(Photos to be added later)
First, an introduction.
A very lovely friend of mine by the name of Georgina O'Callaghan (otherwise known as Goc) essentially owns a forest. A whole forest. A God-be-praised "Gerroff my laaaand!" forest, with an abundance of trees and insects. Each year Goc holds a festival on the site which usually entails a spot of camping, a lot of drinking and music a-plenty. While it's always a cracking way to spend a weekend, this year was above and beyond.
Not only were the stops pulled out, they were thrown in the flippin' campfire.
My 'Stock experience began on Thursday in the early afternoon. I lugged my stuff to the main stage, which was covered in hippies. Said stage was an enormous Bedouin-style tent, with a raised stage at the front and various crazy cushions strewn about the place. The bearer of my second home (a large-ish tent dubbed "Le Chateau") was to arrive later, so I set my tools down and went for a canter around the site. Goc "dude, I'm f*cking wrecked" O'Callaghan zoomed past in the distance on the phone, no doubt battling with the council. A little further into the woods I found her partner-in-crime taking out a tree with his hammer of justice. Sasha "don't ask me how I'm doing" Zivojinovic was setting up the pathway lighting with a team of two. I helpfully stood about doing very little on the whole while all the hard work went on in front of me. Dave "are you hungover yet?" Hazell and Wolf "ZILTOID!" Alexander were also bashing things about into working condition, and the Psychedeliyurt was also arriving. Things were getting in the swing, so in the spirit of the 'Stock I picked up my ukulele and did my wandering minstrel bit around the forest. In the midst of playing a few songs for the trees, I spotted Dave Hazell on his way to make a deposit. It seems that bears do shit in the woods after all.
The local authority, who had granted Goc and Sasha the license to hold their event months ago, decided to intervene at the last minute. It seems as though the Environmental Health department don't talk to the Entertainment Licenses folk. The phone call had come in earlier on Thursday informing Goc that there would be a health and safety inspection at 11:30am Friday morning. We got together and had a little chat about the whole shebang. I have a few relevant qualifications and invited the organisers to direct the inspectors in my direction if they needed a bit of extra blagging. After a check round the site for anything stupidly obvious and shifting a few nailed planks, I monged out somewhere waiting for the rest of the Thursday 'Stockers to arrive. Ross "better than Communism" Burton arrived with our tent in tow, along with some of the booze we had shopped for that morning. The Biggest-Tent-In-The-World-that-isn't-really-that-enormous had also arrived, courtesy of Beth "I've already vommed twice" Ellard who was not staying that evening due to work commitments in the morning. Beth, Ross and I set about erecting the structure with varying degrees of success and lots of swearing. David "SAMOSAS!" Sharpe lent a hand and we polished off the porch. Ross and I couldn't be arsed to set up our own so we sorted out the air-beds (luxury / deluxe) and elected to squat in Beth's tent that evening. With that done, it was officially Pimms o'clock. The rest of the evening was spent mucking about in the woods and by the campfire, where a good jam session happened (I even brought out the Stylophone - fun, but irritating!). At some point, sleep occurred.
Up early on Friday morning to greet the health and safety inspectors, I had a mosey round picking up rubbish, disposing of / hiding flint and generally tidying up a bit. Goc literally only had an hour to spare for these guys, and they were massively late. And jobsworth-y. They did raise a couple of salient points, but generally I got the impression that they just wanted to lord it over us all. Either that or they wanted an excuse to get out of the office on a Friday morning. At any rate it was a waste of time. Everything reasonably practicable had been done or was being done. The enormous generator arrived, and things started getting hooked up to power. While that was going on, Burton and I made Le Chateau appear. Not the easiest pitch in the world but we managed it without too much swearing. Mr Hazell needed a hand getting some techy bits and bobs, so we made an off-site excursion out of it. Nipping to Sainsburys in Otford for lunch, festival booze and a poo, I ran into a couple of family members unexpectedly doing their shopping 12 miles away from home. I smell a rat. My family are spying on me. Or they're raptors. Or both.
Back on site (after a bit of sat-nav confusing - one of the hippies had pranged his motor and blocked the best route in!) the punters had started arriving. Gocstock had started. I nabbed myself a coffee from the Solar Café, and strolled around getting ready to perform. Sharpey and I were opening with a short acoustic set, so a quick rehearsal in the bell tent ensued. After ironing out a few kinks we were ready to go. Tuning that 12-string is a nightmare - I should have listened to Sharpey and changed the strings. Idiota. C'est la vie. On we went! The music began, and the setlist looked like this:
Again & Again (a Sharpe original)
Hitchin' A Ride
The Kids From Kibble And The Fist Of Light
Happy Birthday, Dear Shivani
We went down a storm, and even had an offer to open for a certain other artist's album launch show in August! More on that later. After a short break it was my turn to bust out some solo tunes. I had decided to bring a load of instruments with me to distribute amongst the audience so people could play along. Keeping those tunes simple and in C was a must! I had also been given numerous requests beforehand, so most of this setlist was by popular demand and went down very well accordingly. The set ran thusly:
When You Give Your Love To Me
Born To Run
Swing Life Away
It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
(at this point instruments were dished out)
Five Years Time
Don't Stop Believing (you know, that Journey song)
Such Great Heights
Cat & Mouse (with Thea Ford)
So Long (with Thea Ford)
The reception was unbelievable - with so many people singing along and some awesome work from those with instruments, I was a very happy camper. But that wasn't it for the evening, not by a long shot. Thursday night's secluded campfire jam with Wolf had included a rather nice version of "Summer of '69", and Wolf had asked me on Friday if I'd get up onstage with him to perform this for the audience. Another great reception, Wolf Alexander is one talented man. I hope to work with him more in future!
