Category Archives: Music
After a truly magical and breathtaking experience last year, we were very fortunate to have friends join us for this years most beautiful festival. In The Woods Festival oozes mystery, tranquility and brings a small gathering of people together in the most surreal environment within some of the most picturesque woodlands.
Putting last years memories aside in an attempt to be surprised again, it was clear to see a new theme without altering the dynamics previously enjoyed. The woodlands beautifully laced with colourful flowers and bright golden lights leading you along the magical footpaths.
At the entrance there were some bright pink, yellow and blue cactuses positioned amongst the natural green plants. A couple of footsteps later there were trees graced with the largest material letters spelling out ITW14.
There were cardboard masks hung by wooden pegs on strings hand painted for people to wear. The pathways winding with many other areas to explore. A material filled tree designed to look like a flowing waterfall was one of the most eye catching pieces. Our friend we met at last years festival had designed a sign that spelt out “But I Love Hymn” a fitting reference to the music we enjoyed during the weekend.
Last years record playing corner was replaced with a lovely little record shop which sold music from the bands playing. You could listen to them on Vinyl and I bought a CD from the band
Francobollo which had a hand drawn cover, a lovely little momentum of the festival from a new band I discovered.
On the first evening we participated in the Pub Quiz which was highly entertaining. Despite accruing a team of ten people we still managed to avoid winning. Either way it was a great chance to mingle whilst drinking some of the local ales they had on tap.
Later on we went into the Silent Disco, this is a new concept for me. I’ve always wanted to try one and was unsure what to expect. It transpired to be one of the weirdest yet enjoyable experiences I’ve known. I was presented with some headphones that had 2 channels on them. Whilst listening to the music you could hear the people around you singing either the song I was listening to or the one on the other channel. One things for sure I can’t get Junior Senior or Shanks and Bigfoot out of my head!
The music was amazing and some of the bands I really enjoyed discovering were Francobollo, Juffage, Ichi and Febueder. The styles and genres on both sides of the spectrum gave the pallet a mixed variety. The stages are called The Quarry and Laurel Lounge, one is surrounded by trees and slopes that you can perch on a log whilst the others in a clearing within the lush green trees.
During the Saturday there was a chance to experience hands-on craft. We created a vinyl print which was cool to print whilst others were making garlands from plants and greens acquired from the woodlands. There was even the opportunity to draw a naked person. Art, Craft and Its diverse nature combined to offer a beautiful cocktail of opportunity for people like me to have a go.
The Spinney is a part of the woods where you can sit down on hay bails listening to musicians play and sing whilst wearing headphones. It creates a spooky and chilling atmosphere because without wearing them all you can hear is the vocals and key presses on the keyboard. We heard Sivu play and his style encapsulated the surroundings beautifully.
The curtains for ITW14 drew down on Saturday evening with the most anticipated bonfire spectacle. A large plunger with sticks of dynamite were the decoration for an impressive effort. Within minutes the flames were dancing high into the dark sky flicking off fireflies and angels to keep the stars company afar. It was the surreal and comforting end to a beautiful event.
Thank you once again for making it so special and I haven’t even mentioned the amazing food on offer! Another portion of Cauldron cooked Beef Curry was enjoyed and we managed to sample the cakes in the Coffee, Tea & Cake hut before they sold out on the Saturday Morning.
One criticism and I hate to make it was the increased allocation of tickets taking the event over 1,000 people. This is too much, you could tell the strains this put on certain parts of the festival, please go back to how it was in 2013.
A year ago I decided to start my blog, over 80 posts, 5,000 views and 70 followers later I have never felt more accomplished than I do right now.
I must once again place my thanks on record to my friend Jaki Jelley whose similar minded approach to her blog gave me the final push I needed to start my own. So what has happened this year and have my random ramblings really entertained my readers or drove you to despair? I’d personally like to think it’s been a mixed ride with many different topics covered.
So what have been my highlights? Well this year I’ve written about Leeds United on quite a few occasions, I am still hopeful that I will get a piece published by one of the fans pages this season. I’ve had some fun adventures and holiday trips with my awesome fiancé, mainly involving the tent.
