21 May 2009
The Great Escape
My eyes open. Nothing. Last thing I remember I'd been in The Great Eastern off the North Lanes, Brighton and on the way to the floor, still clutching some Corn Whiskey (in the jar)and dimly remembering some kind of A Hawk And A Hacksaw accordian leanings. Now, the place is empty and in white light and on stage there's a band that seem to be called The Burned Fuses, all dressed in white suits and Residents-style eye masks. Everyone else seems to be at the bar and strangely fixated on a bottle of Rum Elixir that has found itself embedded between the hairfolds of the bartender.
I hear only fragments:
"...he's always been here; right Goat Lad... of Mersey..."
"I've talled people worse than this..."
"For us, there was something of a sixties feel to it. Some of the Dads still.."
But I get the gist: these Burned Fuses are just way off and the crowd are loving it, in their way. I look more closely at the band; it seems like the cavernous sounds coming from the stage are the result of every person in the band playing Bass guitar, which reminds me for a second of the time I had pneumonia.
"This is... Flipper!" I managed to yell at the stage before a guy who looks vaguely like a shaved Kris Kristopherson taps me on the shoulder and points to a sign above the stage that says: The Honeyclub.
"No good just dry heaving up front, keep towards the back, try to blend in..." says Kris.
"Blend in? Like Larry you mean?" I say, indicating a friend of mine who I've just remembered is stumbling around on the other side of the stage, attempting to engage some rather disaffected girls with some experimental Cosack dancing.
"Ah, he's been here before," says Kris. "He understands. For you, I think you'd be better heading West, towards The Arc."
It seems like a reasonable suggestion and I'm bloated by Bass anyhow and so, with just a flicker, I breathe cold air and find myself, as if by auto-suggestion, in a cramped Sun Room, watching a band who everyone else calls Hoover but I know to be The E.P. Stimulus, from Yeovil.
The guy guessed right: I needed a little West Country hoedown to keep my going. I look at my watch; it's still Friday, tea-time.
EPS, as they're known, play a brand of minimalist electro punk, inspired by Gui Boratto and Frank Tovey, tinged with amplifier regret and the inability to pass on Casio keyboards. They play with their heads down, shoegazing in all but name.
While I'm ordering a triple sambuccolic at the bar, a man who I sort of recognise from a TV sitcom I used to watch, starts jabbering:
"You could say it was a put-on and on some levels it was but you could also say it was a kind of put-on put-on, because there were several people in the colony that really did believe things could change because of what they'd started. I mean, for one thing, everyone had to change where they slept each night. Who you slept with wasn't really an issue - some people took advantage of the loose system, others settled down with their regular families and girlfriends and lived quite normally. There wasn't any sexual thing to any of us, despite how the media seemed to want to see us. There were the odd orgies, I guess, since the worst of the drugs sometimes took you that way, but I guess if you want to make a comparison to some of the suburbs, well we were nowhere near..."
"And you can print all of that, for starters," he said.
I'm less than two drink in, and already feeling a little, when the lights go off and a low, Pauline Oliveros (Everytime I see a picture of her I can't help imagining that she speaks like Jennifer Tilly) style drone starts up; an air-raid siren for the Drones, a call to prayer. Christ, these people, it's like the seaside leaks Bass...
"Ladies and gentlemen," someone announces but is quickly drenched in feedback and squalls.
This is, apparently, The Ticker Tapers, a duo from Ohio.
As they get into their set - two hunchbacks, one semi-exploded laptop - The Ticker Tapers sound a little like something you might find on Cold Meat Industries back in the day only with the added semi-coherent Grouperesque siren mumbles... great stuff and easily the best thing on at the moment.
Adi Newton from The Anti Group / Clock DVA etc is moonwalking at the front of the crowd. The crowd clap in all the wrong places but someone close-mics them against their will and sends the sound backwards onto the stage to be recycled.
I look at my crumped map and decide to head towards Number 9: The Engine Room, feeling the need to go out before I start thinking about going up.
The Engine Room is built to last from chewed girders and 19th Century efficiency. Inside, there are various head-nodders, listening to a DJ play old Technotronic records at half speed... Some people have clearly been misinformed that this is a silent disco and are bobbing around with over-size headphones and wraparound shades that make them look in a certain light like the lizards from V.
I order a drink, with a side order of Chef's salad which turns out to be some daffodil shards, laced with walnuts and some kind of rasperry couli.
This seems like the right kind of music to chew by.
Time passes; I look at my watch again and it's still only 9.30; people keep telling me the night is young but I try to resist. I look around and realise that I've lost my friends. I think a little harder about this and realise I didn't come with any. I wonder why.
I can't face any more Technotronic so walk back into the centre, heading for Number 13: The Hope, which sounds promising, accompanied by a girl with green hair streaks (which might once have been blonde but for the lashings of the sea air) who insists on giving me the History of Mr Punch (as in Judy):
"Mr Punch is the shortened form of the English Punchinello taken from the Italian Policianelo or Pulcinella, and the French Polichinelle, a character in the Italian commedia dell'arte..."
