Monday, 12 July 2010

With Full Force festival. Eastern Germany. Part 1. Booze and mileage!

Where to start. I’ll start with this. I spent Monday morning this week by skinny-dipping in a lake in Eastern Germany with a James Hetfield circa 1985 look a like. Not a bad way to start your working week huh? I was hung over and slightly sun burnt, being slowly cooked in my tent that the sun was beating down on, and the Earache merchandise stand needed to be packed up in lieu of my two comrades and me driving back across Europe to good Ol’ Blighty. So I hit the lake instead of throwing up and dying inside. Reality can wait just a few more hours.

With Full Force is a gnarly little festival held on some airfield in Eastern Germany somewhere. Last week, having only just returned and certainly not recovered from Hellfest festival in France, I was seriously coming to the mind of not doing WFF (With full force) but rather staying put in London. Then, at some point during another groundhog night of bar work, while standing there pulling another pint, I suddenly had the overwhelming desire to get the fuck out of there and committed myself wholly to camping and eating noodles with stoic gumption that I usually have reserved for ‘right, tonight I’m gonna not get home till morning’ times. It’s fucking on people!

Work rota’s covered and bag quickly packed since I hadn’t gotten round to unpacking it from Hellfest, and I find myself waiting for my ride to turn up in Kent where the pick up is with nerves and desperation. I love leaving. It’s the best feeling in the world hands down. Finally, the van is here and my two comrades for the next 5 days jump out. Who have we got then…we got Earaches sales and merchandising manager, Mr Ben, and we got driver to the lower classes of Punk and Metal and Grindcore, Miss Kim. Ben and me get straight to work by moving boxes around in the back of the van that have fallen. So that we could rake out some booze of course! Can’t hit Dover empty handed it’s just rude.

Dover is Dover. What can you say? Ben and I were ready for the mundane and loooong arsed process of getting on a boat, and continued our drinking in earnest. We have started on sparkling rose since it was the only bottle we could pull out of the wedged up booze box at the bottom of a pile of boxes and take turns necking it back. Poor Kim is stone cold sober on account of her being the designated driver of this road trip and looks on at us and laughs, shaking her head in amusement. Ben and I have made a pact to stay awake for the whole drive and keep Kim company, I see a brief flicker of ‘oh dear god no’ in Kim’s eyes as we stand there discussing what booze to buy on the ferry.

The ferry ride for the most part sees us waiting for the duty free shopping to start, buying ridiculous amounts of cheap booze (2 crates of Strongbow, a litre bottle of Malibu and 2 assorted packs of flavoured Smirnoff bottles topped off with a litre bottle of limited edition Smirnoff vodka) and chain smoking on the open deck while tucking into the Malibu for me and the Strongbow for Ben. All the while surrounded by school kids blasting tinny R&B from their shitty stereo and looking as us warily. We already look like more trouble than their pubescent little minds can get round with our rocking hair, tattoos and devil may care attitude. Hey I might sound like an arsehole saying that but you could see it in their faces, they’re like 16, these things matter to them. I like to think we turned some of those kids to the dark side and away from wishy washy tunes with too many melodies of men crooning about how good they can please you.

Waving goodbye to England with our middle fingers up, we hit dry land and the beautiful joy that is European speed limits. Beautiful because none of us know what they are, no one else seems to pay any attention and this van can push 95, which is what it stays on. Kim drove us through the night; we left Kent at gone 7pm and arrived in Lypsik at 8.30am having only stopped for piss breaks. During this epic road trip we listened to 3 Finntroll albums back to back, then 2 Turasis albums and some hardcore and punk albums. We drank most of the Malibu, nearly a whole crate of Strongbow, and some Hoegarden that we bought in Belgium. We made dubious cocktails and chucked out metal moves while all squashed into the front cab area of the van, chain smoking and laughing and chatting and throwing the claw to the moon that lit the road until it fucked off and was replaced by the sun rising over open expanses of farmland.

Ben and I woke from a drunken power nap outside a Nettos in Lypsik, Germany. And at 8.30am,a very drunken Ben and a very exhausted Kim went supermarket shopping. I chose to stay in the van and sleep another half hour. Fuck that, I was done. I must have dropped off again. Waking up drenched in sweat, the van sitting in the car park right under the baking sun. One patch of shade at the edge of the car park would mean me driving only 6 meters but I was still drunk so instead went to investigate what the hell was taking so long in the shop. See, upon waking and feeling all disorientated, I had checked the time. Ben and Kim had been gone for two bloody hours. Hope some crazed gunman hasn’t held up the shop.

