This picture is the perfect embodiment of what this blog is all about. A snapshot of an instant moment, a visual shot of a musical journey. Or less romantic : a story based on the 3P-theory: Permancence, Perseverance and Persistence and a lot of blood, sweat and tears. (Well, no blood and tears actually, but definitely a lot of sweat. A LOT!)
Here goes the story. And yes. It’s a long one…, but I tried to illustrate it with lots of pictures for the ones who hate to read. (I know you are out there!)
Summer has officially arrived in this fickle weathered country and this blog is about to crash some festivals. Some of you may know that this is not exactly my favorite thing to do. I rather admit it, then hide it for you guys … I prefer concerts in venues than outdoor festivals, it rarely gets me goosebumped, sound is always a tricky and pure blog-wise, the chances of sneaking in a backstage or connecting with an artist are below zero. Add the huge amount of intoxicated people, combined with my complete horror for tents and lack of camping skills, with the additional traditional rain, mud, blistering heat waves and very few options for a clean toilet and you will slightly understand my resentment for festivals. Last summer, me and my P.I.C. Jules experienced a few festival failures and we swore to ourselves that we would improve on assertive skills, research, preparation and non-stop motivation. There’ll better be some results in order for us to sleep in a tent #horror. No way, we were going to endure a weekend of suffering without any results. That was the state of mind. Focused. First festival on the schedule was last weekends COULEUR CAFE. One of the more laid back festivals in Belgium, a bit hippie-esk from time to time but with the amazing weatherforecast ahead (heat wave!) and the very strong line-up I was very excited to nail this one down with artists like NNEKKA, FEMIKUTI, and yes good old SNOOP DOGG aiming high on my to do list.
Every year, we try to lower our costs and search for free tickets, guest-entrances or vip-bracelets, which is very challenging to say the least. After mailing, lobbying, calling a couple of weeks in advance, the result was very very poor… I managed to get a free weekend bracelet from a friend who had a 70’s clothing boot at the festival , and just to be sure we bought 2 tickets for Jules, since the festival was selling out quickly. A last-minute mail from a lovely friend informed us that there was one extra ticket for the saturday available. When we arrived on the first day of the festival we immediately went to work and sold our saturday ticket by the door, which provided us with extra cash for drinks and food, because boy o boy was it HOT out there. I picked up my festival-co-work bracelet by the entrance and we met up with our friend that hooked up Jules her bracelet, which turned out te be a VIP-bracelet…! Ok. Don’t get too excited, VIP on a festival basically means a chair you can sit on with some much wanted shade, a better bar service (no long waiting) and last but not least, a clean toilet. For me personally, on a festival, I consider that 5 star luxury. It’s basically an area for business partners, press and guests. No more, no less. However, if you are lucky, the VIP area is close to an access of the artist village or permits you to hang around the areas surrounding the artist village, which is for us very important. We entered the festival, and went straight to work. Since Jules was the one with the VIP bracelet, she immediately checked out the perimeter. (I love the word, perimeter for some reason, I keep on using it). This is what she found out.
VIP area was highly protected by security, checking for a white with blue VIP bracelet. Once in the VIP, the artist village was right behind it, nicely secured by other security checking for both a Festival Artist Necklace ànd a blue Artist bracelet. Without those items, there was NO way of getting in. IMPOSSIBLE. Nneka and Snoop Dogg were headlining the festival that day, with Nneka performing at 19h30 and Snoop around midnight. It was 5PM. We had some serious work ahead. With no connections from the inside Jules and I looked at each other and we know what we had to do. Hustle like Rick Ross for some blue bracelets. We talked over the strategy of working while our friend was observing us. He told us we were mad funny and he was surprised how focused we were at this. (I always think we look like crack-junkies feverishly looking for a score). We decided that the only chance of getting in, was to stay close to the VIP, observe any people leaving the VIP with a blue bracelet, approach them, pitch the story and pray to god that they would help us in some way or another , while Jules went in the VIP from time to time to check out if there were any good prospects. What does one do in the meantime to kill time? Provide yourself with the bare necessities:
DRINK (rum what else?)
EAT ( Couleur Café food has thé best festival food, no burgers and fries here, but Moroccan, Senegal, Libanese, etc…)
First person on our radar was a notorious female host of one of Belgian best late night talk shows. Apparently they were making a report from the Couleur Café festival and were scanning the festival for stories. We discussed if we should approach her or not, and decided that we had no options of not even trying, so when we saw her going back in the VIP, Jules immediately went after her. After 10 minutes, Jules came back, slightly shocked. The lady was not really feeling our proposal of helping us out, didn’t really know anyone on the Polaroids (!?) that were shown to her and reacted kinda cold to Jules her pitch, and Jules had the impression she was dying to go home and get the F out of there. Ok then. NEXT. I think we approached almost every person who left the VIP with a blue bracelet…It was a good day to practice our elevator pitch.
