I don’t look like a punk, so perhaps I am not a real punk in the sense of living and looking the part. Yet punk has had a profound impact on the way I see the world, and even on the decisions that I make. If I am not a punk…punk and punks are a source of fascination to me.
So here I am back in the strange and wonderful place called Blackpool…in a sense the perfect place for the gathering of the disciples of punk.
Two acts today define what punk means to me: T.V. Smith and Andy Higgins.
T.V. Smith proves that songs that sounded brilliant, exciting, meaningful and insightful in 1977 are still just as vibrant and relevant today. Smith’s energy and enthusiasm make him the perfect statesman for punk with a message: think for yourself…and just do it!
Andy Higgins delivered a passionate performance on the acoustic stage that will have given Pavarotti little cause to concern in the vocal stakes. He may never win Britain’s got Talent yet Andy asks pertinent questions about how things work….why power is concentrated in certain hands, and what that means for all of us. Andy ran a very creditable campaign in the last general election in England: he doesn’t. Just talk and sing about the concentration of power, he rolls up his sleeves and gets involved. That is perfect punk to me.
Musically Neville Staple delivered a wonderful and joyful set of reggae, ska and Specials songs. The mass singalong in the big booming ballroom showed what a vibrant community sprang up with punk and its exciting offspring, post-punk.
And post-punk received another injection of power and passion with hardcore from the US, and tonight Sick of it All reminded me of how exciting hardcore was when I first heard it in suburban Dublin.
Elsewhere, David Schall delivered a really evocative about growing up punk and going to see bands like Theatre of Hate. It says something about punk that memories of gigs almost 40 years ago now inspire people to get up, do something, make art, and have fun.
Time is mystifying, I try and live in the moment and have crystal clear memories of the finish of rebellion festival last year. The empty winter gardens strewn with litter where people filled that space over the previous four days. I vowed straight away to return, picked out a plastic glass and started saving for the next fest. Here we are 12 months later and I have returned. I wasnt expecting sterling to be so low against Euro as i went to change currencies, so that means less purchases this time round but first world problems and all that.
Unfortunately there were no flights directly to Blackpool from Dublin so my journey starts early with a trip to Manchester, gives me time to do my homework and I had a chance to make plans for the following 4 days of punk rock. Like an excited child waiting for Santa Claus I could barely sleep, I twisted and turned in my sleep and thought of festivals gone by and anticipated this one. Rebellion is my world cup for punk, the best bands don’t always get on the bill but the event is some celebration of punk rock.
Todays initiation is the masked power of Evil Blizzard. It commences for me on Thursday afternoon at 4.15. The mobility wheelchairs are in full flow on Backpools prom down the road and bingo callers are screaming at the top of their voice by the sea but inside the WInter Gardens, home to Ballroom Dancing and the Darts Word Championship there is a counter culture screaming to be counted. Evil Blizzard make some noise. It almost peels the skin off your face, maybe thats why the band wear masks. It is menacing, powerful and completely bizarre for Thursday afternoon at 4pm. Revenge Of The Psychotronic Man have a speed to their songs that match any US hardcore band.
The real beauty of rebellion is finding new acts, new artists and people documenting our movement that were unknown to me previously. Joe England is one such person. Editor of push magazine and West Ham Utd fan, his story is one worth hearing and he share some thoughts with us on the literary stage.
A quick trip into the arena gives me a sight I’ve never seen before a Japanese oi band. Powerful sing along street punk from anger flares
System Of Hate are a punk band from Barnsley, with the enthusiasm of Dublin’s Paranoid Visions they play fast basic punk tunes and want everyone to hear them.
Sick Of It All were never really on my radar, I always found the agression as something i didn’t need to hear when listening to music. Aggression if aimed towards righting an injustice is alright but when it’s trying to display just how hard people are I can leave it. However there’s no denying their power and my real surprise was that 1.000 people were ready to mosh along just after 6 in the evening.
Any aggression in Andy Higgins set is aimed at pointing out injustice and Andy has ben doing his for many years. He is the person behind Just Say No To Government Music and has a new fanzine out for Rebellion. As a Blackpool FC fan he is always railing for the underdog and his acoustic set is a collection of covers tailored to discuss the plight of the Seasiders and the tragic. Take of how one person can profit from running a football club with seemingly no real repercussions.
TV Smith is similar, he is part of the furniture here at Rebellion and is always ready to talk, to play and share that enthusiasm. TV has been playing since the Adverts in 77 and prior to that but he still displays that youthful abandonment nearly 40 decades later
Neville Staple was also playing 4 decades ago as part of the Specials, it’s not his first time here and he seems to have gotten over the fear from the stage of his daughter being surrounded by a gang of punks at the front of the crowd. We danced and sang and smiled as we remembered those old classic ska songs
AntiFlag upped the tempo with some political charged hardcore. We sang and screamed at the top of our voices. The world needs peace but that plea is being ignored. Anti Flag are doing their best with that rallying cry, a fitting end to an eclectic day. Remember this is a marathon so we have to pace ourselves over the 4 days and with that in mind I had to give the Misfits a wide berth and troop back to bed