On one of the most miserable bonfire nights in recent years, we find ourselves turning up to the glorious family holiday resort that is Pontins, Camber Sands for the first ever NME Weekender. But with much of the décor seeming to have been left here from the 70’s – why Pontins, I hear you ask? Well, let me point you in the direction of a certain Velvet Underground song, which earned itself the title of an indoor festival in a similarly antiquated holiday resort 80 miles in the opposite direction. One would hate to accuse our favourite music magazine of creating a rival festival to the “All Tomorrow’s Parties” bash, but come on, speculation is inevitable.
A half-filled Main Stage is host to our favourite psychotic-gothabilly-garage-punkers The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster. Drug-free and Buddhist since 2003, adrenaline-fuelled frontman Guy McKnight creates an almost Jim Morrison aura, whilst visually representing a lovechild of The Doors’ man and Russell Brand. Amongst his infamous leaps into and through the audience we are informed, “This is going to be our last show ever”. Delivering their cult classics such as “Psychosis Safari” the furious “Celebrate Your Mother” and the more recent “Love Turns To Hate” they are both mesmerising and fascinating. If this really is their “last show ever”, then they will be sadly missed as the world needs idiosyncratic mayhem like this.
Shortly after and the audience are gearing up for tonight’s headliners Babyshambles. Arriving onstage 15 minutes late (and in case you’re unaware of their track record, this basically counts as arriving early) Their first headline gig in quite a while as media-darling Doherty has been busy drawing pictures with his blood and bogies and Libertines reunions. They swarm onstage with ex-Supergrass sticksman Danny Goffey in place of former drummer Adam Ficek, and launch into the ska -inspired “I Wish”. Doherty is energetic and enthusiastic as they perform tracks such as fan-favourite “Pipedown” and The Kinks-esque “Delivery” which have the crowd in uproar but appear soulless. Following the mega sing-a-long “Kilimangiro” the set dulls in the middle. The naughty Doherty lights up a cheeky fag before the utterly shambolic – yet nonetheless charming – rendition of “What Katie Did”. They then deliver one final number “Fuck Forever”. Always an unpredictable evening with these chaps, but you often leave feeling that they lack truly great material.
Kicking off Saturday on the Radar Stage we stumble across Manchester-based MC Envy. And to be brutally honest, her mindless bullshit about her ex-boyfriend’s new slag of a girlfriend says nothing to me about my life, to quote a famous Mancunian. This is reflected in the on-site pub, which at 3.15pm, during Envy’s set, is rammed to the rafters for the NME pub quiz.
And on the subject of Manchester, one of the most-talked about bands this weekend Egyptian Hip Hop take to the stage. They combine minimalist guitar riffs, eerie synthesizers and dance beats intercepted by frontman Lou-Stevenson Miller’s monotonous, uninterested dialogue between songs. Somehow though, it feels that their tunes do not justify the surrounding hype, which they undoubtedly believe in. Perhaps it is just an acquired taste, but whether or not this band deserves the attention they are getting, they have a clear focus with key references. But still too rude to hold the door open for your correspondent?
Into the early evening and the Main Stage is hosting new indie-romantics The Heartbreaks all the way from, you guessed it, Manchester! Armed with mega-choruses these fresh-faced Northerners are on a constant tour around the country brandishing their chiming guitar-carried melancholia. They sing of lost-love and growing up in mundane northern towns, with honesty that singer Matthew pulls off with an inspiring charm. And so what if they sound like that Manchester band? These are glorious indie anthems that hopefully win them the attention that they are due.
Tonight’s headliners British Sea Power take to the stage adorned with their trademark shrubbery set up. As they belt out “Apologies To Insect Life” it feels raw as ever, as does the phenomenal “Remember Me”. A set consisting of old favourites and some fresh material from the new Zeus E.P such as “KW-H” a song that whilst is entertaining at best seems more of a louche parody. They offer the glorious “Black Out” and the epic “No Lucifer” to thundering chants of “Easy! Easy!” Following that, a magnanimous “Carrion” sees Yan pointing and swinging his jungle-attired microphone above his head as dancing foxes (yes dancing foxes!) join the stage and guitarist Noble monkey bars the lighting rig. And who thought BSP wouldn’t be up to their usual shenanigans? Problem is though, they may be headlining but it isn’t their gig. A disappointing turn out, as the main stage is half empty, but British Sea Power’s crazy antics and superb performance manage to fittingly sum up the whole weekend. I’m sure they will return to haunt us with peculiar piano riffs. With NME DJ’s spinning tunes until 4.00 in the morning, we’re set for the night. And the vibe is fantastic, free from any pretentious happenings as the bands freely mingle amongst fans and other artists – partying on the crazy-golf, guerrilla gigs in the chalets, whatever you fancy. A good weekend indeed.