It’s Monday afternoon, 6pm on the 25th September. A whole 5 days since VB2017 ended and more than a week since the madness of the ‘main weekend’.
Michelle is away on business. I’m sat at home alone and, for the first time, am taking the opportunity to reflect on what the fuck has just happened in the last 10 days. This is for my own memory banks more than anything but maybe you’d like a little look “behind the scenes”?
None of it is meant to be a sob story and none of it is looking for a pat on the back… if you know me and my blogs, you know that already. Many of you are reading things you’ve read again and again for 8 years. For others, it’s your first time.
First things first
What an event!
So many people are saying it was their best one yet. Nine events in, how is this even possible? It’s a testament to the beautiful souls that attend VB that we can all continue to find improvements in what we all, most of us, already saw as perfection. I’d have to agree. It was phenomenal although it wasn’t the most enjoyable for me for a variety of reasons.
Over the years I’ve come to realise that my energy levels are pretty much always the same depending on what stage of the year I am at with preparation.
As we get closer and closer to the event I am literally running on empty, as it kicks off I get a sudden spike from all the positivity of meeting friends, old and new but then, by Sunday, the tank is totally depleted and I’m running on fumes mainly until after the event is over.
The INCREDIBLE feedback as we take over Facebook and listening back to all the podcasts as I prepare them saves the day as the positivity tanks get filled and I am able to continue back through the whole process again for the next 12 months.
The biggest week of our year
Obviously, putting the whole thing together takes a lot of planning throughout the year. I do this single-handedly. It’s the only way I can operate and tbh I really quite enjoy it. There were times this year when I wondered how many more VBs I had in me but now, again, I couldn’t imagine life without them.
I’m very proud of the line ups and the set programming. They are the only things I don’t mind taking full credit for (alongside the artworks) although the quality of the DJs does make it pretty easy. That said, the timetable gets changed at least 10 times a week in the early stages and this year again a few last-minute hiccups meant I was changing right up to the wire with print deadlines.
Once the set times are finalised, the sound system prep and delivery is all down to the wonderful Phil Gill aka Gillman Audio. We’ve come a long way together since the first collaboration and 60% of the stress of the event is lifted from my shoulders once the first tune is played, thanks to Phil and Ricardo and anyone they have helping them. I categorically couldn’t do it without them now, nor would I want to.
Another key factor every year is the wonderful work WOW Deco put in. Those guys work tirelessly setting the whole thing up for days, after a crazy busy summer of non-stop festivals and amidst even more crazy travel plans. Chris, the boss, had to fly off for Peru on the night before VB began after spending two days mounting the poolside decorations, then had to fly back to take it all down. Alongside Donna, Ko and Bonnie they are all true soldiers indeed.
Then we have the ‘guys on the ground’. Howells Transport give safe carriage to the sound system all the way from the UK. My mate Tony Poole always sorts out the electrical hook up and the staff at the Monte do their bit in lumping tables and stages around. Invaluable assistance and brains come from the man like Dave Tait who is in charge of checking everyone in and my daughter Drew assists with the passes, wristbands and free gifts. It all runs smoothly, for the most part. Having Dave on hand is one less thing to worry about and he is a master at what he does, in controlling the people with their checking in and on the door of the club.
Spanner in the works
What never ceases to amaze me are the lazy bastards that knowingly turn up with NO sign of a ticket on them and then proceed to stand holding the queue up for 10 mins whilst they swear blind they never received one and swipe through their phones like it’s about to miraculously appear. Then they tell us that the system doesn’t work. Well… if the system didn’t work, how did you buy the ticket in the first place and how come we have got a pass with your name on ? I’ll be the first to accept that sometimes emails don’t get sent for whatever stupid internet reason but maybe I’m thinking too much in that people would enquire as to where their ticket was BEFORE coming ?
Out of 550 or so people, I’d hazard a guess that this accounts for 10% of the people, so it could be a lot worse. If you are one of these people, then I mean to offend you no more than you mean to offend me by making life so difficult. Next time, have your ticket ready BEFORE you arrive. 500 other people manage to do it. The most annoying thing is that it’s usually people I know really well making life difficult, which is why I’m being somewhat ruthless here… newcomers I’d understand, but veterans ? Fix up!
People just take the piss, whether willingly or not, and I’m afraid to say I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it and I’m not the kind of person to take kindly to it. But we smile and carry on…
Once the beat drops
I woke up on Thursday 14th September after having about 4 hours sleep. It’s like a scene from Goodfellas. I have to do one run to the Montepiedra with the new Sound System ready for the terrace and the unofficial warm up party. Then I have to get to the airport to collect DJs. Back home to collect more kit then back to the hotel with more stuff ready for the broadcast on the night. About 3 different things go wrong and I have a couple of other major incidents to deal with in the midst of all of this. Until you have to work with the Spanish then you really just can’t believe some of their ways.
