There was a time when I used to look younger, mainly due to the fact that I was actually… y’know,.. younger. There are things that we are told do to maintain these youthful looks or moreover, what not to do… Fuck it, I wear my pickled memories with pride between the lines on my face. Looking young is for desperate housewives that have just realised that it’s all to late to save anything or for those people who are, well… actually ‘young’.

A few years ago I was given the opportunity to fly out to L.A with some good friends to go to Coachella festival to watch Rage Against The Machine, something I thought would never happen. Thank you Lisa Dee, pigdog and Gooders for allowing me to come along for this trip. We arrived in L.A after an interesting long haul flight (previously mentioned in another post “Long Haul Drinking”) and after arriving at our Hotel, myself and Gooders decided to go out (as if we hadn’t had enough to drink already) and we ended up in BB Kings bar. We met a samoan guy who was hell keen for some British drinking buddies. We hit it off quite well and our new buddy, and after watching an incredible two piece band that had the same aggression and tone as Skunk Anansie , our Samoan chum decided to take us downtown, after the bar had closed, to a “Wendy’s” to get some food. I vaguely remember charging down a six lane highway, but, it seems that the rules at that time of the morning meant that you didn’t have to keep to any particular lane of the “freeway” which looking back was fucking terrifying. We got to “wendy’s” and the one thing that stuck in my mind was the lack of alcohol. I sat there for a while and kept asking for more beer, they wouldn’t serve me anymore… Why? Come on, I’ve paid good money for this seat an you won’t give me any more beer?!… “Sir, we don’t serve alcohol here”  What? but you’ve been serving me for the whole time… As it turns out, I thoughtI was still on the flight from London to L.A and as I kept checking for my seatbelt, which was obviously not there as I was no longer on the plane, I had to concede defeat. I remember looking up at Gooders and the Samoan guy, sitting opposite, they were correctly  laughing at me. I didn’t understand what the hell was going on. I do remember thinking “shit, I’m pissed out me fuckin head here” Where the hell am I?  More beer, now, please.

I wake up the next morning in Hollywood and I’m completely leathered, I mean, properly fuckballed, Gooders want’s to go for a swim and I need a Bar. I’m drinking in L.A with a walkie talkie that Lisa thought was a good idea (it was, it just wasn’t much use for me as I was properly lost in my own head) and when we all finally meet again, I get our Jersey crew on the weird shots that I’ve been downing since ten in the morning. I found the LA Dodgers merchandise shop and spent a ridiculous amount of money on a baseball shirt,(the pound was strong against the dollar so it wasn’t so bad) but suffice to say, I’ve never seen this team play, (I don’t even know the rules to that game) and I make my way back to the bar to get ceremoniously thrown off a bucking bronco  before going to the toilet to perform my own shot fuelled version of a bucking bronco into a urinal. Cheers Hollywood.

We end up meeting our driver for the trip: Grant. What a legend this guy was. Lisa met him in a chatroom and somehow managed to convince him that picking all of us up and driving to San Berdino was a good idea. I’ve never thanked Grant enough for picking up and driving a bunch of wreck-heads from Jersey to Coachella and putting, what could only be described as blind faith in us… you are a star Grant.  Just to note, Grant worked for an oil firm which, I did delight in, as it was, to me, quite ironic as we were going to get fired up by one of the most revolutionary bands of modern times, and this fella, my Caledonian Prince, was driving us  to the revolution. It felt a bit like being taken to your first riot by your dad, who happens to be a copper,.. and your brother… weird but, in equal measures- superb.

After some awe inspiring shopping at a wal-mart where we found bags of onion rings that wouldn’t fit into the overhead locker of a plane, we arrived just in time for the girls of the group to stand in line for hours, just to get ‘our tickets’ to get into the venue. We managed to get in and see that they have set up an inflatable screen playing “the” Led Zeppelin film. This weekend is turning out to be an “absolute blinder”. We meet various people who live near by and make a lot of their money for the year solely on people coming into the valley once a year.

