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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Rebellion Festival 2014, The Winter Gardens, Blackpool

Rebellion Festival 2014

Punx are often cynical, extremely cynical, or realists? Throughout the years I and many others have slagged the festival off – it’s just about bands reforming, the ticket prices are a rip off, and it’s just a holiday in the sun for washed-out ageing has-beens who just want to get wasted once a year. Was it really like that? There are way too many good bands playing, and good friends singing it’s praises for us to be too cynical – this year, accompanied by Turtle Tim, Vegetauren, and Support TBC, Ont Road Zine went along to see what all the fuss was about.

On the train to Blackpool, a young crusty looking kid swoops down the aisle, rummy eyed, picking on an unexpected pair of Canadian Punks, to bombard with his stories. The highlight was when he was slagging off the Bristol punks for kicking off at him for telling racist jokes, and then proceeding to justify why it’s ok to tell them. This was then peaked by the plans for a black block to attack a fascist band at the festival. Apolitical maybe, but I am certain that Rebellion now is quite open in it’s policy to not allow right wing or racist bands to play the festival. That aside, were we going to be subject to such moronic attitudes for the whole weekend? Or was said punk spotted in a Guardian photo blog about the festival?

First and foremost, the Winter Gardens is a legendary entertainments venue, which has been through it all over the years, so as you can imagine the organisation was perhaps the best I have ever seen at a festival. It was clean, all the stages were less than 2 minutes walk from each other, the on-site food was quality, and the bouncers kept a low presence, stepping in only when needed. They loved the punks! Beer wasn’t cheap, but no more than standard city centre prices and far less than other commercial festivals, so our Old Brewery Bitter heads mustn’t grumble. What’s more, with that many pop-up bars, we never had to queue longer than 2 minutes for a drink. Win! 
Getting old
Turtle and I started the afternoon off by checking out all the stages. The newest of which, the Casbah, is out the back in a car park, which was great because there was an area to smoke and watch bands at the same time. With the bar area kitted out in graffiti, it definitely had that European autonomous zone feel. We took an evening meal at the Weatherspoons on the sea front, which had nice curry but a poor selection of real ale for a ‘spoons, before heading to the venue for some real listening.

Aptly starting off was a local band named GOLDBLADE, who were playing on the main stage, and they had a catchy sing along number where the chorus went ‘fighting in the dancehall, fucking in the street, woah, woah’. Thankfully there was none of the former, but some of the latter, as spotted by Vegetauren on the way back from the venue. “Enough for the wank bag during your lonely wank in a Travelodge?, asks Kunt & The Gang. Goldblade played again on Saturday on the acoustic stage, and were later seen leading the crowd around the walkways of the venue, singing the same songs chorus. We quickly realised that the sound in the main room was rubbish, unless you went right to the front and stood in the middle, so we made it policy to go there as often as we could.

BILLY LIAR graced the stage of the acoustic stage, and blasted through a great set of songs, mostly (yet not exclusively) about failed encounters with the opposite sex. He must have been busy because later in the weekend we met someone who had previously had an occasion with him, yet she wouldn’t go into any detail when we asked if he’d written a song about her.  We then caught half a set of songs from Leeds’ own CYANIDE PILLS on the Arena stage, which had a decent turn out to watch them. The stage was nicely peppered with leftovers from a shooting range. I think some of the band are record nerds, and they only play a few gigs a year, but if you get the chance, then make sure you go see them, because they are a great band.
Billy Liar
And then there was the straw that broke the camels back, a Macc Lads tribute band, called the MANC LADS – now I am aware (and a fan) of some of their output (I make no secret on my discogs collection), yet they had a few songs which are sexist, homophobic, and racist, which are a definite no no beyond the bedroom – in 2014 why is the band playing a derogatory song about ‘puffs’? It was when they made a remark and played that song when they lost my respect. It’s fair enough playing some of the ‘before the borderline’ classics for nostalgic purposes, but being outright homophobic on stage was a step too far. They even had a guest female vocalist for two ‘questionable’ songs, which although was an attempt to give them an air of legitimacy, didn’t make the content any more digestible. Although there were some in the crowd that left in disgust, there was way more that arrived with grins on their faces. However, I still feel that these people are in the minority, and that punk has come a long way since the 1980s.  

Next up were MORNING GLORY, featuring ex members of Leftover Crack, and are on Fat Wreck Chords. The record I heard isn’t good, and on stage weren’t much better, yet they were a good back drop for getting more drunk, in preparation for THE DICKIES (funnily enough, also on Fat Wreck Chords), who as it happens, despite being a great band, felt a little out of their depth as a main stage headliner, which perhaps should have been the SELECTER who played to a packed hall prior to their set. Either way, it was a great way to have a first night warm up to a festival.

We cut short The Dickies set, to finish off in the Pavilion with TRAGEDY (no not the amazing D-Beat mental crust band from Portland), who are a Heavy Metal covers band of the Bee Gees, Abba, and beyond. They were highly entertaining and good for a sing-along, and they kept the crowd amused with short skits involving their roadie called ‘Gimp’ dressed as a sailor.
Thousands of punks woke up in their B&B with a hangover – ours was three streets away, so almost every one on our streets was occupied by punks – the nearest we’ll get to living in a UK version of Mattersville. To avoid the relentless onslaught, Turtle and I took an 8-mile tram ride up the coast to spend the day visiting the adjoining town of Fleetwood. A quick search of ‘Real Ale Fleetwood’ on the Internet, took us to The Strawberry Gardens, which had about 20 ales on tap, a rare treat. When we sat down to get some food, our waiter was no other than Sid Little of ‘Little & Large’ fame. He & his wife run the restaurant part, and it was amusing listening to him muse on the daily struggles of Fleetwood life, with his regular customers. The net curtain trade has certainly gone down hill. After we left a tip, he spotted Turtle’s Asian Man Records t-shirt and preceded to tell us how a Little & Large 7” was recently given to him as a present. He knew how to please his audience with the right tales. We followed this up with a visit to Fleetwood Town FC’s stadium (6 promotions in 10 years!), had a peek in, and had a hold of the League 2 Playoff Final Trophy, which was just sitting on the counter of the club shop. That was a nice little treat to round off our wonderful short visit.

