Friday, June 12, 2009

Shine On You Crazy Diamond

Hazel Blears has some regrets about the way she left the government. I bet she does. I wonder if she would be as regretful if her pals had succeeded with their pathetic attempt at a putsch?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ghosts of Cable Street

Well, thank God that this years summer coincided with our weekend away. We are now hoping and praying that summer returns in September when we attend the End of The Road festival, which, for a Blues fan, must be the best named festival in the world.

Ah, the Blues. As I predicted from the moment we went down, we have gone back up and a strange an unfamiliar harmony has settled about the place. People are even beginning to warm to the board. Quite right too. They have already started spending money and more of it than we are accustomed to and everyone seems delighted with the players that have been mooted to join us. I will hang fire a bit before expressing delight as they are either lower league journeymen (who may, nevertheless, cut the mustard) or exotic foreigners of whom I have never previously heard. The signs are good though.

The world has managed over the weeks without me commenting on the current political pickle and I am sure it could last a few more weeks without input from me, but it won’t have to, because I have an opinion or three.

There is something that is really beginning to bug me, and that is the easy ride that David Cameron is enjoying. Somehow, he has managed to place himself on the moral high ground and I can’t understand it. Poor old Michael Martin got hounded out of his job because many MP’s turned out to be immoral freeloaders, and many Tory MP’s turned out to be extraordinarily extravagant immoral freeloaders. Apparently, it was all Michael Martins fault.

Right from the start, Cameron managed to hitch himself to a populist bandwagon and has managed to keep himself firmly hitched to it, despite milking the cash cows udder to within an inch of its life. All his expense claims manage to fall into just within the maximum. I read somewhere that he is independently wealthy (inherited, not earned) to the tune of 30 million quid, yet he will take as much as he possibly can out of the public purse to subsidise a second home. Fair enough if he needs a floor to sleep on when he is away from the family home, but how palatial does the floor need to be?

Johan Hari wrote a good article on Cameron the other week, wondering how he gets away with it, and it is a very good question.

Then we have had the unedifying sight of a bunch of Labour MP’s who no one has ever heard of resigning, some of them with nasty little smirks on their faces. Have they resigned because they helped themselves to the nations petty cash? No they have resigned because they don’t much like Gordon Brown. Pathetic. I don’t much like Gordon Brown myself; he has been a sorry disappointment, but he is preferable to the political pygmies who currently oppose him.

The little leadership crisis appears to be over, the plotters having displayed their lack of nous and their inability to organize a piss up in a brewery to magnificent effect. I hope now that Labour comes out swinging and goes for the Tories and also demands that the news media, particularly the BBC subjects Tory policies and personalities to the same forensic analysis and questioning that Labour is subject to. I am no fan of new labour, but if anyone thinks that the fucking Bullingdon Club and the party of the duck island owning classes will be an improvement, they need their bumps felt.

I keep hearing that the election of 2 BNP oafs to the European parliament is a bad thing, but I think that it is a good thing, Nick Griffin getting egged and scurrying away from his scrawny assailants is the best laugh I have had in months. Did you know that neither Griffin or his mate would be allowed to stand in local elections, because of their criminal pasts?

A superb video of the utterly brilliant Two Gallants performing in a Houston car park

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Sunday dawned and once again I was up with it and once again it was beautiful, and once again I endured an agonising walk to the bogs. I think I had trenchfoot of the bollock region. There's something really lovely about rising with the sun on a beautiful day, especially if you have a Mrs who always makes sure that there is a cup of tea waiting. The camping field was really quiet and the few others who were up just pottered about, quietly enjoying the morning. What with the crowds and with everything else that goes on it is easy to forget that you are actually in a beautiful location.

Our Sunday morning more or less followed the routine of the previous day, minus the shopping trip. It is amazing how time can fly when you are basically doing not very much at all, apart from enjoying the weather and the company. The kids always disappear off to lark about on the racecourse itself, which puts us in the wonderful, but unaccustomed position of having time to ourselves.

Suitably rested and refreshed, we made it down to the arena in time to see the Beetroot Kings. I didn't really expect to pay much attention to them, intending merely to dump our stuff at our usual place and just lie back, soaking up the rays and the ambience. But they were good, and it wasn't long before I had been drawn down to the front. There was nothing special about them, but they had something and I can well imagine that in a club they would have the place rocking. For the time of the day that they were on, it was a very impressive performance and more than a few people were tentatively shaking a foot or a leg.

