Rebellion Festival 2016 – Day 1 (& The Journey)

Departing from the semi-regular dispatches on obscure football players, @DarrenSpherical has turned his attention to near-mythical bands. He recently returned to the northern English seaside town of Blackpool to attend the 2016 Rebellion Festival, a mammoth four-day celebration of punk and its 40-plus years’ worth of sub-genres, featuring bands, interviews, artwork, poetry, comedy and an improbable cast of characters.

Rebellion Festival 2016

4-7 August 2016, Blackpool, Lancashire, UK

What follows below is as much a personal account as it is a review of this meticulously mapped mayhem written by a 28-year-old man who has committed a reality-defying amount of man-hours to this broad culture. I make no claim to be an authoritative guide and understand that many fellow attendees may stumble upon parts and wonder if I was actually at the same festival as them. Indeed, as will be expanded upon via a number of tangents inspired by what I encountered, there are countless strands, layers and contradictions in the punk world, with many factions, scenes and generations rather protective of their own and dismissive of others. I can not cater to everyone and, like anyone, the openness of my mind has its limits, but nevertheless I did witness a fairly wide range of acts. Amidst all the trivia, digressions and technical ignorance, I hope the sense of carefree, escapist fun comes across as, more than anything, I simply wished to record what a memorable, life-enhancing four days they were.

Before we get into all that though, I had to bleedin’ well get there, didn’t I?

The Journey – Wednesday 3 August 2016

From my Gravesend home at 10:20am I take a short lift by car to Meopham station, then a train up to London Victoria, from where I embark upon a brief walk to Victoria coach station. As I cross Buckingham Palace Road, I spot my first likely fellow festival attendee – some, bedecked in leather jackets, chains and patches, are not exactly shy in giving the game away. I then set off for Manchester but traffic inevitably ensues and when we reach Manchester coach station at 6:45pm – an hour and 25 minutes late – I am informed that, as well as having missed my connecting coach, there will be no more coaches to Blackpool tonight. Instead, I am given a voucher with my name on it as well as that of a complete stranger, which we are to exchange for train tickets. Hearts pumping and eyes rolling, my new chum and I have no choice but to rush off towards Manchester Piccadilly station – he quicker than I, with my suitcase handle actually breaking off during the dash – to make the swap. I assure the hotel by phone that I am definitely still coming and stand on the platform with lots of Manchester United fans/one-off Theatre of Dreams tourists. The season has not started yet, so what’s all this? Now, I know those scamps did so well last year that they don’t even have to qualify for the Europa League, so perhaps a friendly? Also here I encounter a couple dozen who are departing the city at 7:46pm with intentions identical to mine. The train ride thus allows me to run the rule over all the t-shirts, badges and patches in sight; many contain names I only ever see on the darker corners of the internet. The journey also enables me to dwell on the sheer variety of humanity that the term ‘punk’ encompasses and which awaits me, both on and off the stage, over the following four days. Just after 9pm, we finally reach Blackpool station. Upon arrival the famous tower may well be very visible to some fellow passengers but I just want to get my broken, heaving suitcase and myself indoors at last. I hail the first taxi I see and gratefully chuck double the bill at the driver when he drops me off at The Shores guest house at 9:20pm. I made it – liberation from reality took a mere 11 hours.

‘Easy journey, was it?’ the friendly owner knowingly chortles, before I recount the day’s events.

‘I take it you’re here for Rebellion then?’

‘Yes…bad news?’

‘No, no. I’ve got a house full of punks – from all over the world’. He assures me that he doesn’t subscribe to a local councillor’s view of punk circa. 1976 and then tells a stag group over the phone that there is ‘no chance’ of them staying here. I think I hear my heart flutter.

After I am shown to my room, I lob my suitcase on the floor and briefly browse the internet. Amongst other things, I discover that all those Man United fans earlier were off to see Wayne Rooney’s testimonial against Everton, which ended in an exhilarating 0-0 draw. But really, following a day of public transport, stress and strangers, all I want to do is relax and so turn the laptop off. I have already devised a plan and will need all the energy I can muster to carry it out over the next four days.

