A couple of weeks ago I received an invite to play at a small acoustic festival just outside of Stevenage called “Berrylands” which was held on a field that forms part of Ardeley Farm. It was an interesting festival in that all attendees had purchased tickets via an invite and the ticket price included your food for the evening and breakfast. Each ticket holder received a farm burger and sausages for their dinner as well as some bacon for breakfast. All you had to do was bring your own BBQ and baps! There was also a charity element to the festival with £5 from every weekend ticket and £2.50 from every day ticket going towards the Bike 4 Cambodia charity.
As a performer, I was paid in fresh burgers and sausages and given an extra weekend ticket for a friend. Pretty good deal if you ask me! For years I’ve been trying to get on the bill for more festivals and have sent hundreds of applications but it’s so difficult trying to do it without an agent. Any festival opportunity that comes my way, I’m very usually straight back to the promoter with a yes! I’ve only every really played at one other festival before which was a day festival last year near Northampton. As a punter, I’ve been to a few “greenfield” festivals outside of the UK but never been to a good old UK one. They always usually coincide with me having a gig or travelling to Gibraltar or like last summer, in the middle of some CouchSurfTour dates. I really need to sort that out but if I get an offer to play, I really try to make it work!
I’ve always been a fan of camping but I’ve never actually ever camped in the UK. Therefore, I didn’t exactly have any camping gear with me so I had to take a trip to the Aladdin’s cave that is Decathlon to pick up a tent and a sleeping mat. I invited my brother to come to the festival with me and between both of us, we managed to get enough of the essential camping gear together for a night in the great outdoors.
After about an hour driving through the ridiculous London traffic we finally hit the motorway up to Stevenage. It wasn’t long until we were driving little narrow country roads up to the farm. The last 15mins of the drive to the actual field was a bit of an off road challenge but we managed to navigate around the pot holes without leaving any hubcaps or the chassis behind (had it been raining we would have been screwed!).
On arrival, we were handed our fresh meat in little plastic bags and we set up camp promptly before immediately sparking up the disposable BBQ. As we had to return to London early the next day, we also cooked our bacon for dinner eating sausages for starters and gourmet burgers for mains! The food was delicious!
It wasn’t long after I finished my epic dinner that I needed to make my way over to the little marquee where I was going to be playing. The first act had already begun and the audience had rocked up with their picnic blankets, chairs and six packs of ale and cider. It was quite a cosy affair! I hadn’t had a chance to soundcheck so it was handy that just before my set there was a charity tom-bola which gave me time to set up all my pedals and try and figure out the mixing desk. After a quick line check, I began my set playing songs off my EP with a couple of new tracks and threw in my cover version of MGMT’s “Kids” for good measure.
About halfway through my 4th song, “Innocence”, the generator that was powering the tent ran out of petrol and the tent plunged into darkness with the PA cutting out! I hesitated for a sec but kept on playing. After a few gasps from the audience, while their eyes where still adjusting to the darkness I let out the loudest SHHHHHH that I could which led some audience members to do the same and eventually the tent went rather quiet while they lit up the tent with the lights form their mobile phones. It was a really great moment (for me anyways). I played to the end of the song and just before starting the next “unplugged”, the power came back on. I had a blast playing the set and the power cut made it extra fun! I wish I had a photo of the tent being lit by mobile phone lights!
After the set I got to chill out or warm up by the massive bonfire that had been started earlier and have a few drinks with my bro and the good folk of the festival. Was a great night. The only not so great part, and this might be due to my inexperience of UK camping, was that I became an icicle that night. It was freezing. I just didn’t know what to do to keep warm. I wore everything that I took with me but it just didn’t work. I’ve watched a few Bear Grylls episodes but there were not any dead goats around for me to make a fur coat from! It was a sleepless night.
When the sun started to rise at about 6am, the tent became a sauna and I had to burst out for some fresh air and remove some layers! How do you keep warm at night and not melt in the morning when at UK festivals? I need some festival camping advice please! Please leave your tips below! 🙂