Fugazi was the band that really got things going for Hope. This gig, their second visit to Ireland, was packed out. We were totally taken by surprise. For a while it was looking hairy – Snuff were due to play but had to pull out of the gig due to a death in their family so Slowest Clock, from Dublin stepped in at very short notice.
In a repeat of what happened the first time they came over, Fugazi missed the ferry. I was playing in the first band and when we went on stage Fugazi still hadn’t shown up. There were no mobile phones then so my Dad drove into the gig to tell us that Fugazi were in Holyhead at 4 pm and were due to get the next ferry. In the event, things worked out fine. Fugazi arrived in plenty of time, during our set, and literally shook McGonagles that night. The PA kept threatening to fall over and we had to station people to just hold the speaker stands up. There was a lot of dancing and many people felt they could get up on stage and jump into the crowd at will – something Fugazi and plenty of others in the audience didn’t want. I was amazed afterwards when we went to count the money with Ian McKaye, singer with Fugazi. There was £1400 left after the venue and PA had been paid. Ian said “how about we take £550 and you use the rest to do other things”.
After receiving his reassurance that it was ok I said fine/thanks a million. We used that money to start a ‘Hope’ fund, money that could be used as a back-up in case things didn’t go accoding to plan. ‘Hope’ then got to put on a load of great bands, give them at least their ferry fare regardless of crowd numbers and release a record. Fugazi assisted in that happening and Dublin owes them a great debt.
Rebellion Day 4 Another day of highlights New Model Army Probably the band that I have seen the most, as well as a band whose albums and songs I have looked to for inspiration for almost 30 years. At Rebellion a snippet of a documentary about the band as shown, followed by a Q&A with singer, Justin Sullivan and art-work designer, tattoo artist, author and one, manager of the band, Joolz Denby. She described the process of managing musicians/creative people as not just herding cats…but herding headless cats! And that is the crux of the inter section of art and commerce….by both of their admissions, Joolz and Justin have no head for money….their focus is naturally on creating art and expressing themselves. The film looks great, although getting the human first-hand version of the story was even better. They are a disarmingly honest pair of modern troubadours…and it was interesting learning how the decision by Malcolm Gerrie from The Tube to put an unsigned independent band on the show changed the band’s fortunes. Every artist needs a break. I look forward to taking time. To watch the film when it is released next month…so much to be learnt for New Model Army. The Avengers and Penelope Houston were another eye-opener. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that The Avengers were one of those bands I knew I should listen to…yet never had! They were fantastic on the main stage. Tuneful, dynamic, exciting, vibrant and with so much to say about youthful possibilities and challenging orthodoxy. And this was a female-led band from San Francisco in 1977!!! It is funny how history coalesces around big names and chart bands….the strivers, the innovators, the pioneers get undeservedly forgotten. That is why a festival like Rebellion is so enlightening for me. The Q&A sessions are a big part of how I learn the secret history of punk. Theorem Peneople spoke about how small yet innovative and exciting the early SF punk scene was…and this was all pre-Dead Kennedys. To her, thee were no barriers to entry…anyone could do it regardless of class, colour, sexual preference etc. It was fascinating to learn how before the ‘codification’ that came with hardcore….punks rock was an open canvas! The Q&A is naturally enhanced by a good moderator…and the ‘battle of the Dead Kennedys authors’ hosted by Andy Higgins was fantastic. Alex Ogg’s book is, quite simply, one of the best books I have every read about music. It is funny and heart-breaking and full of lessons, not jus tab out the music industry and cultural files, but also about art, creativity, collective action and the law, I bought Michael Foley’s book, and have not read it yet but it promises to be excellent, covering the political and social context to the band in the tumultuous times of late 1970s San Fran. Foley spoke about how the band emerged from a highly politically city where young people were taking an active…and creative…stance in the democratic process. As a historian he placed this activity in the context of other social movements and concluded how the pivotal Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables album was one of the key documents/artefacts from American youth of the era. That is a remarkable legacy for a band who were formed with the idea of: ‘imagine if Crass were funny’, I felt very privileged to be in a room listening to Higgins, Foley and Ogg speaking with such knowledge and insight about the band. I only wish they had longer to discuss it. Ignite They were new to me…that exciting tight passionate intensity of the Revelation bands. Quicksand always have a special place in my heart. Anyhow, Ignite had plenty to offer musically and in terms of advocacy. The singer urged people to get involved in the political process and democracy. perhaps the legacy of the Avengers and the Dead Kennedys survives and thrives! He urged the audience to think about. The consequences of war, the reality of migration from war-torn places, and also about the conservationist group, the Sea Shepherds. In one of the most shocking moments of the festival, he dedicated the band’s next song to them and it was Sunday Bloody Sunday. Yes, a U2 cover by a tight and talented post- hardcore band!! And guess what? It worked. They pulled it off….dragging an 80s MTV staple into the punk present. It was surprisingly great…..the song really invigorated by Ignite’s classic up-to-date punk rock vision. And it made sense because punk has always been able to draw from its neighbours…to recombine different music in different ways and make something fresh and new. And here was a youthful and exciting Californian band who were inspired by One Way System as well as Peter and the Test Tube Babies….and also found something in early 1980s U2! I don’t think any band in Ireland could openly admit to being influenced/inspired by the UK punk of the class of ’82 and play a U2 song without ridicule..or ridiculing it. Good on Ignite for their open hearts and open minds…they inspire me and make me feel that the future of punk is in great hands. And that is important when both Justin Sullivan and Penelope Houston spoke today about how in 1980-1982 punk began to have rules and restrictions placed on it…it was ‘codified’ as Penelope said….and here’s to the rule breakers….The innovators..long may they bring excitement to punk, art and life! Other highlights Snuff….one of my fave bands….a band I saw countless times back in the day…and here they were….with new members, granted, yet still playing barmy, brilliant, playful, tuneful funny and exciting songs….hooray for trombones and punk rock! Roy Ellis Always a highlight…..ska from a pioneer….fun fun fun. John Langford The soundtrack for young Niall McGuirk…and a big part of the soundtrack of my youth too. Very inspiring to listen to his songs about democratic struggles in Wales in the 1800s, as well as his songs about gamblers, outlaws and do men who didn’t ‘walk the line’. He played a song he wrote with The Sadies (who opened for Treble Charger all those years ago in Toronto) as well as X-Ray Style by the great late Joe Strummer, and even Waco Brothers and a Mekons’ song! Another pioneers at the crossroads of punk and so much more… Carly Slade No disrespect to all of the other acts that I saw over the 4 days…but this was the voice that stopped me in my tracks…incredibly beautiful. I only saw a little of her set with Josh Chandler Morris, but that was enough to make me want more….it didn’t sound like punk rock..maybe Americana is how it would be described…and maybe that made it very punk rock at the punk rock festival!! And finally….the night belonged to TV Smith the quintessential punk troubadour….getting hoarse by the end of the weekend yet still leading the singalong with veins on his neck bulging and his skinny frame straining in tie-dyed outfit. A prefect summation of all that is great about the Rebellion festival punk rock and music!