Ben & Jerry’s Festival 2008

Another weekend another festival. As in the last couple of years we attended the Ben & Jerry’s Festival, held on Clapham Common. Last year we thought that it was getting a bit too hip, too many teenagers (my how old we are now) and not enough of the laid back family atmosphere we had experienced the first time round. This year is was a slightly older crowd, many with babies or young kids in tow, and it was easy to lie back and relax. The free ice-cream also helps make it a good time.

[cpg_imagenormal:96,IMG_1118.jpg]

Ben & Jerry’s Festival

Musically it was better than last year with a few acts I wanted to see. I got close to the stage to see Florence and the Machine perform and Florence is…well, hard to describe. Take the innocence of early Bjork, throw in some Kate Bush warbling, some bluesy lyrics and the energy of a youngster with some kookiness also borrowed from the Icelandic music queen and you’ll get close. It was certainly hard to not watch Florence as she sang and spun/pranced around the stage. Definitely one to watch, especially as she doesn’t even have a record label at the moment.

[cpg_imagenormal:96,IMG_1110.jpg]

Florence and the Machine

The next act I went to the stage for was the Delays, a favourite from the Wireless Festival a few weeks back. Again we had a lot of energy, this time coming with sonic pop vibes and catchy lyrics. Very enjoyable and both the crowd and band seemed very happy.

[cpg_imagenormal:96,IMG_1154.jpg]

Delays

I also went forward to sample the Guillemots and while they were good, I’m not sure I’m convinced I like the majority of their music. The singles are good but the rest of their tracks I just find myself not listening too, I get distracted easily when the filler is playing.

[cpg_imagenormal:96,IMG_1172.jpg]

Guillemots

Finally, a few random thumbnails which may or may not be the same as the above (there are 20 photos in the gallery, it could be any four):

[cpg_albumrand:96,4]

We didn’t stay to see the last act and had a good, quick and smooth journey home. Summer is finally here properly and it’s hot and sticky at home with high twenties forecast for the next few days. Less than five weeks until we fly out now, so this was probably our last live music in London. I guess there will be a few ‘lasts’ over the coming weeks.

Jenny, Darren, Isabella, Frances, Merv

The weekend just gone we spent the Saturday evening with Bindi and Corey’s place, having dinner with Kathy, Sharon and our hosts. It was a night of pleasant talk and good food and we stayed the night so we could be close to Heathrow in the morning. We had offered to pick up my Aunty and Uncle, Frances and Mervn, and take them up to Grantham so they could meet their new grandchild Isabella.

The plane was due in around 7am but thankfully (for us anyway) it was delayed. We met at Terminal 3 and loaded up the car before heading north. There was a delay for roadworks on the M1 and we had a break at motorway services to grab a bite to eat. We got to Grantham mid afternoon.

Jenny and Darren were outside with Isabella when we arrived and the afternoon involved everyone talking about Isabella, the birth, the house and garden, others who had visited and everything in between. we said our goodbyes as evening came on, wanting to get home before dark.

Jenny with Isabella

Jenny with Isabella

Family

Family

iTunes Festival 2008: Suzanne Vega with Seth Lakeman

Last night we were lucky enough to attend day 22 of the 2008 iTunes Festival being held at Koko. This series of concerts had a number of artists playing for competition winners, no tickets could be bought. This night saw Seth Lakeman and Suzanne Vega on the bill and I had won tickets (Keryn and I entered 4 or 5 prize draws between us and got one pair of tickets).

This week is the most convincing simulacrum of Summer that London has had so far this year and it was nice and sunny waiting in the queue. We were granted access to the venue around 7:30pm and made our way to the stage, collecting our lanyards with a voucher for 10 free iTunes downloads attached. We were stood right at the front by the stage barrier…and then waited some more. About 20 minutes before Seth started some of the official photographers started appearing and I recognised one. I had met Andy at the Bush Hall when I saw Beth Rowley and we had chatted about various things photography. He noticed me at the Wireless Festival and we talked then and he immediately recognised me and we got to talking once more. It was good to talk to someone, Keryn and I were getting a little bored at this stage. Keryn was actually sitting down to rest her back (Keryn would have moved to the back to find a seat, but couldn’t face fighting through the crowd – I don’t think Keryn will be attending many more standing gigs). Andy has a website which you can see here:

http://www.lowlightphoto.co.uk/

First up was Seth Lakeman and immediately he got the crowd going with a mid-tempo ho-down. Seth is quite electrifying on stage, obviously enjoying himself and putting all his energy into singing, playing and moving around. As the opening act the set was only 9 songs long it seemed over very quickly, but the crowd seemed happy.

