Monday, 4 August 2008

Cambridge 2008

Here I sit. Cambridge 2008 is over, now the wait begins for the box office to open in May.
Although I'm not quite willing to give it up just yet and am listening to the highlights on the Radio 2 site as I tap away at the keyboard.
Eric Bibb is currently belting out a song and a very fine one it is too...suddenly seems so long ago I stood dancing to it, the cheers in the background may have been mine!

Midday arrived on Thursday, our scheduled departure time, we packed everything into the car. I still haven't mastered the art of packing lightly, I don't like sleeping bags so take a king size duvet. And a suitcase. And a Texan icebox. And. And. And.

We headed off and stopped for lunch on the way, which meant that we made our arrival at the campsite at the perfect hour. You see, there are two campsites for the festival. One at Cherry Hinton where the festival itself is held and the other a short bus ride away at Coldhams Common. I always camp at Coldhams as it means I can have the car right next to the tent - which stores all my crap which comes with my inability to pack lightly. Now, Coldhams Common is split into two halves, the first being proper Common ground, long grass on undulating ground with cow/sheep pats for extra interest. The second half is a playing field. Perfectly flat with short mown grass.
No prizes for guessing which half is most comfortable to camp on.

Tent was erected. Beds inflated. Wristbands attached. Programme bought. Bus caught.
We strolled onto Cherry Hinton. I felt the atmosphere and tried to decide what I was going to do. My one real prayer had been that Laura Marling and Three Daft Monkeys didn't clash. I examined the programme. Shit. A tough decision was going to have to be made.
I put it off a while as we wandered around the stalls, looked at the food, I stared longingly at the CD stall, wishing the bank balance allowed me to purchase almost everything on view.
Every Thursday I have Nachos Grandee. It's become a tradition and one that I dragged Mum into, although she wasn't unwilling! We managed to grab a table under the food marquee and a few moments later the rain started to fall.
When the food was consumed and the rain slowed we headed to the Club Tent to watch Megson who I enjoyed, a nice way to ease into the weekend. Then a man, well over 6 feet tall decided to stand smack in the middle of the seated crowd. There were yells of "sit down" from the back, eventually someone waded through the crowd, tapped him on the shoulder and asked if he'd mind sitting down as he was blocking everyone behind him. His response was a little impolite, needless to say he stayed standing. It's worth adding here what a sense of karma there was to see him escorted from Stage One by security on Friday night, and a sense of glee. Obviously.
After Megson it was time for Stage Two to watch Cherryholmes. Who were awesome. Absolutely loved them, but left in the middle to go back to the tent. I had made my decision, 3 Daft Monkeys were the choice of the night, so I had to drop off my bag and chair.
I returned and told Mum that we were going in. But she exclaimed, we've already been in the marquees. I shook my head. No, no, no. Standing at the back is nothing like standing in the melee at the front and it has to be experienced at least once. The difference in atmosphere in different areas of the marquees is distinctly palpable. So in we went... I'd decided that the Club Tent would be the safest melee to experience and it was excellent. I really enjoy Three Daft Monkeys, they're just such great fun. I'd heard the albums before I saw them live and love them even more now! I danced and danced and then danced some more. I was lovely and pink faced and a little glowing to say the least. Just the way I like it. Although, I must admit I saw Mum visibly flinch and her fingers fly to her ears when the whooping and whistling commenced at the end of the set. I love a good whoop I do.
We headed back to the tent afterwards and to the showers. There was a small queue, this was new to me, the late night showers used to be something I was totally alone in. Showers slowly became available and I let Mum go first. Another door opened, the gentleman emerging told me that the water was "a bit cold". That may have been the definition of an understatement. I have established where the glacial meltwaters are going - to that shower. I'm pleased I was still so hot from dancing otherwise I'd have risked hypothermia. I washed my hair, got dried and headed off to bed. I slept quite well, despite my habitually deflating airbed.