At some point she dives into a bar and I'm left alone with my thoughts outside The Hope, wondering whether or not that really could be the chinese girl from Grey's Anatomy sliding down the walls.
Inside The Hope, there's isn't any. People leave, shaking their heads.
I remember dimly that tomorrow I'm supposed to be a keynote speaker at the Business Etics And Teleology (BEAT) Conference in The Brighton Centre but can't for the life of me remember the title of the paper I'm supposed to be presenting.
Think I might start with a joke about a capella singing.
I go instead to The Prince Albert or The Cock Ring as the locals call it (I say locals, I mean the guys with bare-chests and angels wings on the door of The Angelic Staircase). Inside, there's a guy dressed impressively as an Auton from Spearhead In Space, doing some kind of tribute to Masonna, hitting himself with a contraption that seems part microphone, part kitchen appliance. Impressive stuff, except that afyter only a fw minutes the power gets cut and everyone gets thrown out. I'm not exactly sure what's happening but I hear something that seems to indicate that The Prince Albert is not hosting any of The Great Escape gigs and people have come here purely as a result of a printing error.
Onwards to The Barfly, where----------------
My eyes open. Nothing. Last thing I remember I'd been in The Barfly, Brighton. I look at my watch and it's Saturday; that crept up quickly. I still have my Great Escape map clutched in my hand and my wristband is still attached, though now my hair is stuck to the pavement, glued with Friday Night Ectoplasm (TM), perhaps as a result of bad time keeping (or so it says, much later, on my appraisal forms).
I get up, shake myself down (this has the appearance of experimental street theatre through the gauze of Delirium Tremens - I get cold stares and a little spare change thrown at me) and head towards the North Lanes again and the Komedia, where it's rumoured that Soisong are playing a breakfast set.
Soisong are nowhere near the Komedia, so I duck into the CyberDog rave shop where a guy I once knew from school is dancing on the podium, apparently attempting to illustrate the primary motor dysfunctions of Amphetamine Psychosis. I stand and watch him for awhile, my eyes still trying to adjust to all the UV, and retroscend through some childhood memories:
I remember Shittypants Kerby, and the terrible eczema of Krusty Katy. I can still see Lee Piltdown taunting the remedial children with punches to the kidneys and heart-breaking chants, ‘Come on you R-ems! Come on you R-ems!’ If you could only see old Broady just waiting to be run over by the other kids or the beautiful but dim Drayne twins who’d sleep with you at eleven and not understand until thirteen (unlucky for some), then you’d understand why children just have to be the nasty buggers that they are. There’s nothing malicious about their malice but it’s calculated to succeed; they understand the boiling point of their own gene pool, they don’t want to be left behind with the ectos.
I can't remember the name of the podium guy but I go and tug on his sleeves anyway and grin like an idiot. I feel the need to explain, thinking that perhaps I might have bullied him slightly.
"Children are ruthless because they are pragmatic; if he Craig is called Pizza Face then the names used up, it can’t hold for two people in the same year, it doesn’t matter how much pus can fill up your face, he’s still the main man. You won’t be the one. You get that now, don't you?"
Whateverhe'scalled shrugs and says nothing, hardly misses a beat. I leave, heading for The King And Queen where a band called ArcLite are playing Spacemen 3 covers without a hint of irony. I stay here for the whole set, swaying with the hair of the rhythm guitarist and squealing like a stuck pig when the first few bars of Suicide.
Blissed out but still worried by the burst of nostalgia stimulated by podium boy, I crash out upstairs in The Mash Tun, leaking slightly over two girls who seem to be dressed for a Strawberry Switchblade look-a-like competition (as it turns out, they are).
Staring out the window, trying to make my lips stick to the glass, I keep seeing old people who look vaguely like my old School teacher Mrs. Plum (no relation to the Professor), who taught Religious Education and who let us draw pictures of Indian demons in our books and who played apocalyptic music while we copied down Hindu sayings or Tribal songs.
It strikes me that the jukebox has played the whole of Mayhem's Wolf's Lair Abyss album; I think there's a group of mischievous Wyatters out there, roaming the streets.
I can't shake Mrs Plum. No longer want to. For the first year at school, RE was my favourite lesson. I loved to hear about how the Veda played on the minds or how Buddha became Vishnu or how Nanak overcame the roster or how the Ganges will never dry. She taught us how to conduct the Ten Commandments to Ravel and made us draw a picture of The Wicker Man, alight and full of tiny people, screaming.
I decide to follow Rose and Jill out of the pub and end up in Po Na Na, where I watch.
At this point, my notebook runs out and I write the rest on beermats and paper tablecloths, which i subsequently lose.
I think I missed Kasabian.
See you next year Great Escape Festival.