Solfest (Cumbria) 2008…a personal journey


Hello Good people who read this blog

(there may be some editorial mistakes I missed still swimming about)

( this post is very long to save your eyes from going funny copy it & print it!)

I am still coming down from the high of going to Solfest where although there were some initial stresses a thoroughly good time was enjoyed by myself and my companions.

You just can’t beat Solfest as a small friendly creative festival. It has no pretentions of grandeur it is what it is like most of the festival attendees it’s simply there being alternative, subversive, artistic, musical and just a having bloody good time . It doesn’t need to do any social climbing or promote itself.

It sold out but it doesn’t sell out to corporate nonsense or music biz nonsense.

The clips I put up were made by other people I was too busy enjoying myself to film anything!

This is the Human Jukebox you have to put a pound and they will play what you chose!

The Journey to Solfest

Although my son decided to travel from London up to the festival some 10 million miles away in a small car containing 4 blokes,  4 different types of guitar, a mixer, a saxophone, computers, a keyboard and 4 tents, 4 rucksacks and probably more. I decided to travel up the easy way by train and was due to borrow one of the lad’s guitars to perform as I couldn’t carry mine along with everything else.

I have a lot of respect for any festival that puts on a free bus from the local train station and no respect for those who don’t! We all need to be green and some of us don’t drive. There was a lot of traffic trying to get into the festival  and our friendly patient minibus driver took us through the lake district on a detour to avoid congestion he then took me and a couple of others near the artist’s gate which I was very grateful for.

There were a few teething problems on the Friday at The Chill-Out (Dogs in Space) stage jointly organised by Michael Dog of Megadog and Fred of SPACED which was where I was due to camp and perform. I think there were gremlins at work either that or just the heavy rain. The power was failing frequently all evening leaving punters in the dark and with acts having to start and stop, plus there were sound problems with feedback when anyone used a microphone onstage and other technical problems with speakers and then with the generator but the vibe was still good. Thanks to the hard work and brainpower of the crew the many various difficulties were all sorted out by Saturday . I was due to perform the next day at Saturday lunchtime and didn’t really start to relax and enjoy myself fully until after my gig.

Another creative lunatic from Solfest this year!

Never lend a guitar to a man at a festival (even if it’s Bob Dylan wanting try out his new song)

I got up Saturday around 11a.m. after a couple of hours sleep , being camped backstage is great in many ways but you have to be able to sleep through the universal “doof-doof-doof-dum dum doof-doof-doof etc…” from the Dance Tent combined with the much quieter all night djs in the Chill Out tent and louder than both of these were the bass lines bursting out from the Disco Fromage nearby.

Subsequent nights I slept fine with some well placed earplugs and an extra layer of clothing to keep me warm in bed.

I had my pre-gig nerves but knew these could be handled if I followed my plan to rehearse alone and spend some quiet time to relax before going on.  But hey, it’s a festival… I should have known better than expect anything to go to plan!

I borrowed a six string acoustic guitar from one of the two Hamishes resident at the Chill-Out tent.

I started to rehearse backstage with a bit of an audience and this poet who was also about to go stage just before me wanted to play me a song and said he was going to use the guitar onstage. He was a nice guy and in spite of the fact that I soon wanted to garrotte him with a guitar string in a very unhippie way I am sure he is still a very nice guy.

I reluctantly handed him the guitar and to cut a very long story short this was a big mistake. He kept telling me that if I was nervous I had to do this breathing exercise and trying to persuade me to do this exercise while simultaneously breaking the strings on the guitar one by one. Then he was rushing off to get another string to put it on and then telling me to do the breathing exercise again for my nerves, then showing me how to put on a guitar string ( as if I didn’t know how to do this after putting them for myself for 35 years) and each time he would snap the string again. Somehow he got through two spare sets of guitar strings. He would not let me or the owner of the guitar have it back as he was deeply apologetic and was adamant he would fix it himself.

I lost count of how many strings he broke after 4 or 5 I could no longer stand watching him and was frantically going up to random people asking them to lend me an acoustic guitar as I was about to play on stage. Eventually he found a replacement guitar for us ( thanks to Blenkie the owner of said guitar)   but I decided I’d had enough and was not going to risk any more damage. In a very unhippie way,  I grabbed the guitar and made a mad dash off with it while the poet was still telling me to do this breathing exercise to calm my nerves.