Friday morning. Off to Sainsburys for breakfast and to shop for lunch. I prefer to graze on salad and fruit than buy from the food stalls most of the time. It stops the fighting to get in and out of Main Stage. Breakfasted and shopped, we headed back to the tent, got ready and headed to the festival. We sat down, readying ourselves for the run for a prime spot. Midday rolled around again and we all prepared ourselves for the barriers to be removed, for the compere to come onstage and tell us not to run.
A short while later the barriers were removed and obviously we all sprinted to our spot of choice, settling ourselves in and waiting for the first band to make their way on stage.
First of the day was Mauvais Sort. High energy and great for a bit of dancing, wouldn't mind owning one of their albums!
Second was Cherryholmes, so I got to see a full set this time. The band is one family and every single one of them is an incredibly talented, accomplished musician. And I'm not a bit jealous. Ahem.
Third was Eliza Carthy. I love Eliza I do. Everything about her, she's just a natural on stage, loved by the whole audience and you can't help but warm to her. She came on stage and very obviously pregnant, at one point resting her accordion on the bump and announcing that she was not having a child, she was having a table.
I'd arranged to meet a couple of ladies from Facebook, and we were all sitting together as I related something I'd read on another blog. I'll call it the Lift Theory. Basically, it's a way of judging a person by how it would be if you were stuck in a lift with them. You just know that Eliza would be cracking to be stuck in a lift with!
I must say here that it was a real delight to have arranged to meet some new people. Cambridge is a notoriously friendly festival and I ended up chatting with numerous people over the weekend, seeing people I recognised from the years I've been attending. I'd originally contacted Pip and Emma on Facebook because they'd noted on the site that they were attending alone, something I'd briefly considered doing before Mum said she'd like to go, so I thought it would be really good to meet the brave folks that had gone for it.
Before the short afternoon/evening break was Michael McGoldrick Band. What I found most amazing about this was their fiddler had got stuck because his flight had gone tits up, so in desperation they'd rung another fiddler. He'd learned the entire set, that day, in the car to the festival. What a true talent!

The evening sets began and three of my personally most-anticipated acts were on.
The Waifs were superb, I remember how blown away I was the first time I saw them and that still stays. I love how they work together. What I think is really interesting is that they're brilliant with a band, just as they're brilliant when it's just the three of them. I find it almost impossible to pick a favourite song - unlike the woman who relentlessly screamed for them to do 'Gillian'.
Then came the Peatbog Faeries. Who I adore. I danced until I was once again glowing. Just excellent. I never tire of seeing them. What was quite special to me was that the last time I had the opportunity to see them live I was really ill, it was before I was diagnosed with gallstones but I spent that gig in agonising pain and being desperately upset I was missing them.
The next gig was Billy Bragg. Not one I was looking forward to if I'm honest, I saw him once before and it just didn't do it for me. But, I really wanted to see the Levellers who were on immediately afterwards. So, did I attempt an escape to go and watch someone else or hang around? I'm lazy, I chose the latter. Then he went and opened his set with 'World Turned Upside Down', damn it, I was starting to warm to him. A little later he did 'Sexuality', damn I knew that one too. He covered a Bob Marley track. Then to top it all he did 'New England'. I actually mostly enjoyed it. Who knew! I am surprised.
Closing Friday night were the Levellers. Before they came on I leaned in to Mum and listed the songs I wanted; England My Home, Liberty, Dirty Davey, One Way, Riverflow. I got them all. My wishes were granted. I danced and once again was left glowing and mighty hot.
Again we trundled back to the bus and to the tent, I once again braved the showers, this time leaving my stuff on the step outside, going in to check that the shower both worked and had heat. The first one was icy, so I moved on, turning on the second I felt the water start to warm so went and collected my stuff. I undressed and went to step under the water, noticing the fast rising steam. I decided this must be due to the cooler temperatures outside, then I felt the water and wondered if I was risking third degree burns by stepping into it. But, I showered and left with all my skin miraculously still attached to me.

