This seems fitting as a soundtrack for this article:
You’ve seen them out and about. You may even be friends with some of them. This Bank Holiday they were out in their drones with no socks, sailing shoes, pockets lower than their shorts, showcasing their new Ray Bans and sporting tribal tattoos with unverified meanings. Oh and their confidence is powered by their chemical kings with their little man bags tightened to bob just by their sculpted abs. Looking like qualified sailors but unfortunately too much water content from the sky would invoke an oil slick of hair products as those neat side partings come undone. They literally have all the gear but sadly no idea.
Bank Holidays give us two Saturdays in a row and when the sun comes out it gives me a chance to catch up with FHM’s latest fashion requirements as they wander around doing what the Twitter hive mind tells them to do. Hashtag WeAreFestival. Hashtag BrentwoodOnTour. Hashtag DoYouEvenLiftBro?
There is a little village near me and in this little village is a little pub and every weekend it has a little group of locals that frequent it. During the week many pop into this watering hole for some of its wonderful food within its wooden interior. It isn’t a League of Gentlemen local pub for local people but a lovely setting for eating, drinking and catching up with friends. Michelle – the land lady – has done a fantastic job of keeping the line between traditional and variety alive and well. Once a year it has a Beer Festival that attracts many a folk from afar. It has grown and grown but eventually the metaphorical containment belt goes past an American XXXL and it bursts. I’ve been going to this beer festival for about 6 years now with a mix of being rained on and sunburnt alternating each time.
Saturday though was quiet at the pub by its beer festival standards with the rain keeping everyone inside the main covered tent. We didn’t get there until about 4pm but had high spirits that the evening would go well and in hand that the following day would be a good laugh as it always has been previous years. That feeling of potential was made significantly more difficult when we arrived and had the delight of witnessing a young lad throwing up in the bus stop just down the road from the main event. We didn’t stay too long but with intentions that we would meet everyone else the following day.
The weather dictates just how busy the event is and the Sun was out in its glory for the Sunday this year. Also out in their power were the unqualified sailing massive sponsored by TOWIE. This is the first year that I’ve seen and heard without any regard for those around them the cocaine fuelled collective that were there with a blatant disregard for people actually wanting to enjoy a village afternoon in the Sun.
Now I’m no avid expert of ales and cider. My tipple when drinking ales are usually a standard IPA or where available Maldon Gold and Doombar. I do have to recommend the Honey Gold available at The Shooting Star next to Dirty Dicks by Liverpool Street Station though. Other than “Well they taste nice” I can’t shed any further light on why they are enjoyable. That is about as far as my ale knowledge goes. Ciders I have no idea. I still get corrected that anything other than apple is a perry but the hangovers feel the same!
I usually do the wrong method of Beer Festivaling every year; try the strongest beer and then spend the rest of the day finding a lesser strength to remove the taste from my mouth whilst trying to describe the differences between my choices with an over use of adjectives. “Smokey, dark, pleasant, muddy, chewy, tastes like drunk”. This quest lasts for about 2 pints and then it is straight into the novelty name bingo. It was enjoyable quenching the thirst whilst trying to explain the dangers of UKIP while enjoying a pint of Peasants Revolt. It felt quite fitting.
So why am I moaning? It is always a busy event and rightly so as it is a great time to be had whilst discovering a superb British tradition. While waiting to be served in the main tent I was stuck having to listen to two blokes in their 40s out doing each other on their Friday night activities that they had been up to with some younger kids they had met in the pub. Although initially strange to me that they both met up with teenagers in different locations that was all squashed as the first guy’s story unfolded:
“Oh mate, you should have seen these little geezers. They had some cracking gear and sniffing that shit like there was no tomorrow. ‘Member how we used to be mate? Fucking hell they were up for anything, right laugh those funny fuckers! Us 20 years ago!” He droned on.
