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Running commentary…

The more time I’ve spent writing Diary of an Internet Nobody, the more I’ve come to appreciate how important the part of comments is in helping to keep the stream of ideas flowing.

Since it appears to be the month for celebrating milestones – 15,000 hits, 200 followers – it’s also worth me taking a minute to congratulate you, my esteemed followership, on the fact that over 1000 comments have now been registered on the blog, (although I should point out, that does include my replies) and I’m grateful for each and every one.
I even had my very own troll for a while, but he seems to have crept back under his bridge of late.

Trolls aside, if it wasn’t for the opinions, advice and thought-provoking discussions that have begun in that little square box at the bottom of each post, many of the actual posts might not have been written in the first place.
Quite apart from the direct contributions so to speak, from old friends Oliver, who gave a personal account of a trip to Reading Festival in this post and Zippy, (Richard Thorns) who has added his own inimitable take on two separate stories which you can find at the top of the homepage, along with links to their sister posts.

[In related news, Zip’s passion for cryptozoology continues unabated and you can watch the video about his latest expedition to locate the fabled Pink Headed Duck right here…]

I have actually been congratulated by a writer I rate very highly (not without some degree of envy, I’m pleased to note) on the quality of the comments on the blog, and on the articulate calibre of my readers, so you should consider yourselves suitably flattered.

Both Bully for me… and Foot in mouth disease… were inspired by conversations I had elsewhere on the hard shoulder of one information superhighway or another.
While the time reading and commenting on other bloggers’ posts is time well spent, not just for the welcome reciprocal traffic this generates, but also for the chance to get involved in exchanges with like-minded people on subjects as diverse as the posts we all read.

The trouble is, if I see a good blog I automatically follow it. Likewise, if someone follows Diary of an Internet Nobody I’ll generally follow back, (although I’m starting to learn my lesson now, after getting spammed by various, deeply spurious, get rich quick schemes) which means I now have so many blogs to read that if I commented on them all, I’d need three of me just to give me time to write.

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And I like to leave a comment with a bit of thought behind it if I can, whether it’s just to join in with Adam, bashing the numpty-du-jour at A World Of Pain, trying my best to interpret the enigmatic art of Windhound over at Dragonshades, enjoying the eclectic mix of photography, video, reviews and comment in Emilie Rosson’s world, having an exchange of cultural views with Ron, flamboyant host of Vent or making terrible puns on Toemail.

But nothing beats the feeling you get when something you wrote generates enough interest or emotion in someone that they take the time to leave a thoughtful, well written comment.
These freely offered contributions act as additional insights into the subject of the original post, providing other readers with another point of view and sometimes even lead to cooperation and collaboration between bloggers.
Just this morning, turning my phone on to finish writing this post, I’ve commented on three blogs one of which, Tim Love’s blog is completely new to me, a recommendation from a fellow blogger.

Another problem I’ve had recently is trying to navigate the desktop site of the mobile-unfriendly but otherwise excellent BlogCatalog.com, so I’m going to find the blogs I follow on there which I can’t get through my WordPress Reader and follow them by email instead. That way I don’t need to spend hours trawling through dozens of microscopic notifications to find links to the latest pearls of wisdom from Rum Punch Drunk, to see the latest artistic offerings from the lovely Carol over at Anfinsen Fine Art or to catch the newest batch of scantily clad female fantasy warriors and/or poodle-haired ’80s rock drongos from the Assorted Thoughts of Big D’s Unsorted Mind.
And while we’re on the subject, Hey BlogCatalog, can we have an Android app please?
Thanks.

So thanks again for your help in making my blog what it is today. Because without all those wonderful interactions with all you other writers, readers and ranters to keep my neurons firing, what would I find to talk about?
And thank you once again to Ho, for his latest bespoke blog-toon.
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Rest assured, this will be the final burst of barely-disguised, self-congratulatory own trumpet blowing (for a while at least) but I am inordinately proud of my foray into the world of blogging and I’m not modest enough to care who knows it.
In fact, not since my days as a teenage theatre nerd have I been able to look at a body of creative work and said to myself “I/we did that from scratch and people like it”

And I like that.