Once again, I slept well, although waking early due to the deflated airbed and light coming into the tent. Another Sainsburys breakfast later we packed up our food for the day and went to find a spot to settle in for the day.
Saturday held a few unknown names and a few that I was looking forward to.
First up at midday was The Chair - an Orcadian band and they bloody rocked! I had planned to have a lazy start to today's music, but was forced to my feet by the need to dance to their fabulous tunes.
Second was Chris Wood, who gave me the opportunity for that lazy time.
The thing is with Cambridge, whether or not an artist is to your taste you can wholly appreciate the songwriting, the musical talent, their incredible talent.
Having just finished listening to the Cambridge highlights this Monday evening I have heard a myriad of comments about Devon Sproule who was next up on Saturday. I enjoyed her, but I wasn't wild about her.
This is something I discussed with various people at various times, we can have an artist that we both love. One gentleman I chatted to shared a huge love of Loudon Wainwright III with me, but we couldn't have disagreed more about Kate Rusby.
It's like each of us is two circles that interlock to greater and lesser degrees. The overlapping part contains the artists in common and the outer part the ones we don't share, I've yet to find someone that completely overlaps my circle and I never expect to.
Altan were fourth to the stage, I've seen them a number of times and always enjoy them. Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh has such a beautiful voice and I never, never tire of it. Along with that there are jigs and reels - perfect!
Then, before the evening set began were Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba. Absolutely brilliant, one thing about Cambridge is that the artists really always appear to enjoy being on stage. This was particularly true of one of the band members here who was flinging his legs around with gay abandon whilst wearing possibly the most enormous grin I've ever seen.

The evening set kicked off with Eric Bibb, who is really a consummate performer and wonderfully easy on stage. I'd met up again with Emma and she loved him too, debating whether to see Martha Wainwright who was up next or to head off to get a signature from Eric Bibb. Mr Bibb won the toss and as a result I too have a signed programme! Hurrah! Thank you very kindly for that Emma! I just turned to that page in my programme to look at it and had a huge grin to myself.
Martha took the stage and I thought she was wonderful. It's such a change to come from not enjoying her at all the first time I saw her live to now feeling like I could listen to her for hours. I loved her version of Stormy Weather. I love her confidence on stage and I think that's what has made the difference. I also loved that she covered one of Loudon's tracks - Pretty Good Day, which is a really beautiful, powerful track.
Next was Allen Toussaint, someone who has been around a long time, written so many songs that you know so well, but without appreciating where they originated. The current Boots advert? With the 'Here come the girls' song? That's his. That classic 'Working In The Coal Mine'? His. Along with so many more. Once again someone born to be on the stage, wonderful.
Fourth was k. d. lang. I wasn't sure what to expect from her.
On Friday Mum and I had been chatting away to a gent called Geoff/Jeff (I'm sorry if you're out there that I didn't check the spelling!) We'd joked a little about the fact he'd injured his leg and wasn't able to dance and bounce around as he'd wanted. I felt I should maybe do my bouncing behind him so he wasn't tormented by having to gently bop.
Anyway, I digress, J/Geoff and I were stood a couple of people apart when he caught my eye, a few songs into k. d. lang's set. He put the palms of his hands together, put his hands to the side of his head and pretended to sleep. His thoughts matched mine perfectly and I chuckled, the chuckle became a snort, became a full on guffaw. Which transmogrified into an intense coughing fit, which I'm not sure was appreciated by the people around me who appeared to be enjoying Ms Lang. I wasn't really enjoying the songs. I'll admit that she was very funny, her balletic leaps were something I could also achieve, in their non-balletic-ness. However, then she went and did Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. I adore that song, it's so phenomenally beautiful. I've heard it sung by a number of people and it's never anything less than beautiful. She finished off with a hoedown which was just brilliant and I sort of wish that was how her whole set had been.
The evening ended with The Imagined Village. Abso-fuckling-lutely-brilliant. I mean, you get Eliza Carthy, Martin Carthy, Sheila Chandra, Billy Bragg, Johnny Kalsi just for starters - it can only get better and better. I believe in total there were 17 on stage and added to that a huge video screen. At some point an idiotic woman shouted something along the lines of "Shut the hell up and sing us a song", she could be heard whining that the video was shit or suchlike. Then speaking to someone immediately in front of me she yelled "I'm sick of this wank, I'm leaving". I bit my lip and resisted the urge to trip her on the way out.
I fucking love this:

I can't finish this entry without a link to this. It blew my mind, I have to have this album!

So, Saturday also finished on a high.
We walked back to the campsite - it's further than you think when you're tired and your wellies hurt!

I grabbed my towel and headed off for a shower lottery.
I found a working one and immediately felt a lot like Goldilocks.
The first had been too cold.
The second had been too hot.
The last one was just right.

I got back to the tent, Mum was still in the shower. I was hanging my towel over a tent pole when a shout behind me got my attention. I looked up and watched the announced streaker run past my tent. Yes, a totally naked man skipped gleefully down the grass road between the tents. Now I've seen some things at Cambridge, but that's officially my first streaker.

