The first day at the festival hadn’t been great. I’d had a phonecall as we got near the venue to tell me that my beloved Grandmother had finally died: brain cancer. Then that night I’d attacked some guy at a Steven Malkmus gig who’d been barging into me, dancing too hard I guess. Enjoying himself when I wasn’t. I’d pushed him once and told him to stop it, but he pushed back harder and that’s when it happened. We were right at the front of the gig. Before Malkmus could tell us to ‘Cool it,’ I’d grabbed the guy by the throat and was holding him there. He’d gone all limp in my hand. Fully one hundred percent drained of any fight back. Lame and white with fear. His girlfriend was beating me with her fists but it didn’t register, all I wanted to do was to hurt. Someone screamed, Malkmus looked down from above us like a divine musical conscience judging me from the ether. The girlfriend ran to get security. I came to, let him go, pushed through the crowd, and went and got drunker in a shitty bar.
But that was all history. Tomorrow was a new, and bizarre, day.
We decided to go to the on-site cinema to watch a film none of us had even bothered to read a single word about. It was the middle of the afternoon. We were sober. All we knew was it was being introduced in person by Crispin Hellion Glover (Marty McFly’s dad in the original Back to the Future film). We queued, but there was a mistake – one of the staff thought we were a band playing at the festival – and we ended up going into the cinema first and sitting on the front row about two feet from the tiny stage and screen. The rest of the front row was empty at first. We were laughing about Crispin – his dad had played an assassin in one of the Bond films. I heard a noise beside me. A guy in big platform leather/metal shoes, wearing a ripped t-shirt, old jeans, bald head, six foot five, mean expression, was standing there looking at me with his four long-haired friends. I pushed the seat next to me down and patted it, giving him a little wink and a nod. It was a joke, but he didn’t laugh. He just sat down hard next to me and growled a bit. He stunk of booze.
Crispin appeared. He looked like he’d been dipped in oil. For half an hour he gave a bizarre slide show/performance three feet from my face. He was gurning, slathering, oozing around the tiny stage, simpering into a microphone. He introduced his film by saying he’d financed it himself and filmed it in Bulgaria. He told us the theme was one of disability and boundaries. I was ok with that.
Five minutes in, my friend nudged me saying ‘Ben, we’ve got to get the fuck out of here. Something very wrong is happening and we’re in the middle of it.’ Strong words, but he was right. The film was a B Movie style story of a guy with cerebral palsy who just happened to be a paedophile going around raping children. The lead actor actually had a scene where he got his cock out and genuinely fucked a girl who was wearing calipers. No-one could quite believe what they were watching. All two hundred or so of us sat open-mouthed. Someone behind me left. It was like watching a shark attack.
There was something on my shoulder. And snoring. The big guy next to me had, even in the middle of this horror, fallen asleep on my shoulder. The film climaxed with a final rape and murder. The house lights came up. Crispin bounced onto the stage for a Q&A session. Nobody could think straight, let alone speak. Then a voice – ‘I’ve got a question, Crispin.’
‘Do you wish hoverboards were real?’
Nervous laughter. Crispin, chained to a cult classic seemingly forever, unable to be appreciated for the art he’d always wanted to create, put his head in his hands.
The guy next to me woke up and pushed himself off of my shoulder. I left. It had been an appalling afternoon.
That evening I went to watch Sunn o)) while the others saw another band somewhere else. Sunn o)))… Look them up. It’s indescribable apart from telling you that the lead singer (singer is the wrong word….grunter? priest? Satanist?) wore an outfit that made him look like the statue of liberty after thirty years with a heavy Crack habit. Lasers shot from his fingertips in the smoke. The low frequencies of the music made the hair on the girl next to me move and vibrate. It was the most awe inspiring gig I’d ever seen. As their set finished, they pulled back their monk cowls and the singer took off his mask. It was the guy who’d fallen asleep on me in the cinema that afternoon.
In a haze I went straight out to their merch table and bought a cd. My subconscious was shattered. I probably would have done anything anyone suggested. There’s only so much your spirit can take.
That night I got drunk in a bar with a guy from Cincinnati. He was watching an American Football game dressed as an orange bear. It had been that kind of day.