The brood had wandered off in all directions as usual, participating in the many and varied activities that are on offer. This is remarkable thing about Wychwood; it feels very safe. We park ourselves where we do because it is a very easy and identifiable spot to get back to and it never gets crowded, so it works as a safe and recognisable harbour for the kids. We then just let them go off and have fun. They didn't really bother with any of the organised activities this year and were happy to enjoy the freedom they had to just amuse themselves for about 16 hours every day.

Anyway, as early as it was, it was hot, so I once again hit the cider and once again it hit the spot. Next up on the main stage were Shtetl Superstars, who were alright, but a bit contrived and quite a few people seemed to actually get a bit pissed off. I didn't watch them, I just sat back and listened to them, enjoying the drink and sunshine and watching the world go by. I have had worse half hours.

I had, by now begun to feel really shit. There was the thigh problem, obviously, but my eyes started stinging and streaming tears and my sinuses became painful and I felt just weak. Despite the bucolic ambience, I started to feel a bit sorry for myself. Not for long though, because Justin Adams and Judeih Camara appeared on stage and just about blew the place away. It was a fantastic privilege to see this pair and their drummer; such virtuosity is rare. If you get a chance to see them go and see them, they were the definite highlight of the weekend.

Cara Dillon was pleasant enough but it all just sort of drifted by. I may have nodded off. Bellowhead were a different kettle of fish. I have their first album so knew I would like them, and they put me in mind of Barelyworks so I expected their live performance to be good. It wasn't good, it was outstanding. There was still a large crowd and just about everyone in it was bopping. hopping, jigging, reeling and dozy bloody doeing. They got the evening off to a fantastic start.

I had a brief look at The Travelling Band after Bellowhead, as everyone seemed to be raving about them. They sounded like they could be very good, but I was still feeling lousy and was in no mood for the awful sound quality in the tent they played in and didn't hang around long.

Unfortunately, the momentum built up by Bellowhead didn't last as half the crowd left once they had finished and the next band on the main stage were Dub Colossus. They should be done under the trade descriptions act as there was no dub and who the colossus is God only knows. They seemed very disengaged as they noodled some irritating jazz funk fusion shit, and I was very glad to see the back of them.

So, here we were, at the last act of the festival, and who was it? The Dhol Foundation. I thought the organisers must have taken leave of their senses. I had never heard of them, but the programme indicated that they were some sort of community youth club type ensemble. I needn't have worried. All the previously lost momentum returned, in spades and from the very first beat the crowd was jumping. Really jumping............jumping as if their very lives depended on it, and the jumping continued, joyously.

The Dhol Foundation were brilliant and brilliantly unexpected. The beats were amazing, but the best thing was the sense of fun that they brought to the occasion, the main man, Johnny must be the most engaging front man in music. What a way to end proceedings, with the whole crowd Bhangra dancing with huge smiles on their faces. I even forgot about my bollocks, albeit briefly. I don't know if their set was short, but it seemed very short. Whoever booked them as final act is a genius.

Everybody loved TDF, especially the kids, but, when it's gone, it's gone. We headed to the Silent Disco, but everything has started to feel a bit flat.I think the sun and the drink and the lack of sleep and the realisation that tomorrow we would be back in work clothes, rather than ridiculous outfits, had hit home. We didn't stay too long, and funnily enough, there were no complaints when we decided to head back to the tent.

As we crossed in front of the main stage, walking on an enormous bed of crushed plastic, my nipper noticed that the songlines tent was just closing up. He remembered that TDF had said that they would be in there, signing stuff and he hared off across the field. I tried to keep up with him, as best as my grievously afflicted bollock region would allow, and bugger me they were there and were more than happy to hoist the little chap aloft to have a picture taken with them. By Christ that boy was pleased and proud. TDF will always be heroes in our house.

And that was that, apart from sitting up drinking with the good companions until about 3 am, until the cold once again proved too much and the pit beckoned.

A Wychwood Spotify playlist.

Some pics.

Some more reviews


The Sun

Talking of geniuses, the man who invented sudocreme will always be welcome in this house!

