TVD Live Shots: Rebellion Festival
2022, 8/4–8/7

I’m not a massive fan of festivals as I generally prefer the smaller club shows and theaters. But there’s one festival I’ve had my eye on for the past few years, and it finally happened after a series of pandemic-induced delays. The Rebellion Festival lineup continued to get more and more stacked as each postponed year rolled into the next. So much so that they added an extra outdoor stage and a slew of additional acts outside of the original announcement more than two years ago. This was gearing up to be the biggest and best Rebellion yet, and I was on my way.

The festival is held in Blackpool, just north of Manchester. Having never been to Blackpool, I was told this was sort of the Vegas of the UK, or at least it used to be many years ago. Today it’s a bit of a forgotten seaside town, which seemed perfect as the host for a punk rock festival; the underdog with the potential to be great.

Over 200 bands were playing, and there was no way I would be able to see half of them, so some careful planning and research was underway. There were several hidden gems, one-off performances, reunions, new bands, legendary bands, and of course, once-in-lifetime opportunities to see punk legends sharing the stage with other punk legends. There’s no telling who will show up where and with whom. It reminded me a bit of the Monsters of Rock cruise, which I’ve covered several times.

Still, instead of a mishmash of ’80s hair metal legends and the new breed of rock ‘n’ roll, it was a history lesson in all things UK punk, mod, and new wave, along with a stage dedicated to the best up and comers, the ones who will define the future of the genre, and to be honest, that’s where I found myself spending the majority of my time.

I ended up seeing more than forty bands over three days (I couldn’t stay for the fourth day as I had to get back to London). It’s certainly not easy to choose a top ten, but here’s my attempt at pulling together the best of the best over the weekend. I couldn’t narrow it down to ten, so here’s my top twelve and why they made the list:

Pop Will Eat Itself – The Poppies strike back on the massive outdoor stage at R-Fest. I’ve always been a huge fan of these guys since their industrial metal-infused dance classic Dos Dedos Mis Amigos came out stateside in 1994. Opening the set with “Ich Bin Ein Ausländer” took it up another notch altogether. The Poppies were absolutely on fire blasting through “Everything’s Cool” (the live version smashed the studio one, by the way),” Wise Up! Sucker,” and their new single “The Poppies Strike Back.”

Bad Nerves – First time I’ve seen (or heard of) these guys, and I was blown away. They went on at 1:15 am on the first day and absolutely smashed it. They had the attitude of The Strokes in their prime crossed with the hooks and efficiencies of the Ramones, all wrapped up in a tight, glistening power pop punch in the throat. It was fast, furious, and over way too soon. They were one of the best bands I saw over the entire weekend.

Peter Hook & The Light – The ongoing debate between who’s carrying on the legacy better was solved with an exclamation point. Peter Hook brought the attitude and genre-defining sounds of Joy Division and New Order to a new level of perfection.

Panic Shack – Women in punk absolutely ruled the festival this year and this was one of the standouts for me. With all the hype around Wet Leg, one would think that the stage would be set for the next in line. In this case I think this is the better band. It was a perfect mix of fun, angst, wit, and sharp songwriting. I’ve been listening to Panic Shack all week and unlike most bands they’ve found a way to translate the live energy into the studio versions. Check out “Jiu Jits You” and “I Don’t Really Like It” to see both sides of the punk rock coin.

ARXX – Another new one for me, this duo made up of Hanni Pidduck on lead vocals and guitar and Clara Townsend on drums make a lot of noise for only two people. Once Hanni starts to sing, it becomes very apparent that she has one hell of a strong voice; one of those bluesy, soulful powerhouses that can sing just about anything and make it interesting. Add to that the drums and programming from Clara and you have some massive hooks over the top of some driving guitars and just enough electronica to fill out those choruses and bring a bit of synth-pop to the grooves. In the girls’ rule Rebellion category, here’s another one that blew me away.

Janus Stark – One of the first bands I rediscovered when moving to the UK, Janus Stark just released a new album which finds them refining their guitar-driven rock into the punk-infused sound that launched their career back in the late ’90s. The former English Dogs and Prodigy axeman can shred like no other, but somehow he finds a way to balance his over-the-top superpower with leaving enough room for the song to punch through. They kicked off day one on the main stage at the Empress Ballroom; the rest is history. Get the new album; it’s fucking killer.

The Professionals – Another staple of Rebellion and one of my personal favourites, The Professionals continue to build upon the successes of last year’s stellar SNAFU. The room was packed, and Tom Spencer lead the band through a set that leaned heavily into the band’s roots while throwing in a couple from the Pistols along the way.

Anti-Flag – The American punk icons are currently on a tear with their new album and new single “LAUGH. CRY. SMILE. DIE,” but for Rebellion, there’s a trend for bands to dig deep into their roots and lean into their older material. Anti-Flag came out swinging, opening with “The Press Corps” and then blasting through a tour de force of the band’s catalogue from the past two decades. Always a fan favourite, a band at the top of their game, they’re the youngest of the new class of old-school punks in the house, and they delivered an explosive set to a jam-packed ballroom. Highest energy set of the weekend? Quite possibly.

Sham 69 – My first time seeing these guys, seeing Jimmy Pursey on stage deliver a masterclass in all things ’70s first-class UK punk was everything I had imagined. Fucking legend.

The Exploited – Another one from the original punk scene that I grew up on. Living in the states, there was a certain mystique around these Scottish punks; they seemingly had it all, the look, the songs, the stories, and most importantly, the attitude. Frontman and punk icon Wattie Buchan was in fine form and shows no signs of letting up.

Desperate Measures – I’ve seen these guys numerous times, and they never fail to turn it up to eleven. No frills old school punk infused with a righteous dose of ’80s hard rock before it turned soft, it was a hell of a way to close out the main stage on day two at the Empress Ballroom. Guitarist Michael Gaffney is an absolutely prodigy on guitar and one of the best on the scene. Check out “Flowers at Your Door” and their latest single “Thinking of England.” But if you really want to get a vibe for the live show, pick up their EP “Rinsed” and put your seatbelt on. If you go see them live, stick around for the last song, “1984”—it’s one of their best.

Heavy Lungs – Post-hardcore noise-rock is alive and well at Rebellion, and these guys stole the show in that category. While Idles, Crows, and the Murder Capital are getting all the hype, these guys should be next in line. This set was absolutely fucking crushing.

DAY ONE HIGHLIGHTS
Janus Stark

Bouncing Souls

Anti-Flag

Circle Jerks

Panic Shack

Bad Nerves

DAY TWO HIGHLIGHTS
The Vapors

Toya

Desperate Measures

The Ramonas

Sham 69

The Professionals

ARXX

Yur Mum

The Meffs

Heavy Lungs

Danbert Nobacon (Chumbawumba)

DAY THREE HIGHLIGHTS
Peter Hook and the Light

Pop Will Eat Itself

The Exploited

Sex Gang Children

Bridge City Sinners

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