SoL Party 2nd/3rd August 2019 – Part 1

I wanted to get away early so I was up at 6 despite not having slept very well overnight. I had a shower and something to eat and then put the rest of the stuff in the car. I took dog dog for a walk and then set off at about half seven. I stopped off at Tesco in Bishop Auckland to go to the cashpoint and get some fuel but after that I drove straight through all the way to Hawkhurst – the traffic was ok except for a brief hold up over the Dartford crossing but I did have to divert down the A1 rather than go down the M11 as it was closed. I arrived on site at SoL around half one.

The Marquees were already up and I could see the stage people were starting to set the stage up and so far it all looked good. Pete who does the lights was there and he had a mate called Simon with him to give him a hand. I parked up my car next to the control marquee and unloaded the boxes into it and then moved it to it’s usual position and parked up and put my tent up. The weather was nice and the ground was quite dry as they hadn’t had the rain we had got over the past two days!

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The next thing to arrive was the generator and when it was in place I wasn’t convinced the guy delivering it knew what he was doing! When he switched it on an alarm started to go off – constantly beeping – and he didn’t know what it was for or how to stop it! He also didn’t seem to understand my question about phases on the distro board either. Maybe that was why he asked me when he arrived if I knew what I was doing with it! It all seemed to be running ok but the beeping continued after he left! I ran out the cables and discovered that we only just had enough and that the 16A-13A convertors only had a single 13A socket on them!

The next interesting job was to get the projector up – last year we’d had a truss but it didn’t look right so we decided to do it a different way. I’d asked the stage company to provide a ladder but they told me at the last minute that they didn’t have one! There was one on site but it was a bit short so we had to use one of the staging units so we could reach. This was fine till it had the PA on it and we needed to get to the projector again – then we had to improvise!

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More people were arriving now including both Jay who does sound and the PA company. It wasn’t too long before we had everything up and running and we made a mental note to apply for a short period of time within the licence to allow for soundchecks on the Thursday next year! The DJs were set up and the video feed was ran out to the bar, all the lights were up and just needed focussing. It was definitely beer o’clock! Except I actually fancied a cider! I wandered up to the bar and purchase a good pint of the stuff!

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It was a lovely evening and there was meant to be music in the bar area but nothing much seemed to be going on. After I finished my pint I contemplated opening one of the bottles of beer that I had brought for this evening but in the end what I really fancied was another cup of tea! I was actually very tired and decided that I would call Sarah and then call it a night. I was in bed by about half ten and of course the music started shortly afterwards and woke me up at intervals during the night!

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Of course one of the problems of going to bed early is that I wake up stupidly early as well. I was wide awake at 5am this morning and after getting up and going to the loo I tried to get back to sleep and failed! I gave up at half six and got up and went for a wander around the campsite which was lovely in its early morning state. Tim was up and I got some hot water off him for a cup of tea as I felt it was too early to fire up the genny just for a cuppa.

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As yesterday had gone so well the only thing I had left to do apart from putting my computer back on the control area table was to run a sound feed up to the second stage which took about 5 minutes!  I had been wearing a pair of sandals I’d found in my wardrobe since I got up but my feet were starting to hurt and I discovered that it was less painful to walk around barefoot that in the sandals so I stayed that way for most of the rest of the day! Jay and I headed up to get some breakfast at about 8:30 but for some reason there was no food available this morning – very disappointing! I sat myself down outside my car and put some music on and opened the doors and  just sat and listened and waited till the DJs started at 10am!

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The live music kicked off at 12 with a band that appeared last year Catfish John who play music a la the Jerry Garcia Band, it was a nice way to get the day started.

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This year the second stage was given more prominence and as one act finished on one stage another one was ready to go on the other stage. While the first band were getting their equipment off the main stage I wandered up and caught a bit of Lorenzo Gehlen on the second stage – it wasn’t for me though so I only stayed for a song or two!

Lorenzo Gehlen

Next on the main stage were blues guys Robin Bibi and Dave Rapael. They hadn’t appeared yet and we were getting concerned. I was informed that one of them was here and the other was 5 minutes away. I tracked one of them down and we were just discussing setting up when the other Robin appeared. We had a good laugh and joke with them especially when Robin was trying to mime stomp box which looked more like he was telling us he had a bad leg! The blues ins’t really my thing but I enjoyed their set very much and spent a while standing by the stage trying to capture a shot of Robin playing the slide guitar!

