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Fear and Leon in Punchestown

We were somewhere outside Goffs, on the Park & Ride to Punchestown Racecourse, when the Budweiser began to kick in. And there were magpies everywhere, black and white harpies swooping through the air in twos and threes and solitary figures trying to rain down bad luck on me. There'd be enough raining down on me this day without those blasted birds tripping me up at every corner.

Somehow I found myself at the second day of the Oxegen Festival, having been asked somewhat out of the blue by Ms Fay twenty-four hours before. Five minutes of careful consideration and conversation with Lady Fate and I accepted. When going to a music festival, it's very important to ensure you have the necessary assemblage of utensils and make good preparations. To this regard, I dusted off my sleeping bag, not opened in two years, and bought a 12-pack of good quality beer. To her end, Ms Fay had acquired some vodka and absinthe, and I made sure to get no more than four hours sleep the night before, ensuring a healthy level of madness by the time we got to the main arena.

As is customary, several hours were spent drinking as much alcohol as possible; we got through the 12-pack far too quickly and were having in-depth conversations with people from Cork. I could sense trouble and moisture in the air already; I had a memory of an ancient ancient warrior standing on a battlefield moments before the order to charge. I realised we were going to regret the loss of the beer in short order, and the cost of Heineken in the festival bars was going to remove any joy from the alcoholic buzz.

Once inside, we had no idea where we were going, but the Saw Doctors were playing nearby. One cringes at the very mention of their name, yet the band is tight as a drum and in my tipsy warrior mind they were as entertaining as any other act that day. We treated ourselves to expensive pasta and walked to the O2 Stage where The Gaslight Anthem were twenty minutes late. But they played the kind of life-affirming blue collar rock 'n' roll mixed with a heady dose of modern day punk that appeals to all walks of life. Their frontman sounded like Bruce Springsteen, and when I discovered they were from New Jersey it all made perfect sense. When you live in New Jersey you need good rock music to stop you from going completely insane.

Ms Fay required a pop fix that only The Saturdays could provide, and God damn if I'm not a gentleman, so we trudged through the increasingly damp arena to the Green Spheres tent, ironically named as there is only one sphere in the tent and it is not green. We would see a lot of this tent as the torrents began to pour from heaven. While watching The Saturdays, standing amid a crowd of drunks, skinny women and children, I could think only one thing: I am far, far too sober for this. The Saturdays could have passed as a pop covers band if they hadn't finished the set with original songs, but seeing a girl band in a field is akin to seeing a black man at the Republican National Convention and almost as frightening. We met Ms Fay's friend Mairead, who wisely was much drunker than we were.

In a twist of fate, one of many that day, The Saturdays were followed by Regina Spektor. I was in paroxysms of joy for the better part of an hour while the fools and the ignorant chose cold, damp oblivion over perfectly crafted piano confectioneries. But as Regina shone some light into our dark little lives, the rain and wind pounded on the poor souls wandering like handicapped toddlers through the mud. Against our better judgement, we would soon join them.

But first we had the good sense to stay inside a little longer and watch Pete Doherty play a solo set. Why this poor bastard can't keep a band together I'll never know, but the heroin might have something to do with it. Drunk and strumming an acoustic guitar he held our attention better than most could that day. Reports this morning tell us he was playing pool with Nick Cave and Shane McGowan later that night, and chances are no one has seen them for twelve hours now.

Hunger forced us from the tent and into the storm. I had the unfortunate need to relieve myself, an endeavour that took more than twenty minutes, during which time my coat was soaked through. Girls marched into portable toilets two by two and stayed in there for extended periods of time, their reasons beyond my comprehension. I was cut off just as I got to the door of the toilet by a girl with some kind of urinary infection; I wasn't really listening as I was preoccupied with a belligerent drunken midget. Ms Fay and I stood outside listening to Elbow and I watched the brightest and best of my generation falling apart under Nature's fury. Those pathetic souls, stripped of dignity and clothing, up to their ankles in mud and bodily fluids, wandered aimlessly in a drunken, shocked haze. You see the truth of humanity at a place like Oxegen - without responsibilities these people reverted to their base hunter/gatherer instincts. All I know is this society is still not prepared for the impending zombie holocaust, and I for one am terrified.

The Pet Shop Boys raised everyone's spirits as Mairead and Ms Fay skipped across the flooded field to see the end of Patrick Wolf's set. Those poor bastards, I thought to myself, they still think we're at a music festival. But I could see the truth - this was a war, man versus nature, civilisation versus chaos, and I wasn't about to wave the white flag yet. The lines of "History's Stranglers" had echoed through my head for days, and here they seemed ever more appropriate: "I cut glass with my calloused feet/ 'Cos I walked for miles through makeshift mud." We were here to see the Kings of Leon, and by God we were going to see that band. "Motherfucker, I want your blood."

But as the time drew nearer and our gang of future pneumonia sufferers went looking for Mairead's campmates, morale was at a low. The band played well, damn well, but not well enough to keep us fighting for much longer, so Ms Fay and I beat a hasty retreat back to the car. The absinthe would have to wait for another time, as the more important task of not dying took precedence. We changed into dry clothing and wrapped ourselves in sleeping bags for a few hours of hard won sleep before making a quiet journey home. I don't know if we won or lost this battle, but we survived it. "A day like this a year would see me right," sang Elbow as Mother Nature cried her eyes red raw upon us. As I slipped in and out of sleep, I knew how right they were.



( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Jul. 12th, 2009 09:40 pm (UTC)
Have I told you recently how much I adore you? Because I do. You're amazing.

And a damn good writer. Sexy. :-*
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )