BACK STAGE AT PEPPERMINT IGUANA HQ: Gigs, Festivals, Parties, CDs, Books, Protests, travels, photography and Cardiff City FC

Sunday, September 18, 2005

HEY HO, LETS GO! Me first propper blog; festivals, football, cinema, cruising and kids with cars

Blogs eh! Had this blog set up for a week or so and not really sure what sort of stuff to write. To make things worse, for some reason I have set up three different blogs. I have tried writing this ‘memoir’, type thing before, and it always falls into ‘disrepair’, now I am going to do it on line for the whole world to see, i must be mad… who knows if I will keep it up. I often think to myself, “well, I will be doing this soon, that would be a good point to start, I will wait” or, “I did this earlier, that would have been a good point to start but missed it so no point now”. There Is no doubt that the best time to start a blog is now, so I am going to start NOW (Although there were one or to major excitements earlier in the year, I might add them soon... or maybe not!).

Not a good start, I have only written one paragraph and already this blog is looking a bit crap.

Lets start again… This weekend started with a bit of a setback. The original plan had been to go to ‘Infinite Daze’, a semi legit festival that was supposed to be happening on at a secret location on Caerphilly Mountain, or more precisely (and slightly less romantically) a farm in Abertridwr. The forces of meanness shut the site down on Friday afternoon before it officially opened, sighting ‘Section 63 of the Criminal Justice and public order Act’. .. which states ‘This section applies to a gathering on land in the open air of 100 or more persons (whether or not trespassers) at which amplified music is played during the night (with or without intermissions) and is such as, by reason of its loudness and duration and the time at which it is played, is likely to cause serious distress to the inhabitants of the locality.

I know a few of the people organising the event, they are no doubt too young to remember the events that led up to the introduction of the dreaded CJA. Back in them days, there used to be free parties, festivals and raves all over the place every weekend during the summer. I can remember the old peace convoy when dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of vehicles would turn up on a site, set up a stage (or two), together with sound systems, cafes, stalls and everything else that goes with a festival and party till they dropped. Sometimes they were a nuisance to the locals; but more often they were miles from anywhere and did not really harm anyone. Basically the law was about outlawing a lifestyle the authorities did not understand and putting a stop to something they had no control over.. cos they like to be in control.

Post CJA, festivals have become sanitised, comoditised and corporatised, destroying the old spirit in the name of making a buck. A subject I will no doubt return to.

Anyway, what did I do instead? I went shopping! Last week was the birthday of Tara Iguana, but I did not see her because she was on holiday in France with ‘she whose name we will not mention’ (her mother), so this week I took her and her big sister, Zoë Iguana, to Cardiff to spend her birthday money. In the process, I gave a lift to my mates Sparky and (the artist formerly known as) Ginger (till his hair went grey) who were off to watch the Legendary Cardiff City FC play Crystal Palace. We trudged around shops with names like ‘Girl Heaven’ and… I can’t bring myself to mention the others, but I think the name of that one shop will give you the idea.

I had promised myself I would not spend any money on me, but I called into one particular shop which sells things at ridiculously low prices to see if they had the new Don Letts movie, ‘Punk: Attitude’, on DVD. They did not have it but I walked out with a DVD of early Pink Floyd footage dating from when Syd Barrett was still in the band; a copy of the book ‘Long Way Round’ By Ewan McGregor and Charley Boreman; and a CD by Hayseed Dixie, ‘A Hot piece of Grass’. I justified this mini consumer fest by telling myself they were all birthday presents to myself.

The Hayseed Dixie had to be bought, it just jumped out at me, ‘cos they were playing Newport last night. I wanted to go but opted to have the girls instead because I had not seen them for a while due to the French thing and me going to Poland last week to watch Wales play football.

Hayseed Dixie, who they? Well, they are a crazy messed up bunch of hill billies that do cover versions of heavy metal songs all in a bluegrass style. Their website sums it up best “From the fertile valley of Deer Lick Holler, deep in the heart of Appalachia, comes a sound that is old yet new. In an area completely isolated from outside cultural and musical influence, this band of acoustic musicians grew up playing the traditional music of their forefathers. Then, as fate would have it, one crisp fall afternoon, a stranger passed through the holler. Well, he almost made it through. Unfortunately for him, but fortunately for appreciators of great music worldwide, the stranger crashed his car into a stately old oak tree at Devil's Elbow Curve. Sadly, the stranger expired, but his legacy lives on. For under the back seat of his car, the boys found some old black vinyl records as they went through his belongings looking for identification. All they had to listen to them on was an old Edison Victrola that only played at 78 R.P.M., but the boys all agreed it was some mighty fine country music. So, in memory of the stranger who had perished the boys set about learning these songs. The records in the car, of course, were by the band AC/DC. And the boys recorded an album of the songs in their own mountain / bluegrass style - with fiddle, mandolin, banjo and such.”

