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.


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