Thursday, August 17, 2006

Howling Bells

Remember the last time I tried to go see Howling Bells at the Little Civic and they were sold out? Well, this time I bought my ticket in advance. I have to say, as much as I hate to admit it, I really don't like going to shows by myself. I was driving to so I couldn't drink my solitude away (ok, I had two pints of Guinness). It's just a bit awkward to stand there alone with all these little groups and couples surrounding you. . . until the music starts. I didn't give much notice to the opening band, they weren't really doing it for me. But, once Howling Bells started I forgot I was there alone. I was immersed into their haunting melodies, with an eclectic blend of rock, folk, blues and country intermingled with unique instrumentation and the beautiful voice of Juanita Stein.

They said their last show in Wolverhampton was their first sold out show. First of many- this band is just getting started.

Monday, August 14, 2006

M Ward

Last night (new) Tom and I went to see M Ward. Tom had never heard of him before and he thought it was going to be some sort of rapper. I assured him I would never take him to a hip hop show- we just don't have that sort of relationship as far as our musical connection goes. I knew he would like him though and he's one of the only friends I have in England that I can ask to go to see some musician he's never heard of and he'll go no questions asked. I have been a fan of M Ward for awhile and only recently got his last album, Transistor Radio, which was released last year.

He was amazing. We were center, right near the stage and I am now completely infatuated with his music, more than I ever was before. I can't stop listening to the two albums of his I own and cannot wait for his new one to be released in the UK 4 September. His songs lyrically are reasonably straightforward and have the same sort of poignancy of early folk musicians. His voice is beautiful and just raspy enough to make me swoon. And his guitar playing. . . I'm not proficient enough to describe it in technical terms, but it's damn good. I also found M Ward a new fan in Tom and now he is eager to check out his recorded stuff.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Realities and Wonders

As cliché as it sounds, the world never ceases to throw surprises and situations my way to remind me of the intricate aspects of life and how complicated it can be- in different ways for all sorts of people.

On Wednesday I was on my way to the police station to sit in on an interview of a little girl that's possibly been abused. This situation always makes me nervous- trying to begin to understand what that child and her family are experiencing and curbing my own anxieties and emotions in order to fully hear and assess what is being shared on a professional level. As I walked to the station, mentally preparing for the interview and starting to feel a touch of the flu coming on, a woman stopped me. She was walking down the street behind me and was yelling something I couldn't decipher. There were other people on the street but I was directly ahead of her and she seemed to choose me out. I stopped for her, thinking I'm going to be late and I don't have time for this. She approached me and explained that she has agoraphobia and that she was feeling like she could not get to her bus stop. She became tearful and very upset, saying she had tried to call her son but couldn't reach him. I talked with her a minute and tried to calm and encourage her. She asked me to walk her to her bus stop so she could get home. She took my arm and I walked her the majority of the way until she told me she would try to make the rest on her own and could talk to people at the stop once she got there to continue to help her feel safe and calm.

Such a random intercourse with another person whom I have never met and likely will never see again left me to reflect on struggles that each individual deals with and how we cope with them. Of course, ending up very sick that evening with a high fever and being home for the last two days sick and alone has aided in the excessive thought process. I find it phenomenal the quick interactions that cross our paths in life can have such an impact, sometimes more than we realize. It accentuates for me my belief that things happen for a reason and any interaction can change a person's course. I do not think that this small interaction necessarily changed anything for me or for the woman who was struggling to make it to her stop. But, it does make me reflect on the people that do and will impact me and how I might impact the lives of others. It is something for all of us to be conscious of, that we might be able to affect positive change in other people's lives, or perhaps just a moment in that life. This goes as well with the simplest of interactions to smiling at someone you have a simple business interaction with in a shop and ensuring you tell them you hope they have a nice day to the more complex and often forgotten of telling the already stable people in our lives how much they mean to us. And, with the latest "threat" to airlines and lives, this extension of compassion becomes ever more and continuously important.

Tonight, my reality sets off to thoughts of wonder, as I looked out the living room window from the couch I have lived on the last two days and saw the most beautiful sunset in awhile. I immediately made my way outside and watched the sun disappear over the Malvern Hills, the same hills I was dancing the nights away in last weekend at the Big Chill.

The reality is this picture cannot capture the magnitude of color and beauty and the feeling of happening upon a sunset like this; and the fact that I get to see a different version of it every night if I choose to.
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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Big Chill

Thursday at work we had our "Away day" which is supposed to be a team building day, of sorts. Since I knew I had Friday off to go to the Big Chill- I went to the pub Thursday night with a few friends from work and ended up meeting up with some of the guys at The Dog. Friday morning, I dragged myself out of bed and packed the car to head for Big Chill, only running a half hour or so late. I met up with Rachael and her son Isaac and followed her to the festival. I wanted to have my own car so they could leave earlier if they needed to Sunday and I could hang about and make the most of my weekend ticket. Old Rusty made it to Malvern well and we unloaded and attempted to carry all of are gear to the camp site. This was pure car camping, which means an excess of stuff and it was not an easy carry. We made it past the live-in vehichles and not long after that we had some nice young security men see our need for attention and carry our stuff the rest of the way for us. I got our tent set up and by the afternoon Friday we were able to go enjoy the festival.

