REBELLION FESTIVAL 2022
August 19, 2022 Review by Richard Johnson
The legendary Rebellion Festival – the annual punk-rock extravaganza held in Blackpool, England – doesn’t start with the shows; Rebellion starts with getting there. Chances are, even if you are an Englishman, you’re going to be traveling across the country. In fact, Rebellion draws visitors from such far-flung places as Indonesia, Mexico, and Australia. It sounds daunting to make such a massive journey, but it’s all part of the fun. Meeting punks from all over the globe and enjoying the journey is what Rebellion is all about!
When I arrived at the Rebellion site on Thursday, R-fest, the new outdoor stage, was all set up and looked impressive with massive grounds and stage. There were already plenty of punks milling about the street or the pub shows.
But the first official event I took in was Louder than War’s John Robb interviewing the inimitable Steve Ignorant. Robb did a great job of building an intimate conversation with Steve that didn’t seem like it was in front of a thousand people.
Steve favored us with Crass stories, tales from his childhood, and private musings. It really felt like listening in on a chat between two old friends. Afterwards Steve signed his new book, “The Story Continues,” for about four hundred or so devoted fans.
After the interview, I nestled in and waited for Steve Ignorant’s Slice of Life, which was very high on my list to see. I love the direction Steve is taking with Slice of Life; it’s completely different from his previous work, melodic and contemplative. And the performance was stunning.
I made my way over to the Casbah for the end of Anti-Flag, where the crowd was very big and definitely having a blast. They all stuck around for my favorite hometown boys, Circle Jerks. Keith Morris and company did not disappoint, giving us (by my count) 32 songs. The crowd went ballistic and deservedly so; I’ve seen Circle Jerks maybe 20 times, and this was definitely one of the best times ever.
Since Bad Religion had to bow out at the last minute, it left me open to head down to R-fest for the Levellers. I was glad I did because they were fantastic. The stage and area were much bigger than I expected, but it was still full to the brim. I confirmed that this year’s Rebellion Festival is by far the largest Rebellion in history with over 15,000 in attendance. I thought: “If this is only Thursday, what kind of mayhem will there be on Saturday?”
Well, let’s deal with Friday first. I had to be back on the scene by the ungodly hour of 12 pm because the first group I wanted to see was Migraña Social, a hardcore band from Mexico City. They had a surprisingly large crowd for Friday afternoon and they gave us everything they had. I was not sad I got up early!
After Migraña Social, I headed to Club Kasbah as it was my priority to see Subhumans and the Crass set. But before all that, I was not going to miss Tiger Sex. Singer Kelly Chelston is known for giving her all to every performance and Rebellion was no exception. She leapt over the metal barrier, crowd surfed her way to the back, ripped off her shoe and poured beer into it and drank it, and then served members of the crowd the leftover beer from the shoe. It was truly a sight to behold.
After that I found myself staying through the whole sets for Booze and Glory and Paul (Cookie) Cooks the Professionals who both delivered excellent performances. After that, it was time to go stake out my spot for the Subhumans and Crass sets.
I had not seen Subhuman since the late ‘80s and when singer Dick Lucas appeared, he looked almost exactly the same. It was like he never aged nor lost even an ounce of energy. The set was nonstop intensity and the crowd loved them.
Next up is what I came for: Steve Ignorant’s Crass songs set. I have seen Steve do Crass songs before, but this incarnation was quite different with vocalist Carol Hodge and guitarist Pete Wilson presenting their own interpretation of these beloved classics.
It was by far one of the most emotional sets of the festival. People were crying, people were cheering, and I was definitely one of those people.
During the Crass set, I was able to run over to Empress Ballroom and catch a little of Sham 69. They sounded great and front-man Jim Persey looked pretty good with a large mop top of brown hair. The audience was constantly jumping and singing along to every word.
Saturday was definitely the Big One. Let’s just say I bounced around the Winter Gardens like a ping-pong ball, and it was so worth it; there wasn’t a bad set in the bunch. I started with Los Fastidios, an anti-fascist Oi! band from Italy who are regulars at Rebellion and never disappoint. Then it was time for punk pioneers 999, who killed it. The Last Resort had the crowd going crazy.
I was able to catch a bit of the Rum Kicks, a three piece all-girl group from South Korea that the crowd loved. I then raced over to see my favorite hardcores from Ireland, Paranoid Visions, who were rocking the hell out of the Pavilion. Then a bit of Lady Rage back at the Arena. I hung out in the Casbah for a while for M.D.C., GBH, Discharge, and punkest of punks, The Exploited. All of the bands gave stellar performances and by the time Motorheadache came on, the crowd’s energy was at a whole other level. I barely made it back to the Empress Ballroom to catch Cockney Rejects and Cock Sparrer.
It was an incredible day and the group I was most looking forward to had not even played. UK-punk grime duo Bob Vylan was moved to the much larger Empress Ballroom for good reason. While it was a light crowd when I arrived, just before the set was to begin, it looked like the whole town of Blackpool showed up.
Bob Vylan took to the stage and started the show with a little light stretching and meditation. But as soon as they launched the set, people went completely crazy and they were pouring over the metal barricades like a waterfall. Security seemed quite overwhelmed for a moment, but eventually everything was brought back to a normal state of mayhem.