Sunday, February 27, 2005

February 27 (Sunday): A third consecutive day of pain kicks off with the sound of screaming banshees outside in the distance. This morning we awaken to a full set of allied carpets of snow outside and as cold as it is, it looks beautiful.

Today I finally get around to changing my clothes. And in this climate, for some reason I decide to wear shorts. Maniac! The look winds up being some kind of extreme fascist fashion victim faux pas, something straight out of Nathan Barley, not least for my smart sky blue v-neck Asda/Wal-Mart George jumper over my Millwall 2004 cup final shirt and my Black Flag “Family Man” t-shirt. My roomies, my new best friends, cook up a great British fry up for breakfast and it begins to feel a lot like Christmas.

A few weekends prior to this years event I saw the movie The Warriors and to be honest the way people have splintered off into little groups this year, to be brought together by the event and only be torn straight apart again is akin to a very softcore version of that movie. Maybe. Let’s get ready to grumble.

This morning it’s literally a breeze as I purchase my Sunday newspaper in a final vain attempt to bond with the locals only to be met with the general response of “what are you wearing shorts for?”. I return to the safety of our shockingly comfy (despite the cold) chalet where we settle down for more ATP TV with a general “can’t be arsed” air of expectations for the day. With this however, we do hit paydirt as the TV channel is showing some Star Wars mockumentary that I have never heard of but is thoroughly genius and compelling, not least for inserting porn clips into the making of Jar Jar Binks sound effects.

As the normal ATP day three fatigue begins to really kick in, although I had best intentions and no real plan for drinking today, around lunchtime a couple of quick Stellas go down SO well. I wind up having breakfast in the Pontins Café where the previous night gets dismantled and hyper analysed. Word filters through that I was apparently engaging in my own version of Staremaster. We end up in Racton’s chalet where I pretty much find myself having to beg for beer (“dance rummy!”) while we get subjected to a soundtrack of Hall & Oates mixed with Depeche Mode.

Day three proper kicks off with Neil Hamburger, who for me turns out to be the star of the whole show and my highlight of the weekend. Without it being too obvious, I really felt this weekend had a real hidden sneer of nastiness to it and in Neil Hamburger, you just get some guy that just totally represents a certain mindset that, dare I, almost prevails. The guy turns out to be full on Tony Clifton, greased up like a chip shop, throwing sweets (“candy”) into the audience that more than likely has SARS and/or Anthrax attached to it. Neil Hamburger isn’t really funny, he’s just fucking nasty and to most people (sadly) that is funny in itself. This guy knows indie rock and therefore knows the buttons to press with this particular audience, not least with jokes such as: “why did Madonna feed her baby with dog food? Because it was what came out of her tits!”. If GG Allin had done stand up instead of just smearing shit on a stage, this might have been his career. And all in all, despite the fact I loved his set, elsewhere other people’s delight only manage to suggest an even higher level of cynicism because ultimately it just seems to me so contrived for people to claim to enjoy entertainment such as this whilst also putting up much of the remaining crappy folk stuff from the weekend. And with that thought, more candy gets thrown in our direction and had I been paying better attention……that candy would have been mine. That will teach me to think too much. Neil Hamburger just turns out to be professionalism incarnate; when people decide to leave his set he takes them task on their decisions, coming to the conclusion: “the set will be better off without you arseholes in the audience”. And if anyone dared give Neil Hamburger any back chat he would splutter and cough at extraordinary volumes into his microphone in the most disgusting and despicable manner: “when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro” as someone once said. He ends with an oompha, the ultimate in Jewish entertainment.

Post privilege, I wind up in the john where I bump into Summerlin while I’m having a piss. He appears to spend a lot of time checking out my piece to see if the rumours of my recent circumcision as an adult were true: “nope, I didn’t get it done in the end, Dr May told me I didn’t need it”. Still, he just looks on and states “I could stand and watch you urinate all day”. I feel violated but for future reference though, just because I have a huge schmuck does not necessarily mean that the bone is so little.

Together we motion upstairs to the Mighty Flashlight where we talk up a storm and make catch up conversation as I tell him about sudden immense music career prospects. Summerlin however pretty much sums up the weekend when he states it as “being in danger of turning into a bit of a folk festival, it could just do with a bit rock!”. He tells me how a cohort had spoken to promoter Hulk Hogan and dared say how he felt a bit “ripped off” by the lineup to which Mr Hogan was said to respond “yeah, I’m worried about all the negative feedback this year will get” supposedly to the point of the future of the festival being in danger. Back to the show however and the onstage non-antics of the Mighty Flashlight. For their set I stand pretty much right under Mike Fellows but in a state of anything but fan worship. Mr Mike Fellows’ set turns out to be pleasant enough but considering the man’s track record with Rites Of Spring and the infinitely superior (in my opinion) Happy Go Licky, seeing such a man onstage now in a big bushy beard wearing a loser jumper producing such a sedate set of sounds only screams to me of a man that has lost his way. Will Oldham has a lot to answer as this set reflects more his tours of duty with Oldham, the Silver Jews and Smog but in these times I honestly feel the climate is far too rife with oldster US punkers turning to AOR route and dicing with a death of folk almost. Admittedly you cannot rage forever but comparing a mature transition into something like this to the transition of Mike Watt (although arguably a much more talented musicians) you leaves me with further contempt at the close of play. If this is really Neil Young’s “On The Beach”, it would be best left on the beach here I say.

I escape before the hour long set grinds me down and I wind up downstairs for the rammed King Kong experience. Barely able to get into the arena, somehow I manage to hook up with my fellow Bad Hand cohorts Racton and Justin as it suddenly becomes universally acknowledged just how similar King Kong are to Beat Happening and how similar to the B52s that Beat Happening actually were and coming full circle to complete the loop by noting how much alike the B52s that King Kong are. With such science in place, we are able to take in enough whimsical indie pop within a few numbers and soon we find ourselves escaping the carnage, retiring to our various chalets where we indulge in the traditional ATP Sunday afternoon comedown of watching the Eastenders omnibus; that and some freaky/disturbing Werner Herzog midget movie on the ATP Gold channel.