 

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Billy, Sir Bob and Moor. (Chagstock 2013, part two)…

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Waking on day two to a hazy morning that none the less promised another scorcher, just looking at the view from our luxuriously appointed B+B was enough to lift the spirits.
A dense carpet of bright red poppies covered the fields outside the window, the vivid splash of colour practically shouting summer.

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A bowl of home-grown garden strawberries, two hen-fresh eggs, 3 local beef sausages, and one damn fine cup of coffee later, we made for the campsite, collected Ho and made for the second and final day in the happy land of Chagstock.

By the time we got into the arena the sun had made short work of the haze and the temperature was climbing again.
But wait, what’s this? A breeze? The ideal festival climate – hot, but with just enough air moving around to provide some relief from roasting.
Nevertheless, we decided to start off cool and work our way up to baking gradually, and with that in mind made for the Live Lounge tent.

Soon after we got there we were treated to short acoustic set from a young lady I shall describe as a petite blond, in order for you to more fully appreciate the surprise I felt when she began to sing.
With a powerful, soulful voice at odds with her diminutive stature, she charmed the audience with a great set that included a fabulous version of Dream a Little Dream of Me. (I believe her name was Fiona Richards but apologies if I’m mistaken)

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A quick trip to the bar, via some rock shops for Elaine, (the crystal sort, not the seaside sort) and a stroll round the rest of the stalls, then we made for the Acoustic Stage in the marquee.

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And I’m very glad we arrived in time to see the amazing Marc O’Reilly, a riveting performer with a voice I instantly compared to the late, great John Martyn and a finger-shredding guitar strumming style, he captivated the crowd for his whole set and was rewarded with wild applause and whoops of enthusiasm.

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Marc O’Reilly. You should see his pianist.

Time to venture out into the breezy sunshine to catch the Main Stage performance by someone Elaine and I had both been looking forward to seeing.
Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo play a hybrid of Country, Folk, and Aussie blues with a fair bit of rocking thrown in for good measure, and on a balmy Saturday afternoon on beautiful Dartmoor it felt like the music was part of the landscape.

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By time their set finished, despite the breeze it was still pretty damn hot in front of the stage so we retired to the tent to sink a couple of cheap cans, (no alcohol allowed to be brought into the arena from outside) grab some shade, and cool off for an hour or so before heading back for the final session of music.

There’s one band that you know is going to play Chagstock every year, and that’s the band fronted by the man we’re all grateful to, the founder and organiser of the whole event, your ringmaster, Mr Simon Ford.

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His band, New Crisis play good time party music for an early Saturday evening and they really get the crowd on it’s collective feet with songs by bands ranging from Status Quo to ABBA.

Here’s a taste of how much the punters enjoyed it, please excuse the wobbly camera work.

We elected to keep our seats set up in front of the main stage, grab some more food and have a rest before the two main acts came on, and at 8.15 the man they call the Bard of Barking strode onstage with his newly grown silver-streaked beard, to the introduction “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the legend that is Billy Bragg!”

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I’ve seen Billy Bragg a good few times over the years and he never fails to entertain. This time we got the benefit of both sides of his musical personality – What I like to think of as his “strumming and shouting”, alongside the mellower folk numbers by Old Timers like Woody Guthrie.
And he still has the same quick wit I remember too.
When heckled by a group of circus themed whiteface pierrot clowns, The Bard spake thusly;
“Oi, Pierrot, if you’re gonna do it, do it properly, mime your heckles”

He did the to-be-expected good natured politicising, and the bigging up of the unions speech, but more importantly he did Sexuality, he did an updated Waiting for the Great Leap Forward, and most important of all he led the crowd in a singalong to A New England.
And I bet I wasn’t the only man of a certain age present who would flatly deny getting a tingle on the back of the neck or a need to swallow an unaccountable lump in the throat, as Billy yelled for us to “Sing it one last time for Kirsty!”

