Tuesday, September 15, 2015

EOTR '15

As usual, EOTR clashed with the first week of the school term, so decisions had to be made about what was more important, education, or hedonism. Hedonism won, no contest. Then the daughter decided she couldn’t miss the first day of her new life as a 6th former, which, bizarrely, began on a Friday, so hedonism was no longer the winner, however the younger 14 year child had no such qualms about missing school, so let’s call it a score draw. Me and son travelled Thursday, daughter and mother followed on Friday, straight from school.
The first indication that the weekend was going to be a good ‘un arrived as we sailed around a huge roundabout outside Bath, every light on green, which I have never known before. We cheered.
The benefit of arriving on Thursday became apparent as we were able to park very close to Mr Trolley, and thus pretty close to the entrance, saving ourselves a knackering slog. I had expected huge queues at the wristband exchange, but there was hardly anyone there and we strolled through. We had opted to take the cowards way out and had booked a pre erected tent, so no more than half an hour after parking up, we were in the tent, unpacked and one of us was getting stuck into the John Smiths, while the other sussed out the charging points, water points, bogs and showers.
I always view any entertainment that they put on Thursday night as a free bonus…..being installed, rested and ready for the main event is the reason for getting there a day early. I’d be quite happy to grab a bit of scoff, a drink and retire early with a good book, however, the young ‘un was with me, so that wasn’t really an option. I braved the crowds of excitable teens in the Tipi to see Menace Beach, who were good, and Palma Violets who were incredible. The best bit was seeing the 2 security guys playing a human version of whackamole trying to keep all the stage invaders at bay.
Ist night kip
It was a bloody awful nights kip. If I hadn’t had the last 2 cans maybe I wouldn’t have had to get up 3 times for a piss, but I think it was as much to do with it being freezing fucking cold. When I say it was freezing, I mean it was FREEZING. I was well wrapped up, but it felt like the middle of winter, not the end of summer.
On top of this, there were some toddlers 2 tents down. I don’t mind toddlers, I was one myself, and I have had 3 of my own, so I know what the little buggers can be like. I do mind selfish, middle class parents who, instead of encouraging the little ones to go to sleep, indulge them in singing horrible, cloying nursery songs, very loud. Until gone 2 am.
There’s more. We had gone back to the tent at about 11ish, maybe half eleven….early, anyway. At about 12ish, a big group of women appeared, having a laugh, and went to their tents, where they continued to have a laugh. Soon after, a group of chaps arrived and joined the women, whereupon the laughter and the chatter got louder. This didn’t bother me so much as the nippers did. Twas first night of a festival, they had clearly had a decent drink and were enjoying themselves. Not really a problem, they weren’t being sweary or obnoxious. My tolerance level dropped a bit though, when some chump started strumming a guitar.
After about half hour of this, still only about half twelve or quarter to one, I heard a very stern voiced woman demand that they be quiet, as she was trying to get some kip, and they were preventing her from doing so. It was like turning off a switch, they immediately zipped it, and no more was heard from them. The nippers, however, carried on, aided and abetted by their parents, who were possessed of the type of middle class voice that demands that everyone within a 50 yard radius must hear their banalities. It is quite interesting that the stern lady couldn’t cope with adults having a bit of fun at half twelve, but had no problem with a family group making even more noise until well past 2.
Up early to avoid queue for the showers and get phones on to charge in the charging tent. Very good showers. Lovely and hot, and quite spacious inside. Despite a bit of a palaver with some scoundrel unplugging my phone when it was only 17% charged, it was a lovely, restful morning and a beautiful relaxed start to the day……another benefit of a Thursday arrival. It is amazing how quickly the morning went, doing absolutely nothing. Before I knew it, it was time to get into the spirit of the thing.
On the way over to see Ryley Walker, one of my “must sees”, I popped into the Big Top to have a look at Love LUV. I didn’t see much of ‘em, but I dug ‘em.
I was gobsmacked to find the Garden Stage absolutely heaving for Ryley Walker. It was only 12.30 for gawds sake. I soon saw why so many had been attracted there…….he was incredible, and so was his band. He seemed as surprised as anyone at the size of the crowd that had turned up, and looked and sounded as if he was enjoying himself. I was certainly enjoying myfuckingself. What a start.
