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

Thursday, 30 July 2009

WOMAD (by Ben)

This week Urusen played at WOMAD festival. It was a last minute booking from the organiser. A new stage had been planned in the Real Ale Bar and the organiser, Paula Henderson, had sent us an email inviting us to play. Sunday night, 7.50pm, in the bar. Cool! Work cancelled, shifts moved, and we were good to go, except of course Nick, who couldnt shift the due date of his and Ellie's baby, so we were playing as a 4-piece for this one.

I arrived on Saturday afternoon, catching a bus, then a train, then a bus, then another bus. I was feeling quite smug as I had just bought a trolley and bag for all my gear. Except that the trolley adds another 10kg to the whole wait, and Chippenham train station is ALL STAIRS. The nice bus driver wished Urusen well as I disembarked for the long walk to the Artist's camping area, same as normal camping, just a lot further. Having hoisted up my little fake tee pee I then realised I'd left my phone behind, so for the next 24 hours it was going to be a big wander, as the rest of the guys weren't arriving till Sunday afternoon. What an idiot!

A cider, well, three, later I finally bumped into someone I knew. Sarah, who I went to school with since I was 5 years old. She was heading for home with her children but gave me a hot tip to look out for purple and pink wigs in the Sian tent which were donning her sister Kathleen and mum Caro. Sarah's family actually RUN Womad so I felt pretty chuffed to be hanging out with them for the rest of the evening. Had a retro-boogie-reminisce to Peter Gabriel and was blown away by AMAZING beat boxing later that night.

As the inevitable rain eventually passed over us I headed to sleep, carefully positioning my mat between the four puddles that had already strategically collected themselves under the window's of the tee pee. It was a cold, wet night.

Skip forward 13 hours and the first car to arrive was Jay and Little Pete, slightly shaken from a high speed chase through the back streets of Kilburn as they were coming out of London. "Never talk back to aggressive drivers" is the lesson. But if anywhere can relax you, WOMAD can. Despite the rain, the atmosphere is warm. With some cider and food inside them, we swayed to high-octane bass clarinet by the BBC 3 stage. As the clouds drew in we headed back to meet Kieran who had just arrived and load our gear into the Real Ale Bar. It was one of these huge long marquees, could probably hold about a 1000 at a push, but the poet before had meant it had emptied a little. But then, as a way of a gentle push, the heaven's opened, and people flocked back in to drink. The drum kit was missing a floor tom, so while the sound engineer Steve ran off to find one, I lugged Peter Gabriel's stage piano into place which we were using. (Thanks Peter!).

After a surprisingly nice floor tom arrived (more on that later!), we sound checked, beckoned the crowd forward and set off with 'Now that she has flown'. It always takes a song or two to get the levels right, warm up our voices, but each song flowed. The crowed cheered, and cheered. I spotted Rob from Realworld (our lovely publisher) and his wife in the middle. I think I even saw him dance, just a little. During one song I saw a guy running across the front of the stage with a another floor tom. Didn't think anything of it. We played all the new ones, except Step off the Train, arguabley the most delicate song we do. We thought the mood was too high for a slow quiet one, and Nick has a nice little solo which we couldn't replicate. The set ended with 'From this country' and we filed off the stage to much applause, which I have to say, feels great. The crowd pulled us back on, so we went with Train Song as our encore and made sure we got a big cheers for Nick, Ellie and the forthcoming baby. It actually feels like a good song to end with.

After the gig lots of people came up to us. It was quite funny (and nice). All the organisers from the big festivals we'd played at seemed to be there. First came Lisa from Avalon at Glastonbury festival. She apologised for not seeing us when we played there, but gave us all a big hug and said she really enjoyed it, and see us next year for sure. Then Amy from Larmer Tree Festival came up and echoed the sentiment. And of course Rob, representing WOMAD came up too (rumour has it Dave T, one of the head honchos of WOMAD was their too). Big smiles all round. I wonder if Peter G made it too?

Kieran came up to me afterwards. He had had a great gig, but there was one moment when mid-song I guy had come up a switched floor toms, virtually mid-beat! Apparently Steve had mistakenly taken a floor tom from the Main Stage kit, worth about £1500, new skins and all. Whoops! Still, we had a great floor tom sound for at least half the gig. Steve made good by giving us a recording of our gig, which we'll pop up some tracks from soon on had gone way better than we could have hoped. Great crowd, great gig. Apparently we'll be "as big as Stornaway by next year!" We all retired for a nice cider, except poor Kieran and Pete who had to drive back, for work the next morning.

Jay and I finished off the evening wandering around with Jay's girlfriend and her family, watching WOMAD slowing down as the night drew deeper, and the ever more manic attempts of the WOMAD revelers to catch the last glimpses of each tent, trying to find that elusive bar that stayed open those few minutes longer. People didn't want it to end. Happy and tired we all eventually headed to our respective tents. I crept into my tee pee, dodging the creeping puddles that would chase my foot every time I put it down into the groundsheet. I lay down onto my mattress island and fell into a deep dream filled sleep.

The next morning it was back to reality. I waved goodbye to Jay, and then tramped across the fields, out the wrong exit and onto the main road, walking along the verge crushed up against the nettles and thorns as the lorries tor by. A little wake up call, don't get above yourself Ben. No limo here. Finally I reached the bus stand heading home, happily munching away on the best bacon sandwich I think I have ever eaten in my life. There were two ladies standing in the queue behind me, chatting about what they had seen at WOMAD, their highlights, what CD's they had bought. I stood there eating my sandwich thinking. Hmm, wouldn't it be nice if they mentioned us, little laugh at myself and continue munching away. Back to reality Ben. But then... "oh, yes, and there was this band called, umm, Urusen. I saw them at Larmer Tree last week, twice. They were amazing! Then I saw their CD in the WOMAD shop and had to get it as they had sold out at Larmer. You should check them out." Ha ha, maybe REALITY is starting to change after all!

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