SoL 2016 Part 1

I set off for Kent after breakfast,not entirely convinced I had everything I needed but as I got further and further down the motorway the only thing I could come up with that I’d meant to take was a bottle of cider from the fridge and I figured I could live without that! I stopped in Bishop to fill up with fuel at Tesco and as I went in the shop to buy some water the man offered me some little bottle of orange juice which he’d reduced to 5p. I decided to take 2.

The only other time I stopped was at Blyth to go to the loo and I was in Beckenham by 2:45. When I got up this morning I suddenly remembered that I hadn’t paid for the Dartford crossing so I paid for 2 crossings. However as I approached the M25 I realised that the SatNav was directing me to the Blackwall instead. I figured that at this time of day it should be ok and it was. Never mind I can use the other crossing when I go down for Becky’s graduation. As I drove into Eclipse I saw Simon and old friend Jon Taylor walking out so I stopped and we chatted for a while. Then when I went to pick up the equipment no one knew where it was but eventually they discovered that it hadn’t been checked out as Keith hadn’t confirmed the job. They did sort it out eventually but it meant I didn’t get away from there as quickly as I would have like so I didn’t get to Hawkhurst till nearly 5:30.

I had worried on the way down that the marquee would be in the wrong place or they’d forget the tables or the stage would be put up wrong. The only thing I hadn’t worried about was the generator not being there. As I drove in I could see the stage and the marquee and everything looked ok but as I said the generator wasn’t there and they’d specifically said afternoon as they didn’t do evening deliveries. I found somewhere with mobile signal and rang. It turned out they’d been delayed and they would be there shortly. As I was on the phone the PA turned up and shortly afterwards the genny did too! Result!

We set about rigging sound and lights. Peter the lighting man had brought someone with him to help him which was fine by me as it meant I didn’t have to do it! I did help Jay with some of his stuff as he had hurt his back and lifting heavy speakers wasn’t helping. Soon we had a working PA and the Djs turned up and played music until just after 11.

At some point during the evening just as the sun was setting a fantastic rainbow appeared in the sky. The sunset was behind us and the rainbow in front and it seemed like the whole sky was lit up for us. People literally stopped what they were doing and came out to look at this glorious sight. It was as far as we were concerned a good omen!

I didn’t actually get up until 8 the following morning – I had been a bit cold over night as I didn’t have the double sleeping bag I was used to and it was a bit uncomfortable as I was to later find out the two sleeping mats had drifted apart in the night! I also has a attack of cramp in the night that kept recurring just when I thought it had finally gone! It rained a little overnight but the weather was looking good for the first day of the festival!

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I got up and turned the generator on to make some tea and ate the pain au chocolats I’d brought with me. I opened the fridge to get the milk out and I remembered the 5p orange juice from yesterday which went down a treat. I then set about running cables to the bar for the sound and video feed but when I went to turn the video camera on it appeared to be dead. I got the other one out but it turned out that I had picked up the wrong power supply. This wasn’t looking good. After doing a few other things I returned to the camera issue and I noticed that the battery charge light was flashing which meant that power was getting into the camera. I plugged the output into a monitor and there was a picture! Happy as a pig in shit I closed the screen flap on the camera and as I did I saw the viewfinder spring into life. At this point I remembered two things about this camera! One I got it from Freecycle BECAUSE the fold out screen didn’t work and secondly that if you open the flap the viewfinder goes off!

By this point our first act King Size Slim has arrived and we soon had him set up and we were off!

King Size Slim

Next up were Brainiac 5 who were the only band i wasn’t that keen on all weekend but others seemed to enjoy them and then after that there was the welcome return of Sharron Kraus playing initially her own stuff but then being joined by Gillian Chadwick they did a second set as Rusalnaia. I did finally pluck up enough courage to give Sharron a copy of the film I made last time she appeared at SoL – I’d brought them to give one to Barry Melton but remembered that she was in it too!

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The Hank Wedel Trio was next but as several people pointed out there were only 2 of them, they also pointed to the fact that Brainiac 5 only had four members but that was different! Hank is from Ireland and a really nice bloke as well. His set was well received and included his Grateful Dead “tribute song” Weir and Garcia.

Squeezing in a quick set was former Country Joe and the Fish bassist Bruce Barthol who opened up with the I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die-Rag with John Roberts on the spoons! He’ll be back tomorrow for another set with his old bandmate Barry Melton.

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The next part of the show was the bit I’d been looking forward to so I was glad that the cake I’d eaten at lunchtime had worn off a bit by the time it started! First up Trembling Bells did a set of their own material which was, I have to confess, a lot rockier than I had been expecting. This had a lot to do, as far as I could see, with the guy playing guitar.

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After they’d finished what I was expecting to be a short interlude while Mike Heron came on turned out to be a major change over with additional keyboards (played by his daughter) and the addition of a fiddle player but to be honest it was worth the wait! The Incredible string band set was sublime – we’ve had both Mike Heron and Robin Williamson here now but this set was a lot more ISB based than Robin’s. The opened with Maya which was sung by the Trembling Bells keyboard player with Mike coming on right at the end. The set then had a tune from Be Glad which segued into Spirit Beautiful and was followed by This Moment which they played at Woodstock apparently. Black Jack Davy took the temp up before coming back down for Chinese White and Air and finally finishing off with a Very Cellular Song. This had to be one of my favourite moments of all ten years of SoL (I told Mike Heron the following day!). There was a brief encore of Mike and his daughter singing Bring Morning Star which replaced Log Cabin Home which was what was written on the set list!

Mike Heron

The night finished off with a band from America called Coral Creek. I hadn’t really heard much of their stuff but Chris seemed to think they’d be good and it was said they’d throw in a few Grateful Dead tracks too. As they were coming on I was looking at the time and I didn’t think they’d get past 11 let alone go on till midnight. However I was so wrong the band were fantastic even though there was only 3 of them having not brought the drummer or bassist along! They played some of their own stuff and then did a whole Grateful Dead set (“we know a lot of Dead tunes”). they were  later joined by Brian, Hank Wedel’s percussionist, hank himself and the fiddle player from Trembling Bells and eventually having been throughly entertained we had to ask them to stop playing at quarter to one in the morning!

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One of the things I love about SoL is how many of the bands hang around after they’ve played. Brainiac 5 were there all day and Sharron Kraus only left after Mike Heron. Trembling Bells hung around all weekend and Coral Creek and Hank Wedel didn’t go till the following morning. Bruce Barthol was around for most of the day too before getting a lift back to his hotel but he’s back again tomorrow. I also like the way people do and make things that add to the ambiance without being asked or paid to do so. For the second year running we had lights lining the main path to and from the stage – put together by Pete and Jackie – just weighted paper bags with tealights in them but oh so effective!

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I have to hang around until all the band’s gear has been put away and the lights and generator can be turned off. Coral Creek gave me a copy of their CD which was nice .It had been a great day with lovely weather and as I crawled into my tent at half one I had a huge grin on my face and I was really looking forward to doing it all again tomorrow!

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