Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Tapestry Goes West - Margam Country Park, Wales 10th August 2007

"We took a fabulous detour from the world we knew / Not to soon / Across a wire to a golden afternoon / Cathedral bells were sounding in our ears that day / It was like the middle-ages never went away…Who needs perspective when you’re in a Tapestry?" (The Relationships -‘Mediaeval Day’)

Tapestry Goes West - it's the festival that’s not like other festivals. Let us investigate the ways in which Tapestry is different...

Having been dropped by the side of a road in the middle of Wales by the Swansea-Brigend bus we march a mile to the entrance of the "1000 acres of glorious parklands" that is Margam Country Park. Here we discover a charming, hand-painted sign pointing us to Tapestry Goes West – a mile back in the direction we’ve just walked from. Clasping sword and shield, we trundle back along the roadside. Eventually, we arrive at a back entrance to the park, where a friendly man gives us wrist-bands and offers us bin-bags for rubbish.

Ways in Which Tapestry is Not Like Other Festivals: There’s no queue, no brain-dead security bossing everyone around, no confiscating of food/drink/vital medicines. There’s no corporate sponsorship or other such distracting bollocks. It’s laid-back and friendly and there’s oodles of space with grassy pastures (cows hang out near Stage 2, not caring) and rolling fields stretching back towards craggy hills. As a backdrop, there’s also the fire and smoke belching steel-works in nearby Port Talbot – let’s pretend it’s a dragon, eh?
I sit on a hill taking it all in. People potter about setting up camp, wibbling by on bikes, staggering past carrying tents that they have erected in one place but that they now want to put in another place. Everyone says hello to me. Maybe because I’m dressed as Robin Hood.

Ways in Which Tapestry is Not Like Other Festivals: Tapestry Goes West has a medieval theme – and dressing up is very much encouraged. At first most folks mooch about in civvies, but as the weekend progresses, and with the arrival of a costume hire company onsite, there are more and more damsels, knights, wizards, archers, monks (lots of monks), er, castles, random cardboard constructions, a ‘def leper’, etc etc. In the end, the people not dressed up are the ones that look a bit mental.
We meet Delia and The Panther Girls who are being given a lecture on armour by a medieval enthusiast bloke who is presiding over a display of interesting olde stuff. Delia tries out a helmet and a sword and we have a quick sword fight – setting a precedent for the weekend. A form of Tapestry etiquette arises whereby if one meets somebody else carrying a sword (usually plastic) it’s rude not to have a quick skirmish.

Nothing much has happened yet, but it’s all very enjoyable. Eventually, a band gets going on Stage 2. In direct contradiction to the stage times list we’ve been given it’s not Piney Gir but The Poppies, who, according to the list are playing on Stage 1 tomorrow – oh well. How very Tapestry. They have some equipment problems, but manage to rattle out a few jaggedly cranky, leather-jacketed, new-wave tinged rock ‘n’ roll songs. A small audience lounges peacefully on the grass – as it will do by Stage 2 for most of the festival – it’s the kind of stage and the kind of grass that are perfect for lounging peacefully in front of / upon.

I’m hungry now, so I wander over hill and dale to the baked potato van near Stage 1. Unless you want to eat hog-roast sandwiches (not really my thing) this is the only place you can get food, unless you fancy the several miles trek to Port Talbot Tescos. I like this removal of choice, it simplifies things splendidly.

Ways in Which Tapestry is Not Like Other Festivals: There aren’t endless noodle emporia and stinky burger vans and marquees vending outrageously-priced overly frothy shit lager. There are, however, two medieval taverns, The Crimson Moon and The Dark Side of the Moon, proffering a dizzying array of ales, country wines, fruit wines and meads. These wonderous places provide both worm-holes back to the 1400s and drunken taste sensations in one convenient candle-lit, tapestry draped experience. Yum!

Nothing’s happening yet on Stage 1. It’s all very dozey. I start to fall under the Tapestry spell, shrugging off my London go-as-fast-as-you-can-at-all-times, what’shappening? andnowwhat’s happening?? buzzing head and replacing it with a go-with-the-flow, oh-look-a-tree vibe. I return to Stage 2 and stay there until night starts to fall.
The Threatmantics are playing. What they’re playing is oddball queasy pop filled with a crazy, crashing viola noise that barges over the sound of skiffley-twanging guitar, treacherous drumming and one-handed keyboard playing. It has a crunchy grooviness possibly reminiscent of Gorky’s more mad-eyed moments.