Saturday, June 06, 2009


Saturday dawned bright and beautiful. I had sat up drinking when we got back to the tent on Friday, and once the cold had sent me scurrying to my pit, there was an endless procession of happy revellers to keep me entertained, all through the night.

So, I wasn't feeling exactly 100 per cent, not with the state my upper thigh region was in anyway. I walked over to the main site to utilise the bogs in the grandstand, as it was likely that I would relieve myself more quickly that way than waiting in the queue for the bogs; even if every single step was agony.

Suitably refreshed we set about our day, which largely involved cooking breakfast, talking shit while waiting for the kids to wake up and wondering which of our neighbours had been the most aggravating through the night and which of the daft sods had started a fire. A fire, in a tent city populated by drunks.

For some reason, I decided to pay a visit to the local Sainbsurys before going on to the site. I only really needed some children's painkillers but I also took the opportunity to replenish the wine stocks and bought a load of cold juices and water for the nippers.

It occurred to me, when I parked up, that the security was being pretty vigilant in searching bags for glass and alcohol. The thought of walking back to the tent though, with my upper thighs in such a catastrophic state, was too much, so I stuck all the drinks in a rucksack, and packed all the soft drinks around the wine. At the gate I was asked if the bag contained any glass or alcohol. No, I said. She took the bag, opened it, rummaged around and then handed it back with a big smile on her face. I was chuffed.

It was beautiful wandering around the place at around 1 ish, with the sun high and hot in a cloudless sky and the place filling up and everyone just looking happy and delighted with life. I wandered across to the tent where Ade Edmonson and his Bad Shepherds were playing, but it was too hot, too crowded and the folky renditions of pub rock and punk tunes becomes tiresome very quickly, so I headed back out into the sunshine, back to base, just in front of the disabled ramp, a matter of feet from one of the bars. I risked a cloudy cider. Fuck me, it was cold. Fuck me, it hit the spot.

I didn't have high hopes for the music on Saturday. I was sure I would enjoy it, but none of it was particularly inspiring. How very, very wrong can a man be? The Mummers appeared on the main stage early on, and they blew me away. The ethereal quality of the music was just the job for a sunny afternoon and the quality of the singing and the playing was superb. It was early, I was still feeling a bit shit and I was watching a band I had never heard of play songs I had never heard and I was spellbound. This is a band to watch.

Having breakfasted very early, we headed back (agonisingly in my case)to the tent for our traditional festival meal of tinned curry, tinned chilli, tinned meatballs and pre cooked rice. We take a load of lovely, fresh prepared food for the Friday night then spend the rest of the weekend eating shit. Anyway, we weren't detained long and we took the necessarily slow walk back to the field in time for the start of the Oyterband.

The family departed to all points west and I hobbled with my John Wayne gait to the front. Just as I used to love Men They Couldn't Hang years ago, I used to love Oysterband too, although I went off them when they went all pub rock. So hopes were not all that high. Wrong again. They played a storming set, full of energy, passion and humour. Singer and bassist even ended up in the middle of the crowd at one point. Right band, right time. They really woke the place up and got everyone jumping. They got me jumping anyway, which was no mean feat.

I was reliably informed by the fart master Harris that I had missed a brilliant set by Kissmet while I was filling my face, I heard others comment upon how good they were too, but you can't see everything.

There was a bit of a hiatus after the Oysterband, but that was alright, it was a beautiful place to be, my companions had found distractions for themselves and I was just kicking back, enjoying the vibe and the cider, which was going down rather nicely; too nicely, because it was obvious from the very first sip hours earlier that it packed a punch. And I forgot all about Agnes Milewski in the Big Top, which I had been looking forward to. I did see a bit of the Ten Bears set, my mate loved them, I thought they were personable, but pointless and they had me singing My Sharona for the rest of the night, which is a bit unforgiveable, really.

Then Little Boots came on. The field was very packed by now, which was good. Little Boots, alright. Most of the crowd seemed to enjoy it so the happines quotient remained high and my left foot tapped a little bit. It was the one performance of the entire weekend that my daughter appreciated, which, of course, was a good thing. I had a very brief look at Spiro after Little Boots. They were OK.

