Tales from the dark side
As the buzz of this year’s Electric Picnic begins to grow, Una Mullally talks to some seasoned stalwarts ofthe festival scene – including Bitch Falcon, Jape and several people who wish to remain anonymous – about their most outrageous gig-in-a-field memor
BRIAN SPOLLEN Booker, MCD
I was working at Calvin Harris at Oxegen in 2013, and at the time Calvin was dating Rita Ora. Calvin wanted to go see Rita play, so we went down in my jeep and stood at the side of the stage to see Rita’s show. When she got off, Calvin got into my jeep, and Rita got into hers, and we went up the dressing rooms, parked up and got out of the cars. Calvin just said, introducing us, “Brian, this is Rita.” I said “great show, Rita”, and went to high-five her, but she went to shake my hand, which meant somehow I accidentally grabbed her boob. We all just stood there awkwardly.
CHRIS WEE Drummer, And So I Watch You From Afar
In the summer of 2009, my band landed our first European festival, Novarock in Austria. In the days leading up to it, we were supporting Clutch in the UK and our last show was in Leeds. That evening, someone (I wish I could remember who) came up with the woefully naive idea that if we drove straight from Leeds to Novarock, we could arrive just in time to see Metallica headline the first night, a full two days before our slot.
All of a sudden we were trundling down the motorway in the hope of catching an early Channel Tunnel crossing. There were two key oversights to this plan:we were driving an old LDV Convoy van (a rattly relic of dull British engineering), and Novarock was 1,100 miles away.
The train staff at Calais were doubled over with laughter at the sight of us. The starter motor had gone in the van and our first triumphant steps on the European mainland were
made by us pushing our gear on to it. Undeterred, we drove non-stop for about 15 hours (sure Hetfield and the lads were waiting on us.)
Possessing little to no experience of large festival logistics, we arrived at the festival site in near-torrential rain only to be told we had no access till the next day. Our disappointment was doubled as we watched the convoy of huge double-decker buses filled with Metallica driving on to the site.
With no site access and no sleeping plans, we admitted defeat and found the nearest lay-by and bedded down in our cramped little van. We were woken by frantic knocking on the windows. Unknown to us, parking in lay-bys is a crime in Austria and the officer lightened our pockets by ¤200. We limped to the festival feeling sorry for ourselves, but the day was brightened when we learned the backstage bar was free and inexhaustible. We tested these parameters to the very limits of human capability and, some hours later, the lads who had left Leeds all those hours ago full of promise, were now drunker than all the drunkest men that have ever been drunk, drunk.
The following morning; the searing heat of the midday sun; the crushing reality that we had a show to play in about an hour. Needless to say, it was by far the worst performance we have ever inflicted on anyone. Thousands of perplexed Austrian metallers staring and wondering what form of “music” us four idiots were attempting.
Horrific yet valuable lessons learned all round. On the plus side, we ate dinner after the show next to Limp Bizkit. Every cloud, eh?
LIZZIE FITZPATRICK Singer and guitarist, Bitch Falcon
I was at a Nile Rogers gig in the pit with a friend, when a wheely bin caught our attention in the middle of the crowd. Of course we jumped on top of the bin and danced to the 20,000-plus crowd around us. I had to run off to set up for a gig, and left my friend dancing on the bin, in plain view of Nile Rogers. He says “hey beautiful” to her, inspiring her to run through the crowd, hop over the barrier and blag her way through security. She got through all security but one. What was he going to do if she ran on stage? Run after her? That would have been just as funny as her dancing anyway, so she went for it. It ended with her breaking it down with the back-up singers and Rogers playing a solo to her, all in the 20 minutes after I left.
RICHIE EGAN Aka Jape
At Electric Picnic in 2010, we had a lot of gigs: two Jape gigs, two David Kitt gigs and a Redneck Manifesto gig, but we were all done by Saturday evening so I kind of let loose a bit for the Saturday night. Nick Cave was playing and we went along and after a while of standing up, we decided to sit down by a wall and just take in the show. After a while, some people started waving over at us. I assumed it was because they had seen one of the earlier shows, and so I was waving back happily.
