting to hear Sara Bellum’s female voice on Vengence. Unique. In was literally incredible to hear their most intense song (and they have more than a few) ‘Strange Girl’ about teenager Ann Lovett who perished giving birth in a Longford field alone. This was accompanied by one staggering punk attempting to adjust his Sid and Nancy bum flap in front of the stage! You can’t make this stuff up!

Neck did a very raucous take on ‘Spancil Hill’. And singer Leeson informed the gathered punks that it was the London Irish who kept Irish traditional music going. People couldn’t resist their Celtic punk sound.

The Wild Hearted Outsider

Day 3 of Rebellion provides lots of topics for further discussion.

40 Shades of Green, 50 Shades of Grey.

The Q and A session with Viv Albertine and John Robb illustrates why the personal stories and histories have to be recorded. Sometimes we assume that good bands get heard just because they stand out or have something special about then. Yet the real story is how people met, how they got one, how the learnt from each other and how they were organised, or organised themselves. Bands don’t form. They are formed. And that is a crucial difference. It is an incredibly difficult task, which is why I admire people who can get up on stage in the first place.

I learnt so much from the conversation that I am going to put some of it in bullet points. I really hope someone recorded the conversation though. She is an interesting woman: determined, strong, a straight shooter and a survivor with great wisdom to impart. To her punk was about honesty. Could a popular music movement have a better legacy?

That is a long winded way of saying that I learnt more from Viv Albertine than I have from most people I have met in 2012. A few ‘take aways’:

She went out with Mick Jones from the Clash when the band was forming. But she wouldn’t let him hold her hand in public, which really annoyed him, because she was embarrassed by his clothes. John Robb diplomatically tried to defend Jones’ mid-70s rocker look. “He carried it off” he protested. No he didn’t: replied Viv.

She learned from Jones how to run a band. She talked about seeing Jones constantly on the pay phone at Art College. She was a year below him. It was Jones’s energy and commitment that underpinned The Clash. That gave them their gang mentality. In essence he organised them.

Albertine, after witnessing this, became the organising force in the Slits.

That reminds me of the great lesson of punk. Patti Smith told the early London bands that she admired them. She urged them to work harder. They would have to work harder than other bands if they were to succeed.

While going out with Mick, she was close friends with Sid Vicious. She described him as a really smart young man. Not the one-dimensional, cartoon character that his legacy has presented to the world. He could hold two opposing viewpoints at the same time. He took things to extremes. Violence included. He pushed her to leave her comfort zone. To do things she didn’t feel comfortable doing.

One anecdote was particularly poignant. Sid decided that they should spend a day handcuffed together. In those days handcuffs were difficult to find. So off they trooped to some out-of-the-way gay sex shop. ‘They hated us’ because they felt we were invading their private world. Naturally being handcuffed means sharing private moments. Sid had no problem with this. The idea of going to the loo handcuffed to Sid made Valentine uncomfortable so she didn’t eat or drink anything for the day. Human bondage indeed.

She admired both Patti Smith and John Lydon for their androgynous look and vulnerably.

Despite going out with Mick, it was Keith Levine who taught her how to express herself with the guitar. If you sleep with a guy he will never teach you anything; that was her lesson.

Recently when she took up the guitar again she ended up getting divorced. You can play the role and compromise, but if you are true to yourself it can terminate marriages and relationships. She asked Robb if his partner was an uncompromising woman who did what she wanted and expressed herself. Robb replied that she was and that was one of the reasons he admired her. Albertine recounted he she confronted her husband with a truth when he objected to her resuming her musical expression: ‘What did you expect, you married a Slit’. She used a rude word in that last sentence.
The Slits were treated with contempt on the early tour. The bus driver threatened to kick them off the bus. Their manager Don Letts (Robb described managing the Slits as the hardest job in the world) had to bribe the driver every morning to allow them to travel.

She described the early punk audiences were incredibly receptive. Albertine attributed this to the fact that they had never seen anything like this before.

