Thursday, 4 April 2013


It’s half past nine on a drizzly Saturday morning and I feel like I want to do a bit of bloodletting…
I’d even turned up at the stage managers meeting on site the previous night and basically wasted two and a half hours of my time, and so this morning was going to be one long drawn out argument unless things changed.
‘I’ve got three stage blocks, so either I get a full compliment or there ain’t a stage, and if there ain’t a stage then there’s no acts and if there ain’t any acts then there ain’t any music…’’
Basically, that was my part of the meeting.
Needless to say, it hadn’t gone down too well.
Ah fuck ‘em… 
I just wonder how many of these people actually know what they’re doing, and how many just want to have their names stuck to the masthead to make them look important ?
The ONLY important thing is the music as without that we don’t have a festival, so unless things change we’re gonna be at least one stage short.
It would be a great shame after working for five months sorting it out.

The only good thing was that our sound engineer Al Richardson had texted me that night to say he was looking forward to working the stage.
As usual, the bullshit quotient of non-reply to any e-mail or text had occurred every time we asked what was going on with sound ?
It had got to the stage that Ben, who had done such a great job last year, had taken another job on that weekend because he couldn’t get a reply either…
Oh well, I know Al and I know he’ll do a good job for us.
Providing we’ve got a stage, that is ?

So I’m not in the best of moods when we arrive.
Ok, we’re armbanded… Now we can get on site.
As we walked down to the stage we noticed the artwork adorning our setting...

It was beautiful.

The children had done themselves proud from the local schools.

Through our new archway, and that was the same...

And we haven't got a suitable stage.
That WOULD be the crowning irony, wouldn't it ?
First things first… Check the stage.

Still only three stage blocks.
Next…  Find somebody from production.
‘We don’t have any spares… We have three legs though…’
‘I’ll take the legs but I suggest you find some stage blocks or you’re one stage down… You’ve basically got two hours to find them or you’ll be dealing with some pretty irate artists…  Please call me when you find some’
Walk back to the bare stage.
The field is getting muddier as we watch.

Early risers in the queue from the side of our stage
If this rain doesn’t stop then there are going to be some problems later, that’s for sure.
I’ve asked the crew to turn up at about 10.30 at the same time as the first band is due to soundcheck. 
They won’t be playing until 12.00, but at least we’ll have a reasonable set of levels sorted, providing we have a stage to put them on, that is ?
Right now, we’re not even close.
Al’s here with son Jacob.
It’s a family affair because Jacob is still only in his early teens, but he can rig a stage with the best of them, and Al’s daughter Maria, turns up ten minutes later.
Right, sound is sorted.
Al and Maria on sound, and Maria and Jake on stage crew.

In shot: Grant, Marcus, Al & Maria

Thank you, God.
Something has finally gone right.

Ok, let’s presume they pull their fingers out and we get a stage, let’s put up the backdrop…

Grant’s here, he’s compering in Joy’s absence on the Saturday, which thankfully, bearing in mind what is going on, is one less problem for me.
Frank’s here…

Grant, Frank & Haddy

Hold on… I’m up a bleedin’ ladder…

Marcus & Jonathan's back obscuring Pippa

Marcus is here…

which means Sarah won’t be far behind…

Sarah & Jonathan

Sarah’s here with the kids.

Haddy & Pippa

Hi Pippa’, Jonathan…
The other one, Charlotte, will join us tomorrow.
Ok, we’ve got ‘runners’.

Poor old Jacob drew the short straw for 'digging in' the cable

Right guy’s, help out Al if he needs it, and Marcus if he needs to assemble anything for the filming…

Designs from the left: Djembe, Rhythms logo, Kora, Tama, Drum band, Shakers & Ritti

We’ll just finish putting up the backdrop.

‘Jonathan… See these stage blocks ?  I want you to literally walk the site and see if you can find ANY, and I mean ANY.  If they’re not chained to anything then we need to steal ‘em, for want of a better word, call me if you find ANY and I’ll come find you, ok ?’
‘Good… Go for it…’
And he was off.
The first band, Droome, is here to soundcheck, but with no stage they’re going to have to wait a bit.
The ‘phone’s going…
'St Mary’s stage have one, and all the legs…'
'Ok, keep looking but steal three legs if you can get them under your jacket and no-one is watching ?'
‘I can do that…’
‘Good lad… Keep looking…’

Queue's getting bigger...

