Sea had swallowed sun several hours ago and, like an unbreakable curse, San Antonio’s West End was beginning to transform into the raging beast it is fated to become every night of the summer. The strip clubs had opened and Subway had closed; this was no place for a salad bar after dark...
Drunken people love strangers with film cameras but hate strangers with notepads, so it was time to stash the journo-evidence and blend in with the not-actually-local milieu. I hiked my shorts up my cheeks and super-glued them at the halfway point. I put on some mascara, then put on some false eyelashes, then put on some mascara, then put on some eyeliner, then put on some mascara. I drank half a bottle of vodka and got a tattoo. The transformation was complete.
Pausing at the outskirts to survey the scene, I was quickly forced to one side as a child in a toy car zoomed past me, his wild-eyed father in tow, urging “Vamos, Juan! Vamos!” He knew they were cutting it fine... An intoxicated racket was beginning to muster, with the sizeable Irish contingent on the island valiantly pioneering the cause – always first in and last out in their never-ending search for ‘good craic.’ The pavement was, as yet, reasonably rubbish free, with the exception of some cigarettes and a rotting red pepper, lying squashed and alone, like a broken heart upon the pavement (although more like a pepper). The air smelled of kebabs. Already.
With the wrong attitude, a trip to the West End could have been a series of unbelievably horrific aural, visual and tactile (many of these) encounters. But a sense of humour is all one needs to turn it into a thoroughly positive experience. A couple of hardworking lads from the midlands that I spoke to knew the score - “We’re simpletons,” one said, jovially, “We drink real ale and we shout at planes.” This kind of genuine attitude pervades the scene. A night in the West End might mean sacrificing underground music, decent sound systems and dignity, but you also shake off extortionate prices and a whole lot of pretentiousness. One West End PR guy put it very simply when I queried his mildly masochistic choice of workplace, “I’m trying to earn a legitimate living instead of selling drugs like everyone else. I want to go home at the end of summer, not jail-alright ladies! You having some drinks tonight, yeah?” And just like that I was as relevant as Myspace, my PR having spotted a brood of stumbling and stilettoed hens, basically gift-wrapped clientele for the West End PR massive.
The tactics of most West End PRs threw me off-guard, demanding that I self-evaluate when I’m at my weakest point. Lookylooky men are about as pushy as kindergarten teachers next to these troops, who reel you in with sweet promises of refreshment, whilst relentlessly demanding of you responses and strategy. Where you off to? How you feeling? What’s happening tonight? What plans have you made for financing your retirement etc.? I don’t know, I don’t know! I just want to make it home without losing my shoes, ISN’T THAT ENOUGH?? (It wasn’t and I didn’t)
Having started with cheap workers’ drinks at the top end and weaved (later, lurched) my way down through sexual advances, strippers and remixes of Carly Ray Jepson to an inflatable guitar at the bottom end, I suddenly kicked into autopilot and mobilised my faculties with renewed vigour towards the nearest grease-fest. And I wasn’t the only one making this pilgrimage, for, in the West End, all roads eventually lead to KFC. Once sated by the Colonel (don’t be dirty, now) I noticed a fallen comrade on the pavement - on his way out Jimi Hendrix style. After quickly re-arranging and hydrating him, we became firm friends, engaging in a deep and meaningful conversation which would probably have solved all of life’s problems if only it could be remembered.
For most on the West End, technology has solved the memory-loss issue, for we all know the slogan - What happens in the West End stays in the West End, until the next day when it goes on facebook, becomes the property of facebook, is sold by facebook and then used by sensationalist news programs in their latest exposé on the degenerate youth of today. And that’s how your grandma finds out what you’re up to.
There’s a lot about the West End I don’t like, but I can’t deny I had a really good time; so I’ll perch uncomfortably on the fence on this one. Don’t judge Ibiza by the West End, but don’t hate that it exists either. If you can’t reconcile yourself to its positive points, think of it as a container pen; a quarantined zone; a sticky pad for catching ants... And if you love the place by all means enjoy it, but don’t get caught for too long; there’s a whole island out there.
Does the new music live up to the old name?
...because egg-white omelettes aren't for everyone.
As they say... music heals.
The Brighton based festival will be revealed in full on Thursday 29th January.