The 10 rowdiest sets from Rebellion Festival 2022

Blackpool’s punk-rock bash at the beach roars back to celebrate 25 years of Holidays In The Sun...

The 10 rowdiest sets from Rebellion Festival 2022
Sam Law
Header photo:
Chris Hill
Callum Clarke, Tony Ghirardi, Dod Morrison, Gerald Underwood

When the Sex Pistols released their wry 1977 single Holidays In The Sun, they probably never imagined that it would have the kind of domino effect to see 10,000-odd outcasts descending on Blackpool’s seafront 45 years down the line. And yet here we are…

Of course, Rebellion Festival has long-since established itself as the world’s premier old-school punk showcase. Across four days and seven stages (plus a cinema) we get a line-up jam-packed with the very best of the genre’s luminaries and safety-pinned young guns. From Norway’s Domt to Mexico’s Migrana Social, Australia’s Young Offenders to Indonesia’s Turtles Jr, onstage and off, it’s an awesomely international gathering. Away from the music, too, there there are showcases for fashion and art, talks from industry heavyweights and even a ‘wall of remembrance’ for this year’s attendees to commemorate the Rebellion veterans we’ve lost.

There’s a sense of extra significance in 2022, too. Celebrating a quarter-century since the punk army first invaded the city’s gorgeous Victorian Winter Gardens under that aforementioned Holidays In The Sun banner, there’s a bold expansion with a massive outdoor stage erected at the foot of the Blackpool Tower under its own R-Fest branding. Beyond that, though, it marks the festival’s return into the changed post-COVID world, against a backdrop of social crisis and war. Loud, angry expression has never been so vital. So here are K!’s pick of the most memorably raucous moments from across the weekend.

Moscow Death Brigade

There’s no shortage of nostalgia at Rebellion, but few acts in modern alternative music feel quite as contemporary as Moscow Death Brigade. With the Ukraine conflict raging on, the balaclava-sporting Russian mob’s anti-fascist, anti-war, anti-Putin demonstration in Rebellion’s Arena is an invaluable reminder of the importance of counter-cultural movements around the globe – and that we should always be wary of tarring all the citizens of any nation with the same stick. Wrapping punk attitude, rap-rock ballast and electro cutting-edge into a combustible whole, songs like Never Walk Alone, Boltcutter and Papers, Please! explode with all the righteous fire of Molotov Cocktails.

Photo: Dod Morrison

Sham 69

Jimmy Pursey might be pushing 70 at this point, but the legendary Sham 69 frontman still drips with more no-fucks-given outsider cool than most musicians a third his age. Piling into an utterly rammed Empress Ballroom just as the Friday night beer’s properly begun to flow, there’s an odd mix of punk-rock reverence and hard-partying. With the Surrey legends loosing bangers like Tear Gas Eyes and Angels With Dirty Faces, there isn’t much time to stop and thing about it, though. Perhaps the most striking facet of their endlessly high-energy performance is how true the visceral, gobby dissatisfaction of cuts like Bastille Cake (dedicated to the rioting French), Borstal Breakout and The Clash’s White Riot continues to ring all these decades down the line.

Photo: Dod Morrison

Pirates Of The Pubs

For those still wandering the Winter Gardens after into the small hours of Saturday morning, Pirates Of The Pubs offer a delicious diversion into absurdity. A Czech collective performing Celtic punk about, eh, drunken pirates, the České Budějovice natives appear to be well in on their own silliness, goading on a bustling Arena as we sink the final pints of the night before being kicked out to continue drinking over at The Rose & Crown. There’s very little surprising about songs like We Are Pirates and Budweis Pirates Clan, but they’re the perfect soundtrack for the sort of late-night madness that even sees one wheelchair-bound punter screaming along in the middle of the pit.

Photo: Gerald Underwood


In one sense, it’s a little depressing that Texan hardcore veterans MDC – Millions of Dead Cops – continue to be as relevant today as they ever have. In another, it’s inspiring to see the massive audience who’ve come out for them in the cavernous Casbah stage, willing to keep fighting the good fight. The pit-spinning classics come thick and fast: Multi Death Corporation, Radioactive Chocolate, War Is A Racket, Corporate Deathburger. Even more motivating, though, are frontman Dave Dictor’s stories of facing off with racist goons, and hearing how they inspired evergreen anthems like Born To Die – whose chorus was recently repurposed by Green Day as ‘No Trump / No KKK / No fascist USA!’

