Thursday, 5 September 2013

Faversham Hop Festival 2013

There are times in drumming land that you go to a festival, especially a relatively local festival, one year thinking “ I'd love to get a gig here next year!”...... Little did I know.....

Faversham is a cracking little market town and 'medieval gem’ in the heart of Kent. (Sort of right of London and down a bit as you look at a map. (Assuming you still own a map) sat proudly on the old Roman road of Watling Street, or in modern day language The A2! For the past few years, during the first weekend of September and in celebration of the beer making plant of hops, Faversham comes alive with music of all genre, poets, comedians, food stalls, fine weather and a million plastic beer cups.
Lonnie Donegan Snr.
For the past couple of years, as well and stomping the 70s scene with Mud2, I have been playing drums with the brilliant Lonnie Donegan Jnr. Son of errrr Lonnie Donegan Snr. Keeping alive the music that really kicked off the “pop” scene as we all know and love today. Lonnie Donegan inspired all the greats of popular music to slope off to their local second hand shops (Pre Ebay.. don't y' know) buy a guitar, plonk a broom stick in a box, nick their mum's washboard and sing American labour working, and political songs, normally at great speed! This became known as Skiffle. Lonnie was the first to take this on in a big way and after serving as Chris Barber's banjo player he went out alone and rest is history.
It was mentioned over a pint with, Festival music organiser and general all round good bloke, Terry Carter, that Lonnie Jnr. would go well at the Festival. Having agreed to slum it and forego our usual rider of freshly painted magenta dressing room walls, four bowls of exotic fruit, sixteen cans of soft drinks, sixteen cans of organic beer, four comfy chairs, fresh cut flowers, two tubes of M&Ms with the red ones taken out, our own sound engineer flown in from Botswana and a tub of Greek yoghurt, Mr Donegan relented to the thumb screws and under some duress, agreed to get of bed on the Saturday and had me sign the contact with my blood...... well a Bic brio, but blood always sounds so much more rock and roll.
This, my dear reader, is when the fun started. First was Mr Carter from Carters Alibi. A blues band lovingly well know for playing, not very well known songs or well known songs in a not very well know way! “As you are going to be at Faversham in September,” Started Terry “could you play percussion with us please?”
I could see no problem, so long as there was time to get between stages. Agreed. Sorted. Done. Two gigs. Then “Oh, we are also playing on Sunday..... twice! Once at the Old Wine Vaults, then later on the Main stage.!” Four gigs!
Now I am a fair bloke BUT! Drum kits were supplied and I was on percussion duties, so I would have to sort a total strike at one gig, transfer congas, bongos, chimes, cowbells, blocks, timbale, cream buns, numerous shakie things, cymbals and, at the last count, fourteen million stands, to another stage! “Dear Santa, can I have a rack system please?”

The Sunday before Faversham,  I was approached by Dave Austin, a bass player type from the local band Keval. “I hear that you are at the Hop Festival next weekend!..... We need a drummer, could you sit in with us?” Now that's five gigs!!!

After looking at times and logistics, it would be possible as Keval were on a couple of bands before Lonnie Donegan Jnr. I would have time to do the set with Carter's Alibi, pop over to the Preston Street Stage set for Keval and be ready for Mr Donegan. Phew! Somehow I agreed to this madness! In for a penny..
Saturday morning arrived, Sarah and I set off with my drum kit and my percussion rig stuffed, like level seven Tetris, in the back of Morrison (my van).
Drum tech, manager, Moneypenny, agent, life saver
After negotiating the Faversham temporary road closures, balloon and candy-floss brandishing kids and some stalls set up in the wrong place, we made our way to the back of the Old Wine Vaults pub, the site of my first gig. Unloading, I met with David, The landlord from The Old Wine Vaults. He was taking his final look at the sun shine and enjoying a breath of fresh air before descending into the pub's beer cellar for the day. He told me that the Franco-British folk act Sur Les Docks had opened the festival there the night before and the beer had started running out! Yikes!! He was in for a busy day underground.
So then, T minus one hour. I am set and ready. Sarah had checked that I had everything and spent a fair amount of time going too and from Morrison to get “just one more thing please!” Priceless.
Terry Carter. Liking my shirt
I was hiding, safe behind a couple of congas and strategically placed cymbals to deflect any plastic beer cups that my come my way for wearing such a hideous shirt! The set went well. The jolly Dave Tetmar was on drums, large bloke, large character and massive amounts of talent to boot. We had a good ol' goof about swapping fours and chops (not, sadly, from the barbecue). This line up is great fun. Terry plays, what I could only describe as, “angry harp!” He must rewrite The Devil Went to Georgia and call it The Devil Goes down to Faversham and swap out fiddles for blues harps! He really gives it welly! His lovely wife Alison shares lead vocal and they indulge in jolly marital banter throughout. After about an hour Terry announces a break. “BREAK????!!” I had this down as a forty five minute set in total! I have another gig to get too! I check times, speed eat some splendid noodles from one of the concession stalls in the garden and re-join the stage. With this came permission to slope off early for the Keval Gig. Half an hour in, I leave the the garden trying hard not to stand on sax player Nick Wyver's soprano sax, or stumble over Graham Covus' pristine guitar effects unit., laid out quite scientifically on it's own little carpet. Bless. Mind you, it made sense as we were playing on gravel!
Me and one of the day's heroes, John Martin
in full Zydeco vest mode
With breakables for the drums on the Preston Street Stage and timbales for the expected reggae, Sarah and I battled our way through the crowd with soon to be heroes of the weekend John Martin (no not that one) and Steve Ellis.
The kit was a blue PDP on kind loan from Terry Carter. Now is it just me, or are there gremlins at festivals that eat cymbal felts, wing nuts and cymbal sleeves! And once your back is turned they sneak up and tighten every wingnut, bolt, cymbal stand and pedal release beyond the strength of Iron Man's second and more powerful cousin Iron Pain In the Bloody Arse Man!?
I don't mind things being secure, but when you have a hernia trying to unfasten a bass drum pedal the joke's well and truly OVER!