With the experience now close to coming to an end and with restless souls really flagging, I find myself eating a 69p Sainsburys pizza as sustenance before heading out into the wilderness of Pontins in order to avoid sleeping through the remainder of the festival as my body was instructing me to do as opposed to heading out aimlessly to check out some band/act of zero interest to me.

Upon arriving back at the downstairs stage I see a girl with a note pinned to her back that would generally read “kick me” (or something equally deserving) but today however the legend appears “Mark Kozelak made me cry”. For fuck’s sake, give her five minutes with me and she would really know what it is to cry, just give me a coat hanger. I’d let her lick my lollipop.

In my journey, I catch a brief glimpse of Endless Boogie, some band I have no idea about and never will beyond this split second. Amazingly however, it is the sound of a band actually cranked and going through an amplifier. I honestly did intend to stay and catch some of their set but then I crash into Racton’s Byker Grove-esqe crew of rowdies and I head back to their chalet with them where once more I get bribed with alcohol and fed delicious food which only serves to see me spending the remainder of the weekend farting through it. In the crib, we get entertained by more tales of the impending Staremaster final, where all the smart money appears to be aimed towards the direction of the drummer of Spoon and his intimidating monobrow. Still, Rupert from Racton’s crew appears confident at the prospect of such a wrestle and everyone is excited by his apparent entry and the premise/promise that Richard And Judy have apparently outbid Sky Sports for the broadcasting rights and will be showing the final on their show this week (was this fact or just one of those evil ATP mill rumours?”)

Eventually we return to the jungle trenches and get up close and personal to White Magic. Apparently this act is a big deal, something waiting to happen. To me it is just the most absurd thing I appear to see all weekend. We stand directly in front of the multi instrumentalist of the duo that looks like a refuge from Abba and finally I become submerged with insania at the mass stupidity of the sounds he is putting so much effort into making when surely it would only take him seconds to reproduce onto a laptop. And all without the humiliation of looking like the man is putting immense effort into masturbating behind a huge cymbal. And the guy doesn’t really help himself when during songs his little performance isn’t required, he just lies dead on the stage, comfortable enough in himself to literally look like a wanker onstage. I would not doubt their talent (honest) and the rather attractive lady has a beautiful voice with some nice pleasant melodies but when someone points out “it’s a bit Tori Amos now” after she switches from acoustic guitar to top heavy keyboards it all gets kinda boring in the worst way. And what is White Magic supposed to suggest/represent? Is this the music of preference for white witches? The music for the good guys in Lord Of The Rings? Again, to me, this suggests this is the new wave of Dungeons & Dragons fans coming out of the closet and making music that appears to be currently ruining indie music as it all becomes mystical and quirky as people appear unable to deal with reality in their songs. Halfway through their set Tom says/instructs “lets do one” and we push our way out of the crowd and onto safety.

We head upstairs to Sons & Daughters, the last minute replacements for the girl bawling bastard that is Mark Kozelek. This is not a very good band. We sit at the edge of proceedings battered and bruised. They do several songs that all sound the same, reminding me of the great long lost Glasgow band Pink Kross only without the fun. I remember meeting Scott from the band at ATP 2000, when the music climate and environment was much different and the tables were royally turned in the other direction. And at the end of the day, this is not a band that is deserving (now or ever) of an under headliner billing. Naturally they end on the song “Johnny Cash” which I pleasantly caught on Popworld back in good/better times and tonight sounds like a fantastic rumpus while my heart bleeds.

Dazed and confused I find myself back in Racton’s crew crashing some kind of party downstairs where Bad Wizard are apparently doing their second set of the weekend, an impromptu Sunday night downstairs headline set. Isn’t this generally the realm of The Fall historically? It’s a poor shout on the festival in general that such a clichéd good times hair metal act can be so enjoyable. In times where music is made out to be so easy, strangely a band like this (appealing to the same urges The Darkness do) can really clean up whereas much of the remainder of the lineup of the festival can make music such hard work, non-cathartic and the most of our daily grind.

The whole music weekend ends with probably the worst conceived headliners in UK music festival history: Mum. And I won’t even dignify them by pronouncing their name “moom”; they’re wank, they’re “Mum” as in my mother. We stick around for a taste, a glimpse mainly to if there is any fanny onstage as I am informed that there might be (sorry to be so honest). Gradually however as the set gets slower and slower, the snail pace end to proceedings just feels more and more like continually being beaten by a stick or rubber club and when instruments such as accordions appear (did that happen or did I imagine it?) this turns out to be the worst of all setting within which to check out Mum. We leave the sweltering conditions of the heated hall melting Scandinavian wannabes to be hit by snow storms over Camber.

We all leave and I send off the new drunk drivers, returning to my own home (chalet 496) where the Top 100 Cartoons is being decided on Channel Four, which The Simpsons obviously wins. This gets followed by the Cripple Fight episode of South Park (Jimmy v Timmy) which is then followed by the return of my remaining chalet mates and Osama acting as if on ecstasy, in love with the set that he just saw by Mum declaring/announcing how he wants to “be Mum’s children”. I obviously missed something there and I just collapse on my bed in hysteria. It ends.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

February 26 (Saturday): Progressing on the apparent car crash evening of bad decisions as per day one, Saturday only begins in such an equally undignified display on my part as I awaken around 4AM with only one destination on my mind. What happens next is almost the stuff of legend when it comes from me; it is always a performance worthy of a mainstage appearance. And in honesty, the vocal talents I display whilst vomiting probably beats half of the toilet on display as some crazy fool went and allowed Slint to half organise/book/curate this year’s line-up.

Job done, I stagger back to my bed to discover that I have spent the night sleeping on all my worldly belongings as credit cards and coins alike have stuck to pail white skin. A brief panic hits me as I remember using electronic equipment under the influence of the previous evening but a quick mind numbing spot check miraculously shows everything as fit and proper. All except my well being as I notice I have actually slept fully clothed, even my shoes remain intact.