Isaac relaxing in the tent before heading into the festival.

We climbed the hill from our site and down another large hill to the actual festival grounds. It was huge with about five or six different stages and all sorts of other random entertainment- glitter wrestling, insect circus, chapel of love and all. . .

The atmosphere was definitely geared toward "chilling" (with a bit of late night debauchery thrown in once the kids went to bed). All the ponds and trees were doused with various candlelight and effects.

Jose Gonzalez. . . very, very far away.

There were all sorts of costumes and outfits abound at the festival. For those that wanted it and didn't bring it with them, there were various dress up tents where you could buy your outfits and accessories.

Rachael and Isaac

I wanted to check out Nizlopi but was a bit reluctant because their popular song, JCB is not a favorite of mine. I was very surprised and impressed. They had amazing energy and talent and now I want to buy everybit of music they have.

After their set they came out and got friendly with the audience.

Random man in suit of armor chats with the security boys. About five minutes later a rubix cube walked by. . .


I left the Castle stage after Lambchop was over and was going to head back to the tent to hang out with Rachael but was halted by the massive crowd for X-Press 2. This isn't a clear picture, but I still thought it was a good one. I danced along for a few minutes but the boredom of being on my own and fatigue from staying out too late Thursday kicked in and I headed for the tent. It was a restless night of sleep, with drunken people running into the tent throughout the hours of the night.

The next morning Rachael, Isaac and I went and grabbed a nice veggie full breakfast. The weather was not looking good in the morning so I made a trek to the cars to collect our wellies. Rachael and Isaac went and enjoyed the kids tent and I headed for the Open Air Stage with my blanket and book and chilled listening to the first bands of the day, the first being Mark Pritchard, a DJ mixing various folk and psychedelic sounds.

Tom Middleton with Amba was next. Tom is a DJ but was playing with a full band and string section. The music was ethereal sounds composed by Tom Middleton and he clearly had a lot of passion for all the songs and the meanings they had for him. It was great music to sit back and close your eyes. . .or read your book as I was doing.

Next up were Arrested Development. They are reunited and have a new album coming out in September. It brought back some lovely memories of the 90's but they are still just as talented today and it reinvigorated my interest in their music.

I met back up with Rachael and Isaac in the afternoon and found them at the tent. Isaac had made a new friend, this guy from Kenya who was trying to show him moves of Capoeira. We went back into the festival and enjoyed the afternoon sun at the Finlandia tent. Rachael and I enjoyed a pitcher of Midnight Sun while we chilled.

This is a group who were presenting Capoeira at the festival. It is a martial art from Brazil but almost looks more like an intricate dance. I saw their presentation again on the Village Green stage Sunday afternoon.

Bugz in the Attic with Bembe Segue. An infectious blend of funk, soul and hip hop.

We walked around for a bit and Isaac was getting ready to go so Rachael took him back and I headed for the Club Tent. I went in for Quantic and came out a sweaty mess after an hour and half later of dancing. Mr. Scruff (blurry view of above) was on after and I stayed for a bit for his set. I've seen him before and love his stuff but I was getting a bit bored with the tent and the scary middle aged men trying to chat me up. I headed for the Finlandia tent again and eventually made a few friends for the evening. I ended up hanging out there until the wee hours of the morning and eventually made it back to my tent. . .the next day.

Sunday morning Rachael and Isaac headed out as soon as they got the car packed up. I was feeling a little rough and tired so I grabbed some breakfast (this time a vegan one- not so nice) and set up in front of the Castle Stage. The music in the morning was great, that's Another Fine Day above, and I napped off and on in the blaring sun. I was hoping to run into a friend I had made the night before but didn't catch him so I just chilled there all afternoon.

After Another Fine Day, a quick shift to the Bikink Beach Band, who covered an eclectic mix of songs in their surf rock style and quite quickly enamored the crowd.

After the Beach Band, a terrible comedian came on who was eventually booed off the stage. It's unfortunate he was as bad as he was since he was supposed to be there in support of Amnesty International. To appease the crowd, Lily Allen came on a little early. I ended up staying for most of her set, but why, I am not sure. She's become a pop sensation but her lyrics are a bit too trite for me and I just couldn't immerse myself into it. I shoved my way through the huge crowd there to see her to make my way for the Village Green.

Martha Wainwright

I was so glad I got to see Martha beacuse I missed her a couple months ago when she was playing in Birmingham. She was definitely a highlight for me over the weekend and a great way to round off the festival. On reflection, I wished I would have just camped at the Village Green all day because all of the artists playing there sounded excellent, but then I would have missed the joys of Another Fine Day and the Bikini Beach Band. After Martha's set I ran into a newly made friend (likely to never be seen again I'm sure :-) and hung out with him for a bit before heading home and getting a nice hot shower. I would have liked to stay over Sunday night as well, but it was back to work for me on Monday!
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