One festival, however, was a near disaster. It was a Sunset festival. The gig was great. There were plenty of people I knew, along with my friends Rory and co. who make up Pressure Roots Sound System (www.myspace.com/pressurerootshifi). They are very loud and despite having a huge wall of hay bales surrounding them, managed to set off car alarms!
One evening I was chatting to a friend running a bar. He looked up at one point and said, “Odd. I thought I saw blue lights flashing on the hill.” We thought nothing more about it.
At some point in the early hours I eventually wandered home. As I opened the door to my caravan I had the shock of my life. The caravan was black with soot from a fire! On deduction, what appears to have happened is that I had very stupidly left a candle burning in a glassless lantern. It had caught some sort of wrapping. The fire grew, burning the cupboard door nearby and scorching the ceiling. Yet, by a miracle the fire never took off. The lantern was on the draining board adjacent to which were some cleaning products in plastic spray bottles. The bottles were there at the time for convenience. The cats were still little kittens and sometimes had little accidents. They were eco-friendly products, though they were in plastic. What I believe happened is that as the fire grew, the plastic containers heated causing one to produce a cist-like bubble which grew until it burst, spraying it’s contents into the fire, dowsing it and putting the fire out!
An angel of a lady helped me the next day with the clean-up operation. It took some amount of scrubbing. It could have been a really serious disaster. Had my caravan gone up, it would have taken several others with it.
I believe it was also at this gig that I met a wonderful courageous woman who has become a great friend. She is brilliant. And a handful! Ali is the creator of Pure Mischief (www.puremischief.org, www.soundcloud.com/puremischief). She is an amazing, strong woman. I don’t remember much about our first meeting. All I know is that she was having a bit of a breakdown when I came into her life. I don’t know what I said or did, but she recovered enough to play her set and we’ve been great friends ever since.
I should also mention that sometimes a dark force enters the odd festival here and there in the guise of bad drug dealers. Nasty, evil people who pray on inexperienced, gullible young party-goers. At a Maker festival one year a fleet of ambulances appeared as young people started to drop like flies into epileptic fits after taking what they were told was MDMA. Even at an ‘off-grid’ festival I remember trying to deal with a young lady who was tripping hard, running around the site naked. At another, a woman had to be rescued from a stream. Some, usually larger festivals, make the mistake of hiring thugs; nightclub doormen who enjoy beating on pissed-up dickheads. Not good at a festival; entirely different clientele. Situations when a punter is having a bad trip is exacerbated and can quickly turn fatal by inexperienced security bods.
This is where Kosmicare (www.kosmicare.org) now renamed in the UK as PsyCareUK (www.psycareuk.org) come in. They are an amazing bunch of people led by a brilliant Chilean friend called Karin.
The weather can play havoc on a festival. One year, Sunrise became ‘Mudrise’. The entire sloping top field turned into moving mud. I can only liken the scene as being just like a picture of moving lava as it descends the side of a volcano, except that this was thick mud! The whole lot drained into the bottom field where most of the music, etc. was to have taken place. The field was a swamp. It was so deep that wearing even wellies was pointless. A friend had some-one break their leg close by their market stall as they dropped into a trench running in front of the stalls dug to divert the water. Robbie’s marquee was half way down the slope. It was a real mission. We had to dig a trench right through the tent to channel the water. It was incredible. As we were digging with all hell going on outside and in, there was a bloke holding a plastic toy sabre who was clearly tripping, mesmerised by one of the paintings, oblivious of the chaos that reigned. He never moved for ages.
There’s always a chance to earn at the bad weather gigs. ‘Have Land Rover, can tow out of muddy field’, even onto on occasions! I was always flexible about payment. I never demanded an amount. I was always happy with whatever anyone could afford. I got given beers and weed, too. If the person stuck didn’t have anything to give, I towed them out, anyway.
Sometimes, some people who happen to drive a 4WD vehicle on the road think that that automatically means that they can drive their 4WD vehicle in mud and even tow with it. I sat and watched one day as a Land Rover hooked up to a 10t horsebox converted into a live-in vehicle. I watched with bemused interest as matey literally tried to drag it out of the holes the wheels had sunk into. I poodled over to the scene laughing my head off. I said, “Would you like me to show you how to pull the truck out?”
He said that it couldn’t be done. I said, “Watch and learn.” Then told him that I would get him out of his sunken pit that he had created at the same time.
I hitched up his vehicle and checked the rope matey had hitched to the horsebox. I told matey that the laws of basic physics will not allow a 2t vehicle, even a Land Rover, to have the capacity to pull a laden 10t lorry out of three inches of mud! I then handed matey a spade after first showing him how to dig out sunken wheels; creating a slope of solid ground for the vehicles to move up.
Once the wheels were dug out, I gave instructions to the drivers to gently accelerate on my command. It took a bit, but after a few slides side to side, I picked up enough traction to get the train moving. The family with the horsebox were very grateful.
A Triplicity gig on Exmoor one year was a windy affair. We spent most of the weekend holding the tent down. By this point, Robbie’s set-up had grown. Matt had got a mate to make some stronger steel poles that we were using as the space was growing. A few of them had been bent like bananas in the wind! The art gallery next door disintegrated and other smaller marquees and gazebos took to the air.
On the way out, I noticed a recovery van stuck in mud with a car on it’s back. As I drove by, I noticed my mate Greg. It was his car on the back. He was running about in the mud trying to get as much solid material under the drive wheels as possible. I parked my caravan up and went back to tow the recovery van out. I asked Greg, “How on Earth did he manage to get stuck? Why didn’t he go around the mud patch?”
“I know!” Cried Greg, “I told him, but he reckoned he wouldn’t get stuck!” Greg was not happy.
I got him out easy enough and told Greg to make an official complaint.