The adrenaline from stage nerves , the string breaking incident plus some feedback problems on stage meant my performance had a few mistakes in it but no one seemed to notice and it went well, the lovely  people at Solfest came up to me throughout the festival to say they enjoyed it.

I sincerely hope to play there again and other festivals but with my own guitar which will be kept hidden from poets.

Doof! (Mr Psik)

Some of the people I met

Here is one of the enthusiastic and vibrant people I met and saw perform  Buntyface in the Chill-Out tent this year but this footage is from the previous year…need to feed my brain now…

All the people I met at Solfest were friendly and approachable although a minority were too out of it to really communicate including one old hippie complete with hippie hat who came into the Chill-Out tent and played with the decor of dangling shiny silver threads in the middle of the tent then proceeded to climb on the tables and fall on people, another old drunken hippie was shouting “What about me?” to various people  very loudly during a film and I also saw a steward crawling into a speaker under the stage to pass out from the evening’s excesses ( I checked to see that he was still breathing). But generally speaking people were able to hold full conversations and/or dance wildly to the proceedings.

Various people made an impression on me for instance I was chatting to a singer the same age as me. She said she wouldn’t even bother with women who lied about their age that it was a kind of dishonesty , that she was proud of who she was and that her age meant she was able to give advice to people. She was a (young) grandmother and proud of it. She also had a disability which meant she had to take very strong painkillers every four hours, even in the middle of the night or be in such pain that she would pass out and needed a special kind of bed to sleep in.  This woman was performing in a band and camping at a festival. She also had a varied lovelife. I suddenly felt that there were no excuses not to live your life fully no matter what your circumstances and to wear your age with pride.

I was also impressed by a woman working at “The Camel’s Arse”café one morning. She was single-handedly taking a constant stream of orders, dealing with the money and calling out people’s names when their meals were ready. She was clearly exhausted and stressed and yet she had a smile on her face illustrated with facepaints and greeted each customer with a welcoming cheerful tone that warranted a medal.

The Saturday fancy-dress code enabled people to be endlessly inventive. There were hundreds of interesting costumes for instance in our tent I saw someone dressed as a whoopie cushion, a couple of dominos danced with a pack of  fascinated little children while a Big Friendly Giant on stilts scared them a bit.
Outside at night I saw an incredible sight. Four illuminated people on bicycles. Each bike and rider covered with carefully placed fairy lights, each  a seperate colour, they were spectacular when they cycled in the darkness.

Loads of men in drag, usually the butch macho men.

Outside the Chill-Out tent I shared a fag with “Martin” and “Amy”, two bumbling drunk hairy macho scousers with big black wigs, mini skirts ( frequently falling down and needing to be pulled up again), and make-up plastered on their face. One of them staggered up to me and asked if I had any crack cocaine. I was a bit taken aback until I realised he was “in character” and was pretending to be Amy Winehouse. He showed me his tattoos on one bicep he had a delicatedly drawn diagram of male sexual equipment and on the other a more scrawled “BLAKE”. “Martin” who I suggested should be called “Martina”  was well over six foot tall . He asked me if I liked his make up as he had spent hours getting ready. I looked up at his face, his crimson lipstick was not just on his lips but also plastered all around his stubbly face along with eyeliner that was also heftily and precariously applied. I just looked at him and laughed. They ranted about how they had left their wives and children and were going to have the operation and other things. Everything they said and did made me laugh. I told them they made a great double act and should be onstage. Martin responded “You haven’t seen us together in bed yet” the image was too much for my mind to cope with.

The “Dogs in Space“crew were great too and I had many rambling and bizarre conversations with them at all times of day and night, I already knew most of them some being part of the family past or present.

Here is a clip of the Chill-Out tent at night taken by Michael although it was a lot brighter than this in real life! ( I am  hoping  he won’t mind me linking  it up here  but I don’t think he will. Go to Michael Dog’s myspace

www.myspace.com/michaeldog

for more photos of Solfest 2008 and another video of daytime in the chill-out tent!)


Some of the acts I enjoyed

In terms of entertainment I missed a lot of it because there was simply so much going on and I was spending most of my time at the “Dogs in Space” tent. I still have not attended a Solfest workshop or other activities such as sauna etc..
At the Chill-Out ( Dogs in Space) tent there was a huge variety of acts going on and it was very different to the previous year. The tent ran 24 hours a day and ended at 8 a.m. Monday morning so there was room for variety.
They had acoustic bands with harps, hurdy gurdies, jazz, singer-songwriters, djs, vjs, experimental electronica bands, films, poetry, weird jams, hip-hop rapping and probably more that I missed. Hosted by Michael Dog and assisted by Len from Needle and Thread not forgetting the invaluable input of the second Hamish and sound engineer Matt both great characters.

