The Haldern Pop Festival - Day 1 - Friday, 6th August 2004

"You must show me your pass."


"I'm sorry, we don't speak German, do you speak English perhaps?""Ja. I want see your pass.""We haven't got them yet, we're looking for the press tent. We need to pick up our passes.""Press, yes. I must see your pass""We don't have them, we need to go and get them.""But I must see it.""We can't show them to you because we have to go and pick them up. Where do we pick them up?""Ze press tent.""Yes. Where is the press tent?""You must show me your pass.""Yes, I know, where do we get the pass?""From ze container.""The container? What container?""You must go straight, zen left, zen left, zen left, zen left and you will see ze white container. You must show your pass."

If the Germans are good at anything, it's organising things. But to be honest, at times they tend to organise things in ways that only work on paper. Rather like the clever fellows in charge of the Dutch highway code. "You must give way to people entering the road from your right." Looks reasonable on paper, but does it work in practise? Does it hell. The little dialogue above is a prime example. For instance, check out those directions. You'd think the guy was kidding right? Nope.


To get to the Haldern festival grounds you approach via a lovely, one way, single track road banked on both sides by fields of corn. At the end of this road, there's a dead end and the entrance to the camping ground. To get into the camping ground, you need to show your ticket. If you didn't buy your ticket beforehand, the box office is situated by the main festival entrance. To get to that, you need to walk through the camping ground. But of course, to get through the camping ground, you need to show your ticket. And that's just for the general folk.


For those of us who get to walk around sporting the lofty (in our own minds anyway) status symbol that is the laminated press pass, we expect some kind of preferential treatment and here at Haldern, they understand that. They understand that press folk and the regular Joe Public should never meet, except in exceptional circumstances and so they had prepared a special ticket office, for press peoples only and kept it a safe distance from the regular ticket office. Well no, a safe distance would be 50 feet, or a couple of hundred yards. In Haldern the press box was a mile and a half away. A mile and a half back down the one way, single track road and located in the middle of a corn field to be exact. How safe is that?


I don't want to sound too critical about the organistaion of this festival because all in all, it really was, and is, a great festival to go to. It's not big, but it is clever and it's always very, very entertaining. This year was no exception. The weather was ridiculously hot, which made erecting our tents the one hot and sweaty part of the weekend that wasn't enjoyable. But with weather this good, beer as cold and delicious as what flowed freely in the press tent, and great company, Haldern was a joy from start to finish.


This article will basically give you a quick summary of the weekend, telling you what we liked and what we didn't in small, quick fire doses. We have included a couple of other reviews, that will go into more detail and you can choose to read them later if you wish. But let's get on with this shall we?


Friday afternoon began with Amphibic, a British band trying to find an audience. Starting a festival off is always a hard time slot to be lumbered with, but these guys just seemed so happy to be outside of England they didn't care. They've got a good way with melody and the singer's voice is pretty good. Kind of grungey, in the balladeering Pearl Jam sense, they started the weekend off quite nicely, but they need to stop thanking everyone every two minutes. They should be worth checking out in a small venue near you if you get the chance.


Next up came Hal, a quartet from Dublin who won the loudest trousers of the weekend award, but sadly that was the best thing they had to offer. Pretty bouncy, but not really fast enough, they clung to those Byrds and Beach Boys references as if their young Irish asses depended on it. It could be true to suggest that they are like the Thrills with a bit of substance, but to be honest, they were like Supergrass on Valium. Strangely subdued. And the singer has a voice like nails on a blackboard.


Ghinzu came across the border from Belgium and despite the singer having a name as chortle worthy as John Stargasm, the less that's said about them the better. Smart jackets though.


Nicolai Dunger is the best thing to come out of Sweden since Abba, and the fact that his address book lists Jonathan Donahue from Mercury Rev and Will 'Bonnie Prince Billy' Oldham as close friends should prick your ears up a bit. With his ginger stubble and large dominating forehead he's not exactly a pretty boy, but he wears tight trousers, has a great voice and writes pretty decent songs, so the women in the crowd were rather happy. After taking an age to set up his own guitar he finally strode out on stage with his band, threw his forehead around a bit and entertained us all, although he did scream more than the girls in the front row. He left the stage dripping with sweat, having had a good workout and deserving of his round of applause.


Poor Johnny from I Am Kloot had lost his beer crate. Having been denied his plastic crutch to lean on, things went from bad to worse technically. Thankfully these three Mancs have a great sense of humour and managed to turn a technical shambles into something mildly entertaining. Despite the hassle, songs like Better Wheels and Morning Rain still managed to bring a smile to everyone's face. Not their finest hour on a stage, to be sure, but we'll come back for more another day. I expect the guitar tech got a kicking though.


As night fell, so did the mood as Belgian rockers dEUS appeared and bored everybody stupid. Actually, the crowd loved them, but I really, honestly have no idea why as they sounded fucking terrible. Be off with you, you greasy Belgians. Don't pollute my ears again. Worst band of the festival!


Bringing eccentric producer (to put it VERY mildly) Phil Spector out of retirement to help with desk duties on their second album proved once and for all that, despite seeming like the nice boys of rock, Starsailor do, in fact, have a lot of ambition. The result was something rather predictable, a pretty decent album that's sadly overreaching in almost every department. Their Haldern set was pretty similar.


When they take it easy, they're great. Alcoholic, Poor Misguided Fool and Tie Up Your Hands all sounded fantastic, bathed in the billows of dry ice and cool blue lighting that flooded the stage, but elsewhere, when they tried to push the envelope a bit, they lost their charm. All in all it was a decent set, but they haven't fulfilled their promise yet and James needs to stop being so polite. Four to the Floor landed flat on its face, Fidelity never quite got into top gear and Born Again was so monstrous and over the top it was ghastly. It seemed to last about a fortnight and got bigger, wider and more ridiculous as it went on. Billy Graham, we've found your new anthem! This is the Christian rock song the Bible belt has been waiting for. In the end we were disappointed that James didn't sprout wings and float up into the rafters bathed in a glorious white light. If you are going to over egg the pudding, you may as well go the whole way. Get some altar boys and a giant pink neon crucifix guys, do it properly!


To be honest, Starsailor felt like a headline act and if that had have been the end of the day I'd have been relatively pleased. Most of the girls made a quick exit after James and co left the stage, but a few of us stuck around to check out young Moldy Peach himself, Adam Green. Boy am I glad I did! I've found a new hero. Take a test tube, grab the DNA of Tim Burton, Jonathan Richman and Gram Parsons, mix it up into a milky froth and insert into the woman of your choice. 9 months later you'll have a little Adam Green of your own. Backed by a superb band he succeeded in bewildering the entire audience in a way that filled me with joy. I knew there was something startling happening in front of my eyes when in The Prince's Bed he sang, "Everybody's talking about Jesus/Everybody's talking about Jesus/Everybody's talking about Jesus/Everybody's fucking my princess." Try selling that to the Billy Graham foundation! As he bounced across the stage on one leg, arms flapping like a bewildered Emu our smiles broadened wider than they would all festival.


Everybody, listen up! Prepare a place in your house for this guy. Welcome in the genius of our generation. "In a town/In a city/In an eyeball on a rock/In a fence where a goat was alone by himself," he crooned during Can you see me now? And we saw him and we smiled and we thanked God for sending him to us. When he left we did applaud and we did hoot and holler like American Frat boys until he did return to us for an encore. And he was wearing only an acoustic guitar and some clothes and a long floppy haircut. And he did wave and he did sing. And he did ruin the Libertine's What a Waster by forgetting all the words. And we did love him more.