Rebellion 2017 The Membranes and the Choir of Choirs

The Membranes and the choir

Just when you think that it’s all been done, that punk/DIY/independent music can be placed into a nice, neat category alongside comes a ‘happening’ that is inspiring, creative, funny and life-affirming.

I don’t want to say too much about the Membranes and the choir…because if you missed it, well, you really MISSED it.

It was surprising, unexpected, dare I say it, very risky, yet brilliant and funny and original.

This was space rock with a sense of humour. A piece of art and also proof that we humans have an infinity capacity for doing things that inspire other people and bring them joy.

I still have a smile on my face from seeing the Membranes in a big ugly industrial car-park with a modern choir dressed in black who sang in an avant grade style with grins on their faces.

If this is what space is like, if what the future is like…..then sign me up captain.

Michael

Rebellion 2017 – Day 2

Before every trip to Blackpool I sit down, pore through the lineup and pick out the must see and the nice to see. I have a problem today. 34 bands are on the list. That may not have been an issue for 18 year old self but it is a problem. It will sort itself out over the 13 hours.

The way I see it is that I’m a sponge and rebellion is my education. I may never see some of these bands again, we may never be in the same country together so I want to make the most of it. Let’s go for 34

Poly-esters were new to me. Playing in the huge empress ballroom, home to Darts, they engaged and rocked the lunchtime crowd.

I’d been looking forward to seeing Petrol Girls. There’s a scene of bands out there that have wiped gender breakdown away. Of course it doesn’t matter what gender you are playing in a band but Petrol Girls are screaming out about misogyny and sexism and their toe tapping noise is a glorious soundtrack to that manifesto. Petrol Girls are top of the pile throwing away the punk stereotype and ready to challenge you if you’re too comfortable.

Matilda’s Scoundrels from Hastings have that folky punk sing along feel. You want to be in their gang. Im struck by the fact that they seem to be the first band not selling merchandise as the 6 piece take over the stage.

I guess the real mackenzies are a Canadian version of Matilda’s Scoundrels, it seems bizarre to me but Canadians in kilts singing about drinking and playing bagpipes is something I’ve missed out on. For years though I ignored drop kick Murphy’s and am now a convert so maybe there’s hope for me for the real mckenzies. To be honest I hope not

Interrobang are taking music and adding some theatre, trying to unsettle the crowd but playing angular music. It’s not in your face but they are looking to reach into your heart. Dunstan sings like he is starting in Chumbawamba once more and he is still angry after all these years and will never calm down. We need bands like interrobang telling us they as mad as hell.

I’ve been communicating with Doug from flies on you in various guises over 30 years it all started when he was bass player in nerve rack and talking about playing in ireland. That never happened and decades got lost. Now he is on the “new” band stage with flies on you who have two great albums out. Doug has dropped the bass but the acerbic sound remains and it’s a fall-esque sound, well starts with the fall and nerve rack and mixes a whole lot more in. Great to see them on stage.

The featherz brought some glam to the day, at least for the three songs I caught. Nice change to the wall of noise on offer elsewhere.

Dave dictor tempted us last night with acoustic versions but tonight was the turn of the powerful MDC, more relevant than ever.

I missed the FU’s when I started listening to American Hardcore. Boston punks exploded on the stage tonight. Even treating us to some straw dogs sings which is what some of the FU”s became for a while.

Subhumans never change, even if some of the personnel do. They are still as good as they were, and playing many of the songs they played in, the youth expression Centre in an early 1980s dublin. These are another necessary feature of Blackpool. Again more relevant now as our political structure becomes more similar to the 80s.

Same with DOA, Canadian punks screamed for change in the 80s. Lead singer Joey keithley ran for office. They wanted a better future. They got a different one, better in many ways but the question remains was it worth it? This three piece were are as fast and powerful as anything else today with some tunes there screaming out

 

Attila The Stockbroker is on great form. Not just politics but emotions too. It must be so frustrating for any artist with all talking going on in the background in the acoustic room as people settle in for a drink and a chat. Attila defied them and told us all about the band we should form called “winter vomiting bug” which was dedicated to the band sick on the bus. He gave some newer poems which detail how working class people are still second class citizens despite all the years of words

I never saw or listened to Frank Carter before except when he was in gallows who I didn’t enjoy that much. At one stage he got a circle pit going right round the hall and just like the junior b hurlers they ran and ran badly in that circle

It’s been an interesting festival as the politics of today has lead to a lot more statements from bands on stage. If we can’t talk about what’s going on what can we talk about?, and bands grasped that. They have also reached out to those struggling with mental illness and this punk rock community should know it’s ok not to feel ok and just talk if things are getting to you. We are all in this together, whatever this may be. Frank Carter reminded us of words Petrol Girls had spoken earlier, it’s fine to be down just share it and let’s look after each other.

Membranes are special to me. This is their home town, well it’s not really but it’s the original bands birthplace and singer john Robb, is the sole remaining original band member. They have diversified in recent years and the post punk sound is still there but drone and power are the main traits on display. Tonight they have the backing of a choir which just adds to the sense of surreal spectacular in this car park stage

Wonk unit are increasing in popularity by the day. Each gig sees them getting more popular. Second last band on the empress tonight and Earlier they played a stripped down version of their set in the acoustic room. Not even room to stand. Empress crowd weren’t left standing, we were too busy moving our feet.