Some of my favourite acts from the “Dogs in Space” tent included……..
The 2.2 killaVolt Cables whose beautiful melodic electronica that can be listened to lying down or when dancing. In their spare time they also put on shows  with a dance company from the Laban School in London.
To listen to their music check out their myspace :   http://www.myspace.com/twopointtwokv

I also greatly enjoyed an extended set from the Bonsai Big Band from South London. Their brand of nu- jazz was immaculately performed and structured in sections like a symphony with layer upon layer of tastily textured instrumental lines.

I missed Mixmorris Morris’ set  as he was on in the middle of the night but had a chat with him and hope to see him again. He said he’d been in Canada and Japan djing recently and he was very excited to tell me that he had sung with a band his own songs at The Big Chill Festival earlier this summer. It was the first time he had sung on stage for years. He looked well and relaxed.

I also enjoyed hearing the acoustic guitar virtuosity of Hamish Meany ( whose guitar was trashed by a poet and who drove half the performers 10 million miles up to the festival).

The cheerful jazz showtunes of Tres Fez fronted by the talented Helen Maher ( singer and accordion player)
and more….

I didn’t visit the Drystone Stage ( Acoustic Music)  much. This was because I spend a lot of time in acoustic clubs performing or listening to acoustic music and I wanted a break from it. However you can listen to a podcast of some of the performers by copying and pasting this link:

http://drystone.podOmatic.com/entry/2008-07-01T08_29_18-07_00

I was also not in the mood for dancing as my legs were tired so I didn’t venture too far into the Disco Fromage or the Dance Tent.

However I was unexpectedly taken backstage into the Dance Tent and sat on a metal box onstage behind Michael (Dog of Megadog ) while he did his set. The sound wasn’t too loud through the on stage monitors and I was able to rest my legs and enjoy the music and the spectacular lightshow/projections. God I sound like I’m 100 years old.  Some really mad band went on after him and I danced a bit to that. Sorry that is such a brief and sedentary review of the Dance Tent!

On the Main stage I saw a bit of Supergrass , a bit of Alabama 3 , a bit of Dreadzone.
My favourite acts included the very manic folk/rockabilly/ska  Black Velvet Band. Although there was an embarrassing moment when the over-energetic lead singer said ” This next song is the story of a virgin and a ( something or other)…Are there any virgins out in the audience?”
Then he looked down as there were about 20 or 30 little girls and boys dancing right in front of the stage and said . “..except for you of course” .
Oh how I cringed on his behalf!
* (see comment by Louis of The Black Velvet Band below this post)
I also very much enjoyed dancing to the mute Bikini Beach Band who dressed in orange costumes, fez hats and shades played a variety of pop tunes re-arranged in ace surf music style and accompanied by two Hawaiian grass-skirted dancers.

On the Bar Stage I went to see The Hamsters but arrived just in time to hear them say a final ” Thank you and Goodnight”. Still I can go see them back in London at the Half Moon in Putney where they play the last Saturday of every month.
I saw a couple of mad heavy rock bands that made me laugh, cheered me up and made me realise I’m not that good a guitar player and should learn  more.
Firstly a band called “Off the Hook” with an impressive over-the-top lead singer and frontman with a wrestler’s demeanour, stomping about the stage like a stormtrooper hitting cymbals attached to the microphone stand aggressively. He also took the bass player by surprise hitting him between the legs with his drumstick. (This sounds rude but it wasn’t, it was just bonkers.)
The final act on the Bar Stage was just so entertaining I’ve saved writing about them until last.
Forget MOTORHEAD, forget BLACK SABBATH, forget “The Darkness”
( who?  they were easily forgotten) for now we have a band who not only are Motorhead and Sabbath rolled into one but they can turn any pop tune into a heavy metal epic.They’re bloody good musicians and hilarious too.

I am speaking of a band who are the new Spinal Tap and Bad News but more inventive.( they might even be as good as Bludgen..seeThe Chainsaw Party (still feeling guilty about this)


This is a band descended from Vikings (having emigrated to Newcastle) known as  “AROCKALYPSE NOW”.

