"The bus will depart Liverpool St at midday on Friday, so get there a bit before."
So said the very professional email which heralded the arrival of Sports Team's second annual Margate road trip spectacular. Now, Dear Reader, you may not believe it but over at Dork we're a very punctual bunch, always arriving bright and early with a twinkle in our eye and journalism in our hearts. So with this in mind, we arrived at Liverpool St station at 11:45 and went straight to the waiting bus (double-decker this year!) On we stepped and realised it was... completely empty.
A few minutes of standing around wondering where everyone was and Ben, Sports Team's keyboardist, wanders up to the bus clutching a gym bag. "Where is everyone?" he asks, sending messages to some of the rest of the band. "Ah, they're at Wetherspoons." It isn't exactly a flying start to the day, but it's pretty on-brand.
Half an hour later and after a frankly ludicrous amount of beer has been loaded on board, the road trip finally gets moving... and instantly hits traffic. The combination of free beer, no onboard toilet and a slow start means the first stop is about a mile from Liverpool St, but after that things finally get moving. The wind is flowing through the open windows, Heart Radio is blasting from the speakers, and everybody is excited for a day of sun, sand and gold-plated indie bangers.
Two hours later (including a stop at the services for Greggs, toilets and WH Smiths own brand Bucks Fizz) the bus pulls in and Sports Team faithful pour out onto the sleepy Margate streets.
"Aim for the flag!" shouts frontman Alex Rice, pointing towards a beach cafe with a "Sports Team Margate '19" banner flying from a nearby pole, the same design as the free t-shirts everyone was handed on the bus. Oh, we didn't mention the t-shirts? Designed by Ben and with the full line up written on the back (yep, including the 'secret' headliners – good one lads) they lend the trip the air of a bizarre stag party and garner more than a few sideways looks from the locals.
At the flagpole, there's even more free beer, as well as burgers and hot dogs, all on the house ("if labels want to pour money into us doing stupid things, we're happy to share the love" explains Alex, eating a portion of chips.) A game of beach football soon starts up, with Swim Deep on the attack and The Rhythm Method in goal. It isn't entirely clear who's winning, or even where the pitch ends, but the watching seagulls seem impressed with the athleticism on offer.
The gig approaches and people start slowly trickling away from the beach, especially as it begins to rain and the seagulls move in to eat any stray food – there's nothing like an angry bird the size of a housecat to make the indie kids scarper. A short walk into town to Elsewhere, the venue/record shop where four bands who have been drinking all day take to the stage to entertain the masses and try not to fall over while they do it..
Alex, why did you decide to do the bus tour again?
Alex: It just seems like the right kind of place, just on the cusp of gentrification, but I think we've got a bit of an affinity with it anyway. Because we've got the song about Margate, I think there's still a sort of vague aura around us here too, which is quite nice. You see a few t-shirts around.
We've also done a little bit of writing down here and recording, and it's a nice place to swim. We also needed somewhere that's near enough to London because our entire fanbase seems to be based in the home counties. Me and Ollie are from Kent as well, quite near Tunbridge Wells, so this is the kind of place we came as kids.
How does it feel to be in a bigger venue this year?
Yeah, Elsewhere [the venue] is great. I think ultimately we upscale it to Dreamland, just keep going until we're there in 2 or 3 years.
What are your Top 5 seaside activities?
1: Swimming as far out as you possibly can, I once played that game - not good.
2: Playing lifeguard and rescuing people that don't need rescuing, that's always good fun.
3: Fishing's excellent. I mean, I've never been, but I'd like to try, the fishermen always look happy.
4: Beach cricket! Wasn't the day for it today but beach cricket is good, sidearm bowling on the beach.
5: We played football today, football on the beach is always good for a laugh with your mates.
How do you feel about the overcast and rainy weather?
I think it's pretty good, to be honest, I was hoping it'd be a bit more disastrous. Last year was really, really hot, couldn't have asked for a better day. So this year I had visions of fans lost at sea, real horizontal rain, all that. It's actually not been that bad. A few people are definitely going to get left here by the bus, I wouldn't want to spend the night on the beach, put it that way.
How did you sort it all?
I don't really like to get involved with the logistics, I sort of swoop in and take the credit near the end *laughs*. I think people in bands especially don't think you can do stuff like this, but it's not that hard to hire a bus and book a venue somewhere...I mean I don't see the bills, the label does, but still! The whole pitch is basically "we're idiots taking a bus down to margate and filling Elsewhere with bands". The only restriction they gave us was not to get too drunk...
Are you annoyed that Chas and Dave got there first?
Yeah, but they're old men aren't they, well one of them's dead, so they're really old men in that case. These tired old rockers don't know what's what, we're the changing of the guard, this is our town. We are Margate.