In Search of...: The (not so) Secret Diary of a Band

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

One Crazy Weekend

3 festivals, 4 performances, 350 miles and a lot of cider.

On Thursday the madness began at the Larmer Tree Festival near Salisbury. The festival was sold-out and with headliners including The National Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain and Dreadzone, it was likely to be a good start to the weekend. After unpacking the tents and gear (more on that later) we had a look round what has to be one of the coolest festivals in the UK. The atmosphere was very relaxed and there were so many cool things to do and see (including the horticultural sitting room, right) we all agreed it would we would have loved to have stayed all weekend.

Our first set was in the Arc Tent which was a good size with a real listening crowd (sounds silly but a lot of festival crowds aren't!) One thing I particularly liked was the fact that they ran an open mic at the side of the tent during band changeovers. I thought this was inspired, and much better than bombarding people with the sound engineers i-pod all day.

Anyways, we had an early evening slot so took the spare time to have a quick rehearsal next to the tents as we hadn't played together in 2 weeks. The gig itself went really well. The stage crew in the tent were great (especially Tim the Jimmy Page look-a-like stage manager!) and we were very well received by the crowd, who we did a bit of a meet and greet with after the gig (including our competition winner Nigel and his son - lovely to meet you both!) which was a bit surreal but hopefully a sign of things to come! We then partied the night away to Dreadzone and, from what I remember, we indulged in playfighting in a big tent, ate dirty burger van burgers and met the irrepressible 'Mad Mick', a toothless farmer who imparted wisdom on subjects such as going bald ("hair today, gone tomorrow") and his love for Tina Turner!

Friday morning we got up 'lateish' and waded through what had been the festival site but the rain had turned into a bog. After getting some sustenance inside us, we watched some great acts including The Travelling Band who Ben and Pete have played with previously. Then it was time to pack up the tents and head south to Dorset for our second performance of the weekend at the Tolpuddle Martyr's Festival. Celebrating its 175th anniversary, it promised to be a good gig, irrespective of the inclement weather. On arrival, we noticed two things. Firstly, although we were aware of the likely political leanings of many of the punter's at the festival, some of the t-shirts were still a great sight to behold.
Secondly, we can say with a certain amount of confidence that, as far as 5 piece bands go, we must be pretty near the top when it comes to abundance of equipment. The scale of the operation only really becomes apparent when you see it all piled together, and thus I decided to document this. For scale, we put Pete in the picture. While he may look like a relatively diminutive chap the photo is misleading. He's far smaller than that.

We were opening the festival so whilst the crowd needed a song or two to get in to it, the gig went off really nicely. The sound was brilliant in the tent, and a special thanks to Keith and everyone at the festival for making us feel so welcome, would be lovely to come back next year - if only to sample what had to be the best festival showers I've ever seen! It was also lovely to again meet people after the show, be great to see you all again at some point!
There may be no rest for the wicked, but the same applies to Urusen, as we had to pack up again and head North to Bath so Ben could help to apply the finish touches to the mini-festival he has run for the last 3 years, EyeFest. So half of headed that way to set up camp for the night, whilst Nick went back to Larmer tree with our roadie for the weekend 'Colin' (or as he is normally known, Nick's brother Max!)

EyeFest is set in the beautiful surroundings of a farm overlooking Bath. In its 3rd year, we have been and played every year (it helps when one of the band books the bands for the festival!) and although I'm sure I'm biased, it is great, for a good cause, and we always enjoy ourselves. This year was nautical themed and luckily the weather held off on the whole, so we were treated to a Saturday in the Somerset sun. Dinner and breakfast is provided (Hog roast for most, bean chilli for non-meat eaters like me!) and the music included the welsh rockers 4th Street Traffic, returning to headline after their triumphant set last year. Other notable mentions were the ever-wonderful Naomi Roper, The irreverant Stanley Forbes, and the guys from Lindy Hop, who taught everyone (including my mum and aunty a few 1950s dance moves!) Must also give a mention to our friend Chris the sound man for his sterling work throughout the day.

So with our final slot of the weekend starting at 11:15 back at the Larmer Tree we rose early, more than a little sheepishly, and loaded all the gear back into the vehicles and got back on the road. We arrived with a certain amount of trepidation, a lot of festivals don't even start until midday so what sort of crowd could we expect on the final day of a festival at just after 11? Needless to say, Larmer Tree did not let us down. In what was probably the best gig of the weekend, we were given a standing ovation and sold out of albums in the signing tent within 25 minutes. To all the people who signed up to the mailing list for albums - we will be in touch soon! It was also cool to meet one of the guys from Stornoway. Would be great to do some gigs with guys at some point so get in touch!!
The gig also had added significance as it will be the last one for a little while with Nick, our Cellist. He and his girlfriend Ellie are expecting their 1st child in August and thus he will have more than enough on his plate for the near future. The rest of us are all excited about becoming Urusen Uncles and we wish Nick and Ellie all the best.
And that was that, another weekend of great gigs, wonderful people and not a lot of sleep. WOMAD next week!!

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