You need to calm down.
Continuing Festageddon 2016, I once again venture out of the UK, this time to the far reaches of Central Europe. I also find myself somewhere far more bizarre and alien: Southern England.
#5 Latitude, Suffolk (GB)
The Maccabees, New Order, M83, The Lumineers, Laura Mvula, Slaves, Grimes, David Rodigan, Al Murray, Bill Bailey, Piff the Magic Dragon, Chortle Student Comedy Awards, MC Phil Wang, Nick Helm, Hofesh Shechter Company, Mark Kermode, London International Animation Festival
I’d been in the staff campsite for less than an hour when I overheard a nearby group excitedly discussing plans to share their books after they had finished reading them. Having come from T in the Park with but a day in-between, where the only things people talked about sharing was pills, this was a bit of a shock. As time went by, I jotted down overheard comments on my phone and eventually compiled them into an article for Murmur. Suffice it to say, the crowd were very, very South England.
As for what I was doing, I’d got a gig volunteering with Hotbox Events as part of the CATs, HATs & Pixies team — stewards in all but name. In the case of the Pixies, they had to dress in all manner of glitter and fairy wings whilst on shift. Any guesses which shifts were at the bottom of my list of preferences?
I ended up with one of my first three choices, an Arena shift. Turns out Arena shift here meant arena toilet stewarding, but thankfully we weren’t close enough to smell anything and could hear the performances pretty well. We were largely there to remind the punters which toilet they’d been using for their entire lives, so no surprises when we didn’t have to do an awful lot.
The first shift was besides the Comedy Tent for the Chortle Student Comedy Awards, which from experience of student comedy I’d feared would be a special kind of Hell but was actually quite funny. Some of the comedians had clearly just decided who their favourite stand-up was and did little but emulate them, but one guy came on as
Jasper LaPlage, Head of Product Development at Google and delivered a pitch-perfect parody pitch for
Google Magnify, otherwise known as a magnifying glass. The highlight was definitely the line
one of our ethos’ at Google—we have many ethi—is .
fear is the enemy of progress
Other than that, I had time to see tHE bAD, a weird dance performance by the Hofesh Schechter Company, a bunch of indistinguishable indie bands (The Maccabees, The Lumineers) and Mark Kermode, who delivered a great conversation about film criticism and also holds the distinguishment of being the only act I’ve ever seen who took time to thank the security after his show. Slaves were fantastic—and one of my freshers tore up the stage—and Grimes was okay, although her ditzy, kooky persona grated when she started playing the wrong track by mistake and laughed it off. A little bit of professionalism to go with your massive pay cheque is all I ask.
We finished with the final night’s late shift, meaning we were positioned around the toilets in the now-closed arena. Taking full advantage of this lack of work and my recent promotion to break-allocating Team Leader, we enjoyed plentiful time off to go and see New Order. Some went to Of Monsters and Men instead, but I reasoned there was no chance they would be able to live up to seeing them in Iceland. Plus, I think I had New Order confused with New Atlantic and so was excited to hear I Know. As it got colder, we sought refuge in the Film & Music Tent and saw some increasingly bizarre—albeit interesting—short films courtesy of the London International Animation Festival’s Into the Dark. Chaud Lapin in particular baffled the venue security.
#6 Bluedot, Jodrell Bank Observatory (GB)
Algorave, Underworld, 65daysofstatic
Another security job, meaning sixteen-hour shifts manning the campsite gates and checking wristbands. By the second day, the word
wristband had ceased to make sense to me, which is something I’ve had happen before with written words, but never spoken. Other than that, I managed a couple brief forays into the arena specifically to watch an algorave performance—easily the geekiest thing at an already very geeky festival—and coincidentally catching Underworld and 65daysofstatic, the latter of whom attempted some of the weakest
stick it to the man crowd riling at the end with a vague posture that politics is bad right now guys, and something about praying to a sun god for water. I don’t know, the guy was no Efrim Menuck.
#7 Kendal Calling, Lowther Deer Park (GB)
Rudimental, The Lancashire Hotpots, The Sherlocks
The highlight of my security company’s calendar, and another case of lengthy shifts and little free time. Me and another guy took the time to see Rudimental though, and bopped in the audience with SIA licenses in our pockets feeling every bit like Steve Buscemi in 30 Rock. Other than that, I caught a bit of some band called the Sherlocks, as well as the entirety of the Lancashire Hotpot’s set as, through some sort of acoustical trickery, they were the only act that came through loud and clear to my position in the posh campsites.
I also learnt, through copious free food from the pizza van next to that position, that Geordies are like good Scousers — same funny accents, but absolutely lovely.
