I have come to the conclusion that music festivals and migraine headaches do not good bedfellows make.
Tadpole safely deposited with Mr Frog for the long French bank holiday weekend, the time had finally come to accompany my Lover to the Route du Rock music festival, held in an eighteenth century fort near St Malo. I hadn’t been to a fesival since Glastonbury in 1995, and was no longer sure I had the required stamina, but it did sound very tame indeed by Glastonbury standards, and the Lover can be very persuasive when he wants to be.
We arrived early Saturday evening, and pitched our brand new Decathlon tent. Time to pitch tent: 2 seconds. My scepticism when examining the instructions was unfounded: all you have to do is throw it into the air and watch it spring into shape, as if by magic.
I thought back to my Glastonbury experiences, where, by a combination of bad planning, inebriation and stupidity we often ended up trying to put up devilishly complicated tents in pitch black fields, with only a cigarette lighter or a box of matches to guide us. I have a less than fond memory of waking up and realising that I had pitched my tent on/slept on the deep imprint left by the treads of a tractor tyre. But pitching a tent in the dark and swearing/giggling a lot is what festivals are all about, so Decathlon are making it just a little bit too easy with their magic tents, in my opinion.
Headliners at this year’s Route du Rock: The Cure. It was their only date in France this year, and if you have spent any time in France at all, you will realise that The Cure have always had an ENORMOUS following in this country. So this was quite a big deal. In fact, for the first time in the festival’s history, Saturday night was sold out. All 12,000 tickets.
I was rather excited myself. I must confess that I did go through a Cure phase of my own, in my late teens and early twenties, and a black and white Boys Don’t Cry poster adorned the wall of my university bedroom (later to be replaced by Kurt Cobain). More recently, whenever I have indulged the ipod and let it have a little shuffle, it has shown an alarming prediliction for Cure tracks, so albums like Faith and Disintegration have undergone something of a revival in my household. I’d never seen Bob and Co in concert, however, hence my eager anticipation.
There were Cure fans everywhere. It was a fantastic people watching opportunity. Hours of backcombing. Litres of hairspray. Metres and metres of black satin and lace pulled tightly over bulging thighs and middles. Brides of Dracula. Rather rotund Robert Smith clones. Official and unofficial band T-shirts in every direction. Clearly the unwritten, tacit rule that one does not wear a band T-shirt at the band in question’s own gig is not one the French are aware of.
The other bands played, and struggled to make much of an impression on me, however enjoyable the general festival vibe. I rarely get into a band at a festival, unless I am already familiar with their music. Otherwise, it tends to wash over me a little.
And then The Cure arrived, and launched into… an album track. A long, swirling hymn to doomed relationships and depression. Followed by another, in a similar vein. Or an obscure b-side. These gave way, occasionally, to catchier, crowd-pleasing tracks. But it was a self-indulgent set, which seemed to be aimed more at the brides of Dracula than the festival going public at large.
After about an hour, I realised that a flashing red bicycle light, which some considerate person was wearing on his head, was bothering me. In fact, now that it was dark at the festival site, all the stage lights were vivid and glaring, and I was actually having trouble focusing my eyes. People moving through the crowd suddenly loomed in front of me, appearing out of nowhere. I was confused, disoriented, and wondered, idly, if one of my drinks might have been spiked with something chemical.
I struggled on, valiantly, for a while, but the visual disturbances were getting worse, not better, and the Lover and I retreated back from the standing room to a place where we could sit down. “It feels a bit like the aura I get before a migraine attack,” I mumbled, brain addled by too many lagers to realise that it wasn’t “a bit like” a migraine; it was a migraine.
When the feelings did not subside, we decided that heading back to the tent would be the best course of action. The headache struck just as we were zipping our sleeping bags together by the backlight of a mobile phone. Indescribable pain, which made me claw and clutch at the right hand side of my head in futile desperation, rocking forwards to wedge my head between my knees to stave off waves of pain-induced nausea.
Through a veil of throbbing, pulsing pain I heard my favourite tracks. A Forest. 10.15 Saturday Night. Boys don’t Cry.
I realised I was crying.