Fifteen minutes later the ‘phone goes again.
‘The main stage has four and legs for them…’
‘Right, sit on them and refuse to get off for anybody, and I MEAN ANYBODY… Can you do that ?’
‘I’ll be there within five…’
That’s what I like, a youngster with confidence.
‘Right, amuse yourselves for a bit, Al, stick on a cd to cheer us up, I’m going to war… See you in a bit…’
Within five minutes I’m there, and there they were… Four stage blocks plus legs.
Ah.. I wonder ?
And then I saw Josh’
‘Hey, mate… Any chance we can use your buggy to get these to Arcadeclectic ?’
‘Haven’t you got any ?’
‘I thought the whole fuckin’ world knew we hadn’t got any… I’ve got three and can’t sign the stage off until it’s suitable for purpose…’
‘Ok… Lift ‘em into the back of this buggy and we’ll try and get them over in one go…’
Shit !  I could have kissed him…
So with me on the running board and Jonathan perched atop the blocks, we traversed two thirds of a fifteen acre site without anybody realising we’d stolen the main stage’s drum riser…
At least Josh knows where the priorities lie.
As soon as we get there, it’s all hands to fit legs and attach the clamps so they don’t slip, but we get three done in record time.
Now let’s see anybody try and take them back ?
At which moment, Paul appears with the lights…
Shit !
It’s a bit of a bummer because of all the people on site, Paul actually DOES have the authority to take them back.
‘Frank, you and Jonathan, into the marquee with the fourth, like… NOW…’
‘Oh good, you got your stage then… ?’
‘Yeah… Finally…’
‘You’ve ruffled a few feathers…’
‘Fuck ‘em !    No stage, no music… You know how it works, mate…’
‘Can you help… ?’
‘Of course we can…’
And the lights went up in record time, too…
‘Cheers Paul…’
‘Have you heard, we’ll probably be starting late ?’
‘No… What’s the problem ?’
‘Dunno, but it should be coming through on the radios…’
‘Frank… You heard anything about starting late ?’
‘No… Hold on, something’s coming through now…  Yes… 12.30 at earliest…’
‘Ok, what’s the… Shit !  Is that the time ?’
It’s now 11.50.

Droome soundcheck

‘Al… Can we get a soundcheck done, because we’ve got thirty minutes grace before we start and I think Red Maxx have just turned up ?’
No sooner said than done.

Grant, having a crafty one...

In our absence Marcus has set up the camera rostrum, Haddy and Sarah have sorted out the merchandise stall and everything is now ready to roll when we get the go-ahead from the powers that be…
‘Hey Chris.. How’s it going ?’
Echoed by Taye and Dinky and her band, who have both turned up together.

Frank & Denise

‘It’s going… We have a slight problem in that we haven’t got the all clear to go yet, but once we do, we’re ready to rumble… Denise, you want to get your kit in the back of that marquee out of the rain ?’
‘Good idea…’
We’re looking at the queue on the other side of the bridge from the side of the stage…

Human traffic jam...
It’s now one thirty pm, and we’re still not going.
Time for a little get together…
At least my first four acts are in the vicinity…
‘Ok guys, we have a time problem.  I’m going to offer you a choice of dropping out altogether or dropping some time from your sets.  We have a curfew time of nine pm tonight, so please have a think and tell me what you want to do ?’
Bless ‘em.
They all said they wanted to play.
All sets cut to thirty five minutes maximum from forty five.
Two o’clock and we’re still waiting…
Another confab’.
Still no dropouts.
Time on stage now cut to thirty minutes maximum.
It’s two-thirty when we finally get the all clear and we’re finally off and running...


A duo of epic proportions who had tried to get on last year, but we were full and so I’d said I’d get back to them this year.
Alternative with a capital ‘A’.

Guitar and bass and vocals but don’t let that fool you.
These guys had honed their sound and were unlike anything else in the area right now.
Normally I won’t book a band without seeing them at least once, but something had always come up when I attempted to see them, either an emergency with my father or some other problem ?