Here is a clip from their Rockumentary the full thing is up on youtube ( starting off with a cover of a “Bad News” song and then to disco hit “You Spin Me Right Round”)


On Sunday night I had left my son and his friend dancing at the Disco Fromage as I wanted to go hear some live music.

I then came across the fabulous “Arockalypse Now” doing a heavy metal version of ” Play That Funky Music White Boy” on the Bar Stage and it was so good that I ran back down the hill and dragged them off the illuminated dance floor saying “I’m taking you to a higher place where you can both dance and hear good live music“. ( or something less dramatic but it doesn’t sound as good).
They were persuaded and when we got there they were not disappointed. The audience were going completely berserk dancing and headbanging carried away by the passion and lunacy of the performers on the stage. Some people behind me were all dancing while holding up a carpet, it was mad. They played a number of tunes including codpiece Cameo’s Word Up“. The thing is the quality of the musicianship and how they arranged the songs was just amazing. If they were in London I’d go and see them every Saturday night to shrug off the stresses of the week.
Here is a clip of them at Solfest doing “The Final Countdown” but it’s not as great as I remembered at the time. I think being far away from the stage , poor sound quality and not being actually there in the drunken crowd has a lot to do with it.
Check out their myspace site….  http://http://www.myspace.com/arockalypsenow
(they do a great version  of Ziggy Stardust).
Enjoy!

Love and peace
Born2rant
(Undercover Hippie tempted to start headbanging again)

(My thanks to Michael for “strongly suggesting” I play in the Chill-Out tent and putting me on his artist list and to Len (for strongly accepting the suggestion))

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The Drug Dealers of Notting Hill


Hello good people who read this blog

For some reason I am writing this just before going to bed so there may be some errors that I will correct in the morning, plus I might add bits if I find further info I’d forgotten.

I thought I’d write some recollections by looking at some photos . I don’t have many photos left some seem to have disappeared somewhere.

Including this one. This morning I suddenly decided that I didn’t want my photo in a post called “Drug Dealers of Notting Hill” just in case I got myself into trouble, I am not a Drug dealer in Notting Hill.There are some people I know professionally in this area who I definitely don’t want recognising me from my blog although their pasts are either obscenely respectable or far more debauched than my own. I need to think about this one and it might go up again in the near future. For now just imagine a young woman in hippie clothing walking up the side of a foggy cold mountain, clutching a hot cup of tea and smiling with motorbikes, a truck and tents all parked behind her.

For me personally the strange thing is that I haven’t really changed. You wouldn’t recognise me physically but I still wear that very same hat, those very same boots and I still wear purple even as I write this I am wearing a purple T-shirt which flares out at the sleeves and hips and basically looks like it’s from 1973. This is good therapy for me, to realise I am still the same person somehow and that I am oblivious to passing fashions.

At that time I didn’t live in Notting Hill as I do now but we ( me and my ex-partner) had a stall in Portobello Road on a Saturday and I had an office job during the week. We hung around a lot in Notting Hill though, this was around 1979 to 1982 . I didn’t really know Notting Hill before then although I knew South Kensington and Chelsea well and they were only down the road, North Kensington was a totally different world ( then, not now). When desperate ( which was most of the time) we scored our dope in the All Saint’s Road from a kind and very mellow Jamaican drug-dealer/silversmith at a pub called ” The Apollo”. The place doesn’t exist anymore.

Memories of the Apollo! The loos were very dodgy that’s where the deals went on. Going down the All Saints Road was dodgy too especially if you were female, young and white. Everyone treated me like a prostitute if I went to the Apollo alone.

In spite of my referring to Kensington and Chelsea a few times I also lived in South London from the age of 12 onwards, I went to a state school, and lived on an estate. Both the school I attended and estate I lived on were not rough but my friends and others lived in fear of violence, rape and crime. This was around the time of the Brixton riots and there was a lot of racial tension. I moved out of home young due to family problems and lived in a house full of crazy people in Clapham and knew street criminals, night club hostesses and troubled people living on the edge. I never felt comfortable in South London and my personal experience of both the black community and the white youth of the Ladbroke Grove area was that they were far more creative, secure, laid back and safe to be around compared to some of the places I had known. For many reasons I had experienced some dangerous and distressing situations before , and even though I had virtually no self-confidence and was mild-mannered, my experiences had made me unusually daring and streetwise , I remember needing both of these qualities to go alone once to score down the Apollo. I wasn’t able to buy anything instead I was surrounded by black guys who either wanted to give me a £5 pound draw for free or one or two were trying to sell me parsley for £5.

