Sunday, 6 May 2012


And on the back of all this…
Was Cropredy.
Three days of peace and music in an Oxfordshire field…
It actually felt like we were escaping to a more reasonable parallel universe.
The car is packed and we are actually ready to go at seven in the morning, which, believe me is a minor miracle, and off we went.
Way out in front of the rest of the gang.
We even stopped for breakfast at Bicester, and that has to be a
first !
Just a little further and…
I don’t believe it (Uttered in best Richard Wilson (he’s an actor) voice)
We are actually the first car at the Hare and Hounds, our regular meeting place.
Shakey, Annie, Andrew's back & Liz

Closely followed by Jim and Vicki, Annie and Shakey, Liz, James and Mickey Windows.
Within an hour we’re all here.

It’s amazing !
Not that it does us any good because we still have to drive through the village and hang a left to go round the back to field seven.
Oh well, at least we’re nearer the showers !

Me, trying to get the airbed pump to work...

Tents up and break out the beer.
Sounds like a good idea to me ?
Weather wise, it’s overcast and threatening rain but that’s Cropredy for you.
You can count the really good weather ones on the fingers of one hand and that’s after you’ve had an industrial injury !!!
I dunno what it is about this place, but by Christ it attracts
the rain ?
Right, half of us are going to the pub, and the other half are going to queue for our wristbands before hitting the field to grab a spot for the first day’s acts.

Fairport are starting everything off with an acoustic set, and U.B.40 are finishing the night, but inbetween them somewhere, are Hayseed Dixie, and they are definitely a ‘once seen and heard, never forgotten’ experience.

Annie & me
Fairport acoustic are ok and typically Fairport acoustic.
Fairport were followed by Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts who had been one of the nominees for the Radio 2 best folkies, and they were fine and instrumentally very good for a couple of youngsters.
Third act…
A kid by the name of Blair Dunlop and he’s Ashley Hutchings lad…
I’m impressed, so ‘phone out and text Steve…
Let’s see if we can get him for ‘Rhythms’ next
year ?

Home Service (who I’ve always resisted before) actually entertain. 

John Tams of Home Service on the big screen
Nice one.

I enjoyed the set which was a definite plus because I get so tired of some band’s ‘socialist working man’ wankoff, and Home Service could certainly be accused of that in their past.
This time they seem to judge it right.
Difficult to praise socialists I suppose in this current climate, bearing in mind they were the ones who got us in this mess in the first place, but anyway, good set, impressive even.

And they were followed by Hayseed Dixie…
Oh dear…
Brilliant set.
Very coarse, very vulgar and very, very, musically brilliant which, thinking about it, is what you might expect from Don Reno’s children (The musically brilliant bit)
A bluegrass band who play heavy metal covers ?     
Oh go on... Click on it and add some music to your day (It's Motorhead's 'Ace Of Spades')
What’s not to like ?

Haddy is in absolute hysterics watching and listening, so a quick trip to the cd tent might be in order when they’ve finished ?
                   If you want to know why Haddy was in hysterics, just click on the link and play it.

It was… and we bought the live dvd, but one look at the queue decided us against
re-queueing for autographs.
Oh well, back to the drizzle.
Vicki & Jim in 'drizzle' mode...
U.B.40 were disappointing.
I was hoping that the loss of Ali Campbell wouldn’t have hurt them so much, but they sound a pale shadow of their former selves with the result that even Haddy, who has wanted to see them for so long, suggests we leave the field early and go back to the tent.
Sad, sad, sad…
Blair Dunlop: Good, and can get better.
Hayseed Dixie: Absolutely brilliant.

On reflection it was a good first night.
So a bit of tequila (me) and brandy (Haddy) to warm us up, and then hit the sleeping bags.

Oh God… It’s morning…
Breakfast coming up, which will be a nice vegetarian fry up.
Fake bacon, fake sausage, fried egg and fried tomato on a couple of slices of bread and washed down with a couple of cups of ‘rosie’, followed by a shower if the queue isn’t more than twenty people long, otherwise it can wait ?
Sod that !
It can wait.
By the time everybody has woken up, eaten, or had the first ‘hair of the dog’ it’s about half ten anyway, so decide what to do ?
The usual suspects, that’s me, Haddy and Annie are going to the field.
Everybody else is either pubbing it, or buying a breakfast from the school (Recommended… Well, if I didn’t bring ours I’d recommend it)
So that’s sorted then.
It’s a typical type Cropredy bill today.
Moore, Moss and Rutter, the youngsters who won the folk awards are starting and they’re not bad at all.
The rain is pissing down and then stopping for half an hour before starting again.
Middle row: Annie (far left) Haddy, Andrew & James on mum Liz's lap. Front left: Mickey Windows

The Travelling Band are a bit more rocky than folkie but it’s a nice enough noise.
Steve Tilston and The Durbevilles sound like Steve Tilston with a band, in that the songs are pretty good but the arrangements have a bit of weight on them, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
At last, the rain is stopping…

Charlie Dore, who people haven’t really heard of for years, is entertaining and enjoyable, but halfway through her set the rain starts again.
The Dylan Project is always enjoyable, more so, because the rain stops again.
The Urban Folk Quartet are astounding because I’d never heard them before, which I have to say was my loss as opposed to theirs.

I still cannot believe some of the things they did on that stage ?
Definitely a band to see again.

 The Coral seemed to be all flash and little substance.
You recognised the singles from their chart hits but it was a bit too ‘Jefferson Airplane’y sixties instrumental jam sounding for me.
Shame, because I’d been looking forward to them, but not the rain which had started lashing it down now.

