The End Of The Summer

Friends tell me that the fabulous Shambala festival has once again been a riotous success over in Market Harborough. It’s always been one of my favourite festivals – and one that leaves me exceptionally sad when packing up the tent to head home on August Bank Holiday Monday. 

In years gone by, it’s marked the end of Summer for me. Often, but not always, it’s been my last festival of the year. The days can’t help but get shorter and colder; it’s not long before the central heating has to kick into action again; that’s if it hasn’t already done so. Schoolteacher friends have to head back to jobs they hate. There’s little bonus to look forward to in Autumn and Winter when Christmas rarely floats your boat.

This year feels different. July and August have frankly been too hot in this part of Spain but I’m told that September and October are much better months to experience. Far from being dejected, I’m excited by the new things I’m likely to discover. This is a year that’ll keep on giving. 

Progress on the novel has been slow and I’ve hardly been churning blog posts out with dedicated profligacy. 

Profligacy – there’s a word I really should avoid using in the future.

It has been a wonderful summer though. If I was truly able to live in the moment, I’d probably say it’s been one of my best ever; it’s certainly one that I’ll look back on fondly in years from now. Not having to worry about a day job has given me all sorts of freedoms I otherwise wouldn’t have. 

I slept under canvas when back in England for three weeks; the weather helped but what a glorious thing to be able to do. Looking out from the dewy tent over perfect panoramas of the Dorset coast; poring over newspapers and magazines and being truly able to appreciate the columnists’ craft without having ‘something’ else to do; not beating myself up for not rushing around madly; finding my own pace. These have been my favourite experiences. 

British festivals ensured that my need for the chaotic was still achieved; from the wet and cosy Lunar (review here) through to the simply extraordinary, out of the world Boomtown (review here) via the sizzling Bestival (review here), they’ve all provided summer memories to cherish. 

Just last week after a day exploring the Ricote Valley here in Spain (highly recommended when it’s less hot), Sarah and I stumbled upon the thermal baths and day spa at Archena. Full of water jets and forceful showers, plunge pools and wave trails, here you could massage and pummel your achy joints and muscles whilst looking out to the mountains north of Murcia. I’ll go there again. 

Fine food, simple sea swimming and  surprises beyond every T-junction that are waiting to be explored. 

It’s the end of Summer but it’s not the end of this crazy adventure. 

 

Rag ‘N’ Bone Man – Nottingham Rescue Rooms – Monday 21st November

Time is flying by. A whole week has passed since I saw the incredible Rag ‘N’ Bone Man at Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms. I suspected it was going to be a splendid gig and I wasn’t disappointed. 

I first spotted Rory Graham, the brilliant bearded big guy, over three years ago in the Chai Wallah’s tent at Shambala festival. In my eFestivals review (here) I said, “Rag ‘N’ Bone Man is bigged up by the compere and rightfully so. The crowd exchange knowing glances. Here we have a splendid, soulful voice with the ability to shake a room, something that’s rooted firmly in a bluesy past and yet made modern by the presence of a mixing DJ. I note that Rag ‘N’ Bone Man is about to accompany Bastille on their Autumn tour. I hope that that crowd appreciate him half as much as the crowd in here.”

Fast forward to the summer that’s just passed and I caught Rory again, this time at the lovely Barn On The Farm festival. I reviewed that one for eFestivals as well (here) and commented that, “over on the outdoor stage, there were also many highlights. I first saw Rag ‘n’ Bone a few years ago on a small stage at Shambala. Even back then, you could tell Rory Graham was an impressive presence. In recent years, he’s honed his craft and added a band of fine musicians. The bassy blues of his booming voice prove to be a fine choice of Sunday evening headline set on this stage.”

It was nice to now finally get the chance to see a set away from the festival field. 

It’s a packed room. I guess a combination of hard work and releasing a steady stream of quality-laden EP’s have got Rory to this point. There’s a noticeably mixed age range in the crowd. The kids push to the front whilst the older gig-goers, perhaps having caught Rag ‘N’ Bone Man’s electrifying, recent  performance on ‘Later With Jools Holland’ hang around toward the back. Couples grab their spot at the upper tier balcony and peer down on the balding and not so balding heads below.

Rory takes to the stage confidently holding a guitar. With immense power, he launches his rocket of a voice into a soulful sonic boom. Every corner of the Rescue Rooms is filled with the bounce and reverberation of this wondrous gospel melt. Our knees are weakened and we’re almost down on them before the first verse is complete. The band join Rory on stage, fire up their own instruments, and we’re given brief respite from our near submission. 

There’s quite a few new songs played. An album is due for release, perhaps early next year, and this is a chance to road-test some of that material. On first listen, you’d guess that those music industry insiders who’ve marked Rag ‘N’ Bone Man in their BBC Sound of 2017 nominations know what they’re playing with. Mark my words – I have no insight but Rory’s going to be pushing for a top three place.

I’m touched by the humility on offer. “I’ve hardly ever played Nottingham before and I was genuinely worried about how many people might turn up”, he ponders in a break between the songs. Surely, Rag ‘N’ Bone Man knows by now that these are not things to worry about? But, his style is not about arrogant swagger; it’s more about a polished and gentle confidence that sometimes belies the boom of his voice. He’s not afraid to mention his Mum’s critique of his songwriting or the fact that he has a friend going through a dark time. We want our pop stars to be ‘human’ and the laidback Rory connects generously. His band, session musicians no doubt with perfect pedigree, allow Rory to take the limelight. It’s a sign of their accomplished ability that you barely notice the complexities of what they play.

It’s all over far too soon. As we file out, the sense of joy about what we’ve just witnessed is palpable. “We’ll never see him on a stage that small again”, says one. “That massive guy is about to really get massive”, says another. 

And I have to concur, they’re probably right. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elder Island – What It’s Worth

According to Wikipedia, ‘Elder Island is an irregularly shaped island located at the eastern opening of the Fury and Hecla Strait. Situated in Nunavut’s Qikiqtaaluk Region within the northern Canadian Arctic, the island is north of the Melville Peninsula and Ormonde Island. It is approximately 1 km (0.62 mi) south of Baffin Island, while the Foxe Basin is to the east.’

I am still none the wiser where it is if I’m honest. But, it sounds cold there and it’s uninhabited by all accounts – apart from polar bears. There are, arguably, better places to go on holiday.

Elder Island are also a soulful, three piece from Bristol. They’ve got an EP coming out in June/July and in advance of that, they’ve elected to release ‘What It’s Worth’ to the world – or at least to Soundcloud.

They’ve played slots at the ace Shambala festival and, I believe, are listed to play this year. For what it’s worth, I’ll look to check them out. I’m sure they put on quite a show.

For the first couple of minutes of this tune, the handclaps and bass drum beats create icy spikes and troughs in the Soundcloud player view that might well replicate the angular, jagged, irregularly shaped landscape of the Canadian Island. But, as the song progresses, a flurry of snowflakes fall and we are drawn to the question of the day, ‘What’s it all worth?’.

No conclusive answer is drawn but the polar bears are moving their feet tonight.