I threatened back at the start of this new blog that I’d turn in a review of The Glade Festival, which admittedly was a couple of weeks ago now.
(NB – this post contains vehement and probably unfair generalisations about psytrance fans. I’m not sorry, as such, but you might want to read something else if you have any records by Infected Mushroom or ever wear fairy-wings outside your bedroom).
It’s a curious beast, the Glade, and in many respects I should loathe it (and everyone who attends). Indeed, if it weren’t for the fact that we were getting free tickets, free drinks and some expenses (in exchange for some DJ action in the Pussy Parlure) I probably wouldn’t ever have attended.
The ‘problem’ I perceived with it arose from its days as a small enclave at Glastonbury, an area just below the old railway line which – despite the odd appearance by The Aphex Twin or somesuch – was generally populated by fairy-wing wearing psytrance fans and their smug facepainted fellas. That amount of fractal art and polygonal tree-hangings – soundtracked, of course, by psytrance at night and mimsy droning tabla-filth by day – can send anybody into the belltower with an automatic rifle. And since it was these very swine who are behind the Glade, it’s no great mystery why the idea initially appalled me.
However, at last year’s
Glastonbury, The Glade moved into partnership with the usual Dance Area promoter (my friend Malcolm) and worked wonders. Partly to draw pressure away from the ludicrously over-subscribed Lost Vagueness area, partly to cover for the lack of really big dance acts (anybody big enough to fill the old main Dance Tent – possibly the largest in Europe – would end up on the Main Stage anyway), the ‘Dance Village’ consisted of a number of smaller tents with a much broader and more exciting remit which saw The Bug, Iration Steppas, Jamie Lidell, Cassetteboy, Surgeon et al, who would never have got a slot in the old Dance Area. The spiral crap and the fairywings were still in evidence but I must concede I was swayed.
So to this year’s Glade. With a couple of provisos, it was absolutely brilliant. Practicalities first – the site – between Reading and Aldermaston – is absolutely gorgeous, set in gently rolling fields in the midst of a nature reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest. It’s a compact site with camping allowed very close to where the action is, a line of marquees spread far enough out to avoid overlapping noise but close enough to avoid the usual festival trudge. And if you suspended your hippy-revulsion, it actually looked great. The worst excesses of the psy-trance end of things still stuck in my craw, but other than that the décor, lay-out and atmosphere worked a treat. There was a pretty wide range of stalls and food outlets, with no obvious chains and not a single piece of sponsorship anywhere on site. And most of the food was of a very high standard (Can’t say I ate much more than the odd burrito but I was ‘off solids’). The two big problems were the lack of standpipes for water – backstage passes and a comparatively luxurious crew camping area meant this was never an issue for us, but it did seem to be a real issue for the punters and for the stewards trying to keep them hydrated. Bear in mind that in 20+ years of festival going, this was probably the hottest and driest I’ve ever attended…
The security were also notable for being even more pigheaded, prejudiced, violent and utterly unstable than is the norm. Apparently there were two security firms involved, one of whom seemed Ok, but the other – a bunch of Bristolian meatheads who’d barely handled event security before and had no idea what they were supposed to be doing – were just pumped-up hooligans looking to bash some druggie brains in. Twatting around the busy site in 4x4s, stripsearching people in public because they looked a bit fucked, that sort of thing. Inexcusable, and apparently the Glade promoters have been made very aware of the fact. True, the number of thefts and fencejumpers plummeted from last year, but at what cost?
What is intriguing but ultimately very effective is the very distinct subgroups running alongside each other. One end of the site is very much land of the psy-bastards.. the ID Spiral area ), as close to hell as I’ve ever been whilst awake, takes up one dank, tie-dyed end of the site, to approach which you have to run the gamut of stalls knocking out ludicrously over-priced fluoro tat and dreadful macrobiotic slop, stepping over kethead trance bunnies and avoiding a forest of twirling poi things all seemingly bent on removing your eye, which bearing in mind the vile clothing sported by most of these people would have been a blessing.
There was also the main psytrance area – an outside ‘Origin’ stage with a beautiful sound system pumping out infallibly awful awful music. There was another psy-trance / hard trance tent – The Liquid Stage – at the other end of the site too..
