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This is a question Festivals

Mud, rubbish sex, food poisoning and the Quo replacing the headline act you've mortgaged your house to see. Tell us your experiences

Question from Chart Cat

(, Thu 4 Jun 2009, 13:33)
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Farm Festival
Almost a year ago now, my band was booked to play at a small festival in Somerset called Farm Festival. We were due to play at one in the morning, which we were very much looking forward to.

For some reason, and the details are a little hazy in my memory, we couldn't get there till eleven at the evening, which we'd ok'd with the organisers - a hasty line-check should do us fine, after all, it's not like anyone in the crowd would be even approaching sober enough to care what we actually sounded like.

So, we rock up at about eleven, excited by the imminent prospect of a good gig, the spectacles of the fire eaters and dancers and weird light-up hot air balloon things and the all-pervading smell of marijuana. It's always been a mystery where the kind of people who go to festivals go when there are no festivals to go to. I swear I've never met people like it in real life.

Anyway, we're just about to set up to play when an official looking (i.e. could still walk) person came over to us and said, unfortunately, for the first time since the festival's inception, the neighbours had complained about the noise, so we'd have to stop there. No more music tonight. Obviously, it wasn't our fault, so we'd still get paid, which was a small mercy, but we were all gutted as we'd been massively looking forward to it.

A plan, however, begins to germinate, a wonderful, exciting and masterful plan that seemed to spring up indpendent of an actual planner but which nevertheless still caught our imaginations like particularly gullible fish. Someone, seemingly out of nowhere, produced an acoustic guitar, followed shortly by an even more miraculous acoustic bass. Our drummer hastily set up a bare-minimum snare and hi-hat, and by happy coincidence we had a melodica with us. It would do a manful if, in the end, underwhelming job of subbing for our keyboard.

And so, standing at the back of our van near the camping area, we did our whole set acoustically. The crowd started of small, but for the lack of anything better do more than how we played, unfortauntely, soon swelled till there were easily two hundred drunk happy festival-goers watching us. Some bloke at the back started playing with fire poi, and, as the rest of the festival died, we became a hub of outrageous partying, cheap cider, and badly-played acoustic ska.

It was genuinely one of the most uplifting moments of my life, and I can still feel the heavy summer air and hear the distant whoops of wreck-heads as we made music beneath the clear, dark skies. Good times, as they say.

We played quite a few festivals last summer, so I'm not sure quite when the next event I'm going to relate happened, but I'm pretty sure it was the selfsame evening I've just been describing. It's really our bassist's story, but I don't think he's going to tell it and it's too bizarre to be left unimparted.

On the urgent advice of his stomach, our bassist was compelled to buy food in some quantity from the burger stall near one of the stages. Ahead of him in the queue was a quite scary looking old lady with, as he puts it, 'scars all over her face', presumably from some unspeakable event in her past, and a gleam of pure insanity in her eye, but so hungry was he that he had no choice but to stand behind her and pray she wouldn't try and engage him.

Unfortunately, it did not take her long to turn around and look him, slowly and with uncommon menace, up and down.

'Are you a man?' she asked, suddenly.

Wrongfooted, our bassist replied, 'well, I just turned 18 a few weeks ago, so I guess so.'

She turned to the burger guy and observed pithily, 'isn't it funny how boys become men?'

Awkward silence.

'I'm quite glad I never had children,' she continued, unabashed, her voice tremouring oddly. 'Of course, it'd have been fine if I'd had a girl, absolutely fine, but if I'd had a boy, I think I would have killed it.' i'm told the most alarming thing was her matter-of-factness. Bass player and burger vendour look at each other in shock, eyes wide and skin pale, pleading for some escape from the terrifying old girl.

'Of course, it's understandable considering my upbringing'.

She left, abruptly, having made no attempt to order food and leaving quite what was so bad about her upbringing that it would have justified infanticide a merciful enigma. When our bassist came back the group, burgered up and with a look on his face I can only imagine must have been akin to an unlucky train driver who, the day before retirement, was chosen by some unfortunate to be his method of suicide, we were so moved by his apparent distress we asked what was wrong rather than some off-the-cuff insult that would be our usual method of greeting.

I'm still rather hoping she was an hallucination.
(, Thu 11 Jun 2009, 12:00, closed)

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