Sorry, I’ve been a little lax on my updates for a few days. I’ve dealt with a combination of full schedule and being tired. As this is technically a vacation…I took a couple days off from posting. But, now I find myself well behind and need to start catching up.
Well, the day after the Laura Marling show I last reviewed I was off to Hop Farm in Kent.
Because of the distance to Kent I spent some time trying to work out the logistics of my return late that night. London has this odd quirk of public transport in that the Tubes shut down just after midnight. They have night buses, but those can be ram packed and take forever. My departure and return point was from Waterloo Station, so I had a long distance to cover at 2am. I finally decided that things would just sort themselves out and headed for Waterloo Station to catch my outgoing bus.
Feeling the need for some comfort food, I grabbed a Whopper at Burger King, then headed out to the pick up point in the shadow of the London Eye. (Still never have ridden the wheel, it’s cool, but very pricey). Lots of folks waiting with camping gear for the weekend. At this point I realized that in all my return trip stress I have forgotten my hat and my sunglasses! DOH! So, it’s hot as hell and I’m going to stand in a field with no sun protection.
We board the bus (late, as they seem to be a bit disorganized) and head out of London via the twisting roads of the Southbank. With distance and traffic it literally takes us over two hours!
I don’t have my ticket yet (Outside UK customer), so I’m directed to one set of tents, then on to another, then on to the opposite side of the field! That alone is a 15 minute walk. I hear one act (Damien Dempsey) end and Imelda May start. Saw her at Glastonbury, but hoped to see her again. I stand in a 30 minute Will Call line and learn they don’t have my ticket there either…I was supposed to get it at the first place! ACK!
A series of phone calls are made and I learn I’m not the first person off the bus to be sent on this same torturous path. They ask me to wait and say someone from the bus company will come to me. So, I wait another 20 minutes or so. (The logistics of this trip keep getting more challenging at each turn.)
Finally a fellow arrives with my ticket and asks why I didn’t ask one of the bus reps? I tell him that I did, and then recount the path I was sent on. He apologizes. I also mention I have a ticket for the next day, so he searches that out. He says they didn’t realize that anyone would order tickets separately for each day. An odd comment, since the days went on sale at different times…and their website didn’t have an option to combine the purchases? Anyway…I’m finally in…just as Imelda May ends her set…darn.
The field of not very full, so I walk near the front for the next act, Los Lobos.
I’ve seen them many times, but it’s unique to catch them in England. They do a tight and somewhat short festival set. But, it’s a crowd pleaser and includes a lot of older tracks that I love. “Let’s Just Say Goodnight”, “Don’t Worry Baby”, “Evangeline”. I think they realized that being in England called for something special, so they did a sloppy bar-band cover of “My Generation” by the Who. They wrapped up with a cool mashup of “La Bamba.>Good Lovin>Good Morning Azlan”. Very nice and put me back into a better mood after all the logistical crap of the morning.
Wandered over and heard a bit of Stornoway at the 2nd stage.
Another of the seeming wave of folkie UK acts I encountered this trip. Not back, sort of Celtic influenced. But, I hear Dr. John starting in the distance and decided to split to see him.
Dr. John is (as the Brits say), “Cracking Good”…tight band who tear into a mix of old classics (“Right Place, Wrong Time”, “Blues in the Night”, “Let the Good Times Roll”) and newer material (“Mighty Big Gap”) off his latest CD, Tribal. I realize that with Dr John and Los Lobos so far this festival skews a bit older and bit more American than Glastonbury.
While they reset the stage for Blondie I head for the 2nd stage to see a British Blues legend, Peter Green and his Splinter Group. (PG founded Fleetwood Mac and then later in the 70’s & 80’s dropped out of the music business for years.) He has amazing tone and feel and I’m thrilled to hear “Rattlesnake Shake”, “Black Magic Woman” and “Albatross”. So, not all American acts after all…This guy is a legend that I”m unlikely to ever hear touring the USA. During his set, A fellow about my age sits down near me and we begin talking. Nick has driven for the show and left his wife at home for the weekend. We find we have many common favorite bands and end up hanging out and talking music.
We opt to skip Blondie after all and listen to another legend, Richard Thompson. This is the 2nd time I’ve seen him on the trip, but the first show was the “popular song” show and this is his solo set with band. Brilliant!
He thanks the crowd for choosing “Dinosaur Folk” in his tent over “Dinousar 70’s pop” on the other stage. He’s quite witty with his banter between songs. “Bathsheba” and “I want to see the Bright Lights Tonight” both stand out for me as highlights.
After his set, Nick and I strike out for the main stage and post ourselves to the right of the mix desk. Nick has seen Van Morrison between 40 & 50 times…I’ve seen him once. At 9pm sharp, Van walks on and leads the band into “She Moves on Solid Ground”. He’s livelier than I’d seen him before and attired in a splendid summer white suit and white porkpie hat.
His band is tight and made up of (amongst others) and couple of musicians from Astral Weeks. A great version of “Brown Eyed Girl” follows. from there I really couldn’t have asked for a better set of my personal favorites. “Help Me”, “Moondance” (which he doesn’t always play), “Philosophers Stone”, “Baby Please don’t go”, “Tear your Playhouse down”.
Special mention to a couple of songs. “Have I Told You Lately”, which Van redeems from the pap that Rod Stewart turned it into and restores from generic radio fodder back to a lovely ode on a summers night to a special person in your life.
“Into the Mystic” and “In the Garden”, both again are not traditional rock songs. Both deal with love and more spiritual connections. I won’t try to over analyze the lyrics or the meaning. But, I will say that on a summers night in a field in England they were as close to perfection as anyone could hope to hear. My friend Nick said that in all the times he’s seen Van this may have been the best one ever. It was simply transcendent and washed away any of the previous hassles in getting to the show.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve had from this trip is no amount of planning will avoid a few problems…and yet, they great moments are well worth the troubles you have to deal with to get to them. Much like life, the challenges give resonance scope to the successes. Generally it seems that the good always outweighs the bad in the final tally.
Buoyed by the wonderful show, the magic of the cool evening and the amazingly great artists I just seen….I head for my bus. And…it’s not there.
It arrives TWO hours later….
Shivering in the now quite COLD evening I climb aboard for the nearly two hour ride back to Waterloo. Partway back, there’s a fight between a drunk kid trying to exit the bus via the emergency exit and the driver (a huge man that you’d really have to be drunk or stupid to mess with). The fight ends with the drunk on the floor beside my seat and the drivers hands wrapped around his throat.
That’s an interesting finish to the day.
We reach Waterloo about 2am and I decide there is no way in hell I’m looking for a night bus amid all the drunks and homeless. I grab the first cab and ride in style back to my room in East London.
Long day, interesting day to be sure….but, overall the good (Music and a new friend) outweigh the bad (logistics, bus fights)….