So if you’ve followed any of my feeds, you’ll know that my pop covers band NotNowCato played the Glastonbudget Festival last weekend. Bit of background:
- The band is my gang. We’ve been together since 1996. We never even tried to write our own songs. Much as I love words, all my attempts at lyrics started at “I wanna hold your hand” and escalated less than a verse later to “we’re stapling our eyelids to the ceiling” (actually I think that’s a Groening gag, but the idea stands)
- Glastonbudget is a “tribute” act Festival. It’s been running for 11 years I think, three miles from my home, and is pretty professional these days. The main tribute acts are startlingly good and make a proper living being brilliant facsimiles of massive acts.
A year ago, our bassist suggested that we audition to be one of the 80 or so acts at this year’s festival. We’d never done anything that organised (we have played a couple of local festivals before but only by invitation)
Putting a thirty-minute set together for that show last October was a different discipline from our normal rehearsal schedule. The night of the audition was amazing fun, and we made a bunch of new friends from other bands trying out. That performance was probably the best of our 21 years, and it was amazing to have friends and family come and support us
Here’s a favourite photo from that night
We got our slot (tea-time Saturday: the place they put the old warhorses at Glastonbury) and our stage (the small outdoor stage) and a set of instructions for how to get in, on, play and take down properly.
I’ve been to a few festivals and it’s another one of those things that you can be in the centre of and have no sense of what’s happening to make it happen. Since in real life my job is to look at how people get things done, I probably should have thought about this before. So if you’re interested, here’s the headlines:
- The whole site is designed to create a border: exactly like “airside and landside” at an airport. From the “band campsite” (oh the glamour!) past the back of the main stage, past our stage and on to the “big top” is the service road. Security, barriers and screens keep the moving parts away from the festival-goers.
- The administration behind the scenes was locked down to the point that we couldn’t present ourselves as performers until “no more than one hour” before our scheduled start time
- At least half of our audition focused on our ability to set up and break down quickly. On the day we were assisted by the stage crew and we were pretty efficient
- There’s nothing glamorous on our side of the fence
We went on the Friday to soak up the atmosphere, to get maximum use from our free tickets (that said “band” on them which was already enough to get me giddy) and also so we could figure out what kit the boys needed to bring. They’re really only in a band for the technology (and shopping for technology) opportunities it offers.
In the event, the wind picked up an hour before we started, and the decision was made to close the stage until it subsided. Lighting was removed from above the apron. We pointed out that the thin children who were due to play before us were more at risk of blowing away than any of us, but the authorities were having none of it. For half an hour, we thought that we might not get to play after all.
Three-quarters of an hour later than scheduled, and (along with other bands) reduced by five minutes, we sound checked half a verse and then we were off. My photos tell me that 81 people eventually came to watch us. And I’m stupidly grateful for every one of them (I am counting the sound guys, and photographers, but not the security officer because she was facing the other way the whole time (I am a stickler for accurate accounting)).
About 1300, I got a bit sad at the prospect that folks might not come to see us. It happens a bunch of times in general: I worry that I’m promoting our regular gigs too hard, and then a couple of days after we’ve played, I get asked when we’re playing. So I took to Facebook and pleaded with people who liked the band page (a relatively low level of commitment, I recognise) to share the post advertising our slot.
- even if people didn’t know anyone at the event, they might show up on timelines of people who were there
- or they might show up on timelines of people who knew people who were there
- or they might decide to message friends who might know someone
You get the idea: I directly asked some of the most connected people I knew whether they would share the post, even though they didn’t know anyone who might have been there. In the event, enough people came to tell me that they’d only come to see us because someone had prompted them that I’m really pleased to have risked burning all that goodwill in one big go. I think I’ve said thank-you directly to the folks who were identified as having gained us one or more watchers, but if I haven’t: thank you thank you thank you.
The stats for the boosted post tell me that we were seen by 1003 people, and that 100 of them shared our post. Here’s the nerdy breakdown of my boost by age of user:
Anyway: we played and it was wonderful. It was absolutely the fastest 25 minutes of my life. And it was amazing. For that whole time I felt like a proper pop star. Here’s what I mean.
The main stage hosts the big hitters that will appeal to the biggest crowd (Beach Boys, Michael Jackson, Beatles, Springsteen and Oasis pro-tribute bands); the Big Top has the (mostly pro) “specialist” bands (Korn, Pink Floyd, Black Eyed Peas) as well as a selection of other stuff (but all at a level way above us). The LoCo tent hosts folky and acoustic stuff, mostly. The IcOn stage (that we were on) is the smaller, outdoor stage, and it hosted mostly keen young upstarts playing their own stuff, or grizzled covers bands like us. I don’t care that it was the stage with the smallest audience: to me it looked and played like Wembley, 13th July, 1985.
And that’s kind of my point, I guess.
If you’ve seen the band, you might recognise that every gig we play, I imagine that we’re playing at a legendary venue and that tonight is the gig that really matters.
So on Saturday, May 27th 2017, on a proper stage, with proper lights, with my gang spread out either side of me, and the wind blowing my hair horizontally, and being as well-rehearsed as we’ve ever been, and with six massive songs that our audience could sing back to us, and with twenty-one years of practice, and with a proper introduction from a local radio star…..
I was Bono, baby.
I was Bono.