His mate goes to ask him if he’s got any gear on him. They get their pints and slinker off. It is just a bit weird to see and hear it under your nose – no pun intended. Maybe they had no idea that in the loudness of a crowded beer tent that when they shout that other people can hear them. Maybe they were still emotional from a romantic comedy marathon or the reminiscing bringing back beautiful memories of checking the smell of pub toilet seats one line at a time gave them an air of loud confidence.
We collect our pints and make our way through the crowd. I hear multiple times “We shoulda stayed in Brentwood mate” as we walk our way through what could only be a hay fever epidemic or an imminent cocaine drought. Once we are outside we find a spot with our friends on the grass and take in the weather whilst the hustle and bustle of the beer festival builds the collective background ambient soundtrack. I spot faces I know and see friends from afar. All in all everything seems pleasant again.
And then the Mum’s car brigade turn up. A white Mercedes, a white BMW and a white convertible Audi. Rather than doing what everyone else had done and park in a side road or the village hall or by the cricket green where hardly any traffic passes by, they stop their convoy of Essexmobiles on the main road preventing traffic from gliding past. We are now stuck in the same boat as any household that wants to use their front garden but find out the hard way that their newly installed speed bumps stop kids from being run over at the cost of having to listen to every person slowed by them trying out all the lower gears of their cars in conjunction with the noise of their clutch biting high-end revving.
Thankfully our newly arrived unqualified sailors with all their gear utilised their Samaritan like skills and popped on some Ministry of Sound deep house for everyone outside to listen to covering up the excess traffic. Boy did they make sure we had a good time. With a pumping beat to sooth us, we were however left pondering just why they were here at a beer festival. They’ve just been to a Co-Operative to pick up Bulmers and bottles of Blossom Hill. We hear mention of the fact “It’s too busy here, we went to the shop instead”. It gives me an idea so I venture off with a pal to get some cigars.
Venturing back into the beer garden I bump into a guy I used to go to school with and drum up some conversation. My last memory of him at school was him reminding me that my friends had left to go to a different 6th form and that he was confident no one had time for me. He hasn’t changed and is one of those people who talk about themselves with their eyes closed; You’ve seen the South Park episode. I’m sure he doesn’t remember his comments those years ago and my curiosity gets the better of me.
I feel my own air of smugness once I start listening to his journey through life since. He knocked out the best man at a wedding once because he was his mate and it was banter. We laugh at the influx of the gear crew but I’m not sure it dawned on him that he too was standing there sockless whilst regurgitating Ricky Gervais one liners to stoke the conversation along. I wander off and leave him to his banter. He never did fully explain why he was wearing lipstick. I don’t think I would have cared either. The answer would probably be “banter mate, yeah” before a David Brent inspired dance occurs. Or something.
As I move on from ales to finding a potent Cherry flavoured beer/perry, more of my group of friends arrive and before we know it we are on a table in our own world. The bitterness feeling of contempt quickly fades and everything goes superbly. The sun begins to set and the temperature fades as does the numbers populating the beer garden. I still can’t work out why there were so many short shorts coupled with jumpers over the shoulder as an accessory. There are people shivering but refusing to wear the easily available jumpers tied around their necks like a toddler about to re-enact their own Superman movie.
Eventually the pub closed the outside beer tent early due to the village being covered in litter.
So how do we fix this? We don’t need to. This snippet from the Twitter raven from last year sums their ethos up pretty well:
It’s not down to us the punters but we either become part of the Hashtag BorgCollectiveShufflingWhilstSniffingParade or you can join me next year in trying to sell as many WeAreFestival tickets in the heart of Brentwood. With a quick use of a dry wipe marker and clipboard I’ve worked out that the sailing club can be busy taking their drugs in their natural environment. They brought with them all the elements of what they like; pop deep house music, white powders and bottles of Waitrose’s finest liquors.
Now if we can just show them that all their favourite things are in once place at a music festival that just so happens to be on whilst my favourite Beer Festival is unfolding then that solves two problems in one go and puts a smile on everyone’s face.