How crying at Glastonbury cured me

Last week I stuffed some stuff in a Twitch holdall, slung some wellies in a car boot and made my way down to Glastonbury Festival.

The last time I visited the world’s largest music festival, it was 2010. I was 21 and about to move to Newcastle to do my first full-time job as a radio producer and presenter.

KThat year it was unbearably hot and I didn’t really get how to “do” Glastonbury yet. I packed my least fabulous clothes, didn’t stay out late and actually slept. Although I went with friends and had a reasonable time, it’s safe to say I was a little lost, despite my excitement as we initially approached the massive site.

Roll forward to 2019 and things were the opposite. Stressed and – dare I say it – a tad burnt out from everything I’ve been up to this year (I hadn’t quite recovered from the depressive dip I slipped into during my few days off in Dallas earlier in June), I was very apprehensive about whether I would enjoy things. Having time off and a pretty open calendar after July was playing on my mind.

Luckily, I had bar work and the group cameraderie of my boyfriend and our friends, who were decked out in a variety of different medieval costumes, to distract my dizzy brain. We set to work in the Avalon Inn on Wednesday, the bar newcomers such as myself trying to remember how to do basic mental maths as we served our first customers.

Thursday was tough – with no acts and a shift from 10pm – 3am, the unusual environment led to inner self-loathing and restlessness. My hayfever went crazy – I took three tablets but the itching and sneezing was relentless. I queued for the pharmacy to discover they didn’t take cards, and I’d already run out of cash. The pharmacist kindly put an order of the last nasal spray on site and a bottle of eyedrops to one side. I waited in the queue hoping my boyfriend could bring me some, letting more and more people go in front of me as it dawned on me I could be late for my shift. (Being late for work is somewhat of a phobia for me.) After ten minutes, a girl in the queue behind me noticed my distress and to my surprise offered to buy the eye drops for me as she could see how worried I was. “I hope someone would do the same thing for me,” she said kindly.

I can’t just put the turnaround of the event down to this person, but it was absolutely a factor. Glastonbury, with its focus on charity, the environment and celebrating life, can absolutely bring out the best in people. Perhaps I had judged it on the people who camp out all day at the Pyramid stage with large chairs or legs spread on the ground, tripping up people trying to find their friends in the anxiety-inducing crowd, but when I explored it more this year I discovered that, away from the larger attractions, there’s the magic of human spirit and kindness to be found.

On Friday, I managed to take in Grace Petrie‘s set on the Acoustic Stage before I headed to my late afternoon bar shift. Grace is following in the footsteps of fellow protest folk singer Billy Bragg, calling politicians to rights with her powerful voice and emotional lyrics, matter-of-factly pointing out that people are dying in our oceans trying to find peace or beg for enough to eat at food banks, while individuals born into priviledge sleep soundly at night in palaces.

The last time I saw Petrie was at Latitude in 2015 (she was kind enough to give me and my then-boyfriend a lift to the station post event), and since then she’s been finding a loyal following with her humourous appearances on the Guilty Feminist podcast and has released a stellar album, Queer As Folk. I pretty much cried during her entire set, and was absolutely relieved when my friend Igraine turned to me after set highlight Black Tie to say “oh, I’m glad you’re crying too!”.

As well the music giving me the feels, I’m particularly susceptible artists’ reactions as they witness the crowds who have turned out for them. Petrie, of course, was one of them – seeing the results of her hard work and steely determinedness to call our lawmakers and bigots to account paying off. Imagining how they could take her to even bigger stages in future makes me well up thinking about it, as does the utterly empowering beacon of fabulousness that is Lizzo – who occasionally paused her superstar, breathless Saturday set to laugh in disbelief at once of the largest audiences West Holts has most likely ever seen.

Put both of these women on the Pyramid Stage next time, Glastonbury – you won’t regret it.

Full disclosure; Lizzo was so utterly phenomenal that I quickly moved on from the fact that I’d got someone else’s… deposit(!) on my hand using a dreaded long drop loo prior to her set. (No one told me off when I skipped the sink queue to wash my hands, fully freaked out – thanks guys.)

Post-shift I’d expected to be too knackered to go out, but I knew I needed to make amends for my 21-year-old self. So off I went, in an Austrian dirndl dress (yeah I know, kind of cheating the medieval bar theme) to dance around Arcadia.

The very large resident of the Arcadia field at Glastonbury

For those not familar with Arcadia, it’s a dance music destination (ie, a field) which used to be home to an “anatomically-incorrect” spider. This year, the aracnid had been replaced by a new longterm resident; a massive crane that used to be put to work at Bristol Docks, but now puffs out the ocasional smoke ring and snows little blobs of foam, as a DJ performs within its open belly.