By now, there had been a bit of a regrouping and me and the fartmiester started necking the cider a bit and we were getting thoroughly in the mood. Which was just as well because next up were the Beat. More accurately, next up were a Beat tribute act, who had the good fortune to have Ranking Roger as singer. Roger is the only remaining member of the original band and he was a pretty insignificant member back then, so it ain't really the Beat that you are watching. It didn't matter though, because they were absolutely ace.

What more could you want after a brilliant day in the sun, as the night darkens and the air becomes chilly? The bloody Beat, banging out hit after hit and a large crowd of happy, slightly drunk and podgy middle aged fools going apeshit and singing along to every was the most fun I have had in years: my upper thigh region was feeling the pace though. My kids loved 'em too. Everybody loved 'em, it was not possible not to love 'em.

Last up were Supergrass. I am no fan of this lot, but I don't dislike them either. My youngest loves 'em though. The night before we had allowed him and the fartmeisters kids to go right to the front for SFA and although they were ok it did get a bit wild towards the end of the set, so we disappointed them by not allowing them to the front for this, as we thought it would probably be even more raucous.

The upside for my nipper was that we went very close in anyway and, between us, me and the Mrs had him on our shoulders. Christ, he loved it..........bouncing, rocking, singing along, yelling with absolute abandon at the end of every was ace.

A very simple thing happened towards the end of the set. A couple of people appeared in the crowd armed with giant bubble machines, which they let go in a continuous stream. It all added to the fun, and I don't know if it was the cider or not, but the sight of those bubbles made me deliriously happy. It was a good set, the highlight being the way my nippers reacted, but they didn't do the "we are young" song, the miserable gets.

That was it for the main stage, but the kids persuaded us to try the silent disco, which we had never been to on any of our previous visits to Wychood. What can I say? Believe the hype is what I can say. It is brilliant and it is hilarious...........if you get the chance to go, go, you won't regret it. It's as good without the headphones as with them, as you see a couple of thousand dopes moving and grooving to what appears to be some imaginary beat, before they all yell, with absolutely perfect timing............."HI HO SILVER LINING" or whatever. It was a slow, happy walk home fuelled by fresh coffee and doughnuts and punctuated by frequent stops for banter with other tired, dishevelled but happy fools.

And nearly all the toilets were still clean. Amazing.

Some photos

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Scarlet Ribbons

You spend ages waiting for the Wychwood festival to arrive and you spend the all of the week before obsessively checking the weather on metcheck, and then it comes and in the blink of an eye, it gone and you are struggling to remember half of it; not because you were wasted, but because so much of it was good. Don’t go running away with the idea that I didn’t get wasted though, because I did.

Friday morning arrived, and, cleverly, I had arranged a review at a placement not too far from the festival site. 7 minutes away, to be precise, I had also arranged for a colleague to take over the case and for him to accompany me, so that he could be introduced and to drop me off at Wychood. Meanwhile, the Mrs would be sorting out all the equipment the car and the kids, which all seemed fair enough to me!

As it turned out the journey up was not unproblematic and the visit, which I thought would be routine, turned out to be very unroutine, but I still got to the site in the early afternoon. We had stuck some stuff in my mates car to drop off, but the ever vigilant Wychwood stewards would not let him on to the camp site without a ticket, so I had to yomp all over it looking for the Mrs and our companions for the weekend, in the end, I found them easily, if sweatily enough. By the time I found them I was knackered and experiencing some discomfort in the upper thigh region.

I was bit surprised to find them camped in the general camping area, rather than the quiet or family area, but there was method in their madness, in that the family area is only quiet until the babies start waking up in the middle of the night and then it is very unquiet indeed: which was a point. Eyeing the general demeanour of a largish group of adults setting up next to us though, I had my doubts regarding the wisdom of the decision. As it turns out, my doubts were well founded, because, although the inconsiderate gets did not manage to spoil the weekend, they made a gallant effort. I think that there should be a separate field so that there is quiet area , a family area, a general area and a selfish, inconsiderate, ego driven, immature area.

Yes, it was a festival, yes, people have a right to enjoy themselves, and, yes, we were in general camping, but it wasn’t just us that they pissed off, it was everyone else in the general vicinity and many comments were made, which only served to annoy them. On Friday I heard them laughing about who would get most annoyed with them over the weekend and who would take mostoffence at their behaviour, as happens at every festival they go to, apparently. Who, they wondered loudly, would be Angry Bob.

