- OFFICE MEMORANDUM DATE: 12th AUGUST 2014
- NEW HELLFIRE CLUB GLASGOW
TO: DIRECTOR, LAZARUS
FROM: NHC GONZO DIVISION
*Some sensitive, top-secret info has been omitted from this document*
“An investigator for the Police Force stated that three so-called music journalists had been recovered in Winchester, England. *******************************************They were also described as being vaguely human in shape, with heightened senses. Ranging from five to six feet tall, with bulging eyes and wild flailing limbs, they stumbled along mostly keeping balance by occasionally conglomerating into one writhing mass of some ********************************************************************************************************************************each one occupied by some sort of deranged state of mental and physical being, and each one garbed in a manner similar to the blackout suits used by speed flyers and test pilots. We can only assume they had been wandering feral in the nearby woods for hours, maybe even days, nobody can **********************************************************************************************When questioned, each one in turn merely staggered and babbled, we brought in a translator but their language is unknown to any modern forms of speech or dialect and we could not translate any discernible coherent meaning from their jangled ********************************************************************************************************************************************************************** According to Mr. ****** informant, they were found wandering in meadows aimlessly at 2am on the Monday morning of August the 12th and what follows is the information gleaned from several ruined notepads, these were the only possessions found on their persons…”
Friday 7am –
We embark upon the seven hour Journey from Glasgow to Winchester, the seven sunbaked hours of roads and towns flash by quickly with the aid of some remedies from our little medicinal kit, an ominous black rucksack that is currently perched on the knee of our chemist. The four of us are travelling down together, my girlfriend is driving and in the back is Hunter (named after Thompson for his suicidal approach to hedonism), and a genuine Frenchman, would-be shaman, fellow psychonaut and acid-casualty who…we only know as ‘French Guy’. Do I know these people? Or did we pick them up at the side of the road!?
Friday, somewhere around noon –
After being distracted for some time by a particularly foreign-looking yellow bus stand, we get back on the road. It’s not often in the adult life we get the chance to be excited like an eight year old gets excited about going to Disneyland. But that’s just what our destination is…a Disneyland for adults! A mecca for a myriad of musos, a multitude of misanthropes and a macédoine of mad-for-it mêlées. Boomtown is a wonderfully spellbinding festival, you can have a rave under a giant robotic spider that shoots fireworks, flames and lasers, you can go on a pirate ship and drink rum, hang out like cowboys in frontier towns taking shots of hard liquor, or like Indians in wig-wams smoking peace-pipes in the woods. It’s huge, like a small town, complete with streets, buildings and all the usual features and amenities of an actual town. This is quite an impressive thing, Boomtown is so advanced as a festival it has its own government (really!). Yet, it’s not lost the edge like a lot of the commercial festivals, it hasn’t quite earned the downgrading moniker of ‘commercial’ festival yet, it remains small-key, while being huge, if that makes sense? Put it this way; it’s an enormous, well-organized and elaborate event – but you’re not going to find the likes of David Guetta, or The Killers, or Green Day playing here, Boomtown is far too cool for that, it has a much better taste in music, this year, the headliners are Nofx (reviewed below), The Wailers (reviewed below), Jimmy Cliff, Dawn Penn, Alabama 3, The Skatalites and…er…Shaggy?? (Okay, a much better taste in music apart from Shaggy). Plus a whole phantasmagoria of amazing bands playing throughout, some personal notables of mine being; Easy Star Allstars (reviewed below), Vic Ruggiero (reviewed below), The Toasters, Hayseed Dixie, Hot 8 Brass Band, Babar Luck, The Cat Empire, Beans on Toast, Dub FX, John Langan (Glasgow’s own), Mungo’s Hi-Fi Soundsystem (Glasgow’s own),, Bombskare (reviewed her http://www.newhellfireclub.co.uk/2014/10/the-big-kelburn-garden-party-bands_14.html) ), Stanton Warriors, Soom T (Glasgow’s own, reviewed at the same link as Bombskare and below). As well as the additional couple of hundred other acts and artists we just didn’t even get a chance to discover! And that’s just the tip of one magic mushroom in fields of many…or an iceberg, if you prefer…but no ship has been sunk by a fungus…
We finally arrived, some of my travelling companions are a little, uh, distracted, and it takes a while for us to get into the nerve of the festival, but after an hour or so we are turned loose inside. I’m immediately targeted by sniffer dogs and taken aside by the police…eh? This isn’t supposed to happen at a festival, I’m a doctor of music journalism goddammit.