This went on for a while with people looking over and sort of pointing. Eventually a guy came over and said, “Here man, you’re sitting in a piss trough, people have been pissing there all day.” Our jackets, ponchos etc that we had used as mats were soaked in day-old electric pissness.
LAURENCE MACKIN Ticket Editor
Many years ago, I was playing with a band called 3epkano and we got hired to play the now defunct, not-lamented Mantua festival. When we arrived the rain had destroyed the site and approach roads, the tents were running several hours behind schedule, and we faced the prospect of carrying all our gear to a stage in the rain that was very far away. The gig was looking pretty dicey, and we were debating what to do with one of the festival team. Cider can in hand, she said she didn’t mind one way or the other what we did, but to decide now, as she wanted to see The Stunning. We decided virtue was the better part of valour, and to hit the road.
It turned out to be a good decision. During our alleged set time, someone stole the keys of a nearby tractor and took it for a spin through the tent we were supposed to be playing in. Although as a heckle, it sure can’t be beat.
A DJ WHO WISHES TO REMAIN ANONYMOUS
Back in September 2013, tickets for Electric Picnic were like gold dust. Obviously, I hadn’t bought a ticket and obviously as we came closer to the event I became more and more obsessed with going. I stayed up all night trawling through Facebook and Twitter the night before, waiting for a #ticketfairy to save the day. Come 4.30am, I got lucky and found someone who was willing to drop one over to me that very morning. After I handed over an extortionate amount of cash, I was told it was in fact a Tour de Picnic ticket, and I had to be ready to run 10km at 7.30am – in three short hours. As someone who is not that way inclined, this was not ideal. However, not going was just not an option, so I saw this as little more than a set back.
Once we started, we were told there were markers every kilometre. The first kilometre seemed to last forever; it was like I had lost my mind. It turns out there was a mix up and we were all dropped off not 10km from EP, but 15km – a bit of a difference. Dying to get it finished, I ran the whole way. A few friends of mine were doing the cycle, so I said I’d wait for them at the end zone. With a few hours to spare, I helped myself to a crate of disgusting rum and coke cans because, treat yo-self, I deserved it.
As the day continued, so did my drinking. No rehydration, just booze and a bagel. Come 1am, I was plotless. Next thing I know I’m walking through the woods with a man I’d never met. It turns out I’d passed out at the rave in the woods, my friends had carried me to the emergency tent, and after being revived, I was set free.
This kind soul had found me looking terrified in a field, covered in water, and was helping me find my tent, the location of which I could not recall. His persistence prevailed and a few hours later we found my tent. So relieved to be home to my shitty tent, I unzipped it to find a disgruntled girl I didn’t know asking who the f*** I was. A sweet friend of mine had decided to use my tent for his own devices, leaving this girl to sleep there in my sleeping bag. What a time to be alive.
A JOURNALIST WHO WISHES TO REMAIN ANONYMOUS
At [redacted] festival a few years ago, I found myself in a backstage dressing room drinking with a group of folks including one of the superstar DJs playing the festival. When the DJ and his entourage departed for the stage for one of the biggest sets of the weekend, I wandered outside only for a chauffeur to mistake me for one of the DJ’s actual mates. He rushed me into a Range Rover which sped over to the stage. By this time, I had a few shandies taken, and was slightly disorientated, but managed to position myself in what I thought was a great vantage point for the gig.
Suddenly, security people and crew started screaming and roaring and barrelled me over to another part of the side stage. I thought their behaviour was a bit out of hand until explosions started moments later, and I realised I had been standing directly in the line of fire of a massive pyrotechnic set-up. Nice one security dudes. I owe yiz.
Some people started waving over at us. I assumed it was because they had seen one of the earlier shows, and so I was waving back happily. This went on for a while with people looking over and pointing
Following the signs at Electric Picnic. Far right: Chris Wee and Niall Kennedy from And So I Watch You From Afar, and Richie Egan.