Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rode Festival

Aaaand another festival! ...I love playing festivals, it's a big part of what made me want to be in a band in the first place, way back in the mists of time when I was about 15 and had just come home from Reading Rock in 1981... some of the best experiences of my life have happened at festivals (N.B. Never shorten the word to 'festy'. That way lies madness.). Also some of the worst of course, but let's gloss over that.
Rode festival is a village-based event that raises money for local charities (we're talking the local Scout group, PTA, things like that), and we were chuffed to be asked to open it. OK, a later slot would have been better, but what the hell - we had a good onstage sound & a huge field to play in front of, and we did.
For such a small, locally run event, this was fantastically well organised - proper routes to the stage, loads of time to soundcheck, free food & drink for chrissakes! If only every gig was like this - and did I mention the tractor rides & pig racing?
Another nice surprise was the fact that we weren't the only band on the bill doing original material: sure, the headline act was a Who tribute band (I wonder if the bloke playing guitar has to endure countless heckles along the lines of: "So Pete, where's the book, then..?"), but there were a fair few doing their own stuff, among whom an outfit called Pinstripe particularly caught my ear. I'd have liked to have stayed & listened to more, but the unceasing and unreasonable demands of my entourage (aged 4 and 8) ruled that out...
Fair play to the bods in charge for striking a balance with the lineup though - I've been getting a bit pissed off recently with the tendency of event organisers to load the bill with covers & tribute bands, which can make the whole concept of a 'Festival' seem farcical (in my eyes, at least). I've got nothing against covers bands per se - there's some terrific musicians out on the circuit keeping people interested in seeing live music - but in my humble opinion, if you go to a festival you ought to be able to see some bands doing their own songs. Otherwise, you might as well stay at home and plug in yer iPod...
Alright, rant over - here's a pic of the gig - cheers, wife of mine..!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Gillingham Festival & Woolley St Festival

No festivals for ages, then two come along at once! This was a bit of a logistical nightmare, but fun in a hectic kind of way. First up was Gillingham Festival in Dorset, a very slickly run operation where everyone fell over themselves to be helpful - we were issued with passes & plied with tea as soon as we arrived, which made a nice change from the usual "You're the band, then? Don't need you for another hour, sod off." If we'd asked for a big bowl of smarties with all the blue ones taken out, I'm sure they would have done their best to accomodate us...
Lovely big stage, nice sound, crowd a bit thin on the ground, but then that's what you get with an early afternoon gig. Apparently this one was recorded off the desk, which'll be interesting to hear - if it's halfway decent, I'll post it online.
Right, all pile in the van & off to Bradford on Avon for the 10th Woolley St Festival; a cheerfully shambolic charity fundraising affair in the street outside the George. We have to park quite a way away, and lug the gear up to the stage through the crowd (sadly without the sacktrucks, which got left behind), so we're knackered before we start. Luckily, there's about 4 hours to hang around and recharge our batteries before we play. I say luckily, but after a couple of hours of covers band hell, I wasn't so sure. At one point, an atrocious cover of Teenage Kicks was 'dedicated to John Peel', whom I'm sure would have gnawed his own leg off and beaten the singer to death with the soggy end if he'd heard it.
The headline act were a Pink Floyd tribute band who seemed to take themselves even more seriously than their heroes. They'd got a CD out apparently, which was being relentlessly plugged between everyone else's sets.
Bit of a head-scratcher, this: why would anyone in their right mind want to buy a CD of some half-assed tribute band doing Pink Floyd covers? If you like Pink Floyd then you've probably got their original albums already, surely? I mean, is it me..?
Anyway, to add injury to this insult they then decided to set up all their gear onstage before we went on. This left us and the bands after us with a titchy space to set up in, which didn't improve morale. Neither did our set being cut to half an hour, but what the hell, mustn't grumble - it sounded pretty good onstage and the crowd seemed to like it - which is the point of it, after all.
If this festival season has so far taught us anything, it seems to be that tribute acts & covers bands are now considered to be 'what everybody wants to hear', so it seems we have no option: we'll form a Billy in the Lowground tribute band! All we need now is a name... how about Barely in the Lowground..?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Two Rivers Folk Festival, Chepstow

And it came to pass that Billy in the Lowground travelled far to the West, yea even over the Great Bridge to the Land of the Welshmen. The omens were good, & it seemed that the Gods smiled upon our quest, but as we approached the place of Two Rivers the skies grew dark and mighty stormclouds gathered as was foretold by the seers...
There were brought together in that place all the tribes of Morris in a great and fierce multitude, and our band were sore afraid of their warpaint & jingling bells, except for Shirl, wife of Nigel, who was strangely attracted. But the Morrismen made us welcome, bidding us make camp with them and share their beer, saying: “Are ye not Morrismen also?” “Nay,” we replied, “for we are men of Nissan.” And there was much merriment and quaffing of ale.
And that night we played our songs to the assembled tribes, and our songs found favour with their ears (although they could not perceive us with their eyes, for in all their mighty longhouse there were no lights), and outside the storm howled and the rain lashed without ceasing…
On the second day they bade us play again, but in another place, and there we heard the bard Blabbermouth, who sang magical songs so clear and powerful that the rain ceased to fall, and the mighty crowd there gathered cried “More! More!” And we played them our songs then, and there was a great rejoicing and an heroic quaffing of ale, until the sun rose once more on the land.
And on the third day, as the Morrismen slumbered in their tents and the rain began once more to fall, we took our leave of the Land of the Welshmen, vowing to return once more when the leaves fall from the trees…