Author: Max Walker (picture right)
Editor: Russ McMahon (picture left)
Where else to begin, but the beginning?
Friday 7th June and the clock has not quite struck 2pm, and I arrive from my Govan lair at frogbeats HQ to meet with company Director Russ McMahon. Giddy as a pair of hypoxic schoolgirls. we run a last minute check on our equipment and provisions; swan papers are safely ensconced in a water tight container, tent poles have been located, and two litres of spiced rum, a bottle each, are securely nestled – the sweet alcoholic cores of our wrapped sleeping bags. A third bottle, half consumed on a previous occasion, has been decanted in to a derelict plastic bottle of Irn Bru. This was later proven a very wise decision.
With no further ceremony our taxi arrives, taking us to Buchanan street. The bus station has been busy this weekend, serving to conduct revelers to opposing corners of Scotland for either Eden in the south or Rockness in the north. This is evident in the genuinely jolly mood of the staff, who attempted to convince us alcohol had been banned from the premises, and we would need to hand over the blue bags of lager we were attempting to ferry – I hope someone fell for the trick, as the sun already beat down strongly on the rows of idling coaches, concentrating that atmosphere of dust, and diesel, and anticipation. What we could not anticipate, however, was the refusal of the driver of the X57 to allow any drink to be kept out-with the hold bay for the duration of the journey. This, obviously, was a problem – how else is one to herald the start of a debauched outdoor weekend, than with bus tins? Ultimately our chance prevailed – it is a lucky thing that in the light of summer, rum takes on the same luminescence as Scotland’s favourite orange soft drink.
The fact that our drink could not be mixed down, I believe, only improved matters. We were away to party in the woods, and if our aim of reconnecting with the more primal elements of our nature was to be achieved, our hearts would be more truly guided by the consumption of raw liquor rather than some effete diluted concoction. The journey passed swiftly, and not before long our coach pulled in at some unremarkable country path. In spurts and drips ourselves - plus a trio of fellow festival goers - were ejaculated upon the roadside, backpacks and tents included, and the coach grunts, coughs, and shuffled onwards.
A rutted path leads to a fence, upon which two elven children are perched, quite naturally. They smile and welcome us, pointing the way forward. Another few hundred metres and the trees give way to a landscape of rolling hills that crown a forested valley. From this vantage point the entire festival is lain before us; the camp site stretching around the boundaries a picturesque Scottish valley, a wide crescent of tents, bunting, and camper vans. We pick a likely looking clearing and begin the descent. Good fortune ensures the nominated spot is not far from some faces familiar to the FROGBEATS team – local boys and girls, veterans of Eden who share our pride in serving their corner of Scotland with stacks of noise and excessive decibels. We are clearly kindred spirits, and their hospitality over that weekend was critical in supplying us alternatively with friendly chat and vital nutrients. By which, of course, I mean in the form of supermarket brand orange juice… Eden is family friendly, and so shall be this review.
We had established our forward operating base, now came the time to launch our first foray in to unknown territory. Loftily waving our guest passes at the volunteers manning the entrance portal, we were ready to enter Eden and begin our adventure with an enormous feeling of wanderlust.
The first day of any weekender always has a particular set of characteristics – it is the day where you become acquainted both with your surroundings, and with it’s current inhabitants, you’re soon-to-be new friends. We started off with an early evening grand tour in the sunshine around the festival with one of our familiar faced friends working the festival comprised of over 15 stages and countless other stalls and activities to do over the weekend ranging from saunas, to circus classes and a 3D sound arena. We were pleased to learn that taking drink in to the arena is okay, as long as it is decanted - an ethos not shared by commercial counterparts. By the time we had properly hit the arena the sun was setting, and we, imbued both with the spirits of discovery and sugar-cane, veritably floated past the rustic bars and smaller music tents for our first taste of Eden’s aural offerings. Under the benign aura of a swollen moon, we elbowed our way to the front of the main stage to be part of the crowd that had gathered to see SLAMBOREE. The set, designed by VJ Baba, resembled the troubled birth of a rogue alien grasshopper – giant screens to either side of an unfurled chrysalis, lit up by a series of fractal projections, green and malevolent. Slamboree describe themselves as a ‘PYRO CIRCUS RAVE MASSIVE’; and so it came to pass, these being the only decipherable words our editor could utter after being located in the morning. After a show which shall only be referred to as ‘rollicking’ we stretched our calves, in preparation for a proper bounce to D&B high priest SHY-FX alongside STAMINA MC - who we are sad to say refused our editors offering of a penguin suit and chief hat combo (See above photo). An hour later, and our boots were proper filled with snares and breaks. At this point the narrative gets hazy. The FB team split up as half decided to ‘check the tent’ with a nice girl from Penrith who liked the chief hat, the other with a look both determined and glazed-over to experience the other-worldly delights of the Voltan Stage and take refuge in the hammocks and festival vibes of the Vishnu Lounge - anything from Amy McDonald, to a DJ playing sax along with his tracks, to a dub song about Gary Barlow.
The Vishnu Lounge: Paradise.
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I awoke that morning, and began the process of disentangling myself from the human nest of sleeping bags and fag packets that entailed our domestic arrangement. Mercifully I was alone – for there is no glamour in surfacing to consciousness after two hours of sleep and meeting the eyes of a person to whom you spent a rather long time convincing of your value, the taste of metabolising safrole ripe on your breath. The only way up was out, and so I got out the tent. This being our first proper day at Eden, it was time to learn the lay of the land, without the fireworks in one’s neocortex.
