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.


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