It hadn’t mattered because I’d Youtubed them so often just to keep up to date with what they were doing.
An absolutely great set to open the stage, even if people were still arriving when they finished ?
Sorry folks, but you missed a good one.

A quick changeover and Red Maxx were on.
Red Maxx had been around for years and heaven only knows how many bands their drummer, Simon, was in ?

The Metatrons, The Trailer Trash Orchestra, Los Chicos Muertes, The ‘older’ version of The Astronauts… How many do you need ?

Gavin, their guitarist, had played the previous year with his brother Terry as a duo, but now the band was up again.

They do pull a fair few punters though, and they’ve always been popular locally.
Now they are in the position of doing one BIG gig a year if the opportunity comes their way, and this year we’d got them and happily so.

Joe Davin from The Astronauts, POG and The Otters was handling bass and backing vocals and so it’s basically sit back and relax and let the band do what they do…
Which they do…
Alternative Indie heavy-ish rock.
It’s a drag having to start late because I, and I’m sure quite a few others, would have liked the two opening acts to have played longer, but unfortunately it can’t be done ?

Taye is on next.

Rapping poet par excelance.
It’s difficult to go from a musical act that a lot of people have come to see and go into something which is not particularly commercial sounding, but this guy’s lyrics are just so good.

He’s brought along yet another cd to sell, so that makes two.
The lad is getting prolific.
Well, in the anals of the local poetry scene it makes him prolific anyway, and it rings the changes…
The boy done good.
It’s that variety of keeping the crowd guessing that makes this stage what it has become and what it is slowly evolving into.
All I do is keep on booking the acts.
Trying to bring people that are going to entertain the crowd with a set that they maybe wouldn’t otherwise have gone to see ?
And Taye does just that.

He is uncommercial in a rap sense, but not so much in a poetry sense and it is just that sensibility that keeps me booking him.
That and he’s bloody good and has a good rapport with the crowd.
Which is just as well, because the next act couldn’t give a flying fuck !

Dangerous Dinky and Band aka Dirty South
We’d had Denise last year with just her bass player J. Gabriel, and she’d stormed it,

and also got ourselves some complaints because her set is definitely not ‘child friendly’.

Now she was back with drums and violin and she was ready and willing to make friends or enemies, it really wouldn’t matter ?

When she goes into her set you either go with her, or you move…
Somewhere else .
It’s an ‘adult’ set performed by adults for adults and if you can’t take that, then tough shit !

She rocked, she rolled, she got political and she made her point, and the band played their hearts out.

They came off stage soaking wet, but it was sweat and not the rain.

And we got more complaints…
‘Not suitable for children…’
‘Unsuitable at a ‘Family Festival’
So go and look at another act, you’ve got seven stages to choose from, don’t just sit there and moan…
This stage provides an ‘Alternative’.
It DOES NOT cater to commercial taste, and the programme notes make that clear enough.
‘Another line-up of poets, musicians and leftfield entertainment… You really should drop by at some point over the weekend and sample something diverse and unique within the festival…’
What else can we say ?
The acts on this stage have something to say.
You may not like what it is, but they are going to say it anyway, that’s what this stage does.
To use that wonderful quote from Bob Dylan’s ex-girlfriend, the late Suze Rotolo (The girl on the front cover of Bob’s ‘Freewheelin’ album) ‘We had something to say, not something to sell…’
I couldn’t have put it better than that, so we’ve adopted it and thank you Suze, because I DO understand what you meant by it…

And Denise and her gang of musical cohorts have just brought that home to the crowd, most of whom wanted more…

It’s a pretty big jump to the next act…
Marching Donald.

I’ve no idea where the name came from, but once seen and I knew I had to have him.
Guitar playing and a bit of singing…

But the guitar playing keeps you on your toes because it’s not just a lot better than average, it’s even better than that.

