This blog post wasn’t supposed to be like this. I had worked it out in my head completely different, in my head there was a happy ending. But things haven’t gone to plan, so, instead of Is This Thing on? Blogs 100th post being one of celebration, it is now one of utter disappointment and frustration.
Today, (16/08/2014), was supposed to be spent at the Excel centre in London at All Tomorrow’s Parties Jabberwocky festival, you may have seen (not that you could really miss) the fact that the festival was cancelled just 3 days before it was due to take place. I had bought my ticket earlier this year in March, primarily because of one band, The Van Pelt.
I couldn’t quite believe the poster for the event when I first saw it. It was a great line up with plenty of other bands that I would be really excited to see play live (Cloud Nothings, Metz, Pissed Jeans etc..), but the fact that the Van Pelt were named on there too made my jaw hit the ground. In fact, I was so surprised to see their name on the bill that I had to google them to make sure it was really THE Van Pelt playing and not some indie upstarts who had stolen their band name. As soon as I had confirmed enough to satisfy my suspicions that it was actually them, I bought my ticket. The price for the day ticket that I was about to purchase was a nice surprise too, £38.50 for the day! I would have been willing and was expecting to pay more, I bet I wasn’t the only one who thought this. At the time I thought I was getting a bargain, in hindsight it seems like a big error of judgement on behalf of the promoters.
After weeks of exchanging excited texts and messages with friends who were going and telling anyone who would listen that I was going, it came as a shock to find out ATP were pulling the plug. Jabberwocky was cancelled. Initial disbelief quickly turned to anger and frustration, which was mainly aimed at ATP themselves. How could this happen? How could they operate with this level of incompetency?? Why hadn’t this decision been made weeks ago?? The line up was stellar, unrivalled by other festivals this year so how could they fail to deliver?????!!!
What followed the statement from ATP was really bizarre to be caught in the middle of. The fallout from the announcement went in 2 directions, a massive argument about who was responsible to refund everyone and also a mad dash to find out if the bands booked to play Jabberwocky would still be coming over and playing somewhere. Pretty quickly a facebook group and website started up with the sole purpose to salvage something from this weekend. With the cancellation of the event being so close to the date it was supposed to take place, it made sense that most of the bands would already have their travel arrangements in place and were either in the UK or on their way here. If bands are coming then let’s get them shows to play and get them an audience to attend. When I joined the Jabberwocky fallout rumours Facebook group it was already a few hundred people strong and it was thrilling to see what was happening. The members of this group were disappointed ticket holders taking things into their own hands, sharing information about whatever they could find out trying to ensure that even if the event was cancelled, we weren’t about to miss out. The number of members of this group grew with lightning speed and didn’t take long to realise that things weren’t going to work out well.
I scoured the page for news of a Van Pelt replacement show. It was quite nice to find out that this was a hot topic of conversation. People seemed desperate to see The Van Pelt, a lot more so than the other bands and combining this with the knowledge that they were already in Europe meant that a replacement show was inevitable. Taking my eye off the ball for a brief moment made me miss the announcement that they were going to play with Metz at The Shacklewell Arms for free. By the time I clicked on the link for the free tickets I wasn’t surprised to see they were all gone. As it turned out, they were taken off the bill for this show and rumours flung round that ATP had used a contractual obligation to not let them play (something which ATP have said is completely false). Instead they were now going to play on the Friday night at the Ace hotel at the cost of £11 a ticket. It wasn’t just the fact that by the time I found out about this that it had sold out that left me with a sour taste in my mouth. It felt like my opportunity to see a band I thought I would never get to see play live had been snatched away from me. I had secured my place at the festival to see the Van Pelt 5 months ago and now they were going to play exclusively for those lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, some of whom you just know weren’t original Jabberwocky ticket holders.
Meanwhile, a very public argument had started regarding who was responsible to refund everyone who had bought a ticket. In the original ATP statement they advised punters that a full refund would be given from the point of sale, for many of us it was Dash tickets. Dash Tickets were very quick to respond to my email and to state publicly that they would not be responsible for the refunds as they had only offered software for ATP to use to sell tickets and that all money brought in from ticket sales had already been passed to ATP. Dash also wanted it known that they were looking at taking legal action against ATP for the handling of this. When Dash emailed me they included some terms and conditions that looked to prove that they would not ever be responsible for refunds, ATP have since come out to say that these terms and conditions were changed without their prior knowledge after the tickets went on sale and that they had not received any money from Dash for over 2 months.
Like most of the other disappointed ticket holders I vented my frustrations on various social media platforms and vowed to never buy tickets for an ATP event again. Since their last statement I have calmed down a bit and now don’t really know what to think and who, if anyone, to blame. ATP seem pretty genuine, even if they do have past form in allegedly not paying out and mishandling events. It’s not really in my nature to hate independent companies trying to organise really interesting events in the current economic climate. To be fair as well to ATP they have continued to release statements with advice about refunds, my last email from Dash had the heading ‘Your request has been deemed solved’. Things will probably blow over for them and I hope they do so. Look at Hevy fest for example, last year they were the complete laughing-stock of the festival circuit after cancelling last years festival because, even though they had been selling tickets for a number of months, they had never actually secured a venue for the festival. A lot of anger and hate was directed at them but as I type this, Hevy 2014 is taking place. People put their faith in them and seem to have been rewarded with 2 days punk and metal bands.
(The second statement from ATP can be read HERE)
As it turned out, The Van Pelt did play the show at the Shacklewell Arms this afternoon that had been originally announced the day after the festival was cancelled. So that’s twice they played in London within 24 hours and I was nowhere to be seen. Apparently the shows were insane. A friend of mine managed to get into the Friday night show and said the atmosphere inside the venue was ‘bordering on mania’, and the set was filled with classics such as ‘The Speeding Train’, ‘ABCD’s of Facism’ and ‘Yamato (where people really die)’. My friend said that on ‘Yamato…’ ‘the crowd sung the “aaaaah” backing vocals and the band seemed to love that!’ It sounds like it was an amazing show to be at.
The Van Pelt are a really special band, I have never once listened to them and not found something new or interesting about their songs and the way they sound. Their original two albums haven’t dated whatsoever. And their “new” record, ‘The Imaginary Third’, which was released on the Spanish label La Castanya earlier this year to coincide with record store day, sounds as current and relevant as anything else I’ve heard this year. I say new, the album was recorded when the band were originally together in the late 90’s and is made up of 5 songs that ended up on the Lapse’s first record and the ‘Speeding Train’ 7″. They are a band I first got into as a teenager that I haven’t stopped listening to now long in to my thirties. A band I thought I would never get the chance to see play live and now, as it turns out, seems to be correct. Although there is a rumour they might come back next year, they mentioned on a reply to a comment I left on one of their Instagram pictures that they were at least considering it. I can at least hold on to this hope.
If they don’t my only encounter with Chris Leo (singer/guitarist The Van Pelt), as mentioned a couple of years back on this blog, will be when he shouted at me because beer got spilled on his amp at a The Lapse show in Germany. At least I have the memory of that night though, and a funny story I can always bore my children with.
The Van Pelt playing ‘Yamato (where people really die) in 1996
Thanks for reading.