Another good, if short, nights sleep. Thank goodness for ear plugs! But not so much for deflating air beds.

Sunday meant packing up the tent, moving the car down the road so we'd be ready to go at the end of the festival. Mum was still sleeping soundly as I let the (little) remaining air out of my airbed, folded my bedding and clothing, only finally waking her as I exited the tent. We got the tent packed up just as the rain started again, trundled off to park the car before parking ourselves once again ready for another full day. It was a real delight to know that I wasn't going to have to leave early. We mounted the bus, headed to the back (you get the best breeze from the windows), we exited the car park. We turned right. Ooops. The festival is left. We got on the wrong bus. We did a total circuit, going back where we came from before returning to the car park and then finally moving on to the festival. Mum insists we were all sheep for following her blithely.

The only thing I have to say is: Baa.

Despite having really loved The Imagined Village, I didn't feel I'd found my band of the festival and felt bizarrely disheartened about that. I'd liked the acts of course, but most I already knew, I like the discovery of a new love, a new infatuation.
First on stage was Lisa Knapp. I said to J/Geoff that whilst I didn't mean it to sound insulting, she made me want to sleep. Not that she was boring but that her songs had a lullaby quality to them. Knapp in name, nap in nature.
Beoga were next, good for a bit of a jig about too, but they haven't stuck in my mind, nor has Tim O'Brien who followed.
Next was Karine Polwart whose songs are really beautifully written and whom I always enjoy.
The very delicious Seth Lakeman was there for our wonderful entertainment next. Emma joined us again to watch him, because really, watching Seth play Kitty Jay. It may be all I need. I adore the fiddle and the way he ends Kitty Jay when he plays it live never, never fails to make me unconsciously hold my breath.

The evening began with Judy Collins, who is another legend in the business, having been around for so very long, but, whilst I know she had a lovely voice, it didn't do it for me.
John Hiatt had been replaced by Richard Hawley in the line-up due to an illness in the family of the former. I was quite looking forward to Mr Hawley after I read that he was in Longpigs and Pulp, but I found the only reason I was dancing was because I was cold. He said he had been incredibly nervous before the set, thinking that he was going to be pelted with missiles because we'd all hate him. I definitely didn't hate him, I thought the guitar playing was superb, but sometimes there's just not a hook there for you.

I was left with two more artists to go. Still no band of the festival and I already knew the next one to hit the stage.
Joan Armatrading. A legend in her lifetime. A woman in the audience yelled, in every break between songs "I love youuuuuuu". After the half-dozenth announcement of adoration, Joan leant into the mike and simply said "You're starting to scare me". Much chuckling followed. Although the declarations of love did not stop.

Sadly, midway through this set a group of revellers deposited themselves immediately behind us and proceeded to hold a yelled conversation. J/Geoff and I exchanged glances and rolled eyes. After a moment J/Geoff turned and politely asked them to lower their voices. I heard the tone of the response rather than the actual words. Then I heard J/Geoff say "I said excuse me". To which the ignorant idiot responded "And I said Fuck Off". At which point, all 5'1" of me waded in with a very loud "Oi!" I mean really, there were four of them. One of these days I will end up in hotter water than the shower of night two. I said they'd been asked politely to be quiet, we'd been nice. It went quiet for a short moment or two before the yelled conversation kicked off again. The woman immediately behind me issued a loud "Shhh" and was again responded to with a loud "Fuck Off". Nice. Security? Anywhere? Not on your nelly.
After berating us a little further they strode further into the crowd and apparently annoyed a few folks in front of us judging by the irate gesturing.

Finally, we could enjoy Joan.
Or maybe not.
Maybe we'd need to attempt a rescue on the drunken falling over man.
Who fell asleep in the middle of the crowd. Two attempts to get security to address it resulted in nothing but the obvious lack of training in the staff there which was a real shame. He was almost kicked in the head more times than I care to remember, it was dark, we were about to enter the last set, thousands of people would be leaving. The risks of someone getting hurt, in a minor or major way were high. Still they refused to move him. Mum promises to be issuing the festival with a formal complaint. Real shame.
Finally....Closing the festival was Kila. They'd played Stage Two the previous night but I hadn't caught them as I hadn't really left Stage One.
The last band. Just when I'd given up hope. I found my band of the festival.
Blew. My. Mind.
Mum and I had planned to leave a little early in order to miss the bus queue. Then, before I knew it, the compere was on stage saying it was all over.
But I wasn't done dancing. I screamed, whooped and yelled for more. Mum distinctly leaned away from me and my decibels.
No more was forthcoming. Joan Armatrading had run late, cutting down Kila's time on stage as the festival has to hit curfew to be able to continue.

