Saturday, April 29, 2017

"Remember - they work for you..."


Mr. Gibbon and I decamp to darkest Mersea Island, where the sun is shining, the tide is out, and we are to perform at the behest of the curators of The River Stage at Cosmic Puffin, an entertainingly anarchic fundraising festival which has grown from modest roots to become a lively, six-stage microcosm of the sort of thing that stands for everything that (say) the Fyre Festival emphatically doesn’t. Ironically, the camping, catering, stewarding, music and facilities are a universe beyond whatever the Rich Kids of Instagram are paying to not see Blink 182; so I’d say we’ve already won the weekend.

We are without Mr. Wendell on this occasion – decamped to Patagonia and living like a King or somesuch - which is a shame because as a fellow veteran of the Stage Managing Wars* (from the other side of the monitors) he would doubtless have approved of the efficient and timely way we were ushered upon entry to the artist’s reception caravan, issued with wristbands and meal vouchers and directed to the backstage parking area where we could unload comfortably in good time for our set. Not that we’re the prissy, artistic types, but that makes a nice change from being told to unload in the road outside the festival, vaguely directed to a field “...down there somewhere” and told to look for ‘Ron’ by people who are charging traders fifty quid a day for access to a 13 amp socket. And that’s one we were invited to. There also looks to be much less chance of us being asked to give it a rest for ten minutes mid-set so that the Bird of Prey display can get started.

CP10, which we dutifully submitted a demo to and asked nicely if we could play at, is clearly being run by people with experience of being up at one in the morning tidying up cables as it has a dedicated crew catering tent, with two kinds of curry (whoever got ‘vegan curry’ in the pre-festival sweepstake was clearly on an odds-on no-brainer). This, also, we feel Mr. Wendell would appreciate, given his vegetarian proclivities. Sustainably, we were asked to bring our own eatin’ irons, which The Winns have sensibly forethought while Fiddly unveils a plate of simply Partridgian proportion which is duly laden down with rice, salad and chicken – all of which disappears in due course; Fiddly is nothing if not a child of austerity, and relates a story from his school days involving the resale of an ounce of Churchman’s shag and a briar pipe - “...and that’s when I gave up smoking!” he chuckles. Gib and I elect to make a donation instead and receive paper plates, some of which he suspects he may have ingested over the course of dinner, since at one point the realisation dawns that he is actually attempting to scoop up some varnish from the trestle table with his (wooden) fork.

Of course the main business of proceedings is our opening set in a charming bedouin/crusty tented amalgam of sofas, deep cushions, backlit fabric jellyfish and a swordfish-based stage proscenium which makes La Mulley sigh deeply and happily in remembrance of childhood festivals past. It is here that Mr. Wendell’s absence is most keenly felt, as in having stripped back the set where possible to abrogate his vocal abstenteeism, I have neglected to fully take into account that he also plays most of the holding role in terms of guitar, while I perform more in terms of a Libero. This is thrown into stark relief when I start ‘Elephant’ (“This song is about an elephant in a room, at a wedding. Not a literal elephant...”) both without the benefit of a lush Gibson-based accompaniment, but also with the wrong notes, and in completely the wrong order. However, we play through, finish well and on time – probably a bit too on time for the North Suffolk contingent, who will actually spend more of Friday evening in the car than on the festival site, all told. We tour the grounds one more time, and as we pack up to leave we espy Fiddly, flask of tea in hand, gazing wistfully out to sea. “Shoulda bought the canoe...” he murmurs softly. 

 
 




*The title of this post is inspired by sage advice given to me by the Production Manager at The Maverick Festival when I expressed some reluctance to start ordering the talent off stage when it started approaching changeover time. It's a good mantra.