Category Archives: Rock and roll adventures

Two weddings and a knees-up

Another busy weekend, but rather than gigging I was playing my last wedding bookings of the season.

First was Angel and Giles, whose wedding was in the very plush setting of Ashdown Park Hotel in Sussex:

Ashdown Park Sussex wedding

Ashdown Park. Dead posh.

There was even a helicopter! (though I don’t think it belonged to any of the wedding guests):

Ashdown park helicopter

Beats getting a taxi home any day.

They were really lucky with the weather, and although the Autumnal chill did get to my fingers by the end of the outdoor service (resulting in a  bit of a fluff during their exit music), the sun shone and I managed to nab a glass of champagne while I played during the reception drinks. This was also the first wedding I’ve been at with its own Twitter hashtag. Very modern.

Then the next day I drove across London to play for Lisa and Daniel at their wedding at the Carlton Mitre near Hampton Court:

Carlton Mitre wedding

Nice Muriel, as my mother would say.

Again, the weather was lovely, although I learnt my lesson from the previous day and kept my fingerless mitts on while I played during the drinks on the terrace:

Lisa Daniel Carlton Mitre

The happy couple - awwwww!

Then instead of having a quiet night in like a sensible person, I headed out to the Big Chill Bar off Brick Lane to provide moral support for my housemate Duck (half of Bam Bam Sound) while he played records. This extended to little more than hoovering up free drinks and shouting requests for him to play Justin Bieber (don’t ask):

Duck Bam Bam big chill bar

Duck doing his thing. The blur behind him is Ricky, headbanging.

It was the Brick Lane festival, and the whole area looked like the apocalypse had hit it – broken glass and piss everywhere, people wandering about in the streets moaning and drooling…

Anyway, we had a brilliant time – though clearly not as brilliant a time as this girl.  She was awesome:

Girl at Big Chill Bar

Who is this woman? She's ace.

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…

Hello Crawley! Sunday Driver go on tour

..and by “on tour”, I mean London and Sussex. For a weekend.

Last weekend saw Sunday Driver embarking on a (possibly foolhardy) escapade of three gigs in two days.

First up, a private party in Brighton. Thanks to Joel’s superb organisational skills, we managed to bag bargain train tickets, and even get everyone to arrive on time for the correct train.

The party was set in a lovely garden, with a fantastic audience and generous (and gorgeous) hostesses.

Sunday Driver garden party

I only wish my garden was as nice as this. Instead, it's full of bindweed and fox poo

Sadly, we couldn’t stay to enjoy their munificence, as we had to hot-foot it back to London to play at the Steampunk Sizzler at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club. There was a dodgy moment when it looked like our train might be cancelled because of a faulty toilet, but the powers that be decided that the travelling public could do without loos.

Sunday Driver - Joe, Scott, Chemise

Scoot, Joe and Chemise up to no good on the train

The Steampunk Sizzler gig was great – sadly it was really dark so none of my photos came out.  It’s a brilliant feeling to play a gig where everyone’s dressed up (so we don’t feel quite so freakish), and the audience dances enthusiastically to all the songs.

Special mentions to the amazing spider dancers and the extremely bendy Polish girl. We hope to see everyone at the Asylum in September up in Lincoln for more fun.

The next day, we made our rendezvous at Crawley Mela, somewhat tired and emotional.

Sunday Driver Crawley Mela

Who the hell are Sunday Drive?

Tabla player Amit got stuck in traffic, but luckily (albeit frustratingly for the rest of us) our stage was running an hour late, so he made it in time for the gig.

Sunday Driver - Joel and Mel

Joel and Mel discuss the set list. "So this is the bit where we burst out of the pods, and then the model of Stone Henge comes down from the ceiling, yeah?"

It was a rather odd audience, ranging from stern-looking Indian matriarchs to bouncing babies. Here they are, patiently waiting for our soundcheck:

Crawley Mela

The crowd at Crawley Mela

We had a good time, although we were a bit screwed by the non-appearance of the drum kit we’d been promised.

Anyway, our two crazy weekends are over now, and we’re officially on holiday for two weeks. Yay!

5 gigs at the Secret Garden party! Part 1

Phew! I’m finally recovered from the Secret Garden Party, and have almost caught up on my sleep. I can report back that the SGP is a brilliant little festival – such a great vibe, friendly people, fab music and lucky with the weather – and that 5 gigs in 3 days is about the limit of my endurance.

This is how it panned out..

Arrive on site on Friday morning. Faff around for ages trying to get our kit to the stage. Play first gig with Shadow Orchestra – a 2 hour set (allegedly) at 12.30pm on the Gaia Stage.

The harp waits nervously for her first gig on the Gaia stage

In the end, after playing practically everything we’ve ever written, we only had an hour and a half of material. But it all went down well, though slightly spoiled by the constant soundclashes from neighbouring stages. The inadvertent Dizzee Rascal remix of the sensual, delicate cello duel at the beginning of Folkstep was particularly “special”.