Saturday presented a Sophie’s Choice of headline acts – did we go for Hot Chip or Chemical Brothers? The latter, headlining the Other Stage for the fifth time, won out. Squeezing into the crowd, past a woman who had seemingly brought her weekly big shop into the thick of the throng and couldn’t comprehend why this might be a bad idea, we positioned ourselves far enough away to avoid the neck ache of looking up at the stage’s massive LED screens, but without much view of where the performers would be. Not that we realised at the time how solid a play this was.

Suddenly the screens burned brightly into life and Tom and Ed – the Chemical Brothers kicked things off with Go. And there began the best live show I have ever seen, ending with me rendered unable to speak like Bishop Brennan after he’d be kicked up the arse.

(If You’re UK-based, watch it on iPlayer before it’s gone, I beg of you.)

Still in awe, a few of my friends and I stumbled across towards Shangri-La with a cup of white wine and discovered the camp-as-Christmas Sensations stage, compered in that moment by Miss Frisky, known to many as the big voice of comedy cabaret double act Frisky and Mannish. Between belting pop mash-ups, Frisky invited different acts onstage, who did an inifinite number of jawdropping things with their bodies, from rolling around and freewheeling in a giant hoop, to setting nipple pasties on fire and whipping flames across the stage, and all while we danced along in appreciation.

Sunday brought on the waterworks again as I finally got to witness Self Esteem playing live tracks from her brilliant, horrendously underrated album Compliments Please. It’s an enigmatic album full of alternative pop bangers like The Best and (Girl) Crush, with lines such as “what I might have achieved, if I wasn’t trying to please you” that strike directly to the core of many Millienial women like me. (In my work as an esports host and reporter, I’m essentially trying to please a male dominated audience as I talk about video games, so I’m tempted to get the lyric “remember you don’t owe them anything” tattooed somewhere I can see it before I go live…)

Rebecca Taylor, who initially found success as one half of indie duo Slow Club, has soundtracked my life for the past ten years. Back in 2009, Slow Club’s debut LP featured a secret track called Boys On Their Birthdays, which ended with Taylor confessing that she’d “always wanted to be a rapper”, and although this record doesn’t feature rapping, it’s accompanied in person with fiercely powerful dance routines performed by Taylor and her backing vocalists that give the sense that she’s finally making her destiny happen. There’s a confidence from the artist that doesn’t just control the room, but compells it to go forth and conquer.

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Rebecca Taylor, aka Self Esteem, in action

(Also, fuck yes to that outfit.)

Knowing the BBC would be covering the larger stages, I felt safe in forgoing the crowds of Kylie and Miley Cyrus to watch This is the Kit perform on the West Holts and soothe souls, before my final bar shift.

Being a Sunday night, the Avalon Inn’s bar nearly ran dry, so we decided to entertain the punters in a new way;I got to live my dream of performing at Glastonbury, via the medium of a Spotify playlist and a little crowd of have-a-go perfomers who each took their turn on the stage. Hopefully we can make it a proper thing in 2020…

Usually I’m happy to head home after sweating in a field for a week, but this time I felt a tinge of melancholy as our car crawled its way out of Somerset and back to London; I didn’t want the magic to end. I’m someone who used to go to four or so live gigs a week (sometimes playing my own) during my short stint at Amazing Radio, and rarely get to gigs anymore, and Glastonbury had reminded me never to take it for granted again.

But on sorrow’s flipside, I was happy to be taking a new found optimism back to the capital with me. Glastonbury might have a destination called the Healing Fields, but it’s possible to find restoration in any one of its varied pastures.

Did you head to Glastonbury, or watch the BBC’s coverage? Let me know who your favourite acts were – I’d love to hear your memories too!

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The New Year list

I’m deliberately not calling this post ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ because I don’t think I need to change who I am – and nor should you – but because I’m a fan of a to-do list and this is a good excuse to create an ‘action plan’ for 2014…

2013 has been, for the most part, fine. It’s gone ridiculously fast too. There were big changes at the start and end of the year (I got dumped by email in January – ouch) and changed jobs (moving to EastEnders in late December), but for the most part I feel like I’ve coasted along.