Ari Up was difficult to deal with. She was only fourteen when the band started. Onstage she was one of the true originals. The equal of John Lydon, James Brown or Tina Turner.

In the 70s media images of women were not as damaging as they are now. Robb asked whether things have improved. She replied very strongly that they are worse. There were no manicures in the 70s. Girls in art school had dirty paint-splattered hands and that was OK. Her feet had a hard layer, presumably from walking barefoot, and ‘boys liked my feet’. That would be unthinkable in the age of the pedicure.

The Olympian women are really positive role models. The dedication, the focus, a woman in disciplined pursuit of achievement is very admirable.

The survivors of the punk scene were the ones who had some form of family support. I’ve not come across the early movement being analysed like this before. Especially from the inside. Yet it made a lot of sense. Her mum was a role model and positive influence.

Lydon was her inspiration for getting onstage. He was also from North London and educated in a comprehensive school. She felt empowered by his ability to perform and say something. She described seeing him as a huge factor in making her feel that she could be onstage.
Bernie Rhodes was a ‘pig’. He would just walk past them in the squat while going to the early Clash band meetings. Those meetings took place in the kitchen. Very inconvenient for the other residents.

Paul Simenon moved into the squat. They quickly kicked him out because his feet were too smelly.

Her new album is due out in October.

Her memoirs is due out next Spring.

Both sound like excellent prospects. Expect raw, insightful, uncomfortable and vital material.

PiL

I can’t really adequately describe PiL. I had never seen them before. It felt miraculous to be in the same room as songs like Albatross, This is not a Love Song, Memories, Disappointed and Rise. Live he is a compelling character and the music is powerful, compelling, rhythmic and never constrained. In a way it made me think about the twin icons of punk.

To paraphrase John Robb, Strummer seemed to passionately believe in the power of rock and roll. His genius was in combining the best elements of rock, stripping away the excesses and wielding the song for something worthwhile. He used rock to make his point. Lydon seemed to believe in the power of rock and roll and equally in his own determination to pick it apart. To tinker with it, to toy with it and push it to extremes. Lydon seemed to challenge rock to make his point. Tonight the ‘Irishness’ of Lydon was in evidence. From his description of the devoted readers of the Irish Post in Religion to the banjo picking and looping what sounded like an Irish tune he was every bit as much a member of that distinctive ‘London-Irish’ tribe as Leeson from Neck who had them reeling in the ballroom earlier.

Lydon dedicated the next song to Pussy Riot and as it began shouted “We miss you Arianna”. It is funny how both Pussy Riot and the Slits found creative ways of pushing the boundaries. By expressing themselves, the establishment was forced to reveal their hand and to express themselves.

The songs had the intensity on the best of rock. This combined with the way Lydon deploys the elasticity of reggae to stretch them. To coax them into new forms. Add to the mix the experimentation of Kraut Rock and a touch of Irish tendency to want to pick at scabs, to question.

Ruts DC

The Ruts DC were a revelation. The new line-up really celebrated the reggae tendencies of the band. The first Ruts album was filled with so many mighty songs. Hearing them played and received with such passion was spine-tingling and life-affirming. I loved those songs at the time. They helped shape my view of the world. It was an epic feeling being in a room with some of the men who crafted those songs. Who carried the songs with them from room to room and then recorded them and shared them with the rest of us. It was a good moment to remember absent friends.

Punk needed infusions and inspirations to innovate. Reggae was the first port of call. Tonight was a good reminder of what reggae brought to the musical table.
Hard Skin

Hard Skin – you can only get away with what they do if you are damn good. And they are. I saw a guy with a teardrop tattoo smiling when he realised that band and audience were united in the mighty chant of ‘we are, we are the wankers’. Sean urged one of the security guards to: ‘Get those headphones off, you might get an education. We’re better than the darts and I’m fatter’.