There was then the neutral middle ground occupied by the main Glade tent and the Pussy Parlure – a cabaret-themed spiegeltent where we worked our magic..
Next to that, the Breaks tent – which I never even entered. I don’t exactly dislike breaks, but at the same time I’ve never had any interest in it whatsoever.
And then it gets weird. The Littlebigtent / Overkill Tent – nobody seemed sure – was like the whole breakcore / dubstep / raggabreaks / core core core / Bangface Hard crew scene rounded up, covered in dust and shoved into one tent for the whole weekend. And taking an irreverent, noisy, fucked-up, debauched, refreshing approach to the whole thing that made the ‘other lot’ seem like the uptight, self-regarding middle class hippy filth that they clearly are. But I’ll get to that later.
Other than in the above tent, the musical thrills were a little sparse. I finally got to see Surgeon ‘live’ on the Friday night – good hard techno of the kind that I didn’t like ‘back in the day’ but wish I had done. I believe some dancing may have been done, but I tend to block these things out of my memory. Jamie Lidell was a very mixed bag. Having been recommended his live act (and being told it was far better than the pretty dull Multiply album) I was very up for this. Initial reactions were that he was a very clever young man – sampling his own vocal rhythms to generate tracks as he went along, building them up into really elaborate arrangements that almost gelled into coherent dance tracks but never quite did. It all got very dull mid-way through, which is a relief because he then slipped into his much-heralded Curtis Mayfield / James Brown soul brother Number One mode, a thoroughly brilliant soul voice belting out spastic soul hybrid tunes complete with knee-drops, James Brown style self-aggrandisement and Christmas lights up his dressing gown. So by the end the place went mental and we all forgot how bored we’d been not 20 minutes previously.
Some reggae “sound system” on the Liquid stage made me more confident than usual about my own roots dj-ing qualities – pisspoor MC-ing and a fumbled ‘Uptown Top Ranking’ rewind saw us heading anywhere but there.. Even more disappointing – because it should have been brilliant – was the Mad Professor. A rammed tent with a lot of vibes ruined by lacklustre tunes, muddy mixing and what seemed to be zero effort from the Prof.. Which kinda reinforces my impression of the no doubt lovely bloke as totally over-rated (that Pato Banton album aside).
Coldcut – closing proceedings in the main tent – bored me rigid within minutes. Joyless, clever VJ twattery and po-faced beats are boring at the best of times, least of all at the close of a fun-packed three days..
Actually, Surgeon aside the only act that really rocked the Main Tent were
Alabama 3. I’ve seen them more times than is healthy, being a local lad, and I’m used to seeing them turn in more shoddy, drugfucked performances than great ones (although sometimes they can be both). But this time out – for reasons that weren’t clear – they really had it going on. Perhaps it was the addition of my near neighbour B on vocals, or the fact that the Rev and Larry Love had obviously had a row before going on, but they were more energised, soulful and together than I’ve seen them in a long time..
Another highlight came on the Sunday night, after everything shut down ludicrously early. The promoters are under VERY heavy manners from the council and the locals if they want to keep their licence, so bizarrely enough everything shut down at around 9pm on the Sunday, which left a lot of very fucked people stumbling round looking for something to happen to. One example of which – that we saw from our vantage point in the ever-dependable Tiny Tea Tent, sipping a final brandy hot chocolate while we waited for the last vestiges of the slightly over-done 2cb hit to drain away – was a crowd of people who’d laid their hands on literally thousands of glowsticks. Which they proceeded to gather up and – on the count of ten – fling them into the air in handfuls, creating a brilliant and beautiful sight, the only time these wretched baubles have ever done anything other than irritate me.
But now to the real fun. The Overkill tent.. A few things – Vex’d’s dubstep, the noise-fest of Scotch Grind, the Lightning Bolt-esque hardcore of Trencher – already made this the tent to be in. And a Saturday afternoon performance by Countryside Alliance Crew was one to treasure: basically Shitmat, Aaron Spectre and some mates calling themselves Roots Manure, Farmer Giles Peterson, Woolpack and the like. Dressed in Barbours, wellies and tweed and performing Wurzel-sampling spazcore hits like ‘Super Sheep Shearer’ and a cover of Marley’s ‘We’re Lambing’. Shouting “it’s Junglist – it’s ORGANIC” and throwing leeks into the crowd. Absolute puerile and the funniest thing I’ve ever seen at a festival..
