If there ever was a good omen it was this â€“ just after I left home to head off to SoL I turned on the Radio to listen to Desert Island Discs and who should be on there but Harvey Goldsmith! And just as I turned on he was talking about his time in San Francisco with the Grateful Dead. This made me smile â€“ however this was short lived as a few minutes later the phone rang! It was the marquee company and they were lost. I then spent the next 40 minutes answering call after call till they finally found the site (about 10 minutes before I got there!)
Once there I set about getting everything up and running â€“ usually we have all day to do this but this year it was a two day event and the bands would be starting at 4pm. And before that we had a few people turning up for a open mic slot! The marquee company started to set up and I started to sort out the power and that was when I discovered my first problem. As I hadnâ€™t been in the office the previous day someone else had pulled all of my stuff together for me and it turned out they had a funny idea of how long 10m was. This meant we were desperately short of power cables. Luckily I had grabbed some extra before I left but unluckily I had grabbed the wrong size!!
A bit of re-planning and wielding a screwdriver and the power problem was solved and then more problems. The marquee company had forgotten the tables for the control area. Jay the sound man had arrived by this point and he pointed out another problem the stage was like a dogâ€™s hind leg. So Gary from Big G and Tim the site manager set about sawing up bits of wood and propping up the stage so it was level â€“ all in all they did a cracking job.
Meanwhile the sound was being set up and the control area taking shape â€“ I had the first open mic band constantly asking how long it would be before they could play even though the PA was mostly still in bits on the floor! Eventually however we were set up, Big Gâ€™s backline was on the stage and Melâ€™s Kitchen were performing in front of it, I thought I could relax but noâ€¦.
â€¦it then transpired that half of Big G were stuck in a massive traffic jam on the M25. Not a problem I thought we could put Silverwood on first â€“ are they here? No they are stuck in the same traffic jam – bugger! We padded out with some other open mic stuff while we made a contingency plan. Gary said he would go on and do an acoustic set (as he had done on the campsite the previous evening) but before too long we got a message to say they were 10 minutes away. The poor sods arrived and were bundled onto the stage and the festival got under way proper!
I caught some of Big Gâ€™s set but I was backwards and forwards trying to find out what was happening with Silverwood. I also had a steaming headache by this point as All I had managed to eat or drink was two pints of Dark Star breweries Best Bitter which is a well nice pint! So I set off to eat something, drink lots of water and take a couple of paracetamol.
Eventually a message arrived that Silverwood were about 40 minutes away and they arrived just as Big G were finishing and were pretty much straight out of the mini bus and onto the stage. Luckily they did have much kit and no drummer and so they were set up in no time. Unfortunately we were running late so we had to cut their set down to 50 minutes but they put in another sterling performance as they did back in 2007.
It was good to see Robin Williamson turn up â€“ Iâ€™ve loved the ISB for years and have seen him a couple of times before. I went over and had a chat about what time he was on and got him to sign my programme (once Iâ€™d elbowed CJ out of the way as he was getting every single ISB album he owned signed!) It was good to meet him and he seemed a really nice bloke.
So once he was on stage I managed to sit down and enjoy one of my musical heroes in th early evening sunshine. He started his set on the harp and played some covers and some ISB songs including Painting box. He also told one of his stories the Vision of Maconglinne which prompted someone to say he either had a fantastic memory or was just making the whole thing up. He also did an interesting mix of Syd Barrettâ€™s Chapter 24 and The Beatles Tomorrow never knows which was reminiscent of the pairing of Matilda Mother and TNK by Ratdog a few years ago.
I had to go up and help him move his harp and after tuning his guitar he played a few new numbers before playing a version of Matty Groves which was incredible. I then had to get up and start thinking about the next band but he finished with Log Cabin Home in the Shy and encored with the second Dylan song in the set I Shall Be Released. Afterwards it didnâ€™t take long to clear the stage so Deadicace could start setting up.
This was the third year and so far we had managed to book a different Grateful Dead cover band every year and just like the Dead they have all been different. The first year we had the Cosmic Charlieâ€™s who did a single set, last year we had Workingmanâ€™s Deed who played two sets. This year Deadicace were doing an acoustic set on the Friday night and an electric set on the Saturday night. Barry â€œThe Fishâ€ Melton who was part of Country Joe and the Fish and had been at Woodstock (and of course the original SoL) had invited himself along to play with Deadicace on both nights.
