A GUEST POSTING by STEVE McLEAN
Righttttt! So let’s say this upfront! This wasn’t a Butlin’s ‘themed weekend’ populated with tributes acts, Sonja and one member of Five Star pretending to be Five Star. This was a bona fide curated music festival, we know that because there was loads of posters saying so.
Piss taking aside, it WAS FUCKING BOSS! I’m not kidding, I had a better time there than I’ve had at any music festival since my teens. If I have one complaint, there wasn’t enough ‘Butlinsy’ type stuff. A lot was closed down for the winter. Shame!
We (myself and my pal Tom) got there after kick off, meaning we missed Bellatrix and a few others but it’s not all bad as we were given a chalet bigger than we were expected. You know you’ve hit your 40s when you get excited about having a spare room that no one will sleep in.
So the first thing we took in was John Cale chatting about his life. I say chatting about his life, he tells stories like Grandpa Simpson, there was one where he caught the bus to Shelbyville with an onion on his belt (which was the style at the time). It was kinda endearing. John Robb did a good job of livening things up a tad. Look man, when John Cale speaks, you listen, even if he’s doing his best Stanley Unwin.
The first music act we saw was also John Cale. We didn’t really have our shit together, so we had a double Cale first day. It’s cool though, I’ve seen Cale around half a dozen times and Paris 1919 shows aside, I’ve never heard so many Cale classics in one sitting. It’s a pity not one of them sounded like they did on the records. That’s the beauty of Cale, not one fuck was given by him. He must have seen Bob Dylan and thought ‘I’ll have some of that’. It was fucking fab in places though and a bit patience testing wank in others. We didn’t need a spoken word / ambient version of Half Past France, but it was great to hear Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night back in the setlist.
Someone shouted out for Hallelujah and then someone else shouted out ‘wanker’, I think it was a response to the first shout out, rather than an attack on JC. (editor’s note…..it wasn’t an attack on me either!!)
He opened with Helen of Troy which is in my top 10 Cale tunes and while a roaring version of Waiting For The Man predictably got the biggest cheer. Villa Albani was the only song I’d not heard him do live before, so that to me was a special treat.
After Cale we headed off to the chalet as we were pretty knackered after the traveling and such. We stopped by Burger King, which was open until 3am, for fuck sake. THREE AYE EMM!
Saturday kick off, all you can eat breakfast. That’s where we made our money back. I’ll be surprised if they do a buffet again next year as I think we took them to the cleaners in hashbrowns alone. After about an hour we went to the swimming pool. The pool was only open for about 4 hours on one day. That fucking sucks man, plus we didn’t find out until afterwards…. basically we’d have gone earlier and stayed later if we’d known. Those flumes are the balls.
Music wise, we kept our powder dry until Peter Perrett. We’d seen a bit of his talk and if I’m honest it was like watching a model made by the Jim Henson creature shot. Wanna feel old? Peter Perrett is what the robot Lou Reed from No Money Down looks like now
But Jesus, he fucking nailed it. His band were tight AF and cool AF and rocking AF and just AF. Peter is still the teller of stories rather than the singer of songs. I didn’t recognise much of the material as most of it was culled from his solo albums that I’ve heard but not digested. Surely the sign of a great act and great songs is when you’re hooked without knowing a note? He rewarded the non-fans with Another Girl, Another Planet and a rollicking cover of the Velvets What Goes On, but he didn’t need to. He had the songs to leave without the fan service. Baby Don’t Talk from his 1990s outing The One was a nice opener while War Plan Red and An Epic Story are up there with his classics.
We went off to watch some footy on the big screen and play some pool. The pool got quite contentious but the final score was 3 to Steve and 2 to Tom. It’s not my fault he loves potting the black. I tried my best to lose to him, I really did. Then more food. I mean fucking loads. We went to the American style diner. I had a cheeseburger, topped with a chicken burger and some bacon. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking ‘Steve you earned that burger topped burger after all your swimming’ Damn straight.
We got back in time for the The Nova Twins, they had come highly recommended so we were eager. They were okay I guess, but I didn’t click with them. That said, the crowd fucking loved them and I was in a food coma. so I might not the best person to ask. They looked lively. The tune Vortex is a banger.