The rest of the evening was a success, and I already knew this would turn out to be the best Gocstock ever. There were some insanely talented people onstage, and the atmosphere couldn't be beaten. David "flat battery" Riley turned up late due to a vehicular malfunction, and various other friends turned up throughout the evening. Once music had ceased on the main stage, I was summoned to lead the campfire singalong where I threw out a good hour's worth of crowd-pleasers before passing the buck on. Another gig under the belt, though don't ask me about the setlist for this one as I haven't the foggiest! All I remember is Victoria "PLAY JOURNEY!" Barry demanding that I run through that same song again. Thankfully she didn't ask for it every five seconds this year! After handing over the torch I grabbed some Reggae Reggae dinner and relaxed in the 'yurt, which became my spiritual home over the course of the weekend. At some point, sleep occurred.
Up early again on Saturday morning, my first gig of the day was at noon. Or, I should say, approximately at noon. It got to 11am and it suddenly occurred to me that the drumkit wasn't on-stage. Luckily I knew where Rob "Red Room" Archibald was pitched and went to grab him. Eventually prising him from his tent, the kit started appearing from the car. The first act on was Thea Ford, a stunning singer-songwriter currently based in London town. I auditioned as guitarist a month or two ago without realising that this group were also playing at Gocstock. I'm rather excited to be a part of this project, along with the effervescent Mark O'Neill on bass and Thea's chap Nevin Sood of Balthazaar Mandrake filling in on t'drums. The gig went on more-or-less on time, with the setlist running as follows:
You Got Me
Cat & Mouse
Made Of You
One Day Soon
Thea's MySpace will soon be updated with finished studio cuts - demos can be heard at http://www.myspace.com/theaford
Another good reception, though not a particularly communicative one as several (scratch that) every single audience member was nursing a hangover! A steadfast performance from all concerned, with one minor smelly moment occurring in Zombie - poor Nev thought we'd finished during the guitar solo, robbing me of my glorious moment. Disgraceful. Bloody drummers! We were followed by the quite frankly amazing Bathroom Sally (http://www.myspace.com/bathroomsally), who blew my mind. Unfortunately I couldn't check out the whole set as I had to get ready for my next (and thankfully last!) gig of the weekend. Curse These Metal Hands were making their debut, and I had stage gear to get into!
Sasha flibbled up to the stage looking as if he might literally drop dead at any second. The poor boy had been working his ass off along with his Kit Kaboodle Kolleagues, and it was certainly taking it's toll. Where he found the energy to rock the gig I have absolutely no idea. Goc later told me it was fruit drops and sugar. Whatever it was, it works - that man plays circles round me as a guitarist. After Rob spent roughly six months setting up his kit, we rocked forth with the following set:
Always & Never
Accident of Birth
Taking The Queen
Metallica Medley - i. Orion ii. Master Of Puppets iii. Creeping Death
There's No Such Thing As A Jaggy Snake (featuring David Sharpe)
Jesus of Suburbia
I wasn't enamored with the early part of the gig, but we rocked things out sufficiently and by the end we were on top form. A HUGE thanks to the rest of the lads for agreeing to do some silly metal, and a bigger thanks to the audience for putting up with guitar tuning!!! The minute poor Sasha put his guitar down he died a death and was bundled off back home to recharge his batteries.
Mayfly Trio took the stage and I collapsed in a bit of a heap. I think I was a bit burned out myself, having played 5 gigs in under 24 hours. Looking back on it now it was a bit of a marathon! I could quite happily leave the guitar alone for a week or two now. After the Trio I went and had a lie down in my tent for an hour or so. UpCDownC were fun from where I was, but were probably massively too loud at the main stage. I came back recharged and went to grab some Reggae Reggae dinner once again (that stuff is like crack). The wonderful Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring (http://www.myspace.com/theirheartswerefullofspring) had been delayed, so the equally wonderous Green Rock River Band took the stage an hour early to keep us all sated. Check them out here - http://www.myspace.com/thegreenrockriverband. I simply can't say enough good things about these two bands. Pete "better than cannabis" Heaney fell massively in love with one of the young Hearts ladies. I tried to convince him to tell her how he felt, but he was a little bit shy. Kaplick, who had been running the solar cafe by the main stage and plying me with brandy infused coffee all weekend, were the last act on. Very early Porcupine Tree vibe, which I enjoyed immensely. The rest of my evening was spent chilling in the 'Yurt with various people, and enjoying some impromptu jazz at the Gin Palace. I do vaguely remember some card playing with Dave "gorilla" Diedo and Richard "you're for it, you are" Gush, but by that point I'd had the best part of a box of Banrock Station and was therefore a little the worse for wear.
At some point, hideously loud snoring occurred.
The festival was a complete success. The woods, music, my friends, wine, music, Reggae Reggae sauce, wine, music, Psychedeliyurt, gorillas, no rain, wine and music! Love it. Love you!