Round Two with the toilet occurs around 5AM after I unwisely decide the tide is high for having a life saving drip of water. That plan goes wrong as immediately it becomes apparent that I can’t even hold down water in my current physical state (all signs point towards me having weekend flu). Defeated and devoid of lovely lovely soothing medicants, I go back to bed defeated, lying again across/atop/upon all my worldly belongings.

Hours later, the real world begins and people all around the world of ATP begin to murmur, lending me licence and an excuse to get some freshest of air. “Good morning captain” are the hallowed words today that greet me along with “I heard you this morning”, a short barbed remark rightfully scolding me for being too loud when being sick in the early hours.

This morning I find myself waking/getting up full clothed (right down to footwear) and utterly ready for action. My trenches spirit dictates my frankly poor attitude of “fuck it, I’ll wear this again today” as the fact that I have forgotten to bring a towel this weekend for some reason deems it acceptable for me to give a/the shower a wide birth.

Much of the morning is spent mourning, being talked down as I enquire as to any criminal actions that occurred last during my acts of public indecency and being a social hand grenade. People smile away as they report back to me over my actions but I just know that behind those smiles there is a tear or two and the whole rot of disillusionment around this year’s festival has finally hit a horrible level of realisation.

As my general demeanour is viewed with increasing horror, Helen nervously chooses this as a prime moment to ask me for my ATP ticket money before I spend it all on hookers and gin. Officially the festival is no longer a freebie.

Word gets spread like butter of making a rounds trip to the seafront greasy spoon to experiment with a full on English breakfast. Utterly disgusted by the premise, the heart always wins as the stomach reminds my head that during my punk drunk love affair with bourbon, vodka and Stella, I failed to grab any headlines in the dinner department. Delicate as I apparently am, I just cannot say “no” to anything that is suggested to me this fateful weekend. From chalet 496, we run a playschool-esqe roll call and realise that Osama has still not shown his face this morning post-Dick And Dom’s Bungalow Saturday morning. We look in the room and he is present in body if not spirit. We check his pulse and put a mirror under his nose and despite the apparent comatose state of our compadre, he is alive if not well, all of which only serves to make me feel somewhat better about my wrecked state this morning.

Never let it be said that Camber Sands in February is not typically English. It is fucking freezing! My barber, an ex-wrestler by the name of Colin, told me how they filmed the D-Day movie here and nothing more in my mind could better display/portray such a crappy warzone. As we leave the safe confines of our chalet (surprisingly snugly warm despite the elements), we dare leave Pontins behind for a sample of real Camber Sands and its local shops for local people mentality. Or so it seems.

It is only when you find yourself nursing a hellish hangover that you can properly tell, see and appreciate how fucked some places are. As per usual, Camber Sands is not a broadsheets town/village. Of course this only bothers me slightly, as I make a big fuss of buying both The Sun and The Star in an attempt to bond with the locals and study their habits, a gesture that only manages to fall flat on all levels (not least for the scoffing my chalet family aim in my direction even despite the fact that The Sun today is handing out a free DVD copy of Strictly Ballroom). As we trek for our breakfast, and get prepare to sing for it, I can’t help but notice how the houses in Camber all look weird and miniature. I attempt to envisage what living in one of these places, being so remote, would do for one’s sanity. And it only serves make me stronger in my plight of fending off my sore head. Luckily the greasy spoon welcomes us in, beating the apparent breakfast rush that lies ahead later on today. For this meal I have mucho de niro and feel that today if it stays down, I will be just fine. Ultimately the subsistence serves me well and fine I am.

Upon arrival back at the chalet, Osama is finally up and my other cohorts have become randy buggers. Ever the social climber, an invite externally comes my way and almost within one hour, I find myself back in the same said greasy spoon surrounded by semi strangers who I have never met before in my life despite apparently becoming all their best mate’s at the previous night’s chalet party. Gradually my hangover returns as it gets reported back to me just what a shameless exhibition I put on the night before whilst all the locals (that have spotted me before) continue to point and stare at me stating “look at that fat bloater”. Not really a local greasy spoon for local people but not far from.

Returning to the Pontins and real time ATP, suddenly it is time to rock! For the first time this year I hook up with the traditional ATP crew and it’s like a school reunion in the worst way, Grosse Point Blank in the most depressing manner. Apparently there was a whole night of socialising that I missed out on last night.

The first band of today is Bright Black. And Bright Black are? Tentatively Ross and I step into the downstairs hall and while those supposedly more in the know; braver and more enthusiastic than us head right into the belly of the beast, Ross and I keep our distance and re-acquaint ourselves with festival proceedings. Eventually Bright Black take stage and some could say that could be the perfect opening band for a mellow early PM Saturday band. Not myself however. Bright Black hit in the stage in a storm of apparent folk! I suspect I royally miss the point of them but to me the gradual metamorphosis of all this cacky post rock into folky territory (more or less) basically by just adding vocals, extra instruments and different costumes just does not rub on me. Patiently Ross and I stand through (endure) a number of characterless and unimmotive songs caked with strange Eastern sounding instruments but sadly the hot hot heat of the hall also matches such Eastern climates/environments/surroundings and prior to dying of death, we drop out early in the apparent hour long set! And that also to me is one of the big BIG failings of ATP: hour long sets for everybody! To me it would take the most open minded, enthusiastic and mentally strong person to actually endure entire hour sets from acts who generally, on the whole people have next to zero familiarity with. Like jazz, this music seems to be something greatly enjoyed by the musician, to degrees beyond the enjoyment of the listener.

