All photography in this article is by Dod Morrison for Rebellion Festivals
The idea of writing about one of the most iconic punk festivals in the world, even a one dayer, is quite a daunting task. I mean its Rebellion! However the whole purpose of this was to observe the day of punk music from a new perspective, an open mind, one without the ingrained loyalties to any genre of the subculture. It is no secret that I am not considered a ‘punk’ in my likes of music but one thing is true of me; I love music, all the different echoing sounds of the notes rippling in my ears from well played instruments. I know what I like, and I know a dud sound when I hear one, so I felt it was time that I offered my untainted opinion of the world that is Rebellion Punk!
Before the day even really started there were mumbles surrounding the line-up choices with comments circling about the obvious direction of the day ‘street punk’, previously known as Oi music. Now I am not going to make this a history lesson but even to this day many people within and out of the subculture of punk, have decided what kind of fans certain bands like the Cockney Rejects and headliners Cock Sparrer attract. With legendary songs like, ‘England belongs to me’, and ‘We are the firm’ certain factions of the extreme sections of the world still feel that there is a place for them at these gigs. Now I have to say, I have been to many a punk gig now and have seen Cockney Rejects many times and personally have never experienced anything other than a passionately loyal crowd! So, I decided I was going to leave the whisperings of ‘drama’ at the door and crack open a can, in true punk style, ready to start my day!
First on the bill a three piece all male ‘Oi’ band comprising of Jack Chatfield – Guitar / Vocals, Sid Ryan – Bass / Vocals, Jacob Hull – Drums. Bit worried about the boys playing first as this can be a notorious time to play to an empty room but is the expected cost of grinding gigs when you are an emerging band. The doors opened at 1300 and the stream of eager punters began and never abated. Thinking back, they had a good crowd of 300-400 watching them play their hearts out. They did not disappoint me. Full of vibrant enthusiasm and complete commitment to each and every song they played. The undercurrent vibe was a sound I now recognised as Oi music, but this was special, polished with a real gritty tone of rock. Even Jack’s vocals surprised me. My expectations were that of usual ‘shouty’ but good Oi sound, however Jack had a melodic and true tone to his voice complimented by Sid’s harmonies and occasional solo stints. The guitar riffs were that of a musician way ahead of his time with as much kudos going to Jacob hammering the skins of the drums with a good heavy chunky beat. All said and done what I saw was an enthusiastic bunch of skilled musicians ready to take on the world of street punk. Seriously think these boys will be around for a while and urge you to really go and check these lads out!
This one was a difficult one and unfortunately leaves me with very little to say. But I must be honest. Have you ever been to a festival and there are those bands that you talk about for days, weeks and months on end reliving every bead of sweat you shed singing along and bouncing to their songs. Bands that leave you with everlasting memories to tell your grandkids when you are grey and old. Unfortunately, The Crack were not one of these bands. Maybe a bad day but I was left in a state of apathy without really anything to say. Do I like them, do I dislike them? Probably worse than that I was left with no opinion to state.
Let’s just get straight to it! Fucking incredible and unquestionably one of the highlights of the day. Dirtbox Disco a larger than life five-piece band who I want to say are a novelty act but my complete immersion into their energetic and captivating performance says they are so much more than this. Over the years we have seen many bands latch onto the idea of tom foolery to sell their brand and also in many cases this is to cover the lack of talent and originality within their lyrical content. This is not the case with Dirtbox Disco. In many ways there was a real feeling of ‘Status Quo’ in the sense of an army of fans chanting songs like; ‘Let’s get wasted, my life is shit and what are you gonna do about it’? The whole set felt like a punk party I was invited to and yes, I wanted to be on their invite list. Musically an accomplished set of artists who makes me want to go and see them again and again and again! Dirtbox Disco remember me at your next party please!
Peter & The Test Tube Babies
What can anyone say about the enigma that is Peter & The Test Tube Babies. I mean honestly if you are a punk there is no way you have not seen these guys play at some point recently or in the far distant past. Led by the charismatic and commanding Peter Bywaters, The Test Tube Babies presents a concoction of generations, with seasoned veterans Del Strangefish (guitar/vocals) and Paul H (bass) loudly supported by the force that is Sam Griffin Fuller (drums). From the centre to the back an exchange of uncontained dynamism between Pete and Sam is beautifully complimented by the calm collected musical performances of Del and H. What you are left with is a brand of hardcore melodies burnt deep into the pit of your soul, maybe not realising at the time that the tornado of sound that is Peter & The Test Tube Babies would be a life changing experience and one I will certainly never forget.
Gimp Fist middle of the bill had a real full and engaged audience. Three amazing guys with a real authentic and genuine vibe about them. Their performance felt very honest to me. If you want no gimmicks, no real show boating just good old Oi music then I would say Gimp Fist are certainly the band for you. In one sense this sounds very mundane but that is not the case. Gimp Fist showed they are talented musicians who can be trusted to deliver and entertain their audience, but did they lift me off my feet, not convincingly but they certainly did not leave me disappointed. I suspect a real favourite of the day by the true traditionalist Oi punk fans but following acts like Dirtbox Disco and Peter & The Test Tube Babies was a bit like a flute trying to be heard over an electric guitar. My feelings are they were always going to be drowned out by the noise of chaos of the showmen that preceded them. Maybe on a different bill I would have felt a different way but on this day, they just seemed to get a little lost in the garish performances of other bands. I will be making plans to go and see them again where I can appreciate them without the veil of Rebellion that was going on around them.
