OFF TOPIC WARNING!
I DIDN'T DINE OUT MUCH IN RYE. I AM INCLUDING THIS SECTION FOR THOSE WHO LIKE MUSIC, AND JUST FOR THE SAKE OF CONTINUITY.
The train to Rye took about 2 1/2 hours through rolling hillsides blanketed with yellow flowers and dotted with grazing sheep. I remember when I first saw the album cover for Ram. I remember thinking, "Man, Paul McCartney lives in the middle of nowhere." Well, that is where we were heading, about six miles from that very farm. Rye is called 1066 country because that is when it was rebuilt after being burned down by the Normans (Hence the pervasive "screw the French" sentiments). As the train rumbled along, the conductor called out the various stops, "We are now entering Hastings." When she called out, "We are now entering Battle", Bob exclaimed with alarm, "Oh no!"
When we arrived in Rye, we stocked up on groceries and headed for Camber Sands Holiday Park. Jon, Steve, and Doug were already there waiting for us. I had expected the holiday park accomodations to be like condominiums, but they were more like army barracks. The swimming pool and go-karts were closed down (so John Doe was off the hook...for now). We were just across from the beach, and seagulls swooped over our heads, screaming like angry felines. I turned to Bob, "Oh no! It's the monkey's paw! It's because we ate their eggs!!!" So every time a gull came at us squawking, Bob would intone solemnly, "Give...me...back...my...eggggs."
I made a big pot of chili in the little kitchen, then we headed down the street to the local pub. I overheard some locals talking about catching shrimp by throwing nets right off the beach. I was intrigued, "You don't even need a boat?"
One of the guys said, "No, you just call, 'Ouissshhhh, ouissshhh' and they come right to you."
I played along, "You don't have to buy special shrimp 'calls'?"
A woman responded, "No, but you have to call more like this...'kreeeee kreeeee kreeeeeeee.' How do you catch them in the States?"
"Oh, we use wooden shrimp decoys and they swim right up to them."
The guys were still jet-lagged, so we left our new friends and stumbled back to the chalet around midnight.
Friday morning all of the other bands started rolling in. ATP is set up so that bands each "curate" one day of music. Friday Mudhoney chose the bands, Saturday was the Yeah Yeah Yeah's day, and Sunday was curated by Davendra Banhart. So there was an interesting mix of alt-rock and folk.
As Mark (from Mudhoney) later pointed out, the bands were chosen on musical ability, not marketability, and there were no promotional or merch booths other than for the bands themselves. So the whole weekend was really pure in focus. It was also nice having your own place 3 minutes from the venue for a shower or snack break. And since everyone had that luxury, the facilities weren't overused and trashed, like at most rock festivals. Everyone there was nice, from the guards to the food service workers. It was a great vibe all-around. The only thing to complain about, if at all, was that the food service was excellent and they only fed you on the day that you played. So you had to smell all of the yummy food that you couldn't eat. But I had come prepared to cook, so we were better off than most.
The first act was David Dondero, a solo guy with a guitar. he was a musical genius, and totally hilarious. His lyrics were something like, "...and all the parents and their children were on the Golden Gate Bridge (though it's really more of an orange vermillion), and I said to this kid, 'Hey kid, do you want to see a trick? It's a really neat trick.' and then I jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge." The Country Teasers immediately grabbed me and would not let go. They reminded me of the Residents, one of my favorite bands in the world.
The Amadans were red-hot and brought the house down. All weekend people were coming up to compliment them. Bob was really happy to see the Scientists because they never play the US, and they rocked. It was too crowded and smoky for me to watch Comets on Fire.
The Flesheaters blew my mind once again. I used up my entire photo card. When it is finally recognized as a valid union, I will marry that band. Dave Alvin is really cool and controlled, so the juxtoposition with John Doe's rubberiness is interesting. Next to Dave Alvin, John Doe looks like he doesn't have any bones in his body at all. At one point, Dave Alvin faltered, and John Doe laughed and pointed to the ground, where the sheet music lay next to Dave's pedals.
Bob and I gave them a little time to decompress before going backstage to congratulate them. Bill Bateman, DJ Bonebrake, and Steve Berlin were in the mood to hang out. But John Doe and Dave Alvin were in a rush to get away from the crowd ASAP. I think fame must be the worst curse in the world. Helen and I blabbed at DJ, and Bill told us an intense story about a bullet being deflected by a crash cymbal and saving his life when a fight broke out at a show.
