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 ?

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