BITLive Brighton: A Best Weekend ever(tm) experience.

The most surreal thing about BITLive Brighton 2003 was that I hadn't originally planned on attending - luckily Chris Abbott used his special Jedi powers of persuasion and got me to show up. Looking back I have no idea how I could have fooled myself into not going, seeing as it turned out to be the best BITLive yet and a bloody good event by any standard.


Arrival, Day 1.

After one of the smoothest touchdowns I have ever experienced the plane taxied into the terminal - and I was back in the UK. As soon as I entered the arrivals area someone shouted Oi!. Turned out to be Makke (aka Marcus What's with the hair? Nilsson). Having met him in Copenhagen earlier this summer I wasn't fooled by the fact that he looks nowhere near his Remix64 avatar piccy in real life. I had already met Kenneth Slaygon Mutka and Peter Yodelking Sandén before and immediately recognized Pex Mahoney Tuffvesson from his avatar picture. A quick introduction later I had put faces to names for Melina, Caroline, and Carsten o2 Ohlsen. We headed out into the sunshine to wait for the bus. Outside the terminal Yodelking and Mahoney started practicing their breakdancing moves, based on a printout of the sprites from the game. Highly amusing.

That and a lot of chatting about this and that kept us going until the SID-bus arrived. Not much SID about it, though. Yodelking made up for this by playing various bits of the HVSC on his laptop, which made the trip round the M25 a lot more enjoyable (bring bigger speakers next time, Peter =)). Felt bloody surreal to be in the presence of Mahoney who was one of my main heroes back in the Amiga days. He just turned out to be a completely down to earth guy in real life - which is what is so nice about the people in the remix community. Everyone from the biggest legends to the newly joined believers are such nice folk. Although I have yet to meet all the players, so granted - there's still a slim chance that there's some pompous git or two hiding somewhere out there, but I'd have to see that before I believe it. =)

But I digress... back to the story - next stop Gatwick Airport to pick up a second batch of people before heading off to Brighton. At this point the discussion turned rather silly as every subject was turned into either beer? or beer-related issues (like Look! A pharmacy. Can we stop there to get aspirins to cure potential headaches caused by ... beer?)

Arriving in Brighton we unloaded the bus and agreed to meet up at Slaygons hotel after everyone had found their accommodations and checked in. I was sharing a room with o2 and Marcel Donne, but Marcel wouldn't arrive until later, so o2 and I made our way, map in hand, to Russel Guest House. At his point I realized that I had left my jacket on the bus - d'oh! (luckily I didn't have anything in the pockets). Good thing the weather turned out very nice indeed. Of course I had left my sunglasses at home on purpose. Sod's Law, innit?

After checking in, o2 and I made our way to the waterfront where we met up with the gang - who hadn't bothered to wait for us before grabbing their first beer. Can't blame them - I probably wouldn't have waited either. =)

Another pleasant surprise was that Lala had made the trip across the Atlantic to be there. Another person that hadn't planned on attending. Maybe the Abbottian Jedi Powers had stretched all over the globe? At any rate he was there, and it was great seeing him again.

After the guys finishing their drinks it was on to grab some food before the rehearsal at 6 PM. Everyone wanted to grab some Chinese cuisine, but seeing as I'm allergic to sesame (which the Chinese seem to add to just about all their dishes) I opted out and only had a beer (Mmmm... Beer!). Slaygon was in the mood for some manly food as well, so we left the others and headed off to find nourishment. The hunt led to the discovery of a Mexican restaurant that would become our regular hangout. The fact that we spent a lot of the time chatting up the lovely waitress (hi Roxana) didn't make things worse. =)

After a quick chili and a beer Yodelking and the others showed up and we headed out to find the rehearsal studio. Lala had a map, so he was quickly nominated team navigator. At least until we realized that the map only covered the downtown area. Good thing I had loaded a Brighton map on my Palm m515 - unfortunately a couple of the minor streets weren't on it, so we had to backtrack a bit before arriving at Sunscream Studios, only 20 minutes late. Somewhere along the way we passed both a Triad sign and even a Fairlight one - hilarious. Lala made sure it was captured on film. At the studio Stuck in D'80s were still busy setting up their gear, but Mark Madfiddler Knight took a few seconds to come over and greet me. So much for getting a haircut and trimming my beard to be incognito.

