Festival Report – Hard Rock Hell Punk 19

Having already witnessed a truly special weekend a few years back in HRH NWOBHM with its incredible line up, the promoters once again pulled out another blinder – this time in a punk weekend extravaganza! Being too young to see many of these bands in their heyday, the lure proved irresistible and confident of the organisers, having handled the previous event so well, I duly journeyed once again to the 2,000 capacity O2 Academy in Sheffield for yet another amazing weekend!

As previously, the organisation was nothing short of excellent, with no one in the crowd I spoke to complaining, sensible beer prices and a very comfortable, safe seating and standing environment. I also noted that the ticket and merchandise prices were also reasonable in keeping to punk’s original ethos, along with friendly, helpful venue staff all of which made for the perfect environment for the crowd to enjoy themselves – why can’t more gigs be like this!?

Most importantly, per HRH NWOBHM, all the bands I saw were not just charged up for the show, but had duly prepared, fully sound checked and were running to clockwork precision but still full of punk attitude – so you knew this was going to be one rocking weekend!

All fotos by Simon Dunkerley

Saturday 5th October

Emblazoned into my psyche from the moment I saw him in “The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle”, ED TUDOR POLE (aka Tenpole Tudor) may now be in his 60s, but is still something of a cult figure and certainly pulled a large crowd for his mid afternoon set. A mix of acoustic punk, stand up and agit rock as played solo, it was actually his loveable banter delivering a stream of witty quips in between telling punk tales of old coupled with his utterly eccentric behaviour that endeared to him to everyone, who required little prompting to sing en masse to ‘Who Killed Bambi’ and ‘Swords Of A 1,000 Men’. Bowing out to a massive cheer, it was clear he was not left untouched either.

CHRON-GEN were anything but a laff. With tons of power riffs, heavy bass and hammering drums, I actually thought they were too heavy to be a punk band, even though they certainly looked it back in 1979. Still fronted by originals Glynn Barber (vox /guitar) and drummer Jon Johnson, they were a very tight outfit indeed as they put on a solid performance delivering the likes of ‘Lies’, ‘Outlaw’ and ‘L.S.D.’ to a well receptive crowd.

Not to outdone whatsoever were THE VIBRATORS, a power trio who were very high energy, especially in founder drummer John Edwards, and blitzed their way with no nonsense and little rapport through songs like ‘Automatic Lover’, ‘Baby Baby’ and ‘Judy Says (Knock You In The Head)’, a mixture of slow and fast singalongs but always delivered with intense emotion and utter conviction clearly appreciated by another large audience.

Described as ‘..politically motivated, musically intense and deeply confrontational..’ there is little doubting DISCHARGE in that regard, yet many overlook their influence on so many other bands including Metallica, along with fashioning their own sound in d-beat. Still with originals Bones, Tezz and Rainy, their full horror was unleashed unceremoniously – nay acrimoniously – tonight to the unsuspecting and uninitiated through ‘Protest And Survive’, ‘State Violence State Control’ and the more than apt ‘The Nightmare Continues’. With bark blast vocalist Jeff Janiak stalking and growling across the stage dripping in sweat and the rest of the band seemingly not giving a toss aside from a few subtle nods to acknowledge the obvious homage shown by the moshing crowd, this really was as close to the fetid and dangerously provocative days of crust punk as you’d ever want to be – without a health warning!

Oh my gawd, as the ugly opening riffs sounded and Animal growled ‘We.. Are The League’, the ANTI-NOWHERE LEAGUE set upon Sheffield viciously, bringing all their crudity and foulness across legendary songs like ‘Snowman’, ‘Can’t Stand Rock ‘N’ Roll’ and ‘We Will Not Remember You’ to the Sheffield crowd who were more than up for a singalong! Already cult thanks to these timeless numbers and then made even more (in)famous by Metallica, the whole Academy shook as it roared out the words to ‘So What’ and even an exhausted Animal smiled as he and the band left to a heroes applause – job

done lads.

