Ever up for a challenge – or completely mad, depending how you view it – I landed myself with a pretty epic weekend of gigs over the bank holiday. I’ve already written about Thursday’s jaunt to the Big Chill House, and the real test of my mettle (and car) started on the Friday, with a gig with the Shadow Orchestra at Festinho at Hinwick Hall, just outside Northampton.
Festinho is a perfect little festival run to raise money for the ABC Trust, which helps Brazilian street kids. When I arrived, it had been raining solidly for about a week and the site was waterlogged and very muddy. This made getting the harp up to the stage an interesting challenge:
Thanks to the combination of excellent sound crew, the lovely Gina compering, and a wonderful crowd full of friends, we played an absolute blinder. It was fantastic to see so many kids dancing at the front – and then to see them replaced by dancing grownups by the end of the set. I haven’t had that much fun on stage for a very long time. There may have been a celebratory cider or two afterwards…
Following us on the Harvest stage were the wonderful Correspondents, with their blend of souped-up swing, blues-step (like dubstep, but bluesier) and crazy dancing:
After hanging around with the Correspondents after the gig in the luxury backstage area (i.e. the patch of grass behind the kebab stall, next to the Portaloos), we headed off to see the sickeningly talented Jon Hopkins play a corking set in the beautiful woodland stage, aided and abetted my Myogenic on visuals.
The next day, I only got a couple of hours to chill out with friends in the gorgeous sunshine:
Then it was back on the road, heading up the M6 to Knutsford Travelodge to stay for Saturday night. Rock and roll. I discovered that it appears to be impossible to buy any alcohol in Knutsford services (probably a very good thing) although M&S provides a tasty picnic dinner.
Sunday was The Big One – 150 miles up the M6 to Silloth, outside Carlisle, for a gig at Solfest with Sunday Driver. It was a lovely sunny day, and we got a great crowd on the Drystone stage for our gig – including lots of very enthusiastic underage dancers.
As I was leaving the site to head back to Knutsford Travelodge, the plan came unravelled – a puncture. Luckily, a steward and a security guard were on hand to help me put the spare on:
Unfortunately, I’ve only got a “space saver” spare tyre, which can’t go more than 50mph. Driving 150 miles down the M6 at 48mph, late at night, dog tired with no radio reception and a broken CD player is not an experience I’m keen to repeat in a hurry. But I made it in one piece, and took a short diversion into Congleton the next day (we’re on Monday by now…) in search of a replacement tyre:
Back on the road to Cheltenham racecourse, for a gig with the Shadow Orchestra at Greenbelt – a Christian arts festival. We were playing on the Underground stage – a blacked-out hole of a room in the main building complex. Disconcertingly, the room was cleared after every act, so we started off playing to a somewhat depleted crowd:
Fortunately, the room filled up a bit, and the people that were there enjoyed our set. But playing a gig at 6.15pm on the last day of a festival – to a mostly-sober bunch – was never going to be easy, and we didn’t really get a great atmosphere going. Still, we played well and we gave it our all, and you can’t do more than that.
Then finally I was back in the car and off to my parents’ house for a spot of rest and recuperation. They live round here…
…with these two:
(They’re PBGVs, in case you wondered)
It was a hell of a drive to do all by myself, but we played some great gigs along the way and I had so much fun. Man, I really need a proper holiday now.