Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Kiss and Make Up

It's late, and we're very drunk, and I'm gazing around the walls of a beer bar somewhere near Wenceslas Square, Prague.

It’s kind of incongruous, a reminder of the two worlds this country has known over the last fifty years.

Standing on tables behind us, a birthday party or works outing is bellowing out songs at the top of their voices, some of which, our guide tells us, are old revolutionary communist fighting songs.

But the walls are laden with framed pictures of that greatest example of Western decadence - the rock and roll band.

Here's one of Johnny Cash, backstage at Hammersmith Odeon in 1966, looking disturbingly like The Fall's Mark E Smith.

There's one of an indie rock band who were huge globally in the mid-nineties, their flame haired singer crawling towards us on all fours, burning the world with the flash of her eyes. This band always make me wistful because I met the singer a few times and she definitely fancied me, and I did nothing to reciprocate. No one believes me when I tell them, but this was back when she was a lot less famous and quite a bit less attractive than she is on this poster, and, it has to be said, when I was an entirely different shape.

But over here is a poster of Kiss, and it pulls me up short and stops me feeling sorry for myself, because I feel loads sorrier for one of Kiss.

I've noticed it before, but never really processed it till now. Sure Kiss were camp and larger than life and ROCK in a way that now only a fully-fledged novelty act could get away with, but look at them. 

Let's play Kiss! Baggsy not being the one on the bottom left - oh, why do I always have to be the cat one?

Three have face make-up that makes them look very cool, very rock and roll. One's demonic, one's got a star, and one has some kind of explosion or lightning flash. All guaranteed to make the seventies groupie swoon.

And then... one of them looks like a cute little pussycat.

His face paint is not glam rock face paint; it's the kind of thing children get painted on their faces at village fetes. The poor bastard looks like he's lost a bet, or was a regular target for being bullied by the rest of the band. Surely he can’t have chosen that design himself, in contrast to his band-so-called-mates?

Did no one think this unusual at the time?

Did Kiss fans cold shoulder him, or was there a special enclave of sensitive Kiss fan who instead of shagging his brains out put him on a cushion and fed him bread and milk?

Either way – poor bastard. No wonder he was one of the first to leave the band.

When I got back from Prague I read Kiss’ Wikipedia page and found out some more about what each band member’s face paint was meant to represent, and why. But it wasn’t half as interesting as the drunken mental story I’d created for myself, so I won’t repeat it here.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hurrah Mummy, it's the F*** Buttons!


You know you could only be at a festival when…

… it’s after 11pm, and you’re watching a band called Fuck Buttons play the kind of nosebleeding, earblasting noise you occasionally enjoy because it acts as a reset switch in your head, scrubbing out your brainpan like wire wool and making all the bad people go away, the kind of noise that actually scares some of your friends, and…

…your view of the stage is obscured by a toddler on his father’s shoulders.

As we reach the outer edges of the Far Out Tent at the Green Man Festival, the aforementioned Fuck Buttons are playing the first song off their latest album.  Well, I say ‘song’.  This is just a noise.  But that makes it sound like a bad thing.  It’s a noise that goes squeeeeee and ranggggggggg and zzzzzzzzz in the most satisfying way. 

Fuck Buttons are what Mogwai would have been like if they’d picked up synths instead of guitars.

They’re what would have happened if the Chemical Brothers had been a couple of Orcs.

This is static electricity translated into English.  It’s sounds that belong to another kind of life form, made listenable.  (Well, I say listenable.)

Fuck Buttons music is what happens after you go to bed and your telly and your laptop come to life, go to a cathode ray disco and start fucking on the dance floor, shooting ultramarine and indigo pixel sperm.

I do love Fuck Buttons.  But – and maybe it’s something to do with a nagging worry that until little Jasper decides he’s ready for bed we’re perhaps expected to pretend they’re called Flip Buttons – after thirty minutes I feel I’ve seen and heard all I need to.  I could stay to the end quite happily, but I don’t have to.

As we leave the Far Out Tent, while the neon strips of lights are still pulsing and throbbing, we have to reacquaint ourselves with mud that’s as filthy as the noise at our backs.  I worked out earlier that I’ve been to ten festivals in the last fifteen years, and five of them have been mud baths.  There isn’t a mud bath festival in the last decade that I’ve missed.

“It’s the same kind of mud as Glastonbury now,” says the Beer Widow, now on her third mud bath out of six festivals.

“Yes,” I reply, “It’s obviously the same soil type.”

And it’s only as these words leave my mouth, thankfully unheard by the masses around us getting drunk, baked, stoned and bombed, contemplating what for many of them is a mere curtain raiser to a whole night of bleeps and squawks – it’s only then that I think, ‘Maybe I am getting too old for this shit’.