However, everyone should take a moment to think about the good bits as well as the disappointing receiving of electronic communications and so here are a few of the highlights…

#Team NCA

The BBC Radio New Comedy Award returned in 2013 (we got a BBC Production Award nomination for the 2012 multiplatform element that I produced which was pretty cool) and I found myself without a budget so recruited a big batch of amazing volunteers to help film and edited each film myself. The core group of Producer Tilusha, Production Co-Ordinator Tam and Production Management Assistant Isma were bloomin’ hilarious and wonderful. And of course the most fabulous Executive Producer Alison Vernon-Smith and the stylish (and talented) Production Manager Hayley Nathan. My favourite production of the 18 months I spent at BBC Radio Comedy.

Grainne & J-Bugg shake up the Beeb

I found two excellent, talented friends in the new Radio Comedy bursary writers…

A Summer of gigs!

Thanks to Elena Dana, I finally started gigging in London, even making my jazz debut. And I got a new telecaster… now to get an amp (see 2014 to-do list…) I also wrote at least three songs I can count among my favourites.

Making my own damn icing, thank you very much

When I baked in the Get Flat in 2012, someone else was around to do the icing while I made the batter. My early solo icing efforts were watery and rubbish. Then one day, thanks to a Primrose Hill Bakery coffee buttercream recipe, I cracked it. (Although I did have a massive icing fuck-up the other day and had to buy the pre-mixed stuff for a Xmas party at Grainne’s but never mind…)

Comedy! Comedy! Comedy!

I saw some amazing shows and met some hilarious, lovely people this year. People who made me laugh included: Bridget Christie, Phil Wang, Steve Bugeja, Rob Carter, Katherine Bennett, Kate Lucas, Adam Hess, Tom Craine, Joe Lycett, Dean Sekhon, Peter Brush, Grainne Maguire, Mae Martin, Nick Helm Sarah Campbell, Nish Kumar, James Bran, Joe Davies, Ivo Graham James Acaster, Dane Baptiste, Jonny Pelham (and many, many more – go and check them out…)

Producing a book… sort of

In the New Year the BBC will be releasing an iBook about writing for Radio Comedy that I produced… I’ll post more about this in 2014!

Anyway, 2013 review aside, there’s loads for me to be getting on with next year, so here’s some stuff I’d like to do in 2014…

  • Buy amp to go with new telecaster (rather than playing through mixing desk connected to computer speakers)
  • Finish painting bedroom – there’s no longer a reasonable excuse for the large unpainted patch behind the wardrobe!
  • Cook a wider variety of foods (other than jacket potato, pasta and homemade sauce and stir fry)
  • Invite friends over more regularly to share wider variety of foods
  • Apologise less for the way I look
  • Be less passive when someone judges the way I look unnecessarily
  • Buy more cushions for my large sofa
  • Keep up the exercise and resist chocolate/ice cream temptations!
  • Practice guitar more
  • Find rhythm section to play with me and Reece (who I’m working on songs with)
  • Get keyboard out again
  • Record more music – and record it better
  • Read more on my Kindle
  • Find permanent contract
  • Renew ISA
  • Fill up ISA
  • Invest in more loose leaf teas
  • Save up for Canon 5D
  • Be better at getting people together – but not feel so guilty if I don’t
  • Enjoy self as much as possible
  • Blog more!

There’s definitely more – most of that reads like a shopping list! I must have January sales on the brain….

New Let’s Buy Happiness single alert!

I’ve been waiting for Newcastle’s Let’s Buy Happiness to release their debut LP for about  two years now.

However, I think us fans have done our time now and so do the band, if the online debut of the album’s first single is anything to go by.

Here it is – Run.

I’ve heard this live a few times and it’s always gorgeous, but they’ve clearly made the most of being in a studio. Give it a play and feel those sublime waves of guitar ambience and vocals wash over you… and, when you think it couldn’t get any better, four minutes in a divine build in the music, with extra crunch from the guitar takes things even further.

SERIOUSLY THOUGH GUYS, WHERE’S THE ALBUM ALREADY?

My Harkive – 9th July 2013

I start at 8:00 when my alarm forces me awake and I immediately turn on the radio.

I won’t lie – this is almost permanently tuned to Radio 1, although the track (that even Nick Grimshaw comments as sounding like a ‘rubbish Cotton Eye Joe’) makes me wince (I later find out that this is called Ring A Ling by Sneakbo. This morning it’s mostly chat though – I’m an out and proud Grimshaw fan so this is fine by me. Plus, I’m 24 so I’m still within the Radio 1 target audience. (I know you’re judging me!)

