Wednesday, 24 February 2010


Sheriff's Diary, Day 1 - Friday 23 August 2002; Misled! Bah! I'd been led to believe that this weekend would be scorchio, but warm yet overcast was the order of the day as we drove in on day one and hit the arena. Wristband collection and info tent visit dispensed with quickly, we got on the mobile and located our camping friends Ady and The Big Man, conveniently located on our walk in. Cool!

Hit the arena just as host Steve Lamacq introduced mainstage openers THE MOLDY PEACHES. Now a 6-piece, they still sounded like a bad joke in a college bar. Got the beers in - a Rachel Reading Ritual! - before the first band on in the Big Tent, FINCH. They played some good hard-rocking stuff in a similar vein to Husker Du/Therapy?, and did half a good Pixies cover of "Where Is My Mind?" in front of a large crowd - more than for The Moldy Peaches, that's for sure! THE VON BONDIES were next up, playing some "La Woman"-era Doors/"Lust For Life"-era Iggy style metronomic bluesy rock which quite impressed my by-now buoyant brain.

Got some noodles and met some more friends before THE BELLRAYS Big Tent set. They kicked off with their best raucous blues number, "Fire On The Moon", but as at the recent Essential Festival in Bristol, their set went downhill thereafter. I like their adrenalized Tina Turner/MC5 blues rock, but I can't eat a whole one! So we nipped off after 20 minutes to catch the early-running MERCURY REV in the Main Arena. Despite it being 2.30 on a sunny afternoon, their dark and broodingly mysterious swirling rock worked on the big stage, although admittedly they did pick some of their bouncier numbers (e.g. the swampy chug of "Delta Sun Bottleneck Blues") early doors. Nevertheless, the achingly haunting oldie "Frittering" and the stripped back epic "The Dark Is Rising" were the breath-catching showstoppers in a dry-ice drenched and shining set.

Took a quick walk back to the Big Tent for the last knockings of the Big Man recommended FENIX TX. Despite being recipients of the first Horrible Cliché of the Fest award ("hands in the air, scream like you just don't care" - bah!) they kicked up a reasonably energetic SoCal surf punk set. We then saw enough of GUIDED BY VOICES (i.e. 1 1/2 songs) to know they're still not doing it for me, then Rach and I took a quick shopping trip before joining the throng in the small Tiny Tent to catch THE DATSUNS, who appeared to be The Bellrays without the female vocalist, i.e. bluesy, primitive and monotonous. Left after 4 numbers.

We then caught the much-hyped WHITE STRIPES in the Main Arena. Having been singularly unimpressed with this Detroit blues-rock 2-piece thus far, I actually quite liked their unhinged and haphazard Hendrixy set "live", whilst still failing to completely grasp all the hype. I had to confess Jack White was an entertaining babbling lunatic frontman, though. We then had the first upsetting band clash of the weekend, and eschewed the Vines Big Tent set to see WEEZER, who kept us waiting for 40 minutes but played a fine, slightly mad, chunky set of their catchy, sing-along powerpop, smothered with their trademark guitar assault. The set sounded spot-on and went down really well, but grated a tad when the monstrously-egoed Weezer vocalist Rivers Cuomo started his own, "Weezer, Weezer," chant. A great "Buddy Holly" closed the set, by which time we'd been joined by some Boston friends, namely Ben Kweller's back-up boys Josh Lattanzi and Fred Eltringham!

We left Josh and Fred to get grub, and met up with our crew outside the Big Tent, subsequently venturing inside as it started raining. Bah! ELECTRIC SOFT PARADE played a cool, inventive and clearly-pop sounding set, with the usual metronomic Krautrock-like build-up of "Silent To The Dark" a highlight. Stayed in as night fell for THE BREEDERS. Hopes weren't high following their recent disappointing, low-key and dour "Title TK" CD, but, with mad old drunk woman Kim Deal firmly at the helm, The Breeders actually pulled off the Set Of The Day, with an optimistic, quick-fire thing of joy and jagged, brutal wonder. Concentrating mainly on their 1992 "Last Splash" material, they fired out haunting soundbites which were thrillingly absorbing, particularly "No Aloha" and the brilliant "Divine Hammer". Great stuff, all the more for being unexpectedly so. Got some more snacks before FEEDER's evening Big Tent set. Their first major show since the untimely death of drummer Jon Lee, they played an understandably subdued but honest set of their likeable pop-rock, with the set closer "Just A Day" received rapturously by the packed tent as an affirmation. More power to them.

Popped to the loo just as THE STROKES Main Stage headlining set kicked off, so heard their first 4 or so numbers, including a couple of "newies", one of which ("Meet Me In The Bathroom") was a dead ringer for "Hard To Explain". Are they so struggling for new material that they're already recycling their oldies? Hmmm... Anyway, Rach and I were off to the Tiny Tent for THE POLYPHONIC SPREE. 25 people in white robes, a melange of Super Furry Animals' studious psychedelia, Neutral Milk Hotel's unorthodoxy and Beach Boys lush harmonies. Actually, they were more "normal" sounding than I expected, with "Soldier Girl" their best number by some distance, but were nevertheless jolly entertaining, and a good way to close out day one!