There’s new people on the stage!" a miniature knight tells his mum, excitedly. There are, too, it’s Piney Gir’s Country Roadshow. The sun shines and Piney shakes her petticoats, flashes her oversized superstar sunglasses and leads the band through a rollicking set filled with swooning pedal-steel guitar, heart-string-twanging accordion and tumble-weed banishing good-time tunes. Now and then, she’s joined by The Panther Girls who twirl, shimmy and kick their way through cute ‘n’ kitschy dance routines. It’s all crackin’, candy-coloured, country fun topped off with old fave ‘Greetings, Salutations, Goodbye’ which imprints itself on my brain for the next week or so.

I ‘test’ some of The Panther Girls’ peach wine (kindly donated by Tim Purr). It’s amazing – alcoholic essence of peach drowning your tongue and squishing your brain. By now The Panther Girls are off duty, but Radio Luxembourg are so chock full of skewy sunshine melodies that they can’t help but carry on dancing by the side of the stage. They’re joined by erk! Death! Yes, it’s him – in a long black cowl with pointy sleeves. Happily, he’s clearly charmed by Radio Lux’s mix of sherbety psychedelia, fuzzing garage crunchiness and fruit-looping monster pop, and frugs merrily with the girls. I discover I love Radio Luxembourg. They have a single that comes in an interactive sleeve and sounds like Super Furry Animals rolling on the lawn with Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci whilst Olivia Tremor Control throw confetti. Once heard, this song will proceed to visit the inside of your head at odd moments, like a big flappy multi-coloured parrot. Radio Luxembourg say things like ‘The next song is about a pony’. They bring their own ‘trippin’ in the jungle’ hand-painted stage set which they construct with their very own hands and tools that they’ve brought along especially. I’m impressed by such all round workmanship.

Next, The Research. The last time I saw The Research they were supporting Sleater Kinney and their sprightly synthy pop got a bit drowned in a cavernous Koko. Things are different now though. For a start, the stage fits the band, so the songs burst out super-bright and showering sparks over our smiling heads. Also, singer Russell is no longer parked behind a squonky keyboard. He's...he's...playing a guitar. This goes against the grain of what we understand The Research to be. Indeed, a drunk girl beside me laments the keyboard’s passing. Happily though, The Research : guitar version are GRATE! Maybe it’s down to the fact that the evening sun is shining right in my face, and addling me into a Beach Boys universe, but now-with-added-guitars The Research sound like Beat Happening having a tea party with Dinosaur Jnr. Russell’s voice has a vaguely J. Mascis type whine to it and the tunes are all exuberant crunch pop. By the end, I’m so enamoured of the sun-filled joyousness of it all that I’m dancing with The Panther Girls and waving my sword in the air like I just don’t…
Hot Puppies! It’s The Hot Puppies! I’m still dancing about, sword akimbo and The Hot Puppies, dressed as knights and damsels and such, are spilling their darkly groovy music all over the shop. Sometimes they sound like Blondie, but mostly they play scratchety riffin, synth-infused, soaraway songs and their classy pop tunes make everyone get up, smile a lot and get on down like fools. We do an invented-on-the-spot dance routine to the monster boogie majestic sweep of ‘Clarinet Town’. What larks we’re having!

Now it’s dark and somehow I’m over at Stage 1 jumping up and down, pointing my sword in lieu of a devil hand-gesture, to The Tokyo Dragons. The Tokyo Dragons are in no way complicated.They do LOUD ROCK SONGS and dirty jeans and long hair and aren’t afraid of holding their guitars aloft like MIGHTY AXES. They wear trucker caps in a proper grease-monkey backwoods way, not a Hoxton twatster way. They are exactly what is needed right now – thunderous, berserko, legs akimbo, proper manly ROOOCCCKK!! Yeah. Argh. They’re great. At the end of their set we’re rocked to the nines and decide it’s time to run away and get a St John Ambulance man to ring us a cab.

(photos by Bob Underexposed)

No comments: