Thursday 25 August 2022



Wednesday 3rd August 5pm, all aboard the Blackpool North bound Northern Fail stopper for my 19th (nineteenth!) trip to Rebellion Punk Festival (previously of Morecambe and known as 'Holidays in the Sun' and 'Wasted') but for many years now, based in Blackpool Winter Gardens.

This time though, it was a bit different.  Like most BRAPA trips, I was travelling solo.  Billy No Mates.  The solid gang of six or seven us who used to go couldn't make it for a variety of reasons.  Luckily, I'm used to keeping myself amused!

So I did something incredibly 'ticker-esque' and devised a challenge to try and watch a band beginning with each letter of the alphabet!  Punk effin' rock!  I'd done similar at Manchester where I'd achieved 16/26 letters, but with an extra day in Blackpool, could I get a clean slate?

Well no, cos there was no 'Q' or 'X' bands, unless I cheat and go and see 'Xploited'.  Just like BRAPA, I had to strategise when there was say, only one band playing beginning with a certain letter.

No sooner had I arrived in the Tangerinest town on earth, walking down to the Travelodge next to the football ground, when I had to be diverted down a side street cos some punks had set their B&B on fire .....

I'd done the same in 2011 so couldn't say much (a faulty toaster at 3am meaning the whole building had to be evacuated, fire brigade called, people carrying crying babies outdoors in the middle of the night, gosh I felt guilty even though it wasn't strictly my fault!)

And then it came into view, the one thing in Blackpool which makes me more nostalgic for the town than anything else .... the camp parrot at Coral Island.  The day they remove him, the day Blackpool has lost all trace of itself.

I checked into my hotel and then was straight back out to Tesco for a giant bag of food to sustain me for the next few days, trying to some extent to stick with my quite successful recent Keto diet.  Jimmy Armfield didn't condone it, but he went along with it .....

"Everywhere selling alcohol should be considered a pre-emptive" a wise man once told me.  Well, Tom 'Clag Monster' Irvin anyway.  So I head down for a late night pint at the Travelodge South Shore, Blackpool.  In the lift down, a sweating Dad was coming the other way armed with toilet rolls under each arm.  "Looks like a fun evening you've got planned" I comment.  He shakes his head sadly.  "It's for the kids, they're having a nightmare".  

Say no more mate, say no more.  We've all been there after that unwise 7th ESB. 

Down at the bar, a gang of Scottish people are getting pissed.  Scottish people crowding into Blackpool is a theme I notice every August.  A kid at the bar wants to colour something in, there are some coloured pencils in a pot next to me, I pass him one, he's not at all grateful.  Twild.  

Bottles of Pedi and Spittie are the craft offerings .....

I go for the Pedi, she pours it into a Beck's glass of peculiar shape which doesn't impress me much, but it is an enjoyable bottle in the airy, bland surroundings. Needs a carpet and a snug or two this boozer, I can't see it making the 2023 GBG.

Fast forward to Thursday morning, #Day1 of the festival.  I'd slept well and was raring to go.  Fewer seagulls keeping me awake in the night than in Carlisle last week, weirdly!  And more fresh air.  No need for a noisy fan on all night.

Much confusion at Winter Gardens as I join the queue for the wristband exchange just after 11am.  They've moved the entrance right around the other side since my last visit in 2018.  It doesn't work as well.  I tell a doorman I'm not a fan but even the word of BRAPA can't change the entire set up of the festival.

I hand over my paper ticket for the last time, the end of an era. Even this festival, which is quite retro anyway let's be honest, is going digital in 2023.

No bands due on for an hour so I head to old favourite Churchills which surely has been in a GBG in the long distant past .... it is rammed with punx.  Hobgoblin Gold is the only ale that is on, quite decent stuff, I have no alternative but to stand at the bar without being a bar blocker.  It isn't the funnest drinking experience of the weekend and hard to get a sense of the pub.

Back in the venue, I have an explore.  Yes, they've spent a fuck tonne of dosh on Winter Gardens in recent years, the entrance resembles a posh hotel lobby in Dubai but thankfully most of it feels pretty unaltered which is good, because it is a beautiful venue.  Spanish Galleon and Empress Ballroom for example, amazing.  If the bands are dull, you can look upwards and admire.  Hidden tunnels beneath it too, but I'm yet to find one.   

Mr Large gives me a bit of encouragement .....

And I must admit, I do enjoy these early stages of the festival before everyone has got in.  Not sure many people come to a Punk Festival for a bit of peace and quiet, but I revel in it.

My first band are On the Huh, never heard of them but 'O' is a difficult letter to go and get a result.  I'd been listening to their new E.P. Peep Show to get me in the mood this morning .....

The crowd soon get warmed up to them, they're a good solid outfit, jolly chaps obviously loving their moment in the spotlight.  Two giant blokes, one who is about 7 foot tall and 20 stone with a floppy mohawk throws his weight around, and another skinny one in a suit keeps bouncing off him.  Nice to see but 12:30pm on day one of four, conserve your energy lads, long weekend!

I'd be happy with this carpet in any pub

It's only their 7th ever gig!  So we'll forgive them the odd false start and a few nerves.

Lead singer wants to do some pantomime style humour ".... being in Blackpool and all that".  "Where's my setlist?" he asks.  "It is behind you!" we have to shout.  "I can't hear you!"  "IT'S BEHIND YOU!"  This is why we come to punk festivals.

Straight onto the next, over at the Arena stage, and V is for Vomit. They are far too nice and like a bunch of Dads to be scary and puke on stage, which of course is what I'd been hoping for. 


