SIGNING UP A STORM

"Go up to T In The Park and run the signing tent", orders the editor. So STEPHEN DOWLING packs his nuclear winter survival suit and heads to Kinross. Photos: AWAIS

NME SIGNING TENT

God’s playing with us. Saturday promises drizzle, but what would you know, the weather just about behaves itself. There is sun, there is light, there is an absence of mud puddles that you could lose a tractor in. This – whisper it – is a sunny 1998 music festival.

Of course it won’t last, but at least on the first day the NME Signing Tent gets away with happy campers all round – including the roving press pack who are part of the informal fringe entertainment.

Warm Jets are the first of the stars to make their marks, with Louis Jones, Aki and co making the most of their debut signing sess.

Then it’s Audioweb, looking fazed from travel but well up for it. The crowds are beginning to take an interest, and things really pick up during the breaks between acts on the main-stage and the nearby Radio 1 tent.

TRAVIS are treated like the local heroes they undoubtedly are – fresh from the main stage, their signing turns into a mad free-for-all, as the band dash out to the fence and refuse to go until they’ve signed several dozen CDs, sweatshirts, arms, necks and, err, other bits.

The fever pitch continues for ASH, who graffiti the table in fine form and generally act suprisingly composed for a band who probably would have eaten the pens two years ago. Tim Wheeler informs us the new album’s almost finished – just a couple of last mixes to go and their NME set is a warm up to what will be a long-winded slog through the world. Their fanclub is the biggest of the day.

It’s then up to SPACE to put the seal on the day. With Tommy Scott evading Sun photographers on the way to the tent (remember Hillsborough!) the Space posse close the show with a bright and breezy half-hour before nicking a bundle of NME fishing hats and continuing what smells suspiciously like a party elsewhere.

And on Sunday. Rain. Field-drenching, unrelenting, unmitigated wetness from on high. OK, it’s no Glasto, but it’s still enough to cause Somme-like scenes of muddy madness.

Doesn’t stop the STEREOPHONICS from drawing a monster crowd though – Richard Jones opts out because of his injuries, but Kelly Jones and Stuart Cable fly the Welsh flag, running through all their photos, any spare copy of the NME lying round and any other detritus that will take pen ink. There’s highly amusing anecdotes from their recent world tour (we could tell you, but we’d have to kill you), and two hours after they set foot in the tent they leave, only because BERNARD BUTLER needs a chair. The former Suede-axeman gets through the queue dutifully before heading to the NME Tent to play his pre-Natalie Imbruglia set.

There’s no CHUMBAWAMBA due to the fact a certain esteemed airline seems to have lost their gear. The UNBELIEVABLE TRUTH make up for it though – quiet and no-nonsense, just like the songs.

Next up are SYMPOSIUM, just days away from what promises to be a huge slog through the US, part of it on the Warp Tour. Scarily, like Ash, they’ve found something suspiciously like maturity, where once a signing session would have been like a shootout with vivid markers. Fortunately there’s no signing table diving or limb-snapping tomfoolery this time around.

CORNERSHOP, then, with a newly-bearded Tjinder Singh, make up the last of the day’s guests. There have been hypothermia cases all day (cheers, summer), but the bedraggled masses still cue happily for a piccie or two.

The tent doesn’t flood. No-one assassinates any pop stars, and remarkably there’s still beer left in the fridge after a bunch of Scottish scallywags pretending to be the REGULAR FRIES try to pinch most of it. We’ll be ready for them next year.

All photos: AWAIS

* Thanks to Gemini Trading for the use of the mobile phone for the weekend…