 

The Wild Hearted Outsider

Blackpool Day 4

Altered Images had a really enjoyable and buoyant brand of pop music when they emerged from Scotland. They cancelled a scheduled appearance in Dublin at some ball or other in Trinity at the height of their appeal. Thankfully for us pop fans Teardrop Explodes who played in McGonagles that week were persuaded to stay a few extra days to entertain the students. This may be a gig attended by Courtney Love.

At my first expedition to a music festival in England I stopped to do some record shopping. I bought the Altered Images 12″ which came with a free transfer. I had dearly loved their debut single Dead Pop Stars and Happy Birthday was no disappointment even as it strayed deliberately deeper into pop territory
.
And tonight there was Claire Gogan every bit as expressive and evanescent as she appeared in videos all those years ago. Rather than playing at being girlie and playful she revelled in the role. There was no pretence about reality though, she reminded us that we were all adults now; that she didn’t get out that much anymore; and seemed absolutely delighted to be playing songs she enjoyed to people who enjoyed hearing them.

Her personal narrative punctuated her set and made it all the more enjoyable and poignant. She described the huge inspiration she got from Siouxsie Sioux. And how she wanted to be Siousxie until she found her own voice. Songs like See Those Eyes, and Happy Birthday were performed with aplomb. She described how rehearsing Dead Pop Stars at home made her family worried. She was fully of buoyant good humour telling us how she asked her husband if he wanted to journey to Blackpool with her. He declined in preference to watching Andy Murray on TV. Despite it being their wedding anniversary she travelled solo. She good humouredly quipped that she should have guessed this outcome considering the first song they wrote together was ‘Don’t Talk to me About Love’. Covers of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way and a little bit of soul performed by her all-girl band aided and abetted by a little technology made this a show impossible not to enjoy.

All this on a stage recently graced by the menace of the Outcasts. The Belfast stalwarts were intense as usual. Frontman Greg Cowan’s dry humour made for a really enjoyable show.

Neville Staple also punctuated his gig with references to his family, in his case with frequent mentions of his daughter. It was her first punk gig he told us, and later joked to her that now she could see why her dad still performed music. The Specials’ man received rapturous reception for his storming set of songs drawing from the nurturing wellspring of reggae and, in particular, ska that enriched punk. One standout was ‘Doesn’t Make it Alright’ a living reminder of an era when songs attacking racism graced the pop charts.

This sentiment and moment in time was loudly and passionately evoked by Ireland’s Own Stiff Little Fingers who also recorded a version of the song. Tonight they were loud and proud in the depths of the …with a couple of thousand fans joining in with their passionate punk anthems. It is amazing that Ireland provided one of the sustained successful careers stemming from the punk era.

The Blackpool-Everton friendly was a perfect bonus by the seaside. It was completely enjoyable getting to see some of the players who will grace the Premiership and Championship next year. Dedication and coordination, and despite the stereotype many of them seem down-to-earth diligent professionals. The only downside was missing the always dependable incendiary Goldblade. In a way Goldblade, TV Smith and Los Fastidios embody the essence of the Rebellion Festival for me. You know can depend on them; yet they always surpass expectations. They never let you down, yet every time I see them I feel more and more privileged and inspired.

TV Smith was inspired indeed. He played a fantastic set of recent songs to a packed Almost Acoustic stage. The reason people pay so much attention even to his unknown songs is that he delivers them with the enthusiasm, passion, devotion and obvious care for a better, more conscious world. The veins bulging on his neck when he sings appear to course with hope.

Punk nostalgia always seemed ridiculous to me. Even the success of Green Day seemed like a cartoon copy of something that was important to me because it was original. Going to the Vans Festival in the States and following the success of Green Day made me check myself though. It was better that these bands were inspired by the Clash and the Pistols than Van Halen and Cinderella. Now I admire the sense of community and the pleasure of knowing people enjoy playing the songs they wrote or performed years ago. They are still alive and still apparently enjoying it. It is a pleasure to witness.

I also like that punk spawned so many little enterprises. In my mind even one of these bands is an enterprise. Enterprises can be run for profit, for fun or even to make a point. Some of these bands/enterprises combine this pursuit in different ways. Yet they are all still doing it and meeting people. Making connections. And that is inspiring.