We went upstairs with Steve Berlin to watch Mudhoney. He had a big cigar, and I asked, "Cuban?" He said, "Yeah. Neil Diamond gave me these cigars." I said, "Wait a minute. You smuggled Cuban cigars OUT of the United States INTO England?"
After the show, David Dondero was hanging out in our room. He is our new best friend. The subject turned to New Orleans, and after awhile I started to get really depressed, so I went looking for Bob. I found him down in Mudhoney's room. I said, "Bob, I can only discuss politics for so long, then it's time to drink." Guy (from Mudhoney) said hilariously, "Oh no! Have you got a folksinger in your room?" I said, "Yes. There seems to be an infestation here."
Mark was looking for food, so I offered him chili. He asked, "Where on earth did you get chili?" like it was the miracle of the loaves and fishes. I said, "I made it" and suddenly became very popular. Luckily, I had anticipated the presence of many hungry and tired musicians. I met Kerri from the Red Aunts, and we instantly bonded. She looks at you like everything you say is the most fascinating thing she has ever heard, so who can resist her?
Eventually people drifted away full of beer and chili, and we crashed around 3:30 in the morning.
Saturday Bob and I took a bus into Rye to have a nice lunch at the Mermaid Inn. The restaurant was all booked, so we split a meat pie from a bakery and went to a nearby pub to plot our next move. The Liverpool-West Ham match was on, so the bar was really rowdy. We decided to sit out on the wisteria-draped patio instead. As we walked outside, I noticed a sign saying:
PLEASE LEAVE QUIETLY AND SENSIBLY
I snapped a pic of it, and had an ale out on the patio. We decided to lunch at the Fish Café, or failing that, the Runcible Spoon As we were leaving, I stepped on an uneven paving stone at the top of the steps, and twisted both of my ankles. I went down hard, all the way to the bottom, and it hurt so much I was rendered completely speechless. A bunch of guys ran out of the pub, and as I sat there in the gutter, I thought, "Wow. That fall must have been pretty impressive to make them abandon the Liverpool match." Not one person tried to get me to a doctor, but every single one of them wanted to bring me a beer. You've got to love the English.
We decided to just get take-away and call a taxi. We went to one of the restaurants where Paul McCartney eats, called the Ghandi Tandoori. The name struck me as somewhat ironic for an eating establishment since Ghandi is one of the most famous non-eaters ever.
Back at Camber Sands, the medics said I damaged muscles in both ankles, and would need X-rays if I still couldn't walk the next day. I had to spend the rest of Saturday with my feet elevated and iced, so no rock and roll for me. I tucked into the Indian food, and it was fantastic. We had Garlic Tikka Bihuna and Lamb Passada. The lamb seemed overly sweet, and I realized it was made with real shaved coconut instead of canned coconut milk.
Kerri came over and kept me company for awhile, then some Slovenians came to party all loaded on Schnapps. Kerri told me their Schnapps tasted exactly like spraying Windex directly into your mouth. On their way out, one of them slipped on the stairs and slammed his head into the railing, which neccessitated a trip to the emergency room and three stitches. So it was a pretty busy day, falling-down-stairs-wise.
Later as I sat there I started "chimping" the photos in my camera. I had to laugh when I saw the one that said:
PLEASE LEAVE QUIETLY AND SENSIBLY
I could walk much better on Sunday. Bob really wanted to see Jandek, so we headed over to the venue. Jandek was somewhat of a mysterious figure who started releasing tapes around 1978. He never gave interviews or performed live, and photos of him were always blurry. Kind of like the Bigfoot of experimental music. To be kind, his live show was a study in atonality. To be unkind, it was like all of the borderline self-indulgent moments of Sonic Youth all strung together to make complete songs.
So I went upstairs to see Bert Jansh. This was the kind of folksy-festival music on which I was raised. But the room was pitch-black, smoky and crowded. The teeming throng was elbow-y, unpleasant, and yapping through the entire set. It just was not the right environment for that kind of music. I need to see Bert Jansh perform in a nice sunny field. A field full of wildflowers and prancing woodland creatures. And faeries dancing in circles. And unicorns.
My ankles were still sore anyways, so I headed back to the chalet. Bob stumbled in early in the morning, unsteadily weaving back and forth. This is unusual for Bob, so I asked, surprised, "Are you drunk, Bob?"
He stretched out his hand in response, holding the thumb and forefinger about two inches apart to indicate size. He slurred, "I'm this big."
"I've been sonically reduced."
Ghandi Tandoori 32-34 Cinque Ports Street, Rye, East Sussex 01797223091