Category Archives: Festivals

If you can read this, I’m on my way to the US

If you can read this, it means I’ve successfully flown off to the World Steam Expo in Detroit, after literally months of nailbiting organisational stress, coupled with last-minute volcano-related panic. No wonder I’ve ground my teeth into tiny stumps.

Youtube linky

Back next week. Play nicely, now.

Shadow Orchestra play Simple Things, Bristol

I had a brilliant time on Sunday playing with the Shadow Orchestra at the Simple Things all-dayer in Bristol. It was an incredible lineup, and we were thrilled to be sharing the bill with some awesome bands.

Highlights for me were our gig (of course!), Gonjasufi, Nova Robotics and Jon Hopkins. I’m gutted I missed seeing Daedelus as he was just amazing when we supported him at the Luminaire a couple of years back. But it was late, I was exhausted, and the crowd was getting a wee bit too wasted for my liking.

Here are some pics I took during the day:

Simple things running order

The backstage running order

Shadow Orchestra soiund check

Sound checking

Set list

My set list. It makes sense to me.

Shadow Orchestra kit

Chris's ever-growing stack of equipment

Shadow Orchestra Bristol

Tearing it up on stage

Shadow orchestra Bristol crowd

The crowd goes wild

Nova Robotics

The excellent Nova Robotics. Two guys, two guitars and a laptop. They were LOUD


Gonjasufi - Awesome psychedelic hip-hop

Simple Things VIP

Hanging out in the VIP lounge with Ricky Fabulous from Belleruche - our roadie for the day

Simple things

I'm not even sure who's playing here

Jon Hopkins

The amazing Jon Hopkins


That's one hell of a blister

Festinho 2011 lineup announced – and I’m on it twice!

Festinho flyerThe first announcement of the lineup for Festinho – probably the best little festival in the world – has just been made, and I’m thrilled to see that both my bands, Sunday Driver and the Shadow Orchestra are on the bill.

So hopefully no insane 800-mile driving marathon to spoil my bank holiday this year, but lots of fun in the sun with wonderful people at a wonderful festival instead.

Tickets are on sale now, and only £90 for an adult camping tocket for the whole weekend. Bargain!

Shadow Orchestra play Bestival, Sunday Driver play the Asylum

Another weekend, another crazy excursion across the country. Last one for a while though, thank goodness.

This time, it was Bestival on the Isle of Wight with the Shadow Orchestra on Friday, then a late-night dash back to London. This was followed by a very long drive up to Lincoln on the Saturday to play at the UK’s finest Steampunk gathering, the Asylum, with Sunday Driver. Although not quite as far as my most insane journey, it was still several hundreds of miles.

Here’s a few pics from the weekend:

Kat and Mary Shadow Orchestra ferry

Me and Mary on the ferry to Bestival. Not good for the hairstyles

Shadow Orchestra truck bestival

We got to ride in a truck! And accidentally stole someone's rucksack, but that's another story

Nick Shadow Orchestra bestival

Nick particularly enjoyed the truck bit

Shadow orchestra at bestival

Checking out the festival before our gig.

Magic castle bestival

I loved the magic fairytale castle. Apparently it went up in flames at the end of the weekend.

Bestival mainstage

The main stage at Bestival, obviously.

We caught a bit of Gil Scott Heron [whisper] I didn’t think he was very good [/whisper] but missed seeing anyone else.

Bimble INn Bestival

On the billing at the Bimble Inn.

As it turned out, this running order was a mighty work of fiction. We ended up going on stage at about quarter past eight, leaving me feeling a tad stressed about me and Mary making our ferry back to the mainland that night and getting to bed before 3am.

Anyway, we played a blinder to an enthusiastic crowd, and sold a whole bunch of CDs. And we made the ferry, so it’s all good. Though I did have a laugh at Mary’s “sexy vet” outfit:

Mary sexy vet 1

Mary rocks the glitter'n'wellies look

Mary sexy vet 2

"All Creatures Great & Small" was never like this...

We finally got home at about 1.30am, gutted that we couldn’t stay any longer at the festival – the lineup looked awesome.

But I was back in the car the next day to head to Lincoln for a Sunday Driver booking at the Asylum – the UK’s largest Steampunk gathering.

Sadly, I didn’t manage to take many pics (mostly due to tiredness, and a surfeit of local cider…) but the punters looked amazing. Everywhere I looked were corsets, ruffles, petticoats, goggles, hats and all manner of wonderful costumery – and some absolutely baffled locals.

We went down really well, thanks to Rachel Hayward‘s fab steel pan playing in two tracks, Rats and the Suitor, and the troupe of amazing belly dancers.

The night descended into slight madness, curry, cider and giggles. I’ll say no more but leave it with this pic:

Chemise Sunday Driver Asylum

Chemise fondling his baubles. Just. So. Wrong.

Festinho, Solfest and Greenbelt, via Knutsford and Kwikfit

Festival wristbands

Three festivals in a weekend

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:

Harp in a buggy

This was exactly as undignified and uncomfortable as it looks

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…

Shadow Orchestra festinho

Festinho gets a thumbs up from the band

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:

Correspondents Festinho

The Correspondents tear it up, in a terribly civilised manner

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:

Festinho lawn

No relaxing for me.

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.

Harp in Knutsford Travelodge

Knutsford Travelodge. It's not all glamour, you know...

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.

Solfest flags

Solfest. Sunny but windy

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:

Spare tyre change

My Knights in Shiny Jackets

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:

Harp in Kwikfit

Is this the only time a harp has ever been spotted in a Kwikfit?

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:


Let me hear you - just you - say "yeah!"

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…

Ivinghoe beacon

Ivinghoe Beacon. What a view!

…with these two:

Eddie and Maisie PBGV petit basset griffon

Maisie (front) and Eddie

(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.

