Gashead's Blog Wonders


OneFest – A Very Singular Festival

From OneFest 14 April 2012

My neverending quest to stalk Damon Albarn last Saturday took Vicky and me to Rockley in Wiltshire. Mid-April is not the most popular time of the year for a festival for reasons that became obvious later. We rolled up in the coach from The Barge Inn at Honey Street about 20 minutes before the gates were due to open, a formidable queue of around 20 people had beaten us to it. Perfect timing, we could hear Damon Albarn sound-checking The Marvelous Dream on the main stage a couple of hundred yards away. The minute the gates opened we legged it for the stage, but it was too late!

Plan B was the beer tent, after all it was noon already. Bath Ales Bounders Cider was the survivable option at 4%, the alternative cider was 6.8% and therefore not viable for a long day stood on our feet. Next up there were food options to explore and the Bath Pig chorizo stew looked good but we got sidetracked by a woman selling some amazing miniature guitars kerching kerching. Then I spotted a welly tossing competition, get both wellies to land on the target and you win a free pair, a pound a go for charity. They had only just opened up and I bagged a £35 Joules pair for Vicky on my second attempt!

Excellent chorizo stew necked, laden with miniature guitars and prize wellies, cider refilled we headed into the Tumuli Stage in time to catch Old Colours. Being old they looked like a bunch of kids to me but they certainly knew how to play. They are one of those bands where it appears any mate who can play an instrument will get in the band and they will adapt their music accordingly. Usual guitars and drums, a violin, a xylophone, a trumpet - but then I got into a band in the seventies purely down to my jew's harp skills that worked well for Bird On A Wire. In summary the bunch of spawny kids went down a well deserved storm.

Back out into the bright, overcast outdoors and Kidnap Alice did a very fine line in Bluegrass despite a couple of yummy mummies stood in front of the stage, backs to the band talking about their kids through the greater part of the set

The crowd were very different from the usual during the afternoon, loads of kids oblivious to the acts on stage, people with dogs, it was a kind of alternative afternoon out for the local Marlborough set. At some point in the afternoon the dogs and the kids disappeared leaving the site to the hardcore more conventional festival types.

Nick Harper followed on the main stage. We saw him last year playing Me And My Woman with the godlike genius of his old man Roy. Could he cut it on his own? Yes.

In an apparent nod to Damon Albarn's presence he slipped a few lines of Out Of Time into Love Is Music but further research indicates he has done this before. Despite trying to come across like a cantankerous bugger on the stage when we had a brief chat afterwards he was a genuinely warm man, a pleasure to meet.

Meanwhile, backstage, Damon was having a cheeky one.

From OneFest 14 April 2012

Back to the tent and Gaz Brookfield was showing an equal passion denouncing Simon Cowell and the X Factor in song. So impressed were we that we bought his CD afterwards. Just as I got to the front to ask him to sign it "For Simon and Louis" his pen ran out, ach well.

More cider, more consequential trips to the loo and a very nice set from Rae Morris

From OneFest 14 April 2012

She still had the chattering classes to contend with but her strong songs and vocals overcame them.

From nowhere a video camera on a tripod appeared, I gently enquired if they were early for Dr Dee but no, it was The UK Asian and their man Raghu Dixit and his band were due on next. Bizarrely they had been playing in Goa just the night before in 38C heat, caught a flight to Heathrow and came straight to OneFest. Despite the temperature being approximately thirty degrees lower they appeared on stage in bare feet, sarongs and T shirts just as they were in Goa. Whatever they feed kids on in Bangalore I think we all need it. A great set followed despite Raghu having contracted laryngitis somewhere along the way.

Yet more cider, yet more trips to the loo, some sweets and Dry The River appeared. We had seen them previously supporting Ed Sheeran, along with Damon and Graham Coxon (yes, that's why I went though Ed is great). I had them filed under psychedelic ZZ Top. Since then they had been to "The States" and it got mentioned, between every song I believe. One particularly handsome band member had acquired a beard and the highly refreshed girls behind referred to him loudly as "The Jesus Bloke" when not flicking things at my head. The increased volume rather tested my camera's sound capabilities but here goes anyway.

A quick trip to the loo while one of the refreshed girls let Vicky know people over the age of 30 shouldn't be at festivals (I look forward to her telling the old farmer who hangs around Glastonbury that), a change of camera to one with no darkness challenged auto-focus and it was Dee Time. The sun had gone down as had the temperature and the large band wandered onto the stage. I saw Dr Dee last year in Manchester with the full ENO production but there would be no room for this on such a small stage. I had expected Damon to perform a solo set but it was far from that. The three opera singers were warmly wrapped, Christopher Robson in a particularly thick overcoat and high scarf, having heard his marvellous falsetto previously I could see why in view of the dropping temperature.

So off we kicked with Damon striking a large bell as per Pink Floyd's Division Bell and on he proceeded into a run through of the opera. There were some very quiet, subtle moments slightly spoiled by the initial sound issues but it settled down and the three singers Christopher Robson, Victoria Couper and Melanie Oppenheim came to the fore in between Damon's soft, pastoral songs.

Progressively the cold began to bite, the high opera seriousness turned into a bit of fun and Damon began to interact with the audience (size unknown as I was on the barrier eyes forward). Watching The Fire That Waltzed Away even merited a reprise as it seemed to warm the crowd up a bit. One true gem was Cathedrals which was stirring in its beauty.

The opera came to a close but few realised as the work is still relatively unknown. Damon moved to centre stage, wound up an old gramophone record and struggled with the lid and a 78 finally placing the tone arm in the groove, a Piaf style voice sang out and the ensemble took the applause from a cold but fabulously entertained crowd. Beats by Dr Dee indeed.

In conclusion the day has to be considered a true success. Very friendly, well chosen food and drink and some superb music. Having the performers around enjoying the festival talking to their fans made it all the more special. That's all we want and it doesn't need a media company to suck the artistic blood out of it, just guys like Stephen Budd who cut the crap and please.

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