I think the first time I really had an idea about how big Brighton would be this year was sometime around the beginning of June. It seemed as if everyone I spoke to from that time, kept telling me they were going to Brighton. Social media was awash with people ramping up the anticipation and excitement as the weekend got closer.
Ticket sales for Komedia were sold out months ahead of schedule. The Volks Tavern nights were equally snapped up so a new third venue, Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar was opened more on that later. By the time we got to the week leading up to the Bank Holiday, there were barely any tickets left for any of the venues. There was no better indication of how busy it would be as Friday approached.
Friday 22 August
I was at my day job for most of Friday and by 11am, I had to turn the sound off and put my phone away, such was the activity on social media regarding Brighton. All day I was receiving updates from those who got there early and every message I looked at said the same thing: Maderia Drive was packed with scooters and mods from lunchtime onwards. This was unprecedented for a Friday afternoon. There were always some, but never packed! I arrived in Brighton at about 8.30pm and made my way to The Dorset. It was busy already. An hour and a half later and it was heaving. I left to help get Komedia ready for the opening night party. It never ceases to amaze me how the Komedia staff are so well drilled that within minutes of the comedy night ending, the place is transformed and ready for a modernist party. The upper room was hosted by the Ham Yard DJs, while downstairs in the main room was the NUTS team including Chris Dale, Lee Miller and Rob Bailey and special guest Graeme Very.
Mingling among the smokers outside, even at midnight, there were still people desperate to find a spare ticket to get in! Needless to say, it was some party in both rooms and a perfect way to get the weekend started. As the revelers headed for their beds at 3am Saturday morning, thoughts turned to what promised to be a special day.
Saturday 23 August
Arriving at the Volks Tavern on Maderia Drive was something of a revelation at 11.30am. It was the first time the full magnitude of the weekend hit me. I could barely believe my eyes at the numbers of people and scooters already in attendance. There is no more impressive a sight than gleaming Vespas and Lambrettas lined up along that road, with the sea and pier as the backdrop. As the stall holders set up and the market got underway, the Volks became a hive of activity and it didn’t stop all day. Once outside, I went up the steps to the balcony walkway which is a popular vantage point to get a panoramic view of the masses below and what a sight it was! As someone mentioned to me, it was Saturday, but it felt more like a Sunday, such was the turnout. By 2.30pm, it was time for me to introduce the first band of the weekend. I confess I knew virtually nothing about them, other than Dr Robert telling me he had seen them in Spain some weeks before and they were awesome. It didn’t give me much to work with, but I blagged it a bit and Les Grigris hit the stage. They have that slightly shambolic late sixties Pretty Things look about them, but by heck they can play! It was not long before more and more people crammed into the Volks to get a glimpse of this band and their barnstorming set. It’s not just that they sound great, but these boys really put on a show, wandering through the audience whilst playing their full-on r&b laced, garage, freakbeat repertoire. They played two 45 minute sets and I think it’s safe to say their performance has already gained legendary status. As I said at the time when I returned to the mic at the end of their second set; “I think we have just witnessed one of those ‘I was there’ moments.” And I stand by that statement. The afternoon wound down at 5.30pm as everyone went off to prepare for the night to come. Les Grigris were the talk of the town for the next few hours at least.
My evening started at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar where the Fuzz 4 Freaks session was held. It’s a perfect venue for our psych-loving friends, a basement room, low ceiling and a great acoustics. I was on hand primarily to introduce the Exploding Sound Machine, the Birmingham-based outfit that had the audience enthralled with their brand of rich, textured, early-Floyd inspired songs. If Les Grigris set the standard earlier in the day, Exploding Sound Machine matched them in quality of performance, albeit, in their own style. From Sticky Mike’s, I made my way to Komedia with Rob Bailey heading in the opposite direction. By all accounts the Fuzz 4 Freaks was rocking all night. It was the same story at the Volks Tavern. Sarge from Scootering Magazine told me he’d never seen the Volks that rammed and in full-on party mode. As for Komedia? Astounding. Both upstairs and in the main room. Just astounding. The dance floors were never empty and the DJs produced the goods time after time. The buzz was palpable.
Sunday 24 August
11.30am again at Volks Tavern and, although some were carrying hangovers, the mood was one of relaxed enjoyment. The sun shone and ‘family day’ was well under way. It really was like a family day, a mod culture family day. Children, parents, first, second, third and fourth generation modernists all mingled, chatted, laughed, took photos, made new friends and reacquainted with old friends. The scooters were admired, inspected and talked about. The spectators gathered as 2pm arrived and the scooter competition got underway. Rob Bailey was assisted by Gary Milan and Gary Wall as judges and what a tough task they had. Spectacular barely describes the turnout, especially the Lambrettas.
Finally, the awards were made:
Best Vespa went to Simon Neale from Leamington Spa with his Silver GS160 - Reg: 286XUT.
Best Lambretta went to Cameron McKinnon from Kettering with his Green and White LI150 and sidecar. - Reg: VSY706
Best Mod Scooter went to Barry Hewes from Lincolnshire with his Red TV175. – Reg: 865YUA.
At 3pm, the rideout got underway led by Peter Edwards from the Bar Italia Scooter Club. There seemed to be some confusion on-route, but when you consider the estimates were that between 750-800 scooters took part, we will be looking for more stewards next year.
As the Volks afternoon wound down, there were already people asking about tickets for Komedia. The demand was staggering. And so to the grand finale of the weekend. I had the pleasure of introducing The Dials and Hypnotic Eye at Sticky Mike’s. For those that didn’t get to see them, you missed a couple of brilliant sets from two quality bands. I would have to say the NUTS team enhanced their reputation for finding top-draw live talent after this weekend. All four were outstanding.
As I left Fuzz 4 Freaks to head over to Komedia, I got word that Volks Tavern was in full flow again, which was good to know. However, the atmosphere in Komedia was unbelievable. The main room was hosting the Northern Soul night, while upstairs was pure mod r&b. A fitting end to a magnificent weekend.
Three nights, three venues, countless scooters and people and a brilliant atmosphere all weekend from start to finish. That in itself says as much about the people who attended the August Bank Holiday as it does about us as organizers.
Our thanks go to the management and staff at Komedia, Volks Tavern and Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar. To our sponsors, Jump The Gun and Rimini Lambretta Centre. To the entire NUTS team, but most of all, to all of you who came to Brighton. You made it one of the most talked about events of recent times. Social media has been flooded with positive feedback and great photos. So here is a word of advice; don’t leave it until the last minute to book your tickets for next year. Subscribe for FREE to the NUTS network here to get your early-bird ticket notification.
Finally, a date for your diary. 28-31 August 2015. That’s when we do it all again.
Photos by: Carlo Sesto & Paul Boddy
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