As I head out the door to the district line, I have a listen to a mix of a song I’m working on on my iPod. It might sound odd to some, but I find it useful to listen to my own music (sometimes I find it quite hard) on various devices so I can see if the listening experience changes – for example, my macbook speakers are pretty poor so an iPod is far more preferable. The track in question is called Twelve Feet Under and I’ve put it on Soundcloud and shared it with friends to try and get their thoughts:

Often I listen to a podcast or something from the BBC Radio Comedy output on the tube to work – this morning it’s The Show What You Wrote, which is being podcasted as the BBC Comedy of the Week. However, as it finishes before I arrive, I pop my iPod on song shuffle and on comes the Sufjan Stevens song John Wayne Gacey Jnr.

Later, at my desk, I notice a blog post on Twitter about The Rumble Strips by This is Fake DIY. It includes a Youtube video of their song Alarm Clock, so I give that a listen. I was never a big fan so I listen more out of curiosity than nostalgia. It’s ok, but I prefer the upbeat (but slightly similar) sounds of the dearly departed Larrikin Love.

After lunch I have a major hayfever attack and run out to Boots to get some eyedrops. Trying to take my mind of my swelling, itchy eyes, I take my iPod with me. As before, it’s still on shuffle. The tracks it treats me to are Magic Touch by Golden Silvers, Four Kicks by the Kings of Leon, Night Terror by Laura Marling and Live Wire by Fyfe Dangerfield. I do have some current stuff on my iPod, including Bastille, Lianne La Havas, Bastille, Daughter and Kate Nash’s underrated third LP, Girl Talk – oh and Yeezus by Kanye West, but I also have plenty of older stuff I can’t imagine not taking on the go with me.

After work I hop tubes between Great Portland Street and Angel. My iPod is still in an eclectic mood and plays A New Found Land from Villagers’ (brilliant) second album Awayland, The Look of Love (Nina Simone version), Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) by Florence & the Machine, The View from the Afternoon from The Arctic Monkeys (who I have never stopped loving in the past nine years), Isobel by Bjork and She’s Lost Control by Joy Division. Naturally the latter sets me perfectly in the mood to see comedians John Robbins and Joe Lycett test out their Edinburgh shows… or maybe not.

Post comedy, it’s back to dashing between underground lines. Impressively I manage Angel to Bromley-by-Bow in three different lines and four songs… although I do chat to my friend Doug from Angel to Bank so technically I only listen to my iPod for the second two lines. These songs are Landfill from Daughter’s Wild Youth EP, Old Stone by Laura Marling, New by No Doubt and, rather perfectly, With You Now by my friend Jake Flowers’ band Oaken Lee. I say perfectly because I’ve just received a message from Jake about Twelve Feet Under.

Don’t forget, you can still submit your listening habits from the 9th July over at Harkive.org now!

Harkive 2013

On 9th July 2013, Harkive will be welcoming music fans from across the globe to share their listening habits. A ‘Life in the Day (of my iPod)’ if you like…

I only just found out about it through founder Craig Hamilton, but I’m really excited that he dropped me a line about it. (You can follow the project on Twitter here.)

The idea is to keep a record of everything you listen to on the 9th July 2013. You can do this in spoken word via Audioboo, Soundcloud or Youtube, or write it all down via Twitter, your own blog, in an email or by using a contact form on the Harkive website – details are all here. Stories can be submitted up until the deadline on the 16th July, before the stories and information is gathered and sifted through to create a complex view of how we consume music today.

Harkive logoIf the project proves a success, Craig hopes for it to become an annual worldwide event, in the vein of the hugely popular Record Store Day. He’s already had coverage in one of my favourite music blogs, Popjustice, and there’s also support from Wichita Recordings and the Glee Club, who are providing prizes for some of the best stories from the day. In time, the yearly submissions will show how the way we discover and listen to music is changing – it might even be a way for us to share how we’re listening and get ideas on how to find our new favourite bands.

So, if you see me tweeting my listening habits with the hashtag #Harkive, you’ll understand why!

Why I moved my ‘big gig’

In my last post, I wrote about a ‘big gig’.

This post is to say that I have moved the gig to Roadtrip & Workshop in Old Street.

Basically I found the pressure of playing with people not necessarily similar to my style, in a large venue with the demand of bringing in a big crowd, too much at this stage in my ‘gigging career’ – I use ‘career’ loosely as a term, as it’s not necessarily an aim for me right now.

