The making of the spectacle: Strawberry Fair 2004   Leave a comment

Take This Medication To Cure Ur Sick serve taunt

Life is shitehouse. I’m forcing myself to type here. Even the automatic spellchecker feels like someone imposing his or her will on me. Nah, its not so bad, but the aforementioned bummers and the comedown from my Strawberry Fair foolery have left me slightly behind and to one side of who I normally am, or something. I wasn’t really in the right state of mind to wander around through crowds making a spectacle of myself. I put off announcing it for ages and right up until the last minute I wasn’t sure if I was going to do it. I just felt obligated to the box, and to the idea. The thing was, with Sam so busy for that whole week, I was in full-on parental responsibility mode right up until 3PM on the Saturday itself, and because of all the negative vibes round here I felt like a stressed-out refugee monkey with a dickey heart. My fucked-up back was bad enough to make lifting and even bending and twisting fraught with danger, and I was terrified that it would go completely and that my childcare role would be in peril, Sam would go berserk and I would have to miss the Fair completely, including the box performance. By Saturday my hands were shaking slightly all the time, but luckily my back had held out and seemed to be on the mend. It felt like day 4 does after you’ve really done it, for those of you that have. Me and Syd did the Fair from midday to three, but he was just overwhelmed by it and we spent the last 45 minutes on a tearstained quest for popcorn, which had been promised but could not be found. Every time we went into Sam’s kitchen for respite it was tenser in there than the time before too. By about 2:45 we were late for the mother in law and had to race off the common, stopping only to buy a Thomas The Tank Engine balloon for £4 that kept bouncing on my face and obscuring my view on the long, rushed, sweaty march back to our co-op rendezvous with Sam’s Mum. I had to get back to the Fair by 4PM to introduce The Broken Family Band, and my mind was desperately grasping for light-hearted things to say. Got a lift back to the right part of town and was congratulating myself for the swiftness of the operation and then the moment I set foot on the grass I realized that I’d left my bloody fucking microphone at home. Fuckfuckfuck etc. Then I caught sight of Tubby Mules at the desk on the main stage, so I bustled over through the noise to ask if he had a spare mic with a jack lead on site (super-unlikely this, as stage mics are almost certainly XLR). Amazingly the answer was maybe, although we had to go to the acoustic stage to fetch the possibility-of-a-mic, which we did with aching slowness. Finally, after some sniffing around in bags and boxes, and faffing around with electrical tape, whilst a bearlike Australian did a relaxed performance onstage, The Mules pressed the maybe-mic into my hand with a further caveat: it might not work. I ran to the crew tent and grabbed a can of Stella and my box and tested the mic. It didn’t work. Then I borrowed a bicycle and made it move extremely fast in the direction of home. When I got there I did the same thing in reverse, but this time I had a microphone with me. I got back and did the BFB intro thing with some style, but my heart wasn’t in it. Then I grabbed another can of Stella and went for the box. I wasn’t nervous, I was mad.

Now, the Sharp GF777 may be the Holy Grail of boombox collectors, and it may be on the back of the first RunDMC album, and it may be worth anywhere up to £800 on Ebay (I’ve been offered fairly ludicrous money three times by different people – the last was £500 cash), but it doesn’t produce a nice high-definition sound. However, it is the size of a large suitcase and it is loud enough to turn heads even at a festival where a large PA system is playing nearby. And it has a mic input with a weirdly crap reverb effect. So, there’s no doubt in my mind that even Chris De Burgh or, y’know, whoever could have got themselves noticed doing what I did, and yet for me, as a performer or whatever, doing what I did was thee supreme heaviest thing I have ever done and will probably ever do as a so-called artist because it was so fucking full on. About two minutes into my wanderings I’d drawn a crowd of five teenage boys in Burberry baseball caps and casual sportswear, plus a couple in their early fifties who looked liked they might have voted Green at a push, so I sat down and tried to work it, ‘cos I knew it would work. Sure enough I had them and increasing numbers of others looking all happy to be confused in a short song or two, and then I picked up the box and moved on in the manner of one who doesn’t give a fuck, even if he did. And so it went on. Highlights:

Walking down the main thoroughfares. Sudden feeling for all concerned that they are living on video. Faces appearing and then peeling away from me, all startled like. Sometimes I’d be walking abreast of people who were trying to pretend I wasn’t there, so I did the same, which freaked them right out. It was also great to just plonk the box down and stop traffic.

The bit on the four-way stop area fairly near the Fort St. George where me and some alcoholic derelicts had some spirited mutual vibesing.

Muscling in on some good-natured drunken agro that some beer-boys were giving a couple of cops, and realizing I’d just turned up the chaos level because they all started shouting and falling over. Mad Andy tried to film this but the tape had ended.

Getting interviewed for Addenbrookes Radio and getting to use my “this is a protest against the war in Iraq, the environmental degradation of the planet and my continuing lack of profile in the music business” gag.

The bit where I lay down on the grass next to a queue for the ladies and did “You Give Me No Attention”

The bit where I got involved in a sound-duel with the guy on the comedy information stall with his old-skool PA. He won, but I tried.

The bit where I was doing “Cocaine Jihad” next to some sunglasses sellers and I was doing all that “Hey there Strawberry fair, wave your hands in the air, wave ‘em like you just don’t care, I wanna see your armpit hair!”

Having the same guy keep popping up with a blissful grin on his face. Like a proper disciple!

Selling only one CD all day to a guy that I couldn’t understand at all.

Having John and Charlie from Newmarket or thereabouts, Um fans since the Planet Beet Alldayer in Bury, come up and request “One Day I’m Going To Buy This Town”, which just happened to be the next song on the tape. John took a great picture of Charlie and me too.

The bit where it was getting dark and things had quietened down enough for me to be heard, and I did a few songs with the box on its back, and a nice little crowd formed.
The last bit I did where Sam and I wandered around and I got to show here what I’d been up to all day.

Right, I’m going to serialize this because it’s getting too long. In the next entry I’ll tell you about the negative bits of the experience, and maybe do some gonzo philosophizing about the whole thing.

Posted June 11, 2004 by peteum2013 in Uncategorized

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