Monday, July 08, 2013

“Ted Bidits!”

Another year, another Maverick. From the Stygian gloom of the original Barn Stage, where we had to brush the cobwebs from our hair, shake them loose and let them fall before starting our set to the bright new world of queue-less bars and brightly-painted drag acts, what a long strange trip it’s been over the six years of the festival’s existence.

From such humble beginnings I have at least attended, if not played, every year since the festival's inception; nevertheless it was with no little trepidation that I found myself with a clipboard, a wristband and the title of Stage Manager at this year’s event, charged with the holy mission of administering the smooth running of The Barn Stage, the myriad duties of which included ensuring that those with camping chairs stayed exclusively on the left-hand side of the central divide. This, I’ll state for the record now, was the most stressful part of the weekend. I’ve been heckled on stage before, but never during someone else’s set and by someone waving a banjo and gesturing angrily at the space around their travel rug.
In practise my job, as I explained to the talent, was to introduce them at the start of their set, gesture at them to get off at the end, and repeat any requests addressed to me regarding technical matters in a slightly louder voice and at someone who actually knew what they were doing. As long as I held up my end of the bargain, I expected them to fulfil theirs. All of the line up turned out to be fantastically talented, most of them agreeably accepting of our extraordinarily tight ten minute turnarounds between acts, and a few of them so selflessly accommodating that I found myself making a quiet note to send them flowers.

I think we did pretty well – I mean we lost twenty minutes to a lengthy sound check on Saturday evening which we never made back, but taking the compression off the bass, losing the gate on the vocals and poking up the mids at 160hZ is going to take time, there’s no disputing that, and if you want to get it right you want to get it right. A similar principle was behind my checking the name of The Goat Roper Rodeo Band four times to ensure I didn’t get any of it in the wrong order. Obviously ideally I wouldn’t have been introducing them on stage at the time, but we got through it.
It would be unfair to single out anyone’s performance on stage, but off it I certainly developed a soft spot for Eileen Rose (“How do you want me to signal that time’s nearly up for the set?” “A bunch of flowers?”) Trevor Moss (“If we dropped a number from the set that’d give you a chance to make some time up, yeah?”) and Hannah Lou (“It’s from Debenhams”) and the extraordinarily delightful Rainbow Girls, who patiently drew me a stage plan helpfully indicating where the tap board should be miked up, and when asked if they needed anything, asked simply for a higher drum stool and wondered if they might have kittens delivered to the backstage area.

At one point I found myself guiding the perfectly gentlemanly Neil Innes from Artist’s Reception to the backstage area. “What do you call a banjo at the bottom of the ocean?” he asked.
“A start”.

1 comment:

Fi said...

Chair and Rug hell not confined to Cropredy and Cambridge Folk Festival then...? People can be VERY odd.