At the end of 2001, my stagnant life finally turned around and come January 2002, I entered a continuous period of employment that leads right up to this day. This of course meant more money for gigs, CD and (for the first time) full-blown music festivals.
What the year didn’t provide was any one performance that really stood out….it was a year where the event as the whole was more that the sum of it’s parts. It was also the first year I saw more that 100 bands over the course of the year. Though the tendency for the same bands to crop up time and time again made bagging the last few quite hard!
May 2002 – It Makes No Sense, It Make No Sense At All
The annual Flag Gotham festival shifted to the Camden Palace. As had become my habit, I’d been to Slimelight the night before, partied through to the end and then found an afterparty to kill the few hours before the festival began. A drug-fuelled afterparty. I had no idea what we were inhaling, but I left at lunchtime with paler skin than is healthy and an urge to consume junkfood, which was duly located and eaten. Then joined the queue outside….or rather collapsed down the side wall of the Camden Palace whilst the door time was pushed back an hour. I’m pretty sure it was raining, but it scarcely seemed to matter.
Got inside and things looked up, an embryonic form of Ghost of Lemora bringing some joy back into the day. But then the backed-up excesses bit back, and I was ILL. For the next five bands, I sat at the back in a semi-conscious state awaiting something, ANYTHING, that would take my mind off the condition I was in, but nothing of remote interest was being played. The Faces of Sarah? Dull. Seize? Underdeveloped. D.U.S.T.? A total mess. Midnight Configuration? Cringe-worthy. Altered States? What a State!
And then, like a bolt from the heavens, came one band that were head and shoulder above everything that came before. Girls Under Glass awoke me from my stupor and had me down the front, dancing for the duration and even singing along to a couple of cover versions (I didn’t know their own songs back then). A kind of electronic-goth-industrial-darkwave combination that had influences from all my favourite genres and a handy Numan cover thrown in. Oh, I needed that!
Clan of Xymox headlined, and gave that kind of measured, pre-planned performance that they always do – excepting a few tweaks to the setlist, every Xymox gig is essentially the same. After this, I would do the whole Slimelight-followed-by-8-hour-festival thing a couple more times, but ultimately realised that I’d enjoy both more if I didn’t try to stuff both of them into the same weekend. As for the afterparties? I’d quit those by the end of the year. Sleep seemed like a better option.
August 2002 – Made It To M’era
Late one Monday night in August 2002, my head hit the pillow one night and I drifted off to sleep with the one thought in my mind “I Actually DID IT!”. All those people who had accused me of ‘being boring’ had been disproved. I’d finally made it to a full-blown continental music festival. In Germany. I’d secured a lift from someone who I’d met on NetGoth but actually first met on my doorstep at 2am Friday morning – though previously established as a scene DJ/promoter elsewhere in the UK, I’m not one to accept lifts from TOTAL strangers!
The four-day jaunt included attempts at tent assembly, consumption of cheap German pilsner, trying to figure out what on earth was being played in the hangar party on Friday, discovering the German obsession with dudelsack (OK, bagpipes!), watching VNV Nation in the rain, cramming into the Hangar to get a glance of Das Ich, getting my one and only chance of seeing Soft Cell live and discovering so many new bands that simply hadn’t made a mark on the UK scene that I no longer thought that I’d already heard the best.
OK, we have to concede that on the Sunday night of the festival, I couldn’t sleep and actually regretted coming in the first place. The rain wasn’t welcome either, considering I had a limited supply of dry clothes. That I had to hide in my tent for an hour instead of watching Ikon due to total and utter exhaustion. And the fact that my German was still rusty having not studied it for 6 years, yet kept getting asked why I was wearing a ‘VMP Nation’ T-shirt by non-English speakers (BTW, that’s a dead joke now. Best Before: January 2012).
But I’d caught the bug. Actually, I kinda guessed that I would and hence booked a trip to InFest a few weeks later (actually I’d bought the whole package of someone who’d pulled out), but this was ordinary in comparison due to a line-up that (strangely for an InFest) was mainly bands I’d seen before, and a shitty atmosphere with far too many people in a sulk about something-or-other. It’s a real pity, as many people that would become friends in later years were later established to have been there, and if only I’d had a bit more confidence, I might had come away with better memories.
I was supposed to go to Whitby as well, but my accommodation plans collapsed and I sold my ticket on. I did eventually make it in 2003 and 2004, but the live action at those events always seemed secondary to the social (?) aspects, so there won’t be much else about the Yorkshire seaside here.
And try as I might, I can’t dredge up anything worthwhile to say about Killing Miranda trying to play Elektrowerkz with a cardboard cut-out of Chewbacca on keyboards, nor Sheep On Drugs attempt at a comeback in a sauna-like Highbury Garage where even the vocals were on playback. What about Sigue Sigue Spunik, seen for the first and only time, right at the end of the year? Yeah, right. All good fun, but since when have Sputnik and any kind of deep and meaningful insight gone together?
Plus these snapshots…..
Well, there are a few other notables from my first 100+ band year……
- Second and last chance to see Fad Gadget live before his untimely demise, two days into my first full-time job.
- Going offline on the day the Queen Mother died, missing the news entirely, and only finding out in Slimelight just before And One went on stage.
- Dark Jubilee – A two-day Bank Holiday special in London that was well received by those who went, but failed financially with much behind-the-scenes controversy, and a promising promoter was lost.
- Welle:Erdball’s retro stage show at Infest, and my folorn hope that they could have made it had they cut themselves a slice of the electroclash fad at the time.
- Attending Black Celebration 2002 after a Slimelight all-nighter, the last time I’d rely on ‘chemical assistance’ to achieve such a feat.