The Mighty Boosh Festival

The Mighty Boosh Festival

Noel and Julian make their play for the big league, but are the songs funny enough? The Hop Farm Kent (July 5)

Eels!” squawks Noel Fielding, whited-up as something called ‘The Hoxton Rapist’. “Crawling through your mind, through your tummy, through your anus”, respond several thousand fans as one. It is an ex-parrot. It has ceased to be. It is no more. And so on. And so forth. This isn’t comedy. This is a comedy mass, a joke-based Nuremberg Rally. To the middle-aged man who’s painted his bald head pink and garlanded it with squid-like protuberances (in the style of the Boosh’s grouchy disembodied noggin Tony Harrison), this is the public realisation of his private devotion. It’s The Rocky Horror Show, but with Har Mar Superstar instead of Meat Loaf. Tonight, there are approximately two dozen Hitchers in attendance, a dozen Howling Jimmy Jeffersons, one of that mirror-cleaning creature made entirely from rags and someone in an expensive-looking gorilla suit in the front row, who must be nearly baked by now.

The Boosh’s canny choice of their own personal favourites/hangers-on rather than guaranteed crowd-pullers – The Charlatans and Gary Numan included – has paid off handsomely. Sure, Har Mar’s been de-robing to the soundtrack of his own schlock-rap for about eight years now, and you didn’t strictly need to bring Jarvis all the way from Paris just so he could DJ ‘Animal Nitrate’ and ‘My Sharona’, but there’s a communal spirit among the supporting acts that goes beyond yer average ‘Hey Reading! You guys having a good time?’ banter, most notably when electro-fruitcake Peaches decides to sing a karaoke version of Grease’s ‘Hopelessly Devoted To You’, with the words changed to “Hopelessly devoted to The Mighty Boosh”. It’s cheap, silly and ridiculously fun.

For Barratt, Fielding, Fulcher and co, today is also is their push for the big time. Sure, they seem to have sold about half of the 30,000 tickets on offer, but this is still an extravaganza-normous show of force that begins with them literally pushing the boat out: a building-sized silver-plated ship that Noel makes his entrance on. With Julian tugged behind him on a tiny rubber dinghy (“I had to blow this up myself, y’know”), the pair bust into a maximalist full-band verson of ‘Future Sailors’.

Like a West End spectacular for hipsters, they proceed to whirl through the dressing-up box for an hour of songs from the show, interspersed with slim between-song set pieces: there’s back-turning from Naboo, a dance-off between Bob Fossil and “my nephew” Har Mar, plus Old Greg quivering Gollum-like about his ‘mangina’. Initial impressions: a) Julian is actually a rather good guitarist, b) Noel’s shape-throwing reveals him to be in reality the same snake-hipped rock star he’s always been in his own head, even if c) he does sing like a hungover walrus.

By the end, though, it’s easy to wish the Boosh had done more talking, less rocking. The skits are funny, but the dreadful secret about the Boosh’s actual songs, the secret that event promoter Vince Power dared not tell them, is that they’re generally pretty ho-hum. As opposed to Flight Of The Conchords, who can be both musically self-sufficient and so lyrically sharp they can survive repeat listens, the ones embedded in the Mighty Boosh TV show often seemed like ornately engraved invitations to go for a piss-break. Yes, the idea of afro-doored Rudy singing a lengthy dirge called ‘Isolation’ is amusing. Watching him carp across three notes for four minutes is less so. Perhaps ‘I Did A Shit On Your Mum’ has certain timeless qualities, but in the end, a tight band can’t make up for too much faux-funk in their trunk and too few proper tunes to justify such lofty billing.

Like Legoland, you’d have a look if you were wandering past, but would you go out of your way to get there? I mean, really? One for the fans, then. As it will be when it inevitably hits the DVD racks.