Blue skies over Greenbelt

We’re back from Greenbelt. The very same Greenbelt that was an utter washout last year was very dry this time. Here is the sky yesterday over Mainstage:

Blue Skies over Greenbelt

So, what have we been up to? Not a lot of our own choosing. The boys saw all sorts of things. Dotty the Dragon for example, and the paper plane building challenge. They saw successive nights at Mainstage chiling out on a blanket and gently expanding their little minds with a huge variety of musical goodness. So basically, Mrs C and I spent the whole weekend keeping the boys occupied. There were a few pints in the beer tent for me, and we did manage to see a few things we fancied, but this year was all about the boys. I have come away with a memory stick full of talks recorded for later listening.

Highlights? Apart from the weather, I was pleasantly suprised by the musical line up in the daytime. Return guest slots from the Fat Band and Why? were superb. The London Community Gospel Choir were a delight, with beautifully arranged vocal layers and a great band supporting. It was food for the soul simply to sit there and let the music roll around. The Moulettes on Sunday night were another high point, and the Black Rebel Motorcyle Club were fantastic (albeit experienced from the rarified atmosphere of the beer tent) but the real winner for me was Thea Gilmore. Look her up online. I’d heard something about her from a musician friend on Twitter, but had no idea about the sort of stuff she’s been turning out. It was the first time I’d been able to listen to her.

Not my highlight per se, but Son 1 met Simon Mayo. Mr Mayo was talking about his book and Son 1 is a massive fan. He was so impressed that he forced Mrs C to queue with him for an autograph and managed a sneaky photo op with his hero. More than that, we had a special Itch contribution in the Greenbelt programme. I was impressed with the whole thing, and Son 1 has a signed copy of Itch Rocks now. Very satisfactory.

Disappointments were few, but the biggest was Duke Special. I had seen him on Jools Holland years ago, and was quite looking forward to the headline slot on Monday. Playing with an orchestra puts certain limits on the musical options, and I realise some of the material may well have been ironic in nature … but it honestly sounded like an angst ridden seventeen year old poet had provided some of his lyrics (ever played the game where you guess how the next line ends based on rhyming with the previous line? I was averaging 5/6) and the busy arrangements and the buzz of the live orchestra threatened to overshadow the star turn himself. It was like a roast dinner smoothie. Even with the best ingredients and the greatest chef, the flavours and aromas couldn’t get past the distractingly mushy consistency. Having said all this, there were some decent moments, and good songs dotted through the set which I sincerely hope surface again when he’s next at Greenbelt.

We didn’t get over to the Performance Café, which meant I missed Steve Lawson’s gig among other luinaries. Without the draw of Nuts and slightly overpriced falafel, we simply didn’t make it. This is something we’ll have to remedy next year.

The whole festival was different in ways subtle and more obvious. I’ll admit I missed the Chai Chapel and Nuts Café although the Tiny Tea Tent provided a range of relaxing moments between things my boys wanted to do. The change in weather couldn’t disguise the scarred landscape on the grass in the course centre from last year’s mudbath. Having Beer and Hymns in the Big Top was a stroke of genius with regard to the queues at the bar being manageable, and there were plenty of staff on hand to serve. That was particularly good.

Good weather, good friends, good music and good times. My boys are growing up with this in their lives, and I’m certain it’s one parenting thing we’re getting right.

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