But if it was legends we were after, we didn’t have long to wait, because as ten o’clock approached the crew began hoisting a new backdrop.
One with a distinctly rodenty appearance.

And half an hour later nobody would have had the slightest doubt who the final band were.

A monumentally thudding techno beat began pounding out of the speakers, along with sirens and noises more associated with Prodigy gigs.
Then, with the stage still in darkness, a chant joined the beat “BOOMTOWN RATS BOOMTOWN RATS!”
Then the lights came up and there they were, the punk survivors (minus original pajama-clad pianist, Johnny Fingers) with Bob Geldof wearing what he described as “a fuck off suit” of fake snakeskin.

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There was nothing fake about their performance though, thundering through an extraordinarily tight set list that included the manic Like Clockwork, a mid-set I Don’t Like Mondays which had a much extended pause before the final chorus, presumably symbolic of the continuing tragedy of school shootings, and a totally superb Rat Trap.

Before many songs, Geldof drew parallels with the times they were written and the present day, citing their continued relevance and giving us all an Irish history lesson into the bargain.

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I don’t know if it’s his saintly status, but every photo I took of Bob had his whole head so brightly lit that you can’t make out his features.

After a rapturous encore of Diamond Smiles the Rats left the stage only to return when their ludicrously over the top intro music started up again.
Only this time it carried on.

What followed can only be described as sounding like the bastard lovechild of the Utah Saints and the KLF, with the whole band riffing, thrashing and bellowing over the top of it.
It was, not to put too fine a point on it, Absolutely Fucking Astounding. I was so stunned that I forgot to film it.

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I’ll leave the final word on the subject to Ho who, when I asked him if he was looking forward to seeing them, said he was “resigned to it”.
At the end of the gig he said “Now I’ve got to go back to Brighton and try to convince people that the Boomtown Rats really were amazing”

And that, apart from one more visit to the food stalls and a quick nightcap under the stars, was Chagstock 2013.
Another sellout year, and long may it continue.

I’ll leave you with a little taste of the festival that brings out your inner smile.

This is Chagstock…

 

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Blogstock part 3…

Clad in my lovely new Chagstock merchandise, I awaited the arrival on the Main Stage of the New Crisis band, the group formed by the heroic organizer of the whole weekend, Mr Simon Ford.

His entrance being marred ever-so-slightly by a trip over the top step of the stage, he strode out to the microphone wearing a regal red cape and magnificent crown, in keeping with the Arthurian fancy dress theme of this year.
The band were on top form, running through a family friendly, across the board selection of covers including the Beatles, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and many more.
The end of their set drew a massive ovation from the assembled crowds, and rightly so, this being the man who had brought us all together in the first place, and therefore a folk hero of some proportion.

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A suitably attired punter. Suits you, Sir knight.

This is probably the point at which I should confess to not really being much of a Seth Lakeman fan, but there is clearly no accounting for popular taste, as his set would have brought the house down, had we been indoors. Here’s some of his music anyway, so you can judge for yourself.
I even bumped into Alun, our landlord from the B+B, who had come in just to see his performance.
(The locals that live within a certain radius of the site get free tickets)

I elected to spend the time getting another drinks-run in, and scoping out a place from which to watch the next band on the Acoustic Stage.

There’s not three of them, they’re not from Alabama, they’re from Brixton, ladies and gentleman, the Alabama 3!

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An all acoustic, unplugged set was an unusual prospect from a band that, up until recently, I had heard only more electronic/dance influenced stuff from. If you haven’t heard this side of them before either check out this video of them performing Woke Up This Morning or, better still, do what I did a couple of weeks ago, go out and get Last Train to Mashville volumes one and two.
Long after the echoes of “Whoop whoop! It’s the sound of the police!” had died away, their set, and it’s protest tinged tone – several mentions of Ian Tomlinson‘s police attacker being acquitted were crowbarred into songs – images of the set stayed with me.
A real eye-opener.

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All four – and at one point, five – of the Alabama 3 in full flow.

And now it was time for the big finale.