[cpg_albumrand:95,4]

[cpg_imagenormal:95,IMG_1020.jpg]

Seth Lakeman performing at the iTunes Festival 2008

After a break and a short promo video Suzanne was on stage with the same band as when i saw her last week. This time they had a huge stage to work with and the lighting was much better. The crowd warmed quickly and Suzanne seemed amused by the various comments she got between songs. She also talked quite a bit about many of the songs, giving the inspiration behind many tracks (her first boyfriend, from Liverpool; playing solitaire on the computer). It was good, though the already mentioned back issues for Keryn meant she didn’t enjoy it too much. We were also a lot more crowded by those around us for this set – people weren’t nasty, there was just no personal space any more.

[cpg_albumrand:94,4]

[cpg_imagenormal:94,IMG_1062.jpg]

Suzanne Vega performing at the iTunes Festival 2008

The journey home went smoothly and we were in Brentwood shortly after 1am, so it was a long day.

Suzanne, thanks Ben

One of the guys from work, Ben Hooper, surprised me with tickets to see Suzanne Vega perform at the Pigalle Club in London. It was a leaving present and a chance for a night out, so how could I say no?

After a drink in a pub just outside Chinatown we walked to the club and were shown to our table. The tickets we for a three course meal and the concert and we found ourselves right in front of the stage. Dinner was very nice; salad, lamb rump and an apple tart for me with accompaniment of a few beers and nice wine. The only duff note was the fire alarm going off at irregular moments in the lead up to the music (the fault of the bank next door).

The alarms caused a delay in some peoples meals (we were lucky I guess) and they couldn’t start any music until the noise was halted. Because of this the music started a half hour late. The opening act, whose name I forget, was actually quite good. A statuesque man in a suit playing guitar and singing well, if quickly. He was gone quite quickly really, six songs going past in a blur. A short wait and Suzanne and band arrived onstage shortly before 10pm.

Suzanne Vega at the Pigalle Club
Suzanne Vega at the Pigalle Club

The performance was great, the songs performed expertly by a well drilled group of artists. With just a drummer and bass player we were treated to songs such as “Luka” all the way up to tracks off the latest album, “Beauty & Crime”. I particularly enjoyed “Penitent” and “World Before Columbus” which appeared during the encore.

Near the end of the set
Near the end of the set

A long set had to come to an end and we were soon getting ready to leave. Doug Yowell, the drummer, was on stage beginning to pack up his kit. Ben took the opportunity to jump up and have a word, and soon I was there as well and we grabbed a photo. Ben was rewarded with a drumstick, which you can see below.

Ben and I with Doug Yowell, Suzanne Vega's drummer
Ben and I with Doug Yowell, Suzanne Vega’s drummer

The prize drumstick
The prize drumstick

We went for a drink afterwards and things got a bit hazy after that, Keryn in the end picking me up far too early in the morning from east London. I think I’m getting a bit old for this drinking lark.

Avenue Q with Roz, Dan and Seb

Last night we had the pleasure of joining Roz, Dan and Seb for dinner and the show Avenue Q. We travelled from Istanbul to Cairo all those years ago with Roz and we visited Roz and Dan in Melbourne after our Africa trip. Seb was also on part of the middle east journey. It was good to catch up with everyone over pizza and the show was very funny. It was a pity that yesterday was easily the wettest day of the year so far, as Roz said the weather was similar to Melbourne at the moment.

Keryn with Roz, Dan and Seb

Seb, Keryn, Roz and Dan after Avenue Q

What we’ve been up to recently…

Well, lots of things have been happening over the past few months (yes I know it’s been a while, I’m sorry, busy, new role at work, changing blogs and website templates, that sort of stuff is to blame). We’ve been up to Grantham to visit Jenny a few weeks before Isabella was born; we’ve been for walks in the countryside; travelled down to Bournemouth for a weekend with Maria, Will, Kathy & Sharon; stayed for a couple of nights in a B&B between Bath and Bristol; I’ve travelled up to Leeds, Glasgow and Edinburgh for work; Heidi came down to visit; plus lots of other things. You might notice the blog is new and there is a new Calendar button on the menu which details exactly what we’ve been doing.