Back to the action, and we met up with Vegetauren, the latest addition to our clan. The first band of our day was THE FILAMENTS, who are a standout band from a sea of mediocre pop-punk bands released by Houeholdname Records & Moonska Europe during the late 90s / early 2000s. Their fast paced & energetic ska-punk was a great way to ease into the day. We then tried to catch the last few songs of SPLODGENESSABOUNDS, but only caught the back end of the last song. We had a policy that weekend where you had to see at least three songs of a band to say you have seen them, so they didn’t make the cut. With so many good bands playing the festival, it is almost inevitable to face clashes with other bands, which in so many ways is a good thing because you can maximise viewing potential by catching different halves of two bands sets. It’s a great festival for ticking the boxes.

The first surprise of the day came from GIUDA, who are a glam band from Italy. They weren’t on the original list, but we were persuaded to go see them by Mez, and it was sound advice indeed. Their singer was one sexy motherfucker, and he was always dancing and being animated during the songs. They were definitely one of the highlights of the weekend.

One of the joys of the festival is nipping outside, buying a cheap drink from the supermarket, and people watching all the different styles of punks, hanging & sprawling around, outside the front on the venue. Yet, starting drinking after lunchtime always brings the dilemma of having to take a strategic break to eat tea. On this occasion we went to the nearby West Coast Rock Café, which I wouldn’t recommend as it was overpriced for the standard of the food. Also, the food arrived 10 minutes before DICKIE HAMMOND was due on stage, so we had to ‘wolf it down for tea tonight’.

The first thing we noticed when walking into the bar area where the ‘Almost Acoustic’ stage is located is that Dickie was running late. This gave us ample opportunity to take a piss, get a round of Newcy Brown in, and take a seat on the floor down at the front, like proper fan boys. It was clear that Dickie had quite a bit to drink already as he was slurring his words when speaking to the crowd, and regularly dropping his lyrics sheets onto the floor, which his friends had to come on stage and pick up for him.
Dickie Hammond
He was playing electric guitar tonight, and it was difficult to hear the words due to the sound coming from the amp. By the time the second song was near to the end, people were starting to look around the room at each other, as if to say, what the hell is this, and already a few people had vacated their seats and moved on. Dickie then teased the crowd that he would play ‘Springtime’ by Leatherface, but only if someone would go up on stage and sing it, as ‘there are too many words to remember’. Nobody did, and that opportunity for a great crowd sing-along was missed. There are only a few people I could think of who could get away with emulating Stubbs, and one of them was on the stage. The other would appear later.

For his third song, he played what seemed to be a Johnny Cash cover, and like his other songs, he was a little out of time, slurring and forgetful with some of the words. Following this, he exclaimed how he was going to play Cash’s Hurt, yet decided against it, as he couldn’t find the lyrics. It was at the moment that Dickie seemed to have a creative block, and was just silently strumming for a while. And then, out of nowhere, as you would do practicing in your own bedroom, he starts to play a huge AC/DC riff, and after 30 seconds seems to realise what he is doing and then just stops. It was becoming a car crash.

That was until out of nowhere, appearing from the back of the crowd, like Moses parting the sea, is Golly, the singer from HDQ. He rescues Dickie from the situation by joining him on stage to sing four HDQ songs, which pleases the hardcore crowd to no end. They play Lost in Translation, Room with a View, Hand Me Downs, and Never Ending Winter (which we find out after the show is not a commentary on the social realities of living in the North East, but is in fact about Hammonds House!). Even though Dickie was sometimes out of time, and missing certain parts of songs, Golly rarely was ‘opening my mouth, and the wrong words always come out’, they did a fantastic job considering how drunk they were, particularly Golly who wasn’t expecting this to happen. Nobody lost a friend that night. This was a real treat, and a best-case scenario for the fans, even prior to the start of the show.
'HDQ' acoustic
After the set, Golly told us that if Dickie had have asked him prior to the festival, then he would have accepted and sat down to practice and hammer out some HDQ & Leatherface numbers. For whatever reason, Dickie wanted to go it alone for the first time, and I think this occasion has taught him the harsh realties of going solo. I guess from now he must consider the following three reasons: 1) whether to step up to the challenge and start off by playing more intimate gigs, 2) do it again but next time with an accompanying artist, or 3) scrap the idea completely. Options 1 and 2 are the only ones worth considering. Take this one on the chin son, keep belting out the classics, dig in deep and we’ll see you on the other side.

* Two days since this written, I was sad to find out that Dickie is not well and is in hospital. My thoughts go out to his family and friends, and I wish him all the best for the next phase of his life. Hang in there big man!

Following the set, I tried to go and see CULTURE SHOCK, but the room was too busy, so I went back to the acoustic stage to chat more with the Mackems, and occasionally listen in to socialist punk-poet ATILLA THE STOCKBROKER singing songs in solidarity with Miners & hating fascists. He is an inspirational activist, and someone to look up to. We then took some time to gather our thoughts and drink some prepared Rum & Coke back at the B&B.

I made it back to catch the start of SLAUGHTER & THE DOGS, one of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing, as their ‘Do it dog style’ is a great record. I was too out of it, so I had to take a 20-minute strategic fresh air, and pint of stout relaxation moment, before heading back in to catch the rest of the set. The layout of the Empress Ballroom had changed this year, and a temporary stage had been set up at one side, meaning the bands were playing to a long, rather than wide, hall. What’s better is that now they have opened up the balconies, so I was able to enjoy the encore from the comfort of a chair. With such a relentless amount of bands, a strategic sit down is always welcome by the feet.