Being a Birmingham fan, I was a bit worried now. On the rare occasions we score early, I shit myself, the rationale being: things can only go downhill from here……….I wondered how the hell the rest of the festival could match up to what I had just seen.
I legged it from the Garden Srtage to the Woods for Andrew Combs. Well, this was a treat as the festival went 2-0 with superb set from Andrew Combs and his fantastic, and cool looking band. The bonus was I learned how to say his name. Combs, not Coombes. I had heard Ryley Walkers record and liked it, but he was much better here than I expected and the same was true of Combs. I love his album, but here there was a bit more oomph to the music, and it suited it well.
On a day in which I would end up absolutely knackered from all the toing and froing, I headed back to the Garden (there’s a song there) to catch a bit of Juan Waters. He was OK, more than OK, I liked him a lot, very engaging and quirky and seemingly a bit nervous. He reminded me a bit of Jonathan Richman, only a bit though
Back over to the bastard Woods stage to sit by the bar in the sunshine, listening to Oscar and enjoying my first draught, as opposed to tinned ale of the weekend. Funky Monkey, and it wasn’t long before the second pint. Oscar sounded alright, I’ll be seeing him support Ezra Furman soon enough, so I was happy to sit in the sun, with my beer, just enjoying the ambience.
Fuck me if I didn’t trek all the way back to the Garden for Frazey Ford. Jesus. What a treat that was……another who surpassed all expectations. She seemed to be really enjoying herself and commented on the famed EOTR vibe, self identifying as a hippy freak.
Later, on the same stage, it was a bit of a privilege to see Natalie Prass capture everyone’s heart with what may have been the set of the weekend. She is possessed of wit, charm and cheek and the impromptu version of Johnny B Goode was a right chuffing laugh.
So, before the first afternoon was out, I had seen 4 brilliant performances, plus, little bits of other, really enjoyable sets. I no longer cared what the rest of the festival had in store. What I had already seen was good enough.
The one worrying aspect was the tosser quotient, which seems to increase year on year. If people want a chat, have a chat, there’s plenty of space, and if you want to chat at the back, have a chat, I can move further forward if it bothers me that much. What I don’t understand is why, when the place is still far from full, people, lots of ‘em, go right to the front, ignore the band completely while they shout at each other, then whoop and holler at the end of each song as if it’s the best thing they have ever heard. Bewildering.
As is always the case, the later sets become a bit a blur. Best news of the day was the Mrs and daughter finally turning up about 3 hours after ETA.
Evenings at EOTR aren’t really for me anymore. I’m too old, too decrepit and it all gets too busy as the festival lovers come out to join the music lovers. My tolerance levels for the overly ecstatic, the overly indifferent and the overly refreshed isn’t what it once was. There’s still plenty to enjoy though, not least the goddam pies.
I wandered about a bit from stage to stage to sparkly woodland and back again and around again. I caught a bit of Fuzz, liked ‘em a lot initially but quickly grew weary of ‘em, then I caught a little bit of Django Django, a little bit of Jane Weaver neither of whom offended, then saw a brilliant set in the Tipi from Darren Hayman. I don’t know how long he was on, but it wasn’t long enough. Loved the bugger, literate, funny self deprecating and he sung a socialist anthem. What more could a motherfucker want?
We finished up sitting under that big canopy thing near the real ale  tent, getting some down us, listening to the Tame Impala set  from afar, watching the light show. It was a beautiful half hour. The young un’s were down by the barrier and loved it. By now I was seriously cold and knackered so no late night secret sets or forest discos…….home  and into bed. I was spark out before my head hit the pillow. It had been an epic day.
Woke up for a piss several times through the night and each time the airbed was noticeably squishier, before it gave up the ghost and completely deflated itself, the bastard. Still felt quite refreshed though and was first to the charging tent and the showers again. The bogs, even after a night of revellers utilising them, were remarkably clean.
To be frank, Saturday was pretty shit, although we still managed to have a bloody lovely day and the young ‘uns saw some bands they liked. Once again, we were surprised to find the Garden Stage jam packed by 12 o’clock. We had gone over to have a look at Hooton Tennis Club but there was barely an inch to be had between the picnic blankets, chairs and slumbering sprawlers………and no one was about to give up any space, even space they didn’t really need. I liked the sound of the band and we ended up in that little garden bit with a little statue and the peacocks, and it was lovely.