And the winner is…

The results are in from my insane, epic festival weekend.


That is a looooong way

In the end, I notched up 800.5 miles from front door to front door, including a detour to Congleton Kwikfit (more of that later), a few laps round the Greenbelt carpark, and a quick jaunt up Pitstone Hill to walk my Mum’s dog. Amazingly, I did the whole thing on just over a tank and a half of diesel. I *heart* my Mondeo’s fuel efficiency.

So this means that the sweepstake winner is Nell, with her guess of 820 miles, just pipping Gina to the post (777 miles).  Nell wins some CDs  and homemade goodies, and probably some random knitwear too. Well done Nell, and thanks to everyone who played along.

Pics and blathering about the weekend to follow shortly.

Knutsford city limits… Epic journey sweepstake, win stuff

Hannibal on an elephant

Unlike Hannibal, I will be making my epic trip in a Ford Mondeo, rather than by elephant.

While many people are taking it easy over the bank holiday, kicking back with a few beers in the garden or relaxing with friends, I’m embarking on an epic adventure.

Not satisfied with 5 gigs in 3 days in one place, I’m attempting 4 gigs in 5 days at different ends of the country.

And to make it more fun, there’s a competition involved. Read on to see how you can enter.

Here’s the plan:

So, the competition is this: simply guess how many miles I will drive between leaving Hackney on Friday morning, and getting home on Tuesday.

The person with the closest answer will win stuff including: homemade cookies,  the new Shadow Orchestra EP, a Sunday Driver EP, and a bunch of other stuff I can find around the house or in the shops near work. In the case of a non-UK resident winner, they just get CDs and small things…

To enter, just leave your guess in the comments below – the winner will be announced when I’ve recovered on Tuesday night. Any top tips about how to stay awake while on an insane driving adventure will also be gratefully received. Also – please come and see us play!

And yes, I know we never announced a winner for the last caption competition – I’ll sort that out ASAP I promise…

Adventures in urination – The SheWee


The SheWee, or Ladycock, as I've come to think of it

As may be obvious to regular readers, I go to a lot of music festivals.  And as everyone knows, the absolutely worst thing about festivals is festival toilets. These are usually stinking chemical cesspits in cramped cubicles, smeared with the bodily excretions of thousands of worse-the-wear punters.

The game du jour at any festival is toilet roulette – will this one be filled to the brim with poo and bogroll? Or will you luck out and get a freshly-emptied cabin with (ooh yes!) toilet roll and hand sanitiser included?

Regardless, everyone walks away from the experience with a slightly degraded look of horror on their face. It’s the same kind of face a dog owner makes when they have to scoop up a particularly nasty poop – the   unpleasant feeling of getting just a little bit close to the visceral reality of life. Never mind wanting to do a poo at Paul’s – it’s enough to make you never want to do a poo ever again.

I refuse to go to festivals unless I’m performing myself or tagging along as a Belleruche WAG, so I get to use the backstage toilets. These are slightly better than the ones for general use, but still not the most enjoyable experience –  though I must point out that the compost loos at the Sunrise festival were positively pleasant (or as pleasant as an outdoor municipal shitter can be) throughout the site.

My main issue with festival loos is more of an issue with my own body – I’m extremely short. This makes it difficult to hover over a dirty seat without peeing onto my boots or accidentally sitting in something horrific. So this summer I invested in a SheWee. This is essentially an anatomically-shaped plastic funnel (instantly dubbed “the Ladycock” by everyone who’s seen it) which should – in theory at least – enable me to pee standing up.

The packaging recommends to try it in the shower first. Now I don’t know about you, but I haven’t peed in my shower since I was about three, and I’m not about to start now.  So I tested it in the privacy of the toilet of my shared house. The results were not promising. Given that I live with three boys, the toilet and floor have already seen a fair amount of… errr… misdirection, but this was ridiculous. Over a few attempts, I managed to get wee on:

  • My hands
  • The toilet rim
  • The floor
  • My trousers
  • The wall (I’m still not quite sure how that happened)

Suddenly I have a grudging new-found respect for the challenges of weeing standing up (although it is loads of fun, isn’t it?). Anyway, I ran out of time and inclination to practice any more before the festival, so the SheWee remains untested ‘in the wild’. I’ve still got a few more festivals lined up this summer, so maybe she’ll get another outing.

Have you ever tried a SheWee or similar device? Did you pee on your trousers? And just how much fun is peeing standing up, eh, boys?

Look Ma – I’m trending!

Wanky Balls trending on TwitterI was staggered to see Twitter going crazy over my humble little observation about the Wanky Balls festival (aka the Big Chill) yesterday, culminating in “Wanky Balls” ending up as a trending topic in the UK.

Some people even suggested it should become shorthand for failure of journalists/subs to check their facts (cf Yakawow).

Years of training as a scientist and a writer, and what’s my greatest hit?

Wanky Balls.

*sigh* My mother will be so proud.

Thanks to Bitter Wallet, Tabloid Watch and the Register for taking up the baton, and to Sub’s Standards for the commentary.

Wanky Balls festival, or Lazy journalists are lazy

The Big Chill is a large music festival that takes place every year in Ledbury, Herefordshire. I’ve been – and played – several times, and am lucky enough to know a lot of the people who were involved right at the very beginning.

So it was highly amusing to open the Independent this Saturday and see this:

Independent - Big Chill Wanky Balls

Check the last paragraph - Wanky Balls??

Intrigued, I fired up Wikipedia and checked the entry for the Big Chill Festival:

Wikipedia Big Chill Festival Wanky Balls

Hehehe (click for full size)

Looks like someone’s been having a bit of childish fun editing the page – and also that someone at the Independent should check their facts a bit better.