Great Escape #1 – splitter parade

There’s only one real reason for music industry schmooze-fests like this weekend’s Great Escape here in Brighton. Forget the breaking of new acts, the crazed networking, debauched suits, the famous American bands doing surprise afternoon shows on balconies, or the hopeless local bands playing to four people for no money to feel vaguely like they’re part of something…

Nope, it’s all about Splitter Van* Envy. We’ve got the whole range, right here, right now, parked everywhere around town. It’s like an eccentric car rally down here. From the most beat-up hand-customised transit to the pimped psychedelic graff paintjobbers to the most luxurious sparking clean dark blue Merc sprinter, you can measure a band’s status, career intention and punk-rock credentials purely by glancing at what they drove their gear down to Brighton in.

The very biggest Great Escape bands have showed up in coaches, sometimes towing their gear in a large wheeled cube behind them. But 90% of performers who aren’t at that level are pootling around in a splitter.

In the middle of all this, we decide to transport our gear to and from our G.E. gig at Arc in a taxi. When I say “we”, I mean me. Not my brightest hour. We stop at a ramp leading from the street to the seafront – the is apparently the nearest to the venue we can get because the gates to the seafront can’t be opened. So we unload all our gear onto the street and the cab drives off. Only then do we realise we’ve been dropped off by the wrong ramp and we’re almost half a mile from the venue. After ruling out any other options, we’re forced to wheel and carry all our shit in stages to the venue, along the front. Bastard bastard bastard.

Loading out the next day is almost as tough because it’s just me and Jen and I enthusiastically try to be the alpha-male by carrying the two heaviest items up the steps to street level in quick succession and nearly throw up.

* If you’re uninitiated and don’t know about splitter vans (you poor poor thing), the key thing is to look out for a big ‘white van’ style van, except it’s got an extra side window behind the normal front doors, often with tinted glass, which is evidence of a second bunch of seats, in front of a separated rear area for equipment, only accessable from the back (hence the name). Any situation that requires more-than-3-but-less-than-11 humans and a load of equipment will be best served by a splitter – a lot of Post Office and railway maintenance team vans are splitters. They are a core delineation of rock’n’roll and I LOVE THEM.

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