2 hours passed by and NNEKA entered the main stage to begin her set.
While still waiting and standing and waiting and standing and sitting and waiting for opportunities to come by our first lucky break of the day came walking out of the VIP. The nice folks of CHRONYX noticed that I was locked out of the VIP and they were so nice to surprise me with a VIP bracelet they had left over… I was so happy with that bracelet, no more long toilet lines, finally a clean toilet, a chair to rest on and a clean toilet. Heaven (and thanks again Chronyx!). And then…back to the hustle. By that time Nnekka had finished her performance and the people from Chronyx told me that she cancelled all her interviews. Although we were one step closer to the artist village, we still needed 2 different bracelets, and since it took too much time, we had to accept that Nneka was most likely not going to happen. There was no time to waste, so… back to the hustle. We decided to split forces, so Jules was camping out in the VIP while I stayed outside looking for possible people to approach. The amazing Femi Kuti entered the main stage around sunset and time was slowly ticking away while the heat of the day was getting more and more bareable for us to work in.
The sun was going under and we were STILL no step closer to any bracelets what so ever. The prospects were not looking too good and our hopes and motivation were going down hill. However, we kept trying, keeping the eye on the price. Approaching people. Again.
And … again.
We had one hour before Snoop was going to perform on the main stage and things were looking terrible. It’s one thing to go for something, and to keep on trying, but after talking to approximately 9 diffferent people (who were all very friendly and kind) you really start to understand what it must feel like to be a professional beggar. Not that we were begging on our knees, we have our pride and honor, but it really felt like you are selling watches instead of stories after a while. And although the watches are nice and shiny, nobody is willing to buy one. Also, when you see everybody around you having fun, dancing, getting drunk and having a blast – here we were,hustling for Polaroids in 30 degrees, you start to seriously consider another hobby. And then things turned around. When Jules went to toilet, she noticed a whole pack of Femi Kuti boys. Femi Kuti has an amazing and very big band of musicians and although Femi Kuti already left for his hotel, the band were still hanging around in the VIP. Jules screened for the most approachable person, walked straight up to him, pitched the story and came out the VIP with Femi Kuti’s drummer DEBO dragged on her arm. HALLELUJA! There was NO time to waste. Snoop was in the building and rocking the stage. We explained DEBO what we were looking for : 2 blue bracelets and 2 artist or crew necklaces.
He nodded his head, determined to help us out and went back in the VIP to return with a fellow percussionist and they were pulling, tearing, biting on their bracelets trying to take them of their pols. It was amazing to see, how much effort they pulled for us. When they didn’t manage to take of their bracelets, they went bàck into the vip to check if they could take of the bracelets of their colleague band members. And then finally, Debo returned with 2 bracelets and 2 necklaces! Unbelievable but true… We immediately went back to the VIP and checked out the security guarding the entrance to the artist village. We decided to hang out a little bit in the VIP to get used to all the different faces that are walking in and out that same entrance. (With all the experience we have in espionage and security by now, I think we’re ready for some KGB stuff.) Thing is, you only have one chance of going through that entrance, and that is preferable in a very low-profile kinda way. If they see you entering once and get caught, you’re pretty much screwed for the rest of the night. We waited for the perfect moment, and then went straight for the artist village entrance, wìth all the necessary props and finally got in. The clock ticked 01h30 AM. We were looking at a complete empty and silent artist village, picked out a bench and waited. In the back we could still here Snoop performing in front of an insane crowd.
While waiting we were reminicing about our previous SNOOP DOGG attempts. There is that one time in Brussels, when I just started this blog and made this:
(hey…a girl’s gotta do, what a girl’s gotta do)
And there was that other time in Antwerp where I smacked my face on the floor trying to run after Snoop.
Yeah, capturing Snoop went along with pain and embarrassments and although we were finally in the right place, we both realised the hunt was long from over and there were still no guaranties. All of a sudden we noticed a man and a lady from Snoops entourage and carefully approached them. We had to be smooth and relaxed, and no mistakes were allowed. I introduced myself to a (huge) fella with the name LALA and the lady standing next to him, explained the story and asked what the possibilities were to take a Polaroid picture of Snoop.
They looked at all the other artists and said: “You will definitely get your picture, wait here for a while and we’ll come back to get you. See you in a bit.” OK this was it … the hard part was over! We were in the right space with the approval from Snoop’s entourage, there was nothing else that could go wrong. Right?Little did we know.