After that it was the Jesus and Mary Chain. One of the main reasons I’d come was for JAMC. I love my bands when they have dry ice and strobes so you can’t see how badly they’ve aged. Nice one lads, you should have seen the rest of us, not a proper hair line among the crowd although many of us were convinced that our skinny jeans still fit (imagine the buzzer noise from Family Fortunes here)
A crowd pleasing set followed, April Skies, Just Like Honey, Candy Talking, Head On etc etc.. they also played a couple of newer songs – Amputation stands out as a clear winner although they didn’t play my favourite song, Snakedriver, so in their own vernacular they can get tae fuk.
After that we opted again for Burger King and back to the chalet. The other option was listening to Steve Lamacq playing some records and I’d spent hours in the 1990s doing that. I can’t imagine he’s improved.
Sunday! Bloody Sunday! More breakfast! The good thing about a buffet at breakfast is the amount of melon I eat. I never eat melon after a fry up in real life. It was practically a health spa weekend. Seriously, melon for breakfast, like I’m Meghan Markel or something!
After breakfast we went for a walk along the beach. We saw a seagull the size of a fucking bouncer. Hard bastard he was, instead of stealing chips, he was nicking B&H out of ten year old’s mouths.
There was more pool after the beach, some would say that Tom won because a 5 – nil drubbing meant he was ahead 7-3 but those people would be wrong as it was clearly a two legged affair where goal difference doesn’t count. The ‘final’ was decided Tom potted the black. Sorry man, I *don’t* make the ”rules”.
Music wise, Sunday had a lot to offer. True to form we dicked around too long so the first band we saw was Brix and Extricated. It was curio for me as I was only ever ‘okay’ with The Fall . The best songs they played were Fall songs. The stand out was Glam Racket , from 1992 which was co-written by guitarist Steve Hanley. You have the feeling that this band consider themselves a sequel to The Fall.
Brix was followed by The Wedding Present. The Weddoes were another reason for me being here. I have loved them in most of the forms they have taken. I am more of a Bizarro fan than Seamonsters or George Best and I was well served with Brassneck, Kennedy and What Have I Said Now. There was enough classics and enough ‘new stuff’ to keep everyone happy. For new stuff read post 2004 reunion. My fave WP song is Montreal which they didn’t play. I am more forgiving than I am of JAMC because of all the Bizarro stuff. Gedge introduced the band as an Indie supergroup as they have the drummer from My Life Story and the guitarist from Sleeper. To paraphrase Ross’s girlfriend from Friends; Playing it fast and loose with the word super, there.
Closing band of the weekend were Fontaines DC. or The Fontaines as everyone seemed to be calling them. I’d not encountered them before, but alarm bells rang when my friend Ian mentioned that they were like Oasis crossed with the Pogues. If only it was the other way around, Ian.. If only.
Look, I know I’m a contrarian. My favourite Byrds album is Byrdmaniax, I think Squeeze is a legitimate part of the VU discography and Greedo shot first (that last one is bollocks, but my back is up). Seriously, I’m not on board with these guys. Tom (who has more of an open mind than me when it comes to not pre-judging) looked at me with a face that said MEH and I thought he was being generous. It was like every student uni band that you ever saw. I can only assume that people are enjoying them because new bands are so insipid that anyone offering a slight element of danger seems like The Stooges. Sorry guys. BUT! Look on the bright side, I’m in my 40s, you don’t fucking want me in your fan base… all of those people who were there getting into you who were also in their 40s were taking some real cool points off you though. Soz. (editor’s note……I disagree with the our reviewer’s take on Fontaines DC…Santa was kind enough to bring me the debut album….and they will be getting a further mention on this blog in a couple of days time)
And that was that. We skipped Burger King (I’m lying here, for effect.. we had double Burger King because we knew it’d be our last… Take that colon!) Then breakfast again and then nothing. Fuck. Well not completely nothing, we got back to the chalet and the radio was playing Five Star! Proper Five Star with all the members intact. WOO HOO!
To sum up – It’s fucking rubbish not living in Butlins, they have a little shop that charges three quid for a diet coke. That’s an amazing mark up. A few years ago I was offered a job with Pontins and I’ve sent them an email to see if it’s still going. Oh and I’ve booked Rockaway Beach for next year. Bands, burger king, amusements, swimming, pool, grabby machines and rambling old men.
I’ve known Steve a good number of years, initailly through our collective love for Butcher Boy. He was kind enough to allow me to use his FB thoughts on a Sgt Pepper tribute album for a posting last year and I was delighted when he said yes when I asked if he fancied penning a review of Rockaway Beach 2020. Here’s hoping he feels like contributing more stuff over the coming months.