Touring hard through the festival season, Merseyside psychedelic cosmonauts THE CORAL give us an insight into a strange world of caravans and service stations and long days on the road. Penned by keyboardist and lynchpin Nick Power, here’s his stream of consciousness recollection of their weekend in Middle England’s back of beyond at Herefordshire’s Lakefest…
We pass a fleet of Great Bear trucks on the motorway, all painted blue with the constellation map printed on the cargo containers. They synchronise down the highway like a murmuration of huge birds.
In a motorway servo, I slip a Mojo magazine under my arm. Back in the van I read about Bowie’s Station to Station album, then an article on Graham Bond’s occult excursions and mysterious death. It’s a pretty good issue. Passes the time. On the stereo is Dr Octagon’s classic album Dr Octagonecologist:
“Earth people/ New York and California/ Earth People/ I was born on Jupiter…”
We roll off the motorway, down a network of loping country lanes where the van’s navigation system can’t reach. We stop off at an old farmhouse to ask for directions before setting off again. After a time, we come into a small village.
“Where are we here?”
“Near South Wales aren’t we?”
“It’s a bit Ram-God around here.”
“Defo some midsummer sacrifices on that hill.”
“Love these type of places.”
“It’s where we get all the water from. Malvern hills.”
“Like that Only Fools and Horses episode. Peckham springs, Rodders.”
There are the remnants of traveller camps scattered on intermittent plots of green all the way through this town. A fat man bursts between two caravans on a quad bike with a child sitting on the handlebars. They surge into the grassy flats. Wrecked bumper cars lie desolate on a field. Different parts of a fairground pop up on open bits of land. A small Ferris wheel. Chair-o-planes. We keep moving.
The festival looks good on the way in. They haven’t tried to ram as many people as possible in like some festivals do. There’re good facilities too; our dressing room is one of those 1950’s Airstream caravans that vaguely resemble the spaceship from Flight of the Navigator.
I’m stood on the caravan steps having a smoke when I see a pale figure ambling toward the stage, a tall man with a knot of red dreadlocks atop his head. He’s sweating.
“Is that Newton Faulkner?
“He’s like an albino Peter Tosh isn’t he?”
“You couldn’t get more Celtic, the poor fella. Must be tough in this heat.”
The promoter of today’s festival has written a book. It’s called ‘Hippie’ and described as a ‘metaphysical pseudo-biography.’ He’s eager to give us each a copy and pose for photographs as if we’re reading it in the dressing room. Afterward, I sit there for an hour or two until someone says they’re off out for a wander. Then someone else says they’re showing the Liverpool game in the catering tent so I head over there and spend two hours accepting huge pitchers of beer from hospitable festival staff. By the time the match has finished, the drunkenness has crept up on me and I spend most of the show trying to concentrate, trying to sober up. I’m not one for drinking before a show usually, and I feel pretty guilty about it, as I’m all over the place for the first half. It’s hard to stay focused when you’re nearing the end of the festival season. Things kind of blur into one long backstage stint, sitting around trying your hardest to keep the seal on free bottles of liquor.