The final image of the Rebellion Festival was the queue of punks in the sweet shop this morning. They were all politely waiting for their Blackpool rock. A special Rebellion Festival rock has even being offered. For some of them future Rebellions may be toothless yet sweet!

 

The Wild Hearted Outsider

It’s not a rebellion but it is rebellion

Where do I start with rebellion?  If its new to you check out www.rebellionfestival.com it’s an annual gathering of the punks to blackpool. Blackpool is such an apt location for it as its a city stuck in the 70s with bits of modernisation but very much old school. Rebellion has over 200 bands playing during its 4 days and I’m here for the weekend, here’s a snippet of Thursday’s action

First up for me was the tea time antics of max splodge (yes of splodgenessabounds). He was compering bingo later (it is Blackpool after all) but for now it was an acoustic set ably backed up by 2 men in drag running around the room.
I ran up to the art exhibition upstairs which had been home to a q and a earlier which saw the mercurial John robb in conversation with mickey fitzgerald from the business. It’s a great concept and I vowed to do my best to catch it tomorrow. Anyway the art was surprisingly good. Knox, from the vibrators. Charlie harper, from uk subs. Gaye black from the adverts all had work on display. One notable exhibitor was David worth’s punk rock cartoon. Www.punkrockcartoons.com. I only wished I had of stuck with my ferry plans for travel as I could carry so much more.
Back to the music and off with their heads were banging out some anthems. It’s my kind of sound, loud tuneful, heartfelt songs.

Different to Jim sorrow who was doing an acoustic set but no less heartfelt.  Hull troubadour Jim was strumming that banjo like it was his Gibson sg. He also plays in freaks union. I couldntvstsy for more than three songs as the filaments were on in the empress ballroom ( yes the same venue that hosts bale rom dancing and darts competitions). It was upbeat, fast with a manic trombone player. Great to hear an openly anti fascist song as its amazing how unnerving it is seeing so many people in the crowd with short hair and union jacks.

After the Filaments shredded it was back to the acoustic room for Lucy ward. Lucy  is a regular on the folk scene and this is her first rebellion I think she’ll be back especially if she keeps throwing in an odd clash song.

I couldnt pay too much attention as the excitement of seeing snuff was about to explode. I remember first seeing snuff in Belfast in 1988 (I think). They blew me away that night and have been a regular on my playlists since. They only have Duncan from that line up but are still amazing. The songs are so good. They didn’t (maybe couldnt) play I’m not listening anymore but more than made up for it in their 45 minutes. Class

I think because it was a further two hours before the buzzcocks were due to go on stage that it became a struggle. I suffered through Rory McLeod and his acoustic, spoon led warblings. I wondered if the Newtown kings were the commitments of ska or maybe the resident wedding band for rebellion. I found demob, the heavy metal kids and the business pretty painful. They signified to me what is bad about these events. Sometimes there’s no need for middle aged men to get on stage. Maybe if they meant more to me back in the day!!!

Speaking of middle aged men, the buzzcocks  finally played to a packed empress. Those songs are so good, songs like boredom and what do I get with shelleys trademark tones.  The huge crowd lapped it up and I sat there happy that I started my journey 22 hours previously to get to this point

Still rebellion – day 2

After the late end to last night rejoicing the wonder of the buzzcocks I had to pace myself a bit better today. I also had to get to Bloomfield road to score my ticket for evertons trip to Blackpool on Sunday.

I got back in time to see John robb talking to Tom hingley. Tom was the lead singer of inspiral carpets and has many a good story. He also plays a great acoustic set. Of course he talked so much today he missed his slot and pog who were on next and Perkie after that couldn’t be expected to miss theirs so Tom couldn’t play. I found comfort in the fact that he is back in Dublin in September so will see him then.