The next stop however proves a lot more fruitful as we take our positions upstairs for an early set by Mogwai. Historically, it would be a fair comment to say that ATP has been something of a revealing ground for Mogwai after their apparent choke in 2000 but complete set of redemption in 2004. And today bodes well as they take an early stage place (akin to those Shellac opening slots) in front of what is a sparse but still enthusiastic (if hungover) crowd. They announced onstage but two apparent rednecks in fluorescent orange vests and Gulf War fatigues. These are the guys from Chunklet magazine, making a movie and selling what are funniest publications currently on the face of the planet. A set always holds promise when before anything begins guitars are whistling all over the show. Mogwai, for a mainly instrumental band, have always had really impressive stage presence, probably the best for a band of their kind and today the trend does not fail to continue. The promising guitar whistles soon turn into swirling sounds of distortion as the classic tense Mogwai dynamic of looming, lurching and menacing immediately, not least from the legendary “Xmas Steps”. The whole Mogwai existence seems to have been a real rollercoaster ride over the past (almost) decade and now Mogwai appear to be riding the calmest waters/times of their history which all adds up to the most comfortable and professional looking set with focus targeted on moving forwards without any hesitation of the occasional step back into their vast history. Aidan Moffat gets trotted out onstage well into the set, just as hour long set fatigue begins to kick in, which fortunately rejuvenates proceedings and briefly causes Racton and I to pause our BBC-esqe stage sign hand gestures. It’s a small treat to see Moffat on stage with Mogwai but it fails to compensate for the piss take that is Arab Strap (and Stereolab for that matter) doing just DJ sets as opposed to full sets. The set ends with “Like Herod”, an epic that never fails to last forever nor pulverise anything or anyone in its path. In times of trouble, Mogwai will often be there.

With no time to spare, the next stop off appears to be to check out another hour-long set, this time by The Naysayer (The Naysayer? Anyone?). I put up with it for a few songs (mainly because from the distance the woman looks like worth a peak) but not long into the set the woman is launching into a version of “Silent Night”, a “Silent Night” rewrite no less, something I find a tad smelly with pretension. I’m sure she manages to add some kind of meaningful narrative to the song but after Mogwai manage to blow the cobwebs of a hangover away, such a woman harping on in the name of “new and challenging music” in excruciating heat is the kind of treatment a man in Abu Ghraib could well be subjected to. I move along. By the end of the day however, I will find myself being described as a “naysayer” myself.

I return to the chalet out of disgust in the hope of gaining some kind of human. Instead I return to nothing so I find myself back out on the streets of Camber Sands, desperate and in need of human contact. My following stop finds me back upstairs where Need New Body are playing their little bongo hearts out. I catch about a song and a half and it all sounds funky as fuck to me, reminding me rightly or wrongly of Santana and perhaps the Grateful Dead as I look onstage at another group of individuals having a whale of a time whereas I could hardly say the same for the fellow punters around me. With my bad head returning I decide to make moves anywhere else at which point I find myself faced with the Osama Bin Laden to my George W. Bush and more than ever it is time to leave and find concrete refuge. Not least as at this point I hear the rumour that Saddam Hussein had signed up to enter Staremaster. It is at this time I search out the Michael Moore lookalike guy from Chunklet magazine to buy some brown bag mags.

Eventually I find happy faces and it only serves to direct me into Faun Fables hell. This however is not before certain people in my company attempt to sneak alcohol into the Pontins complex, prompting me to instruct poor old Sofie (Danish girl from Legoland): “just stick it up your fucking box!”. Smooth criminal. I wind up playing gooseberry tennis while onstage are a couple pikeys playing pikey music whilst dressed like pikeys looking like the kind of Eastern European people we are fighting to keep out of our holiday camps. This is just more wacky and bonkers folk music dressed up as something that you supposed to believe it isn’t. When did “our” music become so fucking fascinating with fairy tales and fantasy themes? Last time I heard Shellac at ATP they were still writing songs about fucking, eating meat and enjoying sports but now we crazed individuals acting quirky with their version of individual channelled through their songwriting. Is this really a band that has had records released? “Move along I say” as I point at their caravan. And to make matters only worse, the girls then go on to display their yodelling “skills” and ability; the last telling gesture of their performance just utterly taking the piss. And not for a second, under 60 minutes. With them and Joanna Newsom, its just a good job that they put up a stage barrier between them and I, I tell you. Problem? Beat it with baseball bats.

My next port of call somehow winds up being the drunken framed mindset of Racton ranting and raving about all the young dudes and the impending date with Spoon on the small stage later tonight. With the date reaching teatime and a thousand chalet stoves beginning to cook up their little vegan recipes, personally I find myself at the front of the upstairs stage with Planet Racton and some guy called Rupert checking out Polar Goldie Cats. Who? Anyways, it turns out that Polar Goldie Cats are a band from New York that has been performing for nearly ten years and until now absolutely no-one in the UK appears to have ever heard of them. Now though, we will remember them forever as three uncomfortable looking men walk out onstage with their axes awkwardly wearing hooded tops with cat ears sewed into/onto them. At this point, with many festival goers elsewhere preparing their food, Racton turns to me and slurs “do you think that playing in hoodies with cats ears at dinnertime to very few people suddenly appears like a band idea to these guys?”. And it is a real shame because Polar Goldie Cats turn out to be a pretty enjoyable act, not least for a pretty attractive lady playing on drums also in kitten ears. Being an alt rock band from NY it doesn’t turn out to be any real revelation that the band turns out to sound like Sonic Youth with their noodling and likewise, with Racton’s description, “Blonde Redhead without the tunes”. I like them but I just know that I will never see or hear them ever again. Especially when I drop the beat and do my accapellas.

The night wears on, wears thin as I find myself around drunkards in the downstairs area eagerly awaiting the downstairs headline set from Spoon. My co-driver for the evening (and general rock for the weekend) turns out to be the biggest Spoon fan so fortunately I am able to benefit from The Knowledge as a precursor. And despite that hype, Spoon do turn out to be the revelation band of the festival for me as I stand at the front of a stage for the first time in almost a decade. And its not rocket science rock, Spoon basically just put in the best, most enjoyable set of the whole weekend. In times of distress you can always rely on pop music to bring you home and with Spoon you just need to imagine Guided By Voices (less twenty years) with their best years ahead of them except influenced by Bowie instead of the Beatles. And that is Spoon. The joy of the set is that these are songs you do not have to be familiar with beforehand in order to be friends of by the end of the set, the songwriting of Spoon is that strong. As the set veers from the occasionally chunky punk to keyboard heavy Kinks-esqe British Invasion pop you can only appreciate the process of these songs that much more taken in elements such as these. “That’s The Way We Get By”? No, that’s the way WE get by this weekend. For once the hour flies by and by the finish there is an entire discography out there calling our names for further discovery. Post set, members of Spoon (including the monobrowed Staremaster warrior that is the drummer) kindly come down to greet their audience. Gentlemen to the end.

