Pre-travel Packing

The lists have been made, the wardrobe has been (extremely) narrowed down and the ridiculous amounts of toiletries etc have been bought. Now it is in a pile on the floor and I have to fit it into a bag. Which is not easy when you’ve just given yourself a minor disability after trapping your finger in a car door. So of course I decide to procrastinate even further by, pretty much one-handedly, writing a blog about it.

I think it’s also time I should actually mention the upcoming trip, which is inter-railing around Europe with a stop at the beach and Benicassim festival on the way. The rough route we have planned out is Dover-Calais-Paris-Bordeaux-Benicassim-Barcelona-Monaco-Garda-Verona-Venice-Budapest-Prague-Berlin-Amsterdam, give or take a few places. Seriously excited about it.

So even though I have only just started this blog, I will not be contributing to it for about a month now. However I plan to create posts on every destination and will be making notes and having (hopefully) interesting, amusing and probably embarrassing experiences while en route which will be posted up here in all their glory when i’m back. Finally, goodbye, au revoir, adiós, auf wiedersehen and the rest…

Wish me luck!

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Hop Farm Festival

Working as a night traffic marshal I didn’t get to see much of the festival, although I could hear most of it and did catch a glimpse of the stage screen during headliners Morrissey and Prince from a distant car park -I quickly learned that dancing around whilst wearing high-vis clothing does get you noticed and a fair bit of mockery and laughter from festival revellers does ensue.

Hop Farm is a small festival that is only in its fourth year, and after just coming home from Glastonbury it was a quite a (nice) shock to realise you can walk from one end of it to the other in around ten minutes. And there are only three stages which means there are less acts to choose from, but also that you don’t miss out on as much as you would at a festival the size of Glastonbury.

I only managed to catch a few acts between shifts on the main stage. These were the likes of  Newton Faulkner who was charming, funny and extremely talented, Brother (now Viva Brother) who I have to admit weren’t as good as they seemed to think they were and had a sort of unfounded arrogance about them. On the opposite end of the scale, singers Imelda May, and Eliza Doolittle were both very good and each have incredible voices in their own right. Aloe Blacc, also an incredible singer was good, but tried too much of that soul-searching, christian preachy type of crowd participation that just doesn’t seem to work in the UK as well as it does in the States. Nevertheless he still got a good reception and is an incredible performer.

Moreover, one of the best things about small festivals, I think, is the fact that you get to see some new bands that you just wouldn’t come across at a larger event. For instance The 1945, on the bread and roses stage looked very promising, starting their set with a Rolling Stones song to lure the punters in and then carrying on in a Libertines/Ramones style with way more energy than you’d expect from a first on the bill band on a sunday morning. Watch this space.

Of course, you couldn’t mention Hop Farm 2011 without talking about Prince. Allegedly having turned down Glastonbury for this gig, expectation was high and he definitely delivered. It is safe to say that most people who went on the sunday were there pretty much primarily for Prince (a lot of people arrived just before he started; we filled at least two car parks in the hour or so before he was due on stage) and he played for just over two hours. Like I said, I wasn’t actually in the crowd because I was working so can’t really give a proper review but I can say that if he was as good as he was from about half a mile away standing in a car park then he must have been extraordinary up front. It was excruciatingly frustrating to not be a real part of it!

So maybe next year I will opt for the smaller festival, especially if the line-up continues to be as good as it has been; 2010 gave the stage to Van Morrison, Blondie and Bob Dylan, this year was Eagles, Morrissey and Prince, surely it can only get better in 2012?

Glastonbury Festival

 

So like 170,000 others I made my way to Worthy Farm in Somerset for this year’s Glastonbury festival and encountered (and survived) the mud, crowds, portaloos, sunburn, exhaustion and, unfortunately, tent robbers.