They have moved on from just doing AC/DC covers and this particular album contains covers of ‘Whole Lota Love’, ‘War Pigs’ and ‘Duelling Banjos’. Not listened to it yet, I am trying to keep it for me birthday later this week.

So after this pathetic submission to consumerism, we headed back to Iguana HQ for something to eat. The plan had been for us all to head for the cinema in the evening but Zoë had already seen ‘Charley and the Chocolate Factory’ so she opted to sit in the house surfing the net talking to her mates while Tara and I went to the cinema.

Cinema eh! Well the experience has changed a bit since I were a lad. Once upon a time there were two cinemas in Blackwood, the Capitol and the Maxime. I don’t really remember going to the Capitol, but apparently half my mothers’ family worked there. Projectionist, ticket lady and all sorts of jobs were done by Coombs’, my mother being usherette. In fact, I think my mam and dad met there. I remember the Maxime though, it was open long after the Capitol Shut, I vaguely remember the original with one big screen but I remember it reopening after a major refurbishment and having not one but TWO screens. No cinema in Blackwood now, so Tara and I headed for Nantgarw industrial estate, which has a bowling alley (with a million lanes) a Mc D****lds, a seriously plastic Italian restaurant, a drive through Indian restaurant and a cinema with 12 screens.

The film itself was quite good. In the old days ‘family’ films were really ‘kids’ films, but nowadays they tend to be more like family films because they can keep adults entertained as well. Obviously the film is a remake of ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ and, unlike many remakes, I think it stands up well against the original.

The timing of everything worked well, because as we were driving home I had a phone call from the lads to say they were just pouring themselves off the train on their way home from watching City beat palace one nil. A quick diversion into Ystrad Mynach picked them up, and then I dropped them off in Blackwood High Street.

Blackwood on Saturday night is something else. None of the pubs are what I would call pubs anymore; they are ‘tarts palaces’, all mirrors and flashing lights. On top of the fact that these are horrible places to drink, people queue to get in them on a weekend and they now all have bouncers on the door! Bouncers in a pub! What’s that all about?

And as I drive through the high street there are loads of people staggering around worse the ware for drink, many of them young girls with next to nothing on; skirts, which are really just wide belts, and tops that would not keep you warm on a tropical island. In the summer you can just about understand it, but they are like this all year round, I have seen them staggering through the snow wearing high heels and ‘crop tops’.

At least they are out on the p*ss. There is another bizarre thing about Blackwood; it attracts loads of people in cars cruising up and down with their stereo blasting. Many of the cars are supped up. Now I can sort of understand someone getting a sporty car and ‘enhancing’ it, but why on earth anyone would want to customize a Vauxhall Nova is beyond me. And the stereos… some of the systems in these motors are worth more than my car! It would not be so bad if they were actually playing decent music out of them, but it is usually really cheesey ‘club’ music. The most amazing thing is that they pick a one horse town like Blackwood to cruise up and down. They come from miles around, as far as Western Super Mare, to drive up and down the high street blasting this sh*tty club music out of their supped up mini metros to impress girls who are shivering because they have come out without a coat or jacket. They have even passed bi-laws to deal with them, preventing them congregating in the car park at the top of town and preventing them from doing U turns at the bottom of town (which is a bit of a pain in the a*se for the rest of us road users actually); another example of the powers that be legislating against things they do not understand and have no control over; the cruisers might be a bunch of sad gits, but thay are only having a laugh and there is no law against that. Anyway, I feel like shouting, “Get out of your bloody mams’ car, get out of Blackwood, go to a proper club and find out what real club music sounds like, take some drugs and put a bloody vest on!” The people that tried to organise ‘Infinite Daze’ may have blown it and got themselves shut down before they started but at least they tried. Who am I to talk though? I spent my Saturday night watching ‘Charley and the Chocolate Factory’.

Anyway, I am not sure if this is what a blog is for, but I have written it now so I am going to post it.

Photo taken by me, old town square, Krakow, Poland; a slightly more civilised place to spend an evening than Blackwood High Street, taken September 2005.


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