Blackpool: the weekend of the 19-21 July. A group of punks and skins begin to filter into Britain’s most famous seaside resort, amassing steadily outside the Winter Gardens complex. To anyone with frailties towards peculiar styles of dress this would most certainly have come as a shock as the striking difference in clothing and hairstyles could render even the most tolerant of people lost for words. The locals, however, did not bat an eyelid and decided to join in the festivities by standing outside in the glorious sunshine chatting and happily drinking with the visitors. To have a range of people accepted so easily was astounding and there can not be another single event that can have this effect: the phenomenon that is known as Holidays In The Sun.
The choice of the Winter Gardens complex had beforehand been frowned upon by revellers who had enjoyed the previous year's festival in Morecambe which had spread across much of the town, but, once inside the building, the mood changed and the advantage of all 3 stages being under the same roof was seen by all. The stages, The Arena, The Empress Ballroom, and The Olympia, were all different from each other. Lighting rigs were set up in contrasting styles and the acoustics varied immensely, giving each stage a sound and feel of its own.
Music was at its best over the weekend. The newer bands brought a fresher feel to the festival and helped attract a few younger punks who would normally have been seen at Blink 182 concerts. By maintaining its policy of continuing to promote old and well-loved bands as well, Holidays In The Sun, however, managed to retain its nostalgia and its charm.
The Olympia stage heralded acts such as 4ft Fingers, Lightyear and Citizen Fish, all of whom mix together ska and punk for the new generation. The stage seemed to be filled with many of these newer acts and the finale provided the crowd with [spunge] preceded by Capdown.
The UKs best ska-core act, Capdown, gave another blinding set of ska and hardcore, with classic tunes as 'Cousin Cleotis' off the 'Civil Disobedients' album,' What Doesn’t Kill You' and 'Faith No More' off the latest release, 'Pound For The Sound'. Their immense stage presence and ability to get the crowd rocking with all their tunes are a credit to a band that have become the standard bearers for this new generation.
Cheltenham’s [spunge] carried on from where Capdown left off, with a ska sound that has turned the group into one of the best followed bands in the genre. At times [spunge] do get tiring, with a repetitive sound, but the general ambience they create makes this forgivable and when the crowd are in full swing, it really doesn’t matter.
Another notable performance on the first day came from Sick On The Bus. Biff (Vocals/Lead Guitar), Tony (Rhythm Guitar/Backing Vocals), Brian (Bass Guitar/Backing Vocals), and Wag (Drums) rocked out The Arena late in the day, while headliners D.O.A. and The Adicts appeared on the other two stages.
Sick On The Bus were born out of another high velocity group the Varukers, and play quality punk in a never-been-heard-before formula. Their show was a marvel, Superb riffs and a quality sound drove each note home vigorously. The music was fast, infuriated and developed on from the original punk sound, having heavier guitaring and more polished vocals.
Saturday saw the longest day of the weekend and what a day it was. Whilst the sun shone brightly outside and holidaymakers were busy sunning themselves on Blackpool beach, an assortment of bands continued on stage to crack out the tunes that have got them this far in music.
Beginning in The Empress Ballroom were the Pink Torpedoes , while the Olympia enjoyed the excellent hardcore sound of Stuntface.
The Filaments were one of the surprise acts of the day, playing the Olympia stage shortly after Stuntface. Receiving rave reviews from other bands and the crowd, The Filaments were quite simply magnificent with their truly incredible ska sound which was both soothing and also energising.
With sets from growing bands such as Sweden’s Da Skywalkers ; pop-punksters Vanilla Pod,( who have played tours with the likes of No Use For A Name), and hardcore outfit Knuckledust, contrasting with the more customary sounds of the UK Subs and 999, the day took off in style.
Before the headliners appeared, mind-blowing sets were seen by the formidable Janus Stark, and Down By Law, who played their usual repertoire of incandescent songs including crowd-please '500 Miles'. This backdrop of talent gave indication of the depth of punk music today. It is bright, artistic, and clever, and it is a real pleasure to listen to as well as getting its point across in the usual manner.
The choice of headliners for the day caused me much conflict as to who to go and see. I chose to spend time with Suicidal Tendencies before watching the remainder of the Exploited’s set. The Dickies were left aside but , as I was to hear later from other members of the audience, there is no doubt that they played with as much conviction as the two bands on the other stages.
Suicidal Tendencies were the first original skate band, and were truly awesome. Their 90-minute set could possibly have lasted too long but in the 40 minutes I saw before I left for the Empress Ballroom they played their time out to perfection.
The Exploited were, unfortunately, slightly disappointing. The sound in the Empress Ballroom was probably as much to blame as the band but at times their music nevertheless still proved entertaining. The lighting added to the whole occasion, with Zoe ‘The Strobe’, who later did lighting for the Dead Kennedys also, providing an illuminating display on the lighting desk, and enhancing The Exploited’s presence during their set.
Due to increased security checks at the entrance Sunday lunchtime, many of the earlier bands either played reduced sets or in front of very few people. This was the only complaint to be made about the whole entire event.
The Empress Ballroom opened with Molotov Cocktail and Awkward Thought, with Leftover Crack and the Varukers playing later on also. Sick Boy Federation, on the Arena stage, got up to their their usual antics, throwing around blow-up women and pigs around during their performance. The Olympia saw hardcore act Five Knuckle, rock punksters Dog Toffee and U.S. band Union 13 all flying the flag for punk in the mid-afternoon and early evening in the build-up to the grand finale of the entire weekend.
The Business were probably one of the biggest bands that played the weekend. With an immense following, the band plays old-fashioned punk or self-styled Oi!, and does so in a manner that befits the genre. Magnetising the venue, The Business kept the old school alive and provided the perfect warm-up for the Dead Kennedys..
Last up on the Olympia stage, and headlining alongside Conflict and One Way System , the Dead Kennedys attracted one of the largest crowds of the weekend,. The U.S. punk band roared through a set that was greeted with enthusiastic cheers and much crowd surfing, setting the Olympia afire. Playing well-recognised tracks such as 'Holiday In Cambodia', The Dead Kennedys stole the show with a performance that lacked nothing; it was excellent.
The vivid images that the festival leaves with each visitor, the memories of joining the punk family for the weekend, far outweigh the emotions that can be felt from other summer festivals in the UK. Credit must be given to excellent organisation throughout, with friendly security staff and first-class DJs in between the bands. Holidays In The Sun offers a range of old and new school punk for everyone to adore. The spectacle will will no doubt live on in thousands of punks’ heads… until next year when it all starts over again!