Kimberley Hall, Norfolk
Drop the bomb on Tales Of The Jackalope and the entire Shoreditch economy will evaporate in a mushroom cloud of hairgel and ironic Jesus action figures. Vice mag’s annual scenester-convention is a special place. It’s the only festival where you could wander round in a T-shirt emblazoned with ‘Go Gay For Johnny Depp’ without being manhandled facewards into a Portaloo, because everyone else is wearing a ‘Paris Hilton Loves Koka Kola’ shirt with leggings the colour of schizophrenia. Outwardly, there’s something jarring about people who belong in a Terry Richardson pop-up book. But inwardly, hooray for scenesters, because Jackalope has a genius line-up. Beside a Brideshead Revisited country manor, we spent one marathon night undercover in the fashion zoo…
After a day spent microwaving ourselves by the lake in the blazing sunshine, the music starts in earnest with another mythical creature: Ox.Eagle.Lion.Man. Like Liberace gone to seed, showboating Ex-Les Incompetent Fred croons and bellows through his set of cabaret-punk, in the style of a burlesque Nick Cave. Immediately afterwards, we find him and Slinky from The More Assured rolling around on the grass together, play fighting for our cameras like the pair of exhibitionist tarts they are. Slinky confesses that he has been staying at Griff Rhys Jones’ nearby country house. Griff, apparently, has a slide from his bathroom into his swimming-pool.
Late Of The Pier are space-glam genius, everyone at Jackalope fully acknowledges this. But you suspect that the mantle of ‘The New Pennie Automatic’ will rest heavy on their yappy, hyper-active keyboardist ever since we created it at the start of this sentence. Friendly Fires’ rave-raping sound seems to get better as the venues get bigger. They comfortably fill the main tent, with ‘Your Love’ already filed under ‘minor dancefloor classic’ in lost minds.
These New Puritans are aptly named with their scary puritanical pudding bowl haircuts, hard-set weasel faces and musical backing that’s the only appropriate soundtrack to being auto-erotically strangled with a length of computer flex. All TNP require are brass buckles and conical hats and you could happily picture them toasting crumpets over a burning witch. Their percussive shudder is the bold new sound of 1982 – it’s irresistible ‘En Papier’ and brilliant to watch.
Midnight is the perfect time for The Fall. Nowadays Mark E Smith most resembles the desiccated corpse of John Bird from Bremner, Bird And Fortune. He still, however, oozes nameless limp-wristed malevolence, sleazing about the stage, leering lasciviously, randomly turning-up the knobs on his band’s amps, barking his largely incomprehensible angularities into the mic in the manner of a sardonic schoolmaster. We get only one ‘hit’ – an extended version of ‘Theme From Sparta FC’ – but everything else still sounds like a thousand bayonets sharpening for Britain’s contented classes. When he looks straight at you, it’s like being eyeballed by The Childcatcher.
Despite keeping the crowd waiting for nearly 40 minutes, Dizzee Rascal is immediately hailed as God-on-toast. This may be because many are coming-up on their medication, or because ‘Pussyole (Old Skool)’ is finally making white people use the word ‘blud’ in a non-ironic way. From the size and sound of the crowd, it’s clear he’s the one they’re here to see. After apologising for his tardiness, Dizzee announces the arrival of ‘a motherfucking party’, and to follow: Foals.
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Apparently, Yannis and co were worried about their performance tonight. “We’re under-rehearsed,” he was heard to mutter backstage. “We haven’t played together in a week.” What a nerd. Still, they’re probably the tightest band here, using their guitars expertly to thread a delicate tapestry of mathematically perfect techno-rock and stoking the fires of the party that Dizzee lit.
In the dying moments of their aborted gig, brick-outhouse-shaped Fucked Up singer Damian Abraham makes the sign of the cross to the baying crowd, holds a slab of chipboard at his forehead, and in one brutal movement brains it in two, just before he’s hustled from the stage, as an angry rain of bottles fall on security. Three songs in, Fucked Up have fucked-out, the plug pulled, we hear, because of noise complaints from Jackalope’s fucking-miles-away neighbours. Headbutting the front row and clambering into the pit probably didn’t help his cause. In terms of hardcore hardcore bands, Fucked Up make Gallows look like S Club Juniors.
Upclose, it seems Uffie’s not the ‘hot chick’ that her wilfully naïve flow speaks of. But she’s also a far more guileful and commanding presence than we expected. A thrusting Miami party rotator, her cute transatlantic vowels come out on the purry side of Miss Kittin. She even needles the crowd for their flaccidity: “Come on, people! I need to feel you… It’s a festival – even if you think we suck you should still be having fun…”
3AM – 6AM
With ESG having flaked-out at the last minute, the post-Uffie lag starts to set in, badly. We range around the site, drop some painkillers, ‘borrow’ some bottles of Stella and nod our heads to DJ Mehdi’s designer mash-up set, while the casualties start to splay themselves against the walls of the inflatable dance-igloo. Sat outside on a log at 5am (as Does It Offend You, Yeah? are playing a warp-speed version of The Dears’ ‘Lost In The Plot’), we start to gather the strays: a procession of people in states of mental disrepair dribbling their drug-splattered life-stories into our ears. After a little bit too much ‘what-does-it-all-mean’ talk , we amuse ourselves by clambering over the fence and running full-tilt through the nearby pastures, before the sun again starts to blaze and it’s time to begin the trek back to Shoreditch.