Live at Across The Tracks Festival 2006 on Friday, 28th July 2006
Jamie Lidell is an absolute nutter. Appearing as a diamond geezer dressed in silken bathrobe with gold rope strung loosely, provocatively, around his torso, he headbangs and face-pulls like a schizo on strychnine whilst a masked figure with white wires and whiskers coming out its face lurks about setting up cameras and sending disturbingly delayed footage to the screen at the back before propping up a mannequin's dismembered hand (which is, nicely, impaled on a metal pole, just in case you weren't freaked enough) in front of Lidell's mad-scientist decks; then leaves it to turn, slowly, in a revolving, demented circle.
Seismic bass movements flush your intestines out as Jamie ('Jamie' is FAR too cuddly a name for this, right?) barks into the microphone in deep, demonic, despotic tones, hits 'REPEAT' with his elbow and then twists the sound to fuckery. Dressed for bed yet lurching off the walls like a rat pack member on tranquillisers that went totally amazingly wrong and sent him the other way - strung out, veinpopping and sweating Niagara Falls - he locks himself in a dungeon of plunging drum and bass and thump and grind and roar and scream whilst the white-faced minstrel (a spirit? A ghost? A person? WHAT IS IT?!) scoots around, a scrambling servant to the music. Is it even music? Isn't this too LOUD to be just music? Too broken? God knows, but it's like an ecstasy trip to the ovens of Hell's Kitchen and you love it and need it more than you can say - and you can't say, 'cause your gob's too far open and chances are the vibrations are making you vomit.
So yeah, that was Sunday night. Elsewhere, across a magnificently and impressively Large-with-a-capital-'L' main stage (conveniently located parallel to the trainlines and beneath a cluster of swanky high-risers to allow lots of waving between commuters, balcony-dwellers and festival-goers), the mire of sweltering stickiness and stench that was the Blank Canvas and a smaller breaks and beats stage, charmingly surrounded by Astroturf, a reasonably eclectic line up entertained quite a lot of dirty people choking on the car park's rubble between smoothies.
This Et Al were swamped and swathed in a stunning light display, their black venom and silver whispers beautifully, shockingly, complemented by green fogs and evil reds. 'Catscan' and 'Wardens' get people spitting and sweating. Taut lines, wild heads, gaping mouths, harsh stripes, ragged velveteen, blurring limbs. They have it all. Seriously.
Poor José González squatted on a miniscule stool, lost in the gaping space of the Canal stage, rigging hundreds of feet above his head, the vastness unaided by an appalling sound system (maybe it was just the wind, blowing in the wrong direction, maybe I was deaf, maybe everyone else was...) and the chatter - sorry, apocalyptic SHOUTING - of about two thousand people. We couldn't hear him much. Which was crap. He had some sitting-pretty Spanishy loveliness, all hot sunsets and buzzing flies and comforting, warm slaps of the acoustic to provide his own rhythms, though. He did 'Heartbeats', which got a cheer. Then got yelled all over. Yeahhh.
A startling number of people bled during The Sunshine Underground, which was new. Lots of other people just got mashed and at least one lost a wallet and eighty pounds therein. This tends to happen when you stick one earthquake of a drum n' dance band in a venue they could probably sell out three times over, according to those who were too stupid/sunstroked to get there early and stood outside gaping at the queue size. Anyway, if Daley's bass continues to gain this sort of stomach-pumping intensity from show to show, I reckon it won't be long before he's banned from most countries. All was so mental down front that the set slid by in a whizzing, slurring daze, but the extended, taunting intro to 'Commercial Breakdown', now a bonafide classic, was a highlight, working temperatures and adrenalines up to unbearable levels whilst Craig watched the exasperated crowd with relish, always about to plunge into the song but then holding back for just one more repeat, always just one... more...
He enjoyed that.
I, conversely, did not enjoy the fact that The Sunshine Underground clashed with British Sea Power, though we managed to spot at least four boys carrying bits of branch around so that had to do.
In snapshot fashion, the following:
Keith's aftershow party at the Faversham = songs full of woozy, instinctual, melodic drones had their glittering, swooping, squealing samples flying off the keyboard.
The Young Knives = absolutely godawful. I was hoping I'd experience a case of Third Time Lucky and that, this time around, finally, I was gonna bloody LOVE them or something. But alas. After lots of pretentious, tuneless yapping with the guitars so far down in the mix they weren't even there, the set only came to life in the last three seconds with 'Here Comes The Rumour Mill' and 'Hot Summer' and, y'know, they're the singles, for god's sakes.
New Young Pony Club = terrifyingly dominatrix-like lady singer with belting lungs fulla the good sort of sleaze.
Stephen Fretwell = rather nice, actually.
King Creosote = lazy-afternoon, clinky nonentities of songs to lie about in the beer tent drawing pictures of ice creams and playing hangman to. Pleasant, though not as impressive as you might have thought, after his quirky contribution to the Jeff and Tim Buckley tribute CD thingy that came out a while back...
The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain = missed them, but they're obviously going to be fantastic, yes?
James Lavelle = was experienced whilst stood on platform 17 awaiting train, face pressed up against the metal grille despite bemused station staff. His switched around, scratched about grabs of brass and strings, beats and rhymes mesmerised; there were flashing lights, shooting glowsticks. Heavily ace.
And so, emerging slightly grottily from the gunk and goo of the river, a thin yet visible layer of dust covering our bodies and matting our hair as we coughed up the odd pebble now and again, we left behind the experience known as Across The Tracks 2006, the result of the slightly baffling, yet interesting, concept of a city centre festival. Upon arriving home, it was very nice to see a tree.