I remember HDQ playing in mcgonagles in the 80’s and was completely blown away by their stage presence. Much like the instigators from that same era the band moved and jumped around stage like it was an Olympic gymnastic event. The years have taken their toll but it was nice to see that brand of energy once more. Andy T was a different type of energy, he ranted over punk tunes but always had a message. It was exciting to see him and the mob. Unfortunately I missed out on Hagar the womb but the mob made up for it. Full of menace and vigour. I closed my eyes and had the gatefold 7″s in my hand whilst singing along. “No doves fly here” was poignant. Hopefully the tribe increased yesterday.

Paranoid visions and acoustic is similar to peanut butter and jam. Whenever I ask for that on my bagel I tend to receive strange glances however it’s great. You should try it just like the visions have embraced the acoustic. Well not all them. It was so noticeable that deko was not there spitting out the venom. 30 years of the visions and this must have been a first. No deko on stage! He saw a bit of them and then headed off to see Chelsea. Their set was refreshing, after 30 years that is great to hear.

There is a certain attitude that goes with some people in bands. My best phrase for it is the rock star attitude. It is one that my punk is the opposite of. People in bands could quite easily be in the crowd watching. Anyone can be in a band, everyone should try it. It mightn’t work for us all but you can have fun trying. That’s what makes punk relevant to me. You could be the vocalist, the fanzine writer, the promoter, the guitarist, sound engineer or the paid up punter. None are more important than the others. So when I see bands troop on stage after someone tunes their guitars and places their water in the correct place I get worried. I’ve seen a few bands like that today and that’s not my punk rock. I don’t feel part of their community. However when I see Lost Fastidios and 7 Seconds I am with them. Together we can take on the world. Together we can do anything. Tonight we sing along and it is glorious. Highlights for sure. Citizen fish not far behind there too. These are my rebellion, with tv smith playing along and John robb narrating.

Here we go, three in a row. Rebellion day 3

The stamina of some of the punks is unreal, either that or they are sleeping outside the winter gardens. Statics were on at 2.30 so that was my starting time but rebellion had already a big crowd in attendance. Los fastidios, from Italy were on in the empress Ballroom at 2.25 and they brought their usual large crowd. I love watching these Italian skins singing about anti fascism and animal rights. We can all sing along for animal liberation and how the workers of the world must unite. But unfortunately I owed it to the statics to watch them so missed a bulk of Los fastidios.

That’s the great (and sometimes bad as I completely missed Geoffrey oicott due to scheduling) thing about a festival like this. You can easily dip your toe in and out of bands. So I got to see a bit of penetration, Spizz energi, monochrome set, vice squad, blood or whiskey, neck, the only ones and choking victim in between the fuller sets.

Also on was John robbs excellent series of interviews. I caught the ones with mick and Wayne from slaughter and the dogs and also viv albertine formerly of the slits. It would be great if these were recorded as they provide a fascinating insight into the history of punk rock. Slaughter gave a great account of the manchester scene and growing up in that time. Viv spoke of squatting in London in the 70s and hanging out with mick jones, sid vicious and the start of the punk scene. She also spoke of her time with the slits and the eccentricities of people. Fascinating.

I left to hear the now englands biggest anti fascist gay oi band. Hard skin announced themselves on stage and blew us away with their ironic oi anthems. Im in on the joke so I can gladly sing along to “we’ve still got beer” as I raise my glass of water. A great laugh and in many ways summing up rebellion. Decent people not to be taken seriously.

Next full set was paranoid visions in the Olympia. It’s a long way from fibber magees that’s for sure. you could probably fit 10 fibbers into this place. It’s massive and must have been daunting for the 8 visions on stage. Tv smith even joined in for a song.

I vaguely remember Patrik Fitzgerald from way back. He had a guitar a unique voice and some quirky songs. These were all in fine fettle tonight. For some bizarre reason I thought of frank side bottom as i closed my eyes listening to Patrik. Frank, without the paper mâché head and the keyboards and the cover version, maybe you get my drift!!! Let’s just say he could be a relative with THAT voice.

