Monday, July 19, 2004

Ashton Court Walkabout
Well for anyone who missed it, another year of Ashton Court madness has come and gone.  First up I’d like to send a shout-out to the people who made it a great two days – the mentalists!  You knows you make it what it is!  Guy in all-over body-glove dancing round talking to people who weren’t there – mentalist.  Guy who stood on the comedy tent stage with his tackle out singing (badly) the Burt Bacharach cover the Stranglers do, to an audience of around 200 people – mentalist.  The people at the disinformation tent – mentalists.  The (many) people whos summer tipple of choice was a gallon bottle of skullfuck cider – apple mentalists. 
Here is how it went down for me:  Saturday I spent quite a while at the Blackout stage and hugely enjoyed Distance/Time (but I’m bias in that opinion).  Distance/Time kept the audience pretty rapt with contemporary dance, electro-acoustic music and VJing and is (I guess) the first time contemporary dance has been done with a breakcore soundtrack?  Correct me if I’m wrong.  I hung around to see Deaf Rave:  When I first heard about this event I was thinking Death Rave – which sounded pretty hardcore, in the event it was actually Deaf Rave; but it was really focused, impressive and got the crowd moving. The performers were very confident and full-on, resulting in an event that felt like a kind of top of the pops on acid.  I also spend some time in the comedy tent and really enjoyed that too; partly thanks to the mentalist described, but also due to some very funny people giving it some.  I ended the evening listening to Goldie Lookin Chain and could not hear a fucking word.  All I could see is around 150 people in tracksuits running around on stage trying not to bump into each other.  Given that the fun of Goldie Lookin Chain is in the lyrics – this was a bit of a disappointment.  The only line I heard was the chorus, "...JLo ain't shit to me, PDiddy ain't shit to me, fuck you Alisha Keys" ….From there I went off to a party, which was a bit of a washout because, given the bridge was shut, by the time people had yomped the 38 miles back home everyone – party organisers included – were knackered and only seemed to have enough energy to make tea, not war.
Incidentally the security were living up to the rep of Bristol bounders, generally driving round at boy-racer speed and busily dismounting their Armoured Personal Carriers to tackle non-existent emergencies each time.  They had also taken a lesson from the cops that is familiar to activists – getting a camera stuffed into your face - I saw a gaggle of these body-armoured goons videoing and shunting a trader along like there were pulling protestors from lockdown as Fairford rather than trying to stop some woman selling hash-cake.
So Sunday I got up early (1.30pm) and aimed to get to Ashton Court by 5.15pm to see Five Knuckle Shuffle.  I got there and had a place in the sun ready to punk-out and the boys did not disappoint.  Full-on-punk!  I also noted that the lead singer pledged to do all he could to keep the festival community and cheap to attend.  From there I wondered around (aimlessly) for a bit (as you do) and observed the mentalists being mental.  In the meantime I saw some of Bug Planet, which was good, but as I could only get space to sit by the speaker – was painful in one ear.  The Blackout tent was a top destination for me this year – they had lots of kooky shit on and it was always worth staggering in to check out the sounds.  From there I then saw Rebalado, which was a Brazilian-salsa-carnival type thing.  The rhythms were pretty funky and I noticed that the audience for the show went from a gender mix of around 50/50 to being 70/30 in favour of males after the carnival dancers in silver bikinis and half the EC glitter mountain on, emerged.   That said, they did get the crowd moving and for a while it seemed that the only difference between Bristol and Brazil was the weather.  That done I was dragged to see Banghra Fever; the poor guys of whom were having massive technical troubles and ended up doing the gig with only 1 turntable and no CD player, but they had lots energy and enthusiasm and that made up the slack.  From there more comedy tent stuff, which was still funny but no naked people (invite the mentalist back next year!) and once that was done it the stage went to Blackout (not the top tent, but a drum'n'bass act).  Now, I know Roni and the Stranglers were playing, and I only saw one Roni track in passing, but for me, ending the festival in a tent with full-on grassroots drum'and'bass, a nod to the place where the sound was tempered all those years ago, made a kind of poetic sense.  Blackout were pretty fantastic and kept the huge crowd jumping with singers, MCs, guitars, DJ, wired-noise boxes, flute and sax.  As the sun set to the thumping bass and banging drum, this, rather than the big names, was where Ashton Court belongs.


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