The Alternative Hero - By Tim Thornton

To Chris Bateson and John Kelley

a cognizant original v5 release october 07 2010

I am Zeitgeist Man

or so the papers said,

you might as well enjoy me now,

in six months I’ll be dead.

Thieving Magpies, “Zeitgeist Man”

SUGGESTED LISTENING: Dodgy, Homegrown (A&M, 1995)

Thieving Magpies

are finished

You know how it is sometimes.

You’re at a festival. You’ve been drinking all day, the only thing you’ve had to eat is one of those foul hog-roast sandwiches while watching the Longpigs, maybe a bit to smoke back at the campsite, a couple of tequila shots while waiting for your friends to put their trousers on; the evening draws in, you zip up your tent and set off to catch a few bits and pieces before the headliner.

Grab another drink. Perhaps nail that little half-pill you’ve been saving. See a few minutes of Mansun on the Loaded stage.

Then it all goes a bit peculiar.

First, you’ve completely lost all the others. You dimly recall one of them saying they were going to watch Gene, but you’ve no memory of which stage they were playing on. You try to cast your mind back—were you with anyone else when you saw that mad dude with the body makeup?—but your brain’s not working very efficiently Oh well, bugger it. You don’t need them anyway. Plus, you’re bound to bump into them by the pizza bus before the Magpies. Hang on, no—this isn’t Reading, this is Aylesbury. No pizza bus. Never mind. You can meet them where the pizza bus would be, if this was Reading. Genius. They’ll probably be thinking the same thing. Who’s on before the Magpies? You consult the dog-eared running order you pinched off that geezer behind the sound desk. Boo Radleys. Fair enough. Time to get something to eat.

Oh, and another drink.

Go on. Get yourself another drink, Clive. You clearly need it.

You try to walk over to the food stalls, but they don’t seem to be where they were this afternoon. The main stage appears to have moved as well, but on reflection it must have been a different beer tent that you started out from. You pause to swig from your cup and get your bearings, but it’s bloody difficult when the place is littered with people, slouching around in various states of fuckedness, trying to start those poisonous fires made from beer cups, newspaper and the free Aylesbury ’95 souvenir poster that came with Melody Maker. It’s rapidly darkening and grim-smelling smoke keeps getting up your nose and in your eyes, but you stagger on, accidentally kicking some bloke who’s passed out next to one of the speaker stacks. At last you spot a tempura stand. Not quite what you had in mind, but it’ll do. Four pounds for tempura and noodles. Hunger. Yes. You dizzily instruct the woman to spoon on lashings of sweet and sour sauce, stop off for another drink, then settle down just in time to see the Boos crunching their way through “Find the Answer Within.”

A brief moment of contentment and serenity.

Which abruptly finishes when you drop most of your tempura on the grass. Bollocks. At least it wasn’t your drink. You pick some of it up. A few clumps of grass have stuck to the sweet and sour sauce, but fuck it, it’s all vegetable. Shove it in with some noodles and you’d never know the difference. You scoff the lot while Sice sings his little heart out, wash it all down with some more of whatever that is in your beer cup, and then … feels like time for a little rest. Get some energy up before the mighty Magpies. The glorious, world-beating Thieving Magpies, back to inject some quality and integrity into what’s swiftly becoming an alarmingly overrated pop landscape. You lie back and settle yourself on the cool ground, the lawn threadbare from constant tramping over the last forty-eight hours. It’s funny to look up and see a worm’s-eye view of the festival: the darkening sky, festivallers walking past, hooded tops, strange hats, brainless conversations. And yes, what an amazing selection of sounds. It’s only now you’re lying down you can really take it in. The Boos pounding away in the foreground, of course, but there’s assorted chatter and laughter, various stereo systems booming out from tents and stalls—and if you really concentrate you can actually make out the noises of the band on the Loaded stage. Hmm … sounds rocky … voice isn’t up to much … that good bit when the band stops and he sings the verse