And finally Seasick Steve, who seems to be one of the critic’s darlings at the moment…
I mean I like the blues, and I mean I REALLY like the blues, but he just does not do it for me.
He didn’t do it for Haddy either.
I think we left the field about three songs in ?
This pleased Annie, who isn’t the greatest blues aficionado in Christendom because it meant she couldn’t be accused of being a killjoy.
Not that she has ever given much of a damn about that.
The rain however, could prove to be a problem later when we cross the river, so an early night was in order…

Which turned into a drunken revel in Karen’s smoke and food tent in which Vlad the vodka bottle proved the strongest man at last…       

Drunk again ?  Well, some of us were...

Oh well, at least we tried for an early night...

It’s morning…
Try it the other way round today and shower first because the queue is only twenty deep, and after the rain last night it’s going to get a lot longer.
At least it’s a bright morning…
Maybe we’ll have a better day weather wise ?
I know we all take the piss out of poor old Richard Thompson about him being the ‘Raingod’ because it rains every time he plays there, but I personally think we’ve all been getting it wrong for years.
It’s FAIRPORT who attract the rain !!!
How many times has Richard turned up in the last few years and how many times has it rained ?
The actual answers are ‘not many’ and ‘a lot’ in that order.
So I believe a foul calumny is being committed against the poor bloke and it’s Fairport who should be blamed.
Let’s face it… They are always here, and when they are here it always rains…
The plan was to hit the boot fair in the village this morning, but the queue for the shower and that lovely feeling of real warm water hitting your body with a bit of velocity, got in the way.

By the time everybody in front of us had felt that and we’d finally got in, there was just time for a quick brekkie before a ‘mudtrudge’ to the festival field.

Plonk the chairs down in the usual spot (give or take a couple of rows) and relax to wait for Richard
Haddy & me

Who, when he finally came on at midday, blew one of the best sets I’ve ever seen him do.

Do yourselves a favour and click on the track.  It doesn't matter what country you are reading this in, if you have any troops in a 'warzone' (and we certainly do) you might find that one folky type has just encapsulated your views... And bearing in mind how shite the England team was in the last world cup, he certainly encapsulated mine...   

Funny, witty, caustic, barbed, and just downright perfect.
A lot of people were pissed off because of what had happened the previous week around the country, but
he managed to put it all into perspective and entertain as well…

You can’t really do better
than that.                                

Oh, and presided over the biggest collective Morris dance in England, which I think he must have got sewn up by now ?

Great set… And no rain.
Things were definitely looking up.
The Shee, an all female group were next and they were ok, and they were followed by Lau, who include Kris Drever in their ranks and he’s an ok performer, closely followed by the now Ian Dury-less Blockheads.
It still seems to be the same band except for the singer who does an alright job on the vocals and I guess it was a crowd pleaser in it’s way, but it was a bit predictable.
Ok, I’ve been looking forward to the next lot since the bill was announced because I haven’t seen Horslips since the nineteen seventies and back then they were bloody good…

Which they definitely still are, although I felt the set flagged a bit after an hour before they got to the last couple of numbers.
A shorter, punchier set would definitely have suited them better, I think ?
But what the hell !
They are still brilliant musicians and they still make a most enjoyable ‘folk-rock’ noise.

Horslips were followed by Badly Drawn Boy, or Damon Gough, whatever ?
He’d won an Industry Mercury prize back in 2000 and seemed to have done little ever since ?
Apparently he’s working with Martin Scorsese on the soundtrack of his next film, but as a performer he definitely lacks any charm or interest whatsoever, and comes across as a typical Northern twat with a bloody great chip on his shoulder.
After a moan about his parents moving south and him being born in ‘Fookin’ Dunstable’ I figure it’s time for a bit of heckling…
‘Could have been worse mate, could have been fucking Luton, now stop whingeing and get on with it…’
The trouble is, being back by the soundtower, he isn’t likely to hear it, but the crowd in the vicinity cheered it, so fucked if I care ?
If Harry Enfield ever gets round to doing ‘Kevin: The Musical’ Then Damon Gough has to be a contender for the starring role.
He managed to redeem himself on his last number, which was Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road as a tribute to the recently departed and very lamented Clarence Clemons, but in general terms…
What a prat !

Ok, it's time to get ready for finale time…

Fairport are doing the complete ‘Babbacombe Lee’ to start with, so that’s the first hour of their set before they go into the rest of it.
Now I’m one of those people who really like the Babbacombe Lee album and always have done.
I bought the original vinyl with booklets and stuff two days after it was released and have played it for enjoyment a few times every year ever since.
                       The opening of the 'Babbacombe Lee' portion of the show. Just click on the link...

Back in the seventies it was regarded as a ‘Concept Album’, like The Who’s Tommy and Quadrophenia, or The Kinks Arthur, The Pretty Things S.F. Sorrow or Horslips The Tain, but the thing about Babbacombe Lee is that because it’s quite folky in musical terms, it hasn’t sounded that dated over the previous forty years.
In general terms it’s not the music that makes a sound dated, but the actual production.
Some people felt that Simon Nicol’s work as producer was a bit low par, but to be honest I’m not one of them.
It did the job, and the fact that I’m still listening after all these years is testament to that.
Plus, Dave Swarbrick did a masterful job of transforming those old newspapers that he bought from an antique shop, into a set of lyrics that you could get into.
So to me, it works.
Not everybody will agree, but that’s musical taste for you.
Of course when Fairport start up, so does the rain…
(Proof, if proof  be needed, guys…)
But it stops again after about twenty minutes, thank God, and we enjoy the rest of the set.
                            Ok, I found the video on youtube and I couldn't resist it... Matty Groves

Because of my phoning Haddy when she’s been in The Gambia at five to midnight, she’s now well versed in the whole ‘Meet On The Ledge’ thing, and we finally leave the field in a nice upbeat mood.