Scanning the programme we decided that as nothing was grabbing us by the bollocks we would just go and find a nice spot by the Woods stage, not too far from the bar, let the music, whatever it happened to be, drift over us and just chill the day away. This meant missing H Hawkline,  who had been on my must see list, but ya can’t have everything.
We saw a bit of Duke Spirit, who I found quite dull, then I made my way to The Big Top for Peter Mathew Bauer. He proved a bit of a revelation, much punchier than on record and he was banging ‘em out at  a rate of knots. I dug the fuck out of him, but he seemed to be in a hell of a hurry to get out of there.
Through the day I saw bits and pieces of loads of bands but mostly just relaxed, and had a fine time getting gently sozzled and having a laugh with the Mrs and kids. I saw a bit of Du Blonde, she was pretty good but she could lose the lame between song patter. I heard, rather than saw Slow Club and they were rather lovely. I caught a bit of Stealing Sheep, but they got on my nerves, a bit, and I saw an interview Uncut did with a Sleaford Mod which was excruciating.
The evening passed me by. I found My Morning Jacket a bit polished and boring, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind for EX Hex and I managed to stay for 1 Fat White Family song.
I had been torn all week between Mark Lanegan and Sufjan Stevens. I opted, briefly, for the latter. We were about halfway down and surrounded by fuck faced chatterboxes and clowns who seemed to think we had come to watch their tomfoolery, rather than the band. I gave it 15 minutes and left, in a sulk. I didn’t last much longer with Mark Lanegan……I think I was just a bit out of sorts, and found myself back at the real ale bar quaffing the real ale, listening to the end of Sufjan, and bless my soul, I was content.
Warm and Sunny, by God.
Before the festival it had looked likely that I might spend the whole damn day at the Garden stage, but again, the place was absolutely heaving from very early on, and wasn’t a particularly relaxing place to be, in fact, it was quite a precarious place to be, with food and drink laden people trying to pick a tip toe route around the sprawled out slumberers.
What a start though. Charlie Cunninghham. He is astonishingly good and he was clearly a bit overwhelmed by the size of the crowd and the response he was getting. It was a brilliant set, made all the better by the appreciative and increasingly enthusiastic crowd. I shall be seeing that bugger again, no question.
I stayed at the Garden stage for Kevin Morby as the women of the family went shopping for frocks. I think I made the better decision. EOTR always seems to get the Sunday scheduling just right. Morby’s gentle rocking was perfect for the time, the stage and the weather.
I saw half an hour of the absolutely sublime Delines before making the agonising decision to leg it over to the Woods stage for Dawes. I love Dawes, and I don’t know why. It’s as if they have bought a jigsaw on how to make formulaic rootsy Americana and put it together, but by Christ they put it together well. I loved their sunny, soaraway set, and it put me in a right fucking good mood.
I missed Allvays in favour of Giant Sand, and once the initial sound problems had been sorted out, we were treated to a cool, mellow and loquacious performance. Sunday was matching Friday for sheer excellence.
Once again, the headliners held little allure and the decision had to be made who to see next. The nippers love Mac DiMarco and the Mrs likes him too, and as they were due to abandon me after his set, I decided to give it a go…….the first set that the 4 of us had seen together all weekend. Well, the music largely passed me by, but I really enjoyed the set…….he is a very engaging young man and the guitarists chucking their guitars across the stage at each other, and catching ‘em, before continuing playing was a bit of a spectacle and the cake fight at the end, was hilarious. It was fun and fitting end to proceedings for the young ‘uns. Then they were gone, and I was on my own.
In years past, if I’d been left alone at a festival, I’d have been straight into the ale and looking forward to a very late night of tipi tent mayhem. But that was then. This is now. I got into the Big Top for the last half hour of Brakes extremely good and energetic set, but my spark had gone.
I wandered back to the Garden Stage for Laura Marling but my innate hatred of the posh classes got the better of me and I soon departed for pie and peas, before trudging forlornly back to the now empty and lonely tent, serenaded by The War On Drugs as their set came to an end.
I was up and on the road home by 6.15 am, with only a beautiful sunrise for company.

Roll on September 2016

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