On stage with Keval
A good crowd turned up for Kevel and the self written songs, with a reggae slant, went really well. Dave really is a great bass player. Tons of feel and he comes, at no extra charge, with the dead pan look of all his four stringed kinsfolk. My problem here though, was the kit. Not PDPs fault or Terry's but it was falling apart around me. Being bass drum heavy music, I was giving it some right foot grief and it was rewarding me by running away during every song. Me then pulling it back, it running away and so on. The hi hat stand going in the opposite direction. I was stretching like a dancer. (There you go Sarah, I told you I wanted the Darcy Bussell video for training purposes only! ) I had opted not to use my very lovely Paiste Alpha cymbals due to the lack of felts and sleeves and had a tatty old 14” Stag entry leval hi-hat cymbal (with only the one split) for a crash and a, god only knows what sort of ride, that I don't remember using! The hats were an old pair of Paiste Rudes, now these I know I could bash about with ease! Such fun! 
Keval went well. Nice chaps too. Thanks for the gig. My sore, pulled inner thigh muscles not throbbing just nicely thank you!
Next up for me was Lonnie Donegan Jnr. I came off from Keval and I was called over by my good friend Clive Sullivan. “Problems with the kit?”
PROBLEM???Do bears poo in the woods?!”
Clive had brilliantly done a reckie and found a way to get Morrison to an alley way across the road from the stage and get my own kit up. What a top chap.
This could be a problem though as all stages were “backline supplied” plus with only a 15 minute change over it would be damn near impossible. There was one more band on, then Lonnie!!

Lonnie Jnr
I spoke with the stage manager and short from becoming all Joan Collins in a Snickers advert, I made the pledge to keep the change over to fifteen minutes, but my kit just had to go on for Donegan. Seeing that I was close to tears and my bottom lip trembling like a three year the stage manager relented and ran for a pub.
I drove Morrison around Faversham to the alley and backed up. John Martin and Steve Ellis were there. We then, one piece at a time, made our way time after time through the crowd with the gear. I think five trips took half an hour. I apologize now for any knocked legs, trodden on toes, jogged pints (in plastic cups) and bruised backs of children's heads.
We unpacked the kit (my trusty old 1985 Gretsch that I have had since new.) and set it up, in call out order, along the side of the building next to the stage. (I bet Carl Brazil would have loved this gig. We must swap one one day!!!) The on stage band finished and we went for it. Once the drummer had cleared, I handed the PDP down to Steve and John, then my gear came up in clock work order. Mat, with Baskey Mat Markers.. Worth their weight in gold, especially in these time tight situations. Kit up, stands up and with a big sigh of relief, my Paiste Alphas on and looking shining and ready for action in the late afternoon sun. I have had the Alphas a couple of years now and they are just the bee's knees. I can tickle them and they respond or I can knock seven bells out of then and they never choke. Glorious I tell you, glorious! Well, did we do it in fifteen minutes? Nope. We did it in TEN!!! I took off my two gig old, hideous shirt and smartened up for Mr Donegan. By now a really big crowd had formed and even though accustomed to longer sound and line checks, Lonnie Jnr was Martin acoustic and banjo ready! It was like a skiffle home coming! The place took off. People of all ages were singing, dancing and having a great time. Even laughing at the “policeman in a dustbin” joke. Funny since 1959! The slots were a strict 45 minutes so we couldn't do any more but if we could have, we could have just played and played. It was a real buzz. Brilliant end to a first day. Topped off only by Sarah and I going off with John and Steve and their respected others Fiona and Mandy for a curry. Perfect.
I will be returning to Kent with Lonnie Donegan Jnr on October 4th Whitstable and October 26th Chatham's Brook Theatre. Details of these and other UK dates HERE (add Web Link) We are doing full theatre shows so time for a load more tunes. It is a cracking band and Lonnie Jnr is doing his dad proud.Do come along Tickets from the respective box offices.
Home to bed... back tomorrow.

