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Cannes film festival? It’s not for me! The Punk Festival of Mont-de-Marsan (a famous punk festival in France in 1976-77)? I was too young to go! So, I’m just going to talk about festivals in general.
I’m not going to talk about specific bands and concerts, because we all have a lot of stories to tell about that. Because you, too, have been to punk festivals, haven’t you? And you have lots of memories.
So I’m going to talk mainly about logistics. And more specifically, the bad luck which follows me. You’ll see, it’s quite exceptional!
First, a question: when was the last time you made a round trip of more than 1000km with five people in a car to go and see some live bands?
Probably, like for me, it wasn’t so recently, huh?
And yes, it’s true, we don’t have the same energy as before, when our young age allowed us to do whatever we wanted.
Choosing the festival
In the early 90’s, there were a lot of punk-rock festivals in France and Europe. (And before that too, but I didn’t have wheels yet, I wasn’t old enough to drive, and I wasn’t old enough to go to festivals).
My friends and I couldn’t go to all the festivals, so we had to choose. A very difficult task, even if we enjoyed going to festivals.
So to make our decision, everyone put forward their weighty arguments. The first one said, “I want to go to this one because my favourite English band will be playing.” The second insisted on another festival because one of his friends ran the bar. Or, another friend was trying to convince us that at this festival it was possible to get in without paying because it was open air and therefore there was surely a flaw to exploit!
In short, we needed several drunken nights to decide. You too, I presume?!
Once the festival was chosen, it was necessary to find a way to get there.
Take a train with a ticket? It’s expensive if you multiply the price for 5 people.
So, take the train without paying? A potentially huge problem if you get thrown off by the inspectors on the way there. Less serious on the return trip…
Hitchhike? Yeah, but you can’t be sure of arriving on time, and then honestly, with our punk style, who would dare to stop for us?
There was only one solution left. Take our own car. Actually, more accurately, my own car! And yes, at that time I was one of the few to have a car capable of taking us to festivals, and bringing us back to Paris, but not always without problems.
Now I’ll tell you about the unpredictabilities of the road. Again, I’m sure you had some, too. No problem, you can tell me about them in the comments!
The first festival
For our first festival, we had an accident before we even left Paris. Before we were even on the highway! A guy hit us from behind and broke the back of my little Austin Metro. An hour of lost time to complete an accident report.
Another concern, the boot wouldn’t close anymore after the accident. We found a piece of string to solve the problem and we were on the way! We weren’t going to give up for so little! Except that, with the wind, we were driving along to the sound of the boot banging. I can tell you that it’s pretty tiring to listen to that after 1000 kilometres (round trip)! As a first festival, it started not so good, however the rest of the festival was great. Good concert, good drinking and good memories.
The second festival
For my second festival, I had a different car. Still an Austin, but one with electric windows. You know what’s next, don’t you? The electric window that doesn’t go up? Yes, congratulations, you guessed!
But before that, I must tell you: we arrived at a road toll booth, and we noticed a car stopped on the roadside, the hood open, white smoke coming from the engine.
My friends and I, being the assholes that we were, laughed at these poor people and made fun of them. My friend, sitting in the front passenger seat, decides to open his window (electric) and yelled, as we passed them, “Happy Sunday, fuckers!”
Yes, it was a Sunday. We all burst out laughing. You can easily imagine the faces of these poor people, already with a big problem, being insulted by a car full of punks!
And what happened next? Well, maybe you already guessed. The window refused to go up again, and we did the hundreds of kilometres which were left with that damn window open! But again, we weren’t going to give up for that!
Well not really a concert. Not for us, anyway! For the hundreds of other people present, yes, but not for us. Because when we arrived there, there were no more tickets! It was sold-out! Sold out! We were just losers!!! Johnny is right. I’m talking about Johnny Thunders, you know?
We stayed until the next day anyway, hanging out in the local bars, and the 5 of us sleeping together in the car, to protect ourselves from the rain!
The return to France
We weren’t luckier on the way home. A grey sky, the temperature not more than 12 deg C. At a petrol station, we were noticed by customs officers (at that time there was border control when driving in Europe from one country to another, these ones were checking drivers and cars), who were intrigued to see 4 guys and a girl driving with an open window in such bad weather.
And, no surprise, they inspected our car! Oh yes, I forgot to tell you that the festival was held in Holland. Again, did you guess? Ah, yes, we had a little prohibited product in our pockets.
Of course, the customs officers discovered it. And after searching everywhere in our stuff and in the car (and even an ‘internal’ search for two of my friends) they let us go again.
So of course, today we laugh, but we weren’t really proud of ourselves at the time.
The third festival
To make it short, we went there by car…and came back by train! The head gasket decided to blow!
It was only from the 4th festival that the bad luck stopped. Well, only as far as the car is concerned, because although we made it there ok, the 4th festival we went to was cancelled because of rain! More than 1000km round trip for nothing!
I think I’m like most of the readers of this article, it’s been a long time since I travelled this distance in a car to go to a festival. The truth is that sleeping five in a car, or in a tent, or on the ground in our vomit, even if we want to, we no longer have the energy for that. Or is it just me?
And you, has bad luck stuck to you and your car, or when you go to festivals? Break the spell by leaving your stories in the comments.
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