I’ve written about my travels, gardening and nature stories including our ever so near attempts to get a blue tit nesting in our garden right through to creating a hotel for our bee to lay it’s eggs in. I’ve cooked pickled Beetroot, attempted to grow tomatoes and even written up a couple of my favourite recipes.
I’ve managed to get an article on the Autumn Towcester Beer Festival published on the about my area website and have written further blogs about my love for local ales. There have been some exciting pieces on Music Festivals including the surreal In The Woods Festival.
I’d like to thank you all for taking that little bit of time out of your busy days to read my blog and I promise that this second year will see even more stories from my crazy world and the life I lead.
On one final note I’d like to share some awesome news with you all. I secured my promotion at work and have finally become a Branch Manager. This is something I’ve wanted these last three years and from the beginning of August I’ll finally be there. This is a big deal for me and I am so proud of myself and also would like to place on record my thanks for the support my fiancé has given me throughout my career.
So as we embark on another adventure this weekend in Snowdonia, I can already feel my next piece formulating together in my head. Here is to the future and the exciting times it promises to bring.
Towcester hosted it’s annual Midsummer Music event this weekend. The town was transformed into a showcase of local musical talent as various buildings, pubs and restaurants became stages for the acts to perform in. The weather was delightful once again as a sunny Saturday evening provided the perfect backdrop for this popular event.
We started our musical adventure at The Saracens Head where Krissy Matthews and his three piece band performed in the courtyard. All of the tables were full as locals enjoyed his mixed playlist of self written and covered blues inspired tracks. Krissy was very vocal and despite joking that he had smoked something he shouldn’t have, he produced a set which kept the crowd going and opened up the event with punchy energy and style.
We headed to the town square to see the Mayor officially open the festival at 7.15pm before quickly heading to St Lawrence’s Church to watch the Towcester Choral Society perform. This was truly breathtaking as the Choral Society performed famous songs from the movies which included Raindrops keep falling on my head (Burt Cassidy & The Sundance Kid) Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera and a selection of songs from Mama Mia. St Lawrence’s Church is a beautiful building and the tall ceilings and open halls created an acoustic delight.
As there were many acts performing in the evening it became apparent that we would be rushing around nipping in to see various parts of acts. We quickly made our way back to The Saracens Head to watch the Giocoso Concert Band in the Pickwick Room. From Swanbourne in Buckingham we heard them play the theme from Star Trek before they took a break. Once again we were back on foot to The Dolphin Cafe to watch Nathan & Katrina.
Katrina Harris certainly delivered with her powerful vocals including a pitch perfect cover of Katie Tunstalls classic Black Horse & A Cherry Tree. Nathan Digby & Nial Hoggarth completed the three piece act who went down extremely well. Their songs were original, exciting and fresh with a mixture of classic and modern blues, soul, pop and rock pieces.
The next destination was Towcester Mill to watch Craig sing and play acoustic guitar. Craig was extremely quirky and delivered a high energy filled performance which included a couple of amazing covers including Crowded House – Weather with you and Queens – Don’t stop me now.
The Midsummer Music Festival then held it’s Firework Display on the Mount which lasted around half an hour and was typically exciting and didn’t disappoint.
The music didn’t stop there as we headed to The Brave Old Oak to watch The Band Isabelle. This six piece edgy pop and rock band are from Bedford and were the highlight of an amazing day/night. With a twist of funk and soul the lead singer ended a high temp medley of music with a flawless performance of the hit by Moloko – Sing it back. The place was filled with people enjoying the fresh vibes produced as the music went on past midnight.
It certainly was a success and I can’t wait for Midsummer Music to return in 2015.
In one of my first posts entitled Telling Stories, I spoke about the sad news of the passing away of Jon Brookes. Jon had collapsed whilst performing on stage in America to be later diagnosed with a Brain Tumour. Jon battled through treatment and was able to rejoin the band and take to the stage again in 2012. We learnt of his death the day after I asked my partner to marry me and the emotions felt that moment were simply numbing. We met Jon before The Charlatans performed in Edinburgh during the Fringe Festival in August 2012 and would describe him as a down to earth, honest, friendly, hard working family man who was clearly enjoying the dream of being part of a successful band. Jon was their drummer and he quite simply blew us away with his performance during the gig that we were fortunate to witness from the front row that August night. Three weeks after that performance Jon’s condition suddenly worsened and he never fully recovered again.