It’s been a good one in general terms apart from the rain, but at least that held off for most of the last day.
Back to reality tomorrow.
Damn it !
But at least I’ve got Monday off, probably to do the washing and cleaning up the camping gear…
Let’s just hope it doesn’t rain again when we’re dismantling the tent tomorrow ?

Well, we got home a couple of hours after we left the site, unpacked the car and got everything inside, and then guess what ?
It bloody well pissed it down…
Typical !


Before you start reading it, just click on the link and play the music.
Don't worry, it'll all make sense a little further down the line...

Ok… The plan is to get out to The Gambia in November and so it’s heads down, no nonsense, mindless WORK…
Haddy’s having problems getting any whatsoever.
The agency she was with has basically decided not to send her for anything unless it’s council work when somebody doesn’t turn up or is off sick, but only at weekends.
Quite honestly their attitude sucks.
If she’s good enough to provide cover then she’s good enough to work during the week, but all we seem to get are wasters who can’t be arsed.
I know there are a lot of people out of work, but why send us those who don’t work or can’t be bothered ?
We’ve got enough of those bastards on full time anyway, with the result that whatever you ask for in the way of help is always refused because them ‘up there’ are always consolidating their own positions rather than looking at a broader view.
This results in an attitude problem.
If they can’t be bothered then my ‘attitude’ changes to a more confrontational one and I will not take any bullshit from them.
If they want to play favourites, then fuck ‘em !
I have no need of it.
Just get the work done.
Sometimes they tell me that I’m lucky to have a job.
Well, listen to this…
If I wasn’t doing the fucking job, then what would you have ?
The same bloke who I replaced ?
The guy who spent more time on the fucking golf course than he did putting in the hours ?
The lazy git who left the area I live in looking like a third world slum ?
Yeah… Fucking right.
Get real for once in your fucking lives.
And people wonder why this country is going downhill ?
Those who want to work are being stopped because the government give funds to those who get the long term unemployed off their collective arse.
The problem is, they don’t want to work because screwing those who do for benefits and having everything paid for you is a nicer option, and they can do so many worthwhile things while they are not working…
Like getting pissed, getting stoned and watching Jeremy Kyle on the television ?
Like screaming at their truant kids in the off licences and supermarkets ?
Oh yeah…
It’s a good life.
But the one thing it doesn’t help is society.
We’ve been fucked over big time by the politicians and bankers and now all the platitudes they came out with have been forgotten, they’re back feathering their own nests as usual, and we all get to pay for them.
Plus now we get to pay for every lazy piece of flotsam who can’t be bothered, from all over Europe ?
Oh yes, it’s a good life…
So long as you don’t weaken.

 At least the allotment in the back garden is doing ok.

Everything except the beans and peas are doing really well and we might even be able to eat what we grow ?

I hope so, for Haddy’s sake.
She’s put one hell of a lot of work into it.

What we don’t need is more expense but it looks like we’re going to get it as the car has just failed its M.O.T. on the ‘unseen enemy…’
Underneath so nobody can see it, and it’s gonna cost four hundred to get it fixed.
Fuck that.
‘Trev’ who do you know locally that’s got something reasonable they wanna off ?’
‘There’s a good nick Mondeo round the corner for four hundred and fifty, I’ve serviced it for the last nine years…’
Sorted !
I’ve just become ‘Mondeo Man’.
The car tax goes up but the insurance goes down ?
How weird is that ?
What with that, and having to up the money we send the kids because the banking collapse has just hit Africa, it looks like it’s going to be an expensive summer ?
Oh well… Just have to cut down on things again and get in as much overtime as the body will take…

Haddy’s getting very despondent about the job situation.
It’s now two days work in a one month period.
That agency that she’s with are fucking shite !
And to add insult to injury they keep taxing her.
For Christ’s sake, she doesn’t earn enough to pay tax and she keeps telling them, but no…
One days work in two weeks and it’s taxed…
Why is it taxed ?
Obviously to pay for those lazy cunts who are now whingeing like fuck that their benefits are going to be taken away.
Oh, they’ll give her a refund at some point but she needs the money NOW, not in eight months time.
It is quite depressing to say the least.
But at least we’ve got the forthcoming riots to look forward to…
See… I wrote that after the event, but I have to admit that I’d predicted them coming for nearly six months, as had a couple of my friends…
Maybe being a bit closer to ‘the street’ you get an inkling of what’s to come, I don’t know, but come they would and come they will whether people like the idea or don’t ?
The flashpoint was the shooting of a guy named Mark Duggan by the police.
He wasn’t the nicest person in the world, so the police decided not to tell his family anything about the operation that got him wasted.
His friends wanted answers and so the riots began…
And fuck me, did they spread or what ?

The ‘have’s’ and ‘have-nots’ came out in their thousands to smash and bash and crash and trash and burn and loot and steal anything that wasn’t locked down, and a shit load of things that were…


No racial divide here.
Everybody involved crossed boundaries of race, class, age and upbringing.  

And for nearly a week the soundtrack to our lives was Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention’s ‘Trouble Every Day’, which it has to be said, has lasted the course pretty well for a track off his first album ‘Freak Out’ recorded back in the mid sixties…

Other songs of note which should also be mentioned, are The Clash’s ‘White Riot’, The Ruts ‘Babylon’s Burning’, Bob Marley’s ‘Burnin’ and Looting’ and The Deviants ‘Let’s Loot the Supermarket…’
None of which were allowed to be played on the radio while the ‘insurrection’ was occurring.

