I wasn't intending on sponsoring any shows this year, but Chis Hatton had done such a good job painting the GKM prize helmet for the Trip Out last year that I wanted to do something in return. So when he asked if I would support a new show he was putting on in south Wales with his buddies from 'Fuck the Haters', I happily agreed.
It's exciting when new events come onto the chopper calendar and The Hook Up promised something a bit different: Chris and his mates Lee and James put their show on in a field on top of a big windswept Welsh hill, next to a pub and featuring a number of young punk rock bands and a hip hop DJ. Definitely not your usual 'biker rally' – and that's definitely a good thing.
I think inaugural events are always the best: like first albums and first girlfriends. With chopper shows, the first ones are always the ones that you can proudly say you attended – way before they got too big/commercial/hipsterish! And already the buzz on social media promises that a second show will be much better attended after the more cautious 'let's see how this new show goes' absentees saw what a good time we all had.
The weather was, well, Welsh: high winds, drizzle, dramatic clouds and even some bursts of glorious sunshine. I was driving as I had been generously offered a booth by the FTH guys at the show and I had a batch of new shirts and magazines with me; the approach to the venue from Caerphilly took me along a single country track, up hill and down dale, through a herd of ponies, past lots of sheep… and then I was there. It's a nice part of the world: as beautiful as it is bleak; my mum was born down the road in Cwmbran.
Friday night was spent meeting old friends and enjoying a few pints of Brains (local brew) in the pub. The local ladies were all dressed to the nines for what we assumed was a wedding reception… but turns out it's apparently normal dress for a Friday night in tiny Eglwysilan. The blokes just wore rugby jerseys and broken noses, but left us all alone. I was thankful for a hotel room after my six and a half hour drive from north Yorkshire, and after a solid kip drove back to the site next morning anticipating a good day.
What I really enjoyed about the first Hook Up show was having the time to chat properly to lots of people I don't get to see very often; it was a laid back vibe, with show-goers ambling back and forth from the pub carrying plastic pints of ale, music coming from the show tent and plenty of time for everyone to check out the (varied) bikes. The show wasn't swarming with people, and was all the better for it; (except when the local back patch club turned up mob-handed to check things out). My favourite bikes there were Chris's, Lee's and James'… the FTH hosts with the two-wheeled most. I am going back to south Wales soon to do a feature on their choppers… without exception absolute hardcore, skinny, bare bones machines, beautifully turned out. My fellow Black Widows naturally made a great showing too: Stevie won best in show with his shovel, Lee's bike is always sublime and Glen's Panhead is the tits.
By mid-afternoon I gave up with the gazebo I was attempting to trade from. The gale-force winds had bent the frame and the whole canopy left the ground once too often; I folded it away and sold merch 'n' mags out of the back of my rental van: no big deal, I just nattered and drank, picking stuff out when people asked for it.
As daylight faded into Saturday night, bonfires were lit, prizes were given and raffles drawn. Bands played and bikers drank. I left the proceedings relatively early (something I congratulated myself of when driving back home the next day) but if you want to see the burnouts, arm wrestling and shenanigans that ensued just look up #thehookup on Instagram etc.
It was a very enjoyable weekend; well organised by good blokes with top bikes. No bullshit, no posing... just fun, laughter and cool motorcycles. Exactly as it should be.
Apologies for the quality and sparsity of these shitty phone pics; really must get a new one.