On the face of it, the lyrics to surf trip couldn’t have been less appropriate than when we sang them at Green Man last week. A song about sun-kissed, carefree days at the beach… well, look a little closer, pilgrim. Surf trip is about surf trips with friends, not about surfing. It’s about being surrounded by people that you love and trust so that even if you fall off a surf board or set out across pointy rocks, you know they’ll catch you if you fall.
So as we trudged through the mud to get our gear to the stage, I was smiling because that is where I want to be, warm days and smiling friends. Laughter and new experiences shared.
Confronted, earlier in the week, with flood warnings for the festival, it would have been easy to be disappointed. The mood at our Thursday night run through was great, though. We’ve come this far and we’re getting used to… I was about to type ‘marching into the unknown’ - I think ‘shambling off, half-arsed, with no plan’ is a little closer to the truth. This was certainly much less daunting than driving towards the channel tunnel in our ubercampenbussen a few years ago.
Having a gig the next day, I was equally prepared to camp or not to camp. That was the question. The huge swathe of tents crammed together in the mud like a slightly festive refugee camp was enough to make up my mind. I was, however, looking forward to seeing Roo put up his tent. Roo was clad in wellies, shorts and a long waxed jacket - making him look like a really posh flasher. I imagined the imminent construction of his tent was going to resemble a Tourettes-afflicted country gent raping a hang-glider. I was denied this joyful spectacle when it took us so long to find Roo that he’d befriended a couple of families nearby and they’d helped him to set up. Roo and Jen had already charmed their new neighbours sufficiently to drag them along to the gig, so with the prospect of friendly faces in the crowd we squelched off in search of food and a stage to play.
This gig had come courtesy of the wonderful people at Geek Pop - do check them out when you‘ve a chance. We were greeted by the ever-smiling face of Hayley and introduced to the crew of Einstein’s Garden. It was a rather fetching little section of the festival and I imagine than in the sun, it would have been a little grotto of paradise. The other great benefit of the sun would have been that it would have taken a little stress off the Solar Stage, where we were about to play. A solar powered stage in the foothills of the Brecons, in August. Yeah, we know. Surely hydro-electricity would have been the way to go? We could have had a lightshow that would have been visible from space…
We’ve played more competently, we’ve played more fluently but it was still a decent performance, I felt. What mistakes there were seemed to go largely unnoticed by our small but perfectly formed audience and even though the quieter parts of the set were accompanied in a somewhat avant-garde fashion from the next stage along, there seemed to be nodding, foot tapping (well, splashing) and general signs from the onlookers that traditional festival gift for the unappreciated artist - the plastic bottle of piss - would not be winging our way any time soon.
There were some memorable moments: Caleb’s first solo, straining our sustainable power source to its limits, actually made me jump. Not as much, however, as the litre of cold water down Roo’s back in mid song made him leap sideways. What sticks out for me personally, though, was that for most of the gig, we seemed to be ‘in the moment’. It’s so easy, sometimes, to walk on stage, tune up and then disappear into a furious world of concentration and self-consciousness and then before you know it, it’s all over and all that’s there to tell you that you played a gig is a damp shirt and ears ringing from standing too close (within a kilometre) of Caleb’s amp. Last week, though, we seemed to be chatting, communicating and laughing together. I don’t know what the audience made of it but I had a whale of a time. I’m also fairly sure that I saw a whale swim past me one time.
The ‘above and beyond’ awards definitely go to Rob, for trekking out to see us; to Harry, for joining the band for ‘Kiss the Girls’ and most of all to Jen for managing to be president of our fan club, the drummer’s hot groupie and watchful mother simultaneously in a noisy swamp without her smile slipping the once. Kudos to you all.
Big shouts also to Hayley for the gig, to Ellen for organising us, to the technical and hosting crew of the Solar Stage and to the other artists that shared it with us. You’re all fab.
Another burst of kit-lugging, then a pleasant little interlude as we were permitted beyond the velvet rope for artiste’s catering, a hugely welcome, cosy meal in a warm marquee filled with laughter and chat.
Then home and my single sombre note of a wonderful day.
On the way home, being tailed by Rob, we were mere seconds behind an accident. The carriageway blocked by a serious collision, as we waited, more and more police, ambulances and fire trucks turned up. I’m happy to report that nobody was killed: I’ve learned since that a man was hospitalised with an abdominal puncture but no fatalities - although that was what we were gradually beginning to suspect as the wait continued. In an oddly complementary musing, as we waited, Rob and I struck up a conversation with a sergeant in the Welsh Guard, back from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, I was struck by the abrupt and unnecessary tragedies that can snatch us from each others’ lives. Moments like that can leave me feeling transient, ephemeral - I was glad that I was standing with a friend. I felt anchored.
I suppose that pretty much brings me full circle. It was very much a Layers experience. Next year - more festivals, bigger stages and perhaps just a little sun…?