Where do you think you're going?

by Caitlin Moran

The International Rock Headliners. Garbage lord it over with five-star changing rooms and a tourbus the size of the Millennium Falcon.

The star's enclosure is always rumoured to be a fabulous elysian meadow, rather like Tellytubbyland, where the sun perpetually shines and the rock equivalent of Tellytubby Custard is constantly on tap. The Inner Sanctum is, in sad reality, all rain, gunge and filthy grass, and seems oddly empty and abandoned compared to the technicolour riot on the other side of the fence.

To the left of the stage - beyond the celeb turd-Tardises that vibrate satisfyingly when the bass gets going - are ten Portakabins in a wide circle like pioneers' wagons grouped around the women and children. At T in the Park, however, women and children are sensibly tucked away, so this sodden arena is left to the Beastie Boys in voluminously billowing pac-a-macs playing table football.

"I'm not going out in that," Shirley Manson states flatly, peering out at the Beasties from her cabin door. "The boys are bearing me to the stage on a sedan chair. Boys! Aren't you?"

"Sure thing," Duke Erikson says amiably, mixing cocktails at the booze-laden table. "Or we could get a cab," Butch Vig suggests. He's coyly tucked behind Shirley's massive portable wardrobe on wheels. "I'm butt-naked back here," he adds cheerfully, slapping his trousers over the door. No peeking..."

Steve Marker continues his unbroken run as Garbage's silent one by mutely grinning.

Garbage have come straight from the Dr. Music Festival in the Pyrenees in Northern Spain. The journey was not made by private jet, but by unglamorous ten-hour drive to the nearest airport, and a five-hour delay for the connecting domestic flight at Heathrow, with the sorely unwelcome result that they arrive on site with just an hour and a half to spare before their performance at 6:30.

"We were just lying around on the floor, groaning," Shirley says of the delay, sitting on a day-glo sofa and looking slightly knackered. "I think I fell asleep awkwardly, because I can only rotate my neck to here and the it hurts." She rubs her neck, before medicating it properly with vodka and cranberry juice.

Garbage's Portakabin is a swish, if crowded, temporary home. Decked out in bright blues, pinks and greens, it looks like IKEA have forcibly come round and removed all of T in the Park's chintz.

"It's more Habitat," Shirley corrects. "Or Heals. Very Conran."

The huge portable wardrobe which Butch is naked behind spills over with boas, beaded necklaces and sexy shoes. The muddy floor is strewn with sodden brown towels. "I think we have some festival rain-curse on us," Shirley complains, tucking herself up on the day-glo sofa. "We played a festival in Italy last week - lovely and sunny the day before, filthy when we got there. Same in France. And here, in my home country, the jinx clings - it was gorgeous yesterday, wasn't it?"

Everyone nods glumly.

"Still, all my family's here," Shirley comforts herself, turning into a supercharged hostess. The crowded room is introduced to Linda - an auburn haired midwife with a hair-trigger laugh. She and Shirley only have to look at each another before exploding into the cackles of a dirty filth-weasel.

"You're a midwife?" Butch Vig's girlfriend enquires. "Maybe you'll know about this. Butch had this... stomach upset..."

"A real epic one," Butch grimaces cheerfully, before being interrupted as a be-anoraked tower of dampness stomps into the dressing room.

"Oh! Sweetness! This is my honey-monster," Shirley beams, jumping up and slipping her arm around him. "This is Eddie, my husband." She sneaks a kiss under his hood. "I'm so sorry I've dragged you out here!"

"No, no, it's brilliant," he grins, the most Zen man on Earth. "I've just been wandering around out there and everyone's having a great time."

Butch, now fully trousered up, is playing on Garbage's massive, arcade-sized Playstation. "I could do with some help here," he yelps. "I've got some aliens shitting on my ass."

Shirley's husband obligingly grabs a controller as an impossibly damp, impossibly miserable, damp-looking minion appears at the door.

"Five minutes!" she says, looking like she's about to cry.

"Oh God," Shirley sighs, looking out the window again. "Well, there's no point trying to dress up in something pretty. I might as well stay in these" she slaps her camouflage combats. "Butch, I have an announcement to make after the first number."

"Is it a safety thing?" Duke asks. "Is it, like, telling people not to lie down in the mud and stuff?"

"No - I'm telling Scotland that I'm leaving Garbage, and that my sister is the new lead singer." Shirley bounces over to Linda and hugs her from behind. "She looks better than me, she sings better than me and she sure as heel dances better than me."

Rather inevitably, it is the reliable combo of Butch, Steve, Duke and Shirley who get into the shuttle bus from the changing room to the stage. Amusingly, Select manages to walk there quicker. In a fir of pique, Shirley instructs her driver to try and run us over.

On-stage, Shirley hurls around and Damon-jumps like a dog that hasn't seen it's owner for two weeks. Constantly running over to Butch to scream "Yes!" off-mic in his face, or to Duke to beam like a lighthouse in a power-surge, she has the crows surfing helplessly towards her like soggy moths. 'Stupid Girl' and 'I Think I'm Paranoid' are blood-red and viscous, and the irony of 'Only Happy When It Rains' is greeted with victorious air-punching. Shirley's sister dances at the side of the stage while Shirley's Eddie larges it down the front with the punters.

The Spinal Tap wagon ferries the band back to their dressing room after the gig. As it's wheels coat the pedestrian Select in a fine spray of brown, Shirley flicks V-signs through the window.

"We've got hours of interview now," she moans, back in IKEA-world, "and we've run out of vodka. Do you think," she muses, suddenly thoughtful, "we'd be able to nick some from Finley Quaye's dressing room?"

Three hours later, after the inevitable bad-weather delays, Shirley and the boys are looking utterly cream-crackered.

"One of the interviewers said that, in Europe, since you don't have the National Service anymore, you send your youth to festivals to toughen them up," Duke chuckles wryly. "That kinda made sense."

"I was at a festival a couple of months ago," Shirley says, looking down at her ruined trainers in despair, "and Billy Corgan came pelting across the backstage area shouting, 'You called me a c***!', and I was like, 'But in a good way Billy'. It took about an hour to sort it out, but he knows what I mean. And I bumped into Courtney a while back, and she was being really nice to me, and I said, 'Ach, you're only saying this because I'm always banding no about how great you are in interviews'. And she went like this [Shirley does an admirable impression of Courtney taking a step back, throwing a hand to her chest and going all boggle-eyed] and said, 'Girlfriend, you're just pro-jecting!'"

So where to now? Watching Pulp? A party in the Tellytubby Portakabin?

"Oh no," Shirley says, throwing all her possessions into a plastic bin-liner. "I'm going to my home in Edinburgh that I never see."

So a party there, then?

"Well, it's Frank Sinatra day on Channel 4," Shirley sighs, " and normally I'd be stuck in front of that, but I haven't seen my husband for weeks and..." she wrestles with herself for a few seconds, before love wins out over Ol' Blue Eyes, "he is the only man who's better than Frank Sinatra. So I don't think I want to tell you what I'll be doing tonight, nosy..."