Rebellion Festival 2016

Day 1 – Thursday 4 August 2016

Featuring: An introduction to the festival and the venue, punk artworks, Gnarwolves, FLAG, Jack Grisham, Bouncing Souls, TV Smith, The Descendents, Don Letts, The Pukes and much more…

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On an inauspiciously gloomy Thursday at 10:20am, armed with a camera, some highlighted stage times and, clasped in an envelope in my hand, my ticket, I leave the guest house. Ignoring the beach and piers to my left and the arcades to my right, I dart straight for the Winter Gardens. As opposed to camping, this daily commute from accommodation to venue has caused some work colleagues to disparage this as a ‘posh festival’. That is, at least in comparison with the one they have attended, that budget Mecca for those living off soup kitchens, Glastonbury.

This is to be the third time I have attended the festival (previously, 2012 and 2013), so I feel largely at ease in these surroundings even if to others, I may look conspicuously out of place. Indeed, in the suspiciously short queue – there is meant to be a near sell-out turn-out of 8,000; some people must know something I don’t – I am quite possibly the only person who is not sporting one of the following: a mohawk, dyed hair, a skinhead, piercings, tattoos, band patches, a leather jacket, Rupert Bear trousers or, even, a band t-shirt. I am instead wearing fairly generic clothing that may have once been vaguely counter-cultural but has long since been co-opted by the mainstream: black jeans, a raglan/baseball shirt and a chequered jacket. Conversation-starters or camera bait, they are not. But believe me, it does actually take some thought to look so non-descript. To be left alone in this disparate crowd suits my intentions just fine.

The Winter Gardens may be more at home with musicals, tribute acts and the occasional darts piss-up, but it is set to be overtaken by punks spanning at least five decades and countless scenes and sub-genres. The organisers of the festival have used the venue for several years and have put on similar shindigs since 1996; with this being the ’40th year of punk’ (according to certain sources, anyway), this one has been billed by many as the biggest one yet.

I get my wristband at just after 11am and immediately reawaken memories from 3-4 years ago as I scour the many stalls that are selling CDs, records, clothing, patches, books, fanzines and more. These are all visually enthralling, as are the fashion choices of many of my fellow attendees; it’s always nice to be around so many people in Ramones shirts who can actually name at least a dozen songs. Also, it can be heartening to see the names of so many obscure outfits displayed so prominently. Conversely, it can also be baffling: People actually listen to them? They’re not just what Pat Smear (Foo Fighters, formerly of LA punks The Germs) would call a ‘t-shirt band’? They’re not just making up the numbers with their early-afternoon slot on that low-status stage? Or perhaps: Wait, What? You mean I like the same highly personal, ultra-niche music as those twats? As a keen listener and (very) amateur historian of an array of punk scenes, I feel I know a lot, but there is always plenty more to discover.

Whilst wandering around I hear some familiar tunes from Half Man Half Biscuit and The Dickies being played by a certain DJ Sav. These are coming from the Pavilion, around the perimeter of which along a U-shape are dotted most of the stalls.

After some pottering about, I go upstairs to the Punk Art gallery. Here, in a variety of different guises are posters, portraits and more dedicated to a who’s who of punk history. Amongst others: Buzzcocks, The Clash, Stranglers, The Damned, Sex Pistols (and each individual member), Polly Styrene, Misfits, Black Flag, Rancid, Crass, Siouxsie Sioux, Adolescents, TSOL, Agnostic Front, Killing Joke, Descendents, Agent Orange, Angry Samoans and The Adicts.

