Festival Sudoeste, Zambujeira do Mar, Portugal, August 2002. I had just finished high school when I got permission from my parents to go to my first summer festival ever; I was very excited not only for the experience itself but also because of the line-up: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (with their first album), pre-Talkie Walkie Air, The Cure (a.k.a. THE big disappointment since they were mostly promoting Bloodflowers), and Peter Murphy. But one of the acts my 17-year old hipster ass was looking forward to the most was the one opening the main stage on Day 0: The Beta Band.
It had been a 14-hour trip (train, boat, train again, bus) and I had barely eaten or slept, the famous Alentejo heat allied to good North-African hash causing everything to happen in a much slower pace than usual. By sundown, after finding a camping spot and momentarily coming back to life under a cold shower, we finally entered the still relatively empty festival area; the first chords of ‘Dry The Rain’ echoed languidly across the southwestern plains as random video projections timidly began to take form on the two screens, one on each side of the stage — I do remember seeing John and Yoko on the Two Virgins’ cover but the day was still too bright to properly figure out the rest of them. The song gradually grew in intensity as I approached the stage, finally exploding after the second chorus in a mix of euphoria, familiarity, and fatedness. It might have been the hash, I don’t know. But I fell to my knees and wept.
The Beta Band came into my life like most stuff did in my early teens: via my older cousin. He lent me his copy of The Three EPs and I felt an immediate connection to each and every second of the album as if something inside me I had never been able to explain (or understand myself) was finally put in front of my eyes for me to contemplate. ‘Dog’s Got a Bone’, ‘Dr. Baker’, ‘Needles In My Eyes’, ‘She’s The One’, ‘Inner Meet Me’ — they all spoke to me in an intimate yet logical way, expressing not only what I was unable to express myself but what I didn’t even know I actually felt in the first place. Agreed, the recognisable Beatles influences made for an extra bridge between the comfortably familiar and the uncannily new, but it was mostly the ritualistic cadence of what has been pompously denominated folktronica allied to the surprisingly organic vocal harmonies (always menacing to slip out of time and out of tune) that led me to realise I was before one of those albums that stand the test of time and become eternal soundtracks of life.
I always found it silly whenever people ask you about your favourite album; it might seem somewhat easier if you don’t listen to a lot of different stuff, but it’s a whole other matter when music has played a major part throughout your life: I’ve listened to it, read about it, written and talked about it, and worked in it as a journalist, DJ, musician, and even producer. Yet I can still easily answer that in spite of not being able to pinpoint an absolute definite album, The Three EPs easily makes my top ten. But fuck rankings, fuck lists, and fuck all genre compartmentalisation and prejudice that ultimately prevents music from finding you when it’s supposed to.
And fuck High Fidelity, I never liked that movie anyway.
The Three EPs is being rereleased for its 20th anniversary and will be available for the first time (officially) on vinyl, with a full back catalogue reissue campaign to follow. Head here for more information and to pre-order.
Originally published at https://www.thefourohfive.com.