Here are a few examples from the last few weeks. We saw Liam Finn at the Barfly in Camden, a bar and music venue that could be described as functional at best, a student venue without the University, dark, dirty and dank. Still, the music was good!

[cpg_albumrand:92,4]

Then the weekend just gone saw us attend the O2 Wireless Festival at Hyde Park. With Patricia and Sam, down from Manchester for the weekend, we made sure to arrive early on the Sunday to firstly get VIP tickets (thanks Patty and Sam for getting us some as well, we were delayed arriving) and secondly to be at the O2 stage before 2pm so we could check out the secret act. I had a hunch that Ben Harper might be the secret performer and he was! What’s more we got to get quite up close and personal as the power was pulled from the performance while Ben was playing the second song (apparently he started too soon, before it was licensed). Once Ben had realised he got up, headed to the stage barrier and jumped over to perform the next two songs in the middle of the stunned crowd. Patty was really close. How close? Close enough to take this photo:

[cpg_imagenormal:93,IMG_0857.jpg]

That was our ‘festival moment’ and will live long in the memory I think. Afterwards we went and grabbed a free lunch courtesy of a text to O2 (festival hint #1 – look for free stuff everywhere!) which was very nice. Later in the day I managed to win myself a pair of shoes in the New Balance Shoe Toss. The idea was simple; take a pair of trainers tied together by the laces and toss them at a wall with pegs sticking out. If the shoes hung on a peg you got a pair of shoes. It sounds easier than it was (judging by the amount of failed attempts in evidence). So, I won a pair on my first throw and later on went back along with Patty and Sam so they could have a go. To prove how easy it was I had another couple of goes and on the second attempt landed the trainers again, so Keryn got a free pair of trainers too! Patty wasn’t going to take this lying down and later on managed to succeed in the trainer toss only to find out that they had run out of trainers.

The weather was fairly ominous for most of the day but heavy rain was restricted to the occasional downpour. Keryn and I managed to catch performances from the Goo Goo Dolls (fleetingly), the Delays, Powderfinger, Ben Harper (on the main stage this time) and the Counting Crows. More photos from the day can be seen by clicking below. The thumbnails below are randomly taken from the gallery photos, a nifty new trick.

[cpg_albumrand:93,4]

Day 7 – Wakey Wakey, Sihanoukville, the Beach

Overnight accomodation

One of the buildings we slept in

Keryn should write this really, she was better prepared. Anyway, lets just say that by the time I woke up and more to the point got up we the group was about ready to leave. In the light (very bright, why was this?) of day the complex was found to contain a number of animals and people. Keryn and others shared accommodation with the family that lived in the complex while us latecomers were in our own building, probably to enable everyone else to get a good nights sleep I imagine.

Some of the family

Various members of the family

Pets at play

Pets at play

After a bit of freshening up courtesy of the fresh water trough in the bathroom (or small building with a toilet) we were soon into the van for the next part our our trip, a drive to the coast and the town of Sihanoukville.

After several hours of driving we arrived in Sihanoukville and drove to out hotel situated next to the Golden Lion Roundabout. The room we were first allocated was cold and smelled of damp so Keryn asked for a new one and we were soon moved into a much fresher room. After resting we headed out to find the beach.

The walk up the hill and down a dirt road to the beach was short, soon we were walking along a white sandy beach, making our way between chairs and tables set out in front of the numerous bars and restaurants that lined the shore front. We had lunch after stopping to talk to Kate and Claire and unfortunately it was probably the worst meal I’ve ever had, certainly the worst fish. The hunk of fish was seriously undercooked and after complaining it was taken away only to return with the raw bit seared to a char (and a quick check with a knife proved that it was still uncooked inside). We gave up on the meal and set off to explore the rest of the beach.

The afternoon involved the walk, some time on the Internet and then in the evening we were back at the beach for dinner which was much nicer that the aborted lunch. The beach was a hive of activity and we sat back, relaxing, chatting and watching the world walk by. It was an early night for us after a relaxed day, looking forward to the boat trip on the morrow.

