Despite the pouring rain, plenty of classic cars and motorbikes’ are travelling down the winding country roads, leading us to a secluded airbase in the Suffolk countryside. The setting alone is pretty freaky and intriguing at the same time, especially because it’s famed for UFO sightings.
It’s obvious from the get-go that this is not a standard festival. The Trip Out is billed as a weekender celebrating traditional motorcycles, hot rods and customs with a large dollop of live bands, DJ’s, go-go dancers and more.
We arrive at the security gate – head left for the Cold War Museum whilst aircraft hangers and vintage aeroplanes overlook ahead of us. A felt-tip pen sign, on what looks like an office flipchart stand, points to the long runway leading to the festival.
I’m greeted by a field already brimming over with petrol-head porn –choppers, bobbers, lane splitters, bar hoppers, baggers, stockers, customs, vans, hot rods, gassers, lowriders, trucks and muscle cars and then everything in-between. There’s ample space in the wooded and grass site to park a vehicle next to our tent – none of that dragging possessions across endless fields to set up camp. For those in the know, there’s an option to get some rest in one of the bunkers.
The Trip Out has been going for about six years and is organised by the super friendly Anna and Andy, who are part of the Black Widows motorcycle family. It attracts an audience of like-minded, laid-back bike and car freaks and their families. A mixture of live bands and DJ’s play in the main tent and at the late night Widows Lounge bunker, DJ’s play rockabilly, classic rock, garage, surf, blues, ’60s and ’70s to get the weekend started.
Plenty of food and drink is around to keep everyone fuelled throughout the weekend. One particular highlight, the Harley Dog – a BBQ on the back of a Harley Davidson, serving up Brazilian sausage and chicken heart skewers.
Friday night began at 6.30pm with DJs which included Brighton’s finest retro DJ Stay Sick who played oddball R&B to filthy rock from garage to punk.
In the main tent Oh! Gunquit are on stage – well, some of them… their singer is laying knees down, backwards on the floor – quite a courageous move in a blue rubber skirt, fishnets and heeled boots. She springs up and hands out a hipflask, full of some fabulous intoxicating libation for us to part take – what a civilised way to set the tone for the evening. She climbs up on stage and begins to hula hoop whilst playing a trumpet, all in perfect time. As the band launches into ‘Voodoo Hip Shake’, the crowd is invited up for a mini stage invasion. What a beautiful, motley crew of poncho-wearing hippies, straight haired mod gals, psychedelic stoners and greasers, all wigging out to this bastard child of L7, The Cramps, and B52s – the perfect hybrid party band.
Well, if Oh! Gunquit were the ignition, the late night Widows Lounge is the incendiary. This hot and steaming bunker is filled with the most unlikely DJ’s and their choice of music would cheer even the most curmudgeonly individual. Who would have thought that a room full of bearded bikers would be singing and dancing with wild abandonment to tunes such as the Elton John and Kiki Dee classic, ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ and Gonzalez, ‘ Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet’? The level of Guilty Pleasure is amplified to near fever pitch when the Belguim DJs Hank and Gil drop ‘Boney M’s Rasputin’. The bar and all the tables are filled with folk throwing shapes, followed by shots of liquid gold from the bar staff.
Naturally, Saturday has a more genteel start. Try as it might, the weather does not dampen the happy vibe as the troops rally for the tug of war with a little help from shots of Four Roses bourbon. With a heave and a ho, the men are set against each other, then the women and finally, with much guffawing, the winning ladies are set against the men. By now a cheery crowd has gathered and the ground of slippery mud has churned up enough to add to the comedy value. Victory for the ladies – a proud highlight of the festival but what happened to the prize winning bottle of bourbon is anyone’s guess.
The Sonic Dawn from Denmark are the first band on stage on Saturday delivering a solid Black Sabbath-style doom laden set to the – let’s call them tired and emotional – spectators. Little Barrie was due to perform but following the tragic and unexpected death of their drummer, King Salami And The Cumberland 3 stepped up to the plate. King Salami himself respectfully acknowledged his passing throughout the bands relentlessly energetic repertoire of ’50s and ’60s inspired tunes, all with a punk twist. He tames the audience and has them all on their knees whilst preparing to crowd surf. He then launches into a lightening speed version of ‘Tainted Love’ and leaves the audience with a new found gusto for the rest of the night. Back in the Widow Lounge DJ Fabulous Myia was full-on into a set of disco classics as a circle of heavy set men had a dance off which included a full body worm on the beer, sweat and mud sodden floor.
This is a remarkable festival – a genuinely open, friendly event with loyal followers traveling from abroad to enjoy the carefully selected live acts, DJ’s, fantastic cars and bikes. Who would have thought that a biker festival, taking place in the hidden woodland of deepest Suffolk would have been so chock-a-block of unforgettable experiences – a place full of surprises and belly laughs.