‘The Lost Weekend’
After the excesses of the previous weekend at Haselstock, I could have done with a bit of time away from festivals in general, but seeing as I was booked to perform at Festinho, it had to be done.
This was the fifth year that this smallish, boutique event had been running, and into its second incarnation. The first, called Mini-Chill, had taken place in rural Buckinghamshire in 2005, attracting a small audience. All proceeds had gone towards helping Brazilian kids have a better existence in their native country – and the same charity has been helped every year since.
It’s been steadily growing in size and popularity since its inception, and this year they moved to a new site to accommodate the increased numbers. Hinwick Hall is situated in glorious Northamptonshire countryside, actually not that far away from where we’d spent the previous weekend. I was especially looking forward to this one, as I’d managed to organise a decent crowd of folks to get together – most of my immediate family were going to be there, including my sisters and their respective kids, which is unusual these days, what with various commitments and the like.
I decided to leave early on the Thursday evening so as to guarantee a decent spot where we could all be together. Marcus rang me to arrange a meetup en route, which we decided should be at Toddington services on the M1. The weather had decided to turn truly horrible, and we made the drive there in some of the most abysmal conditions I’ve ever driven in. Marcus had put his faith in his sat-nav, which managed to get us most of the way there, but failed at the final hurdle, leading us a merry dance around in circles. It was only after consulting the trusty old-fashioned map that I keep in my wagon that we finally stumbled across the entrance to Hinwick Hall, where we also met Ed and Nina, plus Claire and the kids. The rain was steady and torrential by this point, so we made our way to the entrance to camper van parking. In order to get onto site, one had to drive through some pretty chewed-up and rutted muddy ground… and hardly anyone had arrived! I was concerned that myself and / or one of our party would get stuck, especially Claire, who was towing her newish trailer-tent with a small Peugeot. Fortunately, no-one did, and we found a decent enough spot in the middle of the site.
After a celebratory beer, it was about 11pm, and we hastened in our efforts to get set up – of course for the rest of us, this wasn’t a problem as we were in camper vans, but for Claire and her trailer-tent, not to mention two kids under the age of five to contend with, things weren’t quite as straightforward. She’d only erected her trailer tent twice beforehand [both times in daylight] so it proved an interesting task putting it up in the dark and pissing rain. Luckily there were a few of us on-hand to help her – there was no way that one person could’ve successfully converted this from a humble trailer to living accommodation! So, after a fair amount of faffing about, we sorted her out.
Friday arrived, and fortunately, it had ceased raining. Throughout the morning, we witnessed the start of the migration onto site of the hundreds of campers that were turning up for the weekend. By this point, the pathway into the festival was so deeply damaged that a huge monstronsity of a tractor had to tow each vehicle individually onto site! This clearly wasn’t going to be a solution to the problem, so another entrance was hastily opened further up the field which allowed easier access. As the day progressed, more of our party turned up; Julie and Simon, Deb, Chris and Nina – we’d managed to secure some space so we could ‘circle the wagons’, too. With the arrival of Nina, the communal tent was decorated, and a ‘cocktail’ theme emerged – everyone had brought along a bottle of spirits which would, at some point over the weekend be consumed… more on that later.
We’d managed to pitch up pretty close to the perimeter fence just in front of the Harvest Stage, where some of the most interesting music of the weekend was being performed, which was something of a result. In actual fact, if one didn’t feel like walking, you could quite happily sit behind the fence and watch the acts performing and still feel a part of the audience, which was pretty cool. I think I spent most of the weekend watching the festival from this vantage point! My alucidnation gig was scheduled to close the Harvest Stage on the first night, and I was quite looking forward to it. After the success of the Haselstock gig, I’d already decided to just spin my material exclusively off CD and ditch the keyboards and singing, so it was simply a case of rocking up with my wallet of stuff and enjoying myself. To be honest, I’d been expecting a reasonable turnout, but when I started playing, there were about 10 people there, and most of those were my family and friends! We’d also been asked by the resident Health and Safety bods to adhere to some pretty stringent volume limitations, so my set was muted, to say the least. However, during the course of the hour or so I played, the audience swelled to some sixty or so people, most of which appeared to enjoy the sounds – myself included – I spent the last ten minutes out in the audience, soaking up the ambience of the last track, ‘Genetics’…
After I’d finished, I packed up and went back to base, where we spent some time in the company of Marcus in the rather salubrious surroundings of his camper. A good night!