Finally, at 19:00 hours, we go live on Pressure Radio and all seems to be OK. For now.
Anyone that remembers that last time Timmy Vegas and I did a Thursday night session before VB will know how messy it got. I think a few people were expecting more of the same although I always knew it would be nothing of the sort. I’m sure it was a bit of a disappointment for some already present but the vibe was lovely and I managed to get away, unscathed, just before midnight. Massive respect to Julie Prince for her lovely sounds as well as the assistance of DJP and Sean Quinn throughout the whole of the event in the Pressure Cooker, and anyone else helping them. I did start to write a lengthy piece on Timmy Vegas, chuckled and deleted it all.
I woke up Friday 15th after a relatively healthy 5 and a half hours’ sleep. I felt ready. I was ready.
I was back at The Monte at 6.45am and the first one around (as usual), setting up the Pressure Cooker and a few other bits. Then back to the airport for more collections before finally heading home to sit in the bath, shave my head and make myself irresistibly sexy. I was rushing, obviously.
The most stressful part of the whole thing for me is making sure the DJs arrive on time and are happy. With more DJs arriving at varying times across the whole weekend this year, it totally overshadowed my fun. Even though I had the super-efficient help of Suella, her son, Jamie, and DJ Adz on hand, it still is always in the back of my mind that everyone needs looking after. It’s a necessary evil and I’m already making plans to make it ‘easier’ next year.
I mustn’t forget the wonderful Ann aka Sahara247 who helped me no end this year, handing out the pre-paid Tee shirts and selling all the VB merchandise as well as trying to police the DJ booth in Club Xairo of a night time. Which reminds me…
What the fuck is it with people who aren’t even DJs that need to be behind a DJ Booth ? Piss Off out the way! Then when I tell them to leave they look at me like I’m joking. Boy… don’t start me off.
It was actually quite funny how many people told me how “relaxed” I looked this year. That pleased me. I was far from relaxed, I’ve just learnt that people don’t need to see me stressing or pacing about the pool like a sergeant major. I’ve lost count of how many times I have to go from reception to my hotel room and back again. Arse of a journey that is.
Anyway… the first tune poolside kicked off at 13:00 Friday 15th alongside the Pressure Cooker and VB2017 was officially LIVE. Result.
The event itself
What happened next is probably the fastest 6 days in the history of man. One minute I was stood admiring the DJ booth decor from the front whilst the CDJs were being connected, the next I was having a slow dance in the same spot to “Ain’t Nobody” as the last tune played for the closing party. WTF?
I won’t do a review of VB2017. There are more than enough of those online. I can’t even keep up with the photos, videos and tags and I doubt I will be able to for the coming week. It was just fucking amazing and worth every bit of stress and exhaustion… and boy, was there exhaustion!
I like to take pride in being ‘on the ball’. Alcohol has been my only drug for more than 20 years now and when dealing with people I like to come across as professional as possible (yes, I can hear many of my friends laughing at this). It’s amazing what tiredness does to me at VB. My brain literally starts to shut down by the Monday, whether I’ve had any big nights or not.
I didn’t touch a drop of alcohol at all this year until my ‘official’ welcoming speech in the club at 00:30 on Friday night. I lasted in Xairo until 5am ‘ish and only had 3 beers that night. Saturday I was up bright and early again and never drank until the night when, again, I only had 3 or 4 beers. This is pretty impressive if you consider Mikey was doing the closing set poolside and I was sat with Benji Candelario most of the day. That night in the club was HEAVY and I was one of the last in there until 5.30am, when the lights came on. “I’ve been annoyingly sensible this year.” I thought. “Tomorrow I think I’ll let my hair down”.
Funny story. I’m sat behind the DJ Booth with Andre Lodemann on Saturday night/Sunday morning. Tommy Bones was playing a typical NYC house set at the time.
Lodemann says to me, in a very sheepish voice
“Do you know the music I play? I don’t think it will work. It is almost electronic in comparison to this”.
“Yeah, I know” I said. “Just do what you do, don’t try to fit in. I booked you for you.” I think that put him at ease. He then gave a masterclass on why he’s one of the best in the game and, despite the club emptying out somewhat (as I totally knew it would), he made all those still in there until the end very very happy and I am sure he even cracked a smile at one point. That was a highlight for me.
The wheels fell off
Sunday is one long fucking blur. Remember, by this point I’m running on roughly 14 hours sleep in 3 days (actually that’s not too bad is it, I love to be the martyr) and still dealing with DJs coming and going as well as one of the biggest singers in the scene arriving at any moment to sound check. No Pressure. Having a ‘crack team’ around me does mean the world when it’s time to let ‘Wardy’ loose… and he came out, guns blazing.