Boz, Kenz and the usual gang were there as well. The rehearsal was nothing short of amazing, and got everyone really excited about the following day. As the band members were meeting face to face for the first time the lucky rehearsal audience witnessed the birth of the 9th Wonder of the World. Great set, and a powerful omen of things to come. Somewhere along the line Mark Hennesy-Barret, Larsec, Neil Carr, Dan Gilgrass, and Infamous showed up. Great to finally meet Larsec who I have been yakking to about everything imaginable the past year or so. Top bloke who proved to be just as pleasant in real life as he is online. The rehearsal room was hot enough to boil a monkeys bum, so maximum points to Mark for handing me a cold Stella when I needed it the most. What a guy! =)

During a break in the rehearsals I got to say hi to my Guinness-buddy Marcel Donne and the rest of the band and talk briefly to Chris. Everyone was in a great mood and looking forward to the following day. Also got to bug Mark for having completely forgotten to mail me the Wizball VCD after BITLive London 2002. He promised me a DVD version instead (you reading this, Mark? =)) Makke and I also got to witness one of the most repulsive sights known to man - the Dominos Hanky Panky Pie. Some sort of desert that Chris was happily munching. It might have tasted like pumpkin pie, but it looked like mashed sewer rat.

After rehearsals it was off to The Prodigal for the official unofficial BITLive Drinkie Session(tm). While most of the lads grabbed taxis, Slaygon, Andreas Wahlstrom and I thought a bit of fresh air would do us good, so we walked back to the waterfront - which of course was way easier than finding the studio in the first place. Great atmos and lots of friendly people all around. One of the high-points being Fred Gray coming over to say hi and ask if I wanted a beer (Fred came over from Liverpool while I was visiting Warren Pilkington in Manchester back in August and a great evening was had by all.)
Also met James Burrows and GraveyardJohn of GameBase64 fame, Ziphoid/Razor1911, Tony Clarke - an Aussie madman that had made the trip all the way from down under, and a lot of other nice people. When the pub closed at 11 PM (bah!) we located Boz and friends outside a nearby chippies.

At this point I was slightly drizzled and buried my face in the chips Boz was holding. Mmmm, salty. Boz looked at the remaining fries, let out a hearty laugh and asked Can I have my fork back, please?. No wonder I had trouble chewing some of the stuff. =)

At some stage Boz headed off to his hotel as the bar there didn't close until 1 AM. Makke and I chatted a bit to various people before deciding that now would be a good time to join Boz for another brewski. Kenz, Natalie and Mez were also there so we yakked about this and that over a couple of pints. At one point some total stranger came over and smalltalked. We told him that we were in town for the BITLive event at the Brighton Centre, and he was fascinated that people were still into retro-computing. Felt good to be spreading the gospel to the uninitiated - he even showed up for the exhibition the next day, but sadly couldn't attend the concert.

Came back to Russel Guest House at 2 AM and fell asleep immediately. Woke up at one point during the night and discovered that I had managed to tuck myself in under the thin top sheet only. Bloody Britons - not only do they drive on the wrong side of the road, they also need to set up beds differently from the rest of us - no wonder I was freezing my butt off. Also, it didn't improve things that the Jarre twins (Marcel & o2) had left a window open. A quick conversion later my bed was up to continental standards. Tucked myself in and slept like a baby until...

Breakfast, day 2.

Marcel, o2 and I headed downstairs where we were greeted by a very tired Chris Abbott. Apparently he had been up until very late making sure some late arrivals got settled at their hotels. That's dedication for you. Everyone ordered a fully cooked breakfast and coffee. For a continental European whose idea of a breakfast is a bowl of Special K with skimmed milk, a fully cooked breakfast is somewhat of an adventure. Marcel (who is used to being whisked around the world on business trips) ensured us that This stuff might not be healthy, but it keeps you going at least until 4-5 PM. Must admit that fried sausages, eggs, bacon, tomatoes and mushrooms did just what the doctor ordered in terms of regaining lost constitution (although the mushrooms disagreed with me - more on this later).