You could hear a needle drop in the artist village. Clock was ticking 01h30 AM, the only people who were walking around were security and Couleur Cafe crew members.Untill all of a sudden I see from my left hand side a huge dude, coming from nowhere, in a cognac costume running over the artist village like crazy, pointing out his arms to different directions and screaming. From my left hand I see a gate opening with 3 black cars with flashing lights, driving fast into the artist village. Uuuhm ?! Jules and I were sitting on bench, with no clue what’s going on, when we see a huge amount of people coming in the entrance village all running towards the last trailer in the deep corner of the artist village. More men in suites from the opposite side appearing, and the gate opening another time with approximately 15 to 20 beautiful women walking in the artist village, going straight to D.O. double G’s trailer. Uhmm?! The Couleur Cafe security was clearing half of the artist village, and ow YES, we were on the WRONG side. How the fuck could this happen?! One second we are practically the only ones in the village and the next it’s like a complete wild zoo out there? Of course there was no LaLa to be seen and from how things were looking, there was not really a chance of seeing them again, since the whole area around Snoops trailer was secured like it was as if Barack Obama was paying the festival a visit. I’ve seen a lot of stuff doing this blog, but this was just completely insane. We were sitting on the bench, completely frozen from disbelieve and it was slowly hitting us that we were FUCKED. Why didn’t we wait closer to his trailer?! Snoop entered the artist village surrounded by 6 big bodyguards completely dressed to the nine in costumes and immediately walked straight to his trailer. Ok.
Have you éver seen SNOOP in real life? This is one very very BIG man, I mean, If you saw this man in the street in a back alley by night on a full moon, believe me, you WILL be scared, so can somebody – please – explain me why this man needs 6 bodyguards? I mean, it was as if he was playing a gig in the middle of the Bosnie Herzegovina war?! There we were, completely unmotivated, with the situation looking like we were back to zero. The clock ticked 2AM. Suddenly we see the gate opening again and we see Snoop’s bandmembers walking in the artist village. I recognized Snoop’s bass player and I remembered from the last time in Antwerp that he had a very nice and friendly vibe. He also caught my attention the last time because he plays a mat black instrument and I just happen to like all things mat black.
Jules and I looked at each other and ran straight after him. We introduced ourselves and the project, he looked at the pictures, reacted very enthusiast and said: “Sure! Just come with me to his trailer, I’ll take you there, no stress”. We followed him through all the people waiting in front of the security, trying to see a glimpse of Snoop Dogg and when we finally arrived at the security perimeter we were immediately stopped. The bassist tried to talk to the security and reassured Snoop bodyguards, but even he couldn’t manage to get us in. He looked at us with a sad face and said: “I’ll try to let him know, I’m sorry girls …” and left. The only good thing was that we found ourselves now in frònt of the secured perimeter now and not behìnd it and that we were allowed to be there.
We were sooo close yet so far away. It was simply nerve wrecking. No LaLa , No Lady to be seen… The cars that we saw passing by earlier, were standing next to his trailer, almost glued to the trailer door, perfect for Snoop to jump in the car when he was ready to go to his hotel with no chance of somebody crossing his path.
All of sudden, Snoop leaves his trailer, again completely surrounded by bodyguards, 1 in front, 1 behind and 2 on his flank sides. Slow and relaxed they passed us by, followed -again- by a whole pack of people.This. Was. Impossible. After being treated like a suicide bomber with NERD in Rotterdam, I was just not feeling the option of interrupting Snoop in his Alcatraz-protected walk to the toilet or where ever he was going. Clock was ticking 3AM, and then Snoop came back…
This was the last chance. He slowly passed me by and I swear to god he looked at me, and gave me a teasing wink with the eye, and that’s when I said: “Hello sir, can I please take a Polaroid picture from you…?”. The bodyguards continued their walk and although I saw that he was triggered by my question and pinched his eyes at me while he was still walking further, and I was slowly realizing that this was not going to happen until… behind me the voice of Jules bursts out, preaching like Obama with a YES WE CAN! voice: “CAN WE – PLEASE – TAKE A POLAROID PICTURE (silence) NO BALLS NO GLORY A POLAROID STORY!”
I was SO surprised and shocked at the same time, I didn’t really know if I should be feeling completely embarrassed or insanely start to laugh because that shit she pulled of was hilarious and bold at the same time. If only that would be caught on tape … man that would be a YouTube score. But… it worked. The whole group stopped, turned around like militaries on a parade and looked at us.
Snoop looked straight at me with a “so-what-are-you-waiting-for-girl?”- face and I snatched my Polaroid out of my bag, aimed my Polaroid, did my 3.2.1. countdown and… Flashing. Lights. Bingo.
I thanked him for his cooperation, shook his hands and he continued his Alcatraz walk to his trailer.
It took us 11 long persistent hours to grab a 5 second moment for a 3216 word story. Perseverance is a motherfucker (pardon my french) but I can only agree with the following: “Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.” – Thomas Carlyle
A major shout out to our HERO, Fem Kuti’ss drummer DEBO who really stuck his neck and literally his teeth out to help us. DEBO for PRESIDENT.
Special thanks to LUCCA for the tickets, CHRONYX for the VIP bracelet, JYR for the mental support throughout the day + vip bracelet for Jules and last but not least HANS for surprising us with Mojito Royal coctails and attempting to get us semi-drunk.