‘Problem?’ asked the Hungarian promoter. I’d rolled in to Hegyalja Festival in Tokaj – near the Ukrainian border – and things looked iffy. A hundred yards away lay the stage, but, coo, what a hundred yards. Muddy? There could have been a tour bus from last year buried in that bog.
‘Well, as a vague sort of rule,’ I replied equably, ‘I try to stay on roads wherever possible.’ The promoter rested his bottom lip on his forefinger, every nerve strained. Money rode on surmounting this trifle. Big money. No truck on the stage equals no equipment equals no Slayer show. The latter is where our Hungarian chum takes the heat.
‘We have Manitou forklifts to pull you across,’ he suggested, exhibiting an agitation. Things needed to start moving fairly swiftly now; the morning was almost over. I’d also noticed that the lunch gong ought to be sounded shortly but I daresay our priorities differed at this juncture. ‘Not a chance,’ I answered as gently as possible. ‘The truck rides low and would certainly be damaged.’
The bottom was rapidly dropping out of his day at this point, I felt. The sun, quite literally, had gone behind the clouds. And the poor fellow had that self-reproachful air of being extremely remiss, a little like inviting a busload of pals round for a barbecue in an isolated field and forgetting to order any charcoal. Surely it’s a reasonably simple concept to put down some trackway if expecting a 45ft trailer?
Old Time Rock and Roll
Well, take those records off the shelf, Baby – it’s time to rock and roll. Or whatever it was Bob Seger sang. One minute I’m a hapless toy of fate, drawing the short stick; the next, I’m in the chips, plates of goulash coming thick and fast. With the help of the bus drivers, I’d spotted another route. Hooray! Grass admittedly, but it looked doable.
Bollocks. Thirty seconds later, I was stuck. Still, as Winston Churchill said, ‘success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.’ Towing irons were taken out of lockers; forklifts were started; kettles were boiled. The stage grew ever nearer. But what about getting out again?
‘We’ll build you a road by tonight,’ he said with conviction. Needless to say, much like my hopes, it turned out to be built of sand. And not only did the sand run out mid-quagmire, but when have you ever seen articulated trucks driving on beaches? Can you see why I’m not a huge fan of festivals now?..