The pigs had wanted to do me on all fronts (quite literally), so convinced were they that I was ‘carrying’ that they searched everywhere, and I mean everywhere. However, one is not stupid enough to lose his entire stash for the weekend by walking straight through security and sniffer dogs armed with enough narcotics to kill a woolly mammoth. I had other means which won’t be divulged here. Suffice to say, I had nothing on me when I was fingered, and uh, well, fingered. What the dogs had detected was the MDMA, LSD, LSA, DMT, and every other acronym that was lashing from my body in sweat, the dog could have licked me and gotten high, like I was a cane toad – but on me, there was no drugs, and I was set free.
Boomtown’s overly strict drink and drugs policy (limiting to only the booze you can carry in, another problem we found a way around, and zero tolerance to drugs) can almost be understood, it’s had bad press in the past after a death caused by ketamine. It’s sad, but at the same time, when taking drugs, drug-users should thoroughly research and previously understand what they are imbibing, how to and how much, this is basic common sense – drug deaths are an occurrence of ignorance, plain and simple.
And Let’s face it, take drugs out of the festival equation and what have you got? A dozen crusty vegans dancing in a barren field. The equation goes thus; DRUGS = MUSIC = FESTIVALS, it can work other ways too, MUSIC = DRUGS = FESTIVALS, or FESTIVALS = MUSIC = DRUGS and so on…but either way you put it, the same formula rings true.
***The notes and Dictaphone recordings between Friday night and Saturday night are a garbled mess. But we pick up somewhere around…
The first act we take in is a biggie! I mean Bob Marley big! You see, if you ask your Average Joe to name three reggae artists, I daresay they’d struggle after a few. Bob Marley is synonymous with reggae for a reason, because he is a bona fide legend in that field…but there is so much amazing reggae out there that it’s amazing Bob Marley gets all the credit, with bands like Skatalites, Desmond Dekker, Augustus Pablo, Ernest Ranglin, Burning Spear, Lee Perry, Aggrolites, Westbound Train, King Django, Bedouin Soundclash and many, many others going largely unnoticed, but that’s the way it goes. Mr. Marley definitely makes my top forty reggae artists, but certainly not my top twenty. The reason I mention this is, there was a lot more to Bob Marley than just him, the clue is in the official name, Bob Marley and The Wailers. The Wailers, Pete Tosh and Bunny Livingston are reggae legends in their own right and wrote just as much music as Bob Marley did, some of it just as good, some of it even better. Yardie Pete Tosh was slain in a house invasion in 87’ and Bob Marley died from cancer in 81’, but there was so much more to the Marley musical family than just those three. Anyone who knows their reggae knows a name like ‘Family Man’ Aston Barrett, and he is joined here by the official Bob Marley entourage here, and you wouldn’t know the difference than if you were seeing the Wailers live in ’77! And Kevin ‘Yvad’ Davy’s voice is perfect for the songs, as if it were Bob himself…
We made our way excitedly to the Temple Stage, a huge fiery structure, the ruins of an ancient Aztec temple, plumes of flame licked up the sides of it and ivy clung tightly to its towering dilapidated frame. A lot of people have turned out for the Wailers, maybe half the festival are here, we are certainly crammed in tighter than an Indian drumskin or one of Bob’s blunts, but when the music hits you, you feel no pain. They kick off with ‘Is This Love’ and swiftly follow up with a whole string of classics – ‘Stir It Up’, ‘Could You Be Loved’, ‘I Shot The Sherriff’, ‘Jammin’, ‘Three Little Birds’, ‘Buffalo Soldier’ (the crowd couldn’t sing along with ‘oi, oi ,oi,’ any louder if they tried, they must have heard us on Holy Mount Zion). All, as you can imagine, being received with turbulent applause, ululations and cheers. I briefly questioned a festivalgoer, he said, “It’s amazing to hear music you’re so familiar with, that you’ve been surrounded by your whole life, live, after knowing the main artist has been dead a long time, but it’s happening here!”