Tim Burgess and Friends hosted an evening last night (Friday 18th October) to celebrate his life. It was also a fitting stage to highlight the devastation that Brain Cancer has on families all across the world. The stage was as grand as could be hoped for with The Royal Albert Hall showcasing this emotional event. The journey time from our front door to arriving on our seats was little more than two hours, which considering it was a Friday night in peak travel time, was delightful. There has been talk of further trips into London now we’ve realized how quick the journey takes.
This was our first visit to the Royal Albert Hall and from the moment we entered it, I could feel the expectation and history generated from its structure. It just has one of those atmospheres which is hard to explain. The circular corridors were graced by photographs of previous performances including Elton John and Kiki Dee right through to Sir Cliff Richard. Despite it’s age, the building was looking very very grand and all the intricate detail in the architecture was a delight to view.
We went to the Elgar Room where there was a bar area and purchased a couple of reasonably priced ales. In the corner of this open room, there was a striking gloss red piano on a small stage which could only draw your attentions to it. We then made way to our seats in anticipation of the nights offerings and celebration of Jon’s life.
Adrian Chiles was the MC for the night and his shared love of West Bromwich Albion was the obvious link to Tim Burgess. The opening performance came from Birmingham based band Dumb. Dumb were managed by Jon Brookes and their four song set was clearly full of emotion for the man who had given them a chance to succeed. It’s not every day you get to perform at a venue like this, it’s such a shame and tragedy it’s under these circumstances.
One of the most memorable performances of the night was then to follow as Tim Burgess performed with members of The Vaccines and New Order. Tim who needed the aid of written down song words to sing with both bands performed a breathtaking rendition of New Orders classic “Love Will Tear Us Apart” which brought the near capacity crowd to its feet.
The Chemical Brothers performed a live DJ set in between acts on the night which kept the energy levels up on a night full of emotion. There was a video presented by the Brain Tumour Charity which showed real life families coming to terms with the effects this terrible disease has or has had on them. It was at this moment I could feel a real lump in my throat as it hit me right then how fortunate I am. This important charity was set up by a family who lost their 16 year old daughter to a Brain Tumour after realising there wasn’t a specific charity set up to research this Cancer. If you wish to donate after reading my blog their site is at:- http://www.thebraintumourcharity.org/donate
James Dean Bradfield then took to the stage to perform an Acoustic set. The Manic Street Preachers front man delivered an almost haunting version of “If you tolerate this” and an equally emotion filled performance of the classic ” A design for life”
Liam Gallagher followed with support from Bonehead and others and delivered two 90’s Oasis classics. “Live Forever” was a fitting choice of song and one of my all time favorite Oasis tracks as well as “Supersonic” Liam certainly delivered and it was great to see them turn out in support of Jon.
It was only fitting that this amazing night of celebration was brought to a close by the three guys who have really felt the loss of Jon Brookes. The Charlatans performed an hour long set with classics included such as “North Country Boy” and “One to Another” it was another emotion filled set and one that brought the crowd once more back to their feet.
It was a truly amazing night and one that we will never forget. Jon’s wife wrote a piece that Adrian Chiles read out, thanking everyone for being there and the truly devastating effects that the family have felt because of this. All in all this was a fitting tribute to Jon and one that raised the importance that there is still so much work that needs to be done to beat Brain Cancer.
If you go down to the woods tonight, you’re in for a big surprise………. Sadly there are no teddy bears this time around, however that is where the disappointment ends, or relief begins! I am talking about The Laurel Collectives intimate offering of In The Woods 2013.
In The Woods is a festival with a difference, in fact many differences to those other festivals that many of you are familiar with. The only similarity that came to mind is the point where we exchanged our tickets for a wrist band. Once this formality was completed the whole experience and world offered to us was so very very different to that of a commercial festival.