#8 Sziget, Budapest (HU)
(deep breath) Die Antwoord, The Chemical Brothers, Rihanna, Martinez Brothers, Marchello, Architects of Air, Oz Corporation, Andras Bader, Duel, Quimby, Système Paprika, Hardwell, Berlinesque Cabaret, DJ BRNY, DJ Mada, Naga, Peter Bernath, Murmuyo, Transe Express, Andrew Bába, Brincadeira, Teatre Gry i Ludzie, Hallot Pénz, Malasañers, Luca Czerző, Years & Years, Sarruga, DJ Scratchy, Félix Lajkó (feat Óperentzia), Ikebana, DJ Salazar, Dillon Francis, Carnage, Dublic, MÄDLỊCK, Turai Tradition and Youth Dance Company
This was the biggie of August, and I hadn’t had it fully planned until a week before. I balked when I booked a flight only a month before a trip once — now I was leaving it until five days before. I took a little longer than expected to get there from the airport after realising, moments before stepping onto my shuttle, that I had taken the wrong bag from the baggage carousel (it was the exact same make as mine, but with a front pocket full of condoms rather than my passport). After chasing my bag all over Liszt Ferenc Airport for an hour I was ready and made my way to the festival site, where I came in at the wrong entrance and missed out on the meetup drinks for the rest of the volunteers in our group.
The next day, I sat in the volunteer centre waiting for the contract signing at 18:00 and reading all of The Martian in one sitting (verdict: basically this, and amazing for it). Afterwards, a group of us went to the nearby supermarket for alcohol. During the festival, the local Auchen becomes something of its own stage as hundreds of people perpetually mill around in the car park drinking and playing music at all hours of the day. When in Rome, so we joined straight in and drank the night away.
It was the first day of the festival and I finally found out what my job would be: passport stamping. At Sziget, the programmes are both free—a surprise after everywhere else selling rip-offy £10 programmes—and designed like novelty passports, complete with burgundy EU covers and a page for stamps. For going to a number of different smaller performances and getting stamps, the punters could then hand their passports in for a Sziget prize. After my first shift on the Luminarium, I asked my mentor to give me whatever other shifts there that he could. It was under a roof, had people to talk to, had nice chill music constantly and wasn’t as much of a trek as somewhere like the beach. Why else, he asked? When I said the girl checking capacity was cute, he instantly agreed to give me them all. That’s our Mishi.
The first day was the most important since it was when Die Antwoord were playing. Having narrowly missed them in Iceland back at the start of summer I had decided that missing them here, three months and about 3000km later, would be a sign that maybe it was just not going to happen. Thankfully, I got luckier in Hungary and got most of the way to the front for an amazing show. Now I just need to see where I can catch them next.
On day two, I had my sole non-Luminarium shift at the Magic Mirror, or gay stage (also inexplicably the stand-up comedy venue). Great, I thought, that’s guaranteed to be some great tunes and interesting sights. Or not, as the stage didn’t open that day until 23:00, long after I was gone. I did get a great stamp though, and seeing lads double-take when they saw that I’d just stamped their passport with two Mars symbols bumming never got old. There was also a naked guy who ran down the path trying to hug passers-by as his friends chased and tried futilely to wrap him in a towel. On the way back to the campsite later that night, a group of old guys in suits playing slow, mournful violin music sauntered past. The weirdest part is that they didn’t even seem out of place.
A couple shifts at the Luminarium later and the tent was starting to pong a bit, but it was still fun. After a couple nights out at the Unicum bar, fobbing off the assembled worldwide DJ talent on offer for some bogstandard Budapest club DJs, we moved on to the Jack Daniel’s Beard Bar which played absolutely filthy drum and bass 24 hours a day and was amazing. I kept getting delayed on my way to shifts by the increasingly bizarre street performances and the crowds that milled about them, from an intense drumming performance to three huge bicycle-powered wireframe dinosaurs and a great big steampunk car covered in trumpet-playing fish people.
On one of the later nights we ended up in Magic Mirror, and it was amazing. One of the English lads in the squad was hilariously uncomfortable and the music was amazing (I think). There were also no end of interesting sights:
In my infinite wisdom, I ended up hanging out with a bunch of Russians, the awkward English lad and some dickhead Belgians until 7am, with my shift starting at 12. I powered through my shift—no-one can tell if you’re napping if you wear sunglasses—and took a quick hourlong disco nap before the big end show. Hardwell wasn’t an amazing DJ, but it was made up for with the sheer spectacle — fireworks, flame shooters, thousands of waving glowsticks. After that it was back to Magic Mirror to see off the festival.
A bunch of the squad and I stayed over at one of the Hungarian girls’ flat for the night, so we took the opportunity to meet up with our mentor and some of the others for one last piss-up. I’m there for another night and we climb to the top of Gellért Hill for a nice snap. Less nice is how hot and sticky it is, and how hot and sweaty we end up.
One late-night flight back to Blighty, and an even-later drive back home, and I’m done. Done, and still in full possession of my prize souvenir, which I’m frankly amazed made it through the airport. The check-in lady even asked if I’d nicked it, which makes this probably the only time I’ll ever get to say
I didn’t steal sheeeit in an airport.