I’m not normally one for outdoor stages and being way back from the band while you could get an escalator to the stage but sure I’m in Blackpool so why not.
The R-Fest is a stage on the prom and a festival featuring mainly bands who started in the 70s and 80s. There’s a tenuous link to punk for some. The Primitives have that pop sound that evolved from C86 and the sun is shining so what better way to experience those sunny tunes. I had my sun cream, drank my water and absorbed myself in their sweet tunes. It must be strange being in a band and playing a set on a huge stage to an audience seemingly more concerned about getting sunscreen and liquids into them at 3 pm in the afternoon. Hard to engage them so the singer Tracy Tracy decided not to. Sure the hits were played but the lack of interaction from that big stage only added to the disconnect. Nice songs though. For sure.
Now the Wedding Present is a completely different matter. Again not full of the “hello Blackpool” vibe Dave Gedge is a bit more chatty than usual but for the Weddoes the jangly guitar overtakes any gimmic. What a sound that comes from it. With a set from all decades they could play for the whole weekend and still have different songs each time. It’s a huge repertoire and the crowd aren’t disappointed. I was nearly moved to tears. Standing in Blackpool pier where I holidayed with my parents as a kid, the tower in the background, the sun beaming and Dave Gedge who I wrote to as a kid and who replied up on stage. It can all be a bit too much at times 🙂
And then a sprint on to catch another old comrade, Steve Drewett, play acoustically. What an honour for us, can’t wait for the new album and film.
Bar stool preachers are a band who know how to get a crowd going. Whether that’s on a big electric stage or a small acoustic one and people were ready for it. Music is an emotional experience and it came to the fore during this set. Smiles, tears, care and everyone ready to give a hand up. There was a magical current of optimism as the high tempo acoustic song slings filled the room. Everyone to a person was happy.
I left to see the set by the dwellers from the city of Hell, Paranoid Visions. Two sides of the same coin as Bar Stool Preachers – these are both bands born of the punk scene and hoping to effect change through their music. The visions is a haunting experience. Still aggressive after all this time and still striking at your heart with a dagger of a guitar sound. They play Rebellion every time and I don’t recall seeing them in better form.
Rabies Babies in the introducing are a London band with feet in many genres. Always inclusive but making many rackets even in one song switching from Primitives to D Beat. Great stuff.
Up to the literary now as there were clashes everywhere so I sat down to listen to some stories from JC Carroll from The Members. What a colourful life this member has had. From writing sound of the suburbs to writing a book and now plugging it. Again a really important document of our movement.
I didn’t get to see Pop will eat itself. I had great intentions but got caught chatting. It was so nice just meeting up with old comrades so I hung on to hear what Clint had to say about his career. Dave Travis interviewed the band but no Clint as I hadn’t been following the bands career but the band came on to tell some tales complete with Mary Biker who is now the singer. They spoke of starting up in the 80s and seeing the three johns on the tube. Really interesting stuff and some chat about anti racism and the dangers of fascism.
My first visit to the empress today and it’s Cock Sparrer on stage. They weren’t on my well worn list but I was drawn into it after seeing the singer, Colin’s, son, Tom, in bar Stool preachers today. I’ve seen the band a few times and have always been hesitant. Now I have my nostalgia mask on as we haven’t had this event for three years. Cock Sparrer are very much part of rebellion and generally they win the battle of the t-shirts for attendees. There was a real sense of excitement in the room before they came on. They won’t be here forever you know. What an incredible set. To see 3,500 people singing every word in the friendliest gig environment you can imagine. It really was an honour to be part of it. I’m getting cheezy here but if you were in the crowd you will know.
To be honest I have been looking forward to see the chisel since I heard they were playing this festival. This and Bob Vylan were the ones on my must see list so most of today was about anticipating their sets. Maybe the chisel are a modern day cock sparrer. Rebellion is normally a clockwork machine with everything on time and running exactly as printed. I was getting worried when bridge city sinners were still on stage at 11pm. This can really have a knock on effect to those of us with our print outs and yellow markers. Anyway it didn’t matter when the call I was half expecting wasn’t made. No announcement was made from the stage along the lines of “The Chisel have moved to the empress”. Or even worse “the chisel don’t care about you so they’ve stayed at home”. The Arena is one of the smaller rooms but was packed to the rafters – lots more singing off my hymn sheet. 15 minutes late the band took to the stage and the dance floor erupted. I took my leave when a bloke (it’s always the blokes) covered in sweat starting hugging everyone and another poured a pint of beer all over himself and started jumping into everyone. From the safety of distance I watched and enjoyed some skinhead anthems for the 21st century. A pity the sound was awful though.
I catch TV smiths acoustic set. He has some guests from bored teenagers to crows to atilla to a rut and they all play his solo stuff. Usually these are sing along specials as the crowd erupt into adverts numbers. Tonight is different. And why wouldn’t it be. They are great songs. He didn’t disappoint the packed crowd as he finished with 2 Adverts songs and we all jumped and sang.
Let’s look after each other and have a good time”
John is another 2 piece in the current rebellion tradition of 2 people being enough to have a band. Again there was some noise coming from stage. The power of the guitar and drum in force. I do like a bit of bass rhythm but this is something else. Pounding drums in that post punk noise with layers of sound and aggression. Powerful. “Let’s look after each other and have a good time” they needed to say as the first bit of aggression I’ve seen on the dance floor happened. I’m guessing it’s a spill over from the chisel when points of beer were being poured over people heads. For every action there’s a consequence the dad in me wanted to say. John said it much better and we moved on quickly.
Bob Vylan moved to the bigger empress stage. 1.20 start and while many of us were wilting we stuck with it. Some had more than just the energy drink I took but the empress was full to the rafters. Exciting times new and old bands with Bob Vylan taking it to a completely different level. This was one of those moments at the end of a long day when you step back and wonder at the the amazement of this whole festival, run by punks. Something else.