Arriving in a wet, remote and frankly declining seaside town was an auspicious start. It looks like Luke Haines takes his holidays here and wrote his forthcoming hit ‘Seaside Chalet Burning To The Ground’ in one of the many sad trailer camps dotted around the coast.
Arguably when a genre has run out of steam, it comes to the seaside to die. Think of those Northern Soul weekenders, rockabilly weekends and goth fests that are usually hosted in holiday camps; the followers become like cranky steam railways enthusiasts, clinging together in ever tighter and smaller bands. Is this the first signs of white indie rock’s terminal phase?
But the weekender is an audacious event, bringing together an inspired bill that ranges from the classic retro of Teenage Fanclub to the ultimate leftfield moodiness of Godspeed You Black Emperor! . What’s more by 10 o’clock there’s an infectious mood of goodwell pervading even the most cynical of chalet dwellers – visitors are anxious to say that Bowlie possesses a particular spirit of community absent from almost all the grindingly similar festivals.
As the weather started to clear, the gargantuan queue began to form. Fans queued to collect tickets then walked over to a truly heroic line, waiting to be admitted and given wristbands. Although it only holds 4,000 people – less than a venue like the Brixton Academy – it took over 4 hours to get everyone in. Stuart Murdoch from Belle & Sebastian at one point took pity on the stoic though fairly good natured queue by going out and serenading them with ‘Maggie May’. While Stuart from Mogwai hangs around chatting and downing cheap, fizzy white wine.
The first band of the evening – V Twin – have to be rescheduled because only a few people are actually inside. Even when The Delgados take the stage, the hall, which looks like a mini version of the Glasgow Barrowlands, is less than a quarter full. Apparently the organisers hadn’t banked on thousands of people arriving all at once. But by about nine, everyone is in.
The disco after the bands is crammed with indie classics, My Bloody Valentine, The Smiths and New Order spin while Jarvis Cocker joins the throng – unbothered by fans – to dance with his hands behind his back. In the other disco Stereolab‘s Justin Spear plays groovy easy listening classics from two decades ago.