When it comes to genres that are at war with themselves, punk is tied only with metal for having a ridiculous number of micro-genres and cliques. This is because at 40 years old, punk has weathered enough waves, reinventions and regional scenes to become a self-sustaining and versatile beast and still one of the last few genuine vestiges of counter-culture. Rebellion, the biggest punk festival in the world, casts a wide umbrella; for one weekend the post-post-post hardcore kids, the OG 70’s mohawks, the Californian Straight-edge teens and the ska-punk rabble all come together in the appropriately grimy Blackpool for three days of intense moshing (and the occasional skank).
Whilst the real appeal of the festival is getting down with all the DIY bands, there’s a great selection of old-timers, up-and-comers and the frankly bizarre to please anyone with a passing interest in punk rock’s many forms. Here are 10 acts you want to make time to see, and remember: If you ever find yourself in a timeslot clash and are wondering which band to see, always pick the one with the funniest name.
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Stiff Little Fingers – ‘Alternative Ulster’
Ireland’s greatest punk export and one of the few great survivors of punk’s first wave, Stiff Little Fingers are true veterans and have the anthems to prove it. ‘Alternative Ulster’ is one of the all-time great punk songs.
The Dickies – ‘Sounds of Silence’
The so-called ‘Clown Princes of Punk’, The Dickies are in many ways the archetypal pop-punk band, blending bubblegum pop and arena rock with trashy Ramones-punk since the late 70’s. Known for their irreverent covers and the sheer speed of their playing, The Dickies have always been an amazingly entertaining live act. Note that this punkified cover of ‘Sounds of Silence’ sounds like the greatest Buzzcocks song never recorded.
Reagan Youth – ‘Reagan Youth’
One of the definitive L.A Hardcore acts, this is one of the best first-wave hardcore singles of the era, an awesome slice of anarchic skate-punk.
Subhumans – ‘Fuck You’
Subhumans are generally known as one of the more literate bands on the Oi! spectrum, with lyrics that challenge social and political issues. Sometimes though you just need to cut the BS and get to the point, and is anything more on point than this song’s chorus line of “We don’t care what you say, FUCK YOU”?
Killing Joke – ‘Eighties’
Long-time grunge pioneers Killing Joke are tied only with The Melvins for the title of most prolific Sludge-rock act, churning out gloomy riffs since the late 70’s. Unashamed masters of the Drop D tuning and surprisingly danceable, ‘Eighties’ is one of their best tracks and features a riff that would change the world once it found its way into a Nirvana song.
Biohazard – ‘After Forever’
One of the first bands to experiment with fusing rap and metal (which as we know, yielded mixed results), Biohazard have been longstanding figureheads in the New York Hardcore scene. Their original singer recently quit the band to become a porn star, but they’ve already drafted in a new guy and are on the road again. ‘After Forever’ is a great take on a classic Sabbath track.
The Ruts – ‘Babylon’s Burning’
Ruts DC are the current incarnation of The Ruts, one of the seminal and tragically short-lived bands of the punk era. Racking up at least six legendary singles, The Ruts were arguably the best one-album punk band outside of the Sex Pistols.
NOFX – ‘The Separation of Church & Skate’
As the centrepiece of LA label Fat Wreck Chords, NOFX are responsible for moulding the entire Cali pop-punk scene in their own image and are one of the most successful independent bands of all time. NOFX have stacks of great singles under their belt and are always a guaranteed fun show.
Agnostic Front – ‘It’s My Life’
The definitive NYHC band (unless we’re counting Bad Brains), Agnostic Front’s wall of noisy, minimalist hardcore has been turning gigs into warzones since the days of CBGB’s.
Glen Matlock & The Philistines – ‘Born Running’
Better known as the bassist in the Sex Pistols, Glen Matlock has been in and out of countless groups and played with Iggy Pop and The Faces. He’s currently touring with The Philistines, his backing band from 2004-5, and they’re… quite good?
Words by Tom Sanders (@Sanderrrsss).