Marcel, o2 and I went for a walk before heading over to the Brighton Centre to see what was happening there. Imagine our surprise when we turned around a corner and spotted a massive line of people waiting in front of it. On closer inspection we were calmed down by the fact that everyone queueing were middle-aged people wanting to buy tickets for Madame Butterfly. We spotted someone looking like Boz walking towards the back of the building, so we tailed him. Sure enough, it was the Bozzer himself. My ticket got lost in the mail, but as Marcel had a crew ticket as well as a Performer/Artiste one I got his spare, rather than spending any of Chris' valuable time getting a replacement.

Said hi to various people, and helped set up the exhibition room for a few hours, including fitting square pegs into round holes for the screens. At one point people started pouring in. I walked around and looked at the various things before ending up in front at the remix workshop where I said hi to Octave Sounds. At one point someone said Go on Jeff, play something and the guy started doing Monty On The Run. This attracted quite a bit of attention from the visitors and Octave seemed to be enjoying himself.

Around this time I had to go and sit down for a bit as I felt like fainting, probably due to dehydration. So a bunch of us (Larsec, Makke, Slaygon, Dan, Glyn, Neil and Infamous) headed out to find a pub - wound up at a nice australasian place called the Walkabout (how come all aussie pubs have to be named either The Walkabout or The Billabong?) to fuel up the beer-reserves. We conquered a bunch of comfy chairs and chatted about remixes, cultural differences, life, the universe, and everything. Around this time I made one of the stupidest decisions of my life, being daft (ie drunk) enough to try some of Makkes snus (in his defence it was purely my own idea). The nicotine kick had me breaking into a cold sweat, as well as disagreeing severely with the half-digested mushrooms in my stomach, causing me to hand them over to the nearest toilet. As I had been kinda knackered all day I got Makke to take me back to the hotel where I slept for a few hours - which set everything straight. Huzzah!

Back to the Waterhole, where everyone was happy to see me up and about again, judging by the roar that rose from the lounge as I entered - yah! Spotted the guy that we had picked up in Gatwick sitting next to Dan Gilgrass so I said Hi, who are you?. Turned out to be long-time regular poster and happy-hardcore enthusiast Max Levin. Nice to finally put a face to the guy that has changed his avatar picture more than anyone on the boards. In hindsight the Thunderdome shirt he was wearing at Gatwick was a dead giveaway, but since I was dead tired at that time I never gave it second thought. Sorry Max.

The others had already eaten so Slaygon and I made our way the Cactus restaurant for some more chili.
On the way there we ran into James, John and their girlfriends. Spotting someone he knew James immediately unloaded a copy of the GameBase64 cds to each of us. After we moved on Slaygon commented that I have just been given a set of CDRs by a total stranger I met in the street. That doesn't happen every day. Unfortunately Roxana wasn't working the restaurant that evening, but since that just meant we got to chat to Isabel (another gorgeous latino) we didn't complain too much. Arf! Arf! =) On the way back to the venue we were approached by a girl handing out flyers for some club event - told her that BITLive was the place to be that evening and that she should be telling that to people instead.

Arrived at the Brighton Centre at around half past seven. Spotted the gang from the Waterhole at one of the front-row tables and pulled over a few chairs.

Time for the real fun to begin.

First up was Stuck in D'80s, who rocked even more than at the rehearsal. As Ben Daglish put it after the first track - That was .... well, I don't really need to tell you - because you know all the bloody notes!
A couple of tracks into their set there was an involuntary intermission as the recording gear broke down. The good thing about this was that to make up for the breakdown (and make sure there was more material for the upcoming DVD) the audience were treated to a second rendition of Paperboy at the end of the set. The Dead Guys version of this particular tune has always been one of my personal favorites for its downbeat and trippy feel - but alas, no more. Stuck In D'80s delivered by far the best version yet, climaxing when Madfiddler jumped off stage and jigged around the dancefloor while continuing to let rip on the violin. He even wound up flat on his back, still playing, which naturally sent the crowd mad with delight. Top job, Mark. Everyone in the band was really getting into the performance, even Marcel Donne who had never performed to a crowd before. I spoke to Reyn Ouwehand afterwards and asked him if they had done any more practising since the rehearsal. No. But once the lights turn on and you get on the stage in front of a crowd you automatically play better.

Somebody give these people a recording deal, post-haste!

