Well folks. We did it. We were invited to perform at the Isle of Wight festival in January. Months have passed and the anticipation grew. The excitement, the nerves, the worries and the build up. You can't help but build up an event of such magnitude. Such scope. What happened you ask? How did it go?? Well, keep reading and I'll tell you.
We piled in the car, Joe Ruby and I along with a double bass, a jumbo acoustic guitar, a little wheely case, a bag of stuff for the stage, a big bag of rain kit in case we needed it and a hanging back of clothes. Joe bought an excellent case for his bass with handles galore which was lucky because his back went out the week before. I was able to help him move the bass around with ease. Good thinking!
We drove down to Portsmouth and got in a bit later than expected but avoided all the traffic. A nice room and a bit of nervous energy but all on board got some sleep. A big breakfast the next morning, a few sprinkles but nothing to worry about in the sky and off we went to the ferry terminal. The only think I didn't have was the reservation number but the fella was willing to help us out (folk, keep that number) and we made our ferry. The bonus on this trip was that Ellie and Matt would make it as our personal manager and roadie, respectively. Ellie is Joe's eldest daughter and she's been in my life since she was 6. She brought boyfriend Matt and it was so great to have them there with us! Right...I am getting ahead of myself.
We arrived at the Isle of Wight and went straight to the hotel. I must say the Shanklin Beach Hotel did us proud and Martin helped us organise an additional room for Ellie and Matt as well as move us into a family room (seafront view!). We organised ourselves, got dolled up and off to the festival grounds we went. Gate A5 got us our wristbands and parking. Two fellas in two big golf/airport buggies took us and our kit to the Hard Rock Stage which meant crossing the main thoroughfare (VIPS!). Ellie and Matt had arrived a bit earlier under their own steam. Remember this. It plays a part later. We got our stuff sorted and were greeted by a host of backstage crew. There were other artists there - Tim Arnold, Ben Montague, Laurence Fox, James Walsh. It was exciting to be there! The Hard Rock Stage was just at the back of the main arena for the main stage. You could stand there and see all the huge screens from the main stage (as well as hear the music VERY well). We watched the Corrs from the Hard Rock backstage. Just to the side of the stage was a beautiful 'secret garden' right by the river. Folks were camped out on their boats in the water. There were tables and deck chairs and a few folks milling around. Never very busy. And some decent loos. Two bars and with the right wristband you could have drinks. We did not - but we met Paul who was managing the whole area and he said we were welcome. Thanks Paul! We wandered to the Big Top and have one glass of fizz to toast to our first festival gig and saw John Giddings whizz by on his golf cart. That was as close as we came to the man who invited us to play - he was very busy with his true VIPs I'm sure.
Right - so here is the low down on the show down. They were ready for electric instruments not acoustic and as soon as we took the stage (James Walsh just before us during the quiet of the main stage change over had a great crowd) our instruments caused monitor feedback. Unpleasant for all yet all I could hear was the ticking of the clock counting down to the end of our 30 minute set. We stayed cool (we are professionals! Don't try this at home!) and eventually we just started to play, trusting they would sort it out which they did. Of course the main stage had revved up again just before our set and it was none other than Mr Pop himself - Iggy that is, jumping shirtless all over the place singing 'Lust for Life'. They clearly had turned up the main stage volume. Unfortunate for an acoustic americana duo but we persevered. Yes, some folks left but as we played, folks moved up and listened. They sat and stood and stopped and listened. And more folks wandered in (it was set up a bit like a corral). Then we brought out the secret weapon - a lovely talented kid on stage to instigate a sing-a-long. It worked a treat. Joe and I worked hard to tune out the threatening feeback, Mr Pop and we stayed on course with hardly a bum note. I couldn't really hear myself at all so I had to trust my voice was holding it's own. Then Ruby got up there and started singing and we were off! She clapped - the crowd clapped with her. And before we knew it we had (I don't know - 200...300...400??) people clapping and singing 'Bring It On Down' with us. It was great. I took a moment to just look - to look to my right and see my husband playing his double bass with confidence and smiling away. To my left where my beautiful eleven year old daughter was singing and leading the crowd. To my gorgeous step-daughter right out in front cheering and clapping and getting people to join in, too. Waving to the masses of people wandering up and down the main concourse. What a moment. And then, as if we couldn't create anything better, we played, as our last song, 'No More I Love Yous' and got the whole crowd to start us off with the 'doots'. They did it at the end, too, and funny enough, Iggy must have been talking because it seemed quieter and I could hear the crowd singing with us.
We walked off stage to a lovely cheer and Iggy still jumping and shouting all around us. (It was a shame the closing band of the Hard Rock hadn't swapped with us because you would have heard them over Iggy no problem at all! Cool indie band.). People were kind and complimentary and that was it. We did it. We stood up there on a huge stage and played to an unknowing audience and they loved it. We gave away some stickers and that was it! We could relax. We took some pictures and changed clothes and put our rider (a few bottles of beer and cider and Doritos) into a shopping bag and that was it! It was over - just like that. A bit like a wedding - months of planning to be over in the blink of an eye.
Ellie and Matt took Ruby off to ride rides and Matt wanted to watch a bit of soccer. Joe and I sat in the diminishing daylight by the water in the secret garden and sat, smiling to ourselves. We toasted to a job well done - and agreed it was a bit of a test. But fun and exciting and we felt we passed the test with flying colours.
We have a couple of small festivals in July (Sugnall Blues and Jazz and Tingestock) and one big one in Bedford (The River Festival) and then Busk Till Dusk in August. And then that's it. Summer 2016 will have been a wild one full of big gigs, little gigs, an album launch and meeting new writers and artists. Making new friends through our music and remembering to just enjoy the moment. Have fun. Just because it's a festival doesn't mean it will be a divine gig with everything working perfectly. All the kit in the world didn't fix the feedback. Between the sound guys and us, we kept it at bay. This never happens at a little gig or even a house concert. So hey - big gig, little gig, free gig (ahem - we were paid for the Isle of Wight in 'exposure currency'), support gig, headlining gig, charity gig, backyard gig, wedding gig...just be happy that you can gig. Doing what you love - playing your own songs to an appreciative crowd - of 5 or 5000, it should have the same impact on you as the artist - to make you smile. To share what you do. There are 1000s of others that would trade places with you in a heartbeat so savour the moment. It may never come again. And no one can take it away from us. We can say we played the Isle of Wight. And for that I must thank Joe, my sideman and partner in all things. Even with his massive list of gigs and experience from his time with the Flys and The Lover Speaks, that was his first festival. So thank you John Giddings, you gave us both a great first festival experience. Until next year...and maybe during the quiet break.
(and now for the bit at the end - we had to get Ellie AND Matt AND a double bass, Ruby, myself, Joe, my guitar and all our kit into our car. Well, we did it. The case protected the bass, Ruby sat on laps at the back and I sat with my knees in my chest all the way back to our hotel. It was quite a sight to see and not knowing the way we feared we would get lost but I co-piloted Joe (who's back was killing him) and we got there. (We saw about 40 minutes of the Who and they sounded great.). Joe said it was a bit like the old days when bands just threw themselves and their kit into any old car and took off. We were so rock and roll!)