Sunday morning greeted me with aches and pains! I had over done the dad dancing while brandishing a tambourine or two so I suppose I was getting my punishment.
Then Dave Tetmar realizes he's asked me to play with his band!
First gig of the day was Carter's Alibi, back at The Old Wine Vaults. Landlord Dave had very kindly allowed us to leave stuff in the kitchen over night so the load-in was a doddle. Soon I was set and ready to go. Bass player Don Vanns was on top form. I am a fan of four to the floor bass players, but Don wanders all over the place but manages to keep it really tidy. Mind you with one Mr Dave Tetmar going hell for leather, if Don wasn't solid it could have turned into free form jazz with a cherry on top. I love working with Terry Carter he picks on some really unusual feels and genre. Even giving everyone a taste of Zydeco. He armed me with a Zydico rub vest, handed two out to the crowd and I set of around the garden.
Shaking things down with Carter's Alibi
The two sets went well and as I was striking down for the transfer to the festival Main Stage for my last gig, drummer Dave Tetmar asked me if I would play percussion with his band, playing original material. GIG NUMBER SIX! My rig would already be on the stage so it would be a matter of a fifteen minute break and back on.
Transferring all of my nonsense from the pub to the main stage was epic! A three hundred yard plod through thousands of people with a conga bag on my back while leaning over to waist height pushing a flight case was a challenge. I won't go into any detail about the sights I saw at this level but some people really can't own, or refuse to use a mirror! Jeepers! The good side of the trip was the brilliant Unison Bendz were hammering out pub rock classics from the main stage. This band is quite brilliant. A relatively new concern but singer and leader Dave Mac' is pushing boundaries and they are establishing themselves as a band to go and see.
The short set with Terry Carter went well and I was introduced to Rosco Levee. A singer songwriter from Kent. Now I must have had my head in the local River Medway sand or mud because I have never come across Rosco, but the thronging audience numbers started to wake me up to the idea that they could be good!
Ok, so I was over doing it!
A traditional Morris Dance troop did a great display of pre drinking worship in front of the stage then the whole area was solid with people. My side of the stage was open to the view and l to my right were just loads of people. I had ascertained that the band played southern rock so it should be lively. I was in position just waiting for the off when Dave Tetmar called me. “Pip! By the way, in the first song there is a break down and we'll need a conga solo!!!!!” Christ!! Thanks pal!
Rosco Levee and the Southern Slide were introduced to a massive cheer and it all kicked off. Within four bars I knew this band had it all! Feel, energy, stage presence and believe me, a future. It was amazing. If you mixed up the feel of the Allman Brothers with a helping of Lynyrd Skynyrd, topped off with the rockier edge of catchy Eagles' songs, powerful lead vocals and harmonies. Not to mention grinding Hammond and perfectly tasteful slide guitar, I may be half way to describing the band's brilliance. Sadly I got carried away towards the end of the set and caught a conga rim with my right hand just below my pinky! The pain went up my arm like an electric shock, past my neck and into my jaw bone. I thought all my teeth were going to fall out and I almost wet myself!!! Still, worth it for the experience. Rosco and the lads enjoyed my playing and have invite me to join them on larger gigs. In these situations, I have learned, they go out as a nine piece band, brass, backing singers, the whole nine yards. And now me makes it ten! Bring-it-ON!
Rosco Levee and The Southern Slide
Please check out Rosco's website. The album "Final Approach To Home" is available HERE It's fantastic. Go on Treat yourselves!

An amazing festival, great music, the legendary Lyn Sullivan popping from stage to stage with comic verse, the Ukaholics, great food, real ale and so much more. Please, please committee next year again please!

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