Mavis's Dream Three




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Ochre 5 Festival



Rock and roll, brothers and sisters, rock and roll. It’s what we dearly could have done with at various different points tonight. Right now, it’s a quarter to seven and we have only just witnessed the debut of the song. That’s right, we’ve been here since two and only now are Amp cranking up the guitars and singing. Vocals! Lyrics! Tunes! There’s a new concept. The French girl and the other bloke have got the old acoustic out and are regaling us with a Mazzy Star-esque wander through a song about summer. Quite pretty. For the following ten minutes thereafter they throw noise at us, sounding (as do quite a few bands here) as if we live right at the end of the runway at Heathrow and the jets are coming in every three seconds. Screeeeeeeeeech, booooooooom, scraaaaaatch, bang, whitenoiselotsmorewhitenoiseEVENMOREWHITENOISE and relax. They’re French by the way. And then the screeching stops and they give us two more Mazzy Star-esque songs, and then leave. Ochre (for this is their day festival) is that sort of weirdo label you get from time to time that generally produces a load of really ace stuff that’s absolutely bloody essential, but equally often is hit and miss. In this case, it bills itself as boasting electronic and experimental music, which is usually slang for brainy blokes from the wilds of, oooh, Hertfordshire, arseing about with new keyboards and theremins. So a trip to Ochre 5 held in home town Gloucester was always going to be a little, ah, interesting.

The deal was this: 11 bands for a tenner, starting at 2.30 and ending around midnight. No-one you’ve really heard of ever, of course, but that’s the point, and you might have a bloody good time. It’s the sort of gig where the bar sells almost more tea than beer, and the vibe is most definitely sit-down. They even provide chairs, and half the acts are in the Guildhall’s cinema, which even has a soft carpet to be kind to those weary bottoms. Unlike the main hall, which is the sort of springy one you only ever find in ex-ballrooms, or brothels. So we suppose. Longstone have some bloke from the Bunnymen helping them out (you can tell who he is by the way he’s twenty years older than anyone else here, and is wearing shades in a dark hall in the middle of winter, as well as the fact he’s playing something that looks like an upturned pudding bowl with knobs on and a green globe with flashing lights in it above) and wile away twenty minutes pleasantly enough, though not enough do distract us from the film playing on the screen behind them which features a man dressed as a rabbit. Vibe: 50/50. Will Sargeant shows up later in the evening as Glide, only this time he’s virtually unrecognisable as he’s wearing a white army helmet with PROG stencilled in blue on the front. At least, we think it’s Will, though we’re not entirely sure. Any road, he bores us fairly comprehensively with clattering beats and yet more white noise, and buggers off to polite applause. Vibe: 50/50. 90° South equally do much the same, only the bloke has a guitar (hooray!) and plays twangy techno while the screen shows penguins. Vibe: 65% sitting. Experimental Audio Research, on the other hand, pretty much fulfill the promise (ahem) of their name. We say their name, though we’re wrong, because EAR is basically Sonic Boom, a pair of headphones and six machines with flashing lights. Quite what these machines actually do is hard to tell – one grey box looks similar to another grey box – as they seem to all produce the same screeching noise. And some idiot has placed them facing into the hall on trestle tables three feet high, so Mr E.A. Research has his back turned to us the entire time, arse outwards as he bends down and fiddles with his knobs. One starts to wonder after half an hour of much the same sort of noise that Amp were making earlier in the evening whether the sound of constant farts might have more sonic resonance. At least that may have more of a tune, and produce fewer headaches. Fair play to him though, the crowd love it and he walks off to a sitting ovation. Y Melis Cwmnavsums (or something fairly similar) play a tiny little room above everything else to about six people. The two band members Catweazle and Ian Gillan have two old keyboards and an amp between them and entertain us with a mere two songs – fifteen minutes each, mind – which weren’t quite as screechy as a 747. They then stop, and inform us “that’s it, actually. We’ve only got two songs. These keyboards can only store two samples. Old technology, see.” Some bloke claps. Catweazle – complete with blonde beard four inches long, and precisely one inch wide – looks pleased with himself. Gillan wonders why he ever left Deep Purple in the first place, surmising correctly that Jon Lord was a much better keyboard player than Catweazle will ever be. There’s a TV on with no picture showing, for some reason. We all bugger off to the bar as nothing’s going on. Infinity Chimps is a bloke from Gorky’s who has too much gear for his own good. Mount Vernon Arts Lab is not a lab at all but one bloke playing in the cinema (again) and just about having enough tunes to keep everyone happy. The Land Of Nod however encourage just that. It’s a Mavis tradition. There will always be one band at a festival which encourages a little bit of shut-eye, and this was it. No fault of their own, of course, in fact quite jaunty guitar-led beeping stuff (hooray!) but Mavis was tired, and needed her tea. At Reading in the summer, despite her best efforts, it was Sebadoh, one of her favourite bands. So don’t take it personally, lads.

Which leaves us with just three to go. The Creeping Meetball are the sacked members of Spiritualized (aka Lupine Howl) twinned with a couple of cerebral bods from Portishead, and seem to spend most of their time jamming and hoping something works itself out. It goes like this: dum-dum-dum-derr-derr-derr-derr-dum, PAM PAM PAM PAM weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee dum-dum-dum-derr-derr-derr-derr-dum SCREEEEEEEEEEEEECH PAAAAAAAAAAAM BOOOOOOOOOOOOOM weeeeeeeeeeeeee fang you very much gunnite. Except, ignore that last bit, ’cos the only vocal mikes we’ve seen on stage all night were the ones for Amp. And it’s hitting midnight, and there’s no real end in sight. Skyray on the other hand played quite early in the day and forced upon an unwilling crowd blissed-out surf electronica which was quite lovely. David Wrench accompanies on the Guildhall’s grand piano and for about 25 minutes you’re glad you came. Sounds of summer, winter, the beach, and putting the creosote on the fence, a task you’ve been meaning to do for weeks now. Ace.

So, finally, we end with how it begins. The Serpents, theoretically a Welsh supergroup but in reality a conglomerate of federal proportions, feature (count ’em) no less than twelve people on stage. Let’s just work this out. There’s a women with a great big curling stone and she’s running a metal rod round the rim to get a whining, edge of the wine glass sound. There’s about six keyboard players, three guitarists, two blokes with the cereal bowl on a stalk devices, a drummer, a bloke dressed in evening wear, a mask and a whip, a guy in a contamination suit and a silver foil cloak playing a guitar and another bloke with curly hair and wild eyes. And so while they fool around with whatever they hell they’re playing – frankly, no-one’s paying much attention to the music, it’s all pure theatre – the guy with the whip attacks the local photographer bloke, probably for wearing a beret and having an odd goatee. It’s not the only odd goatee we’ll spot today – viz., Catweazle – but, importantly, the first. Said photographer gets flagellated gently. The wild-eyed-bloke gets the bagpipes out and marches out around the crowd, followed by contamination suit guy still playing the guitar with Mr Whippy following him taking strikes at the silver foil cloak. It’s the weirdest it gets all day, and it’s only just gone two. And, for perfect juxtaposition, there’s a (at a guess) two year old girl running up and down at the front of the stage and dancing. And you know what? She’s the only one. Ochre, then. Silly goatees. Flagellation. Screeching. Officer, have you met my pet coelacanth?

Links: Ochre records site

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