Butlin's at Bognor Regis brings us the inaugural Rockaway Beach, a necessary move as Sixties artists and disco hasbeens won't be around for ever so a new direction is required for music events at such resorts. ATP have obviously lead the way with this over the years and it makes sense that their format be taken on by the sort of places they themselves have utilised.
Awareness of this doesn't though lessen the surprise of seeing Du Blonde playing on stage in a tent-enclosed fairground whilst ordinary holidaymakers wander about their business and the odd grandparent or two looks on and wonders at the change in entertainment style since their day. The band are clearly not really expecting the scenario either despite having signed up for it. They're a game bunch and make the most of it with Beth Jeans Houghton ribbing guitarist Michael and chatting away to the crowd about the generally surreal nature of the experience. A surrealism that you expect will last the duration of the weekend.
'After The Show' and much of Welcome Back To Milk are run through as well as a couple of good new songs which show there's no end date in sight for performing in this guise just yet. A pleasing fact. Unfortunately they're the last act on this particular stage today so it's time to get a quick bit of dinner then hunt down the other two stages which, although very close by, are not initially very obvious.
The successful identification of the Red stage found John Knox Sex Club hard at work. Picture David Morrisey in The Walking Dead firing up a sparse, post-apocalyptic crowd of fellow survivors and you'll have some idea of the powerful goings on as Sean Cumming made the most of the extra space available in front of the stage, taking ownership and hugging many punters into the bargain. A performance enjoyed by the crowd and band alike, as confirmed by a chance encounter in the hotel lift the following morning.
A swift trip next door to the main stage where the unknown quantity of Grasscut are playing. The hall's about as densely populated as the Highlands but there are clearly some dedicated fans of the group's folk-meets-Public Service Broadcasting style with one chap very keen to hear older song 'Richardson Road' although he's ultimately out of luck. 'The Field', 'Red Kite' and others go over well and all concerned get the most from the combined experience.
Volume levels are up and the music far noisier back in the Red once The Telescopes come on. They've drawn a bigger crowd too and proceed to make the sort of racket you'd expect from current album Hidden Fields with no deviations into their more shoegazy older material. A lack of engagement with the crowd makes the show a touch self-indulgent as it progresses, however, so stimulation needs to be sought elsewhere. Luckily Emma Pollock is on hand to provide just that with 'Adrenaline' from 2007 album Watch The Fireworks and songs from her most recent album The Law Of Large Numbers. Apologetic that she and the band haven't played together much of late she's engaging, chatty and clearly very much at home in a live setting with the only minor issue coming from her AAA pass slipping between her guitar strings, requring it to be ripped off and chucked on the floor.
Audience sizes are obviously increasing with each new act in Red as John Robb and The Membranes enjoy a good reception when they bring punk into the proceedings. Most folk are to polite too pogo but there's more movement than witnessed up until this point and the band are tight and leave few gaps in the set. Robb expresses his liking for Bognor Regis, being a seaside boy himself. It's lack of a tower does though make it lower down the pecking order than his native Blackpool. Next door the clear, bright sounds of Errors provide a more restful alternative for those in need of it. Looking good on a large stage as opposed to the ground level performance of their Incubate set last month, the extra height lends their material an element of gravitas and melancholy somehow, making for a performance that satisfies on a number of different levels.
The Fall seem to have been the main draw for many of this first night's attendees and their lateness appearing onstage fairly heightens the partisan crowd's excitement. The band come on first, leaving Mark E. Smith to lurk, golem-like in the wings for a short time as they kick things off. A great roar greets him and he's on predictable form in his ramshackle way. Fiddling with the volume and other knobs of the various amps, making some largely unintelligible comment about Bognor being in Wales and later on singing through two mikes at once he's up to all his tricks. The audience noticeably thins out by the halfway point, leaving the hardcore to enjoy their hero so many have obviously expected something different but MES won't be losing any sleep over that.
Tonight's other headliners are Echo & The Bunnymen, an act I've never previously seen before having not been greatly exposed to their work in the past. Their prescence has lead to the main hall being practically full and, following the odd use of a Gregorian chant entrance tape, they launch into playing with no preamble and a garage-like urgency. Ian McCulloch is obviously a bit hot as he queries whether the fan before him is working but performing without a coat on might have been of some benefit in terms of overheating. He knows his audience well and exchanges a good bit of banter between the first few songs but I opt for a bit more of The Fall when an odd medley of 'Roadhouse Blues' and 'Jean Genie' is embarked upon. A comment on the nature of playing a show at Butlin's? Whatever the reason it seemed utterly pointless for a band with as much of its own material to do such a thing in their main set, let alone as an encore, after such a promising start.