I found out last week that my ridiculous techno-punk band Petrol Bastard has got a slot at this year’s Boomtown Fair, which is a huge music and arts festival held every year near Winchester, and attended by around 60,000 people. This is very cool – but also brings mixed feelings. Oh the fun I’d be having at Boomtown if I was still drinking…
I’ve never been a proper festival-warrior. I’ll go along when there’s cool bands I want to see, but it’s not an annual pilgrimage. I’ve done Leeds Fest, Reading Fest, Ozzfest, Donington Monsters Of Rock (showing my age), and also a couple of years at Groezrock – which is an AWESOME annual punk festival held in Meerhout, Belgium. I always have loads of fun, but I’m also always the drunkest. I remember coming back from my last trip to Groezrock a couple of years ago, and feeling more hungover than I think I’ve ever been in my life. 4 days of sunshine, drinking, and bad food had done me in good and proper. I wanted to jump off that cross-channel ferry and die (I seem to have a thing about dying by jumping overboard on cross-channel ferries – more about that in this blog).
Alcohol has always been an awesome thing when it comes to gigging – in the past it’s not only taken away the pre-gig nerves, but also allowed me to feel much more ‘in the moment’ once I’m onstage. I did realise though, in recent years, that too much booze was just spoiling the show (read more about that here) and since giving up the drink a year and a half ago, the gigs have got a lot more exciting (for the observer, at least).
So we’ll be turning up to Boomtown stone-cold sober. My bandmate Ben might have a couple of beers before the show, but he’s not that interested these days. We’ll probably arrive an hour or so before we’re due to play, ROCK THE SHIT OUT OF BOOMTOWN, and then go home. We’ll probably even stop for a cup of tea on the way back. And a toasted currant teacake.
This all sounds very old and boring, but in all honesty it’s not linked to age – it’s linked to experience and self-awareness. The cold hard fact is that no matter how much I might want to join the crowds at Boomtown Fair – partaking in the joys of lovely ice cold beer and Jagermeisters – I can’t. I’ve got a problem which I’ve spent years wrestling with. I’ve tried moderation, I’ve tried changing what I drink, I’ve tried attending AA meetings – and I always ended up back in my old habits. Drinking Friday to Sunday, hungover Monday to Wednesday, Thursday feeling like an alien with a shit haircut, then back to Friday and the drinking starts again. I’m still quite shell-shocked that I was ever able to break the cycle – and my 1.5 years of sobriety are an achievement – but a fragile one.
It’s scary to think that I could be stood backstage at a festival, caught up in the moment – getting ready to go onstage, and the decision to have just ONE BEER would throw me right back to the bottom of that pit I worked so hard to climb out of.
One beer and everything falls to pieces. It’s crazy but it’s a fact. I’d never stop at one beer. This is, to me, at the heart of what being an alcoholic really means. And so this is why Boomtown Fair won’t be about beer and drugs for me. It’ll be about tea, currant teacakes, and VERY bad dancing.
Rock and roll motherfuckers.