It’s a showery Saturday and the wind has picked up. Back in 2009 this festival made the international headlines when a hurricane ripped through the site, taking tents, stalls and the main stage with it. With that sore point in mind and as a precaution, the backdrop canvas hiding all the behind the scenes work back stage was taken down to allow the wind to blow through. As we seem to have April showers in May these days, the weather was kind enough to allow The Bonsall Red Barrows to do their entertaining routine. Also at noon each day we were wholly mesmerised by Drum Machine – the Mad Mad style drumming troupe who never failed to impress.
We started today where we finished last night, at the Convoy Cabaret tent for some dirty Cardiff crusty punk rock in the form of Reality Attack. They’ve been peddling their brand of squat rock since the nineties and it was just what the head doctor had ordered for our Thornbridge Brewery hangovers. They have Mortarhate style songs about being pissed up on Special Brew and ‘Of course the police are coming.’ The band were fucked, probably fucked in life too, they could barely speak, but they could really play. Particularly liked the improv-psyche stuff going on in Tribal Warning. ‘Special people, special brew, special needs, special you.’ Yeah baby…
A surprise package was to see Eastfield on the main Pallet Stage. Expecting Anti-Pasti; we learnt they had cancelled due to drummer problems… Eastfield would have been my initial choice anyway and with this opportunity they certainly pulled the rabbit out of the hat. It’s a big stage and a big crowd and the positive energy they gave was evident to us all. It was a fast tempo and at a frantic pace, it’s not soul, it’s not funk, it’s not dub, it’s not punk, no, it’s just another boring Eastfield song. Rail punk at it’s best.
Staying at the Pallet Stage we soaked up the experimental dub reggae of African Headcharge, a band I never envisaged seeing when I was first introduced to their tribalistic sounds as a teenager listening to John Peel. I acquired their 1981 album ‘My Life In A Hole In The Ground’ taped off my mate Mal and followed their course thanks to Steve Barker’s ‘On The Wire’ radio show and Adrian Sherwood’s On-U-Sound mixes. Their sound is all in the drums with three up front on bongos and a multitude of percussive instruments to create a unique blend of African/Caribbean dub. And then they played Somebody Touch I and my bucket list was made shorter.
New Model Army – Justin Sullivan shouts ‘Here comes the war.’ He is a shaman, a preacher. That song is 25 years old and at the time NMA and their songs and messages were powerful enough to have been a national threat. We however grow up, we fall into the trappings of society – some of us will change things for the betterment of ourselves and loved ones, if not mankind. Others will get angry and want to change things while singing their hearts out to New Model Army at a festival in 2017, but inevitably they’ll go home having been suitably entertained. Great set though.
Stumbled upon Hightown Pirates at the Something Else Tea Tent at some ungodly hour it was a great blend of cockney-style pub rock, brilliant sax/trumpet section and songs that grew into huge crescendos that you never wanted to end. Solid drumming and a britpop refugee singer-guitarist with a confident manner that you immediately warmed to.
Before this we had witnessed The Fall in the Woodland Stage. A bit like African Headcharge, I have plotted the career of this band through John Peel’s shows but never really took to them like he did. I’ve never seen them live and my interest was one of tolerance out of loyalty to Peel rather than actually enjoying the music. I had been pre-warned that they’d probably play a set of new stuff and rarely delved into their back catalogue. Being a purveyor of new music, this suited me fine. The band of musicians came on, plugged in and made a fantastic noise, it’s psyched out riff driven music, repetitive and hypnotic… Enter Mark E. Smith – a wreck of a human being, a walking miracle, a cyst on his forehead and an abscess in his mouth. He is a horrible cunt, he is a real-life Brick Top from the film Snatch. He is the man who gets on the bus smelling of piss, he is both repulsive and compulsive. It’s a spectacle as he interferes with the keyboards, the guitar amps and drums while his band members are playing them. This adds an element of fear and the unknown to the set and you are compelled to watch. Maybe I caught them on a good day… This was my Bearded Theory highlight… Today was a good day.