For this years festival there were just under 1,000 tickets made available for sale. This number allowed for people working at the festival and the only way we were able to get tickets was from the lessons we learnt in our failings last year. The whole package is very secretive and the website gave very little away. If it wasn’t for my partner subscribing to the mailing list, we wouldn’t have received the link sent earlier this year to apply for tickets. These tickets were so hot, that they were all snapped up in less than 12 hours as soon as the remaining ones went on General Sale.
In The Woods is a festival founded by The Laurel Collective who are a band keen to give up and coming artists a platform and unique environment to showcase their talents. This was the same festival that a couple of years ago presented Alt-J and Stealing Sheep to the world. Alt-J subsequently won the Mercury Music Awards in 2012 and Stealing Sheep are becoming better known. This alone shows the power and success that this intimate festival can offer the bands that are hand picked to perform.
In The Woods is so shrouded in mystery that all we knew until 2 days before the festival was that the location was no more than an hour from London in Kent. We didn’t even know the line up, this was intended to prevent anybody from knowing about it. This made an already exclusive event even more so. Once we had located the venue only made possible by the delight of Google Maps we were presented with a field and a short walk to obtain our wrist bands. The security check was thorough, if we didn’t have ID that matched our tickets, we weren’t getting in. The next thing we were presented with was the most picturesque and mysterious entrance to what would be our surroundings for the next two days and nights.
The camping area was spacious and no more than 2 minutes away from the bar area and entrance to the woods. We got our smaller tent set up quickly and we found ourselves ready to explore. This was the first time that they opened for the Friday night and it was obvious that the majority of people present were keen to take up this opportunity. It was like the scene from Willy Wonker and the Chocolate Factory, everybody extremely keen to wander off and explore what was within the woodland arena. The promise of local foods and ales were fulfilled and this was all prepared in traditional ways. We were treated to Curry, Chorizo and Sausages as well as a Hog Roast with the first two cooked over large cauldrons sat on open fires. The bar was full of casked Ale whilst the choice of home made smoothies and Mojitos a welcome alternative. It had all been thought through carefully and the pub quiz on the Friday night settled people in nicely and created a vibrant buzz amongst the hay bales and retro board games.
It is at this point I am struggling to find the right words to describe this festival which do it justice. Imagine pathways within the woods covered in straw with plants on either side guiding you along. These pathways are covered by small pretty lights hanging amongst the trees to guide you along when it’s dark. As you first enter the woods you can help yourself to a mask pegged on lines, you can even stand behind one of many picture frames hanging from trees and have your photo taken behind them. There is a cardboard train and a saloon where you can find yourself in the Wild West and there are mysterious banners and bunting hanging from the trees branches that grace the pathways.
There are secluded areas that you can wander into and be thrown into a whole new scenario. Be it spoken poetry or written stories, we found ourselves stumble into a theatre staged Leafy Art Exhibition and tour which involved many characters that made even me question if they were real or acting.
Please check out Direct-H on Facebook, they were very very convincing and had me fooled. We were led around various art pieces including a Sodium Chloride Dog with an Electric Lamp and a Teddy Bear with a tilted head. The Artist holding the champagne studded show was none other than the flamboyant Damien Dali. With his surrounding cast of characters they put on a creative and entertaining show, with the hunt for votes and Damien a priority towards the end.
There is an area no bigger than a front room with two record players on and a big bundle of Vinyl Records. We sat down on the final night just soaking the atmosphere whilst listening to Alt-J album on Vinyl. The beauty of this festival is no matter where you are within it, you can find yourselves alone due to there being less than a 1,000 people there. It’s because of this you can truly let yourself escape and your mind wander.
So what about the music? Well the artists and bands played across two stages which were no more than a 30 second clamber through a woodland clearing. The performance times staggered so you could see them all perform. On the Friday night we saw Lianne La Havas open up the festival with beautiful piercing vocals and notes held so long you could really feel the Acoustics bounce off the trees surrounding us. We were sat at the back on a log looking down at the stage, the view absolutely magical. It was then we watched a film documentary called Searching for Sugarman which is truly amazing.