 So… He’s in the middle of a song and he goes off into the instrumental bridge and you can’t quite put your finger on what it is that he’s playing, but you’re humming along quite happily until you realise he’s just played Beethoven’s ‘Ode To Joy’ from the ninth symphony…
This guy can keep me entertained for hours.
It was his first time at ‘Rhythms’ and I know he got offered another gig after his set, because I went to it…
The crowd liked him, so what else is there to say ?
One more act, and we’re heading down the ‘home straight’ if you want to use a racing analogy ?

The Ukabilly Big Band.

Now we’d had these guys about six years previously, back when we were situated in the town centre and they’d ‘wowed’ ‘em.
If ever a band was going to take chances with material, it was going to be this one.

What does it sound like to you ?
Well, you’d probably be wrong.

The Ukabilly Big Band, and there are just two of them…
Ukelele and Double Bass.
It’s perfect for old thirties jazz numbers…

And it’s perfect when you’re as good a pair of musicians as these two, for a bit of Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke on the Water’ or Eric Clapton’s ‘Layla’, including the long coda at the end.
Well, they did it again.
They came, they played, and they conquered…
How many people would actually credit a duo of uke’ and bass ?
If you think about it for any length of time then doubts appear in the mindset.
Just take my word.
If you’re as good a musician as either of these two then you can make it work, and that’s exactly what they did.

When the opening bars of Layla floated out from the stage, the crowd went nuts…
Ok, they’d played about four straight jazz numbers beforehand, but when that intro’ hits, then it HITS…
Totally unexpected, and the crowd doesn’t know whether to cheer or jeer ?
The fact that it was played note perfectly actually made it easier to decide.
They cheered…
A classic set, and one that lives and breathes ‘Arcadeclectic…’

I’d asked the next act when he turned up if he minded dropping ten minutes from his set ?
Bearing in mind he was scheduled to be on for seventy five minutes in total, he figured that would be ok ?
Now I was going to be able to give him back five of those minutes because we’d made up the time.
I can’t take any credit for that.
All the credit goes to the musicians who played, and Al, Maria and Jake, who had done the most amazing job on clearing the stage and re-setting it between acts, cutting the time from fifteen minute changeovers down to about six minutes, and now, because of their professionalism, we were back on track.
‘Hey Grant, you wanna introduce him ?’
‘Oh yes… Do I ?’

Introducing Edgar...

And that is what he did (apparently, according to his facebook page at the time, it made his day…)
‘Ladies and Gentlemen… Please give a warm, Rhythms of The World welcome, to Mr Edgar Broughton…’
And he was on.

It had been the strangest thing…
I’d booked Edgar through a magazine article in one of the major music magazines.
Either Mojo or Uncut had interviewed him about his ‘Fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay gigs’ in which he asks you to pay him a percentage of your monthly salary and he’ll play the gig wherever ?
On stage or in your front room in front of your family, it didn’t matter ?
I’d asked Grant, who I knew had a few of his albums what he thought and he just said ‘Oh yes…’
Then I’d asked Frank.
‘Edgar Broughton… With or without band ?’
‘Without… Solo acoustic…’
‘Sounds like it has to be attempted then…’

So I’d e-mailed Edgar, told him a bit about the stage and what it represented, and he’d come back to me…
He was up for it.
Apart from the fee, his stage rider had been a bottle of cognac, some food for three people and some water.
We can do that.
I’d been to see him back in the early 1970’s with the Edgar Broughton Band quite a lot.
Back then he’d been seen as part of the ‘Anarcho’ Hippie movement.
Along with the Ladbrook Grove freaks like Hawkwind, The Pink Fairies, Mick Farren and The Deviants, that sort of thing.
Part of, but never quite that radical.
Edgar’s band just seemed to turn up at free festivals, got out their gear, set up, and proceeded to play.
This of course tended to attract police involvement like shit does flies, and unfortunately it still does…
You can’t have bands just setting up and playing, there have to be rules that are followed.
Hmmm… ?
THAT is still open to question.
I’d even seen him live at the BBC when he did an ‘In Concert’ programme with his band and five minutes before he was due to come off stage, he’d gone into the track entitled  ‘Out, Demons Out’ which was basically the band’s anthem…
It tended to last about twenty to thirty minutes… And it did.
Well, the BBC called the police and the lights were turned on and the power turned off, but the band kept on with the song… And the concert audience kept on with the song, too…
My ex-wife thought it was very irresponsible.
In the end the police cleared the hall, but it was definitely a memorable gig.
That was Edgar Broughton.
Now, older, wiser, but still with that mischievous twinkle in his eyes, the Arcadeclectic Stage had got him as a solo act.

