You can see how it happens. You’re cooped up in a van or a car or - if you’re really lucky - a bus for hours at a time, and when you finally emerge blinking and yawning at your destination there’s some guy with a clipboard who wants to know if you can drop ten minutes off your set since they’re running “…a bit over”. That’s not your fault – you showed up early, you’ve got your own DI box all ready and you’ve even remembered to put on a clean shirt. What’s this guy’s problem? That’s the third time in a week… It’s no surprise that by the end of (say) three weeks on tour, the barricades are manned, the drawbridge is up and the metaphors are flying thick and fast.
For those of us who have taken a glimpse beneath the gilded cage’s security blanket it is obvious that the vicissitudes of a life on the open* road might well drive anybody to distraction - not every singer would respond to the news that no-one in the immediate vicinity has any idea how the (tech spec-promised) guitar amplifier operates with the grace under pressure demonstrated by Marty O’Reilly in The Barn at Maverick this year, who simply hoofed it back to the car park and borrowed one off The Rainbow Girls (they were a hoot and a delight last year, by the way). If you ask a random sample of stage managers what their favourite thing about the band they’ve just had on at their festival was - the music or the lyrics - they are more than likely to answer “their punctuality”. No wonder people employ tour managers. That way you can have someone else remark upon the poor quality of the piano you’ve been given without you having to get involved yourself.** Essentially, the stage manager/artist/tour manager interface runs very much along the lines of that of the late Johns Peel and Walters, whose relationship the lugubrious DJ and National Treasure once described as being “…like a man and his dog, each imagining the other to be the dog.”
The GRRB been hanging out earlier with The Mae Trio, who appeared a tad bewildered at what an Australian folk band were doing at an Americana festival at what was clearly a petting zoo, in England. Well, when you put it like that, I suppose, yes... They closed with an amazing acapella version of a Kate Rusby song which had me going round for the rest of the day collaring people who’d missed it and making them promise me they’d see them in The Peacock Café on Sunday.
Dan Beaulaurier and The Hallelujah Trails was my band of the festival – all great tunes, Tele lead breaks and backing harmonies over solid grooves. Having warned their extraordinarily affable drummer that Police Dogs Hogan’s guy had fallen off the drum riser the previous night because we’d set the kit up too far toward the rear of the stage he assured us that he would take extra care not endure the same fate. I had made a point of checking the pronunciation of everyone whose name looked like it had potential to trip me up, and so it was mortifying to announce The Hallelujah Trails being fronted by…um…ah...
Finally, a word for the magnificent Mary Gauthier (‘Go-Shay’) who demonstrated unimpeachable decency, dignity, openness, warmth, and not only charmed the crowd (and crew) throughout her time with us but delivered some songs of rare quality with a great performance to boot. Every one of the other artists who made a point of checking out the show clearly adored her, both professionally and personally, and I can thoroughly understand why.
And, for the record, she was very punctual.
Thanks to Des at www.nearthecoast.com (with whom the copyright remains) for the photo of me at the top. That's how I roll.