Jubilant we head upstairs to rejoin the suckers as the weekend reaches some kind of epox while Matmos ping and pong in the background and the remainder of our group of acquaintances all come together for the only time during the weekend, looking like an unholy rabble of refugees and casualties of an unspoken world. They sadly did not manage to see Spoon. Racton buys a round for everyone who watched Spoon, using the most suave methods imaginable at the Pontins bar, amusing all around (including strangers with his incompetence and comedy timing).

Buzzing all about us, suddenly it becomes time to rock and get good places for the unholy Slint reunion. We run into the crowd hurling v-signs and hailing Satan, leaving the suckers for dust. With such gusto, we approach Slint in the most gung ho manner; all of which serve only to make Slint even more bittersweet. With the night’s line-up now running slightly ahead of schedule, we hope to see Slint in good time but instead they just take their time as conditions just become more and more humid within the crammed complex and the drunken overeducated but still completely stupid fucking Northerners persistently talk in my ear about the most banal and inane bollocks known to man. Prior to the set (and event) Slint were always onto a loser, not least for their festival selection, their half arsed “curation” which screamed of hit and run. Not before time Slint took the stage to a dazzling combination of green and purple lights, haunted house chic. The band hardly storm the stage however instead choosing to amble onstage and open with one of the dire instrumentals from Spiderland. On another day this might serve to build up tension and atmosphere but after waiting thirty minutes in a sauna environment, anticipation had sufficiently built into something a little more hostile and demanding. It could be said that a large part of the audience would just be happy for the band to do “Good Morning Captain” and just fuck off to get on with the evening. That could be said but not me however, I wanted to hear “Ron” before I died. As the Spiderland instrument, now seeming to have doubled in size/length, mercifully came to a close, Slint start up the engine proper and slowly trickle into “Breadcrumb Trail” to a satisfying level/end of gratification in/on all corners, this was the stuff we came here to hear. However boy did that momentum get stumped when suddenly the band hit a wall inbetween that song and pulling out the first Tweez track of the evening. And then the apparent tone for the evening was set, a frustrating stop/start event as Slint alternated between playing songs from Spiderland and Tweez creating huge pregnant pause gaps between songs, serving only to kill any fluidity in the set, which coupled with the Saigon-esqe conditions only really managed to make things less than pleasurable. And I know you wouldn’t expect banter from such a “serious” band full of mystique (which I admit was more than in place tonight), there was absolutely zero element of humanity or any interaction between the performer and the audience. As feelings toward the set and band grew more resentful which each song, every single song from the Slint back catalogue it would seem (finally something VFM from Slint) casualties began to fall by the wayside. Slowly Racton flagged but nearly became rejuvenated when a girl (a girl!) came up to him with a favour to ask. In what can only be described as blatant molestation, this female of the species promptly grabs hold of Racton dead on his feet and requests that she allows him to sit on his shoulders or, at the very least, give him a “bunk up”. Was this girl fucking retarded? Did someone at some point pinch the bitch and happily give her some rohypnol? At the end of the day though, Racton can only be accommodating to a point and this evening the little fella is just too fucking weak to lift up a big bottomed girl. And does this have to do with Slint? Nothing really other than the fact that the distraction turned out to be somewhat more entertaining than their set! Soldering on however with the headliners, I remained faithful, early awaiting “Ron” and when they tease with “Don, Aman” instead things begin to look bleak, not least for the fact that Racton is now passing out standing up, with his face and head slowly falling into the beautiful but terrified young lady stood in front of him. Gradually we begin exchanging BBC-esqe cut it hand gestures as we manage to sweat all minerals out of our body in addition to our body weights multiplied twice. Then however some signal of hope: Slint play “Ron”! And whereas the tracks from Spiderland tonight have sounded tight (almost as crisp as listening to the record), on the flipside the Tweez songs (and their little King Crimson prog frills) appear performed in the most ropey as hell fashion. With one foul final kick to our hearts (and Racton pretty much out on his feet) we leave main the audience area to sit with friends and chill out, a definitive sign of defeat. We find the Danish girl who teases us to others, claiming that she had found us in the toilets (the concept of cottaging obviously not being that one is prevalent in Denmark). Destroyed with our heads bowed, we can only ache emotionally as we can still hear Slint in the background and when they eventually perform (and close with) “Good Morning Captain”, even from a distance is sounds completely compelling, powerful and majestic and as if to rub salt into the wounds, it becomes plainly obvious at that exact moment in time we are missing something very special. Disillusioned with events, we begin bitching out Slint only to be faced with the response “you naysayer”. I will never feel vindicated.

Traditionally at ATP, Saturday is the big night for partying like a prick. We may have arrived separately but we manage to leave in a group, heading happily to someone’s chalet for an impromptu breather before a horn a plenty. Unlike yesterday, at the witching I find myself sober, functioning and anything but rambling whereas everyone around me once more come with the crutch of being damaged goods. Still though, Staremaster holds next to zero interest for me. Completely with luck, in a random set of circumstances, we bump into Tom and Liz as Tom lets rip a drunken tirade with the funniest story of the weekend of how he goes into much detail of how he managed to get a shameless Scottish bootlegger kicked out of the Slint set after he had threatened him with beats and so much more. Unfortunately Tom actually took the incident hard to heart and was somewhat bothered by it all, not least for the attitude of the reluctant security not wishing to deal with the guy (“we’ve been told to take it easy this weekend”). At the end of the day though, Tom is not a happy bunny, challenging/antagonising/offending people by describing them as “emotional shells”. He later disappears only to reappear a few minutes later with a four pack Red Stripe, ready for business. As the song begins to crash down in an attempt to completely ruin our weekend, in an impression act of violence and aggression Tom begins punching a wing mirror off a Ford Focus and it all goes tits up. I decide to hide in the safety of my chalet as I attempt to fob Tom off on Chris. They however follow me into 496 where there is some sweet and sour attitude and Tom begins to steal clothes (well, a hat) from my “roomies”. This is wrestlemania and every day is a gift.