I didn’t usually go to the Apollo alone but with my boyfriend and his friends. We weren’t ripped off too badly. The place was rough though and one time we were having drink there and I said to Michael ” Let’s go I don’t like the atmosphere I feel like something bad’s going to happen”. I think he was about to tell me to stop being paranoid when I was hit the face by a flying chair , shortly followed by the person who had previously been sitting on it. It was like something in a Western one second people were just drinking their rum and coke and the next everyone was fighting and breaking glasses, bottles, furniture flying, people wrestling with one another, blood, we were sheltering behind a table for a few seconds and we escaped through the door. The place was closed down and busted a few times and eventually we stopped going there.

Another one of our favourite pubs was what we and others called “ Hennerky’s” ( n.b. I have no idea how this is spelt) although its real name was and still is “The Earl of Londsdale“. The legendary pub was mentioned in the 1960’s version of “Alternative London“. I really need to do some more research and get hold of a copy.

I have a copy of Alternative London from 1982. I loved that book , I think we had to buy a couple of copies because people kept borrowing it and never giving it back, a common problem with hippie borrowers of good books and borrowers of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple albums although these tended to be borrowed by bikers and no one expected bikers to return things on time if ever.

Hennerky’s, like the Earl of Londsdale now, had a beer garden.In the summer it was full of stoned groups of hippies ,punks often with mohicans, with young children, dogs, groups of friends, guitarists and anyone who would grab a table and hang out there all day. Then indoors it had the front bar which was often dirty and a bit dingey and had tourists and locals and then there was THE BACK BAR!

Oh my God the back bar, a den of iniquity. The carpet was so sticky that going there in flip-flops was not recommended, in fact going there in any kind of clothing was not reccommended. The walls were black with dirt and everywhere else , in every spare space was a cramped crowd of mean-looking tattoed, denim-shredded, leather clad, smelly bikers , proper bikers with initiation ceremonies and “colours” , I seem to remember that these were special patches sewn on to their jackets when they had passed some terrible test to show membership. They also had sleeveless torn denim jackets that they wore over their worn out thick leather bikers jackets . I still have my biker jacket, I had to throw it down the stairs and sand paper it when I first bought it so it looked worn and not clean or new and uncool. But as well as being bikers or Hell’s Angels they were either drug-dealers or people wanting to score drugs, or people simply in the wrong place and unable to find their way out due to the tightly packed room and sticky carpet. Some of the punters there were acquaintances of ours but no close friends.The atmosphere was very heavy. We usually went in the beer garden but going into the back bar was quite an adventure but very uncomfortable I don’t remember seats just this hole really. It was the sort of place where Lemmy would have looked at home and where anyone looking like ” the Fonz” posing in a leather jacket and looking clean might have had their head kicked in. Actually Lemmy was much cleaner and neater and altogether pleasant and nicer than most of the blokes I saw in there, stacked up at the bar waiting to get served.

We never tried to score at Hennerky’s it was too risky, there were always raids. After our many Apollo experiences, through a female friend of mine we eventually discovered a place known locally simply as”The Sport’s Shop” or I think it was called “354” or was it “281”????? a high number anyway ,the number of the house( if anyone reading this lived there don’t worry I won’t use your real names). It was above or next to a sport’s shop in Harrow Road.

My friend had been walking past it one evening bored and looking for a good time and had heard music coming from inside. She rang their doorbell and asked them if she could come to their party, they weren’t having a party but they welcomed her in anyway. To her delight and surprise the house above the sport’s shop was a network of bedsits and in every bedsit was a different friendly drug-dealer, most of them were musicians too, all were decadent but smiling , many had jobs…..but I have to go to bed now and will tell you more next time.

In the back bar at Hennecky’s this would have been playing on the juke box

P.s. If the drug squad read this don’t bother coming round I don’t buy drugs anymore .

p.p.s. Sorry if I have offended any bikers…

or drug dealers

or Lemmy

or fans of Lemmy

Sorry I have to go to bed now . I am exhausted. I will write more soon. Anyone remember how to spell Hennerky’s and what you remember?

Sorry for saying sorry all the time.

Love and Peace

Born2rant

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