Nathan Barley’s wet dream come to life

A celebration of all things rave held in a Pontin’s holiday camp. Nathan Barley’s wet dream come to life. The concept was just ridiculous enough to work, and work it did, with everyone agreeing to suspend their disbelief for a few days, don a costume and run around screaming like the 90s had never ended to an eye-wateringly good line-up.

All fine in theory, but when starting this review, it quickly became clear that my memory alone wouldn’t suffice. Rave culture has never been conducive with clear thinking and this weekend wasn’t any different. I had images, sounds, snippets of conversation even, but my god it was blurry. Music featured somewhere, but chaos, debauchery and hedonism of a comical proportion were also significant factors.

One sentiment that was frequently repeated was a general bigging-up of Modeselektor’s performance on Friday – one that even I could remember. Act of the weekend for me and many others, their dirty, chunky tech-electro was sharp and sweet, and perfectly skirted the balance between clever and danceable.

Ceephax Acid Crew won the award for most entertaining act. The consensus was that he couldn’t mix or drop beats for shit, but clearly didn’t give a monkey’s and kept on going regardless, even after throwing up behind the decks and demanding more booze. Class.

Saturday evening was clearly the time to do some “work”, and so it was that I ploughed into the heaving throng watching The Panacea with the worst dictaphone that money could buy. I needed views, opinions and advice, and I needed it all quickly. Don’t remember what then occurred but listening back to a short section of the tape afterwards revealed little more than hysterical laughter peppered by occasional screaming. I have sworn never to listen to the rest of the tape.

Back in the land of the living, Altern-8 and Orbital’s Phil Hartnoll, were playing some storming old-skool anthems and general techno which was lapped up by all and sundry. However, Saturday evening truly belonged to Plaid, as was suspected. Incorporating some unusual (for them) dubsteppy elements, the duo’s set was made up of their signature complex melodies and jittery beats, all relayed with a bit of Bangface nastiness.

By Sunday morning everyone had lost it. The idiots had taken over and I felt like their King. Any semblance of togetherness or shred of dignity previously held by anyone was now completely blasted. No-one I’ve spoken to can clearly remember the events of Sunday daytime, but apparently it involved sitting in the 24-hour pub, drinking our own bodyweight in beer and tequila and watching Cassetteboy rip into various deserving celebrity arseholes with his cut-and-paste amalgamations. Outside, two pubescent chavs who we had seen inhaling superhuman quantities of nitrous the day before whizzed past on low rider tricycles with space cadet grins melted to their faces.

One thing that seemingly everyone managed to do on Sunday evening was flock to the main arena to catch Squarepusher, turning the venue into a glowing pit of writhing sweatiness. Interesting. Despite my long-standing belief that Tom Jenkinson is some sort of otherworldly genius, I spend the second half of his set slumped on a stair at the back of the venue, head in hands, attempting to find anyone I know by looking at the floor and mumbling at passers-by. This, however, is far more a reflection upon my state of mind than Jenkinson’s performance. I later ask some (slightly) more sensible human beings for their verdict. The unanimous response was that he played a blinding set, though some claimed to have witnessed even better performances in the past – perhaps it was just too late on in the madness for some to truly appreciate.

The Bangface Weekender was the ultimate expression of never wanting the party to end, with thousands of people doing everything humanly possible to keep it going forever. But by Monday morning, when the horror of the inevitable began to dawn, you could actually see the impending doom hovering above Pontin’s like a plague of comedown locusts. As for me, I spent three days under a duvet, fighting off panic attacks every time I considered leaving my flat. Worth it though.

For all its Barley-esque qualities (ear-raping gabba full of children’s TV samples, the funny but ridiculous Bangface TV parodying the very festival that created it), the whole event had an amazingly positive vibe, and there was also, I’m told, some fucking brilliant music (as well as vast amounts of fun to be had just from wandering round the living, breathing chalet complex and seeing what monstrous sights were occurring). The following quote from a friend, when asked for his musical highlights of the Saturday, sums up what was for everyone involved a truly splendid few days: “My only memory of Saturday is that it was fun.” I wholeheartedly agree.


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