And is not the end of it! After a couple of hours of the most comfortable sleep, Osama’s mobile phone fires off at 4AM like a fire alarm, awaking me and terrifying me in the process as a phonecall at that time of day only suggests to me the end of the world is on its way, like an emergency call from the president telling me the apocalypse is circa: now! Once the threat is cleared however and reality maintained, it takes Osama several minutes to talk me down from my terrorism.

Friday, February 25, 2005

February 25 (Friday): We were somewhere around Colchester on the edge of Essex, two hours from Camber Sands when the snow began to take hold. I remember saying something like “I feel a bit light headed; maybe you should drive…” And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge balls of snow, all swooping, smashing and diving around car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Camber Sands. And a voice was screaming: “Holy Jesus! What is this goddamn weather?”

Then it was quiet again. Mr Baldwin had taken his shirt off and was pouring beer on his chest, to facilitate the tanning process. “What the hell are you yelling about?” he muttered, staring up at the sky with his eyes closed and covered with wraparound pikey sunglasses. “Never mind” I said. “It’s your turn to drive.” I hit the brakes and aimed the Great Green Bullet toward the hard shoulder of the A12 motorway. No point mentioning the snow I thought. The poor bastard will see it soon enough.

We had two bottles of bourbon, two cases of a dozen bottles of Stella Artois Wifebeater beer, a large bottle of that blue girl drink WKD, a semen in appearance bottle of factory ready White Russian, various liquid sugar mixers, some cigar smokes and several soothing home brand bottles of H2O…not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked in a serious binge drinking collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can… And with the benefit of hindsight, perhaps this was too much for just one man.

It had been a rough early start in the AM. Unaware of the error of my way, the previous evening I set my alarm as per usual working time meaning that this morning I would be woken with a bolt at 6AM. With the sensation of a royal zombie, I still proceeded to put my plans into military precision, leave home 8.45, collect Baldwin 9.00, be out of Colchester and on the road at 10.00. Baldwin however, as usual, had his own plans.

As I arrive at Chez Baldwin, almost 9AM on the dot, I found the boy undressed but cooking breakfast. Why should this not surprise me? With the snow beginning to pour down outside and with my nerves starting to twitch, the charming Baldwin knew exactly how to get me on his side: prepare me some food with meat in it.

Once again, this year Baldwin unwisely chose to ride with me, not least due to the fact his other option being to ride a van designed usually for the sneaking of illegal immigrants into the country, which pretty much sums up the vibe of proceedings this year as things began to deteriorate almost immediately.

Travelling with Baldwin is always an experience equal in measure of laughter and tears. Once we finally hit some kind of road, it is only to Colchester town centre where the pair of us still find ourselves in requirement of necessary supplies: a replacement digital camera for me (after breaking the last one, spilling beer on it) and some films for Baldwin. Unfortunately being chimp happy at this point, the bad influence that he always is on me, somehow Baldwin convinces me that it is a good idea for me to buy a shot glass chessboard (“your favourite past time just got better!”).

By now there was no chance of travelling up to this fucking event in any conventional sense and gradually, in the freezing snow, my “sea licks” of bourbon shots from a Robinson’s Fruitshoot bottle were beginning to become more and more frequent. With demand and supply still on our mind, the pair of us headed to the carnage that is Asda on a Friday morning. Friday morning in Asda is blatantly big shop day; the pensions and the doles of this country have all been handily cashed and now for the lower class mingers of this world it is time to go and cash in on their sponging. If you ever enter into a hyper supermarket during daytime you will rarely be faced with anyone or anything of pleasure or desire. Instead you will only smell the stench of mundane desperation as old folks wrestle alongside wives (never footballer’s wives) all out for a bargain and the last remaining penis shaped/sized cucumber to put in their shopping baskets next to their Vaseline and toothpaste. And then you get discreet fools like Baldwin and I, shopping like students spending ten pounds on alcohol for every pound we spend on food. After much indecision (indecision always being worse than a bad decision) eventually we hit the never-ending mile long checkout queues. As I repeatedly tell Baldwin how much “I fucking hate you” he points out to me a little girl sat in her mother’s trolley smiling and laughing at my flapping around in public. Big mistake. The apparent joy of innocence only serves as a red rag to a bull to me in this hour of angry sweepstakes.

The schedule today was meant to be: leave 10AM and meet at Camber Sands at midday. While we queue in Asda my phone rings and it is Justin at 11.45AM calling to tell us that they have already arrived at Camber Sands. I feed him some kind of bullshit line about being held up on the A12 while Baldwin quizzes “are they really there?”. “YES!”. Well fucking futile.

As the day begins to meander more and more out of time, and off any kind of relevant schedule, I begin to fume which culminates as, after packing up, I jump in the car, slam the door and wildly announce to Baldwin: “TIME TO DRIVE LIKE A CUNT!”

One short stop off at Esso, to pump up the slow puncture, and finally we were off on motorway traffic and the best one of all: the A12! By now, with probably too many tastes of bourbon, we hit the roads at high speeds propelling our bodies forward to our certain fate on the South coast of England. Starved I sought nourishment on the back seat of our chariot of indie rock only to lose control at high speed, coming worryingly close to drunkenly flipping my Focus. Baldwin responds calmly with a wobbly voice “next time you want something off the back seat I’ll get it”. With a new sense of co-operation, I promptly allow him to steer for me while I remove my coat in what is now blistering heat inside my car where the radiator finds itself overcompensating for the apparent threat of freeze of the outside.