There was barely enough time to march back outside, voices already hoarse, hands smarting from applause, and retake our seemingly magically protected spot in the arena – no groundsheets there now – for the arrival on the Main Stage of the headliners of the whole weekend.

Anticipation had hardly had a chance to take hold however, when they came onstage to the strains of the A-team theme tune.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, knights and damsels, dragons and wizards, for the final time this year put your hands together for FUN LOVIN’ CRIMINALS!

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Huey and Co giving it some NYC attitude.

Of course they were amazing. Of course they were funky. Of course they were slick. And loud, very loud.

And they did apologise for using the MF word in front of children, but then as frontman Huey Morgan pointed out; “…it’s a motherfuckin’ festival, what the fuck ya gonna do?”

Quite.

They thundered through the fabulous Scooby Snacks, schmoozed their way through the smooth croon of Barry White, and finished the night off with an unavoidable encore, bringing us all back down on a dreamy version of Louis Armstrong’s We Have All The Time In The World.

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Up close (ish) and personal with Fun Lovin’ Criminals.

And that, pretty much, was that.

We went back to tent for a nightcap, then back to the B+B and a well-needed rest, (we still had another day of holiday planned on Sunday)

Without a doubt, the highlight of the summer so far, and it’ll need some beating too. Book your Chagstock tickets for next year as soon as they’re on sale.
You won’t regret it.

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As a footnote, I should say that on Sunday night, when we were out for a meal in the Post Inn, a pub recommended to us by our hosts at the B+B, we were informed by the landlord that Simon, and the other Chagstock organizers were having a private celebratory meal in the restaurant.

Never one to be backward in coming forward, I asked if he thought they’d mind if I went and expressed my gratitude for a wonderful weekend. He said to go on round, so I did.

I took in the tanned faces and satisfied smiles round the table and felt genuinely chuffed for them. That they had managed to keep the faith, through all the crappy weather over the last few weeks, and all the problems that brings with it, and pulled off one of the best festivals that I remember attending, shows how dedicated they are.

(And it should be pointed out that the whole Chagstock operation is a non-profit organisation, nobody is getting rich off this)

Interrupting as tactfully as I could -not very, I’d had quite a few Thatcher’s Gold’s by then – I told them I’d been to, and greatly enjoyed their festival, and would like to thank them on behalf of all attendees, that it had been a fantastic weekend and that we’d keep coming back as long as they kept doing it.

Oh, and next year could we have two beer tents please.

Having delivered this diplomatic communique, I bid them farewell, turned, and tripped over the restaurant steps behind me.

The last thing I heard as I walked back to the bar was laughter,and someone said; “That was about as good as your entrance onstage last night Simon.” More laughter.

Because it’s that sort of festival, it brings out your inner smile.

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See you next year.

 

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Blogstock part 2…

After the amazing start to the festival on Friday, the only thing that could have spoilt this year’s Chagstock was the weather.

(Spoiler alert, it didn’t)

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The view from the campsite.

We rose from our luxury bed, availed ourselves of our luxury bathroom, and made our way down to our luxury guest breakfast room. We were met by our luxury genial hosts, Alun and Gaynor, who served up our now customary, fantastic three course breakfast – fresh fruit, cereal and toast, and a full English with eggs from their own chickens.

Should you wish to pay Southcott B+B a visit, go here, but I wouldn’t bother trying for next Chagstock weekend, I think you’ll find it booked.

Suitably fortified, we arrived in the arena in time to be welcomed back by our esteemed MC for the weekend, Mr Tony King, and to see the first band of the day on the now-open Main Stage, These Reigning Days, or rather I heard most of their set from the nearby beer tent. They were very good indeed. Imagine a more cheerful, more melodic Editors, very tight, punchy Indie rock. A fine way to start the day.

By the time we had made ourselves comfortable in our own little piece of arena space – with several drinks apiece – it was time for the next band.
Big Boy Bloater has apparently been described by Jules Holland, no less, as “One of the greatest blues guitarists of our time” and he, and his band, the Limits, certainly put in a pretty convincing claim to that title. Highlight of the set being a storming guitar workout called Rocket Surgery.