Robin Bibi and Dave Raphael

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There was a change of running on the second stage and when I got up there I found a young lady who I think was called Alex Kremakova doing some electronic stuff!

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I had to keep popping back to the main stage and when I returned she had moved over to playing the piano, she sounded very talented but it wasn’t the same as what I’d heard before! There was also a change on the main stage, John had been on his way to the site yesterday when the headliners for tonight rang up and pulled out. The guitarist has a septic finger (ow I know how he feels) and is unable to play the guitar so we have moved up Crowded Weather to the headline slot and got someone who appeared last year Ron Turman Border to take their place now!

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Last year I had regretted not being able to watch all of the sets by some of the acts on the second stage because I had to keep popping back to make sure everything was going well on the main stage and also disappointed that no one recorded them so this years as I was getting all my stuff together I thought about it and managed to cobble together a little recording rig. It consisted of a microphone stand to which I had attached a Sony ECM DS70 (which is probably a fake but still works well) microphone. I had then found a stereo minijack extension cable which allowed me to cable tie the minidisc recorded bag to the stand in order to allow me to leave it unattended! I had decided I would record only four or five bands and the first one to try it out on was Dead Eyed Jacks.

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They were one of the four Grateful Dead cover bands that we seem to have booked for this year’s event. I think it was too much personally and as much as I love the Dead having two Dead cover bands on the main stage tomorrow is taking the piss as far as I’m concerned! The Diamond Eyed Jacks though were appearing here for the first time and despite the fact that they were without their keyboard player they did a fine job including a sterling version of The Other One. I managed to watch more of their set than I was intending because back down on the main stage one acoustic act was replacing another and we had two hours for the change over!

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I have to confess I was a bit dubious about booking Edgar Broughton and even more so when I found out he was doing an acoustic set but he was very very good. He even signed my programme for me!

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At some point during the morning I realised that I had burnt my finger the pervious evening but had absolutely no idea how I had done it! There was a blister on the end of my finger but try as hard as I could I couldn’t remember how I had done it! Then tonight, just as things were starting to get a bit fuzzy I sat down on the back of my car and went to adjust the worklamp I had in there. As I did my thumb touched the bulb cover and suddenly I remembered how I had burnt my finger the night before!

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When the line up was announced I checked out the headliners on the second stage and thought they were brilliant so I really wanted to see them and if possible record their set so I trundled off up to the top of the field and set up my recording rig underneath the tree. When they came on they were everything I was expecting – really cool jazz (described as dank by the compere!). I watched as much of their set as I could but found it difficult to take photos as much of the light seemed to be pointing at the audience rather than the band!

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It was during their set that I finally remembered to turn on the raw setting on my phone which I hoped would give me a better chance of editing the images after the event! I’ve had mixed success with it but sometimes it helps!

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After they finished I collected my recording stuff – it came out really well – and headed back to the control tent. I got there just as John popped his head round the corner and asked jay if it was possible to get two more microphones on the stage. Jay had been struggling with the soundcheck especially the cello and had already been told there were two more guitar amps to mic up. Now at the point where they were almost ready to go and being asked for more stuff he replied as diplomatically as possible with “You’ve got to be fucking joking!” John made a tactical withdrawal!

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This was the third time that Crooked Weather have appeared at SoL but their first time as headliners. They have been very popular with the festival goers but they’ve never really grabbed me that much. Tonight it was different – maybe because of the lights or maybe just because of certain chemicals but they stormed it!

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At the end of their set the band were joined on stage by Barry Melton and Stephane Missri which they had also done a few days earlier in Hull. Barry has been coming to SoL since the very first one and over the past couple of years his health hasn’t been great. Last year he had a fall a few days before the show and had damaged his arm so spent all of the gig sitting down and having to lift his arm onto his guitar. This year although his shoulder is better he has a bad back so is once again sitting down to play.

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So that was day one over. We waited till the band had got all of their kit off the stage and packed up the control area. Once it was all done I switched off the generator and we wandered up to the bar area to see what was happening.

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We ended up by the fire where one of the festival goers started talking to me and I couldn’t get rid of him. he went on and on and on and on and eventually I took the chance and moved somewhere else and went to sit on a hay bale but he found me again and when he started droning on about Trump (he’s American) I decided enough was enough and made my excuses. I walked back to the bar where I found John with two Irish friends who were just starting to sing Ripple so I sat down and listened. I thought I would talk to John after they had finished but there was a guy filming the festival and he was filming the two musicians while they played. Afterwards he started to film John so I decided to head off to my bed – it was 2am by then anyway!

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