Here’s the crowd before:

Before our gig

And after:

Afterwards - spot the difference. OK, so it's not a huge crowd, but not bad for lunchtime on the first day

Then it was time to head back to camp and chill out, enjoying the ripple of cheering that spread across the festival site as the sun finally came out from behind the day’s solid wall of cloud:

Hello sunshine!

We stuffed our faces with delicious rotisserie-cooked chicken and promptly all passed out for a couple of hours (a chicken coma?) prior to our next gig at 1.30am.  So far so good.

Then it was time to wait… and wait… and watch a couple of bands (including the amazing Jessie Rose Trip, and a bit of Marina and the Diamonds (aka Tesco value Regina Spektor)… and wait… and stay sober… and wait… and watch a fire circus… and wait… and get cold, tired and fractious… and wait… and stare blankly in poorly concealed agony as it became clear that our stage was running nearly 2 hours late… and wait…

Jessie Rose Trip - this girl has awesome pipes and kick-ass guitar playing

The fire circus

Finally we got on stage at Centre Camp just after 3am – exhausted, grumpy and freezing cold.  I may have sworn at the band on before us. I’m not proud of it. Luckily, we then proceeded to play an absolute blinder of a gig to a totally up-for-it crowd. New song No Other/FWNF went down really well, and we ended up with some cowbell-related audience participation.

And then, of course, we were on such a high we couldn’t sleep. So we sat around for ages having a few drinks and banging on to anyone who would listen about how brilliant we were. Finally, we crawled back to our tents well after dawn:

Chris and Dave express their feelings at being awake past dawn

… only to be boiled alive by the morning sun a mere two hours later. Gnnnnnh.

The rest of saturday was a bit of a write-off for me as I flailed around with a blanket and a pair of earplugs in search of quiet, shady spots to snooze in. I felt rubbish, frankly – crotchety, bone-achingly tired with RSI-afflicted wrists, and willing to kill for a comfy bed. The rest of the band felt pretty much the same.

Nick sleeps it off

Two gigs down and I was wondering how on earth I was going to get through gig number 3, let alone numbers 4 and 5 (as well as providing moral support for Ricky’s two gigs with Belleruche).  Stay tuned for part 2 to find out how I got on…

Sunday Driver, the Shadow Orchestra and Belleruche at Sunrise Celebration

Sunset at the Sunrise Celebration

It’s now Wednesday and I’m barely recovered from last weekend’s adventure – the Sunrise Celebration down in Somerset. Chris from the Shadow Orchestra also has a little writeup on the band’s blog too.

I can honestly say that was the nicest festival I’ve been to for absolutely ages. It was very hippy (almost too hippy for me – I had to avoid most of one field that was all full of tarot, astrology, chakras and similar gubbins, and I think I was the only woman on site wearing jeans and a T-shirt…) but such a lovely, happy vibe.  And they even got fantastic weather to go with it.

It was a busy weekend for me, as I had two gigs on the Friday night on the Bimble Inn stage. This was a mixed blessing, as I was pretty tired and my hands hurt by the end of the second gig. But it also meant minimum faffing about with the harp, and that I could get stuck into the cider the rest of the weekend:

On the bill twice!

First up was Sunday Driver. It was a bit of a tough gig for us as we had a few problems with the sound, but we played well. Big thanks to stand-in tabla player Renu, who came all the way to the festival just to play the gig and drive back to London again.

Then after a couple of hours I was back on stage with the Shadow Orchestra, playing straight after the amazing Brown Star. Anyone who can play the bass with such aplomb in gold pants deserves respect. They were great, especially their country version of Irresistible Bitch by Prince:

Brown Star - men in pants

The Shadow Orchestra gig went really well – a huge relief after being dogged by power cut-outs just before our set. We celebrated by buggering off to the artists’ carpark and sitting in the back of my Mondeo, drinking Waitrose cider like the poshest teenagers ever. Brilliant fun 🙂

I don’t remember much else about the evening except copious amounts of pig and cider. Mmmmm, hog roast… As a result, the next morning was not pretty. Being boiled alive in a tent at 7am with a cider and pork hangover is an experience I’m not keen to repeat:

The morning after

After the rest of the Shadow Orchestra had gone back to London, I reunited with Sunday Driver, who were chilling in the carpark again (honestly – I swear I didn’t spend the whole festival in the carpark!). They were using Joel’s car as a kind of reverse sauna, sitting inside it with the air-con on.  Not very hippy at all:

The Sunday Driver reverse sauna

Then Belleruche turned up:

Ricky Fabulous and DJ Modest drink herbal tea and contemplate buying some tie-dyed trousers

They played a blinder of a set on the Chai Wallah stage that evening, and a slightly more random set at the Bimble Inn much later…

Belleruche onstage at Chai Wallah's

Other highlights included an awesome beatboxer – I didn’t catch his name, but I think it was Vid Warren. Seriously, he was AMAZING:

Vid Warren at Chai Wallah's

I also loved The Correspondents – I’ve seen them a few times before, and got to chat to them backstage. They’re such lovely guys, and their act is brilliant:

The Correspondents - hip hop and tapdancing, what's not to love?

