Thursday, July 31, 2008

Secret Garden Party

I spent last weekend up in Cambridgeshire at the (rather wonderful) Secret Garden Party - a festival that's been going a few years now, not predominantly a music festival, just the best party I've ever been to, I think.

I was invited up to do my "freestyle performance mathematical lecturing" thing as Prof. Raphael Appleblossom, my eccentric, lab-coat-clad alter-ego (they have a "Science Area", and I was nominally part of that). That was excellent fun, met a lot of very interesting, very kind people in the process, strummed a bit on my saz while between 'customers' (there wasn't much chance for that, though).

From the afternoon until late at night, the site was a bit loud to play unamplified acoustic music, so I didn't really bother to try (apart from a bit of a fireside jam the first night with Pok and others in the Bloodstone Arts's "Feast of Fools" area, but it was a struggle to even hear myself). By the end of the festival I'd worked out how to handle this - get up early enough to catch the quiet morning time and entertain all the spaced-out party people who've been up all night. So Sunday morning was spend wandering around with Ewan, the sax player from Planetman and the Internationalz (we'd played together earlier in the summer backing up a gig by I Jah Mo) - he was playing clarinet, and dressed in a full-body zebra suit (including zebra face paint) and a gold-fringed riff. We mostly played French dance tunes, as well as some more Eastern stuff (including a brave attempt at a Turkish tune). He vanished, and I joined forces with Justin, one the percussionists from the same East London crew.

Other musical highlights of those few days, in no particular order:

  • MC Xander - hyper-talented beatboxing MC/singer/guitarist who, using a Loop Station and two mics, manages to build mighty dance tracks in real time, with layered voice alone, gets the crowd jumping, then proceeds to spit pure fire over his own beats!! Go and see him if you possibly can.

  • The Resonators - not the defunct Avalonian ska band some of my friends were once in, but a Brighton-based reggae band - three women singers harmonising beautifully full horn section, super-solid rhythm section, and SUCH an uplifting for the reggae purists.

  • Ratfinks - Devon-based multidimensional ska band which features Gabe (a.k.a. 'Powers of Ten'), the MC/singer who scratches his own vocals in real time with some kind of digital turntable simulator - I once saw him at Exeter's North Bridge Inn with Max Crackery, the experimental trombonist. They put on a thoroughly entertaining show, including an audience participation number called "Animal Kingdom", wherein Gabe invites audience to shout out names of favourite animals, which he then assigns to various band members to musically interpret (we got one of two keyboard players interpreting an otter, the other a dolphin - after jokingly suggesting the drummer attempt that one - and the trombonist interpreting a goose...drunken audience member: "That's not a f***in' goose!" -> tromboinist: "Yes it f***in' is!" (laughter). I got talking to some of them on Sunday morning, and there are all sorts of Exeter connections - they're friends of James S from Children of the Drone. Being such a large group, they're keeping it as a summer project.

  • The Wobbly Squadron - a young, energetic and funky (but not inappropriately funky) spacerock band - really good fun. Nods to Hawkwind with the labcoats, facepaint and daft headgear, a sax player who doubles on EWI, etc.

  • The Mordekkers (of course) - I got to see most of both of their sets. The first had a livelier crowd, since the big fire display had kicked off just before their second one, but both were excellent, as usual.

  • an unknown DJ playing out on the pagoda by the lake, who deserved a medal (can't really remember much, but it was just the whole vibe he created - a bit of afrobeat, funk, "Once in a Lifetime", "Werewolves of London" - Jackie Wilson's "Your Love Keeps Taking Me Higher" was an ecstatic moment - dancing with a couple of hundred smiling strangers, mostly in mad costumes, in the sunshine, by a lake, electric blue damselflies everywhere.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Matthew,

i saw The Resonaters at Secret Garden Party.
they were amazing.
do you know how i can buy their music?

2:16 PM  

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