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