The Haldern Festival 2006 – Day 1

I was quite naturally excited. We all were.

I was quite naturally excited. We all were.

Day the first; Thursday 3/08/06


“It’s not going to rain again like last year is it? Daims, Mac, it’s not going to rain, is it?” Demented and gibbering I sat in the back of the car, my mouth full of sweets and crisps, swigging beer and belying my 36 years as my behaviour regressed to that commonly associated with that of a 6 year old child. I was quite naturally excited. We all were. As we pulled into what is now a place strewn with almost sacred connotations for the members of this magazine, we all simultaneously cheered; Haldern, ancient settlement, friendly village in the heart of rolling farmland, and site of the best, most cherished, most unique, haphazardly innocent festival in Europe bar none. No self-regarding muzo-bizz idiots need apply here, thank you very much, just decent folk wanting to watch bands and have a nice time. When you see banners in people’s windows all through the village saying “wilkommen in Haldern” you know you’re onto a good one.


Tent pitched, and wrist bands procured we decided to get straight down to the Spiegel Tent to take in the night’s entertainment. It promised to be a fine night with the likes of the Mystery Jets, Lambchop and Martha Wainwright on the bill. First up were The Waking Eyes who, it must be said, confounded the opening band at a festival are by and large crap principle by being bloody good. Thoroughly entertaining, they played a very “straight” up-front rock and roll set; at their best they sounded like Guided by Voices, at their worst they became, (in Mr. D. Leslie’s words) “the greatest local cover band in the world playing down the pub”. Still, they were in yer face loud and got stuck in with gusto. Even a frankly daft cover version of the Fab’s Come Together couldnÃ?t erase Incendiary’s smiles. Good for them.


Expectation levels were raised considerably with The Mystery Jets. I really like their LP Making Dens, and I enjoyed their Paradiso gig earlier this year even taking into consideration my reservations about their wackiness which to me doesn’t feel quite right. And, sorry to say after this performance the jury’s still out on them. They just don’t click on stage for me, despite them having some absolute belters in their repertoire; songs like Alas Agnes, …Dennis and Zoo Time. They look too studied, too careful, too static and at times it has to be said, too smug. Incendiary reckon it’s something to do with having main singer sitting in that Heath Robinson musical detritus contraption mid-stage, as it cuts the band dramatically in two. Sure it’s worked so far in gimmick obsessed Britain, but I honestly don’t think they can progress if they continue doing it for much longer. This set up also diminishes the menacing presence of Henry, their shamanic guitarist/keyboardist, as Henry really is a secret weapon for this lot. Still, it has to be said in their defence they were affable throughout and things would have been considerably better if their sound guy hadn’t turned everything up to maximum, painfully ear-shredding volume. And hearing Zoo Time live is always bloody great.


Somewhat deflated (and deafened) we waited for Martha Wainwright who, by total (and merciful contrast) was to perform with just an acoustic guitar for company. Martha is a trooper; as evinced by her wise cracks, including the priceless “Hey, if you’re gonna talk, talk through the next band’s set, ‘cos they’re a band and bands don’t mind”. Coupled with her ever so slightly scary hippy but tough 6th form art school teacher persona and her frankly incredible voice (manipulated to its furthest theatrical effect by lots of head wobbling and shaking) the set had Incendiary agape, she was absolutely stunning and to perform 3rd in on the opening night with just an acoustic is bloody brave if you ask me. The set spanned her debut LP with notable versions of Ball Chain and Factory. Called for an encore, she did (yes you guessed) an incredible Joplin-esque run through of Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole (which, as she kindly reminded us all, is printed on the knickers in Martha Wainwright approved merchandise range). After that Novastar did their synth pop thing, which is great to listen to when you are driving a car, but sadly not that great to watch. Still, once we had decamped to the toilet area adjacent to the tent they sounded epic; the huge swirling synths, New Order-ish melody patterns and lament-laden vocals lent something ineffable romantic to lying on the grass outside. Their soundtrack added to the very romantic, tolerant and innocent atmosphere that was building round the tent, truly the spirit of Haldern.


By this time the effects of driving packing and drinking were beginning to take their toll; so much so that once Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner started singing we were lulled into a state of trance. It has to be said here that I fucking Love Lambchop; Nixon is one of my fave records ever, but Kurt nearly sent me to sleep, so knackered was I and so somnambulant was his voice. Still, even through my bleary eyes I could tell that I was witnessing a great show, a dreadful shame I had to go and get some rest.


Words: Richard Foster


Click here for Day two 

Click here for Day Three