GEOFFREY OI!COTT or STIFF LITTLE FINGERS was a huge dilemma for the Yorkshire Punks in attendance.  We stuck to our roots and joined a respectable contingent of the Pyjama Army to have a good dance along at the front to this cricket themed Oi! band. It’s always great to see a band when you know most of the lyrics, so a good sing song was had. We even got a few streakers during one song, and the regional sample was obvious with the copious amounts of Yorkshire songs in-between songs. It was nice to see a local band that many years ago you were watching with twenty people down your local pub, to now headlining a stage to a few hundred people at one of the worlds most premier punk festivals. Jase Kilvo, we salute you!
Geoffrey Oi!cott
Vegetauren was crafty by checking previous shows on setlist.fm beforehand, and worked out that he could still watch Oi!cott and then make it to SLF to see all the classic songs at the end of the set. Plus one to the geek punks! Turtle and I went to the Pavilion to watch New York’s ska-punk band THE TOASTERS. This was a great way to round off the night, as we skanked just as hard as we did at the Lubby Nugget shows when were 16 years old. We were on such form, that there were grown women stood around gawping at us. The crowd was on fire and the band commented “we usually get booked to play all these hippy festivals, but we love coming to Rebellion because the punks go wild for our songs”. Says it all really.

After the nights entertainment we stopped by the hotel bar for a night cap, yet it was closed, so somehow we managed to talk round a proprietor over the road, who kindly let us into his hotel to have a coupe of pints. Turns out it is a hotel where many of the back stage crew stay, so we got to meet some interesting people during our visit, including the legendary Rat, who was earlier seen on stage in full cricket whites during Geoffrey Oi!cott’s set.

By Saturday the four was complete with the arrival of Support TBC, and the hangovers weren’t getting any easier. We started out foray into the outside world with a fish & chips lunch, and then took a leisurely stroll down the promenade towards the Pleasure Beach (no not the kind of beach you see on Kavos uncovered). That is the beauty of having a festival in Blackpool, the instant access to loads of entertainment, and it wouldn’t be complete without a game on the Arabian Horse Racing, the one where you have to roll balls down a hole to get your house to move through the race.

The Holy Grail though was ‘Adventure Golf’, an expertly designed mini-golf course, approved by the British Mini Golf Association, which twice hosted the Blackpool Open Invitational. The gradients on some of the greens were tough, which led to too many Mulligans being recorded on the scorecard. A division of talent emerged midway through the game, and Turtle Tim won the difficult course by four shots, with an extremely impressive total of one over par. If stomach hurting, non-offensive, and non-infringing banter existed, then the topic of Mini-golf would prove to be the focus of this for the rest of the weekend.
Another round of mini-golf
We didn’t’ get out arses in gear, so we expectedly missed a couple of bands that were playing early on, which is difficult to avoid at a festival of such magnitude. We started the day off with watching LOST CHEREES, whose female fronted punk-rock sounds eased us into the day. This was then followed by a comfortable sat down audience with KELLY KEMP (who was in No Comply) in the almost acoustic room. The sitting down (well lying on the floor) then continued with another surprise highlight of the festival.

I had seen JELLO BIAFRA spoken word in Manchester twelve years ago, speaking extensively about US foreign policy & all the fallout from the Dead Kennedys disbanding. This time round he gave us a wealth of material, with topics ranging from a future under corporate control, Middle Eastern band names, the Occupy movement, Fracking, and my favourite of all a long dismantling critique of US gun policy. Jello is an important thinker & artist in our movement, and his set proved that he is even sharper and quick witted than ever.

* During Jello’s talk on gun control there was a part where he was talking about the solution being to stop producing bullets. At one point he said “Guns don’t kill people” and left a short pause, to which I shouted “Rappers do!” This made many folks laugh, and I have decided to go out on a high, and officially retire from heckling, following this beauty.
Jello Biafra

And who could follow that? Fucking HARD SKIN that’s who. The Rebellion regulars caused a lot of controversy (sic) the year before by burning a Union Jack on stage, yet singer Fat Bob continued to be unrelenting in his hatred for the nationalist movement. The words “Fuck off you fascist wanker, the day he [Ian Stuart] died was one of the happiest days of my life” remain stuck in my thoughts. As usual, the ‘banter’ with the crowd was great, and the band treated the crowd to a set of all the hit songs from their array of releases. Another great set, from a classic contemporary punk/oi! band.

We then took a strategic food break, and sat down in the on-site restaurant. This place was plush, and for £6.50p a meal, was extremely good value and excellent quality. I got the feeling that they had marked down their prices in order to capture a market. It worked, because it was full every time we went in, and for the quality and convenience, wish we’d had eaten there from the start of the festival.

Afterwards we bought a bottle of Rum from the supermarket and went back to the hotel to take part in an accelerated drinking programme (it’s always tough that first hour following a mid-drinking session meal). Before we went back to watching bands, we had one of a number of regular smoke breaks at the Casbah stage, as one of a number of ‘Vauxhall Conference’ 77 ‘punk by numbers’ bands was playing in the background. Throughout the weekend, the mohawks were always different, yet the rhetoric was often the same.

If you could sum up the SUBHUMANS in one word, it would have to be consistency. Every time I see them they sound exactly the same, note for note, and watching them again, felt like I was there, in that Live in a Dive record. They played all the classic sing-along number, and you are always guaranteed a great set from the band, and a good rant from singer Dick Lucas. After their set, we all lost each other, and I remember walking around on my own just digging the buzz of the place, taking it all in, and catching one or two songs of each band that were playing at all the different stages. I’ll say it once, and I’ll say it again, this isn’t the place run by businessmen.  

I had every intention of seeing more bands on this day (ATV, STEVE IGNORANT, SPIZZ ENERGI, and KILLING JOKE) but to be honest I was just enjoying the buzz and the energy, so all that became a backdrop to having a good time with mates old and new. I may have caught the odd song here and there, and that was enough, I was just so fucking happy to be surrounded by so many like-minded people (with the exception of the odd fascist that was spotted). We ended the night watching ska band JAYA THE CAT, who were good for a 20-minute skank, yet didn’t have the bite or frenetic energy that The Toasters had the previous night, to keep us there for the whole set.