Alongside these are some original works by some scene luminaries, such as Gaye Black (The Adverts), Charlie Harper (UK Subs) and, impressing these eyes the most with his blue seascape containing rock formations, Dick Lucas (Subhumans/Citizen Fish). While each doubtless has their own motives and the need for creative self-expression is surely one of them, this causes me to ponder the financial realities of being in/having been in a punk band and the necessity of alternative sources of income – irrespective of how many books proclaim you to be ‘iconic’ and an ‘innovator’. Next door to the exhibition is what looks like some kind of religious area with chairs laid out; in previous years they screened films here, such as Control, SLC Punk and East End Babylon. Further on from that is an area where people can get tattoos – I see at least one enthusiast with the Rebellion logo etched on them – and/or receive, of all things, a tarot reading. When I establish my Reich

I go back downstairs and after a brief foray into the Introducing stage that gives new bands exposure, I visit one of the stalls and buy the limited edition 20 Years of Rebellion annual. This chronicles the past two decades of the festival’s development and features line-ups, anecdotes and more. Soon after, I briefly catch a minute or so of Max Splodge (Splodgenessabounds, they had a UK top ten hit in 1980) conducting his daily bingo session – an institution for some – before shuffling off to the Opera House. This 2,000-seater exudes grandeur and history though it will have to wait before it gets the audience it deserves. For now, no more than a dozen are having an early rest as those behind the PA system play some ’90s ska (Sublime, Goldfinger, No Doubt, Catch-22 and Rancid). Throughout the festival, the venue looks set to serve as an invaluable place for many hoping to conserve energy before running each evening’s punk gauntlet.

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This kind of approach will at times catch some people off-guard, such as when a chap of Irish extraction named Sean Maguire comes bouncing onto the stage. He’s here to delve into his poetry postbag and deliver some material that will be selected based on whichever numbers are shouted out by audience members. He’s affable enough and combines his geniality with some anti-conservative words, though some of the couplets do make one wince: ‘The War on Terror goes on…forever, when it should be…never’. Ooof. Still, a confident performer who tells us that he will be back later on to read more of his work.

I leave early in order to visit the largest room of them all, the Empress Ballroom, to see Pussycat Kill. I have an affinity for the Spanish-speaking world – though struggle to put a sentence together myself – and they are from Madrid. There, largely, endeth the appeal. In fairness, they put on a solid show, if a bit generic, though it may be a bit too early in the day for me. I am more taken by the way the stage has been moved to a different side of the Ballroom since I was last here. I am no sound engineer, but with the stage closer to the side walls, I think this has resulted in the sound not travelling and escaping around the room as much as it used to. This bodes well.

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I trot back up the stairs to the central hubbub where, from the periphery of the Almost Acoustic stage, I see a certain Carl Moorcroft play a familiar number on his acoustic guitar. It’s Rancid’s ‘Roots Radicals’, a song that resonates loudly with many from my generation. I enjoy the singalong but soon after at around 2pm feel I ought to head back to the guest house in order to dump the two large books I am carrying (the 20 Years annual plus the thick festival programme they hand out upon entry). However, along what should be a 20-minute walk I do wonders to counter the stereotype of the gormless, dopey, feckless punk by somehow contriving to get lost. When I eventually find my way back, about an hour later than planned, I decide to stay put for a bit longer in order to be in at least half-decent battle condition for the first evening of sweaty stage-hopping mayhem.

‘The thing about punk is…it’s not about clothes, is it?’, says Brighton-based Gnarwolves vocalist Thom Weeks just after 5pm on the Ballroom stage. It’s a theme he returns to throughout his band’s set and his playful baiting of the mohawk-chain leather brigade‘ is music to my ears. ‘You do your 9-5, probably in IT or something, then on the weekend you get to play fancy dress’; ‘The thing is, punk is inherently political, but when a 50-year-old with a mohawk is trying to make a point, you tend not to take them very seriously’; ‘You remember when you were a teenager and you said you liked punk and someone would say, “Oh, like Avril Lavigne?”, “Ye…well, no, not really”. But you can understand the mistake, can’t you? I mean, the way she dressed…’. Whilst this is all largely met with knowing smiles, there are at least a couple of teenage peacocks who feel affronted and give him the one-fingered salute. As I leave, my only regret is that the vocalist did not compel his bandmates – one of whom branded him a jealous baldy – to perform their cover of Green Day’s ‘Basket Case‘ from their debut EP Fun Club (2011). Playing such an anthem from a so-called ‘gateway band’ would no doubt have resonated with many and would have further punctured some posturing early on, allowing more people to feel at ease with themselves. Instead, Weeks finishes his band’s set by putting on his best ’60s American Military General/High School Principal accent and commanding: ‘Get a haircut!’.