Bob and Pete might as well have been up there playing that day, it was touching and I think everybody in the crowd’s hearts welled in loving memory of Robert Nesta Marley, as his music and legend live on forever…through the deafeningly overwhelming roar of this crowd, and many others…
It’s incredible, I’m down in Winchester, and an artist from Paisley takes the stage straight after the Wailers! A lot of the crowd depart to wherever and we’re given a little room to breathe, so we head closer down the front to take in the splendour of the Temple Stage and absorb Soom T’s breathtaking performance.
She is announced by Aston as one of the finest female singing voices around and he’s right. The crowd members that are left need no encouragement to start skanking to the excellent rhythms emanating from the Aztec ruins. The ones that disappeared after the Wailers, well they missed a trick, and they obviously don’t know much about cult music, because Soom T is somewhat of a little legend in her own right, having collaborated with such luminaries in the past as artists like; King Creosote, Asian Dub Foundation, The Orb and DJ Yoda, and that’s just to mention the few that stick out to me, personally! Oh you want more? Well, she’s been on Jools Holland, won a fair few awards, and composed for theatre musicals – a very impressive résumé indeed! But that’s not the most impressive thing about Soom T, the most impressive thing about her is her style, with albums that range between hip-hop, reggae and all sorts of diverse electronic sounds she is a blur of alacrity with the speed at which she genre-hops. At one point during the performance Soom T accepts a joint handed to her from a member of the crowd and takes a well-deserved joint break between verses, it’s touching moments like this that bring a smile to my face as wide and long as the Clyde.
Thankyou Soom T, for the two rollicking performances I’ve witnessed from you this year, at Kelburn and Boomtown, both helped me achieve ataraxy to music. I suggest to everyone they check out Soom T’s gifted musical talent here http://www.renegademasters.com/#!soom-t/c12ew
*as the rest of the weekend descends into a constant blur aswirl with stars and sunshine the following entries salvaged from the team’s notebooks appear in no particular order*
Vic Ruggiero (The Slackers)
As I mentioned earlier, few people have a decent understanding of reggae beyond Marley (and if you’re lucky) The Wailers. And so, they miss such gems among the genre as The Slackers. Even a lot of reggae enthusiasts overlook The Slackers, perhaps owing to the fact they are on a predominantly punk label, Tim Armstrong’s Hellcat Records. I’ve been a fan of The Slackers since my teens, and they remain to this day, despite the countless thousands that followed and pre-dated them in my life, one of the greatest musical discoveries I’ve made!
From the moment I dropped the needle on my Redlight 12”, and heard those sweet, sculptured rhythms emanating from my speakers I was hopelessly hooked, indeed, the opening track ‘Cooking for Tommy’, though instrumental, remains one of the biggest earworms to ever nestle itself down into my brain, the melody still echoes through my head daily, decades later. It is a heavily Skatalites influenced track by a heavily Skatalites influenced band, and that’s what I would say the Slackers are, and they would humbly deny it, they are the contemporary Skatalites, an improved and updated version, with Ruggerio’s lyricism and multi-talented instrumentalism and Hillyard’s incredible skills with a horn – his Rocksteady Seven stuff is some of the most psychedelic prog-reggae/ska you’ll ever hear – I devoured The Slackers’ music, and still eagerly await every new album release. Through the years, I have introduced endless reams of individuals to the fantastic crooning ska-rocksteady-jazz-reggae of the six-piece from Manhattan! Yet, I have only seen them live once…
…They seem to have fallen under the American punk-associated curse of not playing Scotland. The last time they did was at Barfly, April 2006, I was there with a few friends and it was one of the best live experiences of my entire life, out of thousands! And that was the last time they played North of the Border, despite their extensive worldwide touring pattern!?
My love for this band is so boundless I couldn’t do it any justice with words on paper. So imagine how excited I was to see their frontman Vic Ruggiero at Boomtown, in the cosy refines of some tall trees, and wooden earthy stage structures, almost as if the entire festival had grown out of the soil itself!