Their good friends slaves followed them. For a two piece they can sure fill out a stage. For a drummer with two drums and 2 cymbals there is some sound on stage. At times it felt like maybe, just maybe, they were trying a tad too hard but the power was something else, as was the visuals

I wasn’t sure if their style of humour would suit that big stage. But it did. Alex treated the crowd as if we were visitors to his regal home, sticky dance floor and all. Wonk unit have been described as a modern day snuff and that’s not far off. They will play any gig, won’t get lost or worried in the trapping of success. And they listen to punk rock and know they are no different to us watching them. Perfect.

Kiss my acid were the first of many Irish bands for me to see today. Snotty abrasive tunes with green day playing grunge feel.

I am a car crash are gaining interest. It’s easy to see why, more rock than punk and more post the pre, it was great to see the dublin lads on the big arena stage.

Protex played the opera house. It gave us a chance to sit down, relax and enjoy their power pop tunes.

Lee Harvey’s have a 1978 feel to their sound but with power. Close your eyes and they could almost be part of that northern Irish good vibrations scene. Great set.

Paranoid Visions pack some power. Deko says they are tjebhate of the city’s well there’s a certain section thaysboroud of them. Singing and powerful as if killing joke had attitude for dinner. There is a large Irish contingent at rebellion playing and spectating. Most of these were in the large pavilion crowd tonight as the visions played more recent material and are as strong, prolific and valid as ever

Ok I didn’t quite make the 34 but managed to squeeze in songs from Godfathers, the Professionals, and Bono too

Niallhope

Rebellion 2016 – Day 1

Rebellion 2016. Day 1

 

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Puke goodie bag on sake for ukelele punk band the pukes

It’s not quite premiership weekend in Dublin airport but the punks have replaced football fans on the Manchester flights. There is a sense of excitement as we wait to board the myriad of plans descending on the north west of England this weekend. It’s early morning but there are legions of loyal supporters ready for the days trip.

Rebellion promises to be extra special this time around. There’s more stages than ever, an outdoor arena and the literary stage has moved to the fancy surroundings of the Opera House. Will we be able to fit in all we hope for? The next four days will tell but for now it’s the thoughts of a starting 11 of jennie russell, Geoffrey oicott, pears, Jaded eyes, flag, Billy liar, bouncing souls, lost cherries, tv smith, descendants and the pukes with a definite sub to come on in TSOL that has me excited

There’s a bigger buzz about Rebellion this year. Much larger crowd than previous opening days, outdoor stage that is blasting the likes of evil blizzard makes it a different atmosphere but a one way system for people in operation makes moving between stages that but more difficult

Pears play high octane hardcore with tunes promising to breakthrough but it’s an assault for sure.

Vicki viortex and the cumshots are of one of these band names. Singalong basic enough punk rock. Plenty of 1-2-3-4 along the way. They are on at the same time as Ted diabase so a select few songs from both bands was enough. Ted diabase is much more punk rock’n’roll but full of power like all the best three pieces.  We all looked on bemused as Hundreds of Diabase pounds were spread into the audience

 

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Jennie Russell is one of the brains behind rebellion so I really wanted to hear what she had to say. A great thing about rebellion is the literary stage. The stories of the punks who live through the past 40 years are related here. I really wish they could be recorded and stored as a document of our history but I suppose tongues wouldn’t be as loose that way. This years literary event is in the 2.200 seater opera house. Just one of 7 venues being used With a venue this big it takes a lot of filling and whilst the opera house was sparsely attended as jennie spoke of the history of rebellion over the past 20 years Jennie is bound by the questions asked and watching her I was wishing they were better prepared. No insightful questions but still a pleasure to hear her talk

I read about army of skanks in the latest suspect device so in a way it was luck riche rocker ran out of questions for Jennie as I caught a few of their songs. Tight enough punky sound.

Jaded eyes however brought it to another level. New band they aren’t really but they were on the new band stage. US influenced sound and I only cut the set short as it was a long trip round be one way system to see flag. Looking forward to listening to the new record i bought,

Not black anymore just stripped down to flag. They still made me leave jaded eyes and it the set proved me right. These are hardcore pioneers, it was worth being in the middle of a smoking area to hear such songs. Kind of weird listening to a band with the sun shining in my eyes though (another rarity for Blackpool. The sun was shining). If you’re reading this then chances are you have either got a black flag record or the bands you listen to certainly do. However after leaving the intimate surrounding of the new band stage I feel my punk rock belongs back there. Whilst I loved the flag set in the open air it is with jaded eyes I belong. Flags set seemed like a greatest hits yet the band had no hits. So many classic songs that have stood the test of time. Not that flag don’t deserve your attention. These people played the small rooms for years and trailblazed the way for other bands. It’s just that it seems so alien having them on a big stage seperated from us.