I left on a real high, thrilled that I'd had such an incredible end to the weekend.

I hugged J/Geoff goodbye, having said farewell to Emma earlier that day, vowing to keep in touch and get some festivals in together, which would be absolutely fabulous! I promised to see J/Geoff next year in the same spot!

We mounted the bus, having to stand. A trio stood near us, one of them wanting to stand near the ceiling handles. I said I'd move if he promised to do some acrobatics. He advised me I'd be able to see him in London 2012 doing just that. Bus olympics? A sport you never before imagined. He then asked me how the Steve Winwood version of Valerie went, going on to say that he didn't mean the Zutons version. Which was of course then the only version my brain would allow me to hear. Somehow that conversation morphed into comments on Valerie Singleton, which morphed into leg warmers, which morphed into a rendition of Olivia Newton John's 'Let's get physical', which morphed into 'Sue Lawley'. (Say what you like, it's clearly NOT 'So Lonely', as we all know.) I was having so much fun I forgot to get off the bus. I'm a genius, me. Luckily Mum was there to give me a shove.

Finally homeward bound.
I had a really great festival, I saw brilliant artists, met some wonderful people and danced my little heart out.

I suppose my final comment would be about the compromise that we all have to make at a festival, it was something continually harped on about by the comperes. Space. It's at a premium.

I choose to arrive early, very early I suppose, to make sure I have somewhere to sit, to relax, to read the paper, to be able to have a dance and watch the artists I like. In doing so my compromise is that I don't move between stages, I don't see the full variety of artists that are appearing.
What frustrates me is that some, not all, people move between the stages, or, arrive very late and expect that we all move to accommodate them. I'm sorry, but no, that's your compromise. Sleep longer? Have a little less space. View a larger number of artists? Have less space. Most people accept that these compromises are there, others force their way in. Pushing against you, standing on your stuff, kicking you in the head.

Then the comperes come on stage, telling us to move. It's bloody easy for them to say that when they're going back stage to their comfy area which I'm sure isn't any kind of squeeze. I'd even hazard a guess that they have tables and chairs. Easy to crush people in when you're comfy yourself.

Whilst not asserting that any one person has a greater right, it is important to realise we are forced into compromise by our choices.

We have to learn to be more patient and more polite. As I moved in and out of the marquee on toilet runs I was able to apologise or utter the words 'excuse me' to almost everyone I passed and you know, it didn't slow me down. It also got me lots of smiles and people moved to help me pass.
It doesn't work that way when you physically shove people. I'm instantly stubborn, ignoring the shoving, forcing an 'excuse me' from their lips every time I can. Politeness costs nothing but it seems to be an impossible demand for so many.

I don't want to end this marathon entry on that semi-sour note. I can't wait for next year, I can't wait for more new friends, I can't wait for more new acts. I won't wish my life away but I really loved it. After last year being such a miserable festival, the experience this year has made the memory of 12 months ago fade almost into obscurity.

Speaking to Mum in the car on the journey home she said she was pleased she'd attended which was excellent and we now even share a band that we both really like. I'm not sure if either of us expected that, but then, the brilliance of the Peatbog Faeries is undeniable. You can't help but be won over!

Here's to this year and next!
EDIT: Updated to include links for your clicking pleasure!


Carrie said...

Hey Flibber, Wow! What an excellent review! Fantastic, really enjoyed reading this and will return to check out all the links.

Flibbertigibbet said...

Thank you, thank you.
Too kind.
That's a lot of links to check out! I think I'm going to have to make Hallelujah song of the week as I can't get it out of my head. That's definitely a link to be clicked...

Tablet Widow said...

The Zephaniah is my fave too - the reason I bought the album!

Flibbertigibbet said...

TW: I totally forgot to mention it in the blog. But he was actually there, receiving an award, although the song was still played with the video screen.
It was SO very very cool.
The album is not in my posession... yet.