Why would people be proud of the fact that everywhere they go, they piss people off? Moreover, why would people pay to go to a festival and then spend most of their time sitting in the camping field listening to their own shitty music on a endless loop on a shitty little system? Why would people do that? See, I said I wasn’t going to go on about it.

There were other large groups around us who all enjoyed themselves well into the night making sleep more or less impossible, but they didn’t really bother me; it’s not the sound of people have a laugh and enjoying themselves that grates, it’s the attitude that goes with it.

Anyway, on with the unpacking and the erecting, which is not really my forte and, what with the neighours, the journey, the visit, the sweat and the upper thigh discomfort, I managed to put myself in a bad mood, at which point I left the Mrs to sort everything out and took littlest nipper over to have a look at the opening band, Danny and the Champions of The World. It wasn’t long before I was in a good mood. This lot were superb and got the thing off to a rousing start; I loved them, including an extended jam which is normally the kind of thing that makes me want to throw up. They were very close to being the highlight of the whole weekend. The little chap was amazed by them and was happily sitting in front of the stage freaking out.

We wondered back to the campsite to rejoin our companions, got through 3 bottles of bubbly in very short order and wondered back over to the festival site. The upper thigh problem was becoming more acute. We missed a bit during this hiatus and I am struggling to remember what it was we missed, I think we al sort of split up and just generally wondered around, enjoying the vibe. I think it was at this point that I missed Ella Edmonson and Agnes Milew, which, in the latter case was a bit of a pisser.

I sat out the Wonderstuff, although I am told that the littlest one loved every single beat of every song and demonstrated this fact without any self consciosusness at all. I managed to hear them, without seeing them, while sitting outside a beer tent, on a perfectly beautiful evening while simultaneously listening to someone or other playing in the beer tent and imbibing enough Old Hooky to get me properly in the spirit of things.

At some point I had a look at Oysterbands John Jones strutting his Max Wall stuff and was very surprised to find him and his pals performing in front a very sparse audience. I like John, but he always looks as if he is having a shit.

I got back to the main stage for the Men They Couldn’t Hang. I used to love them, way back when but I always have my doubts about old bands making a comeback and trading on past glories. I needn’t have worried about the Men though, they were something else.They looked suitably haggard and aged as they put on a storming set, full of the old power and passion with even the new stuff (I think it was only the one song) sounding as good as the old stuff and this fucking festival was beginning to feel like a very special place to be. All the bouncing about did nothing to improve the upper thigh situation though.

I wasn’t very good this year at seeking out stuff on the smaller stage and in the beer tent, and stuck mainly to the main stage. I did pop my head into the other places, but either wasn’t inspired, or it was too damn hot, or the sound quality was shit. There were a couple of things worth noting though; already, it seemed that the reputation for having good bogs was going to be deserved. I haven’t always been impressed with the bogs at Wychwood but all through Friday night they stayed clean and you didn’t have to queue, at least you didn’t if you were prepared to walk a few yards from the main arena, also, and importantly, the system for queuing at the bars worked brilliantly and you never had to wait long for a refreshment.

The last band on were the Super Furry Animals. I have no problem with SFA, other than, outside the singles, I am not overly familiar with them. I don't like 'em, I don't dislike 'em, they just sort of pass me by. Having said that, there is something about them that I like, they are quirky, in a good way, like the Flaming Lips and seem to just play around, having fun, until they hit upon something that is just right, and they hit the right button, very often.

The lead singer who is a very cool dude indeed, said at the start that they would play the first side of their new record. I loved that; I bet half the audience thought that were talking Greek. Some said it was brave, some said it was foolhardy to play their new album straight through like that, but, Christ, in the age of Spotify, there is no reason not to be familiar with a bands oeuvre............ and the new stuff was better than the old stuff and suited the time and the mood and the venue. For what it's worth if you like the old shit, you will like the new shit more................spotify it!

Every now and then, the singer would hold up comedy style cards, exhorting the audience to applaud or go "whoah". I suppose you had to be there, but it was funny, but not as funny as the gormless look he put on his face as he held his cards aloft.

It had been a great night, much better than I had expected, but we were seriously knackered and headed back to the tent relatively early, not without stopping at the pizza tent though. How is that a load of youngsters in a tent can knock out a pizza to be proud of, while pizza hut does its best to put you off pizza for life?