Our journey feels absolutely doomed by the time we get off the hellish A12 onto the equally hellish M25 and by the time we are speeding our way towards the Dartford crossing, the pair of us appear to have no money between us for the bridge toll. After a number of worrying minutes/moments we scrabble together a pound in copper coinage. Baldwin asks me what they do if you get to the tollbooth without any money. I tell him “they throw you into the Thames just like the dirty rat you are.”

Eventually, arrival in Kent/Sussex fails to bring about any optimism as my homing skills fail me for yet another year running and I completely forget (at speeds of around 100 mph) as to just where ATP is held these days. As the whole tone of circumstances/developments take on the weight of driving around M25 in search of an illegal rave, I throw a map at Baldwin as squeal “you fucking find it”. And with that my little GPS bitch shows us the light, only for us to be thwarted when some motherfucking dip bumpkin around Rye (I guess) has only succeeded into succumbing into stupidness and pranging his tractor or SUV (whatever they drive around these parts) causing a lengthy hold up and our requirement to take an even more directionless detour around the country houses of these fucking sticks.

After a brief stop off at a Tesco in the middle of nowhere, in order for Baldwin to take a piss and myself one more toke over the line, we finally find the hallowed ground of Rye, then Camber Sands, then Pontins and finally: All Tomorrows Parties 2005!

I had forgotten once more just what the whole All Tomorrows Parties experience encapsulates. With each year it seems that the whole events more resembles a test of endurance rather than a celebration of cutting edge music. And times really are a changing, especially since my first experience of the festival back in 2000. Whereas getting into the complex used to resemble a border crossing into a communist country, these days you just get waved in with a desperate gesture of “please please come in” (wristband providing). And the wristband thing: who can be trusted to put on their bands? Slint certainly can’t but neither can I as immediately upon placing my band around my wrist it becomes plainly obvious I have put it on too tight and my hand begins to turn different shades of blue. This is now almost a festival run by bad alcoholic dads. And whatever happened about all efforts put into making punters feel worthy and loved? It was Shellac who graciously gave us three CDs of bands playing each day. What do Slint do? Serve up shit and tell us it’s a sundae in the form of handing out campy, cheap as chips Slint ATP carrier bags. They’re not backwards with coming forwards. As a side note, a few weeks later some cowboy on Ebay will manage to sell his ATP carrier bag, the ATP “program” and the badges for £17. This truly is the rise of the idiots. And finally: why don’t they do five-a-side football competitions any more?

Traditionally the time to fucking lose it at ATP is Saturday night (with last years little blow out seeing me puking over balconies and pissing off stairwells) but this year all that gets accelerated when I lose it almost immediately, much in keeping with the binge drinking culture sickness that is griping the UK right now didn’t you know?

First however was introduction to our chalet, our crib, our home, our bosom for the course of the weekend. And bingo, this year’s lucky number was 496. For 2005 I find myself shacking up with brand new bodies with view to living a whole new experience to previous years. And with this comes a whole more sedate atmosphere and setting to previous festival sentences. These chalets come only built for the modest and with that, only the most mature of men can fully appreciate the value of living in the most humble of ways. And here immediately (I feel) comes my downfall. Whereas my groceries contain mostly piss poor cheap alcohol coupled with bags of Bombay mix (my favourite) and 59p pizzas from Sainsburys; this year once more my cohorts put me to shame by actually buying ingredients for food preparation and items that actually cost more than one pound sterling. I attempt to save the day when I pull out my vodka shot chess board but out comes their professional Las Vegas poker set and my destiny as pikey chav wannabe is all but sealed. And with that, I leave my comrades to the ATP channel showing 24 hour Seinfeld as I continue to unload my car with all of Baldwin’s worldly belongings.

At the Friday afternoon point, snow drenched sun turned into evening and I find myself in the role of a fucking baggage handler for Baldwin, a job that requires treats/rewards for any such involvement and this sees me chugging away in-between every trip to and from the Focus, the chugging involving a shot a time of the last days of bourbon, heavy dosage of blue WKD (a very digestible girls drink in the colour of blue designed for times of trouble such as these) and finally for some bite and reality to be put into my drinking: Stella Artois.

By the time unloading is done, a months worth of garments have been shifted into the combined area of space that is a Pontins chalet. And with each trip to and from the motor, I have gradually changed from a rationally functioning young professional to a quite frankly raving young mad man, such is routine requirement for the full ATP experience. Once done, as per the annual sick traditional of ATP, an impromptu party kicks off as I find myself drunk and spinning in a room full of relative strangers from Nottingham to whom I gradually get passed around like a doobie during drunken introductions (a doobie being something notoriously missing from this year’s proceedings; are drugs now faux pas?). As I begin to completely lose my chips, dinner passes without ceremony and in the distance bands already begin to perform sets, all of course met with apathy and lethargy from a bunch of semi disgusted grunting pseudo-teenagers (girls all dressed the same, technically a Polanski) just spawned from a days travel in an asylum seeker van. Life passes us by as we miss first Born Heller followed by declarations of “we’re missing Love As Laughter” and not much else other than sofa hugging with our arses. Well bum.

As the “party” moves forward, I gradually reverse from consciousness and by the time the night will have ended, I will have very little recollection of what occurred at all. Generally when I gleefully binge drink (and no better settings for an appetite for destruction that Pontins methinks), I tend to flip the bitch switch and turn into a Tasmanian-esqe social hand grenade. I would really like to think that I resemble John Belushi in Animal House but sadly closer to the truth will generally be the reality that the best that I can aim for is Benny Hill on crank. And it all serves to make for one genuinely disgusting individual, even worse for the transformation occurring in the company of strangers. Mostly unbeknownst to me at the time, apparently my participation in the show consists mainly of me ferociously attempting to explain the “Doris concept” to a poor Danish girl, lengthy discussions on/of S&M/bdsm, admissions regarding the professional lady I may or may not have seen the previous Friday and all culminating in my participation (and winning/victory) in a liquorish vodka drinking game I didn’t even know I was entered in (Staremaster being the sport for lightweights). All in all though, eventually too much of a bad thing will not work wonders for you and finally I stop spinning long enough in order to be ill as my “new friends” get treated to the sight of me throwing up just outside their chalet window like a kid in a Metallica shirt chucking up in a Tesco car park. With my soul cleansed, it was time for a smoke.

