Right, so there’s this pub which isn’t exactly on the way to anywhere (unless you’re going to the Double Two factory shop). Used to be The Jolly Sailor in Thornes, but more recently became a bit of a restaurant-pub called The Wharfside. They’d put out a shout for bands to play at a one-day free music festival: Obvious Pseudonym put ourselves forward as did The Tracks. Time passed, we heard nothing, eventually with a fortnight to go Dorian and Faye (keys and bass players in The Tracks) headed down there to see what’s going on: they discovered from landlady Vicky there was no PA and no marquee and no lighting and… well, it could be disastrous. So we got involved…
Really it was all a bit ‘Challenge Anneka’: build a decent-sounding PA using kit I’d got in the garage, get the lighting rig down there, borrow a van, and work out how to use the digital desk with a full band. Dorian and Faye did the street-team thing with posters, and we put out calls for more acts to perform. In the end though it sounded and looked ace – definite proof to myself (if nobody else) that I can do it.
So came the day: I disappeared off at 8:30am to pick up the van, diverting via St Michaels to pick up Dorian and Mac (The Tracks’ drummer) who are both young lads with muscles. We loaded the van with every bit of kit under the sun (it just fit) and headed to Wharfside to find Graham and Harry of StagePro sitting outside waiting to unload the drum riser we’d hired. A bit of huffing and puffing later, we’d got all the tables out of the way and the riser was in place. Next up: the marquee.
Now, this damn marquee wasn’t in the best of nick – it had obviously been used a lot and the plastic poles were cracking from stresses unknown (presumably in the course of its life at Diamond Studios, who’d kindly lent it to us). Mix in the complication that it was so windy getting it erected was going to be a bit of a mad job! It took six of us to get it upright at which point it became evident something was wrong as the wind was whipping it up far too much (“it’s going to end up flying across the Calder!”) and no amount of of gaffer tape was going to fix it. Fearing a Pukkelpop moment, Vicky and I passed the buck between us on whether we’d have the marquee at all. Then…
”‘ang on, this isn’t right…” opined John J, who’d turned up mid-erection (fnar).
I stared, trying to work out why the guyropes were on the inside. “Er. Oh. The roof’s on upside down, it’s meant to fasten up.”
”Right. Let’s flip it over, might work, and if not then we do without it!”
It was a bit more stable after that!
I built up the PA using amplifiers I’ve had kicking around for ages and various other bits of stuff, all lashed together to a programmable digital remote desk FOH where I could also control the lighting rig. I had the usual bits of EQ and had a discussion with a few folks to try and get the best mix. Consensus was that it sounded excellent, and we’d easily packed enough power for the event. Maybe if anything it was a bit mid-heavy at the sides of the venue but you can’t have everything can you.
So to recap, 3pm: marquee’s up, PA is in place (7KW of stuff with an exceptionally heavy amp cab and borrowed tops from OP’s bloke Pete), lighting rig is in one piece and working, we’re surviving the onslaught of quips from volunteer Chris and there have been no disasters yet. Hooray! We soundcheck with The Tracks, who are the first full band and due to hit the stage four hours later at 7pm.
First act was up: Dorian and Tom doing an acoustic set, 20 minutes of songs to get things going. I wasn’t expecting it to be busy at all until about 6pm although the beer garden started to fill up once the music began. Sound was good, a couple of tweaks on the EQ but nothing serious. Nicky arrived and started taking photos, so it was documented – excellent! At this point Chris grabbed me and pointed at the left sub speaker which was lying on the floor having been blown out from its cabinet by the sheer air pressure involved in moving a 1KW high-end Celestion 15″ driver. Oopsie, I guess building a new cab for those is on my job list this week!
Callum Macintyre next: one mic, one guitar. He was excellent, no disasters, place is filling up nicely. I looked across to see Rob Dee (Philophobia music boss) had arrived with Mike Ainsley and Harry Rhodes ready for their slot, plenty of friends milling around and other luminaries from the Wakefield music scene. We were running to time – maybe slightly ahead of it, good. I rigged and line-checked for a duo called ReaderMeetAuthor who announced this was their first gig and they’d only formed as a band three hours ago: cue epic muddling through some covers, but it sounded OK (Mathieu’s other band The Ran Tan Waltz is a lot more polished and I recommend a listen). Nice to see Jon Pinder and John Jowett photographing lots.