Photo: Callum Clark

Bob Vylan

“Can you believe they were going to try and put us in that little room over there?” grins Bobby Vylan, defiantly gesturing towards the far-smaller Arena stage, as Bob Vylan stride into the gaping Empress Ballroom just after 1am on Sunday morning. Having only been bumped-up a few hours earlier, and with a heaving dancefloor awaiting them, there’s a sense of unplanned chaos about London rap-rock duo’s high-octane set. The violent defiance of songs like Northern Line and I Heard You Want Your Country Back is pure Rebellion. The inevitable stage-invasion for Wicked And Bad, meanwhile, feels all the more anarchic under the gold leaf and swinging chandeliers of the grand old room. All in, another serving of no-holds-barred brilliance from the hottest band in Britain.

Photo: Dod Morrison


Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein will be getting ready to headline Chicago’s massive Riot Fest with The Misfits this time next month, but – despite going on 15 minutes late – there’s no lack of focus as he bludgeons through Sunday afternoon’s Casbah-stage showing with his ‘solo’ band. The combination of metallic theatre and punky high-energy pulsing through songs like Abominator and Cemetarysexxx makes for a welcome change of pace from the non-stop spit ‘n’ grit elsewhere, while frontman Alex ‘Wolfman’ Story looks like some kind of crazed goth ringmaster: the all-action counterpart to his infamous six-stringer. In the end, it’s performance as muscular as the big man himself.

Photo: Dod Morrison

Peat And Diesel

Having travelled down from Scotland’s distinctly rustic Western Isles, Peat And Diesel seem somewhat bemused by their invitation to Rebellion’s punk-rock party for their first few songs on Sunday afternoon. With all three members seated for the most part, and a sound that draws as much from folk-rock legends like Runrig as the rambunctious bar-room racket of AC/DC, they do make for an initially jarring juxtaposition to most of the Empress Ballroom’s inhabitants. By the time stompers like Heorna Mhòr and Country Boy are spilling from the speakers, though, with a mob of mohawks going wild down the front, they’ve been warmly welcomed into the Rebellion family.

Photo: Tony Ghirardi

Billy Bragg

Billy Bragg’s brand of old-school activism makes for a thought-provoking soundtrack as the sun sets over Blackpool’s crumbling seafront on Sunday night. Despite the Essex troubadour’s excitement about getting to play his instruments far louder than he normally would in this sprawling outdoor space, the vintage set-up of one man and his guitar is never going to kick up the wildest pits of the weekend. The messaging of timeless compositions like Sexuality, There Is Power In A Union, and Woody Guthrie’s All You Fascists Are Bound To Lose, however, feels as vital now as it ever has, and their words are sung back with as much indignant fervour as any this weekend.


Staggeringly, it was just over a week before they rocked up at Rebellion that Cro-Mags drummer Gary ‘G-Man’ Sullivan suffered a collapse in Italy that saw him rushed to hospital, and his bandmates genuinely unsure whether he’d ever make it out. He’s on absolutely monstrous form in the Casbah on Sunday evening, battering through the likes of No One’s Victim and Down But Not Out with massive, juggernaut purpose. There’s an authentic electricity running through his bandmates, too, with even normally uber-macho frontman Harley Flanagan visibly close to tears as he promises that every Cro-Mags show from here on out will be the best ever. As Hard Times and Apocalypse Now swing their vicious parting blows, he seems genuinely set on keeping that promise.

Photo: Dod Morrison

Stiff Little Fingers

There’s no shortage of English street punk at Rebellion this year. Rancid’s iconic guitarist Lars Frederiksen is here with Kent veterans The Last Resort. Cockney Rejects – whose song ‘Oi! Oi! Oi!’ inadvertently became a banner for the subgenre – rowdily raise the roof. Their fellow Londoners Cock Sparrer are even celebrating their 50th (fiftieth) anniversary. Where much of that sound has been stained for many fans through its misappropriation by far-right nationalist groups, Stiff Little Fingers continue to offer a cleverer, nimbler, unambiguously right-on alternative from the other side of the Irish sea while utilising much of the same fist-pumping hookiness and canny sloganeering. With Brexit tensions making songs like Suspect Device and Barbed Wire Love (unfortunately) more relevant than they have been in years, there’s a charged atmosphere in the utterly rammed Empress Ballroom. And in Alternative Ulster, the Belfast boys are able to effortlessly drop curtain with one of the most iconic tunes of the entire festival. A great place to leave off until we stick in our pins to head back to the seaside the same time next year…

Photo: Dod Morrison

Rebellion Festival will return to Blackpool’s Winter Gardens and seafront August 3 – 6, 2023

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