Buckfast in Co-op? Only at Rebellion
One flashback I do have from the day (or was it Sunday?), is whilst walking back from the supermarket, seeing a trickle of punks marching past us, led by two people holding an ‘anti-fascist action’ flag. It is no secret that every year, the fascist punks organise a gig in or near Blackpool during the same weekend as the festival. This year, it was more controversial because it was the closest to the festival it had ever been staged. Were these punks heading to that gig? Or were they confronting someone whom had been in and around the festival site (as a Youtube video is suggesting)? There doesn’t seem to be anything glaring online, and I don’t have time to be doing research into this minor fringe skirmish. Perhaps the prophecy of the drunken train punk I overheard on the way to the festival came true?

In all seriousness though, it did get me thinking. Now whilst there are many occasions where a fash deserves a good whipping, and I respect a lot of work that Ant-Fascist Action carries out, it’s not always the best policy when dealing with these people. Perhaps by having the right wing fascists in and around the area during the festival, in an environment where they are outnumbered 100 to 1, where there is alternative way of thinking abound in a subculture they are familiar with, it may actually work in our favour. Perhaps I am being uber-naïve, yet maybe just somewhere there are people that have been blindly following along, and thus, seeing what the dominant thought process is within the punk scene and socialising with those in it, may decide to switch their allegiance, and thus we have won part of our struggle with ideological bullets rather than close-minded fists? Surely a scrap often just leads to a further polarisation and justification of opinions? Or does it make uncertain people reconsider their position? There were those, such as ATILLA THE STOCKBROKER who wrote on his social networking site, about using this discussion tactic at a pub nearby the festival, to mixed success. The question of how to deal with the problem of the fascists is always going to be a tricky one, yet at times the answer should not always be so black and white.

We rounded off the night back at the hotel bar, which thankfully the owner opened up for us that night, and thankfully allowed entry to the various roustabouts we had gathered from the festival. We sang many an acapella punk-song to round the night off joyfully.

The Sunday of the festival was always the main selling point for us, and the announcement that NOFX were headlining was the reason we all bought tickets. Little did we know at the time, the day started filling up with lots of great bands, and more bands playing the mid-90s Epi-Fat style that we as a collective have grown to love (and imitate) over the years. In fact there were many good smaller labels around at that time, with the exception of Golf Records, who were the go to label for all the shit bands of that period. Their compilations ‘Another round of Golf’ was more apt for us in the fact that the first thing we did that day was go straight to another mini golf course, to finish off our new found rivalries. This time I managed to pull out the win, hitting a hole in one on the last hole. The first round was on me then.

We started the day off at the Poetry stage, with Vegetauren and I watching Mancunian poet JOSHUA WILLIAMS. After the first poem we were doing our best not to burst out into laughter in this serious environment. We were sat right at the front and were becoming conscious that he would see us bursting. It was getting painful to hold back the smirking, especially when he started conveying himself as some sort of pained, worldly figure, which didn’t seem convincing coming from a young, feeble, and softly-spoken character. I had to run away from the stage, and goad Vegetauren away, who was being far too polite. We got round the corner and laughed so hard.    

Then BEZ, former member of the Happy Mondays arrived, and treated us to a 20 minute tirade against fracking, the Germanic influence in our Royal Family, and a brief outline of the new political party he has formed, the Reality Party. It turns out he has been homeless and penniless for the past few years, and has been living off the land on a caravan site with some other hippies. In this time, he has become politicised, extremely concerned with environmental & ecological issues, and has taken a road of doing community and political work. The guy has a good heart, and while some of his claims were scant on detail, his general philosophical and moral outlook on today’s world is something to be commended – he is a true conscious warrior, fighting for an alternative and better world. Look out for Reality Party candidates at your next local election.

The first band we saw was THE IMPLANTS, who are on Cyber Tracks, El Hefe from NOFX’s label; perhaps that was part of the deal? They feature members of Ten Foot Pole, Strung Out, and Pulley; so you can probably imagine what they sound like – it’s great that these people are still producing that kind of sound, even though it is nowhere near as popular as it was at the time. They were really tight, seemed really happy to be at Rebellion, and were that good we actually watched their whole set. This was another great surprise of the festival.

It was at this point that I had listed on a schedule of bands that I wanted to see, the Oi!/Punk band from Belfast, RUNNIN RIOT. I decided to miss them in order to take a short music break prior to the upcoming onslaught of bands. This is probably my biggest regret of the weekend, because a week later, lead singer Colin died peacefully in his sleep, mid way through the bands tour with the OLD FIRM CASUALS.  This is a tragic loss for the Irish & worldwide punk community. Check out their song, Alcoholic Heroes, to see how great they are.

We caught a few songs of legendary Canadian band SNFU. There was another legendary Canadian band playing later on, and another legendary Canadian bands, Propagandhi, need to be booked at this festival in the future. I digress, unfortunately for SNFU, they clashed at the same time as festival favourite, KUNT & THE GANG. One man and his jingles; imagine Super Hands from Peepshow, mixed with a dodgy, offensive, Essex bloke, prancing around on stage singing cabaret style songs, that cover topics such as sucking off a builder, gentleman’s washes, lonely masturbation, Jimmy Saville, and the absurdity of UKIP. The Spanish Hall was packed for his set, and there was plenty of laughter throughout. A perfect act for a Sunday evening, when after three nights on the sauce, craic might be running low.