Sheriff's Diary, Day 2 - Saturday 24 August 2002; Cartrouble! No, not Adam And The Antz, but our old Rover, last night, so we had to take it to the garage before ferrying up with day-tripper Beef. Despite the prospect of thundery showers, it was hot today - damn hot! So we parked up, slathered up then met up with the weekend campers on the way in.

Beers in hand in the arena, we were then ready for first band SAHARA HOTNIGHTS. They dished up some bright and spunky Swedish lesbo-pop - Beef thought Babes In Toyland, Rach thought Kenickie, the truth as ever was somewhere in between, and quite good with it. We then headed over to the Big Tent for THE LIBERTINES, whose set started out full of spark and New Wave attitude, but then hit technical problems which fucked the set up badly, earning them slow handclaps which obviously dented their confidence, as thereafter they appeared subdued and agitated, set closer and Jam-ish single "What A Waster" notwithstanding. A real shame.

Back in the arena for excellent madman ANDREW WK who put on an energetic, enthusiastic and brilliant performance of his fist-punching party-licious hard rock, really firing us and the crowd up. So his songs all sound the same - Joey Ramone fronting Van Halen - so what! The man is an utter diamond, a fiery ball of energy and enthusiasm who walks it like he talks it. He loves it and takes everyone else with him. A top-notch entertaining festival set!

We then ran into the Big Man by the backstage entrance and also met Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World, who was happy to be accosted by my bare-chested self and stop for pix and a chat. A nice guy! Then over to the smallish Concrete Jungle Tent - an EMO alternative for today only - running into Ben Kweller on the way, and catching HOT ROD CIRCUIT when we got there. They were dynamic and polished in an Emo-esque, Jimmy Eat World way. Very promising, and more so than next band up, THURSDAY, who were shoutier and riffier in a Hundred Reasons style. Too much noise and not enough tune for my tastes, so we got Hog Roasts and went for a quick walk around the stalls, before returning for DASHBOARD CONFESSIONAL. They played a plaintive, emotive strum-along set, so much so that when they did crank out a riff it seemed so much more powerful. This set was more about songs and emotion than riffs, though, and was easily the most impressive new band set seen thus far.

Back into the now-baking arena for a sit down before THE HIVES started up. Their set turned into more of a random jam than an actual set, with the excellent, acerbic "Hate To Say I Told You So" the only thing on the menu resembling a song. So after they played that, off we went! Over into the Tiny Tent to get a good position for BEN KWELLER's set, Ben of course backed up with our Boston buddies Josh and Fred, whom we'd steadfastly failed to bump into all day today (even asking Ben where they were when we ran into him!). Ben, a young but confident Evan Dando wannabee, and the band played some cool, laid-back slacker pop, which was simple, effectively hooky and a real Lemonheads/Redd Kross-esque college rock pleasure. A shame I couldn't do it justice, as I started to flag towards the end of the set.

It got worse - after a quick sit down in the early evening sun, I started to feel wobbly and shivery. We met up with Beef and tottered back to the Big Man's tent, where I collapsed for an hour while Rachel got me extra layers of clothing from the car. I can only assume I got a bit of sunstroke! Anyway, after this rest, and extra fluids and layers on board, I recovered sufficiently so we could return to the arena for the last half of the ASH set. A shame we missed the first half, as this was picture-perfect powerpop, tight, taut and layered with attitude and vim. More triumphant also, as their set was delivered barely a week after a European tour road crash. "A Life Less Ordinary" and dynamic set closer "Burn Baby Burn" were terrific highlights of another fine Ash set.

Over to the Concrete Jungle tent as evening fell and the clouds gathered. SAVES THE DAY played some tight, bright, shiny Emo-lite, including their stunning single "At Your Funeral", but I needed to excuse myself midway through, getting soaked by the thundery rain on the way to the loo. Got crushed in the melee at the cusp of this little tent on my return so I didn't really enjoy the rest of their set! Bah! Found Rach after they finished and as the rain eased off - slightly - and we got some tea before hitting the other side of the Big Tent for nice guy Jim Adkins' JIMMY EAT WORLD. They were "on it" from the word Go, kicking off with "Salt Sweat Sugar" and playing a varied set from their 3 albums, well paced, and if the set was subdued at times, closers "The Middle" and "Sweetness" kicked up a hooky and Buzzcocks-like shiny New Wave punk fuss, as the whole tent seemed to join in on the "whoa-oh"s!

We then hit the stalls with Rach, then caught the FOO FIGHTERS headlining set. They were also a little subdued, with the new material not as powerfully Husker Du popcore rocky and venomous as the older stuff. Indeed, it was the older numbers, particularly a frantic "Monkey Wrench" which stuck in the mind. But by now I was shivering again - with cold and wet this time - so we hit the road right at the end of their set.