Almost 6pm: level-check for The Cullens and they’re on. I see Danny Cullen in town quite a bit (especially at Open Mic Monday) but I don’t think I’ve actually concentrated on their sound before which was wonderfully polished, and by this point we’d got some folks dancing. The beer-garden was full, and looking across towards the river there were people lying on the verges in what Summer sun was shining, having a beer and enjoying the afternoon. Taxis arrived ferrying new listeners, still no disasters and still no rain despite it being forecast for around 5pm. As we were a little ahead of time, the Cullens got a couple of extra songs: sound-man’s privilege
Mike Ainsley was up next, together with Tim and Harry from St Gregory Orange. They insisted on sitting down and we couldn’t find any chairs or stools so we pulled up a few unused guitar amps – very rustic. No major adjustments on the desk, maybe a little bit of EQ on Harry’s guitar. A really rather splendid set from Mike (another act I’d been remiss in not listening to previously) and that was our acoustic acts done! I spotted various OP followers in the audience including Jayne and Bez, and felt a little buzz of pride that they’d come down to the out-of-town venue to see it all.
The Tracks were on at 7:15pm and I was all-on to get the sound right so didn’t stray far from the FOH post. They’ve got lots of dynamics in each song with thrashy crashy guitars followed by quiet thoughtful passages, full drum kit mike-up and all 12 XLR channels on the sound desk which lit up like a Christmas tree. Lots of dancing, two scruffy old blokes have shinned the fence and are trying to get people to buy them beer, and some nutter in the audience has got hold of a tambourine. Tom’s face is a picture. Good reception and an encore was demanded: the band did not disappoint their fans!
All of Obvious Pseudonym were present and accounted for by now, so while The Tracks got their stuff offstage we loaded ours in and tarped it at the side. Still no rain although there were a couple of reports of it spitting a little. Nothing blew up: always the important thing. Meantime the next act (“I R Hero”) set up with a little bit of a problem in that the drummer only had one working arm and needed an extra snare mic for his kick-snare. No problems I guess, especially since they’d initially asked for a 10-mic setup on the drums – er, no chance boys…!
I R Hero launched into their rock-pop-punk set, but no sign of the snare kick on the sound-desk… I sent Dorian up to investigate but we ended up replacing the mic. It was still a bit touch-and-go with the monitor mix not being brilliant, but again the sound out front was ace. I left to find a pint of Guinness, and came back just as the drummer resigned from the band. A bloke in the crowd stepped up and drummed on their last song… the drummer wasn’t seen again.
9pm, we were running to time, nothing destroyed, no disasters, no rain; I bravely ventured an opinion that the whole thing seemed to be going OK. Vicky glared at me: don’t jinx it sunshine. We plonked Obvious Pseudonym’s stuff on stage and I set up the keys on the drum riser so I had a little stage of my own, woo! Dorian familiarised himself with the desk to do our sound. I admitted to myself I was nervous, this was the first time I’d trusted someone at the controls who wasn’t a professional sound engineer or music technician: be strong, lad!
We went on at 9:20pm, five minutes late, bouncing into Westgate Run and doing the Summer set we’d mostly done for the past four weeks on our International Tour Of Wakefield with one notable exception: Eclipsed had been replaced by the new song Dad Dancing. People danced, genuinely and ironically. It sounded good from where I was, and we got some excellent comments: one couple even came across from the flats over the Calder to see us after hearing what we were like. New fans!
We came off around 10pm and by midnight everything was back in the van. Nicky and Jayne were dispatched to find curry and I sat in the bar with a (fresh) pint of Guinness (after not getting around to drinking the last one). Still no disasters, still no rain, and we’d managed to put on our first full festival; thoughts of next year pervaded through the exhaustion as Dorian, Jim, Faye and I came down off the ceiling. Pretty damn good for amateurs and the sound was ace, I just hope the desk recording is as good: I’ll find out later. Uberthanks to the people who helped by lugging, lifting, erecting, removing and all that stuff including Chris, John, Jim, Nicky, Ben, Carl, Tom, Rob and Mac. You guys were ace and made the job so much easier; I’m exceptionally proud of what we achieved.
…now, I’m off to unload the van and collect the drum riser!