No more festivals for a while – the next one is the Secret Garden party in July, where I’ll have FOUR gigs over the weekend (two with each band). Phew!

Shadow Orchestra play Meadowlands festival

Meadowlands festival

Meadowlands festival - small but perfectly formed

Back from the first festival of the year, and I’ve just about got the mud out from under my fingernails and had a good snooze.  The festival in question was Meadowlands, a little gathering down in Glynde, Sussex.  We were invited back to play after going down a storm at last year’s SoundHarvest festival on the same site, and we were really excited about playing our new set for such a great crowd.

Unfortunately, things didn’t go exactly to plan. The weather was grey and drizzly, and the crowd was a bit sparse. But we got the tents up and managed to track down some tea and biscuits.

tents at meadowlands

The Shadow Orchestra's tent city - taken the next morning, when the sun actually came out

By the time we got to stage time – 11.30pm – the adrenaline was running high, dampened only slightly by Mary and I having to put our makeup on in the dark and get changed in the back of my car.

The gig went pretty well, all things considered. There wasn’t a huge crowd, but the new tunes went down well (Folkstep and Radiophonic Freakout) and we had a good time despite some rather bizarre monitoring issues on stage.

Following us were the excellent Wave Machines – a band I’ve not heard before but remind me a lot of TV on the Radio. I loved their set, and bought a copy of their album Wave if you’re really there. It does sound an awful lot like TV on the Radio, but I love that so I love Wave Machines. Highly recommended, and a great find.

Wave Machines at Meadowlands

Wave Machines - fantastic band, and really lovely guys

Next week we’re at the Sunrise festival down in Somerset – as is my other band, Sunday Driver and Ricky’s band Belleruche – so that should be a fun family outing (as long as I remember to bring the Shadow Orchestra communal toilet roll).

On tour with Belleruche part 2 – Rennes

Rock'n'Solex festival - not much rock but lots of solexes

Part 1 (Paris) is here

I bloody love French trains.  The TGV hauled Belleruche along with their professional groupie (aka me) from Paris to Rennes in about two and a half hours – a distance of some 350km – giving me the chance to get on with some serious knitting (and then some serious unravelling on the way back, but that’s another story).

Our destination was the Rock’n’Solex festival at INSA Rennes, a university campus just outside the town. It wasn’t a particularly glamorous location and the air was split by a constant irritating buzz, like a very large wasp stuck in a jar. Turns out the noise was made by Solexes – underpowered mopeds that are apparently very popular in France – and the festival is a weird combination of  Solex racing all day and music all night.

I spent most of the day hanging out backstage, trying to catch a glimpse of headline act De La Soul.

The Belleruche backstage portacabin - luxurious!

The band were opening the night, and played a great set including a whole bunch of songs of their upcoming new album. Sadly, although it held out for the gig, Kathrin’s voice sounded pretty much shot to pieces afterwards. Let’s hope she makes a very speedy recovery.

Belleruche on stage at Rock n Solex

We stayed to watch headliners De La Soul, who were utterly awesome. I was a huge fan of the band when I was a teenager, so it was great to see them live. No pics, as I was too busy hopping up and down like a loony and waving my hand in the air.

We had another night of not-enough-sleep, then pootled back home via Paris (first class on the Eurostar again – yay!). I had such a brilliant time, despite having to constantly help the band shift around enormous crates of equipment rather than glamorously swanning about with a cocktail and a superior look like a proper WAG.  And there have been an awful lot of macarons under the bridge. Time to hit the gym, I think.

On tour with Belleruche part 1 – Paris

Belleruche on the bill at the Machine du Moulin Rouge

Last weekend I packed my bags and headed off to St Pancras with Ricky Fabulous, DJ Modest and Kathrin de Boer, aka Belleruche.

We hopped on the Eurostar (first class – yay!), snaffled the champagne breakfast and fell out the other end in Paris.

The band had been booked to play at Machine du Moulin Rouge – a large venue under the famous windmill, surrounded by swarming tourists trying to see pretty dancing girls and tiny horses.

The Moulin Rouge in all its glory. Topless ladies not shown

I hung around the streets of Paris waiting for the band to finish soundchecking:

Belleruche soundchecking. No sign of tiny horses

And entertained myself by buying the world’s most expensive and tiny glass of wine:

Europe's most expensive tiny glass of wine - Four euros for that!! Phone shown for scale

The gig was great, though sadly cut a bit short by Kathrin’s cold – she had almost completely lost her voice by the end of the set and still had a gig the next day to think about.

The rock god that is Ricky Fabulous

The lovely Kathrin on stage

Paris was a blast, and after not-quite-enough sleep we caught a taxi through the city and got the train to Rennes for the Rock’n’Solex festival. Read on for part 2…