Next up in the acoustic room, was CHAS PALMER-WILLIAMS, the singer of the now defunct, Lightyear. He had some amusing lyrics, and quickly gained a strong rapport with the crowd, whom he was able to utilise and move around the room as part of his set. Highlights included, a conga, a staged photograph, and a fake band to play along to the Lightyear classic ‘Pack of Dogs’ at the end of a good set. The hub was then flipped as we caught half the set of CHAOS UK, and I was able to mosh down the front to get my classic, early 80s punk fix. 
Chas Palmer-Williams
DOA in Leeds was voted as gig of the year in the 2013 end of year list, and once again, at their last ever UK gig, they showed just how phenomenal they are. From start to finish they were relentless, thrashing through classic after classic. On the first song, Joey Shithead, was already playing a solo with his guitar behind his head. Both guitarists had wireless instruments, so they were thrashing around the stage all the time, which added a nice visual treat to their performance. In 35 years since inception, they have produced an impressive stack of releases, and now Joey Shithead will trade in the axe for a career in local politics. It was a treat to be able to see them one last time, or ‘until the reunion tour’ as Fat Mike jokingly exclaimed.   

In the run up till the end, we watched some songs of LEFTOVER CRACK, to get in the mood for the main event. Whilst they have admirable and uncompromising politics, musically I have never been able and never will be able to understand why they are so popular. At least with them crossing over into NOFX’s set, we were able to ensure that we would get a good spot down the front, and lead the crowd in singing a Sublime song to get in the mood.  

And what a fitting end for us pop-punkers, one of the best around, following in the footsteps of Rancid & Bad Religion in headlining Rebellion Festival. It was clear from the outset that they were humbled, honoured, and respectful of the fact that they had been asked to play. As you may know with NOFX, part of the appeal of their set is the way they make fun of the audience. The highlight this time was when they were slagging off someone who had brought their young children to the show, and had them sat on their shoulders. It started off quite mild, with Mike having a go at them for blocking the view of others, then started calling them irresponsible for taking them to a NOFX show, and El Hefe took it to the extreme by asking the kids if they knew what various sexual phrases meant, before explaining in detail what they were.

The set itself was ideal for a festival, with a mix of old classics, and a few newer ones. The only satiating moments for us NOFX geeks who have seen them so many times, was their cover of Tony Sly’s ‘Shortest Pier’, and 30 seconds of the ‘Longest Line’. The rest of the songs were what you’d expect to hear at most recent NOFX shows, which is always great, but also a little disappointing that they finished 15 minutes ahead of schedule. Vegetauren will have to wait another day until he gets to hear The Decline in full. All in all, it was a fantastic way to end a fantastic four days, and as we’ve got a few years older, we’ve moved a few yards further towards the back, now about 6 foot behind the back of the pit, so we can still jump in for the songs we like.

There were loads of daytime ad after-gigs taking place throughout the weekend at the nearby alternative club ‘The Tache”. We valiantly tried to round off the weekend, there but we soon realised we were too exhausted from four days of partying, so we turned our backs at the door, and unwound with some fast food, and a game of Blackjack at the casino.

We left Blackpool buzzing, and this Rebellion Festival weekend is up there in the top all-time festivals visited for all four of us (there is already talk of getting the tickets for next years festival already). With so many good bands and people, in such a well-organised and compact venue, with no fucking camping, it is safe to say that Rebellion Festival will remain on the Ont Road radar for many years to come.  Up the Punks!

Words © Schwarzbrennen

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Morrissey - Autobiography (Book review)

Morrissey – Autobiography (A book review)

Songwriters are the poets of the modern working classes. Nothing resonates more with the soul than the moment when the thoughtful clarity of a finely crafted lyric elates such strong feelings. Morrissey has a full arsenal of those words, and it is within the confines of the written word ‘autobiography’ that he manages to develop and elaborate on the existentialist musings that have often permeated his musical life.

These rare moments when we are given pure unadulterated access into the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of an individual so far removed and so much attached to our own lives, are often for most fans, the only opportunity we’ll ever get for a real insight into the ‘das leben das anderen’, the lives of the others.  There are many things to learn, and many things to clear up from this enlightenment of one of the most well-known musical artists of the last three decades.

The most important thing that needs to be cleared up is that there will never be a Smiths reunion. THE SMITHS ARE DEAD. Forever. The haters will no doubt rejoice, and the young hipsters in their t-shirts will no doubt yearn forevermore, yet those that have read Morrissey’s account of former Smiths drummer Mike Joyce suing for royalties will no doubt understand and respect that such a reformation could not in any way take place. If they do, there will be no integrity left within the music industry. If we take Morrissey’s words at face value, then Joyce is a cunt. He wasn’t the only one in that saga though…

The vitriolic, hateful and rightfully scornful portrayal of Judge Weeks who presided over the case is a particular highlight of the book. Morrissey does not hold back in his condemnation of him and the biased, antiquated and absurd nature of the British legal system. A disdain for the British establishment and its class system has never been far off the Morrissey radar, and here he turns up the volume of jeer to unprecedented levels.

This level of hatred penetrates perfectly through the lyrics in the song ‘Irish Blood. English Heart’, with I've been dreaming of a time when…The English are sick to death of Labor… and Tories… and spit upon the name Oliver Cromwell… and denounce this royal line that still salute him.” This book reminded me how powerful this poetic punk piece is, and every time I hear it, sing it, the hairs on my back stand up. It comes as no surprise that he has abandoned the country in favour of Los Angeles.

The other cunts in the story are the NME. You already know that, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this. A familiar story of slander and defamation awaits those that aren’t scared of reading all 450 pages. It’s remarkable to think how successful he has been despite the unfounded accusations and the amount he has been shunned by radio and TV promotion.

Generally, what you will find when reading this, is enjoyment in the eloquence of his execution – ordinary tales of the grind of day to day life are brought to life by his poetic words and astute analysis of a world filled with equal amounts of misery and madness.