The former Almost Acoustic stage is selling some keg Sharp's Atlantic which I see as a win so I grab a pint and go upstairs to the Spanish Hall where the current Almost Acoustic stage is (little do I know until the final day that a brewery called Farm Yard or something have a stall selling proper powerful crafty stuff - epic fail on my part cos the Sharp's keg soon runs out and I resort to stuff like Worthington Creamflow which is ugggghhhh).

The next band is a letter 'M', fewer M's than I'd expect.  Music in our Underpants is the name, proper bonkers camp cabaret stuff, and yes they do play in their underpants.  One fan takes his trousers off in a show of unity and runs to the front to join in.  Anything goes here.  They play some cracking covers, Ghost Town by The Specials is my favourite.  Very intense wailing!

And when you aren't watching the band, you can admire the stunning Gulliver's Travels venue.  It's been out of use the last few years I've been to the festival, so great to see it back.  Another winning carpet too. 

A couple more bands follow, a man with a double bass slags off Wetherspoons so I go downstairs to watch the excellent Knock Off ('K' was a particularly tough letter) but I need a sit down by now, I'm not as young as I used to be! 

Before Blackpool's craft & micro revolution of the last 5 years, circa 2006-15, there was really only one brilliant pub offering a great selection of ales in town, and that was the Pump & Truncheon.  How many pints I've had in here over the years I shudder to think, must be York Tap levels.

I was saddened to hear it had recently been blanded out into the No 13 Bonny Street (why pubs think just naming themselves their address is cool or clever I'll never know, but I have a problem with Blackpool's micro naming too - way too many dull names which turn out to be excellent venues. Stop playing it safe micros, it isn't in the Blackpool spirit). 

I went to explore, worries what I'd find .....

And to some extent, I was reassured by what I saw.  The pool table remains, woohoo!  The general shape and feel of the pub is still there, you couldn't say 'it was a shadow of its former self' or anything too dramatic.  In fact, the Dark Star Revelation was a revelation, a better kept pint than I'd had in here on my last few visits to the P&T.

The had however removed all the police paraphernalia, which added character and humour and was a nod to the past police HQ.  And it was uncharacteristically quiet as a grave.  You'd always find the more discerning real ale drinking punks flocking here.  Not anymore, not now they've got stuff like 1887 Brew Room, Albert's and the excellent brand new Cask & Tap, all closer to the venue, and better.  I'll visit all of those in parts 2-4.

I was hungry by now so got a nice big bit of fish from my old favourite Micky Finns, it is tradition, now this was one time I was really missing my friends being here cos we always used to come here, I even recognise the bloke.  Lovely stuff - Keto-tastic ....

Back at Winter Gardens, I'm interested to note that they've renamed what I've always called the Galleon as 'The Old Victoria' but it'll always be the Galleon to me.  One of my favourite rooms in Winter Gardens and normally quite quiet too.

Time to watch a band I knew and could properly singalong to ... B was for Bouncing Souls and despite not knowing anything they've done since 2006, and not much post 2001, they played a proper crowd pleasing greatest hits set and I was lovin' it ..... though I'm a bit old for moshing or pogoing these days so I just did this weird booty shake hip wiggle thing but it was fine cos this couple even older than me joined in, I might call it the Stymie Shuffle!  Or not.

It was boiling in the Empress Ballroom, I had to get out of the venue again (not great form when you've set yourself a pointless band A-Z challenge) so I visit another of our old stomping grounds, and always hugely popular with the punks cos they put piped punk on at deafening levels, sometimes even put live bands on at pre and after parties, and the staff sometimes dress up for the occasion.  Yes, the Rose & Crown is a pub that really embraces the festival.

I was SHOCKED when it appeared in the GBG a few years back, ale is always decent but Bombardier in polycarbonate all I got for about 10 years.  They had a Blackpool beer on today, but I got told off by a real Miss Bossyboots for failing to read the 'Cash Only' signs.  I was later told by a barman in a 'card only' pub that they were probably doing a dodgy tax manoeuvre or something.  I couldn't possibly comment.

After a nice chat with two Norwegian first timers about Blackpool friendless, Turbonegro and the venue layout, the sun was setting on day one and it was time to check out the brand new shiny outdoor R Fest stage, holding 15,000 (allegedly).

'Twixt Blackpool Tower and the sea, covering the prom bit where they have all the comedy quotes on the ground, the annoying organisers made us walk a long way around and then through some turnstiles (sadly not the band Turnstile) where I got a full body search, front and back!  

I get chatting with a drunk Irish man, he warns me there's a fascist march in Blackpool tomorrow (I didn't ask) but leaves me with the parting words "but then again, you probably are one yourself for all I know! Bye!" 

With about 5,000 portaloos to the right, I have a quick wee and then go to check out the ale situation to the left.  

The staff are ace out here and they have a few Marston's bottles on so I get a Wainwright and start making my way towards the front, which is like another mile walk, where another band who's songs I actually know well and like are headlining.  

Yes, L is for the Levellers and it was an amazing way to finish the night .... though I stupidly didn't think they were coming back for an encore so was in a portaloo again when 15 Years started up and that's one of my faves, so I had to enjoy them from about a mile away.  Might have to take a pair of binoculars next year.

So that was a cracking first day.  Join me tomorrow morning, I had my sights set on an actual BRAPA pub tick, and of course, plenty more bands beginning with various letters of the alphabet! 

I'm going away for the Bank Holiday weekend so see ya next week for part two.

Thanks for reading, Si  

No comments:

Post a Comment