Thursday, June 28, 2007

Glastonhurst Gravenblog Report

The previous three nights I played solo shows supporting Charlotte Hatherley in Birmingham, Bristol and Exeter. In Birmingham the audience was seated; this sometimes creates an atmosphere of slightly forced, Jazz Club reverence. It is difficult to tell whether the audience likes you or whether they are just staring at you like dead fish because they can’t really move without making a spectacle of themselves.
We got there late and I didn’t have my usual two hours of drinking and practising time to prepare myself, but I think I pulled it off.
The set was thus:
Cities Beneath The Sea
The Diver
Black Holes In The Sand
The Bristol show was bizarre. I was playing in my home town to an audience who mainly didn’t know anything about me (that’s the idea behind support slots, I’m told), and were happy to talk over me. I was happy to talk back.
“I’d like to dedicate this next song to the guy at the back loudly discussing the decline of Ceefax. Dude, you are so right about Teletext. Complete also-rans. I’m just as passionate about this as you are”.
But the same guy talked all the way through Charlotte’s set, and then fawningly got her to sign a poster afterwards. He hadn’t come to listen, he had come there to talk about being there whilst he was there. How blissful it must be to truly live in the moment like that.
Charlotte performed as a two-piece with band mate Charlie, ignored the buffoons, commanded 95% of the crowd with her own new material then reeled off clever acoustic cover versions of Wire’s ‘Outdoor Miner’, Simon Dupree and the Big Sound’s ‘Kites’, and Kim Wylde’s ‘Kids In America’. The following night we played The Cavern in Exeter. It sounds like a cavern. The room was empty so I made some noise and some people came in. We had to leave immediately afterwards, so we missed Charlotte’s set that night. The place was rammed though, and I imagine it was a triumph.
I reached the site at 9 am on Friday. After driving back from Exeter, my manager Michelle and I had been up until 3 am finishing the press release and biog for the new album. Even with special performers vehicle passes, laminates and wrist bands, it still took two hours, a couple of U-turns and some wildly conflicting directions from bewildered stewards to get to where the rest of the band had set up camp the night before. The wonderfully ordered chaos of Glastonbury is very egalitarian in that way. Artist, staff or punter, you will at some point find yourself deeply confused.
I reached my tent and tried to sleep. It was baking. Tranquilizers and Strongbow, woke up at 4pm. Drinking started immediately. As Charlie Brooker points out, for those of us who don’t count wading through rivers of mud and inhaling the gut-churning stench of shit amongst their hobbies, maintaining a constant, stable level of drunkenness is the best way to enjoy Glastonbury. Though this was nothing compared to what is currently happening up north.
Everyone but me was finding it relatively easy to remain upright. It turned out that my Wellingtons were in fact ‘deck boots’. These are flat bottomed and designed to provide suction on the wet wooden decks of sea vessels. Ignorant city boy. Then they split down the middle anyway, so I bought some boots from a fascist hippy (I assume he was a fascist, like thousands of other young rebels worldwide who hoist flags depicting the murderous totalitarian dictator Che Guevera)
Our first set of the festival was on the Late and Live tent, at 12 midnight
. Though we were delighted to be invited to play, it was a bit of a bummer because it made it impossible for me to see Hot Chip and Bjork, two of the acts on the programme that I was most excited about. It also meant that at least 100,000 Gravenhurst fans had to miss Bjork and Hot Chip too, and piled into the 200 capacity Late and Live tent. Seriously, the massive crowds at the main stages were a crude CGI animation hastily contrived by the panicking BBC producers who hadn’t done their research.
We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and that guy Pete who won the last Big Brother was totally wigging out down the front. In our final track, a ten minute-long cover of The Kinks ‘See My Friends’, I closed my eyes, tilted my head back and had a private Spacemen 3 moment. Robin had extra ‘shape-space’ on the right-hand side of the stage, and the most adventurous shape he pulled made his fake moustache fall off.
The set was:
The Velvet Cell
She Dances (new one)
Hollow Men (new one)
Trust (new single coming out on 23rd July)
Song From Under The Arches
See My Friends
My mum tells me Pete from Big Brother is friends with Ken Russell. I want to meet Ken Russell. I want him to make a pop video for us.
At some point that day, the BBC team managed to pick the wrong people for a vox pop. They crossed paths with my band mates Robin Allender and Alex Wilkins.
BBC person : “what’s been your favourite act so far?”
Robin: “umm… Amy Winehouse… I didn’t see her… I read her name in the programme… it was really good”
This was broadcast live, and presumably discarded for the edited ‘Best Bits’ coverage on BBC 2. I saw it on the ‘TV On Demand – Watch Again’ function. Someone may have uploaded it to you Tube, I’ll see if I can find a link.

