at The Winter Gardens, Blackpool, U.K., August 7-10, 2014

The Dictators and Mick Burgess backstage
The Dictators and Mick Burgess backstage

Quite what the English gentry would have made of this is anyone’s guess. Back in Victorian England, The Winter Gardens was the place to be seen as vaudeville and music hall resonated around the ornate and imposing hallways.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary saw the celebrated seaside venue packed with revellers regaled in leather, safety pins and multi coloured Mohawks for the annual Rebellion Festival, the world’s biggest and best Punk and Hardcore gathering with in excess of 200 bands across six stages over four days and nights. With rare and special one off appearances by an array of bands there was something for every self-respecting Punk.

Their time in the sun may have been short but the single “Is Vic There”? by Department S still ranks as one of the best of the ’80s, shame the rest of their material didn’t quite match it.


At times Punk veterans G.B.H veered towards Thrash Metal such was the ferocity of their set. With songs primed on fast or faster, their set rushed past at breakneck speed as vocalist Colin Abrahall and guitarist Colin “Jock” Blyth tackled such dark matter as “State Executioner” and “This Means War”. This was not for the faint hearted.

The Dictators

While G.B.H railed at the state of society The Dictators NYC celebrated life as if it was one big party as frontman and larger than life icon Handsome Dick Manitoba strode on stage to announce “The Party Starts Now”.

Over the course of a short but punchy set The Dictators stole the show with “Next Big Thing” and “Two Tub Man” stomping along with huge sing-along choruses while “Faster and Louder” showed they could match anyone for speed. Blending New York street Punk, Hard Rock, Pop and Surfer melodies The Dictators are true legends of Punk and with this the second of their first UK shows in almost 37 years this was one of the most eagerly anticipated events of the weekend. Handsome Dick Manitoba was the perfect frontman, oozing charisma while former Manowar lead guitarist Ross The Boss provided the killer guitar suitably supported by Daniel Rey. Ending with a riotous cover of MC5’s “Kick Out The Jams” left the crowd baying for more. Job done by Manitoba and co. and their performance more than answered their very own question “Who Will Save Rock ‘n Roll?”

The Dictators

The Jello Biafra DJ Set by the former Dead Kennedys frontman was something of a non-event and the time could have been better spent extending The Dictators set although Biafra’s spoken word session the following day was far more eventful.

Doctor and The Medics over at the Bizarre Bazaar Stage knocked out a storming take on The Cult’s “She Sells Sanctuary” and close your eyes for a minute and you’d swear that was Ian Astbury singing. They obviously couldn’t leave the place without doing their number one hit single “Spirit in the Sky” and they duly obliged.

Meanwhile The Skeletal Family in The Pavillion got things suitably dark, spooky and Gothic. A great and exclusive interview with Handsome Dick Manitoba and Ross the Boss, to be aired very soon, meant the majority of Slaughter and the Dogs set was missed but their signature tune “Where Have All The Boot Boys Gone” certainly sounded potent towards the end of their set.

SLFWith Stiff Little Fingers taking the headline slot in the imposing Empress Ballroom, the already stifling heat got even hotter as the punters packed into the hall to see Belfast’s finest deliver a crowd pleasing set including “Nobody’s Hero” and “Doesn’t Make It Alright” along with” When We Were Young” from their soon to be released Pledge funded No Going Back album showing that there’s more to the band than nostalgia. Yet it was the thunderous triumvirate of “At The Edge”, “Alternative Ulster” and “Suspect Device” that really shook things up, rounding off a hectic day at the unearthly hour of 2:00am.


999 brought a Punk Pop edge to the festival with gang vocal choruses and just a hint of Rose Tattoo edginess to the likes of “Feeling Alright With The Crew”, a perfect choice for Angry Anderson and the boys to cover. Nick Gash cheekily announced their independently released “I’m A Liar” as outselling Abba for 3 whole days before pummelling into “Homicide.”

Vice Squad

Whereas the vast majority of bands over the weekend were very blokey, Vice Squad, featuring The First Lady of Punk, Beki Bondage, brought a different, refreshing dimension to the Festival. It’s hard to believe Vice Squad hit the scene in 1978 as Bondage looks much, much younger than you’d expect for such a veteran. “Scarred For Life”, “Punk Police” and the wonderfully titled “Rock’n’Roll Massacre” rolled by in a flash as Bondage wooed the hall with her easy going stage presence.

Over in the Pavillion was something altogether different as Cyber Punks Rubella Ballet fronted by the striking Zillah Mink and the finely crested Sid Truelove along with their dancing cyborg dude brought a colourful dimension to the weekend with “Planet Punk” being a highlight.

Rubella Ballet

While some take themselves ever so seriously covering subjects of social injustice, unemployment and disaffected youth, Peter and The Test Tube Babies bring the light hearted touch that wouldn’t be out of place in Viz magazine with such delightful ditties as “Shit Stirrer”, “I Never Made It To The Bog In Time” and “Up Yer Bum” bringing some seaside toilet humour to the show. Although quite entertaining at first, the novelty began to wear off by the end of their set.

Peter and the Test Tube Babies

A be-suited The Cravats were easily the most suave band of the weekend bringing an avant-garde, Punked up B52’s feel complete with jazzy saxophone which resulted in something totally different to the weekend and were good value for their slot.