Day 6 : Spiders, a Shopping Centre and a Home-stay

Sunrise over the Mekong
Sunrise over the Mekong

After an early rise to catch the sunrise it was all hands to packing. Journeying by public bus we travelled from Kampong Cham heading towards Phnom Penh. Once more we were all to the front with a mix of locals and tourists to the back. The journey was broken by one rest stop at the now becoming familiar roadside service food hall. This particular stop had been anticipated because here we would see a local delicacy: fried tarantulas (read more on Wikipedia if you want the recipe).

Soon after getting off the bus a woman came round offering to sell us a spider; she had them all piled up on a plate, a round hill of crispy black legs. Pete bought one and seemed to enjoy eating it, though I think to start with he enjoyed some of our reactions more. A few tried a piece of leg but there are some things I’m quite comfortable in not experiencing, thank you very much.

Fried Spider anyone?
Fried Spider anyone?

In addition to the spiders there were the usual fruits and also a small stand with the more traditionally western crisps and biscuits. There was one other unusual dish available, a plate of large brown crickets, again fried. They looked more edible than the spiders but no more palatable to me.

The rest of our trip was without incident that I recall. We arrived in the bustling city of Phnom Penh to find ourselves truly in a different world; one where we were out of nature and instead beset by motorcycles buzzing past like flies populating a run-down city of tall buildings, dodging around people and the mass of buses. We were actually in the central bus area and this was a time we were grateful to be with a group, it would have been difficult to find a bus or in our case a direction, the bustle being completely disorienting.

As a group we headed off towards a tall building in the middle distance, a shopping centre. Here we would have a few hours to relax, find something to eat and maybe do a little shopping. We would then be getting another bus to take us to our home stay at a community on the way towards Sihanoukville.
Let loose in the shopping centre we slowly made our way to the top, seven stories or escalators up. We took in the view over the city and then had a burger meal in the very American fast food chain next door. Over the other side of the top floor was a roller disco with local adolescents going round and round to loud music. The Angkor Temples this was not.

Looking out over Phnom Phen
The rooftops of Phnom Penh

Having eaten we made our way downstairs, checking out the stores available. There wasn’t really anything to interest us and we were back at the ground floor with an hour or more still to kill. We took some time at an Internet cafe and then sat down with Linda and to have some ice cream. Everyone came together and after a few people tried out some of the massage chairs on display we were back out to the bus station. This time it was a smaller bus, just us and our luggage.

The trip became interesting once we turned off the main road and headed into the countryside. Driving along narrower roads and after a while dirt roads we eventually pulled up outside a community centre. We were in the middle of a forest, the community centre a place for those living locally to come together and also a place where visitors such as us can be given information on the local region, food can be prepared and served and an area for entertainment.

There was an option to take a walk to a waterfall further up in the hills which a few of the keener people took on. Keryn and I stayed behind and relaxed while chatting, but not before a bit of a kick-around with a football and another of the funny plastic hackies. The world was nearly put to rights by the time the walkers returned and it wasn’t long before we were being served a simple but tasty dinner. Most of the people cooking our dinner didn’t really join us, other than to serve the food. Our driver was there and a couple of the local men but the woman, for the large part, kept to the background.

Earlier in the day we had stopped off to buy soft drinks and a few beers. A couple of dusty bottles of wine had even been found hiding on the shelves of one store so they were bought as well. This didn’t really suffice and over an evening of drinking, drinking games, dancing and chatting we went through many more beers with a number of dimly lit motorcycle journeys made back down the dusty road to find a store to fuel our need. At one point the guys even came back with the owner of a store who had been invited out to share a drink.

Fire, Tom and Pete
Fire, Tom and Pete

The evening wore on and we ended up having half the group head off to bed at the home stay, the rest of us staying out. We eventually made our way to the home stay as well, a couple of the guys on motorcycle and the rest in the van. We pulled up at the fenced complex, a local farming community with a few buildings on stilts and not much else visible in the darkness. We were assigned a building for our sleeping quarters and all stumbled into the mosquito net enclosed rest areas. Nick and I managed to end up on one pallet with no mattress and just a woven mat for comfort (I wasn’t going to try and figure out where Keryn was, probably fast asleep). For me it was quickly to sleep, a rest required after the long day.