Wednesday, March 24, 2004

26 March 2004 (Friday): The best laid plans of mice and men. With my head like a sieve, in preparation I spend many hours wondering just what it is that I have forgotten to pack. Similarly I also stress that the boot of my new Ford Focus isn't quite as big as the one in my old Escort. I pre-warn people "don't bring too much!" It's no surprise when soon I/we are running late. Early promises of leaving at 10AM are exposed as ridiculous, not least as when Dr Stevo, my work colleague that looks like Alan Titschmarsh, phones me up to borrow my Millwall supporters card. Eventually I round up a car full of people (I think I picked up the right kids) and around 11.30AM (!) we are finally making the proposed pre-ATP stop off at a supermarket, our commerce of choice today being Asda (oh yes).

Who'd have thunk a supermarket would be busy on a Friday! As a result, shopping takes forever and when we hit the tills, everyone seems to be busy buying "sensible" food and instead I am spending double everyone else, just on booze. Whoops. Just past midday we finally get going and I begin to wonder if I had actually remembered to close my front door. The road is fucking hard and also its really tough, today though will really be remembered as the last day of Mark and Lard on the Radio and we listen to their last show on the radio with, personally, the largest of lumps in my throat. As we fly along motorways everyone seems to think I am joking when I'm saying to them "I can't remember the EXACT way to Camber Sands". We have a map but little else, especially a clue as to direction. As we left Colchester I predicted (somewhat blindly) "we'll be there for 2pm". So, share in my joy when at just past 2.00 pm 26 March 2004, there was the sight: CAMBER SANDS.

(the following events are recalled/recollected thanks to the photographs on my mobile phone and text messages from my "Bitch In Dubai" Sara).

As we drive into Camber Sands, as usual it felt like driving once more into another world. At the gates, security let us down this year not pulling their little joke "have you got any drugs or alcohol on you? Do you want some?" Inside the Pontins complex all time seems to collapse and watches become slightly irrelevant, only for the use of guiding you towards vague stage times. Imagine the village from The Prisoner crossed with “Arbeit Mach Frei” on the gates. I say we get to Camber Sands at 2.00 but somehow we didn't get into our chalet until past 3.00. Looking around Pontins Camber Sands it looked more weather beat than ever and soon comments rang out "its kinda Auschwitz-esqe isn't it" and "you really wouldn't bring your kids here would you?” What's this, the voice of common sense/reality or us acting like toffs? Instead you decide “I can't be arsed, time to start drinking”. As a precursor, and warning against repeating certain drunken faux pas and injuries that have already occurred in 2004, Mr Coogan pre-advises (but does not adopt) the motto "no booze before sundown". It sounded a great idea Wednesday night. After discovering our electricity was already a pound down, everyone sets about unpacking their provisions while I pull out my big box of Stella Artois "Wifebeaters" and dig in, my reward for driving my car for the huge long journey of, oh, two hours.

As everyone gets busy getting house proud (that or wrecked) it soon became apparent we are already missing bands. Missed band number one for the weekend: Envy. All apologies but I've heard their record and I can do without it but now playing were Part Chimp, an act to savour. We mass debated about seeing but then would up going “nah let's continue to set up our fort.....I mean chalet.” (As a side note, Part Chimp did a post-ATP show in Colchester shortly afterwards and I went to that, stayed sober and I can say they are still knocking out amazing sets/shows). Eventually we get over our apparent agoraphobia and me, Mr Boyle and Mr Baldwin (no sign of Mr Coogan) venture out to seem some bands (our official fourth chalet person Tristan being long lost in/to music). We arrive and see that we've missed Sonic Boom not sounding like Spacemen 3 but do slip into the reality of seeing Converge as our first band of ATP 2004. Oh my, this is peculiar. On stage is a band just going through the motions it seems, only managing to sound like Pantera back in 1995. One second I like it, the next second I hate it. At one particular point the singer announces and declares "thanks everyone of you for listening to us, coming out to see us and buying our records, YOU ARE THE ENGINE!" Yes, I am indeed the engine. The engine of what though, that's yet to be discovered. Bemused we leave early (the beginning of an ill-mannered theme of leaving sets midway through all weekend).

