I wanted to be away quite early because as I was getting paid to do SoL this year I felt I couldn’t leave the organisation to other people. I already knew that the marquees would be there before me but as I had sent through a comprehensive document showing where and how they needed to go I felt justified in not being around when they arrived. So I got up at half five and was on the road just after 7.
Even at that hour it already had the makings of a beautiful day and after stopping to fill up with fuel in Bishop Auckland i didn’t stop again until I was on site in Hawkhurst. As I drove down the M11 it seemed to get one degree hotter for every twenty miles i travelled. It was almost 30°C by the time I arrived and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I could feel the heat almost the second I got out of the car!
The marquees were both up and in the correct places so that was a bonus. I sat down on a hay bale and ate my lunch before I attempted to do anything else. I then offloaded the car putting all the technical stuff in the control marquee and put my tent up next to my car. Soon after this the first of the suppliers started to arrive namely the generator people. We had great fun trying to get the genny off the back of the truck that delivered it! The wheel wouldn’t lock down so when we tried to wind it up the wheel just folded up. Eventually we got it free by a combination of a block of wood and jumping on the bumper of the truck! While this was going on Here and Now’s first album was being played loudly by what turned out to be one of the bands, Dubbal!
I started to contact all the others and they all said they were on their way. I told Tim this and he said “even the toilets?” Oh shit where were the toilets. I started to ring the company but reception was so crap it took ages to get through and then by the time I’d explained to the person on the other end of the phone I’d lose the signal! This went on for a while until eventually they said the driver would be about 15 minutes (which is probably code for he’s just leaving the depot now!) The guy did turn up and I had to direct him to the places where the loos needed to go but once I’d shown him the places he just got on with it!
I was so hot by this point and covered in sweat. I drank lots of water and kept putting my head under the tao but I could still feel a bit of a headache coming on. The stage arrived next followed by sound and lighting. My plan had been to have everything inside the marquee but the sound guy said the PA could go outside and lighting decided that it was never going to rain so they’d put their truss outside too, which meant that it could go up higher. At some point during the set up I was made a cup of tea and after drinking it I felt a bit sick. I went into the disabled loo and promptly threw up. Afterwards I decided a little lie down was in order so I left them to it and had a little nap! I felt much better when I woke up half an hour later.
We continued working until all the sound and lights were rigged. At some point the DJs turned up with their equipment so we rigged that in too. We put on a CD to test and were just discussing if it was ok to play some music when the owner of the land turned up to say that one of the neighbours had already been on the phone complaining that the licence only said Friday and Saturday so we had to turn it off. I ran the cables into the bar for the video projector and the audio cable to the second stage and by that time I figured that I felt well enough so it must be beer o’clock! I hadn’t been given any tokens by this point so I decided that I would have to buy my own. They didn’t have the Dark Star on yet so I had something else and after having to point out that they had short changed me I took it back to the car to drink.
Pete was still setting up the lights and stuff and everything was starting to look really cool! It was a beautiful clear night and much darker than it would be at that time of night at home. You could see loads of stars including the Milky way, I don’t remember seeing the stars like this here before. I did consider getting my camera out but didn’t in the end. We sat on the stage and chatted for a while but when the others decided to call it a night I wandered around talking to people until I too decided that it was probably time for bed!
Woke up about half seven and put the generator on to make a cup of tea! I had a wander around the site while it was still quiet! I love how so many people pull together to make SoL what it is, people who aren’t even involved in the running bring things or do things that just add to the whole ambience! Two guys set up a fabulous tent with lights and flowers and do face painting. Another guy borrow an axe and was busy chopping the stems off some brambles that had been cut down. Titus, the son of the landowner, had done a great job in putting together the site and the second stage (which had a great line up and probably a better light show than the main stage) and his friends were all involved in various art projects around the site! Sadly the tie-dye workshop had to be cancelled due to the water shortage!
I still didn’t have any vouchers and when I was hungry they hadn’t started serving breakfast so I headed back to the car and ate the pasty thing I had bought for last night but not eaten! I made myself another cup of tea and sat and watched the world go by! Soon people started to emerge and we had and who wanted to set up their stuff to save time later! Very soon it was 11 o’clock and our first act Katy Spencer was on stage. When she started to play there was no one there but the audience soon flocked to the stage once they heard her voice.
Next up was Sam Brothers – when we booked the Pretty Things their manager recommended him as he manages him as well. I thought he was great, very talented although he did keep saying here’s one I learned from XYZ blues singer as if he had learned it directly from them even though they had died well before he was born!!!
It was getting really hot by now and the temperatures were in the low thirties for most of the day.
people were squashed into any shade they could find. I don’t usually sit in the control tent that much, preferring to sit on the tail of my car but today I sought out the cover of the marquee just to stay out of the sun!
Luckily I now had vouchers (although I did have to have a bit of a disagreement to get enough to be able to eat and drink during the 20 hour day!) so a beer was now in order. I’d put on my walking boots again this morning but by midday they had been jettisoned and I spent most of the rest of the weekend wandering around the site barefoot!
The first band, Catfish John were almost set up by the time Sam finished so they were soon off playing a selection of tunes from the Jerry Garcia Band repertoire. As someone pointed out only a Deadhead band could have half of their write up in the programme as an explanation of how the band got their name and how often Jerry Garcia played the song! The programmes were excellent – designed by Martin Bedford who had set up a merchandise stall next to my car!
As I mentioned earlier various art projects were going on around the site including one set up by the tree stump behind my car!
Sarah Tonin were the next band on the main stage – they’d played here twice before and guitarist Chris Parris once filled in when one of the acts was running late. Their set was good but I managed to mess up the recording because the signal coming from the mixer was overloaded and I didn’t spot it!
While the next band were setting up I wandered up to the second stage where there was an act I fancied seeing. Mike and Solveig are the guitarist from Trembling Bells and a Norwegian fiddle player. They were very good and I wished I could have stayed and watched their entire set. I’d have bought their LP as well if I had known they were selling it (Bruce Barthol did just that!)
Eddy Smith and the 507 were the next band on the main stage – they went down well but it was a bit too polished for my taste!
Then back to the second stage where Wildflower Seed were doing a short set. Tim on bass was also one of the DJs this year. Wildflower Seed had headlined SoL in 2015 and some of them played with the Terrapins at the last one.
Next up on the main stage were Crooked Weather – this is the second time they’ve played SoL and they’re very popular!
After Crooked Weather we had a gap of an hour because the idea was to allow the headlining act on the second stage enough time to do their set. I popped up to see Roger Hubbard who had played here in 2008 and 2010 with Buick 6.
In the end though the main stage headliners finished their soundcheck and just started fifteen minutes early – there was nothing we could do to stop them!
I have to confess that the Pretty Things have never really figured in my musical universe over the many years. I was obviously vaguely aware of them but don’t think I could have named a single track or album. I went down the front to take some photographs and while I was there I was left with an open mouth by some very fine guitar playing by Dick Taylor! I did enjoy the band – I’m not sure if I think they were worth the money we paid for them but hey everyone was happy!
After they’d packed up and everyone else had sloped off to bed I headed up to the bar and bumped into some of the members of Catfish John and the Grateful Dudes. I got there just as guitars were being brought out and sat and enjoyed listening to them play some Dead tunes until I finally had to admit defeat around about half one!