On August 4th, in the seaside resort town of Blackpool, England… it begins. After three years and two cancellations due to the you-know-what, the Rebellion Festival returns to the beautiful Winter Gardens entertainment complex: bigger, brasher, and possibly better than ever.
Rebellion is already the largest punk rock festival in the world, with hundreds of bands performing on multiple stages at the many different theaters, bars, and cafes inside the Winter Gardens. There are also countless vendors, lectures, workshops, a popular art show, and so much more, all presented over four days. You would think that would be enough, but now they’ve added an entirely new festival: R-Fest. With almost 30 more bands, a giant stage, and grounds that can hold another 15,000 punks, R-Fest will be held outside, under the historic 128-year-old Blackpool Tower.
With the imminent convergence of 20,000 or more punk rockers on the town of Blackpool, some might think it would concern the townspeople and authorities. But quite the contrary; the Rebellion Festivals have a long history with the town as they were first held at the Winter Gardens in 1996, and have been held there most years after, much to the delight of hotels, bars, restaurants, and the other local businesses.
This year marks my second trip to Blackpool. I did a review in 2018 for the now defunct OC Weekly, and I made it a point to ask the locals what they thought of Rebellion. I talked to cab drivers, hotel staff, even cops, and believe it or not, they all said pretty much the same thing: they love it and look forward to it every year! “The punks are as nice as can be and spend a lot of money,” said Mrs. Tyler, a waitress at a local cafe. Echoing that sentiment was Officer Patel who said, “They can handle their drink and don’t cause nearly the amount of trouble as the bachelor and the bachelorette parties do.”
Rebellion has grown into something more than just a music festival over the years. Still family run, but perhaps more family-oriented, the event does draw a lot of families and serves as a reunion point for like-minded people from all over the world.
So who’s playing? The list is long, but this is what catches my attention:
Thursday night includes our hometown heroes Circle Jerks and Bad Religion playing back-to-back inside Empress Ballroom. A lot of US bands had to cancel due to health concerns or travel restrictions, so it’s nice to see these two heavy hitters make the trip. Levellers and Hawkwind headline R-Fest outside, and I am most looking forward to Beans on Toast and Misty in Roots. I’m conflicted as I don’t want to miss Anti-Flag or Bouncing Souls in the Empress Ballroom, plus I want to catch Peter & the Test Tube Babies at Club Casbah.
I definitely can’t miss Steve Ignorant’s Slice of Life. The lead singer for the legendary Crass will be performing at least three times over the weekend; once with Slice of Life, as well as a set of Crass songs that is not to be missed. He’s also being interviewed on the literary stage, and Paranoid Visions – one of the many groups he has collaborated with – is playing, so he might show up there as well. All this Steve Ignorant might make up for the lack of The Dickies. I would also like to check out Johnny Moped, Sick on the Bus, Dirtbox Disco, and Music in our Underpants, but we will see what happens.
On Friday, the must-sees are The Stranglers, Sham 69, Steve Ignorant’s Crass set, Subhumans, The Ruts DC acoustic set, Penny Was Right, and of course The Ramonas.
Number one on my list for Saturday is Bob Vylan. His new album, “Price of Life,” is phenomenal; a punk hip-hop mix that reminds me of the rage rap scene that is happening in the US in Baltimore.
Also on Saturday, Gary Numan, Peter Hook and the Light, and Pop Will Eat Itself are playing R-Fest outside. Inside there is Cock Sparrer, Cockney Rejects, 999, and Los Fastidios. All your favorite hardcore acts are playing Club Casbah: Motorheadache, The Exploited, Discharge, GBH, and TX/CA punk pioneers MDC (Millions of Dead Cops). Then the Pavillion has Sex Gang Children, The Rezillos, Paranoid Vision, and about 100 others I would like to see. So yeah, that is going to be tough.
After all that, you would think Sunday would slow down, but it doesn’t look that way! Perhaps I should try some of the buckfast? The must see and do list goes in this order: First, if I have not gone to the Art Show already, GO! I’m particularly looking forward to seeing new works by artist and tattooist JO Pink. She draws eerily realistic black and white portraits, and for Rebellion, she has turned her focus on some of her favorite musicians. The arts, the lectures and community are all a big part of the Rebellion experience, and if you don’t make it a point to take part in some of the other festivities besides the music, you are really missing out.
But yeah, back to music. With Stiff Little Fingers and Ruts DC headlining inside, and Squeeze and Billy Bragg closing R-Fest outside, I have some hard decisions and some running to do. But real running around starts much earlier as I can’t miss the UK Subs, Buzzcocks, Billy Bragg, or the Cro Mags.
Plus there is a MDC acoustic show where they will be performing the album “Millions of Dead Cowboys.” Last on my list, but not least, the band that has the perfect name for Rebellion this year: Conflict.
If after reading my little preview you’ve decided you want to add the Rebellion Festival to your punk rock bucket list, you can still get tickets for the whole four days or one-day passes for both the R-Fest and Rebellion. See you in Blackpool!