It’s hard not to be taken in by the charm of Morrissey, the wordsmith has is way of wooing the reader into the central tensions of his life. He goes into great depth about the recent world of Morrissey and the privations of his life as a young Steven, without looking for pity or eluding a sense of privilege. Loners of the world will certainly unite and feel comfort with his feelings of inadequacies towards the mainstream culture and his detachment from others – it’s genuinely heart-warming stuff, and makes me feel better for preferring to be in solitary existence from time to time.

Whether its grim tales of school and family life in 1960’s Manchester, The Smiths period on Rough Trade Records, or the dizzy heights of Morrissey’s solo career; this book covers it all, and no doubt there is something in here for everyone, whether you are a casual or hardcore fan. Without doubt, one of the best music autobiographies I have ever read. 


Monday, June 9, 2014

No updates for a while...

No updates for a while... 

Too busy with life right now... 

At the start of May was the birth of my daughter...
And now begins exam marking hell...

See you on the outside.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Tunisia - The Revolution

Kairouan - The fourth holiest city in the world, and centre of theological thought in Tunisia, seems to also have a penchant for revolutionary thought.
The streets of Sousse in touristic Tunisia are full of men hanging around, stood in squares, drinking tea in cafes; trying to sell the same counterfeit goods you can find the world over.

“Hallo, wie gehts?”
“Wo Kommst du?”
“Aus Gross Britannien.”
“So you speak English?”
“Yes I do mate”
“Ha ha ha mate”.
“What’s your name?”
“Chokri, you know?”

His colleagues have to tell him whom I mean, and he starts to play the dumb villager. I shake this short rotund mans hand and casually notice the three lions badge on his shirt. Before he gets chance to cast his pitch I’m already leading the conversation. Short rotund man is one of the 18% of unemployed Tunisians, still trying to increase his chances of life survival by trying to deal with a 10% inflation of the national currency.

A t-shirt hanging up in an adjacent shop, which reads GAME OVER – Tunisian Revolution, 14th January 2011, instantly distracts me. Unfortunately it has a picture of three poster boy protestors stood in front of a flame below the text, so I’m instantly turned off.  The revolution is always a t-shirt away.

The revolution is only a billboard advertisement away
Despite my requests they have no t-shirts of Chokri Belaid – a left leaning lawyer who was leader of the opposition against the current ruling moderate Islamist party, before he was assassinated in broad daylight. I walk away, and I am instantly beckoned back over by the shop owner. He gives me a copy of a local newspaper as a memento, as it has a picture of the deceased on the back cover. He explains to me that since his death, more and more people have started to see that he was the only one speaking about the ordinary daily struggles of the common Tunisian citizen. The hopes of a revolutionary majority once again dashed by this premeditated attack.

I ask for directions to a supermarket where it is possible to buy beer. Nothings changed. 

I dragged my partner away from the resort to a second division football match featuring Ksar Hellal FC and all I got was this lousy ACAB photo. We weren't allowed into the ground as it was 'sold out'. I tried to offer the police officer some cash, and he said "revolution now, no bribes". Perhaps some things have changed.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Alkaline Trio, The Murderburgers @ Leeds Metropolitan University, 19/04/2014

Alkaline Trio, The Murderburgers 

Leeds Metropolitan University, 19/04/2014

At the right place, at the right time

Another year and another Alkaline Trio tour - the band sell that many records in the UK that it has become a home from home for them - they have had that much success that (god-forbid) it even creates a surplus for them to class as an income. They’ve made it, and after 9 studio albums they are showing no signs of slowing down.

When they started back in 1996 they were just a three-piece punk-rock band practicing in a garage, in a suburb of Chicago, and who dared to sing love songs  at time when emo wasn’t cool and completely off the map. At the same time, Mike Park, had started running a DIY punk-rock label called Asian Man Records out of his garage in California. This was a match made in heaven.

Asian Man Records released an incredible amount of music in those early days, and unlike some of the more well-known punk-rock labels that only released their mates bands, or bands that already had some success on smaller labels, Mike would put out stuff that he liked, without a care for association or personal affiliation. So after hearing a demo, he takes a chance on these three kids in Chicago, puts out a few of their records and the rest is history.

Despite spending a period on a major label, the band are now putting out records on their own label Heart & Skull, which is a collaboration with Epitaph Records. And despite the glitzy heights of stardom, the band still remain true to their roots, and a few songs into the set, Matt Skiba gives a short intro about Asian Man Records, before the band launch into the opening track of their first album ‘Cringe’. It goes beyond this though…

Asian Man Records have recently released an LP by the Scottish pop-punk band The Murderburgers, which as you may know is a pretty big deal. It happended in a similar way, Mike liked what he heard and put out their record. And knowing that there was an upcoming Alkaline Trio tour and that The Murderburgers were on tour, Mike Park contacts the trio, and they agree to have the Murderburgers along with them as the second support band on their UK tour. This friend is punk rock. What a result, and a decision that pays off immediately as Alkaline Trio bassist Dan Andriano tweets following the first show:

The venue is pretty rammed by the time The Murderburgers take the stage, and they do what any sensible support band should do with a 20 minutes slot, and cram in as many songs as possible – Crammy Hard, as the band might say. Normally the sound for support bands at bigger gigs is shocking, yet tonight it was spot on, and The Murderburgers sounded as good as they have ever done. The happy pop-punk melodies, combined with subtle lyrical undertones highlighting the misery of living in Glasgow, strike a chord with recent converts, such as @Vegetauren. We were even treated to an appearance from Billy Liar, who came out mid song to use a party popper during a breakdown of one of their songs. There are often poorly chosen words to describe bands in these situations, yet on this occasion I think it’s best to say that this is meant to be.  
One of the joys of going to bigger gigs such as this sell out show, is that it provides an exciting bottleneck which often leads to a re-acquaintance with people whom real life interaction hasn’t taken place with for some time. Thankfully for us, some people from the Boston, Lincolnshire scene had made the journey up, and had joined us for a few jars of piss & vinegar in the Dry Dock, prior to the gig. They were on good form once again, and lived up to their reputation of piss-takers, after tactfully taking-down a guy who openly admitted to being thrown out a Limp Bizkit concert for smoking an e-cigarette. My good friend and fellow zinester Marv Gagdie was in attendance, and even though he generally hates the strands of emo and pop punk, he hit the nail on the head when he said “I’d rather choose a shit punk gig than any other type of night out, anyday”.  The oracle has spoken.

