Austriaaaargh!

Gah, finally back from a long weekend in Austria at the Nova Rock festival and I feel like I’ve been hit by several ten-ton trucks, had my insides scooped out by a giant JCB and had all the pieces sewn back together by Josef Mengel on crack. It’s the most depressing sign of ageing, the realisation that your body just isn’t going to accept four-day long drinking binges out in the sunshine and deprived of sleep and food without letting you know all about it afterwards.

Had a hellish journey out there involving some kind of problem with every single stage – taxi hit a traffic jam at five fucking a.m, first plane delayed, second plane delayed, told wrong bus stop by bastard Slovakian driver, train delayed, next train delayed. Okay so I tell a lie; the shuttle bus from the final town to the festival site went off without a hitch, but then I tried to call the rest of the guys who were already out there and my phone had gone apeshit. Cue a half-hour battle with Vodafuck customer services trying to sort the fucking thing out (I’m damned if I’m paying a penny for those calls) before I could actually find where I was going.

Never mind though, as soon as I reached our wee campsite everything was sorted. It was blazing sunshine, probably thirty-odd degrees with nary a trace of wind – the kind of heat you can’t escape from cause your in a field bereft of any shade except inside a tent i.e inside an oven. Luckily there were plenty beers to hand, albeit piss-warm ones. Who had the idea to sell black cans at a summer festival?

The bands that night were fantastic – thankfully so as they were more or less the only ones I saw all festival. I’d arrived just in time to catch Gogol Bordello and was so glad I did – a stage full of vibrant, energetic gypsies singing eastern European folk-punk with truly reckless abandon. Bizarrely the crowd was incredibly sparse which meant we were afforded a fantastic view, centre stage and probably only a couple of dozen yards from the front. Many photos were taken and will be linked as soon as I can access them tonight. As wonderful as the Bordello’s stage show was, my lasting memory was Stevie’s constant muckle grin and proclamations after damn near every song that this is his new favourite band; another convert won.

Gogol Bordello at Nova Rock 2009

Gogol Bordello at Nova Rock 2009

The whole reason we’d kicked off this insane expedition was for Faith No More, newly reformed and back on the road. They were playing much closer to home at the Download festival but tickets alone cost more than tickets and transport for Nova Rock. Seemed to be full of the blasted English as well. Anyway they didn’t disappoint, taking to a bright orange stage with a fantastic sense of self-mocking humour but also incredible energy. The crowd had grown by this point (still much smaller than I would have guessed) and were roaring along to every classic from what was pretty much the finest greatest hits selection they could have conjured up. Songs cropped up from every era from the cheesey crowd-pleaser ‘Easy’ to insanely heavy versions of  ‘Gentle Art Of Making Enemies’ and ‘Caffeine’, always two of my favourite FNM numbers. Mike Patton was in fine form, sporting a bizarre red suit and a walking stick – bizarrely he used the cane for support half the time but was a whirling dervish the rest, still no idea if it’s a genuine injury or just a cool Willy Wonka-esque prop.

Mike Patton of Faith No More resplendent in red leisure suit

Mike Patton of Faith No More resplendent in red leisure suit

Winner for the night was Nine Inch Nails though. As I mentioned we’d come for Faith  No More and anything else was just a bonus but NIN pulled an absolute blinder and absolutely owned that stage. There wasn’t a single thing I could fault about the gig: the sound was son incredibly clear and loud that it felt like a jackhammer constantly pummeling your chest; the light show was so intense it was like atomic bombs bursting over the stage; and Trent Reznor was so intense, aggressive and strangely charismatic that I genuinely don’t think I looked at any other band members for the whole hour and a half. As with FNM the setlist was utterly flawless, pretty much every single one of my favourite songs from albums spanning their whole career – The Hand That Feeds in particular being burned into my brain ever since. As an added effect we were treated to spectacular waterworks to round the show off – the heavens opened about twenty minutes before the end of the set, perfectly topping off the picture of post-apocalyptic chaos they’d crafted. The one downside was that they overran their set time by a few minutes so the power was cut in the middle of their last song – rumour has it that renowned fuckwits Metallica were responsible for this as they were playing the other stage at the time. Can’t get confirmation of this but I’m tempted to believe it.

Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails - smell the intensity...

Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails - smell the intensity...

Once NIN had left the stage the rain lost its dramatic appeal and it was time to bolt back to the tent. I’d planned to catch the last half of Metallica’s set but common sense one and it was back to shelter.

Common sense didn’t win for long…

Next day the true chaos started as we awoke to find it still battering down with no respite in sight. At that point,  waking alone in the tent to the sound of the barrage of raindrops and howling wind I seriously considered spending the rest of the festival shut in there with a couple of books but thankfully I saw sense and wandered outside during a brief and rare respite. Spirits were in a similar state across the camp, the shock of the weather and the incipient hangovers combining to drape us all in a blanket of cold misery. The first sign of more raindrops after this had us in a panic – was it going to be like this all day?

We decided to mull it over in a handily vacated gazebo just yards from our camp while we downed the few remaining beers and formulated a plan – the shelter even had a picnic bench, it was perfect. After half an hour of bumbling about and moaning the owners returned, an Austrian and two Germans, so we made our apologies and prepared to shuffle back into our tiny tents. They were having none of it though and immediately offered us beers from their exceptional supplies. Win. And when those beers were gone they offered more. And then more. And then more.

This gazebo saved our lives (and destroyed our livers)

This gazebo saved our lives (and destroyed our livers)

Eventually we stopped being lazy and made our run to the beer shop, returning with three crates and, later, three more. All told we bought 150 beers between the five of us that day, not one of which made it to the next morning – and that’s on top of the beers from our new friends, the whisky-spiked tea (surprisingly delicious and warming) and the various other spirits thrown at us.

At that point everything goes into a blur. I remember seeing Trivium (excellent live act), Dimmu Borgir (horsehit), missing Placebo and everyone else I was interested in, and generally behaving in a manner of which my mother and my ex would both be so proud. To wit:

  • Attempting (often successfully) to convince everyone we talked to and even passed by that the traditional manner of greeting someone in Scotland is “Bawbag!” Trust me, there’s no feeling quite like getting double high-fived by a security guard shouting about scrotums.
  • Starting conga lines of utterly ridiculous dancing behind unsuspecting members in the crowd, so outlandish that we were eventually attracting total strangers to join in uninvited. Most victims took it well while some, erm, didn’t.
  • Balancing fruit, chairs, beer, inflatable hands and genitalia on the heads of those unfortunate enough to pass out early. Thank god I always make it back to wherever I’m sleeping before I pass out…
  • Some of the most emotional and heartfelt air-guitaring and singing along to System Of A Down CDs you’ve ever seen (although one of our German friends won the award for that one)
  • Holding a conversation entirely based on video-game quotes with a Slovakian out of his mind on homebrewed vodka whose English vocabulary was limited to the phrases “fire in the hole!” and “medic!”.
  • Stevie’s wonderful song based on Thomas ‘Dunblane’ Hamilton (“Thomas Hamilton shot some kids, shot some kids, shot some kids, Thomas Hamilton shot some kids and then he shot himself”)
Mature, intellectual pursuits

Mature, intellectual pursuits

So yeah, it was a good ‘un. The journey back was hell, the extended exhaustion unbelievable, but I already miss it and the guys we met – Russ, Graeme, Joel, Marcus, all the rest. Ach well – Saturday is Thailand time so mustn’t grumble🙂

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