County Durham’s very own Penetration fronted by Pauline Murray looked a little less menacing than back in the day but she still possessed a voice to impress being one part Patti Smith and one part Siouxsie Sioux. Former guitarist Fed Purser jumped ship back in the early ’80s to replace John Sykes in the Tygers of Pan Tang with his place now being ably handled by Steve Wallace. “Life’s A Gamble” and “She Is The Slave” sounded every bit as good as they did back in the early ’80s.


London based Imperial Leisure certainly caused a stir in the Arena with their high spirited Punk Funk Ska hybrid which had the place bouncing to the sounds of “Down In Mexico and “Razzle Dazzle” with its hyper driven brass section. Imperial Leisure brought the party to Blackpool. Great stuff.

Imperial Leisure

In the intensely packed Almost Acoustic stage Ruts DC showed real class. Some exquisite harmonies and dark melodies on “Dangerous Minds” proved that not all Punk is three chord thrash. A haunting “Smiley Culture” was a real highlight not just of their set but of the whole weekend.

UK Subs

Most 70 year olds would be sat in their favourite armchair on a Saturday evening watching TV but Charlie Harper is no ordinary 70 year old. The original Punk pioneer has fronted the UK Subs for almost four decades and certainly shows no sign of slowing down and with Alvin Gibbs on bass for a mere 34 years this was the old guard showing the rest how it was done right from the start with a pyro fuelled “You Don’t Belong” to a snarling “Down on the Farm”, famously covered by Guns ‘n’ Roses on their Spaghetti Incident record but done much, much better by the Subs.

“Stranglehold” and the foreboding “Warhead” complete with the stirring gang vocal led chorus were major highlights of a thrilling set.Biohazard

Following such a legendary band was always a challenge but one Biohazard rose to with ease. The New York Hardcore outfit were a veritable hurricane on stage with “Shades of Grey” sparking a maelstrom of fury on stage. Billy Graziadei’s martial arts training stood him in good stead for an energy fuelled set as bassist Scott Roberts and lead guitarist Bobby Hambel hammered out the groove laden riffs. Biohazard was a photographer’s nightmare as they raced across the stage, leaping off the drum riser and into the crowd at every opportunity. By the time of “Punishment” towards the end of the set, they had given security severe palpitations as more and more of the crowd joined them on stage for a rabble rousing finale of “Hold My Own”. A couple of days later Bobby Hambel spoke of his thrill of following the UK Subs on stage at a UK festival and that excitement was clear from Biohazard’s enthusiastic and brutal set.


In the Pavillion The Subhumans cranked up the pace as they raced through a spirited set with “Waste of Breathe” and their very own ode to the banking sector “Business Men”, needless to say it wasn’t terribly complementary and went down a storm.

The Lurkers

Heading down to the Casbah was perfect for the festival. Set in a basement car park this was everything the Punk ethic stands for with its low ceiling and graffiti to the walls and partly open to one side revealing a run-down backstreet area, this could almost be a scene in Trainspotting. The Lurkers made the most of this atmosphere with “Shadow” and a cover of the Bo Diddley classic “Pills” as famously covered by The New York Dolls. With the fans showing no sign of tiredness picked up the pace with “I’m On Heat” which led to some frantic pogo activity.

Back over in the stunning Empress Ballroom, a place more used to sedate ballroom dancing than the sight of Jazz Coleman staring manically into the distance as post Punk innovators Killing Joke hit the stage to “War Dance”. Always a difficult band to pigeonhole, Killing Joke have a totally unique sound that blends dark Gothic influences with Punk and electronica with a huge wall of heavyweight riffs courtesy of Geordie Walker. With most of the set sticking to the earlier phase in their career with “Asteroid” and “The Death and Resurrection Show” from their self-titled album from the early 2000s being two of the few newer songs meant the bulk of the show was taken up with vintage material from “Requiem”, “Turn to Red” and “Change” while “Madness” was suitably psychotic. As unpredictable as ever, Killing Joke even dropped their two biggest hits “Eighties”, a clear inspiration to Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” and “Love Like Blood” which Motley Crue drew heavily on for the riff in “Dr. Feelgood”. Few bands can get away with that but it’s their unpredictability that keeps the fans coming back for more and there were few complaints from those in the crowd.

A few minutes to spare to nip in and catch a touch of King Kurt was enough to see that the Psychobilly rabble rousers had lost none of their fire and energy and an exhausted looking crowd had clearly got right into the spirit of the occasion.

All girl band Maid of Ace certainly mixed it with the big boys showing no fear with their spiky, bratty Runaways style of Punk while Counterpunch brought their brand of Pop sprinkled Skate Punk to Blackpool to add a touch of summer fun from The States.

CounterpunchSunday’s downpour may have flattened the odd, finely coiffured Mohawk or two but that failed to dampen the atmosphere inside the Winter Gardens as Hardcore veterans Agnostic Front pumped up the riffs while D.O.A performed what might well be their last ever show in the UK. With American Punk stars NOFX closing the festival that was it for another year.

Killing JokeRebellion Festival is like no other festival. With well over 200 bands to choose from over four days and a team that ensured the whole festival ran like clockwork, which bearing in mind the number of bands and stages involved was no mean feat, this was a resounding success. The wonderful mix of venues from those in subterranean car parks to Victorian Ballrooms and intimate rooms decked out like a Spanish market place were perfect for a festival. The ability to wander around the different stages and through Punk market stalls or sitting in the numerous bars, cafes and restaurants make this one of the best festival experiences around. Who needs Glastonbury when you can have Rebellion?


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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