Alkaline Trio were in good form once again, and played a mixed set to try and keep everyone happy. Although I only recognised them play two songs from my favourite two albums of theirs, it didn’t matter, as Matt Skiba and Dan Andriano have two of the best voices in punk-rock, and just listening to them sing along to their pop-punk sounds was enough for me.

Mid-way through the set, I noticed that my friend @Lucy_Blu and her friends had somehow managed to get onto the stage balcony that is for backstage people, which is a perfect vantage point for checking out the band; and it’s hard not to agree with them, as they are one of the sexiest bands in middle-aged punk-rock.

Despite the great energy of the show, and the epic crowd sing-alongs, there was a small incident that left a sour taste. Following the brilliant ‘Dine Dine My Darling’, Matt Skiba took exception to one fans reaction to the song, and started to call him out, getting confrontational with them, and proclaiming, ‘this next songs for the rest of you in the crowd’. I think Skiba needs to deal with criticism in a better way than that immature response.

However, lets not let that take away from a magnificent night, and the fact that the popularity of The Murderburgers is on the up, and that Alkaline Trio, who have made great records such as ‘Goddamit’ and ‘This Addiction’, still have the ability to reduce grown men, who really should know better, to adulation and tears.     

© Schwarzbrennen

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Football Against Homophobia - Halil Ibrahim Dincdag

Football Against Homophobia
The case of Halil Ibrahim Dincdag

Many football fans across Europe may be aware of the recent ‘Kampa Showan’ incident in Sweden, where a famous activist, Showan Shattak, of the Football Against Homophobia campaign was hospitalised and put into a coma as a result of a far-right knife attack on a group of activists who were celebrating International Womens Day. This is a shocking event, particularly in one of the supposed most liberal countries in the world, and highlights that there is a long way to go to eradicate discrimination against other sexualities within society. This isn't the only concern at present though...

Clapton FC Ultras - leading the way in the UK in support of Kampa Showan
The Eccles & District branch of FC United of Manchester, are currently flying the flag of ‘Football Against Homophobia’ within the club ever since our alliance with the fans of Tennis Borussia Berlin that took place during a post-season tour in 2013. They are at the forefront of the campaign in Germany, and recently, some of their fans have been involved in a heart-warming story surrounding the ‘Football Against Homophobia’ campaign.

This particular case concerns Halil Ibrahim Dincdag, who is a long-standing Turkish football referee (pictured at the start of this article) that ‘came out’ back in 2009. Since then he has had his referee licence revoked, and has had to move to Istanbul to escape media attention and protect his family – although being gay is not illegal as it is in many Muslim countries, Turkish society is still strongly homophobic. Since then he has lost his job, and has been unable to referee. That is until the fans of Tennis Borussia Berlin & Rote Stern Leipzig found out about his plight.

The fans managed to make contact with Halil, and invited him to come visit them in Germany. This proved to be difficult in the land of bureaucracy, as his visa was denied several times. With many Turkish immigrants already living in Germany, the authorities are taking a hard stance on issuing visas. However, they were eventually successful, and it led to a dramatic twist in the saga.

On Tuesday, Tennis Borussia Berlin played a friendly match against Türkiyemspor, a team that started in the late 1970’s, which are supported by many Turkish immigrants living in Berlin. How apt then that Halil, in his first competitive match since his ban within Turkey five years ago, led both teams out onto the pitch with tears in his eyes, and went on to referee the match.

He has been described by the fans who arranged this trip as a great guy, very modest, yet firm, fair, and confident in his refereeing ability.  Despite all the complications he has faced since coming out, Halil claims that he doesn’t regret coming out, as he sees this battle, one in which he will be taking to the European Court of Human Rights, as something of upmost importance.

Yesterday he refereed his second match, Roter Stern Leipzig’s first vs. second team, which was described again as an emotional affair. In this instance, some of the Berlin fans even travelled down to Leipzig to support Halil. Who would have thought in this day and age there would be fans that can be classed as supporters of certain referees? That my friend is what we call post-modern football.  

Today, Halil Ibrahim Dincdag returned ‘home’ to Turkey to carry on his underground lifestyle, to continue with his battle to become reinstated as a referee, and to combat homophobia in football and Turkish society. Wasn’t that a great opportunity that the fans of Tebe and Roter Stern had provided for him? All of us at the FC United of Manchester Eccles & District branch wish him and all the Football Against Homophobia campaigners all the best in their struggles, and will being to look at ways in which we can support the campaign at our new home in Moston, Manchester.

© Schwarzbrennen

Bad Religion - The Dissent of Man (Review)

Bad Religion – The Dissent of Man

 Following the return of founding member, Epitaph label owner and co-songwriter, Brett Gurewitz, after the bands flirtation with the major label Atlantic, the duo of Graffin and Gurewitz have since written and recorded three albums: The Process of Belief, The Empire Strikes First, and New Maps of Hell, which have been regarded by fans and critics, and self proclaimed by the band as “The Unholy Trilogy: Part Two”; the original trilogy being: No Control, Suffer, and Against The Grain, which are known as the bands best output. Whilst the latter trilogy saw the band encapsulate the passion, energy, and conviction of their youthful punk-rock days, their latest release, a clever play on words, ‘The Dissent of Man’, represents a significant departure, coming across more as a mature rock album, something which they failed to do with the making of Into the Unknown, The New America, and No Substance. With some hit, and some miss, here is a run down of the tracks from the album:

One thing that the band have always managed to do is capture the mood of the time, and in this part of the epoch where global protest movements are making a significant return to humanities conscience, and the protestor was named Time Magazines person of the year, ‘The Dissent of Man’, with it’s front cover of an angry youth throwing an object in anger, perfectly encapsulates this period of modern history.

