Sunday, August 07, 2011

Music as a rain prevention device?

From Apple Cart 2011

The forecast was for every sort of weather, short of snow, but as it turned out, the thunder and lightening held off, and the showers managed to avoid all but one live act…. My only previous experience of a festival had been two days of Wireless 2010 in Hyde Park where only by splashing out on “VIP” tickets did I avoid massive queues to get in. On both days, once you’d secured a spot near the main stage the last thing you where going to do was give it up. Apple Cart in Victoria Park was a very different event – I’m not sure if it was the decline in spending on music or the clear targeting of the event at families – but the far more relaxed atmosphere was wonderful.

Being the first live act, when there hasn’t been a queue at the gates inevitably leads to a smallish audience – but those listening to the Balearic Folk Orchestra had a gentle introduction to the day – possibly very appropriate for anyone nursing a hang overs from the previous Field Day event at the same location the day before… Unfortunately a constantly changing line up of performers lead to a disjointed set – there was clearly a lot of talent available – but they needed to be more organised not to detract from it.
Steve Mason formed a good bridge between the folk that opened the main stage and the more up beat acts to follow. Despite the shelter of the stage he maintained unity with the audience – not all prepared for the variable weather by keeping his rain coat on through out his set.

The Magic Numbers raised the pace of the day - between the showers their infectious rock/pop warmed up an audience equally effectively as the sunshine. Encouragement of frequent clapping along to their hits helped warm everyone up even more… By the end of their set the audience at the main stage was building nicely…

Patrick Wolf joined the multitude of multi talented musicians in his band cloaked and playing a wonderful wind instrument – the quiet entrance belied the full energy act, with multiple visits from the stage to the audience, that followed. He clearly felt at home on the stage – close to places he’d spent time writing some of the songs he performed.

I’ve never seen an act berate the photographers before, stopping mid song to asking them to leave, they where distracting him, then being blatantly ignored. It turned out Badly Drawn Boy’s “act” was based on messing up or maybe, as he warned at the beginning of the set, he was simply in a bad mood and the audience would have to live with it… That might have worked with his own audience – but it went over the heads of the most of the mixed audience, and he’d lost most of them well before he over ran his slot  – a shame because the songs he managed to perform had something about them.

The contrast between the disorganised melancholy of  Badly Drawn Boy and tightly organised humour of Tim Minchin was amazing… Tim’s take on life might not have been completely appropriate for an event sold as suitable for all of the family – but as he pointed out – if your parents where bringing you along to a music/comedy festival, there was a low chance that you’d be joining the mindless individuals currently disrupting London (and now the UK) just because of some close to the bone observations of hypocrisy in the world.

The set reminded me of Flanders & Swan and
Divine Comedy – only with lots, lots, more attitude and a large amount of rock and roll…

Many had clearly come to the day to simply enjoy Tim’s act as between the end of his set and the beginning of the headliners the entire front of the audience appear to change…

Then, with the sun having well and truly set, we came to the headliners - the best of the DJ "interval" sets with Sean Rowley and the amazing Marawa and her hoops, and the refreshed audience - with a slightly older average age that those that had enjoyed Tim, already well and truly warmed up and in the mood for a good dance… Saint Etienne didn’t fail to disappoint – Burnt Out Car might not have been the most appropriate track given the events going on around us, outside the protection of the perimeter fence – the mix of new and old songs was good. Feedback for Sarah (and other bands) – true fans don’t mind new songs in sets – they mean new albums and gigs promoting those albums… The lack of an encore was disappointed – probably falling victim to a tightly managed schedule and a strict curfew.

Saint Etienne brought to a close a day of contrasting but well received live music - with the possible exception of Badly Drawn Boy – whose attitude was uncalled for…

All in all it was a very pleasant way to spend a summer Sunday – if only everyone else in London had has similar entertainment for the day, things would have been very different in the larger world. One thought, had the event been sold out would it have had the same relax atmosphere – and ultimately filled its aim of being a family friendly day?

Footnote:

This continues my recent run of out door musical events where the forecast would indicate that rain coats and inappropriate umbrellas would be needed – but turn out to be held in wonderful weather – not sure if that supports the theory that good music has the ability to divert rain clouds – but the evidence is growing.

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