He was the ‘wild card’.
We’d stand or fall with this one act, because the older ones in the audience would remember the old times and the younger ones wouldn’t really have a clue as to the guy’s power and stage presence.
What a few of us had realised back then, was that he could write a good song.
In the history of British Rock Music his name doesn’t loom that large, but it’s there nevertheless.
Yes, there were the crowd pleaser anthems like ‘Demons’, but there were also songs like ‘Poppy’ and ‘Evening Over Rooftops’ which were as good, if not better, than most bands were churning out at the time.
It was definitely going to be an interesting set.

The first thing you notice is that he’s kept THAT voice.
The power that he used to have is still there, and it’s obviously been looked after or at least, not abused.
The second thing you notice after about half the first song has been sung is that he’s become a stunningly good acoustic guitarist.

I’d never seen him play acoustic before, it had always been electric and the two are totally different in action.
This was going to be good.

And it was…
He’d asked for the bottle of cognac to be placed onstage and we had wondered about that ?
What nobody expected was what came next.
He broke the seal and took a couple of gulps, then placed the bottle at his feet again.
As I finished his introduction to his well deserved encore, he bent for the bottle, took a third swig and then said…
‘I'll tell you what I want to do...’  Thank you, MrGig2010

How on earth do you top that ?

Talk about getting the crowd on your side.
One of the most professional and nicest guys who has ever graced our stage, and we’ve had a few over the years.
The next act were going to have to pull out all the stops to top that…

But then, Skip ‘Little Axe’ MacDonald had been here last year and he’d made a request that he be allowed to come back and play our little stage with his band instead of solo ?
Thankfully, with a bit of juggling and jiggery pokery with his agent, we’d got him.

Skip used to be in Grandmaster Flash’s band, circa ‘The Message’ but then he’d hit the blues trail with Adrian Sherwood and the whole On-U Sound guys who had ‘dubbed up’ his blues.
He played with loops on stage.

Looping about four or five lines and then playing against them.

Now, with a drummer and a laptop player to add effects (notice I said ’laptop’, that’s a computer and not a lap steel, as Al had been given in his sound engineer notes…)  Thank you, MrGig2010

And he stormed it.

Even the old John D. Loudermilk ‘Tobacco Road’ got a blasting.
We gave him an encore, and he deserved it.

It had been, by any standards, an absolutely phenominal set.
And he did it again…

He only asked if he could come back again for a third year ?
I love this guy…
So much so that I bought his latest cd and got it autographed.
Follow that !!!
As they say.

Our closing act had been here last year as well.
They’d been so good, so professional, so out and out rockin’, that I’d offered them the closing spot.
They weren’t pro’s, but semi’s, but you’d never know that from their performances and they were probably the only act that we’d had on the day that could close after Edgar and Skip, and… They were up against The Damned on one of the other stages, which is a bit unfortunate, but it happens.
Did it faze them ?
Did it hell !

They played rock’n’roll, surf punk, and a bit of high octane bluesy country and western and they were reasonably local to us, if fifteen miles away is reasonably local ?

They were The Zipheads, and I’d recommend this lot to anybody who likes any of the genres I’ve listed, and likes to do a bit of rock’n’roll dancing.

It’s fast, frenetic and furious, and they put on a show while they are doing it.
To be totally honest, you can’t keep your eyes off them because although only a three piece, there is always something going on.
Either the guitarist and singer is exhorting the others… ‘LET’S ROCK…’

or the double bass player is climbing his instrument like it’s a tree, or their drummer is pounding out rhythms that have no beginning and no end…
Whatever it is that makes a band like this tick, these three guys have in spades.

 So they rocked… They rolled… They blew one of the best closing sets I have EVER had on The Arcadeclectic Stage in my life, and we’ve had a few goodies over the years.