Eventually the main arena beckons and I get aimlessly lead to the main band area where Early Man are the next “eagerly anticipated” act of the day. Immediately upon arrival at the stage and crash into more followers and soon I am hugging long lost buds and random strangers called Kid Mingus as everything looks pissed and utterly fantastic with today’s mega slice of beer goggle cake. Early Man do indeed turn out to be a real Neanderthal and caveman-esqe experience as big fat metal riffs turn into big fat metal solos and people jump around in the wimpiest mosh pit in history akin to chimps in a beat off contest. And I just don’t get it. I hate pseudo metal, I like real metal! I like Manowar and their “death to false metal” stance of a long lost bygones area, which we never realised was so good until we lost it. Regardless though the “two piece metal bastard” today bulldozed it’s way through Pontins as the kids lapped it up like kittens at semen. Not me though and my finely honed pissed up bullshit detector screening all and sundry. Five or so songs in and I’m tugging at my friends arms and shoulders declaring “fuck this shit, lets get out of here”, sentiments that are only matched with “hail Satan fucker; right back at ya”. Like a disappointed parent, I just fail to understand these crazy kids sometimes on occasions. I look to my right for a lifeline out of the pit and I see a likeminded individual heading out towards the door. And with my last leap for life, I reach my arm out and grab the arm of the hapless stranger who turns around terrified by my gesture followed by the immortal, oozing out of my dirty mouth: “just keep fucking moving!”

My result of finding a buddy doesn’t turn into a score when, as soon as we escape metal hell, my new friend disappears into the distance. Stunned as fuck and lowering the tone (all tones), all that occurs from now is for the beer fairies to carry me home to 496 where I somehow put myself to bed, dead on a Friday night at approximately 7.30 PM. As all life ends in my world, eventually the sad realisation will hit me that I miss the Sesame Street stylings of the almighty and magnificent Deerhoof.

At some point I re-awaken to the sound of an active chalet and the realisation that I am actually paying for this “privilege”. Slowly, still spinning, I drag myself out of bed and crawl on all fours out of my designated bedroom (I wouldn’t want to be sharing with me, this year or any year). Re-emerging I find myself getting bombarded from all directions as sensory overload takes over at the most insensitive of times. Promptly I pass out on the chalet floor as the over exposure of Larry David on the Seinfeld documentary on the ATP TV channel (lazily just showing the Seinfeld boxset). I murmur peacefully, curled up on the floor like a K9 content tapped up with booze.

Around 10PM I find myself being shaken down when I am kindly awoken by my “roomies” to tell me that Nathan Barley is on the TV. Gargling I awaken and manage to taken in random segments of the show but not enough to full appreciate any of the sex rap your main man Nathan Barley comes up with this week in question; indeed by the end of the episode I will have once more fallen asleep.

Emerging yet again from my/another drunken stupor, as people prod me with sticks to see whether I am dead, it is pointed out that the Melvins are playing. Like a bullet, I rise like Jesus and tear out towards the complex and the upstairs stage. Now in the zone, I arrive to the tones of “Hooch”, by far my favourite Melvins song (admittedly a really boring selection) and I hit the stage like a train and zero in on the front of the stage where I find myself beneath the greying Sideshow Bob character that is the legend Buzz Osbourne; this is a genuine rock star! There is nothing revolutionary about the Melvins or indeed particularly enjoyable a lot of the time but tonight this is totally the band of choice, a bad tempered and snarling tense three piece unit able to encapsulate disdain for certain surroundings and its audience, this is colossal. I would really like to be able to break down and analyse further the music of the Melvins but on this occasion (unlike what happens for the remainder of the weekend) it is all visceral, almost generic in comfort but compensated for in heaviness and sheer presence of sound and volume. And these were my drunken emotions prior to Buzz’s announcement of dragging out some “special guest” who turned out to eclipse indie/grunge celebrity: the actor (ho ho) David Yow! At the point of disruption, a pony-esqe David Yow trotted out onstage in a white dress looking akin to someone you might find on Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch (he would wish). I have no idea what the song the Melvins performed, be it a Melvins, a Jesus Lizard or a cover, regardless the mere appearance of such a person only to served to prompt boy band-esqe hysteria from my quarter as drunkenly I jumped up and down screaming as I took one thousand drunken snaps with my camera in the vain hope of catching a snap of David Yow’s legendary wanger, which inevitably “fell out” as inevitably as Yow diving into the crowd into a sea of appreciative, sex starved, jizzlobbers. As the dust settles, the circus shuts up shop as the Melvins tore through one last hit at the audience and the sceptical premise of the Melvins as headliner this year became levelled as the storming legends hit Camber Sands like an A-bomb.

Battered, bruised and bewildered, I emerge from the set like a child wandering around a bombsite. Desperately I wander around (as best as possible) looking to someone for consolation but all ends fail. The large gap between activities this year sees plenty of time to spend/use/waste between headliners and the following event (“Staremaster”) so once more I just find myself at the mercy of beer fairies guiding me home to the relative safety of a shitty chalet and the hope of smiling faces. At the end of the first day however I have zero recollection of actually getting home to the chalet and no idea of what happened upon my return to my bed other than the fact I landed on it horizontally rather than vertically. Meanwhile, elsewhere, I later get reports back regarding Staremaster turning out to be a real occurrence and experience, one that appeared to split opinions universally from “awesome” right down to the raving hysterics of a wild child at the front screaming “Trashbat!”

Day one ends with my stomach requiring pumping as much as my heart.