A sense of humour and a sense of perspective might have helped the situation, but when people are being prosecuted for posting these things on-line from youtube then you know without a doubt that the system you live under is totally fucked.                                           

It mattered not a flying fuck whether you were a have or a have-not, this was serious civil unrest on a major scale and it shocked people.
Well, it shocked them into a lot of ‘revenge seeking’ sentences when they were caught, or it did until the ‘liberal’ backlash started.
Oh dear, was your little Tracy or Wayne or Tyrone or Ahmed treated harshly by the courts ?
Here, have a reduction in your sentence to community service…
What a fucking waste of everybody’s time.
But you can’t really blame people for wanting to get violent, not when all but four politicians (who have been thrown to the wolves) have been ‘let off’ without charges being made for their recent plundering of the public’s coffers.
Not with the banks still paying themselves big bonuses after our money has been used to bail them out.
And now with all the ‘austerity’ cuts going on around us, politicians wonder why people want to fight back in their own sad and inarticulate way ?
Fight back ?
It wasn't really a 'fight back' it was just the chance for a bit of mindless thuggery and one hell of a lot of stealing and looting, and what purpose does it serve ?
Fuck all, as far as I can see, because it changes nothing except that it makes the neighbourhoods that have been affected a little poorer and a little more rundown and yet more money has to be invested in bringing them up to scratch again.
But why would middle aged people get involved in what started out as a youth dominated occurence ?
How about because they are mega-fucking angry after being taken for a ride and it’s the only way they have left for voicing their displeasure with getting one ‘up the arse’ from the ruling elite ?
And don’t think I’m absolving any labour voters from this, because quite frankly it was your useless bunch of self-serving greedy cunts that got us into this mess and now another bunch of useless self-serving greedy cunts is trying to get us out of it.
The trouble is, we now all have to suffer for the sins and the greed of a few.
Politicians just never learn.
You want a few years of total civil unrest, then you’ve got it.
Mission accomplished.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012


Home again after midnight as usual.
The waiting around for any security personnel to take over after we’ve closed the stage down really does tend to do my head in.
Still, we finished on a good note and managed to give Jo, one of Scum’s long time fans, a lift back too.
Now for some sleep and try and relax a bit until it all starts over tomorrow…
Or today, as it is in reality ?

Oh God… It’s morning…
Here we go again.
It’s just a question of putting a few things back on stage when we arrive and then waiting for the rest of the crew to turn up.
Because of a last minute pull-out, we’ve had to change everybody’s timings for today.
Hopefully all the acts are going to remember ?
Oh well, at least we’re all here by half-past eleven which is a bonus…

Our first act of the day is an acoustic duo from just down the road in Welwyn Garden City.
Again, they are one of those acts that I’d featured before back in the ‘Arcade’ days in the town centre so I know what to expect.
Terry and Gavin McCann play intricate songs with catchy choruses and seem to have a lot of fun doing it ?
Just perfect to wake everybody up from the rigours of the night before.
Gavin & Terry McCann

Their guitar interplay is much, much better than you would expect from a pair of brothers in that there is no ‘dominant’.
Both take turns or leave space for the other and to be honest they are a joy to listen to.
Nice one, guys.

Joy T. Chance


My co-compere Joy T. is up next.
I have to be honest, I don’t like putting poetry on the stage so early in the day, but needs must when you’ve been ‘downgraded’ to an eight pm finish to shut up the whiners and whingers who live on the hill.
Joy’s set is at once ‘in yer face’, entertaining and thought provoking.
She can get extremely political in some places and does so on this occasion, but the crowd are with her all the way.

The one she does about the rude woman pushing her out of the way is brilliant and I wish I’d written it, but then they don’t tend to push me… I’ve had my elbows sharpened by the same bloke who did Mike Summerbee's (1960’s and early 1970’s  footballing legend who allegedly had the sharpest elbows in the football league…)
So people tend not to do it.
Since getting a good shoving in the back trying to get off a boat in The Gambia I now have sharpened boot heels, too… 
Joy T. Chance
Anyway, Joy’s set is over way too soon, but people listened and enjoyed and that is what a way with words is all about.
A damn fine set, even if I do say so…

On to Oka Vanga who are returning to the stage after last year’s appearance when I couldn’t give them a full set owing to time constraints.
Oka Vanga are an instrumental guitar duo and they play music from here, there and anywhere around the globe.
Some of their guitar runs are just mind blowing.        
Oka Vanga

They seem to have mastered what Keith Richards calls ‘The Ancient Art of Weaving’ in that they weave these guitar melodies and harmonies in and out of the basic rhythm of the tune and since some of the tunes aren’t exactly in 3/4 or 4/4 time, that in itself is a wonder to hear.
If there is a better acoustic instrumental guitar duo floating around Hertfordshire then I for one haven’t heard them.
Excellent set.

And now, in a change to our published programme…
Pronounced in my best B.B.C. plummy accent, is the replacement for our ‘dropout’,
Dangerous Dinky aka Dirty South
Dangerous Dinky aka Dirty South

I’d got her at short notice from Joy who raved about her, so I’d looked up the youtube bits and no decision was ever made quicker.
We are THE ARCADECLECTIC STAGE and we put on an eclectic mix of this, that and the other, and sometimes we put on acts that just seem to sum up what we are all about without even trying.
Dangerous Dinky was one of those acts.

Acoustic guitar and electric bass and an attitude…

A seriously BAAAAD attitude.
God, she was funny…
It turned out that we got our only two complaints of the day from women who complained that she wasn’t suitable for a ‘family’ event ?
Well, we’d already told them that.
We’d even given them time to move, and then bless her, she did it again herself before she started…
How much warning do these people want ?
I think sometimes we ought to be allowed to tattoo it on their bleedin’ foreheads ?