They finished with seven minutes to go until our curfew time of nine pm…
So we got them their encore.
Toots and The Maytals ‘54 46 Was My Number…’

Knowing the song as I do, I had to call out to Ray, the singer, ‘Thirty seconds…’ After he’d gone around again.
By this time the crowd are just bouncing and beaming…
They KNOW what they’ve just seen, and Ray, bless him, stuck the brakes on and came in two seconds over our time…

Fuck Me ! That was close.
It’s close enough to get the festival seriously fined if we transgress the time constraints, so a quick closing address thanking everybody who played, my crew and the sound crew, the film crew, the photographers and ‘merch’ sellers and that was it…
It actually involves a serious adrenalin rush on my part.
We’ve bloody well pulled it off again…
Now let’s get the stage pulled down because Haddy and I have got a date at the main stage in forty five minutes.

Not bad…
We managed to get it pulled down and everything packed away in fifty minutes, which for us is tantamount to a miracle.
Sarah and Marcus are rushing over with us, as Marcus has one of his crew filming the main stage’s goings on.
Well, we got there.
There’s about eight thousand people in front of the stage in the pouring rain that has turned the whole area into a quagmire of epic proportion.
Basically it was like walking through a swamp.
The only good thing about it was that we could actually go backstage and into the photographer’s pit right in front of the stage where there is obviously a lot less mud.

JuJu were great.

Justin Adams (note the Ju at the start of his name) and Juldeh Camara (note the… Oh forget it… At least now you know where they got their name from…)

Juldeh is a Fulani.
That’s one of the tribes that make up the people of The Gambia.
My wife Haddy is a Jola, and that’s one of the others…
There is a jokey rivalry between the two tribes.
It’s not quite as bad as Jola’s and Serere’s, being a little more good natured than that particular relationship, but it’s there, nevertheless.

After we’d taken a few shots I went to the rear of the stage to see if I could ring the kids back in The Gambia with the band still rocking up a storm.

I got through, but the line went dead immediately as so often occurs.
It’s a signal failure and it happens all the time.

Oh well, try again…
And again…
And then give up in disgust.

I have no idea what’s been happening on stage but I know something has by the sound of the
crowd ?
I get back to our little spot and find Haddy coming down the steps at the side of the stage…
‘I’ve just been up to the top…’ she said, and that was all.
‘Oi mate, your wife’s a great dancer…’  From someone in the crowd at the back of me.
WHAT !!!
Oh God… What’s she been up to now ?
Honestly, you can’t turn your back because she’ll be off and doing something she probably shouldn’t…
‘Ok, so what’s been happening while I was trying to ring the kids ?’
‘I got onstage and did a ‘Fula’ dance’.  Thanks, Marcus
‘Jeezus !  and I missed it ?’
JuJu finished their set and we went up to Juldeh to congratulate him on a great performance and Haddy said, ‘When you speak to him, tell him Jarama Mulbeh’.
‘What’s that’ I asked her ?
‘It’s Fula’
So I did…
And he burst out laughing…
It turns out I’ve just said ‘Thank you old man…’ in Fulani.
She’s done it to me again.
‘You speak Fulani ?’
‘No… My wife’s just set me up…’
He laughed again and asked Haddy if she was Fulani ?
No, she said… Jola.
And he burst into laughter again and said something to her which she immediately countered, and back and forth it went for a couple of minutes.

Bloody Jola wind-ups !!!
Anyway, we had a little chat about music and The Gambia while he was drying himself off, congratulated Justin and told him the expression which he could use too, and he burst into laughter…
‘Oh yes… What is it again ?’
‘Jarama Mulbeh’
‘I’ll remember that…’
‘Look after yourselves guys, you were great… Wish we’d had you on our stage, but you’re probably too big for us… Maybe next time ?’
And we took our leave…

Walking back through the rain and the mud to our car, my mind’s in a jumble and the adrenalin is still pumping, how the hell am I going to get to sleep tonight ?
It had been one hell of a rollercoaster of a day, and we’ve got to do it all over again tomorrow but at least we shouldn’t have ‘stage’ problems…
We got back home in twenty minutes and I promptly declared it was ‘Margarita time…’
Any excuse, eh ?

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