Where Punk meets Rave & Disco Welcome to the World of Unusual Sound Systems

originally featured in the Spark magazine Summer Festival Guide 2014
They are the folks who add dash of controlled lunacy to the modern festival experience, providing us with sights (and sounds) that provoke a combination of wonder, bafflement and hilarity. No one has yet come up with a suitable snappy collective name though, so for the moment it’s probably best to describe them plainly as the ‘unusual sound systems’ (USS).
For each their route to creating their own USS was slightly different. For Joimson, it was his job at a Dorset recycling facility. He had become frustrated by the sheer amount of useful material – and decent records – that were being thrown away and decided he’d create (what he thinks is) Britain’s first 100% recycled mobile disco,‘Tip Of The Pops’.  “All of it is reused,” he confirms. “From the wheelbarrow to the turntables. Over the years I’ve picked up lights and decor, mirrorballs. About 5 years ago someone dumped two virtually brand new batteries – those became my power supply.”

DJ Dynamo aka Joimson found his disco at the dump!

“People seem to love it though. When you get on the mic and explain to them where it’s come from they are pretty amazed. It’s great to be able to educate people about all this stuff as well as having fun yourself.” 
Meanwhile the Police Rave Unit, a posse of police impersonators that blast their sounds from what looks to be a riot van is a “joke that got out of hand.” 2CI Wogan of the PRU was the organiser of the backstage area of Shambala when one year they had a police-themed party. “We had this old transit van knocking about in our yard and said ‘wouldn’t it be funny if we turned it into a riot van and a load of coppers got out the back at the end of the night and got some speakers out’.”
Needless to say it has often created confusion amongst punters. “People do have to do a double take quite a lot of the time. And we’ve had a couple of pulls on the motorway – we even got followed by some plain clothes at Bestival.”
Odder still is the Anarchophonium, a battery-powered barrel organ that plays ska, punk and old rave tunes whilst being wheeled around in a pram by a bunch of jokers dressed as monkeys. “Ah the monkeys have thrown off the shackles of oppression and are playing the organ themselves. We’re trying to encourage other people to join the monkey revolution,” explains Erasmus of the Anarchophonium collective. “Barrel organs were amongst the oldest devices for recording music so you could say this is proper old skool.”
Add to this list firmly-established yokel DJ team, The Village Disco and you could even describe this as a movement. But does anything link the unusual sound systems? “I think there is a rebelliousness to what we all do,” suggests Joimson. “Festivals are very regulated these days but mobile systems give an edge that reminds people of the early days of rave culture. Despite all the big names on at a festival very often it’s the odd sights and the walkabout acts that are the highlights for people.”

Shambala Festival part three: Lovely Day

interview with radio Shambala to be broadcast as a pod cast later this year

Sunday morning was overcast but enthused by yesterdays breakfast show I went for another outing. These morning gigs work really well as there is nothing planned on the main stages until midday so no fear of me being drowned out. There is also a nice mix of people some who have been up all night, others buying breakfast and of course families whose kids are already wide awake and looking for some entertainment.

In order to keep things fresh I was determined not to play the same song twice so I ditched Friday & Saturdays singles and took out some ‘new-to-me’ stuff including Bill Withers Lovely Day. Early morning discos such as these also mean I get to play some down tempo chillaxing music that I would not normally play so it’s sensibly sustainable by making the best use of my resources. Much the same as Saturday morning the clouds parted, the sun came out and it was especially magical for those early risers

Radio Shambala

Sunday afternoon I had arranged an interview with radio Shambala which will be broadcast later in the year. The challenge was to try and capture something that was impromptu, improvised and in essence unplanned. We walked and talked for 20 minutes whilst I found what I thought was a nice place to set-up. Not long after I started playing music we were approached by Electric Pedals from the phone charging disco. They had literally run out of power and needed Tip of the Pops to play music whilst people cycled to charge-up their mobile phones

What followed was one of the most memorable gigs ever – in effect a gym-like spinning class. Encouraging stationary cyclists to keep pedalling whilst promoting renewable energy and recycling (of old mobile phones) to cheesy wheelbarrow disco music. What’s more, radio Shambala were there to record the whole event interviewing Electric Pedals, the cyclists and passers by at www.shambalaradio.org.uk. Looking back this gig was possibly the highlight of the festival for Earwig the ‘barra’ but before I explain why I must explain a bit more about Electric Pedals (EP).

generating interest at the phone charging disco!

Electric Pedals (EP)

EP have about 10 pedal power generators attached to stationary bicycles (each generator costs £450). There are no batteries or solar panels involved the only power they have is generated in ‘real-time’ by the cyclists. If there are not enough cyclists then there is not enough power for the phone charging or motivational music. On this occasion although the bikes were busy the power required by the phones meant that there was not enough energy for the music.

As it was a packed Sunday afternoon there were plenty of phones that needed charging and the solution was for Tip of the Pops to play music to the cyclists, simple. So my ‘tippy’ found equipment and dumped vinyl revitalised an expensive renewable rig as well as helping the twenty or so people whose phones were charged. I also managed to select some tracks that went with the cycling theme ‘the power you’re supplying is electrifying‘ from Grease, did a shout out to my family and crew and announced our World Festival Exclusive with Shambala

Not only had Shambala triumphed by delivering something un-planned and impromptu for the radio (as expected) but Earwigs speaker and renewable rig had managed to hold it’s own surrounded by much larger and more expensive, louder systems! We also managed to get the recycling and renewable message across with maximum audience participation in a fun and original way, which is the main purpose of Tip of the Pops.


If the EP gig and radio Shambala interview was a technical and educational achievement what happened next was my own personal highlight of the festival. Afterwards, I left the main hussle and bustle of the festival to return to the family field and baby bath house. Playing nursery rhymes and relaxing music to parents and children as the sun went down was a real treat and extreme contrast to the gig I had only just done!

To make this moment even more magical a dizzy bee landed on my spinning disco ball and stayed for 10 minutes fascinating children and parents alike. As we all sat around Earwig mesmerised by the sights and sounds of Shambala a film crew appeared and recorded some of the action. I played an hour and half set ending with the Floral Dance by the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band which was most appropriate!  Lasts years Shambala experience, my first, could only be summed up as sublime – this year words still escape me! Needless to say I left enthused, energised and eager to return next year for more glittery magic.

This 3 part special report is dedicated to my fellow enthusiast Brian Edwards whose generosity and all round good vibrations lives on in the vintage electronic equipment he restored Ghettoblasters! Thank you Brian we will miss you

go to part onepart two – part three