Besides... Think about it like this...
We are the profane to St Mary's Stage's sacred.
Yin and yang, black and white, chalk and cheese...
We cater to the ADULT in everybody.
Occasionally there might be something for the 'inner child' in all of us, but we cater to the ADULT music fan.
There are enough stages to choose from on the site and neutering or censoring an artist is strictly 'off limits'.
It's not a question of bloody mindedness but it is a question of integrity.
We invite those artists that provide an 'eclectic' and not necessarily commercial alternative to the
I've got nothing against 'mainstream' but if by chance I got Metallica, then I'd want a totally acoustic set.
What's the point of just playing the usual hits ?
Shake them up a bit...
And that's why we are there... To provide an alternative.
Dangerous Dinky aka Dirty South
But... I digress...  

She was funny, thought provoking and downright menacing in her attitude whilst she was on, but as soon as she was off she was as normal as you
or I ?
Hmmm… Maybe I shouldn’t have put that bit in, as I’m not necessarily ‘normal’ in the accepted sense, but you know what I mean ?
Very rude, very insulting, very funny, very entertaining, very adult, and very professional, that was our ‘Dinky’, and I’ve already made the decision to get her back for next year.
I want more… 

At 120 miles an hour minimum, The Zipheads hit the stage…
The Zipheads
SurfPunkRockabillyCountry Rawck (or is that supposed to be Rock ?) is a pretty good way of describing them.
Not all of those things separately, but all those things at the same time.
And all done at a speed that would throw off anything but an Apache tracker.
The Zipheads
They were great, and what’s more if you were nimble enough, you could even try to dance to them.
I’m not personally sure about the spec’s, but hey, they definitely fit the image.
Fucking hell ! 
It was over in the 'speed of light’ and worse, we couldn’t give them an encore because of the time constraint but Christ, did they deserve one, or what ?
You’re coming back guys, no worries…

Which brings us nicely to the first of our Scottish/Scots (never quite sure, so maybe somebody could enlighten me ?) bands of the day.
The Recovery Club

I’d tried to get The Recovery Club for last year but owing to holidays we couldn’t have them, but this year I’d banged on their door very early and we’d come up trumps.
Believe it or not I’d picked up on them from a chance remark on an internet poetry site, and I’m still not sure how to describe them ?
The Recovery Club
I think the word that possibly fits best is ‘ethereal'.
Maybe, maybe not, but that’s what I think ?
Imagine laying down on the grass on a summer’s day, on a hillside somewhere…
Not near the top or the peak, but just on the side and in the distance you can see a village…
Ok, you’ve got that ?
Right, now imagine the sounds going on around you ?
Birdsong, insects, and maybe in the distance a church bell ?
Well that is what they sound like.
A floaty, peaceful sort of sound.
I like to think of them as a bit more ethereal than The Cowboy Junkies, but whether I’m accurate or not, it’s perfect music for a sunny afternoon at a music festival.

The Recovery Club

 The musicianship is superb, very intricate sounding with the instruments meshing together with each other and the vocals.
Gorgeous stuff.
It makes you think how much they must have practised to sound that good ?
(They’ll probably tell me now that it was all done while pissed out of their brains in a Glasgow bar, but I couldn’t believe that)
So, so glad I finally got them.
Wonderful stuff.

And so… From the sublime to rap, which we don’t tend to feature all that much of.
There is a reason.
Most of the local practicioners seem to think they’re in South Central and we get reams of copyists with all their cheap ‘guns and pussy’ lyrics.
Well, I’ve got news for you, guys…
Letchworth, the world’s first garden city, is in Hertfordshire, England, and not downtown Los Angeles.
There might be an Uzi 9mm in Letchworth for all I know, but I do know that some middle class council tenant’s kid is not going to be the one holding it.
Fuck knows why they waste their time pretending when the reality lurking around them is far, far scarier ?
Write and sing what you know and you’ll get further.

The ‘authentic-ness’ will come through and that is why we’ve got BlacKCat on our stage.
My mate Grant from Parnassus, the local poetry group was given a cd of the bloke and he passed one on to me, who went absolutely apeshit over the fact that the guy was good.
Rap Poetry ?
Well, rap is street poetry when you think about it ?
Most of the good rappers seem to know this already.
It’s a strange genre in that my earliest recollection of it was white and not black, and came from the late nineteen forties and early nineteen fifties, although I suppose when you get down to it that artists like Louis Jordan and Cab Calloway, were the originators of the style…
Or you would think that if you followed that path back, but if you follow the blues back to the twenties and thirties you find another strain of ‘rap’ as we know it, so God knows where it originated ?
At a guess I’d say Africa originally, because a lot of African songs are built upon a rhythmic chanting, but anyway, I digress…
Taye, or BlackCat, writes intelligent ‘raps’.

Not only can you understand them, they don’t insult your intelligence either, and believe me, THAT is a seriously major break through.
And he did good…
Another one that I want back again.
Next year we might have to call it the ‘groundhog day stage’ if it carries on like this ?

More rock as epitomised by The Electric Modern…
Now these guys I’d had last year and was quite impressed.
The Electric Modern

This year, although the members seem to be the same, there is a huge difference in that the lead singer is playing keyboards…
This has changed the sound somewhat in that there is now no actual relationship to any form of ‘Indie’ rock within their sound.
The Electric Modern

These songs sound different.

They sound ‘darker’ too.
It’s a hell of a way to try and describe a band’s sound but there are definitely hints of darkness.
The prettiness has all gone.
Adult sounding songs, although to be fair to the band I was concentrating on the music for the majority of their set trying to work out what the change in the sound was ?

I have to say guys, I prefer the keyboard version.
Ok, not everybody will, but I definitely do.
There’s something about them and whatever that something is, it seems to work in my head at least ?