Eight years ago I found a coat in a club. It said ‘SPIEWAK’ on it and probably cost £300 as a result. It isn’t really waterproof, so I decided to go back to to the totalitarian-apologist and buy something more suitable. I chose unwisely; a £15 raincoat keeps the rain out but your own sweat in, so after a few minutes of slogging through mud you feel like a slug in a condom.
Around 4pm Ed Harcourt played The Park stage. Thankfully the rain eased off. Apparently, Ed hadn’t been to bed since Wednesday. I had spent some time with him the night before and he seemed, like me, Inclined Towards Having A Good Time. But Ed is a professional, and during the beautiful ‘Until Tomorrow Then’ the consummate showman climbed up onto the PA speakers and serenaded the crowd solo through an antique broadcast microphone.
At some point on Saturday we hatched a plan for me to watch my label-mates Maximo Park (oh my boys… my boys…) from the side of the stage, then invade the stage, give Paul Smith a Morrissey fan-style hug and kiss and then run off, and presumably be ejected from the site, or possibly arrested. Naturally we didn’t have passes for the main stages and hospitality areas, but two security guards and two simple Jedi mind tricks later, we were at the heavily fortified Other Stage Artists and Crew entrance. At the last hurdle all I could play was the nepotism card. Fortunately, Maximo’s manager Colin probably thought he owed me a favour after kicking me out of their dressing room at Brixton Academy when he mistook me for a drug user. Maximo’s drummer Tom quickly explained ‘who I was’ and Colin was unnecessarily gracious and apologetic. He hadn’t realized ‘who I was’. I reassured him that I barely knew who I was.
So the security guard went to ask Colin, and a few minutes later I was about ten yards behind the band amongst a gaggle of screaming girlfriends and some quite important looking people. It was suggested that I push as far to the front of the backstage viewing area as possible, to perhaps be caught live on BBC TV, pale, twitching, and chewing my own face off. A girl got cross with me.
Me: (shouting) : “WHAT?”
Girl (shouting) : “YOU’VE GOT TO DANCE! COME ON, DANCE!”
Girl (oblivious, shouting) : “YOU’VE GOT TO DANCE! COME ON, DANCE!”
Girl (oblivious, shouting) : “JUST DANCE!”
I carried on doing what for me counts as dancing, and mercifully I ditched the extremely ill-advised stage-invasion plan. The crowd was going insane, Mr. Smith was totally in his element, and the band were properly rinsing it. They finished with ‘Going Missing’, which is my favourite track from ‘A Certain Trigger’. Looking at the BBC coverage, I was relieved to discover that I cannot be seen at the side of the stage.
After that I met up with my friend Sophie and brushed past a famous person -one of the blokes from Top Gear. On my way back to the tent I stopped off at a Portaloo. A sticker on the back wall read “THE OFFICIAL JO WHILEY TOILET’. I had a relatively early night; we had to get up to play The Park stage at 12.40 on Sunday.

At around 12.40 it started raining quite hard, and then eased off at around 1.10, when we finished our set. Most of the audience thought they were going to be watching Adele, because that is what it said in the festival program. Something mysterious happened just after it went to press and we were asked to play the slot instead.
I told the audience who we were, quite a few times, in case we gave Adele a confusing reputation. I said something along the lines of
“Hello, we are Gravenhurst from Bristol. We are not Adele. We are Gravenhurst. After 72 hours on this festival site we are now operating at optimum performance levels, and improving all the time”.
The set was:
The Velvet Cell
She Dances
Hollow Men
Song From Under The Arches
Black Holes In The Sand
I’m not good at counting audiences when I am in the process of Rocking Out, but apparently about 300 people were watching. This was truly touching; It was really pissing it down. Crimean War Field Hospital with better tunes and more effective medicines.
That night was the absolute high-point of the festival for me. I saw the fabulous Circulus, a medievalist prog folk band. Fairport, Jethro Tull and Early Music = Wickerman, Lake and Palmer. Fantastic. They were the only band I saw that truly rocked. And they were the only band I saw who wore wizard’s robes and animal masks. Then I got pissed with Martha Wainwright and Ed Harcourt. Networking? Name dropping? Sue me. It’s nothing compared to brushing past that bloke from Top Gear.


Neil said...

Sounds like you had a good time!

Frozen Tapwater said...

Well, I loved reading about your adventures. I hope to catch you live one day; make sure to grace us with your presence at the Lowlands Festival soon!

P.S. I love your style. It makes my particles tingle.


timw said...

Found the late and live stage on saturday. saw you played the night before. bugger. woke up on sunday after a few hours blackout to the strains of velvet cell and slurped my way over to the park stage. some things are better in the rain. like blackpool illuminations. great set. like the new stuff. roll on the new album.

Anonymous said...


I am very happy to say that I managed to catch both your sets.

Though to be fair, I only managed the last track of your first set - I didn't pull myself away from Squarepusher before the end of his performance (blame the happy pills), but I did dash past Bjork on the way to the late 'n' live stage, if that makes you feel any better. I never knew I could move so fast over that muddy ground...

Sunday was much more civilised. Nachos in the rain whilst sat on a soggy hay bale on a very muddy slope. Thankfully finally getting to see Gravenhurst play a full set help me transcend the environment. Great stuff.

I am very much looking forward to the forthcoming album, and the autumn tour - I hope you make it to Leeds or hereabouts.




Anonymous said...

Glad you came around to Bjork. You didn't seem to like Homogneic when I played it on a trip down to Petersfield a few years ago.