But – be still my beating heart – it was when the tent was handed over to Bangface on the Saturday night that it all really kicked off.
I’ve been to Bangface a few times in
London – old school acid and ‘Ardkore nonsense mashed up with the best of the breakcore scene – and had a fantastic, inflatable-packed time. But this is where it all really came together. I saw them pumping up the piles of inflatables before the night started and started to feel the first tingle of mindless, childish excitement..
It was absolute blinding. I was totally messed up so I can’t do a reliable headcount (my conviction that I was at a huge ‘back to the old skool’ mega-rave has been discounted by friends because at this point I was stood at the back of the tent, convinced I was in the middle). But hundreds / thousands of masked-up, horn-blowing, poppers snorting, banner wave Bangface Hard Crew kids going absolutely ballistic to a line-up of Luke Vibert, Ceephax Acid Crew, Altern-8, Knifehandchop, Bong Ra and Saint Acid enabled me to have the finest night of my whole life. Ever. Thus far. Which sounds like ridiculous hyperbole but it was just one of those times when it all came together – the crowd, the chems, the company, the music, the lights (jesus fuck, I haven’t see a laser show like that in a long long time).
Altern-8 were a revelation – and not just to me, it seems; Knifehandchop started a bit shaky but hit his groove with dumb raggacore mentalist nonsense pretty swiftly. Bong Ra was just a blistering wall of ragga-metal noise. Add to that people wielding the traditional Bangface signs (“Death Can Fuck Off!”, “0-Hardcore In 303 Seconds”, “Arthur Fowler Loved This Place”), wielding inflatable skeletons and dolphins, yelling and hugging and laughing.
It was everything I believe the original rave scene must have been like (I have no idea, Butthole Surfers didn’t do raves, so neither did I!) and everything that the joyless, po-faced, quasi-mystical psytrance scene thoroughly lacked. I KNOW that we had a better time watching Knifehandchop than they did watching Ashram MoonMonkey, and we did it ourselves without any interference from the Goddess, chakras or chai.
There’s a bit of footage here which gives something of the Bangface flava. But not much… The highlight was something I actually didn’t see but my girlfriend did – two poor little trancebunnies, their fairywings wilting in the heat, staring at the mayhem Bong Ra was creating, and spotting the sign saying “Fuck Your Life”..
“But WHY does it say “fuck your life?”
Filed under: Where It's At
Ashamed to say I’m still reading the Cormac McCarthy book – it’s too hot to concentrate so I’ve been reverting to my usual culture slut tendencies and just reading magazines. Book reviews are especially good – saves all the effort of reading the bloody things, I can get a decent precis AND have an informed opinion for precisely no effort.
Been hammering my soulseek connection lately though, very excited about new music (or new to me) again after a period of resting on my back catalogue laurels (the Handsome Family were getting, ahem, ‘rinsed’ in my house for the longest time).
High On Fire – Blessed Black Wings
this is an IMMENSE album. As a mate of mine pointed out, it’s hard to work out if I’m giving something that normally wouldn’t bother me – a kind of ‘none more black’ metal / stoner hybrid – ear-time simply because it’s been touched by the hand of Albini, but who cares? It’s really very very fucking heavy and in this oppressive heat it breaks up the ennui!
Outputmessage – Nebulae
lovely clanky old skool beautiful electronic wibbling. God, describing dance music is a pisser, isn’t it?
The Klaxons – The Bouncer
It’s a pretty shoddy idea – a kind of noisy indie percussive take on the Kicks Like A Mule classic. But bugger me if it doesn’t work a treat….
In addition to hammering soulseek, i’ve also got myself a shiny new 8mbps broadband connection and I’m slowly coming to terms with the dark arts of bit torrent and DVD authoring (fuck me, that stuff is complicated) so I’m downloading both all the multiplex movies I didn’t risk my hard-earned on AND the arthouse classics I’ve never got round to watching. In summary, The Island is absolute toilet, possibly the worst film I’ve seen (and I’ve seen Shakespeare In Love AND American Beauty, so I know what I’m talking about). And Come & See (Idi i Smotri) made me want to chew off my own feet at the sheer horror of it all.
So that’s nice.
