Monday, August 12, 2013

Ruts D.C. and T.V. Smith at The 2013 Rebellion Festival

What follows is an attempt to write a piece about my four days at The Rebellion Festival last weekend. Most of it was written while I was there (or has been taken from notes made at the time) and while it's a bit disjointed here and there it does reflect the general feel of the weekend complete with a very unexpected incident along the way. Enjoy.

Thursday - a good journey up to Blackpool with Andy Peart and 'Fast' Tony Clarke saw your humble narrator arrive at Grampian House bed and breakfast establishment around 7.15pm. 'Oooh you've got wi-fi, we haven't got wi-fi' said Fast Tony ruefully. Yes, but you've no doubt got a jacuzzi - mind you, wi-fi is probably more useful... room 5 looks good to me so I sort my stuff out then walk along the seafront to The Winter Gardens to collect my AAA wristband then join Andy and Tony for veggie burgers at Nando's. Rock 'n' roll eh? By the time we've eaten it's nearer to 10 o'clock than 9; at the venue we meet up with Esso, John King, Phil from Bug and his wife Annette and more in the Spanish Bar, all of which means that the first act the I actually see is Walter Lure whose set in The Arena starts at midnight with 'One Track Mind'. I last saw him play nearly 30 years ago with Johnny Thunders And The Heartbreakers, and I'm pleased to say that the ensuing years haven't dulled his Les Paul swagger one bit. From there is was off to The Bizarre Bazaar for a few songs from The Ramonas (who played 'Chinese Rocks' just a few minutes after Walter Lure - weird!) before heading to The Empress Ballroom for a brilliant set from New Model Army with Justin Sullivan as intense as ever and the band sounding superb. A good start to proceedings.

Friday - I made it down to The Winter Gardens in time to catch around half the set from Taurus Trakker and very good they were too, although it was impossible not to be distracted by The Good-Fer-Nothing Circus who were to one side of the stage inviting people to have their photos taken standing on top of a chap laying on a bed of nails. Scary! In the meantime I had to find Stuart the head of merchandising to find out if I could store the two boxes of t-shirts and CDs that I'd bought with me somewhere in the venue ready for Saturday's gig; if that proved to be possible I then had to work out how to get them to the venue as I couldn't carry them all on my own. Sounds simple doesn't it? Well the first part certainly was, and Stuart turned out to be a very nice chap who couldn't have been more helpful and who offered to store the shirts in a room where he kept all the event merchandise. So far so good. So now all I had to do was collect the shirts and take them to the venue. Simple eh?
Have you ever been to Blackpool? I used to go there with my family when I was a lad and so have a lot of good memories about the place, but that was before the words 'one way system' meant anything to me. Myself and the afore-mentioned Phil and Annette (who had rather wildly volunteered to help) spent the best part of an hour attempting to find the back doors of The Winter Gardens - well, that's not strictly true as we knew where it was, we just couldn't work out how to get to it thanks to the psycho drama that is the Blackpool one way system. Several people offered directions, but they always said things like 'well it depends on whether (insert road name here) is open today or not' - many of the roads have those bollards that can be raised or lowered according to which way they're running the roads that day, which means that no one really knows how to get anywhere on any given day. It's mad! Still we got there in the end after a predictably huge amount of swearing and general insanity. After that it was time to see some bands so I did, catching all or part of sets by Eastfield, Charred Hearts, Long Tall Texans, Attila The Stockbroker, Hazel O'Connor, Wob, The Beatlesons, The Crows, The Duel, Peter And The Test Tube Babies, The Guitar Gangsters, Eddie And The Hot Rods, The Damned, Ed Banger And The Nosebleeds (no sign of Morrissey or Billy Duffy sadly) The Vibrators, Neck, The Buzzcocks, Justin Sullivan And Dean White, Space and probably some others. During this time any number of bars were open selling any number of beers - you can work the rest out for yourself...