To see Vic stroll onto the stage and sit down with his battered guitar and harmonica holder, loaded and ready to go, made my heart leap with excitement. He is to me, like a Bob Dylan of our scene, especially with his effortless skills as a raconteur, which he seamlessly weaves into the patterns and rhythms of his songs. Watching Vic playing up there was like sitting round a campfire on a comfortable carpet, and I basked in its warmth. An amazingly skilled musician, not just for the one-man band performance, but for his interaction with the crowd and his self-effacing affability. I don’t think Vic has the ability to write a bad song. Instead of coming out with a setlist, he just came out with his kick-drum and guitar etc. and took requests from the crowd, anything they asked, he played, it was one of the most satisfying live performances of my life and I came away from it rested, like from a long, pleasant sleep, years of itching to see some Slackers live scratched. Vic said on stage “The Slackers went home, so it’s just me.” Hardcore touring endurance, and not disappointing in his performance despite the obvious lack of the band, the opposite in fact, even with all my high expectations he still blew me away, creating epic opuses, tales of LSD trips, complete with perfect animal impressions and never missing a beat in the tale, inspired by Jim Morrison it would seem, and seeing Vic sit there and play his music for us, was to me, every bit as good as sitting watching Morrison do his poetry, even if it meant coming back from the dead.
Mr. Ruggiero came out after the gig, to speak with and meet his fans, and was every bit as pleasant and gratifying in person as I imagined, I was truly starstruck because as a serious muso I hold Vic in esteemed regard for his talents as a musician. From his work with Stubborn Allstars, Skandalous Allstars, King Django, Rancid, Transplants, and many, many others, to his early incarnation in The Nods, his solo stuff, or Slackers’ offshoot Dave Hillyard’s Rocksteady 7, you can not fail to be rewarded my The Slackers’ music or the music that encompasses them. Their extensive back catalogue is glittering album after golden record, they may not be the most well-known or recognised band in history, but by god they deserve to be, though I suspect they like to remain a little low down underground anyway, where they feel comfortable. Fixed tightly in my top twenty bands until the day I die, The Slackers are one of the greatest, not just of the reggae/ska genre, but of all time! If they are missing from your record collection you must amend this immediately, immediately!
Another band that has unfortunately fallen under the American punk-related curse of not playing Scotland anymore (the last time was the first time I saw them live, at Gig on the Green over ten years ago!), but as they are so brilliant, (in my opinion one of the top ten greatest bands in the world, though they would rubbish that claim), I have travelled South from Scotland every time they play Britain, as a result I have seen NOFX shows in Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds, Donnington and all over England’s major cities, so we thought, this time, as it was my 30th birthday on August 8th (also coincidentally a song of theirs), the day they were playing at Boomtown, we would go there to see them, in the enchanted surroundings of a truly magical kingdom.
I took a few people I have introduced to NOFX recently with me, and it was to be not just their first NOFX gig, but their first ever punk gig! I’m a seasoned mosher and relished in the maniacal moshpit of madness that orbited Nofx like the rings of Saturn that day, but my friends merely stood to one side jaw-dropped and awe-struck. A moshpit looks quite lethal from outside and to the untrained eye, but inside the torque of the vortex, like the eye of a hurricane, it is relatively calm, if you can keep your balance, and even if you don’t you will be immediately rescued, never trampled, and it is actually more civilised than you might think – at the end of the day it’s just people dancing.
Nofx were armed to the teeth with the usual artillery of Dionysian punk riffs and fast-paced basslines, legend Erik Sandin’s solid drumming, clever lyrics, witty onstage banter, controversy, narcotics, boozed up, bibulous, bountiful boisterousness and good times to the soundtrack of great music. This is my twelfth time seeing them live, and never once have I been disappointed by them. They have been called the punk Rolling Stones owing to their longevity, endurance and inexhaustible fertile creativity. And indeed, without ever ‘selling out’ or losing their integrity, they have gained millions of fans around the world, millions of dollars, and have released, not quite millions (yet), but hundreds and hundreds of quality songs. As hard as they might try to, they never release a bad song, even when they walked into the studio, spent ten minutes writing lyrics and then made an EP up on the spot and off the cuff and recorded it one take, that still gave us the fantastically sloppy punk gem ‘Surfer’, a 7” I have worn out on my turntable.