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Big Boy Bloater and the Limits.

Time to go in the shade next, for a chance to see someone who I’d been looking forward to seeing, ever since hearing the fabulous Gay Pirates a couple of weeks ago, the extraordinarily talented Cosmo Jarvis.
According to the intro, Cosmo is not only a singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer, but also an actor/director/filmmaker. The man has more slashes to his name than your average IP address.

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Cosmo Jarvis. Fame had made him turn his back on his bassist.

He came onto the acoustic stage with just a guitar and sat at a stool in front of a bass drum and pedal. He was joined by a bass player, and that appeared to be it.
The tent was already filling up, and as he is a bit of a local hero, many people had been looking forward to seeing him in particular since yesterday. The crowd were in for a treat.

I’ll say one thing for Mr Jarvis, onstage he really does give it his all. His voice, already on the husky side when he began, must have been positively shredded by the end of the set. He and his bassist – whose name I did write down but subsequently lost, apologies – played a really great collection of songs which ranged from pure folk to sea shanties and all ports in between. By the time he finished with a triumphant Gay Pirates, I doubt there was anyone in the tent not singing along.

Back out into the blazing sunshine again, and it was another trip to the bar, which was surprisingly empty. So, pints and Pimms in hand, I made my way back to our nomadic arena camp.

At this point, I would like to mention “arena psychology”.
This is practiced by almost everyone who goes to a festival, whether they know it or not.

You get to a nice clear patch of grass, with a good view of the stage, and you dump all the crap you’ve been carrying around with you – half a curry, a pint of warm cider, a rucksack, too many clothes, a massive great flag on a twelve foot pole that seemed like a good idea at the time until you want to sit in the chillout tent, chairs, etc – and you lay out your groundsheet.
Now, at this point, you have set up an invisible forcefield around your belongings, effective on all but the most intoxicated or terminally dickheaded, which people will automatically skirt around, even if you are standing up at the time.
A useful play on folks’ natural inclination to be polite, or the “festival effect”, turning us all into a big, happy family for the weekend? You decide.

As we’d been on walkabout, we had been able to hear The Martin Harley Band playing the main stage, and we drifted back that way to see the wonderful Mad Dog McRea. Having seen them before I knew what to expect, and they certainly didn’t fail to deliver.

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Down the front with Mad Dog.

They played a blistering set, which included my personal favourite Am I Drinking Enough?, and Raggle Taggle Gypsy which left the crowd going wild.

Our intention had been to wander back to the Acoustic Stage to see The Monkey Gland Blues Band, The Travelling Band, and Juan Zelada in between each of the Main Stage acts, and although we could hear quite well enough to know that they were all going down a storm, I frankly couldn’t be bothered with all the moving back and forth, Elaine and the others were going back to the tent for a while, so I guarded – unsuccessfully, as it turned out – the remaining arena paraphernalia and soaked up the sun and the music coming from the tent behind me.

I got hungry after a while, having not eaten since breakfast, so left my rucksack – containing my shirt, my prized hoodie from last year’s Chagstock, camera, tobacco, socks and groundsheet – and my pint, with some friends of Inge’s, with whom we had been sitting.

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Yours truly. Rucksack just visible, for now, bottom right.

I got held up in a food queue, the site being now sold out to capacity, and when I got back to it, neither my stuff, nor the people I left it with, were anywhere to be seen.

Bugger.

Now, I’m quite a positive person when it comes to people in general, so I naturally assumed that they would be back soon, finished my meal, and waited.
And waited.

Ok, maybe they’re not coming back then.

At this point – it was about 6pm by now – it was beginning to get a little chilly to be wearing just a T-shirt. And since my clothes, hoodie, and denim jacket were all AWOL I had to take drastic action. I went and bought another hoodie.
They are very nice hoodies.

Ten minutes later, I got a call from Ho, telling me that Inge’s friends had my stuff and were bringing it back to the arena with them.

Like I said, the Festival Effect.

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The united colours of Chagstock.