Saturday - ok, here we go then. All this drinking and cavorting is all very well (and it must be said, tremendous fun!) but the real reason that I'm here is that tonight Ruts D.C. headline The Bizarre Bazaar stage. After spending a lazy morning running through a few of the songs on guitar I arrived at the venue around half past twelve to be told that our merchandise table would be available at 2pm so I got some lunch and saw a couple of numbers from Texas Terri Bomb before retrieving the shirts and discs and setting up our stall. Our slot was next to The Bizarre Bazaar which meant that I managed to see at least a couple of songs from most of the bands playing there that afternoon (all of whom have released material on All The Madmen Records) and met a lot of very nice people, many of whom made comments that confirmed what had become more and more evident since I first arrived at the festival - that a lot of people were really looking forward to our show. No pressure then...
The rest of the band arrived around half past five - after they'd bought our equipment in Segs heroically offered to take over the stall (I say 'heroically' as he was immediately besieged with people wanting autographs and to have their photo taken with him) while I went to get some food and to collect my guitar from my room. Upon my return we formulated a plan - Mark the driver would take over on the stall and we'd all meet in our dressing room at 10 o'clock to warm up for the show. This gave me chance to see a couple of songs from Chas And Dave and to catch up with a few people before climbing the four flights of stairs (!) to our dressing room at the allotted time. Myself and Segs had ran through quite a few songs or bits of songs before Dave joined us; Molara and Seamus arrived soon after that and it was suddenly half past eleven and time to get ready for the gig. And what a gig it was - the place was packed (and I mean packed) and with people dancing from the word go the next 75 minutes passed by in what felt like seconds. An extraordinary show, followed by an equally extraordinary time back out on the merch stall, where hands were shaken, CDs and records were signed and we all agreed that the gig had been everything we hoped it would be. Oh yes!

Sunday - first things first, and it's back to the venue to load up the van and wish the rest of the band a safe journey home. As I walked back through the venue I saw T.V. Smith behind his merchandise stall and decided to go over to say hello; when I got there here was taping a piece of cardboard to the front of the table - it said that his show was being bought forward a half an hour to 9 o'clock and would feature your humble narrator as 'special guest'. Oo-er! It turned out that Pascal Briggs should have been on before T.V. but hadn't made it to the festival so a longer set was now required - 'I've been trying to call you but couldn't get through - do you know anyone who could lend you an acoustic guitar?'
I went back to base camp, had a shower and got my (electric) guitar out. I hadn't played a show with the mighty Mr. Smith since back in March but fortunately I had all the songs that I play with him on my mobile phone for just such an emergency (if only it worked as a telephone as well!) and so set about revising some songs. I also managed to get an hour and a bit of sleep - well, it was going to be a long evening...
As I walked back to the venue The Red Arrows were displaying over the sea - Blackpool appeared to be at a standstill with people parked up on street corners and all the pavements crammed with onlookers. I wended my weary way through them and went straight to the venue office where I arranged to borrow a guitar; there was was time for some food before catching a few songs from The Riffs, I, Ludicrous and Lene Lovich. I'd arranged to meet T.V. at The Almost Acoustic stage at half past eight, where the very helpful soundman Huggy produced a guitar that had been left there for me by Jennie from The Crows. (Thanks Jennie - that's another drink I owe you! Oh and thanks to Billy Liar for lending me a capo too.) After a (very) quick soundcheck T.V. took to the stage for 30-odd minutes of excellence before beginning 'Immortal Rich' which was my cue to start getting ready to go on. I knew he'd be doing two more songs after that -  plenty of time to go to the toilet (even guitar heroes need to have a pee before the show you know!) and get a drink. Or so I thought - I met several people who had enjoyed the Ruts D.C. show and who wanted to tell me all about it. Well I don't want to be rude but I'm on in five minutes...
I just - just! - made it to the stage as my name was announced. Phew! I just made through the set too, with T.V. calling a couple of songs that I hadn't revised - I didn't know that I had quite so much skin on my teeth! By the end of our set we were treated to the unusual sight of massed poging at an acoustic gig, an amazing end to a great show. 
Afterwards it's handshakes and photos all round before heading to the Empress Ballroom to see Sham 69. I was never their biggest fan but I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed their show - and no one is more surprised than me to be typing that sentence.
Only one thing could follow that - the after show party upstairs in The Spanish Bar. Now it's at this point that details get sketchy. Very sketchy. I definitely spent a fair bit of time talking to Gaye Advert, and Richard from Cadiz Music, and Arturo Bassick, Eugene from Vive Le Rock and no doubt quite a few other people too; when that ended at 4am I went to The Orbiston Hotel with various members of The Duel where incredibly the bar was still open. Details are even more sketchy after that... but what a weekend it had been my friends, what a weekend it had been. Same time next year? Let's hope so.

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