Ben is still drunk! He bellows across the store when he sees me that ‘it’s ok, we are just choosing mixers and we are out of here’ and gets back to concentrating on the countless bottles of god knows what in front of him. Kim shakes her head and grins at me. The trolley with them is full, including a crate of beer underneath it. There is food stuff in there, cold meats, cheese, bread, chocolate and crisps, some veg' and fruit. But mainly there is just a ton of miscellaneous booze products. One of the joyful things about shopping for alcohol in Europe is you have no idea what you are buying and have to either spend ages figuring it out or choose on the basis of the bottle being attractive and the percentage on the label. This option is our one of choice. It has seen us end up with chilli chocolate vodka, cherry schnapps and mint liqueur on several occasions. Where in toxic mind blowing cocktails are born!

I hurry them out, cranky from the heat and total lack of sleep and partake in some kleptomania by not announcing the crate of beers under the trolley, that I’m not sure that the others remembered they put there. Naughty.

As we approach the festival site, hordes of cars packed to the brim with metallers and hardcore kids, tents and sleeping bags, drive with us, kicking up dust clouds all over the place. Loads of them have got WFF gaffa taped to the back windows and everyone of them including us have various limbs hanging out of windows, attempting to stay cool.

And the following hour? Traffic jam on to the site big time. By the time we had gotten our passes, been wrongly directed to various points on the site and had finally guessed our way to the merch trading area, we were all completely exhausted and heat stroked out. Fuck our lives all over the field if we didn’t then have a bloody merch stand to set up before the van had to be parked at 9pm,the cut off curfew for having vehicles on site.

I mean set up from scratch too. If I hadn’t been so tired I would have had my wits about me and taken photos from the start of set up, when it was a piece of grass to the end result so that you could see the varying stages. We build the frame, get the tarpaulin up, and set up the stock, displays, and the lot. Kim got Bens tent out and passed out straight away, she totally didn’t need to help set up when her crazy arse had just driven us through 5 countries lets face it, the girl was way over due some downtime. Ben and I plugged on, until Ben’s body finally went on strike and he passed out on a pile of Insect Warfare t-shirts that had fallen out of the van. Safely in the shade I left him to it and quietly went about getting as much done on my own as I could, following info and advice from Ben in the van when we were talking shop, and then set up my tent behind our merchandise stand. A little back yard area closed off from the public with stands and a fence made for a perfect bunking down area and would eliminate us having to walk all the way to the trader’s campsite and back all the time. Ben has done this festival trading thing enough to know that those painful morning starts would be so much easier like this. Having received no information or help regarding anything to do with the festival, I ask our new neighbours what time the main stage site where we are will open and shut each day, where the traders campsite is, if there are any showers etc.

Good news. The site won’t open till 12 noon, which means we don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn! It shuts at midnight, but the party continues at the big tent next to the main stage area with bands until 6am so we won’t be missing the party either! Wait…I’m not finished. There’s a fucking lake ten minutes away! With a sand beach! Big ol’ dirty fucking win, my face is sore from smiling. The bad news, we are right next to a ‘D.J’ area, which never stops. 24 hour music blasts from it, the ground where we will be sleeping vibrating, oh and for the most part they seem to have a C.D on repeat.

The stand is coming along nicely when along comes our first visitor of the weekend, one of the guys from another label, who have a stand set up further towards the stage. Within half an hour we have half a dozen guys from there and our old friends from yet another European label too, all with beers in their hands catching up and joking around.

Festival families. They rock. Let me explain. Every year, you inevitably end up working many of the same festivals as the year before. Also within a summer festival season, the same bands play all the festivals, so you are bound to come across them several times. For me, getting to these festivals might see me helping Talita, the press officer at Earache with bands and press, or working backstage on dressing rooms with the bands, or like this time, working as a trader on a stand. You meet the same people, who do the same, and you form bonds and ties and friendships and stay in touch between festivals. This goes for the bands and other workers, crew etc. And they become your festival family. You only see them at festivals, and that might only be a few times a year, but you are comrades none the less and after living through a long weekend of wrongness together you feel like you have been to battle. So that is why all work on our stand has come to an abrupt halt and we are now just catching up and getting drunk with these awesome and crazy fuck ups! Let the good times roll.

Our motley crew of drunken merchandise bandits includes Max and Luke from Holland, Sparny, Renee, Joe and Janet from Germany and ourselves. By the time we hit the sack for the night we are all wasted and exhausted. Which is the second time for Ben and me today! Oops. Least the Earache stand had been christened as the best on site for another year running eh! Just how we roll.

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