This place is hot, I mean,.. really hot. the temperature reached about 39 C/102 F on the daily. As much as the Coachella staff plan this forward, it isn’t an easy thing to deal with and everyone has the same idea- they find a slightly shady spot to hide, maybe even with some light vapour cascading from a piece of art dotted around the place. I see Gooders, pigdog and Lisa Dee with a pack of cigarettes that I have never seen… “Where did you get those?” I enquire… “over there, they’re giving them away for free. Considering the fact that I had nearly smoked every cigarette from the “duty free” stash I had brought along with me, this was. an eye opener. As it turns out, they were giving away “free” cigarettes… and lighters too, actual Zippos, not cheap after market knock -offs, So as we revelled in our new found spot, which was an air conditioned marquee, I couldn’t help but notice that some people were not on our side: “oh. my. god, imagine smoking right now”. I know it’s bad but we were the champions that day. I realised that as much as smoking is bad, we were given the chance to smoke cigarettes in an air conditioned room, in the middle of the desert, where we could write all over the walls with free marker pens and write whatever we wanted as the outside world scorned upon us all of their societal hatred. The irony here, is that, whilst everyone else was quite literally ‘cooking’ outside, Inside, we were carrying on regardless., I’m sure that this practice no-longer exists, (giving away free cigarettes to get people hooked) but one can’t help but feel smug, whilst pretty ladies in hot pants walk past with such a look of disdain and an overarching air of superiority, one can’t help but feel a certain level of “fuck you, I’m setting my self up for a big fall later on in life here but I’m not complaining, coz, y’now what?… I’m air conditioned” You can wear your homage to native American  culture but you’ll never be here in this zone. I don’t have to pretend that I’m “spiritually connected” to the earth to make my self feel better, no… I have booze and free ciggies…

There are certainly times when doing the ‘wrong thing’ is the ‘right thing’… this was one of those. I would happily court the danger of lung cancer to have stood somewhere air-conditioned that day and thankfully for me, there was. In this ‘den of iniquity’ we met an illegal immigrant called Dennis (that’s what he said his name was) I wasn’t gonna meet him by the juice bar, was I? This guy had the most stereotypical Mexican accent I’ve ever heard, I couldn’t stop chatting with this guy. He looked my mate ‘Mafia’, it might of actually been him as he does get about a bit. My other favourite people that we hung out with were the Canadians. These guys kicked ass. We need more Canadians in this world- Polite and hard party goers. Don’t mention Celine though… or Avril… oops!

The line up for this gig was just fantastic, Bjork, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Dj Shadow, Faithless, Rufus Wainwright, Tiesto, LCD Sound system, Manu chao, Happy Mondays, The Arctic Monkeys, Rodrigo y Gabriela, CSS, Mike Patton and just to make it a little better, Rage Against The Machine. There were so many more acts that were just mind blowing. I can’t tell you how much tension there was in the air just before ‘Rage’ came on but fuck me it was tense… It was palpable. I had lost my crew but I found a random guy to share this moment with and we jumped, bounced, moshed, sang and belted out lyric after lyric at each other. There were people throwing themselves off of marquee’s, helicopters in the sky, thousands of people shouting- ‘fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me’, We were going to change the world.

Sadly though, not a lot seems to have changed for the good and now we are being drowned in ‘fake news’ and too many of us are chasing after vacuous celebrities with no talent and a once promising revolution falls by the wayside to allow us to be obsessed with flat-pack furniture and spending our time trying to not be offensive to people that we don’t know let alone care about.

Smoking is bad… obviously, but not caring about the consequences of what we do and the sort of people we should aspire to be is surely worse?!

I’m glad I lost ten years of my life to this trip and I would lose twenty more if I had the chance to do it again.

I didn’t even mention the cheese-soup. Another day maybe…?

Changing Man