Getting to the site at around 2am on Wednesday morning, me, my boyfriend and sister proceeded to wait in a queue of eager punters for the gates to open at 8am. Luckily, or perhaps not, the rain managed to hold off until the moment we walked through the gates when it hammered down in true Glasto style and soaked through several layers of clothing including those that were still in our rucksacks. Nevertheless we pitched up right in front of the Other Stage; a great location not too far from some of the main festival attractions.

The first day went without much to report as we sat around trying to stay awake, deciding on which bands we would most like to see and debating the identity of the special guest slots while our other friends made their way to meet us.

The first night however, I awoke to our tent being zipped wide open and saw a glimpse of a welly run off just after my bag had been ransacked and £50 taken from my purse. Not a good start. In the morning we discovered that a lot of tents around us had also been invaded and we were in fact the lucky ones since they didn’t take much compared to others’ losses of hundreds of pounds, passports, phones and whole wallets etc. Disgruntled at the idea that even Glastonbury was partial to petty crime but excited for what the rest of the festival had to offer we vowed to carry on as if it never happened, even if it meant having less money to spend on sampling the weird and wonderful food available from the hundreds of tasty vendors.

Friday

Despite the rain I think I enjoyed Friday’s bands the most, although this may have had something to do with the near whole box of wine that was consumed… Still, highlights included; Metronomy, just a personal favourite (their song ‘The Look’ has sort of become my summer anthem), Two Door Cinema Club, who managed to get a pyramid stage crowd going during one of the first performances of the day; Miles Kane, only one album and the John Peel crowd were warbling along as if he was performing a greatest hits setlist; Mumford and Sons, never fail to win over an audience even in torrential rain. And last, but definitely not least; Primal Scream. Arguably the best band of the weekend for me, Screamadelica is an album made for festivals and not one person in the crowd was to be seen stood still during their set. Bobby Gillespie’s shirt was also pretty brilliant.

Saturday

Spent most of Saturday walking around the Green Fields and looking at various weirdos and weird things in the Cabaret and Avalon areas. It’s one of the best things about Glastonbury, the fact that there’s still so much to do and see even if you don’t catch many bands. Having said that I did manage to catch Graham Coxon and then Pulp on the Park Stage. Thoroughly enjoyed this mini britpop reunion as our group (and hundreds others) sat on the Glastonbury hill, in the sun(!), singing along at the tops of our voices to the likes of ‘Disco 2000’ and ‘Common People’. Perfect.
Finally, Chemical Brothers; lights, strobes, graphics (albeit fairly creepy) bass, flares and all the crazy dancing you can witness in an hour’s time. Here we go!

Sunday

The sun is out! absolutely scorching day, cue odd sunburn/tan lines to go with the mud stains on your clothes. Of course in a quintessentially British way we all complained about the 29 degrees weather despite the fact that it had previously rained for the past 3 days. Ho Hum. First act of the day was Laura Marling who was, even from the back of the pyramid stage where we were perched, fantastic. She’s a singer i’ve wanted to see for ages but can never get tickets and she definitely did not disappoint. Her soothing folksy sound was perfect for a sunny sunday afternoon and it only made me more determined to hear more- my hunt for tickets will go on. After this I made my way to the other stage to catch Bombay Bicycle Club and because I was on my own managed to squeeze my way to the front. I’m glad I did! Despite the boiling weather they gave it their all and were definitely worth fighting through the sweaty crowd to see them. However, the highlight of Sunday was undoubtedly Beyonce. Singing all her hits, and a medley of some of destiny’s child’s songs she didn’t fail to deliver the crowd’s expectations. I think it’s also worth mentioning how good her all female band were, along with her backing singers, The Mammas, she performed with true ‘Independent Woman’ style. All in all it was a great way to close the curtain on the pyramid stage for the next couple of years.

Verdict: I’ve seen Glastonbury in the raging heat (I was at last year’s festival which went off without a drop of rain) and i’ve seen it in the pouring rain and mud and I have to say that it makes no difference. The atmosphere, the music, the people and everything in between makes it one of the most unique experiences in the world. Bring on 2013!