Day one is usually fairly quiet and the New Band Stage is a great place to start. It’s a chance to see some great up-and-coming bands and also some you wished you’d avoided.
Introduced by Johnny Wah-Wah, of established punk band On Trial UK, it’s a fantastic opportunity for smaller bands who’ve probably only ever played low-key gigs in their home towns to reach a wider audience.
The ball got rolling with the first act at lunchtime. No Cross had travelled from Sunderland. It would be very easy to compare them to another, more famous Sunderland band, Leatherface. So easy, in fact, that I will. They sounded very like Leatherface and I’m not sure how much was influence and how much was theft. However, being the first act to perform is no easy task and the few assembled in the room enjoyed it immensely.
More people drifted in as The Poly-Esters, an all-girl band from Blackpool, were handed the baton in the performance relay. People say there aren’t enough female bands, but they just aren’t looking in the right places. This lot certainly had plenty of energy and their songs weren’t bad either. Being local meant they had a lot of mates in there and the room became a huge singalong.
As one band finishes, another one takes the stage within minutes. This keeps the interest of the punters and stops them going off to look at other things. In theory. Salem Street managed to thin the crowd out a little. They sounded too generic. It was as if they’d never listened to punk and bought a book called Punk Rock for Dummies and followed its instruction to the letter. A fair few disappointed punks left the venue to go and see what else was on offer.
The fact that a lot of people had been drinking since breakfast time was becoming noticeable. Leech Bleeders had clearly been at it themselves. They were a very playful band and the guitarist’s pink jacket was actually louder than their music. The lyrics from rapper KRS-One’s Sound of da Police were somehow worked into one of the songs, you know, just for a laugh.
Some hipsters had been seen milling about, with waistcoats, pointy shoes and moustache wax and it was a surprise to see them take to the stage. They were Mick O’Toole and they took the blueprint created by Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly and urinated all over it. They were trying to polish something that doesn’t need to be polished and they overdid it, failing spectacularly. The crowd were unimpressed and began to drift away in numbers.
It’s easy to be critical of the acts, but it’s worth remembering that none of them get paid. Every single band was begging people to buy CDs, t-shirts and badges in the vague hope that it would pay the petrol money to get back home.
By late afternoon the audience began to swell and Mutiny turned things around. They were a band of older men and they played stuff which sounded like it was from the old school. They were very well received. Imagine Discharge and GBH having a fight and you’re there with what they sounded like.
Like someone else turning up at a party wearing the same outfit as you, B Movie Britz sounded exactly the same as Mutiny. Anybody who noticed clearly didn’t care and a circle pit developed on the dance floor.
The quick turnaround and lack of time to do a decent soundcheck was detrimental to Drag, who suffered a little from the guitar being too quiet. They didn’t let it get them down though and ploughed through some groove-driven songs and kept the room moving.
Next up were Honey, who were melodic and solemn. There were hints of Alkaline Trio and some quite staggering vocal harmonies. It was definitely one in the eye for people who say punk rock is all shouting.
If there’s one thing guaranteed to make a room bounce at a punk festival, it’s a bit of ska. Luckily this is what the Popes of Chillitown had packed into their cases before travelling to Blackpool and they shared it with the crowd. The room was like one big smile and it was a shame when their half hour was up.
Besserbitch, Pussycat Kill and Hearts Under Fire were all adequate, but not outstanding. All three bands were quite melodic and by being so far up the bill they were able to play to a much bigger audience. Some of the earlier bands were a lot better than these three and it was sad to think that so many people had missed out on them by taking in the sights of Blackpool or going to the pub.
The one we’d all come to see, at the top of the pile, was Ted Dibiase and the Million Dollar Punk Band. Their act basically relies on the audience believing that they are posh, wealthy criminals. Their music is frankly amazing. It’s full of a mix of fast, screaming bits and slower, more melodic bits. The theatre of throwing “money” into the audience, along with “cocaine” and, at one point, a body wrapped in bin bags makes for a good laugh and doesn’t distract from the music. Even when the guitarist puts on a balaclava, grabs what I assume was a replica gun and pretends to rob the bar, the music marches on. This band are destined for bigger things.