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Rather than stick around for The Dwarves, next up for me is the first collection of legendary musicians I am to set my eyes upon at this festival, FLAG. Fans of a much-imitated logo may feel something is awry, but this is the moniker given to these erstwhile members of the iconic Black Flag. I am not enough of an aficionado to know quite where each man fits into the hardcore band’s story, though am aware there has been many recent disputes which partially explains why founding member Greg Ginn is not present. Nevertheless, I am keen to see them. I have heard most of their recorded material though have always felt that, as with several other celebrated bands from the late ’70s/’80s, their appeal is surely conveyed more powerfully in their live shows. That’s certainly the impression I got from ex-vocalist Henry Rollins’ intense audiobook Get In The Van – an account beloved of many a would-be Travis Bickle or Rorschach. Perhaps to the delight of the minority who claim that he ‘ruined the band’, he is not here today, though a familiar face is: Keith Morris, the original singer, known also for his work in the Circle Jerks and Off!.

However, at 6pm on a Thursday, is a car park enclave which is thinly shielded from swarms of families in town for the sand and the 2p machines really the ideal setting to connect with hardcore history? That is, after all, what the Tower Street Arena is. It’s a new stage, a converted car park that can be found – and certainly heard – if one simply wanders outside the front door of the Winter Gardens onto Coronation Street (yes, really). Also not helping matters is my location a little too far back from the stage, though I am nevertheless close enough to be able to read their setlist, which they have decided to pin up for all to see. Now, now, one must ask: has giving away spoilers ever enhanced anyone’s experience of anything?

From the off then, I know that there will be no ‘TV Party‘. A catchy song no doubt, but one has always wondered how a band with seemingly throwaway songs such as this, ‘Wasted‘ and ‘Six Pack‘ (both of which shall be played) could possibly be held in such lofty esteem. Again, it must be the live show and certainly, there is plenty on display to persuade that they have more in their sonic arsenal than many of their contemporaries, somewhat justifying Rollins’ disdain in his account of all the derivative ‘shitty punk rock’ bands they encountered. It is great to hear in front of me all of their debut EP, Nervous Breakdown (1978), as well as chant along to ‘Rise Above‘, though ultimately and unsurprisingly, I can’t say I feel like I am any closer to understanding what it must have been like to have ‘been there’. At one point, Morris seemingly alludes to this when he pleads with certain expectant elements in the crowd: ‘Come on, I’m a 61-year-old man!’ (he’s actually still 60 until September but rounding up often feels more honest). Also, following a prolonged exhibition of bassist Chuck Dukowski’s demonic solo thumbing, Morris responds to some audience impatience by assuring them, ‘We’ve got plenty of time…’. Further hammering home the fact that this is not 1979 is Morris making reference to the large New Look clothing shop that is unmissable to the left of the audience; no book had prepared me for this, though perhaps I ought to seek out some early UK tour bootlegs and listen intently for on-stage diatribes against Woolworths, Wimpy and Our Price. As could be said of several bands at this festival, sometimes you have to close your eyes and use what’s going off ahead of you to transport you to a more energetic, powerful, familiar-yet-unfamiliar place, whether that be based on what you’ve heard, read or created in your own imagination.

Or maybe it just wasn’t really my crowd. Thankfully, there is plenty of time to find them.

