I headed north by a silly route, intentionally. I wanted to avoid the nasty parts of the M6 and I also had the notion that I might be called on to pick someone up in the North East. This didn't happen, and when I'd come to realise that I wasn't going to be doing that, I changed course and crossed from the M1 to the west of the country via the Peak District.
I reasoned that I may as well, if I was cutting across to Manchester way, via Chesterfield, go and get myself some lunch in the place where they filmed the League of Gentlement. This is called Hadfield and it's very near Tintwhistle - a place I once spent hours in a traffic jam at, on the way to the gig that was on my 30th birthday. Hadfield is a fairly simple, non-descript sort of a place, but the local people have adopted the League of Gentlemen identity and are sort of proud to be associated with the fictional "Royston Vasey". Lunch was at the Royston Cafe. I got take out.
At this stage, I should point out that I think I've completely fallen off the dieting wagon and I am in no way impressed with myself for this. I ate tons of crap all weekend and I hope I can stop myself descending any further, or I will end up back to square one, or worse, in a very short period of time.
I sauntered from Hadfield up to Scotland via a couple of stops and without really encountering much in the way of traffic. I arrived at the festival, got my Artiste pass and then found myself directed to a normal parking space. I sauntered across the camp, found a spot to pitch my tent, pitched it with a fair amount of ease - despite never having even taken it out of the bag before - and then went off in search of the others.
My previous festival experience had been Glastonbury, where the idea of being able to find someone was almost totally preposterous. I knew that I could meet my colleagues at the venue for our show, but I doubted I'd be able to find them before. How wrong I was. The Wickerman Festival is quite small - at least compared to Glastonbury it is. As a result, I think I managed to meet everyone whom I knew to be present, along with a few people I hadn't realised were going to be there.
I found the others and they had camped in the special VIP camping area. They asked me if I was going to join them, but I was happy with my successfully pitched tent and I quite liked being a "man of the people". This is not really very interesting. The short version of the story is that I was in high spirits, in festival mode, and managed to get my guitar stuff both stored and also technically planned for the evening's show. By technical, I mean that we devised the method for making the guitar come out the speakers. Such things are important when you're going to perform.
So far we have the story of me driving to a festival, pitching a tent and finding the others. It's a fairly small festival. I only really wanted to see one band - Hayseed Dixie - who were performing as I arrived and whom I basically either missed or ignored. Still, I think they were present, and that was nice for someone.
I'll tell the tale of the two shows we did.
Show 1 was on the Friday night after midnight. We were performing in a big top. This is a circus ten where a circus was performing during the day. It had seating round two thirds of its circular area, and it was, at first sight, a hard room to play. The acoustics and the audience positioning were against ease of doing comedy. The fact that circus tents attract children wasn't going to help either.
When a crowd turned up, some of them were children, some of them were adults, a few of them were actually interested in comedy. We told the audience that it was an adult-oriented show and there were a few laughs at the way they were told. However, our first act basically found himself getting more and more abusive heckles. The kids, sitting on an inflatable sofa on the front row, while their parents sat back and enjoyed they misbehaviour, ended up throwing a ball into the face of the first act. There was drunken abuse being hurled and the gig turned from a 150 person ambivalence fest into a bit of a bear pit.
Somehow we kept things moving and the next act, whom I thought would belong in that environment, and I was right. He did really well.
Another act came and went and then it was my turn. I had an absolutely lovely time, but then I'd been driving for 10 hours to Scotland, had a load of stuff on my mind which I wanted to put to one side, and was there to have a good time. I swept aside the silliness of earlier and had a good time. I did things differently. I played the set as though I were in a big top, and I was... I bantered with the crowd a little. I threw jokes at them. I threw improvised songs at some teenage hecklers and I generally had fun. Because I was having fun, it seemed to work. I was going to have fun regardless.
The night went on for a couple of acts more and then we stopped. It was late, but it had been both good fun and horrendous, depending on which act you happened to be.
We had post-show drinkies at the VIP campsite, and then I went back to the midst of the real world to my tent, cleverly marked with an "A" in gaffer tape so I'd find it in the dark (with my torch).
Despite being kept awake by some people singing and playing guitar nearby ("Can you shut that thing up!? Nice playing, by the way"), I managed to get some sleep in the end. Probably at about 5am! I woke up after lunchtime, though I didn't miss lunch, obviously!
The day was frittered (fritters - one of the few things I didn't eat) away and then it was time for show 2.
Show 2 was much harder. We opened the doors at about 9 and nobody came. Then some people came. Then they left, because we didn't start the show because there weren't enough. This cycle repeated for a while until we had a sparse audience in and we coralled them into a single section. Then we blocked the doors so nobody could come in or out. This may have helped, or it may have created an increased audience attrition rate, since people ultimately did leave and our new potential punters never got the chance to enter the venue before they got bored. Such is festival gigs.
The show limped along to the smaller audience and I was thrust in front of them as a closing act. I did some stuff that worked, and I did some stuff which failed. I broke a nail. I had some repeat punters from the previous night, and so I chose to do some material I hadn't done the previous night. My attempt at improvised song didn't work so well and I also felt less comfortable doing filthy stuff with quite a lot of children in the audience. As a result, I just messed about.
Then we went to watch the burning of the wicker man that the festival was all about.
I took my guitar back to the car to lock it up there. I had been back to the car previously that evening to get my microphone - the venue didn't provide one - so I got a nice walk in. This probably explains the general sense of aching bottom. Yes. Too much walking. That makes my bottom ache. Either that or the poor airbed I use.
Then it was late night. I sauntered around the site, everything closing down. There were some people watching the movie of "The Wicker Man", I got to see a giant screen version of Brit Ekland and her body double cavorting nakedly - then I got bored. I had some porridge. I met up with the other guys at the camp site and chatted for a bit.
Returning to my tent was part of a plan to get an early night. Lying on my airbed I discovered that it was a plan to lie down and listen to very loud music for a couple of hours from a neighbouring dance tent. Still, it was fun.
I woke up at 10.45, packed up my tent and left the site. That was that, really. A good festival.