Devin Bellend’s Irrelevant Irreverence: DAMNATION 2014 – PART 1
One of the great perks of being a music journalist is that you get invited to shows – meaning you don’t have to pay the entry fee! One of the downsides of being a music journalist is that this financial gift gives you a greatly exaggerated understanding of your spending power. Long story short – sticking true to form given my Bloodstock financial record, I went to Damnation festival with somewhere in the region of nothing pounds and managed to spend £500 despite only around £100 of that going into a hotel and travel.
I began my travels to Damnation by meeting my friend in London to catch the train together. We did so, and everything was perfectly mundane until a visit to the “food bar”. What was intended to be a scavenge for a chocolate bar or two, culminated in me returning with £20 worth of cupcakes, drinks, whiskey and sandwiches that I couldn’t eat but couldn’t be bothered to return. I drunk all the Whiskey. It was midday. “But didn’t you publicly announce in your damnation preview that you weren’t drinking at Damnation, Harrison?” asked my friend. “I think you will find I am on a train somewhere in the Hertfordshire countryside, dear friend, and quite frankly look around you… all of this is damned”. Okay so I made that response up just now; I probably just said some obscenities and smashed cake into my face.
After arriving in Leeds and spending a good hour wandering around the town, we decided to find somewhere to eat. We walked into a pub which we thought was going to be a gastropub. It was not. It was a 20’x20’ single room full of older bald men with a curious number of earrings. My two friends, both being tee-totallers, waited for me whilst I ordered a drink. I don’t know why we felt obliged to buy a drink before leaving… there was this unexplainable fear that you had to pay a toll to leave… it was a mystical place. I hadn’t even gotten to the bar before one of the Bilbos put to me: “Crikey, how big are you?” I told him my height (6’4) and he went into a rather in depth discussion about the precise dimensions and qualities of his bed. I politely declined the man’s sexual advances, and after him bidding me an “O per-lees, yorr verray gud lerk’en” and my reply of “Thanks, your eyesight is better than your diction!” we promptly evacuated in a chaotic, clumsy, fire-regulations-breaking three-birth file.
After lunch, a hotel booking (which I later reviewed in this video) and dinner around several fine establishments in Leeds, we made our way to the Damnation Festival Pre-Show. Because of our train and hotel schedule, we couldn’t arrive in time for most of the night, but I wanted to catch as much as I could. I got in in time to watch Latitudes. I’d never heard of Latitudes. I have to be honest – I didn’t enjoy their show. They were rather static, and whilst I appreciate that’s part of the mood and image of their style of post-metal/doom/sludge sound, their music; with all of the repetitive riffs that never seemed to vary very much, came across to me in the same way that someone who won’t stop showing you photos of all their kids does. At times they felt a little like Crack-The-Skye era Mastodon without all of the bits about Crack-The-Skye ear Mastodon that I like.
I stayed for the whole set and was kind of indifferent to the whole thing. However, I always follow up with these things once I get home and I’ve since listened to a couple of Latitudes tracks off of each album and I definitely prefer them as a studio band. For me, the energy doesn’t convey too well live, but at home I can get more immersed in their soundscapes. One of the major things I noticed, too, was that the live set was instrumental, whereas on the recordings I listened to there were often vocals. The inclusion of this live, I feel, would have made for a more engaging show.
One thing I was amazed by was the sheer number of people that had turned up the day before Damnation to visit the pre-show. The place was absolutely rammed – the venue, the downstairs bar and the roof terrace. You couldn’t move for beards and leather. Everyone seemed pretty friendly, too, and I bumped into a lot of familiar faces. Prices were reasonable, the people I spoke to had great words to say about the bands that had been on, and people were excited for Dyscarnate. Sadly, I was unable to stay around until the end of the show as I still had a lot of last minute work to do to prepare for the main event the next day, and this missing out disappointed me, so the following paragraph is an entirely fictional review of Dyscarnate’s set. Please for the love of all that is groovy take heed of this dysclaimer.
Dyscarnate took the stage at exactly midnight. The lights went down to a gloomy haze. They continued to go down, further than any light should be willing to go. The lights went down so low that the speed of light actually changed to accommodate this new visible, fibrous light-wobble that was filling the room like a luminescent jelly. Then, in physics’ most bi-polar moment, the lights went back up again – not to any comical extreme – but to a rather mundane, clinical, dentist-waiting-room palette of light.
Dyscarnate, the 19-piece post-jazz chamber orchestra, took the stage on their vintage motorcycles. They were all holding cantaloupes. They spend twenty minutes eating their cantaloupes. Jerry, the xylophonist, begins an epistemological argument with a security guard and is forcefully removed from the venue after setting fire to himself. “This venue’s hot enough already!” says one onlooker. “Why does he smell like a lamb casserole?” questions another. The band begin crying in the key of E. The confused audience, with no idea how to respond, began floating; Then crying. The staff were crying, I was crying, you were crying. Everyone was crying. Then Jamie Oliver began a toast to the Gestapo, confusing it with the cold soup – “Gespacho”. He was excommunicated. Dyscarnate finished their set with an a Capella cover of “It’s raining men” in Swahili and everyone died.
I returned to my hotel and spent the rest of the night writing up schedules, interviews and various things for the next day whilst getting rather depressingly drunk, alone, in a hotel lobby, on Halloween, with the bar staff…. Age 21.