An amazing Clash of the Titans tipped me over the edge and I started drinking, early. I was half-pissed by the time Monique showed up around 3.30pm. A lengthy sound check out of the way in Xairo, I got pulled back to the pool because I’d forgotten all about the balloon release. Whoops.
I really can’t piece together the last 5 hours of Sunday afternoon poolside or any of the night. I do know I wasn’t really THAT drunk until after I announced Monique on the stage and had also made a couple of short speeches poolside throughout the day.
Apparently I played some music at 2.30am!? I went in hard Sunday and I paid the price for the rest of the week. The two days I usually spend chatting shit and relaxing was spent away from everyone.
Monday was spent pretty much struggling to get out of bed all day whilst listening to the DJs, then deciding it was too much like hard work. I lay there trying to remember anything of the night before and most of the whole weekend seemed to have been erased from my memory. I was really, genuinely upset. By this stage, my brain power was already running low and Sunday’s blowout hadn’t helped at all.
I missed the whole of Monday’s poolside fun. I only forced myself to get dressed and go to Farandula to be polite for Spen. I’m glad I did, it was a great vibe down there and I skulked away around 3.30am whilst everyone was having the time of their lives. Tuesday was pretty much a carbon copy of Monday although I had always intended to bring myself home to escape everything. Michelle and I drifted in and out of a coma all day in bed, living on Burger King and Curries fetched by the kids. We thought about going out for dinner with everyone on the night but when Michelle saw the tears in my eyes she said she didn’t fancy it. That’s my girl.
Wednesday morning I woke up to an inbox full of angry mails from website clients (that’s what I do when I’m not being a moany promoter) who couldn’t access their sites or emails. Cut a long story short, my old hosting company are pricks and it caused me 48 hours of stress I didn’t need at what was meant to be the culmination of one of the best weeks of my year. Anyway… I took care of the most urgent cases and headed back to The Monte.
The Closing Day Session was as lovely as expected and I enjoyed playing music (and remembering it this time) to an adoring crowd. VB2017 was over… almost.
Thursday morning… time to chill, right ? WRONG. Some idiot (me) decided it would be fun to take a bus load of people on a tour of the Liquor 43 factory and then to the mud baths nearby. As it happened, it turned out to be a lovely day with 14 of us experiencing a little culture and more booze. Winner.
Friday morning… time to chill, right ? WRONG. I’m sat putting right more of my website clients’ issues when Michelle says “When are you going to get all your kit from the hotel”. I had totally forgot to empty my hotel room AND strip down all the speakers from The Pressure Cooker. Bastard.
Needless to say, I finally put the last piece of equipment in my garage some time Friday afternoon and for me, VB2017 WAS finally over.
I’ve still got to have a debrief with the Monte and Club, to find out why (amongst many other things you’d never believe) at 00:30 on Saturday night, Farandula insisted I’d asked them to shut the club whilst it was in full swing. I’ve also got to explain why the police were there at 00:03 on Wednesday demanding the music went off after we’d promised them no more music after midnight. Oh the fun ! I’ll try to get to the bottom of that god awful smell in Xairo that happened for the 2nd year in a row but I don’t hold out much hope of finding any answers.
We dodged a major bullet this year with the local authorities and the poolside sound system. Obviously I only shared this info with one or two trusted people during the event but it’s another of the grey clouds that hung over me every day. So, the next time you want to complain that the music isn’t loud enough for you, move close to the speakers, because we’re lucky there was any music at all! Oh, and we have to go through it all again next year. Deep Joy.
To redress the balance… Whilst I’ve obviously had a little whinge here, I need to state again how absolutely incredible the whole thing was and I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. We all learn year on year and it’s the little tweaks that make it what it is.
I’d had a few sideways looks from people when I’d told them their favourite DJs were playing in the Pressure Cooker but it worked, exactly like I knew it would. The early close of Xairo all weekend. The Friday and Saturday Soul Sessions in a separate venue, well they speak for themselves. As does the coach service between hotels and the late night curry action. Resounding successes.
I don’t need my ego stroking but if I did, then the outpouring of love from the regulars every year does just that. This year in particular a lot of people I’ve known for a long time finally attended and ‘got it’, that for me is priceless. Newcomers have a way of expressing their gratitude a lot more openly than those that have been coming for years and I do find myself spending more time welcoming them than the ‘veterans’ but I know that ‘they’ know, without the regular Family, VB doesn’t exist and those moments we get to share here and there mean more to me than someone blowing smoke up my arse. Although I do like how that tickles.
I’ve spent way too long writing this, it’s gone dark outside and I think I might just be eating my 10th frozen pizza in as many days for tea.
Thanks for reading.
I’ll be back on the radio Sunday and all the podcasts will be flowing by the same time.