Afterwards, I eventually find my way back inside the Winter Gardens to the Opera House where a short film by the name of Code Blue: A Love Story (2015) is playing. The title alludes to a notorious T.S.O.L. song from 1981 about necrophilia containing lines such as ‘I don’t even care how she died… but I like it better if she smells of formaldehyde!’ and, well, ‘I wanna fuck the dead’. This subject is indeed visualised up on the screen, though the Kickstarter-backed film is impressively well-produced and, for those not familiar with the song, contains an unanticipated twist. When it finishes, Sean Maguire is back to talk with the director Susan Dynner (Punk’s Not Dead2007) and Jack Grisham (vocalist of T.S.O.L., an influential L.A. group whose name may be familiar to some as the Guns’ N’ Roses drummer wore their band t-shirt in the ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’ video).

The latter stays longer and sticks around to state his objection to today’s hypersensitivity about the mere mention of anything contentious (i.e. necrophilia); his comments draw as many cackles as squirms. He also answers questions, including one about his role in the cult film Suburbia (1984). Perhaps the most interesting part of the discussion is when he says that he does not really want to be a punk and, in contrast to many present, has often strived to live a relatively normal life. In the early days of T.S.O.L., instead of listening to his scene contemporaries on the road he was often putting on some soul, with a particular favourite being Barry White. Later in life, he tried to get a more conventional job and took up a role as a postman. What went wrong? ‘It’s fucked…the post just keeps on coming…’.

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A date with my generation calls and I leave early to head back outside to the Tower Street Arena. At 8:30pm, shortly after two chaps to my left finish a discussion on Japanese noisecore (‘it’s not just a phase, it’s a way of life’), New Jersey’s Bouncing Souls appear. Though personally never a fanatic, they have plenty of catchy, unifying numbers that are just the ticket for the first night of genuine liberation from everyday mundanity. Also, if they don’t mind me saying, they are a fine warm-up for tonight’s main event. Despite some initial qualms with the sound, vocalist Greg Attonito launches straight into ‘Sing Along Forever‘ and that sets the tone and tempo for the next 45-50 minutes. With his posture, at times he comes across as the most languid frontman who has ever graced a punk stage, yet he’s very much at ease and spiritedly unites a disparate array of fans as his band skip through a back catalogue spanning over twenty years.

‘I’m no good, you’re no better – wouldn’t we be perfect together?’. With the chant of this simple yet evocative refrain from ‘Late Bloomer‘, the dam safeguarding certain teenage memories and aspirations has well and truly broke. Similar feelings are evoked and indulged, particularly when airings are given to other songs from their most celebrated album, How I Spent My Summer Vacation (2001). ‘That Song‘, ‘Manthem‘, ‘Gone‘ all feature, with ‘True Believers‘ – their most trenchant and popular anthem – sandwiched towards the end in between two other belters surely on everyone’s ideal setlist: ‘Hopeless Romantic‘ and, particularly for this author, ‘Kids and Heroes‘.

While they may largely lack the anti-social tendencies and spite that is a prerequisite for others, I feel at home here engaging in a good-natured nostalgia-tinged singalong with many kindred spirits around me. If I met them in any other circumstances where there wouldn’t be so many of us about, we would doubtless become close friends in an instant. I conjure up thoughts like this throughout many music gigs I attend and have to marvel at the fact that alcohol does not inspire one of them.

Still, enough of my adolescence, it is again the turn of those 25-30 years my senior. Prowling the stage back in the Opera House is Don Letts (filmmaker, DJ, band manager, musician etc. who may as well have ‘I COULDN’T HAVE BEEN MORE THERE IF I TRIED’ tattooed on his forehead). A question from John Robb sends him into his own internal spiral of thoughts. ‘Malcolm [McLaren, Sex Pistols manager and entrepreneur] was a dickhead…’, but our dickhead? ‘…but also a genius’. Oh, alright then, different angle. Soon after, our host has to tell him that time is up. ‘Really? I feel I was only just getting started’. He has just enough time to promote his DJ set tonight and then, just like that, is standing directly behind me at the back of the hall, receiving praise for his passion and perspective.