I also felt that perhaps the promoter wasn’t doing as much as possible to promote the gig – there was nothing about acts on his website, no official Facebook event (which is pretty standard these days) or mailing list. When I sent him a regretful email cancelling, explaining that I felt I couldn’t bring in the audience he needed and that I had been offered a gig on the same night in a smaller venue (and also offering what I considered to be a fairer payscale) he was clearly pissed off – and that’s ok. I feel bad for cancelling, however I previously felt bad that, despite my own promotion, it didn’t look like I could pull a crowd – but neither could he.

Let’s look at the figures briefly, by way of example:

At the gig, if you brought 15 people or more, you would get £15 and a £1 per person thereafter. The price on the door was £4. Therefore, you would take £15 and the promoter would take £45. I know that there’s a soundman to pay for etc… (venues rarely charge as they get bar takings etc…) but there’s also money from people in on the door who hadn’t come to see anyone in particular – and there’s no door split between the acts for that.

I am currently happy to play for free if there’s no charge on the door. But if I’m having to promote a gig and play a 30 minute set (with little or no promotion from the actual promoter), I think I have a right to earn more. At the same time, I really don’t want promoters to fail, and I’m very ‘green’, but I’m no longer 19 and so up for the exploitation these days.

Here’s a very recent song:

I’m going to invest in a better microphone and start recording and making more effort with my songs – if you want to help me with them, give me a shout…

Disappointed in Me: the video!

I wrote Disappointed in Me back when I was in my second year of uni.

I guess I don’t really need to tell the story behind it as it’s pretty much all in the song (yes, ‘relationship upgrade’ were the words actually said to me, along with ‘well I’m very disappointed in you’).

So why record it now? Well, I might have written it when I was 19, but the situation isn’t uncommon for many women I know. Also, it’s ruddy good fun to play and my friend Reece was looking for something colourful to make a video around.

So here it is, Disappointed in Me on YouTube! (And for those who you who have asked me, it’s an excuse to see the ‘Get Flat’ too.)

You can get the track for free from my Get Frank Soundcloud now.

I was dead lucky to have Reece Lipman make the video for me as part of his new venture, Shimmer-man Productions. I felt really anxious about being in front of the camera again after an extended period of not doing much on You Tube and also because it was someone else filming me, rather than me filming myself, so I had to just trust Reece and make like a op star. Luckily, Reece made me feel really comfortable and I sang along to my own song so many times I got used to it pretty quickly! (I couldn’t properly mime so I quietly sang.)

In other words, I’d thoroughly recommend him if you’re looking for a music video producer/director!

Tedx Bow

The other day, despite suffering a hangover from a late night Mariokart session, I headed to my new favorite cafe Muxima for the first Tedx Bow event.

The theme of the event, which featured a mixture of local speakers and Screen Ted talks, was ‘From the Heart’, and highlights included Amanda Palmer’s honest and eloquently explained ‘Art of Asking’ for funding her music (she compares it to her former vocation as a street statue performer) and Anise Bullimore’s very moving talk, ‘My body of work: an experience of cancer and art therapy’.

A few talks in, Isaak (who programmes Muxima’s upstairs space) came up to my ‘gang’ of Natalie, Elena and Andre (we’ve formed a mini singer-songwriter group and go on outings and stuff) and asked if one of us could fill a slot by playing. I didn’t really hear much of this conversation, so it was a surprise when I was pointed at… an hour later I was on stage with a borrowed guitar, playing the only three capo-free songs I still remember enough to play.

Photo by Antonio Luca www.aellephoto.com

Photo by Antonio Luca
http://www.aellephoto.com

Aside from two people who spoke all the way through my first song (someone told them to stop or leave as everyone in the room could hear every word they were saying… it was weird having just our three voices at counterpoint) everyone was silent and actually listened – it was amazing. It felt like they had more of an effect on me personally than I could ever have had on them. It’s easier to connect with the words you’ve written when you have the space to feel them; to hear yourself perform them.

Now I know this will come across as pretentious, but when you’re playing an open mic or a gig in a bar and it’s noisy and the monitors aren’t helping you like they should, it’s easy to think ‘I need to get through this!’, particularly as I’ve not performed much recently. However, the audience, speakers and audience at Tedx Bow – the community, I should say – has given me more confidence to just flippin’ do it.

I can’t wait for the next one!

I’ve got a gig!

I’m playing a four song set this Easter Sunday (31st March) at All Star Lanes in Holborn.

It’s for the 15 Minute Club and it’s free! So, despite being only a short set, it’s in a cool place where you can eat, drink cocktails and bowl. Plus there’s no work for most the next day so what more excuse do you need? Facebook public event here.

Listen to some demos on Soundcloud now or head to this post for some embedded tracks and a bit more about my recent attempt to play more.