Svetlana from Russia have all the power of flag with an almost menacing feel. It grabs you by the throat and is full on attack. Raw power.

Mauro clash city rocker gave me a chance to sit down as he played acoustic versions of clash and Ramones songs. Sing along for sure and then when he got our attention he threw in an original song

I catch two songs from London band the duel. Maybe it’s me but I just don’t get it. I do get Billy Liar though. Scottish folk punk with a quirky acoustic style. Songs are reflections on life and are class.

It’s back out again for bouncin souls with poor sound. Still always nice to listen to 7 Seconds / Bad religion type songs.

I felt like i stumbled across a secret party with youth man on the new band stage. Huge energy, powerful sound. Post punk with the volume turned up. I’m glad to be part of this gang. Looking forward to the new ep, best band of the day. Check them out

youth man video
I then settle into the anarcho punk sound of lost cherries. I listened to these back in the 80s and still remember those idealistic days when anarcho punk was the soundtrack for what was about to change in the world, it just had to!! Lost Cheeres are still screaming about the rights of the voiceless. And long may they have that anger.

TV smith warmed me up for the double highlight off the night. Tim is as essential to rebellion as rock is to Blackpool. His acoustic sets are legendary but tonight he moves to the larger opera house capacity. It’s no problem and we are treated to a set of TV Smith with various guests blasting out classics over the past 40 years, including a new song too

Due to time clashes I caught half sets from the descendants and the membranes. The descendants are much lauded for their pop hardcore speed, almost leaders of that social sound. I was willing to skip the Membranes as I will see them again in December but there was something missing with the Descendent, maybe Milos voice or maybe that big stage is just too big. Maybe you need to be right up the front.

The sound in the Opera House is spot on for the half Membranes set I catch. Guitar assault backed up by the steady bass fuzz of John Robb and Rob Haynes solid drums the Membranes are an all inclusive group of troubadors. Robb tries frantically to get people on stage, seeking out scientists. I just wanted to sit and watch at this stage.

Finished the day off with the pukes ukelele fun, 13 people on the Opera House playing punk classic with their ukeleles, whats not to like there.

niallhope

Membranes Tour 1988

May 15 1988 Membranes, Pleasure Cell, Not Our World Connolly Youth Hall
May 18 1988 Membranes, Not Our World Underground
May 20 1988 Membranes, Not Our World, A House, Louis Stewart Christchurch Cathedral

 

John Robb of The Membranes was the musical catalyst for me to start putting on regular gigs. His boundless energy and passion for good music rubbed off. The Membranes were keen to return to Ireland and Hugo no longer wanted to be involved. I was more than willing to help out. I rang some venues and arranged for the band to stay in Paddy’s parents’ house. I asked the editor of Sunny Days fanzine how would someone get a gig in Cork. He asked why and then said he could book a venue.

As well as the Cork date, we booked three Dublin gigs – one gig for NCAD as Paddy was in college there, one with The Pleasure Cell at the back of NEW BOOKS in Temple Bar (headquarters to Communist Party of Ireland), and one in the Underground. When John got back to England he told everyone he knew in bands (which was an awful lot of people) that they should visit Ireland. That lead to a lot of phone calls and interest from people wanting to come over. When people say to me that’s it’s easy to say “just do it yourself”, I think back to those Membranes gigs and remember that’s exactly how we started. The only guarantees given to the band was that they would receive any money that was made on the night. The Membranes were happy with that arrangement as they would let to visit Ireland, let people hear their band and even perhaps get some money for it. Perfect! I had started playing in a new band, called Not Our World (N.O.W.). We got 7 songs ready before The Membranes came over. With those 7 songs we got ourselves on the bill of all the gigs and did the “tour” with them.

Membranes, Paranoid Visions, Kill Devil Hill – Dublin 1986

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April 7 1986

Membranes, Paranoid Visions, Kill Devil Hill

Belvedere Hotel

Hugo asked me to join a band with him, Kill Devil Hill. He also did a fanzine. While putting it together, Hugo came across John Robb, editor of another ‘zine called “The Rox”. John was also lead singer in The Membranes. Hugo asked John why they hadn’t played Ireland and he said that nobody had asked him and it grew from there. Simple as that. My assistance to Hugo for that tour entailed mixing flour and water and using it as a paste to stick posters up around buildings in Dublin city. There were no official poster sites at that stage and whilst it was technically illegal to put up posters there were never any repercussions if you weren’t caught in the act. Unlike currently, where one can be fined if caught postering illegally.

Ringing contact numbers for venues listed in the Hot Press Yearbook, Hugo asked if they were interested in a British band playing? He got a good response from people in Drogheda and Limerick; they were willing to give The Membranes money to play and also to allow Kill Devil Hill to do the gigs Hugo then booked a Dublin venue, the Belvedere Hotel, and asked a mixture of bands that crossed musical genres to play. All readily agreed and, with over 200 people there, the gig was a huge success The Membranes were delighted to be able to tour another country and to see places they’d never been to before. The fact that they got paid was a bonus. We travelled around Ireland with the band and got to experience their enthusiasm. That enthusiasm infected me.