The album kicks off with ‘The Day The Earth Stalled’, which will no doubt ease in the casual Bad Religion listener, with a familiar fast-paced rhythm, combined with a catchy sing-along chorus, which is completed by the usual harmonious backing vocals. And then it starts to slow down, yet the lyrical content takes a classic Bad Religion trajectory.

‘Only Rain’ is a song about the rationality of atheism, a theme made prominent through singer Greg Graffin’s book ‘Anarchy Evolution’. Firstly he decries the old pre-scientific values of our ancestors by declaring, “Hey scientist please save us from our rainy days, because your counterpart in the magic arts is manufacturing judgement day”, and during the chorus lambasts the superstitious naturalists, who haven’t evolved to the scientific paradigm by declaring “rain fell like judgement, across my window pane, it felt like judgement, but it was only rain”: Here we feel Graffin being articulate, cutting, and poignant as ever.

The clever play on words returns with ‘The Resist Stance’, which, as is the case with The Day That The Earth Stalled, follows a more traditional Bad Religion song formula. It comes across as a rallying call to all those taking a stand against oppression, yet remains critical to the potential of an emerging dogma by proclaiming “the state of your resolve, makes you quickly devolve into a fundamentalist”.  Hitherto, the album stands up to the test, and then it takes a turn for the worst.

No whilst the sentiments of the collusion between church and state echoed in the ‘Wont Somebody’ are welcome, despite being somewhat worn, an amendment to the chorus provides more insight into the song; “Wont Bad Religion please come up with something, because this formula don’t seem to be impartially appealing, and all of this song puts this album down in the ratings, so a good song we’ll have to keep on waiting.”

If a single was to be penned for release from this album, in order to capture the attention of the casual alternative music listener, then ‘The Devil in Stitches’ has all the hallmarks of a radio friendly, melodic, and catchy anthem full of great chord progressions. It was very difficult to attach a specific meaning to the song; Gurewitz’s lyrics are usually not as forthright as Graffins. According to those who love their computer and regularly post on the fan site, thebrpage.net, and Mr. Brett himself, it’s a modern love story based on a biblical tale. Whether you believe in love or not, you’ll certainly enjoy this song.

The dark side to social attitudes permeates in ‘Pride and the Pallor’, which covers the idea of superstitious and irrational behaviours originating from religious beliefs, being passed down through generations, and this spiralling out of control, leading to an ironically prophetic hellish existence for the human species.   

‘Wrong Way Kids’ is a retrospective look at the Los Angeles punk-rock scene of the early 1980s, something that the band was very much involved with. The song draws parallels with ‘You Don’t Belong’, alluding to the wrong turns some people took in their lives, during the early days of punk rock. Themes of this calibre are almost inevitable for a band in their late forties, yet it is relinquished from becoming a grandeur act of self-importance by being doused with elements of humour, such as the line ” the kids today are gone away, petitioning the dust, with nobody to look up to, because they’re looking up to us””, and self-mockery, with the chorus making fun of their liberal use of ‘woahs’, goading the listener to “Singing woah, woah, wo-oo-ah”, a template copied over from their atrocious single ‘Honest Goodbye’ on their previous record.

There is a reason that so many academics are fans of the band, and this is due to Graffin’s lyrical ingenuity, often able to summarise a historical or sociological essay into a three-minute melodic harmony. ‘Meeting of the Minds’ is one of those songs, looking at the historical transformation of rational thought, starting in 325, through to Old Tennessee in the last century, and onwards to an idyllic futuristic fantasy of the intelligentsia and politicians coming together to come to the conclusion that “no longer will the market decide, what the government will provide”. Nobody can accuse them of becoming universal cynics; a healthy, radiant and optimistic outlook still remains in their old age.

‘Someone To Believe’ is about the weak willed members of society, the ones who ‘find’ God and ‘meaning’ in their life, the way in which their attitude and persona drastically change, which “feels like a spring equinox after a long winters sleep”. Imbeciles ‘awaken’ when they have someone [God] to believe. 

Throughout ‘Anarchy Evolution’, Greg Graffin argues that evolution is an anarchic process, in which the human species has no control over, and this relates to the theme of the next song ‘Avalon’. It’s about the reflective phases that humans go through in their life, and the negative impact that focussing on past regrets can have. Yet this idea is flipped into a rallying call for people to not get caught up with the minutiae of the past, and instead look to the future and create your own Avalon, a place to be comfortable with when you die. This links into the theme of the book, it’s all too easy to look back on the travesty of human existence and take on a defeatist attitude, it’s better to create something ideal for the here and now.

Bad Religion have never shied away from producing a subtle song about heartache, yet none have come across as bitter as ‘Cyanide’, a four minute epic about being apart from a loved one, or in the case of Gurewitz, is the thing he describes as missing akin to kissing cyanide, a reference to his days as a heroin user? If I long for you it will make me return and deliver me to death? The bitterness is usurped when ‘Turn Your Back On Me’ kicks in on the next track, a beautifully sad, and brooding number.

And then the overt politics is back with a vengeance with ‘Ad Hominem’, a scornful attack on the bourgeoisie who think that they are divinely better than the poor. ‘Where The Fun Is’ is not even worth mentioning and is almost inevitable that it will be featured on the soon to be released ‘Worst of Bad Religion’ CD, entitled ‘How the hell could Bad Religion get any worse?’

As a rule of thumb, Bad Religion have always closed their albums with a strong and catchy number, yet ‘I Won’t Say Anything’ breaks with that tradition, and leaves it with a flat end to the proceedings. There isn’t the usual big bang, in which we expect from our atheist peacemakers, just a steady fade away into insignificance, perhaps a suitable prelude to our own species’ existence. 

Finite - A great track that never made the album cut

The Dissent of Man is still out on Epitaph Records.