The wind screamed down the throats of the cartoon animal bins surrounding Camber Sands and rain pelted the skinny-jean clad legs of those brave enough to puddle hop their way between chalet and gig – a normal British seaside holiday weekend, just with a better soundtrack.
But for those who made it to the end of the weekend the blot of bad weather was a small price to pay for three eclectic days of music, film and seaside debauchery.
Day one, curated and headlined by Dinosaur Jr, began slowly with a memorable psychedelic freak out from Washington DC’s Dead Meadow, a perfect contrast to the filth outside. The Brian Jonestown Massacre pottered their way through a set and a full house turned up to see what Anton would do next. Dress as Sherlock Holmes was what he did, but that poise was soon discarded and the mutton-chopped tambourine man was the most interesting thing about their set.
Herman Dune suggested thickly coiffured beards will be next week’s must have accessory. They played some decent country-esque sounds complete with wailing banshee choruses before Dinosaur Jr deafened us all with a wall of amps turned up to somewhere between 15.94 and 18.67. And there was some manic shoe gazing guitar work from the genie J Mascis. More encores than anyone else showed who’s boss, and Freak Scene made the wax in ears melt.
The middle day, Saturday, took on a more sedate feel with Joanna Newsom packing out the smaller stage with a mesmerising combination of piercing narrative and harpistry and Dungen gently eased a soggy audience into the evening with some typically elaborate Swedish prog rock. They were in direct contrast to the garage punk of headliners Sleater Kinney. Like Karen O times three but with nicer hair, SK rocked their way ’till bedtime to finish off what was probably the least inspiring of the three days.
The Shins took charge of the final day and although they were excellent, they made a tactical error of choosing the slightly better Black Keys to support them earlier in the evening. Their rocking raw blues and the fact that there are two of them instantly make you think of The White Stripes but without the questionable personal relationship hanging in the background. These are just two good ole boys from Ohio.
The Decemberists made us all sit down before they folked out and made everyone stand again. Clinic played a set that was enjoyable but as fun-free as their surgeons’ outfits, whilst Dungen repeated their Saturday night fairy tale of glacial proportions. Two piece Lightning Bolt made a lot of noise. Who knows if they did tracks from one of their brilliant albums or if they made it up as they went along, but they made Camber Sands sweat more than anyone else and produced the sort of sound a whole troop of masked offal-gobbing metalers would struggle to match. John Peel got them to play in his garden once. His vegetable patch must have been sparse that year.
The weekend also had its own dedicated television channel curated by the same bands in charge of the music. Past the usual band-on-the-road favourites such as ancient Star Trek episodes shone through some pieces of television that were talked about more than the bands. For the unknowing, a quick look at R Kelly‘s In The Closet video says it all. TV so bad it was brilliant and bands which were mostly brilliant – Monday came around far too quickly.