Next up: Rob Hubbard Unplugged. Whoa! Let's back up a bit - Rob .... Hubbard. Live. In concert. After seeing Rob being surrounded by fans at BITLive Birmingham you would think he had been scared off events like this for life. But no. And thank god for that. Rob played a mix of obscure stuff and well-known tunes. Much to the dismay of a few members of the audience who moaned about him not playing what the people wanted to hear. Rob was very much the man in form and promptly replied It's my gig, and I'll play what I want - which got him a huge round of applause from the rest of us. His set was very much jazz influenced (even when he winged Fur Elise), and hearing the tunes played in this style was highly refreshing. The four opening notes were all it took for the audience to recognize the Sanxion loader tune, which got a very emotional treatment by Rob. Top stuff!

And speaking of Sanxion, during one of the intermissions between the various gigs a guy called Jason from Electronic Arts came on stage and asked Rob Hubbard to join him before he set out to tell the tale of how he as a new employee at EA had been given the task of cleaning out someones closet. Not an unusual task for someone low on the corporate ladder, but the treasure he found in the closet more than made up for it. An award from the now-defunct Computer & Video Games magazine for Best Video Game Music 1987: Sanxion, Rob Hubbard.

Jason had kept it for ages (.... without ever considering auctioning it off on eBay) and wanted to present it to Rob as a Lifetime Achievement Award. A truly emotional moment for everyone in the room and the crowd got up and gave Rob the biggest ovation of the evening.

Next up, veteran rockers Press Play on Tape, sporting Kraftwerk stylee red shirts and black ties. This was the third time I've witnessed one of their performances and it's nice to see how they have improved as musicians as well as how their stage show has developed. Jesper was missing in action due to his wife being scheduled to give birth during the weekend. Don't you just hate it when people decide to let real life take precedence? =) The band had brought a replacement guitarist along, who did a great job - although he stayed a bit in the background. A great addition to the PPOT setlist was Wizball and a live version of the Comic Bakery Gameboyband tune.

Time for the last act of the evening, the C64 Allstars to take to the stage. By no means a set of newcomers, the band consists of Ben Daglish, Rob Hubbard, Mark Knight, and Press Play On Tape. Great set, if somewhat on the short side.

After the gigs I spent the time chatting to various people, including a very drunk Markus Schneider, AoD and Tron from Subversive Elements, and a lot of others I unfortunately forgot the names of since. After the breakdance competition someone came over and asked if he could buy me a beer? As my mother never warned me about taking presents from strangers I replied Sure thing!. Turned out to be long time RKO veteran Rauli. Embarrassingly enough I managed to ask him whether he was the one who did the Oldskool (Wax to binary) mix (turned out that in my half-drunken stupor I had mixed him up with Rayza). Rauli, of course, being the man behind the most excellent Paradroid (001 goes Mmmmmm) mix. Downed our brews at a leisurely pace and chatted about this and that in a mixture of Danish, Swedish and English (probably on account of Rauli being from Skåne, where people talk propper Swedish, as opposed to the Stockholm dialect. =))

When it was time to leave I managed to grab copies of Project Galway, Sidologie and Crystal Dreamscapes before heading to the chippies for a bit of food. Nothing beats junkfood for preventing hangovers the day after. Met Larsec, Neil, Glyn, Dan and Markus Schneider there as they seemed to have gotten the same idea. Ate our food as we agreed that this clearly had to be the best BITLive yet. Handshakes and hugs (oo-er) were exchanged as we parted ways.

Breakfast, day 3

Another fully cooked breakfast with Chris, o2 and Marcel. This time I was clever enough to skip the fried mushrooms. Volker Dr. Future Buckow and Gerardo Lula showed up at the guest house for the 8:30 Abbottian MiniBus(tm) to Stansted Airport. My job on this ride was to ride shotgun and keep Chris awake, so we had a chance to catch up.

In conclusion: A grand weekend out. Kudos to Chris, Skitz, Boz, Kenz, Not Frank - Pete Abbott and everyone else involved.

Only regrets about the weekend was being unable locate any Orange Tango (my favorite drug whenever I'm in the UK) and not getting to talk to Ben Daglish about Loscoe State Opera - the most excellent band that he's in (check out their freebie mp3s at www.loscoestateopera.com.)


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