At 9:50pm, another ’70s survivor in rude health takes to the stage. TV Smith is a staple of the festival and still has the capacity and conviction to captivate, even if it’s largely just him and his acoustic guitar. ‘Here’s some new stuff’ he says, which receives some unexpected cheers. ‘You don’t normally get that at the opera – it’s normally just the standards they’re after’. Credibility he may well ooze but I have got more than half my brain on the next band on my list so am unable to give him my undivided attention. Still, soon after he gains some musical accompaniment on stage and plays three Adverts classics on the trot – ‘No Time To Be 21‘ (as relevant then as etc. etc.), ‘Bored Teenagers‘ (always going to be relevant) and ‘Gary Gilmore’s Eyes‘ (a bit more topical, that one – infectious though). While I would have liked to have heard ‘One Chord Wonders‘ as well, I feel I ought to make my move.

I go out the door, past some stalls, turn left, then head down the stairs and I’m back in the Empress Ballroom, a solid half-hour early for the band that was probably the decisive factor in me buying a ticket this year: The Descendents. I have never seen them before and their deceptively advanced age (early-to-mid ’50s, somewhat incongruous with their sound) as well as this being their only UK show this year (and a rare one it is at that) forced my debit card. While it may be a stretch to call myself an obsessive – it actually took time for many of their songs to grow on me – I am one of many for whom Milo Goes to College (1982) is a seminal album. Though the ‘inventors of pop-punk’ tag is rather imaginative (erm, Ramones?), there is certainly a strain of more melodic punk rock that derives at least in part from this Californian band (NOFX, early Less Than Jake, Face to Face et al.). Many here clearly wish to pay their dues, as evidenced by the dozens of Milo shirts I have seen all day, the bearers of which rapidly surround me as we are all confronted by a luminous logo of the same caricature of the lead singer.

Milo Aukerman & co. hit the stage and power into ‘Everything Sux‘, the opening track from the 1996 eponymous ‘comeback’ album. This segues into a blistering version of ‘Hope‘, perhaps the most direct and – for those in their formative years, at least – relatable song on the 1982 record. These two albums – their most popular – are mined throughout the next hour with, amongst others from the former, ‘Rotting Out‘, ‘When I Get Old‘, the frenetic ‘Coffee Mug‘ (‘Mug, mug, mug!’) and ‘I’m The One‘ being blasted out more raucously than the studio versions. The 22-minute-long earlier release provides us with ‘I Wanna Be A Bear‘, album-opener ‘Myage‘ (big reaction) and the cutting-yet-catchy if-you’ve-heard-just-one-song-it’s-probably ‘Suburban Home‘. I am unable to really absorb each individual song on its own terms as many are such short bursts of energy, angst and/or melody that it’s often more the overall experience of seeing a revered band that prevails. Despite his grey ways, ex-biochemist Milo, aided by the crowd, is still largely believable delivering his snotty snapshots of bespectacled and sometimes spiteful early adulthood – though some may uncharitably say he’s also not out-of-place in the current climate shouting lines such as ‘I’m a Pervert!‘. Some may say that. Some.

Drummer Bill Stevenson can also still hop on his bike and ride around town. He has, after all, only finished playing with FLAG just four hours prior. Collectively, they still sound the part, though I am nevertheless somewhat relieved to have not witnessed a 53-year-old man shout, ‘I’m a boy and not a toy / I will kill and I will destroy / PARENTS!‘. That said, I do hear ‘I Don’t Wanna Grow Up‘ – ‘ner-ner, ner, ner, ner-ners’ and all. They are also much more than a heritage act, as they play just as many songs from each of their two most acclaimed albums as their most recent release, Hypercaffium Spazzinate (2016); the breezy, evergreen single, ‘Victim of Me‘, in particular, stands out.