And now it’s finale time and our headliners this year are the trio of whom Glen Matlock last year was heard to say ‘They’re a bit tasty…’
The Ballachulish Hellhounds are back.
The Ballachulish Hellhounds

Not that it seems Dochan has ever been away, as he is also a member of The Recovery Club.
Well, nearly back since last year, anyway.
One of them has had a recent accident and has had to be replaced for the time being in that he can’t fret a guitar right now.
Not that you’d know it by the sounds emanating from the stage ?
Two Ballachulish Hellhounds

To call them a ‘folk’ trio is unfair on ‘folk trios’ and also to themselves.
A Celtic Folk Band ?
Yes, but not in the same way bands like Runrig are Celtic Folk/Rock bands.
These guys play songs that travel from here to there and sometimes come back again from there to here with different arrangements.
They build on the best of them and then make them their own.
I love them and I’m so thankful that Amy recommended them because I love these songs.
Anybody with an interest in all things ‘folky’, that travelled, is hereby directed to the Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music.
You will hear a lot of early versions of songs that these three guys play.
But they play the versions that have come back again.

A Ballachulish Hellhound
A bit more ‘arranged’, a bit more musical in some cases, but the root is the same.
That ‘Old Weird America’ seems to get everywhere, and as I’ve already said once on this’ere blog, I’ve even heard nine or ten year old kids doing a verse from a track from the Anthology or the ‘Hellhounds’ in The Gambia as a skip-rope song !!!!
So yes, the songs did migrate, and these three guys play them with a care and a love that borders on fanaticism except that they are having the time of their lives playing them and that enjoyment is being communicated to an audience which is beginning to get it’s collective rocks off by getting up and dancing to them.
Folk songs live forever and there is a simple reason…
Like the Ballachulish Hellhounds, they’re good.
The Gods were still smiling...


And that’s it for another year…
There’s more waiting around for the other stages to finish until the sound crew come round to pick up the kit, but taking shelter from the rain which has held off all weekend but is now pissing it down like a good’un, seems to be the order of the moment.
Time to try and relax while sitting on a flight case, which are not the most comfortable things to sit on, and reflect on the weekend as a whole.
Acts ?   Excellent to brilliant.
Organisation ?   Excellent (with one noted exception)
Food ?   Excellent.  Never had better, so that’s a definite plus.
Overall ?   Ok, you have to take this along with the proviso that I’m writing this from the perspective of one who has a specific set of jobs to do there, but all in all, some people have said it was the best one yet, and who am I to argue with them ?
It certainly could have been.
Who knows…
It’s all subjective anyway ?
Any chance I can go home and get some sleep now please…
Because to put it mildly, I’m totally knackered ?

Monday, 23 April 2012


Well, we managed it…
Car packed and ready to go by 9.30am… Are we mad or what ?
Drive to Hitchin and park up on site, book in, and lug the cd player unit over to Ben’s new homemade soundbooth which is all tented up.
The stage is already in position and the stageblocks are down and secure so we’ll go for a wander around the site to give Haddy a bit of the flavour and also to get her into a picture taking mood, but I needn’t really have worried about that as the camera is out and working as soon as we start moving.
This is Haddy’s first year of being on the crew and so she’ll be snapping away, selling cd’s, t-shirts, commemorative mugs and all the paraphanalia that the artists gracing the stage bring with them, and also showing the artists where to get changed, where the coffee and tea machines and the toilets are, and all the other little jobs that need doing on the day.
Sarah, when she gets here, will be doing exactly the same job, so that we’ve always got one covering when not taking photographs.
Hopefully it’ll work like a dream.  It should do ?
Neil’s in, so’s Dave… Smile please, and now one with Haddy for the album ?
Dave, Neil & Haddy

Thanks very much.
Right… We’re back…
I’ll get the teas in while we wait.
In quick succession we get ANOTHER helper for Ben that nobody had told me about
but he’s very welcome, and Frank turns up with his bag of food and drinks followed by
Marcus and his film stuff and Sarah and their two children, Charlotte and Jonathan.
Jonathan, Charlotte, Marcus & Assistant

The film equipment is immediately unloaded and the setting up begins…
Marcus uses a two camera set-up for filming, one roving and one static stage centre and all the artists who have availed themselves of his services seem to be very pleased with the results.
Now the two ladies are doing the still photography it’s taken a weight off me as now I just get to stage-manage and compere with Joy, and by the looks of things…

Ben & Assistant

Here come Ben and his assistant now…      
Which is just as well because Ross has turned up to check out the sound settings.
Me & Ross
Ross is in charge of the sound, full stop.
He’s the guy who has to explain to the local council’s environmental health department why things are better doing it our way and not theirs.
If they knew jack shit  about sound then it wouldn’t pose that much of a problem, but to put it mildly, they know absolutely fuck all.
This, of course, poses major problems as we have to apply for our licenses to hold the event through the council and the major sticking point is the sound because of the (approximately) nineteen objectors to the festival who do their level best to have it cancelled every year.
Thankfully, Ross knows his stuff and has no need to baffle them with bullshit because he can quote chapter and verse at council meetings.
He seems quite impressed with Ben’s ideas and logic so we have a green light.
Nice one !
All that’s left is my co-compere and fellow poet Joy, but she’s got the farthest to travel to get here.
Half an hour until stage time and we’re sorted.
Frank, Me & Joy T.

Joy has arrived, the first band has been soundchecked, and we’re as ready as we’ll ever be.
Right…  It’s midday and we’re off and running…

Floor 9 start the proceedings and it’s looking good.
The thing about Ade’s crew is that they bring people along and people seeing them the first time seem to like them.
Ade', Sean & Mark (Floor 9)
It’s always difficult to get a reasonable reaction if you are the first act on as people are still deciding on their preferred place while others are treading on them to try and get past them to somewhere else on the field.
The music fans who know the local artists will be staking out their territories in front of the stage of their choice, and Ade’, bless him, has got a few of his fans camped in front of our stage along with a few of our regular punters who have followed what we do since the old ‘Arcade’ days, so the area is beginning to fill up quite nicely.
Nice set guys, not bad at all…

Sarah’s up next as a poet in her own write (sorry, couldn’t resist that) She’s a bit nervous about the thirty minute slot that I’ve given her, but I have total confidence in her material.
Sarah Power, poet & photographer

Her persona helps because she’s a feisty little ‘erbert when she wants to be and she blows a good one.
With seconds ticking to the end of the thirty minutes which she’s filled without a single problem she finishes on her shortest poem, aimed directly at her other half who is filming her at this point in the proceedings, and manages a nice ovation at the end…
Not bad for a three or four line poem.
It helps that it’s funny and that most women and men of a certain age in the audience can also directly identify with it.
Another good set.
That’s two in a row.
The Gods must be smiling.