Kicking off with I know you Rider as a soundcheck they then played 4 more dead songs including a stunning version of Bird Song before they were joined on stage by Barry. Up till that point he had been standing in the control area watching the band and chatting with us. Barry played a few numbers and then stayed on stage with Deadicace for the rest of the set which included some interesting songs like The Cuckoo, acoustic versions of Jesse James and Butchers Boy and a version of Mountains of the Moon.
We had almost got back on schedule when Deadicace started but they played for two and a half hours when at 1:15 we eventually had to stop them otherwise I think they would have played all night! I was shattered by the time they were on and found myself nodding off in my chair in the control area at one point. While I was dozing I thought I heard someone calling my name and when I opened my eyes I couldnâ€™t see anything but blackness. I panicked that the power had gone off but as I went to jump up everything came back into focus and I could see everything was ok. I got up and went down the front to watch the rest of the bandâ€™s set!
Once the band finished we packed everything up, covered up the PA and fastened up the marquee we were using as control area before heading off to bed. At this point I remembered what I had forgotten â€“ a torch! As I had taken my laptop back to the tent I hit on the idea of powering it up to use as a light to get sorted out by. As it was on it seemed like a good idea to listen to some of the recordings so I had a quick listen to Robin Williamson before crashing out at about quarter to three.
It was obvious from the second I crawled out of the tent (trying desperately to avoid having my picture taken by Martin Rordam) on Saturday morning that it wasnâ€™t going to be as nice as the previous day. There wasnâ€™t even enough blue sky to make a sailor a pair of socks let alone a pair of trousers! Breakfast made me feel set up for the day especially with the addition of some chilli sauce to pep me up!!
We started resetting everything and before we knew where we were some of Dirty Santana were already setting up their drums on the stage. Kicking off at 11:30 they got everyone in the mood with some Latin rhythmsâ€™. Iâ€™m not a great Santana fan so I wandered around the site and checked out the Swaps table and the bar! Every time I wandered away from the stage they would start playing something I knew and if I wandered back again they would change to playing something I didnâ€™t!!
Next up were the Blue Devils who knocked out a good set of standards including more Dylan covers and they were followed by The Book of Genesis who had the biggest drum kit of the weekend. It took them an age to get the thing set up and almost as long to take it off again afterwards. I was getting to the point where I was about to shout at the guy because he was really holding everything up. Eventually the stage was clear and Sian Edwards-Davies treated us to some belly dancing before we set up for Nik Turner. Luckily for us they didnâ€™t have a great deal of equipment and after a brief soundcheck they were off.
I really wasnâ€™t sure what to expect from the former Hawkwind member as I remarked at one point â€“ I had the feeling that it was going to be incredibly good or incredibly bad. Thankfully from the second they started playing it was obvious it was going to be a cracking set. The band cranked out some wonderful jazzy funky music led by Turners saxophone and some amazing guitar from Dave â€œPsychoâ€ Bates all wrapped up by the solid rhythm section. It was a shame to stop them but when we did they did one more number which was â€œIn the Moodâ€ which got progressively faster and faster and had many people up and dancing! It was one of those moments when I look out and feel good at all the people enjoying what we have put together â€“ magic!
Unfortunately as we were turning the stage around for Deadicace the weather which had held all day started to change. Someone brought in a mobile showing that there was a massive rain front heading our way â€“ they reckoned we had about 2 hours before it hit. We discussed what to do if it really hammered it down, if we should stop the music but we decided we would have to play it by ear.
People either covered up or headed back to their tents to listen from there â€“ one of the advantages of the small site! The band kicked off with the Golden Road (to unlimited Devotion) which was an odd choice in my mind but Mr Charlie and Feel like a Stranger followed. The band we slick and Barry Melton sat on the sidelines until he took his chance and jumped in every now and again. Superbird and SOS were his first inputs before handing back to Deadicace for some more Dead music. I found this was a little disjointed as you just got in the Dead mood when it would stop again but to be honest that was my old criticism!
Highlights of the set were Eyes of the world > Morning Dew, Help on the way>Slipknot>Franklins Tower and the massive China Cat Sunflower > Scarlet Begonias> The Other One. The opening bars of Saint Stephen signalled the beginning of the end but not before the band played Lovelight with Gary Grainger of Big G helping out on vocals.
The deserved encore was One more Saturday Night and then gathered round the microphones they launched into And we Bid you Goodnight â€“ with Chris Jones joining them on stage to bring another marvellous SoL party to and end.
All pictures by deadheaduk
For more information visit the SoL Party website