Down the Rabbit Hole

The queues for the showers were too long, so we took long luxurious baths in the lake, floating like rare white starfish. When you climb out you feel a warmth like your soul itself is ablaze. Or maybe that was the rum we’d put in the coffee. 

There’s yoga on when we get to the festival ground. The grass is the best it’s going to get, the dust not yet caking everything. By the water we conjure up magic little stories about the monster that lives in the lake. There’s a traffic light and a crossing in the middle of a field, and people queue up to cross the road when the light goes green. 

It’s cooking temperature in the tent before the music even starts. “Are you ready to make some noise, Down the Rabbit Hole?” Frank Carter’s voice drills over roaring guitars. By the middle of their first song, he’s at the heart of a circle pit, two metres from where I’ve been shoved to. By the middle of their second, he’s raised on the hands of the crowd, silhouetted against red light. “Can we all get a circle pit going all the way out the tent on that side and back in on the other? C’mon, if we can do it at Roskilde, we can do it here.” Cue stampede. Afterwards, we sit in the sun watching someone hand out fines for jaywalking on the crossing while our t-shirts dry out and our ears ring. 

We lay in the grass until a Scotsman woke us up, noisily, from the main stage. “My name’s fucking Lewis Capaldi,” he said to the crowd. “If you like rock and roll, you’re at the wrong gig, mate.” He sounds exactly like he does on his album, and the crowd wait around for Someone You Loved. We don’t. It’s off to watch Kamasi Washington and his squad on stage, each and every one of them a top-notch musician. The only thing better than one drummer is two drummers, bashing their kits into rhythms you feel in your heart, raising the levels of ecstasy, again and again, and when you think there’s no more climax room left, they raise it even further. 

Same tent a bit later on: it’s Thom Yorke, the man-machine. Released from Radiohead expectations, he’s a DJ, composer, pianist, singer, conductor and entertainer in one. I catch my breath when he takes to the piano for Dawn Chorus, his band off-stage, then it’s back to pounding drum machines and enormous mesmerising visuals.  

Sunday starts slowly, with a swim and rum-coffee. Beside the main stage, a couple lie in a hammock. I don’t blame them: Khruangbin is the perfect music for lying down. Their funk carries you along like on hands above a crowd, wavy and never still. 

Later on, Aurora burned herself up on stage, an enormous firework that rivalled Thom Yorke for creativity and sheer subwoofer power. Sunday night was lying-in-a-net night, high up above the heads of the crowd, where the world couldn’t get us and make us come down and have to start packing the tent up. We walk until we can’t walk any more, and then we lie down. Now, only the trip back to reality stands between me and real life. And when I go to sleep tonight it’s goodbye to all this, and it’ll be like a dream I’ve woken up from, half-remembered through sleepy eyes behind a desk. 

“How was it?” they’ll ask, and you’ll answer something like: “Oh man, it was sooo good,” but they’ll never know. They can’t know: they weren’t there. They didn’t join you on your trip Down the Rabbit Hole. And they won’t join you next year when you do it all again.