The Saturday brought a mixture of rain and sunshine in equal measure. As I’m writing this journal in retrospect, I have little memory of what we were doing prior to when heavy rains started; oh, hang on – we were watching something on the Harvest Stage – then it started to rain quite hard and we sheltered under a few umbrellas. When that became tricky, we dashed back to base and because there wasn’t really that much else to do, we indulged in a cocktail session that lasted for a good hour or so. Nina had bought fake moustaches that we all attached in various places – for some reason my own ended up on my forehead, which, let’s face it is a damned strange place to grow one. Veritable lashings of booze were consumed – I recall at one point watching an almost frenzied Nina Welsh emptying a whole bottle of gin into a bowl whilst we were still consuming a load of mojitos – the problem is that before you know it, you’re absolutely faced. Once the rains had cleared away, I for one realised that I was truly mashed. Consequently, the rest of the day is a blur, really… I have vague recollections of being in a few places on the site – the Silent Disco at the Clock Tower Stage later on was interesting – I think Bam Bam Sound were DJing at the silent disco to a sizeable crowd – my overriding memory is the sound of dancing feet crunching on gravel with the odd shriek or whoop – most odd. Later, I bumped into Patrick and Libby and spent some time listening to a bloke on a piano playing Queen numbers, being accompanied by another guy singing falsetto. But by that time, things were a bit of a blur.
It was fair to say that after crashing out at around 4.50am, being greeted by my 4 year old nephew banging a tin tray with a metal implement at 10.45am wasn’t a great start to one’s day. However, this is indeed what happened, and I’m somewhat ashamed to say that I leapt from my bed and castigated said nephew, confiscating the offending kitchenware in the process. Suffice to say that Uncle Bruce wasn’t the most popular person that day… At this point I have a confession to make – let’s be clear here and admit that I don’t tend to play a massively active role in ‘being an uncle’, whatever that may mean. So I think both my sisters took a dim view of me trying to assert some small amount of discipline at this juncture. Anyway, I slunk back into bed and managed to get a little more sleep before I had to face the grim reality of my rather monumental hangover.
Throughout the Sunday afternoon, I attempted to stay away from all manner of booze, but after listening to Marcus’s advice about hairs of dogs etc. I decided that in order to alleviate the headache that was bothering me, the only course of action was to indulge in another beer. Bad mistake. The first led to another, then another, then another… dear reader – you must be starting to think that I have some kind of drink problem here, and, as far as this particular weekend was concerned, you’d be right.
By the time Laura B hit the Harvest Stage at about 9pm, I was shitfaced. So shitfaced in fact that when she announced [unbeknown to me] that I was going to duet the last few lines of her sublime version of ‘Wish You Were Here’ with her, I couldn’t actually haul my sorry arse up onto said stage… and it was only about 3ft high. To much laughter and applause, I managed to get up there just in time to sing the final verse – I’m reliably informed that it was a] in tune and b] I managed to remember the words!
Most sensible people would by this point have realised that enough was enough, and taken themselves off to bed for a decent night’s sleep. After all, it was the final night of the festival and we had to all be off site by 1pm the following day. But judging by my behaviour that night, I can’t be very sensible, because I carried on imbibing… I dimly recall being over at the Woodland Stage, watching AGT Rave Cru play a storming set, but anything after that is lost in the mists of time.
I have date-stamped pictures on my camera that show that I was still up and about at 4am, rather worryingly off site, on the perimeter road, taking long exposures… don’t ask.
The Monday was, fortuitously, a Bank Holiday. I got up at around midday, people were packing up around us. I still felt dreadful, somehow I’d managed to bash my eye on something the previous night, so it was with a weeping eye and a banging headache [again] that I attempted to get things sorted out so we could leave the site and head on over to Pete Lawrence’s Braunston PicNic all-dayer. It was only when we hit the road at about 2pm that the full magnitude of my hangover crashed down around me. Either way, I shouldn’t have been awake, let alone behind the wheel commandeering a camper van 50 miles across country. What an idiot.
In attempting to get over there, we got lost, taking a wrong turn up the M45, which I now know to my detriment that it has no exits until you arrive near Coventry. I wasn’t in the best of moods when we eventually rocked up at the event – in actual fact, I was in a fowl mood, good for fuck all – disagreeable company to all who had the misfortune in coming across me. I regret attending the day – I should have just gone straight home and nursed my wounds there, but you live and learn.
And I have learned something from the weekend – not to overdo it as much. For one, I’m not getting any younger, it’s not good for your health, you don’t endear yourself to anyone in particular, and even if you did, you don’t remember it anyway. So I’m pleased to report that I had a period of complete abstinence after this – 8 weeks without a drop of alcohol.. as I write this, I’m out in Greece on holiday and enjoying a little local wine with my evening meal; I think it’s just festivals and me that don’t mix…