On the Saturday we threw ourselves in and checked out some of the other artists, all that we hadn’t heard of so we were bracing ourselves for what we’d hear. The highlights for me were Khushi, Nick Mulvey and Marika Hackman. Khushi will be going straight onto my IPod as they were fresh and pleasing to the ear. Their sometimes haunting vocals sent a shiver down my spine. Secondly on the smaller Laurel Lounge stage I was impressed with Nick Mulvey who I joked looked like Jack from Lost and was totally drawn in by Marika Hackman. She reminds me of Fredrika Stahl and as we heard her prepare for her set, it provided one of the closest and intimate moments of the entire festival. It was it this point you could feel the moment of tension before she launched into her set.
As the music drew to a close on Saturday night, the final moments presented an orchestral performance where there were trumpet players situated around the top of the Quarry Stage. We were sat next to one at one of the higher viewpoints, it sounded amazing. It wasn’t the end of the magic just yet, there was still so much more to offer.
The final breathtaking moment came when they lit the Bonfire which was situated in the field by the bar and food counters. This bonfire was massive and it was here that the welcome heat lost from leaving the woodland could be appreciated. As the flames stood tall and the orange specks filled the midnight sky there were also fire dancers performing around the edge of the bonfire. We also met back up with some people we met in the woods earlier in the day and enjoyed their company amongst others. It’s safe to say this is a moment that will not escape my mind in a lifetime.
So in conclusion, please don’t make this event any bigger, leave it be. This is amazing and the most intimate experience I’ve shared with others ever. That last line sums it up perfectly, no trouble, family friendly and easy to talk to and meet new friends. Amazing!!
I know I’ve missed many things but I truly hope this paints some of the picture I’m trying to paint. In The Woods 2014, I can’t wait!
As I sit down taking shelter from the Cornish wind, rain and mist, it certainly makes me appreciate the week away we’ve enjoyed. We have certainly been fortunate with the weather these last 7 days, so it’s only fair that we had one bad one thrown in for good measure. We have literally zipped up the tent and taken stock of our supplies in an effort to get through the day and night in one piece.
Now it may sound overly dramatic but it is like this when the elements are against you, that you truly appreciate the warmth. Throw in the satisfaction that you can safely erect a tent correctly so that you can enjoy the moments like these. So as we enjoy the sip of a cold San Miguel and nibble on the remaining Dairy Milk Nut Bar I stored in our fridge, I am really feeling the benefit of a great holiday break.
Yesterday we found the energy and desire to drive to the Lizard and visit one of the bays off this picturesque stretch of coastline. It is certainly a place that you could be forgiven for mistakingly thinking was in the Mediterranean. The weather was clear, bright and sunny. It was because of this that you could really differentiate between the greens and blues along the clear coastlines within the sea. I have to admit it looked not too dissimilar to the Aegan Sea that I swam in during our Greek holiday in May. We walked around 3 miles taking in many steep tracks and fields with the cliff top views a beautiful backdrop.
This is a place I visited a couple of years ago with my best mate James, however we went along a different route and the weather wasn’t so clear and kind. One other thing I noticed was the bright dark yellow glows that the Lichen had. Now I appreciate that this isn’t a fascinating subject, however it did drive home the fact of how clean and fresh the air is along this part of the country’s coastline. Lichen thrive on these conditions, which is why when you live in towns and cities the color isn’t that distinct or the areas aren’t as dense. I took this photo which I hope for all you Lichen enthusiasts shows off this fact.
One thing that me and my partner love about Lichen is the Water bears that live within them. If you haven’t heard or seen these, then please take a moment to go on YouTube and check them out.
On a more somber note it was sad to hear the passing away of Jon Brookes earlier this week. Jon was the drummer for the Charlatans, a band that we are both big fans of. I was very fortunate to meet the band for my birthday last year and we spent some time with Jon and the band before their Telling Stories gig in Edinburgh. In the time we spent with Jon, we found him to be a genuinely decent and friendly family guy. During the gig we were stood at the front and despite being one of many Jon threw his towel into the front row for which my partner caught it. It is rare that the death of someone famous actually hits you so hard. Jon you will be sadly missed and would like you to know that you really touched our lives. It is another painful reminder of how valuable life is.