While Sarah’s been on, I’ve been chatting up what I believe to be one of our ‘special’ acts.
All female and all dressed in red, these girls have the potential to blow a few minds.
The Jolenes pracising

Ladeeez an gennel’men… I give you… THE JOLENES…
A four piece all female bluegrass band, and the only all female bluegrass band in the U.K. if we’re being totally factual ?
We were talking about bluegrass players before they went on and I just said I’d loved that style of music for years, and was asked who I particularly liked ?
‘Old and In The Way, because they all obviously loved it, but they mixed it up into a weird jazz sounding stew sometimes, when the mood took them…’
‘Oh… Vassar… My hero…’
Well that was it.
Old and In The Way, fiddle player Vassar Clements, the whole bluegrass hierarchy from Bill Monroe through to Steve Earle’s valiant try…
And I knew they were there on that stage for the right reasons.
The Jolenes

 And they ROCKED…
That ‘High Lonesome Sound’ as someone a lot better qualified than me once put it, is encapsulated in these four young ladies’ picking and singing.
Absolutely wonderful, and over much too soon.
I’ll take them again next year if Steve doesn’t pick up on them ?
Great set, and they managed to get a few up to dance…
That’s three !

Smige (pronounced Smidge by the way) is on next.
I like Smige and I’ll pay to go and see him.
He’s a young singer/songwriter with a guitar who writes these wry and ironic serious songs which hit you harder than you realise at the time until you actually find yourself singing a chorus or two.
Then you try and suppress that inward smile because he’s just caught YOU perfectly.
I dunno what his own generation thinks, but he’s carving out his own little niche and I’m glad he seems popular around the area because he has a talent for it.

He’s brought along a few of his Uni’ fan club too, which always helps because it gives him something to focus on while he’s singing, and again he plays a good set.
Definitely up there with those in the memory bank to book again at some time ?
Four !
The Gods are definitely smiling…

Silent Smiles are a young modern rock band.
I suppose you could call them an ‘Indie’ rock band except for the fact that they are ten times better than the vast majority in that overrated genre.
They’ve recently had to change their drummer but the new one seems to be fitting in quite well, and they are another local band that I’ll pay money to see.

Silent Smiles
There is something different about their rhythms and chord changes that make the songs sound more interesting, and for whatever reason, it works.
They seem to know what a melody is, and they utilize them amongst the riffing which is always a good thing and they also manage to put a lot of energy into their sets without losing sight of the fact that they are actually there for the audience as well, and I’m all for that.
I wish some of the other local acts would do the same, but unfortunately most have a tendancy to go ‘fretwanking’ and that bores the arse off me.
These kids don’t so all power to ‘em.
Nice set guys…
Five !
It’s getting interesting.

We’ll quickly scrub over the next act because it was me…
The second poetry set of the day was a fifty/fifty affair in that fifty percent of it seemed to work and fifty percent didn’t.
I know one thing, the opening poem was still too damned long and I’d already trimmed it quite drastically.
Well, that’s my assessment of my performance anyway.
Me & Joy T. Chance
I got Joy up to do the 'Greek Chorus' on 'The State (Of The Nation)'  and at least that worked.
Haddy helped out with the Wolof on 'Ebou's Song' and that worked too
Me & Haddy Jatta
Audience wise, I seemed to do alright but there was still something missing for me ?
Oh well, win some, lose some, but learn from your mistakes.

Kev Hayley follows me.
One man with a wry and quizzical way of looking at the world and how it affects
him ?    
Kev Hayley

Once upon a time he used to be known as Kevin Two Sheds but now he isn’t.
We’d been after Kev to play for at least the last three years but last year apparently he turned up as a punter and he liked what he saw, so this year he’s come on board.
It seems like everything is going fine but it also seems a bit
mellow ?
This is no reflection on Kev, but more a reflection on me.
We seem to be lacking a little bit of ‘oooomph’ ?
Kev finishes to applause, which is nice, so he can also be counted as a success
And now we’ve got the last poet of the day…
Please don’t be bland.

Jon Falconer is our last poet of the day.
Jon can get quite angry at some of the things that go on in this world, whether locally or globally and he’ll confront them directly in the things he writes.
Jon Falconer
It’s not going to be everybody’s cup of tea, but then neither am I, and so what ?
In Jon there is a kindred spirit lurking and I’m glad that he’s become a colleague, glad that he’s become a mate, because if I’m being totally honest, I think his poetry is great.
At one point Joy T. and myself get the call to provide response vocals so we’re up to join him in a flash.
Joy T. Chance, Jon Falconer & Me

Call and response or Greek Chorus or whatever you want to call them, seem to work well with a reasonable audience.
Joy and I both do it in our own work.
Anything to mix things up a bit and keep the audience guessing and interested is fair game in this lark, so we complete our guest spot and now he’s really fired up and going for the jugular…
Nice one.