I was completely blown away by ruts dc preceding patrik. They played to a huge crowd and it was a blistering set. The ruts hold a special place in my heart. I remember Malcolm Owen dying. As a young kid I could almost feel the pain that Malcolm was going through. His songs in the ruts were stories about his life. His experiences of trying to give up drugs and subsequently loosing that battle in the bath in his parents home exude sadness to me. I wrote about him in my first zine in 1983 and still have that sadness over me when thinking about how his life was wasted. I loved the ruts so excitement was pretty high for me. They kept going for a while under this moniker after Malcolm’s death but their records never captured the same excitement as the ruts. Tonight started off slow enough. I was enjoying their white reggae / dub sound but was hoping for a bit more. This I certainly got in spades. They reworked some of their classic songs and still seemed heartfelt. Staring at the rude boys and jah war were the standout moments of the festival for me. It wasn’t just the songs on the night, it was the history. Brilliant.

P.I.L. finished the night for me, considering I didn’t go see them in Dublin recently I wasn’t expecting too much. I got what I expected and I had to queue in for the pleasure as the ballroom was so packed, it hadn’t seen a crowd like this since the darts!!

The last quarter – rebellion day 4

The last quarter – rebellion day 4

Well it’s done and dusted now and I must say that this years rebellion festival has been my most enjoyable. Today was more a case of what I missed as I got to see my annual Blackpool fc football game.

I first came to the tatty seaside town the membranes sang about as a young teenager. It coincided with my introduction to punk rock. I used to be able to pick up records in my trips over here or even see an odd gig that never would have happened in Dublin in the early 80s. I have great memories of angelic upstarts live in Blackpool bierkeller, or buying zen arcade by husked du or spike milligans tape recorder by the membranes. Blackpool was part of my education growing up and part of that was going to see Blackpool fc. A trip to the sea by premiership side everton was happening so I scored my ticket early for that. Because of it I missed the amazing Goldblade, random hand, sonic boom six, dubtones and the last of the literary events. Seasiders won 2-0 so that was nice to see anyway.

A festival like rebellion is almost like a trip through my musical scrapbook, more so this year with the introduction of the bizzare bizzare at the opera venue. I got to see outcasts and altered images there tonight. Both bands had their 6 month period in my life. The outcasts were the band from the north who played in the magnet. My brothers would come home with stories of trouble and excitement from these gigs. I listened to that first album over and over again. I managed to see them with the clash in the sfx and still have the ticket. Altered images on the other hand had a couple of good singles and were cool because they featured “the actress from Gregory’s girl”. I stayed for most of their set but did draw the line when they covered baby I was born this way. I ran to catch agnostic front belting out heir version of blitzkrieg bop. Chalk and cheese in the two venues. But isn’t that part of the joy of it all. We can celebrate diversity!!

Another band important to me for a while as a kid were stiff little fingers. Again it was stories of their gigs that I was regaled with, stories that always featured trouble somewhere. I used to wonder why would people fight at gigs, are we not all in this together? There was not a sniff of trouble in the 2000 strong crowd singing along “everybody is someone”. That was also a theme of my surprise of the night Neville staples of fun boy three and specials fame. I expected to pop in and catch a couple of good tunes. Instead i couldn’t leave as I was taken in by the infectious dance rhythms. We were all smiling and singing along. “everybody is somebody” for sure.

And then there’s tv smith. Tim was in the adverts but has been blasting his own songs for years. I spent a good year listening to a tape of crossing the red sea with the adverts. We could listen to music in work and this was one album we all agreed on. Tv smith played at least 4 times over the weekend, each time with a different flavour. Tonight was acoustic and mostly his new songs, played with unrelenting energy and passion. If you ever get a chance do check him out.

I’d never come across ginger wildheart before but felt like I’d stumbled on to something special tonight. It was like coming across a members group that was open for anyone to join. Hundreds of punks screaming along to gingers acoustic songs, knowing every word. Amazing.

And that was it!! Rancid were packed out, uk subs were missed for slf and the outcasts, loads more missed out but so many good memories. I can now catch my breath and add this to my wonderful scrap book of punk rock life.