The lay-out of Eden was fantastic, not in the usage where unimaginative people commonly ejaculate when they mean ‘very good’, but the old school sense of the word – in that it beckoned to one’s sense of fantasy. The theme was under the sea, and this found it’s expression in the myriad of jelly-fish that were cleverly suspended from trees and poles. These were some big motha-loving jelly-fish, do not misinterpret my meaning. Tall as two men, so they were! The site itself was shaped like a Q – the tail representing the main route in, with all stages, bars and workshops positioned around the loop. It cannot be stressed enough how useful this is, when after a shandy or two under the sun, one can harmlessly wander from loud noise to bright light and always, always, eventually end up back where one started. In such a manner did I eventually find our editor, who was dancing a red eyed yet oddly demure two-step in front of BREEZAK BASS from MUNGOS HIFI and their new Buckfast single which some of you may be lucky enough to hear some day. The spirit of Eden had flown free in both their hearts that night – or was that the Buckfast margaritas? In either case it was a joyous reunion. We swapped battle stories then proceeded outwards for some day time shenanigans.
One of the more lively pieces of miscellanea we encountered was a jungle dub sound system entirely powered by child labour. This occupied a section of the wide clearing deigned the children’s area where the miniature offspring of those presently collecting melanoma by the beer tent could frolic and squeal to their heart’s content. I did not approach too closely as I know the owners of these little humans consider them fairly precious, and with one clumsy step, I could break one. I do not exaggerate, but I do obfuscate… for it is more accurate to state the jungle rig was powered by… a volley of bicycles hooked to dynamos. With kids pedaling. Finally, making children work for their crust. At one point I crumpled to the grass for a wee seat and witnessed this panorama; 8 children sweating and pedaling all to serve the demented musical cravings of large pack of indifferent adults. Metaphor? For like… society and shit? Or were my thoughts being twisted by a combination of dehydration and that under-cooked falafel? It’s impossible to know, but food for thought never the less.
After a quick trip back to the campsite to take a dip in the river and wash the sweat off we headed back to the arena for a spot questionable Irish dancing to the celtic/balkan crossover sound of USHTI BABA complete with beat boxer, witnessing a bunch of grannies perform a choreographed routine on zimmer frames while clearing off a bottle of tonic, one of our personal highlights MR MOTIVATOR taking a thousand Edenites on an afternoon of step-aerobics in the sunshine, and we caught Edinburgh-ska outfit THE VICTORIAN TROUT CONSPIRACY in action - taps aff. All of this on one of the hottest days of the year. The night was finished off with energetic performances from both SAM AND THE WOMP and THE CORRESPONDENTS after which we vacated to our tent for Sunday.
Photo by Steven Brown Photography.
Oh, and how could we forget the notorious paint fight…
Photo by Steven Brown Photography.
Photo by Steven Brown Photography.
* * *
Sunday, Ruddy Sunday
Sunday, being Sunday, was always going to be a day of relaxed meditation and winding down reminiscing over tales of the weekend’s escapades so far. The clouds were out which was a welcome sight for most of us now lobster-faced Scots baked by the sun the previous day. We spent the day catching up with the familiar faces and new friends that we had made over the course of Friday and Saturday, pooling together our remaining resources to summon up enough energy for the day ahead, while we sat on chairs made from scrap metals and a reclaimed speed boat that looked as if it had somehow fallen from the sky and landed in the Scottish countryside.
The afternoon was spent exploring the arena and visiting its various trinket stalls. There was no shortage of things to do for our assembled mod squad, being bereft of energy following a weekend of dancing. The grounds were strewn with poi,fire sticks, diabolos and juggling balls to tempt the more dexterous of us before taking another shot at powering the Green Space Geo-Dome system. There’s always something to do at Eden, no matter what mood you are in.
There was one man who’s name had been mentioned more so than not around the campsite - the true funk soul brother CRAIG CHARLES. We had certainly caught on to the hype and his show would the the finale of our little Eden adventure. Truly a man possessed behind the decks, one who while playing looks as if he is being exorcised. We took our positions, this time amongst some visibly worn out faces, but all still wearing as big a smile as they would have entered the festival with on the Friday.
After over 48 hours in an environment as surreal as Eden, one’s brain eventually drops the psychic defences, figuratively downing tools and deciding it’s better off unfolding a lawn chair and knocking back a few tinnies. Such was our reaction to the sight of Dave Lister cheerily slamming down a groove-funk remix of the RATM rebel poem, Killing in the Name. This is a song that for a certain subsection of fading youth plugs straight into a primal part of the cerebellum. As the song was building up to that chorus, looking to my left and right I identify other ex-moshers who knew that the only way to properly celebrate Zac De La Rocha’s anti-establishment anthem is by inflicting a severe level of friendly violence upon each other. The chorus rose to that crescendo. A stranger and I lock eyes, exchange a nod barely perceivable yet full of intent, and as the final drum beat rung out, made to slam against each other… Except this was not to be the Craig Charles way! For instead the breakdown was mellow and jazzy. WTF man. My spontaneous partner in violence shrugged, embarrassed, and in an awkward embrace we jigged a ragged two-step.
After his set I overheard CC state to his roadie that he “fucking smashed it man!” You certainly did, sweet prince.
If you prefer an intimate event of a more personal scale, then in Eden you shall find a festival which can be savoured over a number of years; one that encourages a host of new friendships each year you choose to attend, as well as the welcoming reminiscence of last year’s. For the endearing charm of the setting, the variety of peculiar and wonderful people, the family-friendly circus-like atmosphere, the diversity of music, and the sheer quirkiness and charm of it all that will draw you back year after year, hungry for another adventure.