I hadn’t slept well the night before. It was a partly a night before Christmas thing, but there was also a bit of dread thrown in there. The tone of the recent communications had been very authoritarian, crossed with a dose of anarchy. Despite a rough timeline, no one knew what the fuuk was going on.
On the 8th of August, at 1616, an email arrived. The sender was Dark Ages.
I marked the locations on Google Maps and was pleased to see I’d chosen accommodation right in the middle of things.
Oliver House was the cheapest room in Liverpool. A pleasing £17/night. Trip Advisor has suggested that it was OK. A bit basic with quite a bit of noise at night. It’ll do, I thought. Who needs sleep anyway?
If I’d ever got round to writing a review on Trip Advisor, it would have been something like this.
PROS: Comfy, but basic. Ideally located for a three day situation. A lot of the guests wore mysterious yellow wristbands.
CONS: The communal areas smelt bad. Not a smell I could ever really put my finger on but bad. The shared toilets were clean, but occasionally the mysterious smell reach its peak in them. However, this was mitigated by the number of times I was an into the creator of Revenge Of The Mutant Camels at the bathroom door. Sometimes, I was leaving. Sometimes, he was. We both knew not to blame each other.
WARNING: Subsequently, I have discovered that Oliver House shares magical properties akin to Hotel California: you can check out if you want to, but you just can’t ever leave*.
*Literally, the place was like the Maze Of The Minotaur.
I reread the book instructions: The events of Friday 25th August will involve a slow paced walk of around three miles. Bring suitable shoes and attire. If you use an umbrella, bring one.
Images from the history of The JAMs flickered into my mind.
I read on.
Dead Perch Lounge? WTF?
A book signing? Fuuk! I’d ordered one from Amazaba. I passed on the deal that SeeTickets we’re offering. I mean, who wants to walk around a ‘gig’ with a book?
A book signing stamping sounded intriguing. We’re going to meet Them, aren’t we. I cancelled my Amazaba order, but then forgot to order my copy until the day of the journey up. I’d stopped at services, somewhere along the A50 and checked into the Facebook group we now know as The 400: Don’t Be Afraid. Back then it was called The Big Liverpool JAMs Adventure, or something approximating those words. There were rumours that the book was running out. I rang The News From Nowhere. They sounded stressed. A voice away from the phone said ‘Reserve that one and then that’s it’. I gave my card details and secured my copy. A few days later it was in BBC Breakfast News being stamped.
As was my belly.
Back to the email.
Designated a job in your absence?
Advise that you are present?
More images crackled across my synapses.
I read on.
There’s a lot to take in there.
69 minute movie?
In a nightclub?
DJ Food – ace, I know he’s a fan.
Greg Wilson – fantastic
Then I remember. My plan was to drive home at the end of Day 3. This Graduation Ball could go on until, maybe, 3am. I’ll need to book another night.
Finally, the email signed off.
My journey to Liverpool took about 2hours 30minutes.
This happens a lot. BTS was the same. For the journey, I knocked up a mix, which I subsequently shared on all the usual channels. At the Graduation Ball someone asked if it was my mix and said he liked it.
I tagged the Rites Of Mu onto the end. This made that last 30 minutes of my journey particularly atmospheric. In fact, the narration is pretty much an alternative guide to the three days ahead.
Also adding to the tension, were mysterious signs on the bridges over the dual carriageway leading into Liverpool. The K numbers counted down and stopped at K2.
After parking the car and checking into Oliver House, with all its wonderful sites and smells, I killed a little time before getting my wristband by finding the News From Nowhere bookshop.
A mysterious poster in the window told me I’d found the place.
I then wandered up to The Dead Perch Lounge and more mysterious posters.
Before I went in, I noticed a man outside looking at the remnants of a poster on the outside of the building. All that remained were the eyes and hair of a black and white picture.
“Is that me?”, the man asked enigmatically.
“Erm, I’m not sure. Do you think it is”, I replied.
“I don’t know. It looks like it is.”
“Well did you ever have a poster made with your face on it?”, I asked.
“I don’t think I did. Anyway, could you take my picture next to it?”, he asked, climbing into the bonnet of a parked car to elevate himself to the same height as the poster shard.
I later realised that this was Larry Sidorcuk, life-long friend of Bill and actor in Illuminatus! and Cosmic Trigger.
So in I went, to be greeted by the first pyramid of the weekend.
I plumped for a yellow T-shirt. Next stop was down the stairs into the basement for Volunteer Registration.
I chose option 1, then went back upstairs to digest all of the new information.
In terms of seating, there were just two long tables, surrounded by about 10 chairs. The first table was nearly full, so I settled for the second one, but, not wanting to be rude, I said “Hi, my name’s Andy” to everyone on the first table. Some of them smiled back, but then they turned their attention back to what they were discussing – where could they get a Perch in the North West of England. It was only later, that I realised that this was the Dark Ages berce centre, where Daisy & Co were putting the finishing touches to the events to come. Over the course of the next hour or so Bill and Jimmy came and went. Having never met either of them before, this was a bit of a thrill and added to the already surreal nature of the day. At one point , thinking this would be my only chance, I snapped a secret photo of Bill. Little did I know of what was to come.
Over the next hour or so, I was joined by a steady stream of future members of The400. A couple of industry insiders with some great tales to tell, a lovely couple of fellas from Scandinavia, who had no knowledge of The JAMs, at all, but who liked the sound of what was happening, a guy from Spain and finally Aden, who announced his arrival through the Facebook group chat. Aden too was quite a recent convert to the cause, getting dragged in by Cosmic Trigger and then filling his vinyl collection with some choice eBay acquisitions.
Around 5pm, The Dead Perch IPA was starting to take its toll, so Aden popped off to check in and I went back to Oliver House to recharge my batteries, metaphorically and literally, although I do have to say at this point, I was mightily impressed by how my iPhone performed over the five days, it worked very hard with photo, video, uploading, downloading and the endless social media I put it through.
I think the plan was to meet at The Kazimier – another Liverpool landmark after 8pm. Tonight was going to be a long night.
(I think all the photos included are mine. If I have included one of yours by mistake and you’d like me to remove it, please let me know in the comments)
Other Dark Ages Diaries
Day 0: Part One – Journey To The Dark Ages
Day 0: Part Two – The Ice Kream Van Cometh
Day 1: Why Did The K Foundation Burn A Million Quid?