other people's shit

Forget Florence – meet the real stars of the festival scene

An article from Owen Adams for The Guardian newspaper:

Getting off at the wrong bus stop led me to an otherworld of free festivals and brilliant bands. Just don’t expect to read about Tragic Roundabout or the Tofu Love Frogs in the music press

And the award for hardest-working artist on the festival circuit goes to … Florence and the Machine? Hot Chip? Dizzee Rascal? Not likely. It’s the DIY stars who really deserve the props – relished by veterans of the free festival scene, but never appearing in critics’ reviews.

For hardcore festivalgoers, Glastonbury isn’t the next fixture, it’s this weekend’s Solstice. The People’s Free festival at Stonehenge no longer exists, so where to go? Watch Tragic Roundabout fire up their chaotic klezmer cauldron in a field somewhere in Worcestershire, join the Hawklords on a retro-space trip on a Welsh farm, or swoon as Eat Static hit the acid-alien-techno button at the Willowman festival on the North Yorkshire moors.

Yet no matter how big, brilliant and groundbreaking the Solstice gathering, you can be fairly certain no national media outlet will bother covering the event – a photo of druids at Stonehenge will suffice – and the only publicity it will get in the local press is if there’s been any trouble.

This cultural otherworld has flourished for more than 40 years (and the bands regularly whip large crowds into a frenzy), but aside from the tireless chronicles of Festival Eye, the nomadic troubadours of the summer festival circuit are resolutely ignored by the mainstream. Why? Do some people just dismiss everything not on Glastonbury’s Pyramid stage as “crusty”?

Logic doesn’t always play a part. Gogol Bordello are feted by Madonna and the mainstream while a dozen British-based bands on the gypsy punk tip are met with complete indifference. Wicked Squad are respected in the dance underground for gypsy techno, and Stenchman for gypsy dubstep, but the free-festival culture that produced much of this remains a music-press taboo. Critics rightly celebrate Tinariwen and nomadic Tuareg sounds, but don’t give British traveller music a second thought.

Crass, who sprang from free-festival culture in the mid 1970s, are one of the few revered acts, applauded for their year-zero edge. But there are many more bands deserving similar respect, such as the proto-punk Pink Fairies (long gone but poorly remembered), the nihilist dub poetry of RDF, the furious ceilidh-punk of the Tofu Love Frogs, not to mention recently reformed anarcho funk-punks Zounds and techno-punks, Sicknote.

Much of what’s happening on the fringes of the UK festival scene is important. I’ve been familiar with it ever since, as a teenager in the mid 1980s, I got off at the wrong bus stop and wandered into a free festival in Milton Keynes. Positioned on a flatbed lorry was a one-chord thrash guitarist and a trio of Bacchae-like women taking turns to scream down the mic. Screech Rock and the Mutoid Waste Company’s spontaneous collaboration, witnessed by hundreds, documented by no one (until now) was just the start. When NME was fixated on the Blur v Oasis grudge match, I was likely to be found Messed Up with Culture Shock, stuck in a Daydream with Back to the Planet, spun out on Ozrics or tuned into Radio Mongolia.

And the free party continues somewhere each weekend (if not thwarted by draconian laws and riot police) with a host of new ingredients, new generations, but with the same Do It approach exemplified by the Pink Fairies at the People’s Free festivals in the 1970s. If you’re not a part of it, then you’re missing out.

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the sicknote diaries

Worst Gig Ever?

a guest posting from Doghouse:

NELSON SUMMER FETE 27/8/06 -“The scarecrow mocks”

The usual introduction to the Sicknote set, “Ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you to the Redneck County Clubhouse Band”, was tinged with irony when Sicknote walked on stage at Nelson ‘Festival’; for this most surely was, indeed, redneck country.

On first arrival, the colourful bunting, marquees, beer tent and generally chilled out vibes gave the impression of a typical, tolerant, Welsh family day out, but beneath this innocuous, fluffy exterior there lurked something more sinister…

The stage was set up at one end of a long corridor-like marquee, and, sitting on bales of hay, at the other end were those that came to be entertained… the ‘locals’. A huge gaping expanse separated the two; a no-mans land; a void that needed to be traversed if any meaningful connection was going to be made between performers and the audience. What followed was the most valiant display of dog-eared determination to do just that… make a connection…

On every level Mr. Doghouse tried to reach out to those assembled; even his pre-performance ritual of picking up discarded scraps of paper, cigarette butts, deflated balloons and whatever else he can find, and attaching this deitrius to himself with a roll of masking-tape, took on an air of self deprecation when he added some carefully placed bundles of hay and instantly morphed into the mentally challenged, but harmless scarecrow from the ‘Wizard of Oz’… if only he had a brain!