Well, there were other heroes in the house tonight too, straight from Custom House in London’s plushest East End, COCKNEY REJECTS were as heavy as the rough streets they came from and pulling no punches – literally – as front man Jeff ‘Stinky’ Turner shuffled in like a boxer throwing jabs, crosses and hooks, continuing unabated for over an hour as his brother Micky Geggus (guitar) and Vince Riordan (bass) smashed and bashed out ‘War On The Terraces’, ‘We Are The Firm’, ‘The Greatest Cockney Rip-Off’ and ‘Oi! Oi! Oi!’, egging on the audience to keep it up until near the chimes at midnight. Mental, manic and more over the top, it could’ve been 1979 all over again.


Sunday 6th October

Following the departure of founder singer Martin Roper, ANTI-PASTI are now a 3 piece converted into a power trio delivering as much rock as in their punk judging by classics like ‘Another Dead Soldier’ and ‘No Government’ sitting comfortably alongside new songs like ‘Lies Lies Lies’ taken from their 2016 album “Rise Up”. Certainly still with plenty of angst and moving about the stage well, Anti-Pasti’s singalong material was as hard hitting as it was memorable given the warm applause from the mid afternoon crowd.

A massive roar greeted VICE SQUAD as the iconic presence of front woman Beki Bondage confirmed her place in punk rock history, taking the band to success in North America as well as releasing albums over the decades through a revolving door of line ups. Of course Bond looked great too even in her mid 50s as she led from the front again, handling both vocal and guitar duties exuding a commanding presence over all in a no messing, ultra tight performance of songs like ‘Last Rockers’, ‘Latex Love’  and ‘Sniffing Glue’, taken from across the band’s discography going right back to 1981. Simply punk feminesse at its best!

Easily the suavest band of the entire weekend and fronted by the equally striking Gene October, CHELSEA at one point featured Billy Idol and Tony James who went on to found Generation X, so no surprises that there were new wave elements to the art school punk they played on songs like ‘Right To Work’, ‘Urban Kids’ and the quite appropriate ‘I’m On Fire’, attesting to October’s captivation of the audience.

If Peter Kay were a punk then he’d be called PETER AND THE TEST TUBE BABIES! Seriously, if you could be serious, that if vocalist Peter Bywaters wanted an alternative career, then he’d have stand up comedy nailed, not just for his resemblance to the aforementioned comedian but equally for being  deported from the US in 2017 for taking the piss outta – yep, you guessed it. Considered ‘punk pathetique’ by brainier school kids, Bywaters, along with co founding guitarist Strangefish, have issued a breathtaking 14 albums in the band’s career, and their obvious popularity and continuing international appeal is undoubted – well, except by the White House! Tonight was no exception with everyone in the house jammed in to hear the likes of ‘Up Yer Bum’, ‘None Of Your Fucking Business’ and ‘Banned From The Pubs’, each one in turn greeted by raucous cheers. In between, Bywaters took the piss endlessly – and you only had to look at the cheeky blighter’s Cheshire cat grin to break out into a barrel of laughs yourself. An utter pleasure to witness.

There was only one band who could follow all of that, and bring this amazing weekend to a close – SHAM 69. One of the most successful punk bands of the era, they achieved five top 20 singles along with national television appearances. Formed in the mid 70s by front man Jimmy Pursey, who has lost none of his charisma and had a ripped torso that could’ve given Iggy Pop a run for his money, the 64 year old exuded an electric appeal that continuously drew the packed to the gills audience physically closer to him, just as he did back in the band’s heyday. Brimming with angst, throwing bottles of water violently around the stage but never missing his cue to the mike, Pursey led the crowd as they chanted ‘Sham! Sham!’ through electric versions of ‘Borstal Breakout’ and ‘If The Kids Are United’. On ‘What Have We Got’ the chorus shout out of ‘Fuck all!!’ threatened to blow the roof off, while the band’s heart was shown in their cover of ‘White Riot’, movingly dedicated to the late, but still great Joe Strummer. The band got 3 encores, but for me nothing was held back on ‘Hersham Boys’, with everyone’s voice blown out for the count – an incredible experience by all accounts!

I couldn’t help but feel that HRH had done punk rock true justice tonight, given that many – if not all – the bands sadly wouldn’t have got an event like this back in the day. Equally, much must be said of the crowd themselves, many of whom had journeyed from afar and other countries to show their dedication and heart still aflame to prove that true punk was never a parody or passé – and is still not dead.

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