Nofx’s wealth is owed to skill and integrity (with a smattering of Jewish acumen). I have grown old listening to their music, and will continue to grow older listening to their music, as they grow even older and fatter still. With a wealth of timeless punk songs behind them they never fail to deliver a cracking set, coruscated as always, with breaks for anything from reggae to ska, heavy rock to polka, and all over the place inbetween. My friends were stunned by the band’s energy, and I was caught up in it as always. From what I remember, their set that time included a quality mix of old and new, different genres, band favourites and fan favourites alike. My only regret is that a mixture of the mud and the moshing caused my shoe to fall apart, at which point (mid-mosh) I opted just to remove the shoes all together and fling them away, this was a total waste of an golden opportunity, as I remembered afterwards, their album ‘So Long And Thanks For All The Shoes’ was (apart from a play on Douglas Adams’ book title) a nod to the fact that their fans used to throw their shoes onstage. To think I missed a golden opportunity to honour a band I have loved for so long in a way they would have understood, by throwing my shoes on stage, would have been a fitting end to footwear that served me well for a long time, I was pissed off I didn’t think of it at the time, but I was so distracted by Nofx’s amazing music I didn’t think at all…just…danced…I also lost a pair of shoes in a Me First & The Gimme Gimmes’ moshpit, from now on, when I go to see one of Fat Mike’s bands I’m foregoing shoes all together! Haha. For an even more in depth look at Nofx go to my review here http://www.newhellfireclub.co.uk/2014/02/chris-herron-vs-fat-mike-nofx-saga.html
Easy Star All Stars
Another band to grace the stages of Boomtown was another old favourite of mine, Easy Star All Stars, who are alongside Me First & The Gimme Gimmes and Skandalous Allstars, the greatest cover band in the world. They played on the Temple Stage among the Aztec ruins, just as I came up on hallucinogens and rain, refreshing and crystalline started to descend from the albescent heavens. The twin breaths of fire at either side of the stage were welcome blasts of heat, but not as welcome as the heat from the white-hot heat of the stage, in the form of the music…amazing music…
ESAS have done fantastic reggae/dub versions of such classic albums in their entirety as Ok Computer, Thriller and Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts…but perhaps most importantly is the phenomenal job they did of Darkside of the Moon under the cleverly entitled moniker Dubside of the Moon.
Pink Floyd are, to me, the number one most important, influential, creative, inspirational, meaningful, talented, and exceptional group of musically creative individuals to ever have showed up on the face of this planet. Their music is so unlike any other music it could well have been written by aliens, or forces beyond our knowledge, indeed, if I was to play an audio example of human achievement to an alien race I would not choose, Mozart or Wagner but the Floyd, something like the magnificent, mind-blowing marvel of ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ or ‘Echoes’.
As Floyd are so beyond anything else in the musical spectrum, they are the omnipresent stratosphere that orbits ordinary rock music, it is difficult for anybody to successfully cover, nevermind imitate, their music, yet, ESAS did it, and not just with one song, with a whole album, the untouchable Darkside of the Moon of all albums! They successfully gave a new and impressive spin to one of the most prominently influential and incredibly composed records to ever go down on tape! With such quirky improvisations as replacing the tills and change jingling on ‘Money’ with bong rips and coughing, to switching ‘On The Run’ from psychedelic interstellar freakout music to banging, fast-paced drum and bass, and giving the whole album a smooth reggae bass backdrop and dub overlay.
They took to the stage at Boomtown to a sparse crowd, scattered by the rain, but the experience was immense, this is the fifth time I’ve seen them live and they still capture my soul every time. They kicked off with a few songs from Radiodread (their superior version of Radiohead’s Ok Computer) and then delivered unto us Dubside of the Moon in all its shining glory! Check out their albums (except for maybe Thrillah) and check out their live performance next time you see them playing near you, as you will not be disappointed by either!
As you can see by the length of this article already, I could whittle away about the wonders of Boomtown for a novel, not just an article, so with regret I’ll cut it there, some bands I missed, some bands I can’t remember, some clashed, so one thing’s for sure, at Boomtown you are spoiled for choice. Trying to take in the whole thing in just three days (even without sleep) is like trying to take in the Louvre in half an hour! Other highlights not reviewed here include; the legendary Dawn Penn’s performance at the Temple stage (and I met her in the crowd afterwards), the classic, energetic ska of The Toasters and Bombskare, the bangin’ breakbeat brilliance of Stanton Warriors, the renowned and revered, rocksteady Skatalites, the bouncing, bearded, beatific bluegrass of Hayseed Dixie, the jaunty, joyous jubilance of John Langan, and the mesmerising melodious Mungo’s Hifi Soundsytem and many others, not to mention the army of DJs spinning their sounds up and down the town-sized festival. If only once in your life, I suggest you treat yourself to a trip…and then a trip to Boomtown, beats the shit outta’ Glastonbury any day!
Seeya’ in the pit!