I was happy to see that Riddim magazine has maintained its quality, if not improved.. Issue 4 is pretty much all killer, no filler. Outside this mag (and outside the raggablogosphere), you have to search pretty hard for decent writing and reviews (Kevin Martin’s half-a-column in IDJ, the odd Lee Perry reissue in Mojo or suchlike). And Riddim is pulling in big names, interviews with artists I’ve never read firsthand before – Tanya Stephens and Barrington Levy are especially worth reading in this latest edition. The CD is always pretty good value too.
If I’m honest, a lot of the writing can be a little stilted – I’m sure this is partly due to translation issues (I assume a fair bit is translated from original German?), but I suspect there’s an earnestness and enthusiasm about the whole affair which doesn’t sit comfortably with people who’ve spent the last 2 or 3 decades reading reviews by Steven Wells or David Stubbs. A good case in point is the lengthy piece about a visit by an ethnology phD student to a nyabinghi grounding – it was by turns interesting and a little embarassing. I couldn’t decide if the narrator was dressed in the latest Gap pastels or some frightful Euro-rasta tat (a plastic red/gold/green tracksuit, mebbes?)
Even this has its upside – the reviews are rarely critical, but go long on detail and with a lot of the releases, especially the reissues, this is the most useful approach.
So yeh, can’t recommend it enough. Even if seeing a list of all the reggae festivals in Europe makes me wonder again why we don’t seem to be able to stage this things successfully here any more..
Filed under: Uncategorized
Like all of us, I’m sure, I aspired to all sorts of things when i was a yoot – some reasonable (actually, in my case, fucking dull – a lawyer, of all things), some absurd (Phil Lynott).
I didn’t realise that I’d still be doing it in my late 30s. I KNOW I won’t ever actually be a Mexican bikergang member, I know I probably don’t even want to be one. But it would be kinda cool, don’tcha think? I’ve got the boots, I’ve got the tshirts, I’m working on the tattoos. I just need the facial hair and the accent.
And, I guess, a bike..
A bit old, but worth commemorating anyway – John Eden’s inspired I&I Tunes post…
Filed under: Where It's At
Middle book in the Border trilogy, brilliant mid-20th century Mexamericana full of landscapes and hardships and boys becoming men
Johnny Dowd – lots of albums
The most fucked-up of the different voices lumped together as ‘alt.country’ or whatever the hell. Very warped, very junkyard-noisy but full of noise and imagery and sadness.
Much more than the amusing scatolo-cabaret act I’d pegged them as. Like a gypsy / Brechtian spin on the kind of sailors’n’midgets subjects Tom Waits deals in.
I’ll spare the world another blog entry on dubstep. Suffice to say this is beautiful and haunting and funereal and involving.
Lots and lots of New Orleans jazz – funeral marches and gospel songs and other ‘Big Easy’ classics. This stuff is magnificent.
I’ll bang one of these ‘Where It’s At’ posts up every now and again, if nothing else because it’ll serve as a kind of aide memoire of my own passions..
It’s almost exactly a year since I shut down The Pounding System. My life was in some kind of hyperdrive at that point – a new relationship which had my head spinning, seemingly spending every weekend in some field or another, rather absurd chemical intake! As I said at the time, I was too busy living my life to find time to write about it, and it was becoming a list of things I was doing, with next to no ‘editorial’.
I’m not sure why I think it’s any different now – it’s another summer being spent in fields, another period of absurd chemical intake, and the relationship feels as new and exciting as it ever did. I just fancied giving the blogging another shot. I’m not sure it will be that text-heavy – I think it might be more about pictures and enthusiasms and links to stuff that’s caught my eye. But we’ll see.
If you’re wondering – the pic in the header is what happened when my friend Jen’s digital camera broke one morning on the beach at the latest Sunbound Unsound festy on the beach at Metaponto. I’d like to pretend I was heading off on a long walk during which I would consider important things at length, but I actually just needed a piss.
If you’re STILL wondering, the name of the blog is lifted from one of the banners I saw being brandished in the Bangface tent at last weekend’s Glade Festival. The Bangface night was quite possibly the best night of fun I’ve had in my entire club- and festival-going career, seriously. There’s a short video clip of the madness here and I’ll knock up a proper account of the weekend shortly.
But anyway, good to be back. Now I just need to get used to WordPress.