It is also a pleasure to hear ‘Nothing With You‘, ‘Talking‘ and, especially, ‘Get The Time‘. Despite its easy accessibility, I hadn’t banked on them playing the latter ultra-catchy number and so I am thrilled to be able to sing along to it. However, quibble as only a fanboy can, when their set culminates with two tracks that have never had me scrambling for the ‘repeat’ button, I do wonder if I will ever hear certain songs live: ‘We‘, ‘Tonyage‘, ‘M-16‘, ‘Statue of Liberty‘…and for that matter, the rest of the 1982 record.

Nevertheless, as with the Bouncing Souls, it is a pleasure to have experienced this band with so many like minds. Yet it is not the end of the night as the organisers have this year moved the headliner slots forward to accommodate the old-timers. Although, whereas most of my generation (loosely defined as anyone under the age of 35) are now heading for the stairs, I am staying put for Don Letts. It does not take me long to realise I should’ve reluctantly followed their lead and taken heed of the pioneer’s words earlier in the evening. Talking to John Robb, he said unequivocally: ‘If you don’t like reggage, don’t come’. Now, I don’t mind reggage – some of the early Trojan Records stuff certainly stands the test of time and the way the likes of The Clash, The Slits and Public Image Ltd. incorporated it to create new styles gets my vote. However, it rarely wins the day when duking it out for my aural affections. I have often been a little baffled by the seemingly obligatory reverence elder British punk fans pay to the genre and I know that the man hiding under his hat on stage is, at least in part, responsible for this. Indeed, so countless histories of punk will tell you, back in the nascent London scene of ’76/’77, Letts was often the DJ at gigs and with so few records of the radical new music available on the shelves, he instead regularly played his favourite reggae tunes. Doubtless plenty of people were already on the same page, but he also turned many others on to this style that they could have so easily overlooked. Many claim a kinship between the two genres, though despite being lured in by the prospect of hearing a set ‘in the spirit’ of what he would play in the ’70s, I am just not feeling it and trundle off. As a general life lesson, if you go into something expecting a revelatory experience, it will almost inevitably evade you.

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Perhaps I just need a rest. Having been ushered up to a seat on the upper level of the Opera House, I peer down at the stage at what I count to be 12-13 people (at least two leave and return at various points). They are mostly playing high-tempo ukelele-driven covers that take their lead from several different punk scenes of yore. The three men are certainly part of the core, but it is the ladies – and particularly the lead singer – who bring much of the appeal to The Pukes. Some of their strumming could scarcely be described as virtuouso (which, of course, puts them completely at odds with 99 per cent of male punk bands…) but their harmonies routinely hit the mark, particularly when they all coalesce to shout, somewhat incongruously, ‘I Ain’t No Goddamn Son of a Bitch‘ (The Misifts – ‘Where Eagles Dare’). Other covers include Dead Kennedys’ ‘Holiday in Cambodia‘, Alternative TV’s ‘Part-Time Punks‘ (‘Oh, this one isn’t about you…or us’ the vocalist unconvincingly assures us all) and Cock Sparrer’s ‘Because You’re Young‘. The lyrics of this particular song leave an impression on me: ‘You’re always sure / You’re always right / You see it all in black and white / You never listen to anyone / Because you’re young’. Not for the first time in the past few years, I wonder if I am ageing prematurely given that my sympathies lie with the original narrator of this tune (who was surely in his forties at the time) and not the righteous, wayward urchin who is being chided.

Like mine in no way whatsoever, The Pukes end their evening with ‘Sex and Violence‘. This Exploited anthem comes at the beginning and end of a medley and is supplemented with a couple of alphabetical arm gestures (crossed above the head for ‘Sex’ and raised up and parted for ‘Violence’).

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When I leave the Winter Gardens it is past 1am. It does not escape my attention that the three bands I have enjoyed the most today have been relatively melodic. Perhaps it is my preference, perhaps it is the scheduling or maybe it is just my way of easing in to things. Intense thrash-fests and more frantic stage-to-stage scurrying are undoubtedly on their way but for now, I am pleased to be heading back to the hotel with a spring in my step.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

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