From that moment on, when, prior to any musical note being played, Doghouse asked the crowd to move forward, closer to the stage, to breach the gap between them, and was greeted with a vacuous apathy so nullifying that you could feel the weight of it hanging in the air, like a nebulous black sponge, saturated with the foulest bile, and threatening to engulf all in it’s brain-sucking treacle, he knew he was gonna have his work cut out…

Squeeze the sponge or drown! And squeeze he did…

It didn’t matter that it was only 4 ‘o’ clock in the afternoon, and that the only people paying attention were a bunch of primary school-age kids, sat in a line, four feet away from the stage, entranced by the scene before them; obviously expecting the same harmless buffoonery from Doghouse as the original scarecrow.

It didn’t matter that Sicknote were more accustomed to pushing the boundaries in more ‘acceptable’ circumstances; the odd pool of vomit in a sweaty nightclub; a flash of Dr. Conchar’s cock at a private bikers’ festival, and even the wholehearted encouragement of stage invasions.

What did matter, however, was Sicknote were being blatantly ignored, overlooked, given the cold shoulder; an unacceptable response, tantamount to identifying oneself as the target which is at the heart of Sicknote’s psychotic reason d’etre; to wake the masses…

No more, this sleeping acceptance…

No more, the worry, the anxiety, the guilt…

No more, the debt, for things we were hoodwinked into buying, that we never needed, that we sell on for a fraction…

No more, the acceptance of slavery; a golden handshake does not redeem an arthritic clasp…

No more, the wearing of masks, or, otherwise, the out and out acceptance of their existence and a wholesale realisation of the magical powers attributed to them…

“Taxi, for Mr. Bland!”.

No more Superman… There’s nothing wrong with Frankenstein’s monster… He’s just green… OK?

Wake up! Wake up! There’s a party going on, wake up…

There’s a party going on… Wake up, or you’ll sleep right through it…

It was then that Sicknote realised that they weren’t being ignored, on the contrary, behind the scenes and in the shadows opinions were being forged, and a plan of action was formulated; the set was to be cut short…

A message came through from the back of the stage…

“If we get off the stage now, they’ll pay us half the money promised, but we must get off the stage now! We are not suitable for the event”.

“Not suitable for the event? Too right we’re not suitable for the event; the word ‘event’ itself, implies that some kind of activity will take place… I’ve seen more life in the morgue!”.

In a last ditch attempt to assimilate, and thus understand the consciousness of the crowd before him, Doghouse entered ‘slow-motion mode’; mouth agape, with a pained expression on his face, he moved slowly, but precisely, like an automated doll, but this gesture, rather than crossing the now tangible divide between artist and audience, only helped to further alienate the two parties; as an attempt at understanding became an act of mockery.

It was with feelings mixed between relief and anger that Sicknote finally left the stage, but the anger soon evaporated and an overall mood of stunned amusement pervaded as the band relived the whole experience backstage.

The Oracle and the Grinder then made a vain attempt to persuade the events organisers to give Sicknote the full fee, as promised, but this was thwarted by the ever increasing presence of large-framed, rugby-playing clones; an obvious show of strength and intimidation in support of the events organisers…

“No you don’t deserve the full fee… You were racist and there was too much swearing!”

“Racist? Which bit was racist? Was it the inbetween-song banter about seeing dog faeces on the pavement and suggesting to stick little union jack flags in them? How can that be racist? I am British… A flag is something you raise when you’re proud of your country. So why not raise a flag on the endless mounds of dog faeces on the pavement? They are a part of British culture… We should be proud of them. What other country would accept dog shit with pride? And if we’re not proud of it… then why not get rid of it?

Acceptance? Arrrggghhh!!!

As for swearing, Doghouse would like to point out that he never swore once… The word- ‘faeces’ is a perfectly ‘acceptable’ expression for the substance otherwise known as shit, turd, crap or poo, and, unlike the latter would not offend the delicate and innocent constitution of children.

Still trying to justify their holding back on the full fee promised, the organisers then suggested that the whole band were on drugs! A lazy argument, usually adopted by the feeble of mind to explain any behaviour that differs from their own. They see someone who has invested time in developing their own unique language to communicate, and can express themselves lucidly, without constraint or censorship, as a threat to everything they hold dear… the status quo.