TV Smith & The Bored Teenagers (plays The Adverts)
Have you ever met someone, and they don’t need to say a word, but you just know that you are in the presence of someone who is truly magical? Well this is how TV Smith made me feel. A calmness, an aurora of ‘I have been there and done that’ but without the arrogance. A safe pair of performance hands but with the kick of pure vitality and rock n roll. You really felt like you were watching a legend crafting his show right in front of your eyes. The band in some senses I guess did what a band does when a star is shining as brightly as TV Smith does. They quietly do their job and perform carefully and precisely ensuring they do nothing that would distract anyone from the celebrity of the show. Even during a slight technical hiccup, TV smith and the band handled it like true professionals and the show went on. It was an electric performance by all on the stage but a real masterclass, for all frontman, was served on an epic scale by the celebrated TV Smith. A must go see!
The Last Resort
I was really looking forward to The Last Resort but was worried the hype would be more than the band could live up to. You know a bit like the release of that mega movie and then it turns out to be utter shite, kind of leaves you even more deflated than you would have been without the build-up in the first place. The line-up was Roi Pearce on vocals, JJ Kaos on bass, Fish on guitar and Mik on drums. As expected they did not fail to impress. Amazing and effortless as a you would want such a legendary band to be. Hard hitting, loud sound and belting words of classic Oi songs such as ‘Rebels with a cause’ even had this punk novice chanting along with the anthemic choruses. Quite often you see emerging talent and think why these bands aren’t already higher on the bill as many of them are accomplished musicians but watching The Last Resort highlighted the huge difference. These seasoned pros don’t work at it they simply are, and that’s the distinction between these bands; emerging talent are still having to concentrate on delivering the perfect clatter of clashing notes versus an unforced triumph of Oi sound from bands such as The Last Resort. Like TV Smith there are no other words I can use other than an Oi masterclass. The Last Resort have certainly earned their places in the musical Hall of Fame and my growing punk heart forever.
No introduction needed nor my review really. The crowd by this point were absolutely immersed in the charged atmosphere of punk ringing in their ears so as long as The Cockney Rejects did not get up on stage and choke there was nothing that could stop the O2 Forum roof from exploding with sound. These four cockney men bounced on the stage, led by the force that is Jeff Turner. I mean that man can only be described as a bundle of uncontained explosives. You certainly know he has arrived. His energy, as is the bands, is unwavering and he does not fail to deliver song after song after song. There is a real rawness still about this band. A true bunch of rebels who will never be contained by conformity and this is portrayed and felt with every sound that smacks you in the face from the stage. The most exhilarating experience but by god do you know you have been to a Cockney Rejects show as you can almost feel the punk oi musical bruises indented in your skin as you leave the venue. If you are an adrenaline junkie, a person who just loves to do dangerous shit and see what happens, then The Cockney Rejects are for you. They are the punk equivalent of a bungee jump, you have no choice but to buckle up, run and jump off the edge of the cliff and hope to god the bungee band brings you back to solid ground! You want a white-knuckle ride? Go to a Cockney Rejects gig!
Fucking hell, what words to choose?! Exciting, inspiring, intoxicating, invigorating, rousing, stirring, thrilling and uplifting. A set of anthems which just keep coming at you like the waves of a Tsunami. You never really see it approaching and then you look up and there is just a wall of punk music roaring and ready to devour your soul, crashing on top of your head you feel ever note and word they play. Colin McFaull is a legendary frontman who plays with his audience like putty, moving them in all directions whilst embracing them close to his chest. The whole experience of a Cock Sparrer gig feels like a movement. A formation of people shifting in unity to every stroke of the guitar players strings, each deep pluck of the bass and the thunderous boom of the sticks hitting the drums. Steve Burgess, Daryl Smith, Micky Beaufoy and Steve Bruce provide the musical scaffolding which allows Colin to reach the crowd with his steadfast vocals. In a single hour I felt like I belonged to the family which is Cock Sparrer and what is even better I believed their promise..
‘We’re coming back, we’re coming back We’re coming back to you We’re never gonna go away again Hold on a little longer, try a little harder ‘Til we’re arm in arm together to the end! So remember, out there somewhere you’ve got a friend, and you’ll never walk alone again!’
In the end it was a dream lineup and a work of genius by Darren Russell-Smith & Jennie Russell-Smith. It was a sell out for a reason and that was because it was the hall of Oi legends. The evening ended as the day started with huge amounts of excitement and a wish that it would all never come to an end!
Special thanks goes to Darren & Jennie Russell-Smith for bringing Rebellion to our worlds, to Daryl Smith and Alan Taylor for their massive contributions in making these festivals happen. To all the staff that tirelessly commit their loyalty to Rebellion year after year and of course to you all who make punk the most diverse community it is!