So now we come to the star of The Arcadeclectic Stage on the Saturday…
Skip McDonald.
Skip McDonald

Skip is the guy behind the band ‘Little Axe’.
He plays the blues with a bit of dub on loops that he controls with pedals, and he’s world class.
When Steve intimated to me that he was thinking of booking him I just said ‘Get him… Do whatever you have to do and sleep with whatever they offer you but get him… He’s the sort of artist that Rhythms needs but very seldom gets’ !
Skip’s sort of ‘on the fringes’, but making his own way.
I’d already got a couple of his albums and I was quite impressed, so you can imagine my amazement when we got offered him for the Arcadeclectic ?
He would have made a great finishing headliner except that ‘Scum’ had come back to me with an affirmative and there was no way that anybody was going to top that lot in Hitchin or Stevenage.
It’s their turf and always has been, so ‘Scum’ would close but Skip would be our featured headliner.
And he was brilliant…
He’d already done a first set on St Mary’s for Mike, but now he was here and he was lapping it up.
He finished and I’d got him back on for the encore that he deserved and he started into it and then suddenly stopped playing…
Oh shit !
‘Where’s the man… Where’s Chris’ ?
‘I’m here, man…’   From down in the pit stage left...
‘Listen man… I’ve got this band… It’s only a small band, three pieces… But this festival, man… It’s what all festivals should be… Now if you’d have us, I’d like to bring the band here maybe next year… But I wanna play THIS STAGE…’
FUCK !!!!!
I mean I don’t know what that means to other people, but when you have an artist of Skip’s stature, a world class artist, give you a thumbs-up affirmative endorsement like that, I can tell you that it makes you smile and choke both inside and out.
Skip McDonald

It’s not better than good sex with someone you love, but it’s up there… Know what I mean ?
The roar from the crowd in front of the stage when he said it was something else…
Ok, sometimes you just get it right in spite of everything that is occurring around you.
All the hassles, all the meetings, all the snide remarks, all the aggro’, all the wasted phone calls, the hours spent e-mailing… 
None of that shit matters.
And one guy with a guitar just smacks you with that ?
Christ !!! 
A real justification.
Oh yes… We’re going to remember that...

And finally, when the euphoria had died down a bit and the congratulatory handshakes and ‘respect’s’ had been silenced, we managed to get the last band onto the stage for the night…
Scum Of Toytown… ‘The Scumbags…’ or just ‘Scum’ if you were discussing going to their gig…
A name that fitted their image like a model’s glove fits a catwalk pounder.
Leona, Jon & Toad of Scum of Toytown
A name they played up to at nearly every opportunity given them.

A name that conjures up all manner of negative aspects of everything going on in the plastic fantastic newtown in which we all had put down roots.
Yes, we truly are the scum of toytown, and that is how a lot of us had been treated by the powers that be, over the last thirty odd years.
Craig of Scum of Toytown
A joke name which fitted perfectly the attitude of self-deprecating cynicism that we’d all developed just to deal with the realities that we’d all faced.
But these guys and girl had taken it one step further.
They had capitalised on the whole thing and they were OUR band who told it like it was.
Toad & Nick of Scum of Toytown

One album, ‘Strike’ released on Words Of Warning Records and a few home made singles was all they had to show for the hours they had put in, but if you had ever caught them in their prime then you would have the memories, and a lot of us had...
Ska gigs, punk gigs, rock gigs and even some memorable acoustic gigs, this band had done them all and a lot of us had been there.
Now, older, but possibly not wiser, they were back, practising together again with a thought to maybe actually getting that second album out ?
Whatever happened on that stage was either going to be an encore or a coda or a re-birth or maybe all of those things at once, but what did it matter ?
People were saying that I’d pulled off the impossible, but believe me, if ANY of those five musicians had not wanted to do it, then nothing would have occurred.
That’s the way they worked, and that was always the way they had worked, but here they were…
Ready, willing and able after thirteen years away, to put themselves through it one more time.
And they were brilliant !!!
Scum of Toytown
The harmonies were as close and as soaring as anybody gets on stage, the bass and drums pounded, the guitars chopped and changed and everything was as it should have been.
Sometimes when you ‘promote’ something that exceeds all expectations you get one of those inward glow sort of feelings, and I’d got one… 

The crowd sang and the crowd ‘moshed’ and the crowd cried for more and it seemed like they’d never been away.
One word ?
That’ll do.
They came, they saw, and they conquered whatever feelings of doubt any of them were harbouring, and let’s face it, there had to be some ?
Absolutely bloody majestic…
Nice one.
Oh all right then…
Brilliant one.
The Gods had definitely been smiling.


Whilst it’s true I’ve concentrated on the artists who played the Saturday, it’s not always been plain sailing.
Good word isn’t it ?
Shame that some people who should have known better do not know what the fucking word actually 
means ?
At the last stage managers meeting somebody asked the question ‘would everybody on site actually have an armband' ? and the answer given was yes.
If people were seen without armbands then please call security because they should NOT be on site.
So… Being down by the river we have to watch stage left as you look at it, like hawks.
Better still to cordon it off with official barriers and make it a ‘secure area’ where bands can leave their gear.
So when a large shaven-headed tattooed fuckwit without an armband and with slapper in orange
t-shirt in tow ‘crashes’ the barrier and just walks gaily off down towards the main gate security are asked to apprehend…
It turns out that aforesaid large shaven-headed tattooed fuckwit is second in charge of security and that some of the Rhythms team knew about the ‘no armband’ situation ?????
As stage managers we are ultimately responsible for what occurs on and around our stages.
We can over-rule any and all if we think security or safety is compromised, so to have a twat who doesn’t know a secure area from his arsehole as part of a security team does seem to be slightly idiotic given the circumstances ?
As for being told the lie when others knew the truth ?
Don’t worry, I’ll ask the damn question myself next year, and I'll expect names, photo's and official functions written down in the stage folders.
I know we're all volunteers, but some people could at least act professionally ?