Venue: Becket's Park
Location: Northampton England
As part of the Twinfest cultural exchange knees-up, where bands from our twin towns of Poitiers and Marburg come to play in Northampton, Wilson will be playing at an event called SPONGE. Wilson remain unclear as to the exact nature of SPONGE at this stage, but we believe it to be an open-air event taking place in Becket's Park in Central Northampton on the afternoon of Sunday 6th June.
We have the timing for our set at SPONGE. Alarmingly, we shall be on stage at a quarter to one in the afternoon. That is...in daylight...
For this weekend it is Twinfest, where the bands from town get together with bands from our twin towns of Poitiers and Marburg with a view to putting on three days of loved-up rocking festivity, drunkenness and random acts of international kindness. Except that the poor old French people, struggling against government cutbacks at home, can't come this year. So it's just us and the Germans. I feel sorry for the French guys - mais naturellement - but I can't help feeling how appropriate it is that Brits and Germans should be putting together this good natured international hoedown at a time when far too many people are reviving far too many painful memories.
There are, of course, matters of physical endurance to consider at such affairs. After Masters of Budvar on Friday night and the ensuing suicide mission - sorry, party - Russ and I felt that, if Wilson were ever going to make it onstage for their appointed hour of Sunday lunchtime, we had better devise a Plan. We found ourselves obliged to pick up our passes for the festival at a Twinfest gig in the Racehorse garden on Saturday. Knowing that we needed an early night before our set, we planned to nip down early in the evening, grab the passes, get blind drunk by half-past-eight and hit the sack around nine or ten.
Half past eight arrives and the Plan is working perfectly. Various members of Wilson are strewn around the pub garden, passes safely secured, roaring drunkenly at the mighty Shiga Wire, Marburg's very own answer to Metallica. Only with Josh Homme for a lead singer. Yes, real good.
But, reader, I am sure that by now you have spotted the Flaw in the Plan.
Severely damaged and dressed in our best (just to show it off to maximum effect) we arrive at the pub. It is 11:00am and the sun is shining down like you wouldn't believe. It is a glorious morning in NN1 and we are in no state to appreciate it. One of us has not even slept at all.
We make our way to the gates of Becket's Park, where a kindly soul in a yellow "events" tee shirt tells us that we can't bring our cars onto the festival site. Somewhere deep, deep inside me lurks a thought that (perhaps happily) I cannot physically articulate: we've only got ourselves into this lamentable state by making an ill-advised trip to the pub to pick up these STUPID GREAT CAR PASSES THAT YOU SEE BEFORE YOU ON OUR WINDSCREENS, MISTER C***Y. Patiently, and without making any panic calls on his Walky-Talky (it's the fecking Digital Revolution and these prats still have the same walky fecking talkies as they used to have in 1978. Probably handed down lovingly from father to son along with all those useless fecking post-punk Rough Trade records, then, eh?) he explains to us: "She said no cars on site after eleven thirty." It is exactly eleven thirty two AM.
Russ disappears into the park to find the great "She" while Kathy and I mill about, trying to stay alive and watching despondently as some shaven-headed buffoons hack down trees in order to facilitate the building of more flats for more vain and helpless Hollyoaks beings. Eventually Russ returns with a lady from the council, who graciously "walks" the car into the park. That's it. That's absolutely right. She walks along in front of the car, just to let people know that it's on its way. "If she really wants to recreate the golden early days of motoring," I ask Russ, "Shouldn't she at least have the decency to carry a red flag?"
Nobody dies and we make it to the backstage area. We unload our shit and listen to the first band of the day soundchecking. We try hard to get warmed up. This involves opening suicidal cans of beer, smoking everything to hand and hoping for the best.
When we come on there is an audience of perhaps forty people, sitting in the bright sunshine on a big old hill in front of us. You could have fitted them all right there on the stage with us. If they had been up there, perhaps they would have heard the beats, because, if SPT (Subsequent Punter Testimony) is anything to go by, they never heard them out the front.
So, yes, we banged away as best we could, and I guess we played all right; but it's all rather pointless if people out the front can't hear the drums. I must admit, I was quite flattered at the idea that a few of our mates thought us capable of deliberately playing without our beats...but, I mean, why would we? Stevie Ward tried his best to explain shit to the sound man, but he got nowhere. Well, we only submitted our tech-spec six weeks in advance. What the feck were we thinking?
Of course, we only found all this out later. On stage we had the beats loud and clear (mostly) and we did our best to hang on tight and play in tune. Russ ran out the front with his djembe on Hippy Shit. I tried to dance with him, but apparently I came across as a dancing bear in a suit. I have no problem with this, as it goes. Only the day before, Ben from The Echo Chamber and I had been discussing how you never get to see a good dancing bear these days. Well out of breath from my dancing bear exertions, I realised that I then had five consecutive vocal choruses to take care of. At various octaves. Ooh, my little head was pounding boom-boom-boom, and I thought I was up for the kind of stroke that turns you into Evil Harold. Stevie Ward's little girl, Holly, came up me afterwards and went "Oy, Ted!" (Yes. I know.) "You were a bit lazy on that song!"
We got through our set, packed up and wandered out onto the hillside to watch Hotel Stern from Marburg. An acoustic trio, they distinguished themselves by sending their percussionist out into the crowd to distribute free beer. The sun was shining as hot as you like. Curtis stopped by, looking like Babe Ruth. Hotel Stern played a song that reminded us of The Murder Mystery by the Velvet Underground. They were unbelievably friendly and seemed genuinely glad to be in Northampton. Ambassadors for the sport, God bless 'em.
At which point we got clearance to be - that's right - walked out of the park, so that we could ditch our kit. Russ and I did exactly that, rolled a few cigs for the afternoon to come and slipped down a couple of medicinal vodkas. It was at about this time that the suspicion began to dawn on us: perhaps nobody at Twinfest ever really believed that we would turn up at a time like that. Perhaps we had, in fact, been allotted that very time slot in the fairly sure and certain hope that we wouldn't turn up? Too bad. We'd done our bit for Twinfest. Now, suitably warmed up, we were going to have some back.
We headed back to the site, where by now a reasonable wee crowd had gathered. We watched Good Cop Bad Cop, who played a blistering set in blistering sunshine. MC Bot seized the controls from the soundman. Ooh, he's found the bass! Awesome. Council lady saying time to stop. Baying punters, howling guitars. Steve on top of the drum kit. Council lady incensed. Audience applauding like the rabid rock dogs of Planet Hoggoth. Best set of the day by a mile. Trebles all round.
Then it all goes a bit blinking Seurat. Insanely hot sunshine. Unbelievably friendly atmosphere. Really nice people working on the beer wagon. Music and Germans and that all over the place. For an hour or two on Sunday afternoon, Becket's Park is a wonderful place to be. We catch Hotel Stern again in the acoustic tent. We watch Hindsight playing covers. We go to the pub.
This means that we miss the final moments of the festival. Thanks to Andy Skank for this report: In-Vocal are headlining in the acoustic tent. A fairly large crowd has gathered, but the PA is not equal to the task (why does that sound familiar?), and the band are barely audible. Except, that is, for the last word of the last song. It is, in fact, the last word of a three day, three venue international festival of friendship and truly good vibrations. It comes through loud and clear. And that last word is: "TWAT!"
Ah well. It was such a pleasant event. The bands (none of whom were paid) were sweet, co-operative, friendly and devoid of any kind of ego nonsense. It's only a shame that thanks to the lackadaisical attitude of some of the sound engineers (who were paid), the one thing that those bands and their audiences really, really wanted out this event - the chance to play their shit and be heard doing it - was in many cases denied them.