Concludes in part three…

 

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Blogstock part 1…

Well, it finally arrived. The much anticipated Chagstock Festival was last weekend. And what a weekend it was.

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Chagstock is one of those rare things, a truly family orientated, proper music fan’s festival, and boy did they go out of their way to spoil us this year.

Elaine and I travelled down from Barnstaple on Friday morning in unfeasibly good weather, the past few weeks having given very little reason to expect anything but an extremely soggy weekend.
The plan was the same as last year; stay in the fabulous Southcott B+B (from which you can quite literally see the arena field), take our large tent, to use for a daytime base on site, and in which a friend of ours, Ho, was staying for the weekend, and also to meet up with a couple that we had first met at the festival last year. We were joined by a mutual friend, Inge, that we’d not seen for many years, who came over from Holland with her young son.

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The gang’s all here. (I appear to be strangely faceless)

Having arrived on the campsite in glorious sunshine, the possibility that we might be about to have a proper English summer festival began to sink in and I’ve got to say it felt good. We set up the tent with the casual efficiency of festival veterans (whatever you’re thinking about that sentence, you’re probably right), and made our way off to get some lunch and check in with out genial B+B hosts.

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For two days, this was our world.

We realized one of our objectives almost immediately after re-entering the site, meeting up with Mick and Jane, a couple that we’d got on well with the year before, and we went in search of a festival.
Straight away we headed for the food tents, got ourselves a drink, sat in the sunshine, and just soaked up the atmosphere.
There were already a few people in fancy dress, – the theme this year was Arthurian – and there were carved wooden animals, kids activities and stalls of all kinds. It was just a perfect setting for a weekend of relaxation.

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I regret to say that we missed the first couple of bands, due simply to the novelty of being able to sit in the sunshine, but by the time Ellen and the Escapades came onstage in the acoustic tent, we were certainly up for a bit of jigging about, and they didn’t disappoint. They delivered a lively, country flavoured set with some tasty harmonica playing.
The main stage was only to be in use on the Saturday night, so we had the full evening’s bill in the spacious marquee.
Up next was the silken voice of Kate McGill, the Welsh girl, adopted as a local (no mean feat, let me tell you) by the West Country since she moved here.

Now, we come to my only complaint about the whole wonderful, sun-drenched weekend. There was only one beer tent for 5000 people.
Ok, so we weren’t all in there at the same time, but it was a considerable effort to go and buy a drink. For this reason, I’m afraid I missed Ruarri Joseph, but I an reliably informed that he was superb.

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Exhibit A – the queue for the bar before KT Tunstall came on.

As I say, the single gripe about the whole weekend, and a small one at that. I believe most people, myself included, learnt to buy three pints at a time by the Saturday (to be drunk responsibly, obviously) necessitating fewer trips to the bar.

What we were all waiting for, of course, was KT Tunstall. And as it turned out, we were waiting a fair bit longer than we bargained for.
She took the stage to a predictably enthusiastic reception, from a pretty much full tent.
She started to play.

She stopped playing.

There was fiddling with cables, knobs, pedals, and other devices that we poor front-of-house mortals could only hope to grasp the complexities of.

She started playing again.

She stopped playing.

There was clearly a problem, so we waited, mainly good-naturedly, for a further ten minutes or so until, finally Miss Tunstall took the stage, apologized for the cock-up, and launched straight into an amazing set, which included much use of her trademark delay pedal vocals / beatbox / guitar riff that made her so instantly famous with her appearance on Later with Jules Holland. At one point, she even got the crowd beatboxing the chorus from “We Will Rock You” by prog-opera stalwarts Queen.

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KT Tunstall, pedal to the metal.

To be fair to the organizers, she was allowed to overrun her allotted time slot to make up for lost tunes, and we all went back to our tents happy.

Well, we went back to our cosy bed, but we were shivering in our tents in spirit.

Saturday promised to be another scorcher, and the music looked as though it would be pretty hot too, but for a first day, you really couldn’t top it for England’s first day of real summer.

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Continues in part two…

 

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