Sheriff's Diary, Day 3 - Sunday 25 August 2002; Still feeling ropey this morning, but as 2 of my most anticipated bands of the weekend are on today, we soldier on! Bacon butties and 2 cans of Red Bull do their best to revive me, and 2 more cans on arrival at the arena help, but still leave me needing a wake-up call.

I get it - and how! DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE, purveyors of my No. 1 Album of 2002 thus far, the absorbingly narrative "Photo Album", all slow-burning and heart-aching on CD, positively rock "live"! Surprisingly and startlingly upfront, they leave a tingle where no other band has gotten even close to this weekend. Advising us not to go into the front few rows for ...Trail Of Dead, they actually recalled the Texan terrors with their onstage movement and dynamism - small wonder then that TOD's psycho drummer Jason Reece was filming them from backstage! A superb set closer, "Why You'd Want To Live Here" answered my prayers, a choppily played paean to Los Angeles, closing the absolute Best Set Of The Weekend utterly perfectly.

More Red Bull - totalling 6 cans! Yipe! - to get me further kick-started, then we sat in the sun by the backstage entrance (I dunno, the only day it's forecast to rain all day, so we've brought our waterproofs, and it's nice all day!), unfortunately within earshot of RAGING SPEEDHORN's ham-fisted - even by Nu-metal standards - set. Unbelievably shite; at one point the singer calls himself and the band, "a bunch of c*nts", which was the only thing I reckon he got right all set. At least AMEN, next up, had some tunes in a nihilistic punk rock way, even if you had to blast for them. Amen's tattooed vocalist even threatened the complacent crowd with a ballad - but didn't deliver.

We'd wandered over to the Tiny Tent during Amen to see half a song from shouty Nu-Metal boys ELLIS, as this was Rachel's mum's maiden name! However, we returned after Amen for DRAGPIPE, who were non-descript soft-core nu-Metal. Suffered this lot, then met our weekend camping friends outside said tent at 3 for JETPLANE LANDING. Much more like it, this; passionate rock played with a huge smile on vocalist Andrew Ferris' face throughout, musically recalling Pixies and Joyrider in their jagged rock riffery, upfront and dynamic without being too OTT. "Do you love Jetplane Landing?" asked Ferris, "man, I love this band!" and you got the impression he meant every word.

Got grub then sat down during PUDDLE OF MUDD's party-like-it's-1992 old school grunge set. Still none of the promised thundery showers, but the next mainstage band, NOFX, kicked up a storm with possibly the most entertaining Festival set of the weekend. Original, SoCal ramalama old skool ska-punk, maybe, but NOFX's set was interspersed with enough political satire and downright funny pisstaking of, ooh, Bush, the Scots, the French, fat people, young people, Mexicans etc.etc. to have Bill Hicks smiling from above. Sure I won't be buying any of their stuff, but this was great fun.

headed over to see HAVEN in the Big Tent. Last year's Best New Band are up the bill a bit this year, and justified it with a passionately delivered set of slow-burning, sometimes bland but more often haunting pop, delivered with the nasal tones of Mark Hollis (Talk Talk) sound-alike Gary Briggs. A quick trip to the car for layers, then back in the arena for tea and CORNERSHOP's Richman-esque mellowness. Catchy and foot-tappable, specially "Brimful Of Asha". Then over to the Tiny Tent for EASYWORLD's last couple of numbers. Beef's top tip, they sounded chunky, hooky and good. Sorry we missed the rest!

Back in the tent for this Festival's denouement; ...AND YOU WILL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF DEAD, the Texan terrors themselves, who laid the smack down on the festival in a big way, entering to the "Willy Wonka" theme tune, then tearing the place up with some frantic and breathless punk rock. Jagged, edgy, fast and frenetic, with some superb basslines courtesy of our friend (!) Neil Busch, TOD finished with a titanic "Perfect Teenhood", ending in the usual cacophonous conclusion, with the drums being kicked over by Keith Moon fan Jason Reece, then lobbed into the crowd! Apparently Ady was in the melee at the time and caught one of the drums - for a couple of seconds, anyway!

Headed into the arena one last time, as the time ticked over to 10 and an inky night fell. Caught the last couple of OFFSPRING's corporate singalong punk from the mainstage. Too sanitised for my tastes, but I enjoyed "I Want You Bad", and their failed attempts at getting the crowd to do some recorded sing-alongs. Then finally to the Tiny Tent for THE MUSIC - really not impressed by these Stone Roses wannabees' attempts at trippy psychedelia, so we got snacks and left.

Thus endeth the Festival! Good overall, but a lot of bands were strangely subdued and seemed to go through the motions. The ones I'll remember put their heart and soul into it, like TOD, The Breeders, NOFX, Andrew WK, and most of all Death Cab For Cutie!





STARS OF THE SHOW - ANDREW WK for being barmy, JIM ADKINS for being a nice guy, DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE for being brilliant!

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