They can’t understand why anyone would want to question that which comforts them; the ‘safety in numbers’ of blind acceptance; the very glue which holds their precarious lives together…

“No-one in their right mind would question that… therefore they must be on drugs!”

No consideration for the years of creative study and mastering of skills that allow a lack of self-consciousness and a heightening of psychic receptivity. No appreciation for the heartfelt performance or the determination to succeed in the face of overwhelming odds… No! Just a simple blanket statement…

“You’re all on drugs!”

These idiots see themselves as the protectors of the status quo and assume they are righteous; the upholders of God, Queen and Country… How easily they fall into the mould of right-wing, christian fundamentalists; the blind faith, stoical and unreceptive…

You cannot connect with the unreceptive…

Don’t even try…

Sicknote packed up, with no further argument, and left…

Goodbye Nelson…

See ya, see ya, wouldn’t want to be ya…

So folks, the moral of the story is… If you don’t want your brains to shrivel up, due to lack of use, and risk the possibility of early Alzheimers, then… Don’t go to Nelson.

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the sicknote diaries

BEAT HERDER 2010

so we get in the new motor minus Conker….. still missing and still no idea if he is in the band anymore(!)
wich the fucker would get in touch.

the Sun is belting down and spirits are high!
on the six hour journey we entertain ourselves by planning out new songs and ideas and concepts..
including our Beard Banning campaign; and a covers album called Floggin The Dragon where we cover all welsh acts in our style… 🙂
and also the Coldplay song Clocks that we were prancing around to in Galsto at 7am like a bunch of fairies…… we decided to do a version of this…… the song content will rant about everything being gay, as people seem to use this term wrongly a lot in conversation and thought we’d take it and exaggerate it.. it will make sense when it’s finished.. but this sparked hours of fun as we all randomly called everything and anything gay for the rest of the journey…

Traffic Jams GAY!
Ford Kas GAY!
Everyone who lives in Worcester GAY!
The Digestive System GAY!
Homophobia GAY!

we arrive at the gate of Beat-Herder at 7:02pm precisely greeted by safe-as-fuck organiser Nick who declared we were due on stage at 7pm and that we have probably missed our set… 😮 we all argued that we were on at 8pm.
he took us to main stage where the stage manager Biff shouted at us and said we fucked it. He said he had checked the emails and it was definitley 7pm… i then put my hands up and said ok.. it’s my faut i shoulda checked before we left.. OOPS, “anyway”… i said,”how bout we just get the fuck on stage right now and play til 8pm?”

we got out of car and walked straight on to stage plugged our shit in and are playing live within 5 minutes.. the crowd swells and the sun shines… people start jumping and whooping….. just getting going and the stage manager decides to stop us 7:50pm…. i mean! COME ON!!!! ffs. the crowd abuse him and shout at him but we are pulled off stage……. doghouse howls.. “come check us in the green tent at 2am” then we head back stage set up camp and collect a few crates and bottles

that night we get wrecked up and take in the festy.. and it’s fucking wicked… we set up on the smallest pa in the festy and bang out a fucking messy chaotic set in the green tent at 2am.. to a dishevelled and wooping bouncy crowd which included cardiff legendary DJ and birthday boy DAVE GROOVESLAVE and Mr. ThimblebERRy!!!!
Johnny No-Cash again failing to provide visual projections decides to hump a nearby monitor speaker and ride it like it’s a fucking bucking bronco or his favourite gelding from his warped childhood…
Mid-set, Filth randomly squawks at me and with two fingers points at his eyes and then me and repeats with a fucked up charlie warped angry emptiness….i pick up my bottle of water and fling it at his stupid, red, neil kinnock-looking head… he looks like he is gunna come at me again like at the Cwmaman gig… i am ready… he sits down and carries on drumming.. the front row witness this, half of them laiughing half of them freaked out.

proving at the sign of any trouble my natural reaction would be to run like fuck. gay.

me and the neck walk round the festy and chill together as the sun pops up..
i got Kev the laptop on my back as always.. and everyone calls me ninja turtle or school kid or wahtever..
i think about this and think well, i am ready to plug this fucker in anywhere any time and make thousands of people dance…

i start chanting in my head over and over…
“i’m a one man mother-fuckin party machine.”
this will be the new sicknote song.

fucking amazing weekend.

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