Downstairs we find Acid Mothers Temple. Now this is better, freaky crazy looking Japanese men doing Hawkwind and overdosing on wah pedal. And then they go and sing some kind of ancient Japanese/Chinese folk song, a real stinker. We leave to return to the warm safety of our chalet, to drink and watch TV. (the more eagle eyed and knowledgeable of you will note that Acid Mothers Temple's set started at 16.30 and ended at 17.15 and Converge's set started at 17.30 per the official programme. Am I lying about events already or just a little confused?) When we get back to chalet 584, Mr Coogan has arrived, albeit currently sans bracelet and thus sans chalet (a home). It seems the hidden agenda of this festival is to perform Al Pacino impressions with a vengeance and I have to admit it is kinda infectious. With the first day now reaching dinnertime, the decision is made to cook instead of go see bands. I can't complain/argue/disagree, I am already pissed and spinning while wrongly the sun (daytime) is still out in a blaze of glory. I play up like a child, running around the chalet and scaring those unfamiliar with my antics. I perform my (almost) annual trick of hiding in the ATP wardrobe and jumping out at people, scaring (and scarring) them shitless in the process.

Obviously the TV comes on and after eating a minor feast we all sit down and commit a major crime of watching a movie of one of the bands on show (Lightning Bolt) instead of actually going to see one of the bands on show. Whatever, our group found itself stoned and heading towards toasted, myself in particular. We discuss whether to go see Trans Am but we fail to motivate ourselves sufficiently to leave our “home”. A big problem is that when you are pissed, telly just seems SO good and when The Goonies is the next movie on the Mogwai TV channel, we become harder to budge than ever. I only know that The Goonies was on the TV because I took a picture of it at 9.19 on my phone. However it was only 7.01 when I took the photo of Mr Boyle being drunk by a Stella bottle. We had jizzed two hours and really had to get moving.
We barely realise that we miss sets by Trans Am, James Orr Complex and/or Papa M. Instead when we arrive back in venue land, we're lucky enough to catch us some Turbonegro. Oh what the fuck are they about? People around me comment "Guns N' Roses" but forget it, Axl was much better than that, although (apparently) the singer did do a great quote at/to the crowd "I am not so much impressed, more depressed". Downstairs we went and into the arms of a Cat Power set. Couldn't hear it, couldn't see it. We continued to the bar and re-ignited old acquaintances with old flames long extinguished. Done with that, we trudge back upstairs to see the current state of affairs of Mogwai. It is actually fantastically comforting to hear them again, so on form and respecting the audience enough to play old favourites they've probably played a thousand times before. I remember at ATP 2000 Mogwai played the same stage and the setting was magnificent, like inside an observatory at night, and then they went and choked. This time round though I find myself totally into it, perhaps it was perfect timing.
I have to admit I didn't make it through their entire set, upstairs just proved too airless and humid, and before I passed out I left an unendurable environment with my life (god knows how hot it must have been on stage). We leave however feeling good and happy with our lot. For the remainder of their set Mr Boyle and I sit downstairs and people watch, playing “spot the pikey”, the indie post rock equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel. Once done, we headed back to our comfy chalet only to discover Mr Coogan and Mr Baldwin hadn't had as much fortune as us. In fact, their expressions, upon our arrival back at the chalet, suggested that one of them had just had their life seriously threatened. That wasn't so though and soon we were all feeling better, although when I pulled the sofa bed out and Mr Baldwin tried to push it back in, with me inside it, the ensuing crush really did threaten my goodwill and vibes. Obviously the TV got switched on and (wahey!) Battle Royale was on the Mogwai channel. Being old and boring I stayed in and had my own TV party while Mr Coogan and Mr Baldwin went back out to exact some revenge on the indie rock establishment. After Battle Royale, that fucking god awful Bjork film came on the TV so I gave up and hit the sack, only to be rudely awaken by the dustmen as they came in at the early hours of Saturday morning.


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