Friday, 14 August 2009

On Getting A Bit Muddy

In a recent article, the Wonderspouse described how, as a result of reading a second-hand newspaper, we became fans of The Boxer Rebellion, a rather fabulous indie band and their amazing music. Most of the time, being a Boxer Rebellion fan is not especially difficult: downloading albums and listening to them involves spending a small amount of money and a large amount of time; and travelling to gigs, buying merchandise, chatting to the band, and having an AWESOME and BRILLIANT time involves a slightly larger financial outlay and a little bit of driving. However, just over a week ago, being Boxer Rebellion fans led the Wonderspouse and me into an entirely new, and much muddier, world.

Like every good fan, I like to follow the band on twitter and facebook and check out their website from time to time in order to see what they’re up to at the moment. A while ago I noticed that they were playing at a festival in Derbyshire called Y-Not, and, since we were getting Boxer Rebellion withdrawal symptoms, having had a whole month pass without seeing them live, I booked us a couple of day tickets for the Saturday. Day tickets are wonderful things for those of us who are not into camping!

When Saturday morning dawned, we became even more certain we weren’t into camping. We headed up the M1 into torrential rain, which, admittedly, eased as we arrived at the site. However, it was replaced by a soupy mist, almost concealing the entire festival. The car park didn’t look very inviting either, but, when we said we weren’t staying overnight, we were directed to a small bit of road by a hedge, which was a relief.

And then the mud began. Because of an absence of wellies in our lives (did I mention that we’re really NOT outdoor people?), we were wearing very old shoes, which instantly became saturated with mud. We slithered into the main festival site, where we collected programmes and t-shirts, before peering through the mist to see what might be going on.

By this point I was experiencing quite severe culture shock and wasn’t terribly sure what to do with myself. So, for an hour or so we wandered between the main stage and the acoustic tent (partly dependent upon which band was playing and partly upon the intensity of the rain). On the stage we heard SOS, Zambula (whose African sound and cheer were in stark contrast to the surroundings), and The Moutown Project, and in the tent we listened to Rugosa Nevada (who we really enjoyed and are delighted to have discovered), Cara Roxanne (charming, with beautiful guitars) and This Town Needs Guns. Rather charmingly, a man in a kilt came on between sets, provided friendly banter and encouraged us all to take care of each other since it was a bit slippy outside!!

At some point we took a short break to eat jacket potato (me) and burger with chips (him). I bought a warm hat and the Wonderspouse bought a couple of shirts from one of the stalls, and it was at this point that we ended up in the tent described in my previous blog post. We also had our photo taken, and the girl with the guillotine made it into a keyring for us. Then we did a trial run of our walk back to the car (in preparation for making the same trip in the dark later) leaving our t-shirts in the boot, and called my Mum (at whose house we were staying that night) to warn her that we were a little bit muddy and she should leave us a towel on the doormat!

We were back in front of the main stage in order to see first Max Raptor (who were really cool), Tellison and then Esser. I’d already become interested in Esser after checking out the myspace site, but was totally unprepared for the impromptu entertainments during the set.

First, there was the fancy dress. The festival had a nautical fancy dress theme, so there were many people dressed as boats, sailors, jellyfish and the like. There was also a lovely couple who had come as “Port” and “Starboard”: she was wearing a dress with a bottle of Taylor’s on it, and he had a cork noticeboard with sparkly stars on it hanging round his neck!

Then there was the mud. There had already been a lot of mudsliding going on, but by the time of Esser’s set it had turned into full-scale mud wrestling. (Ben) Esser, who had stepped off his tour bus about 15 minutes prior to appearing on stage went through a brief period of the same sort of culture shock that I had experienced earlier in the day before incorporating the whole thing into his set, commentating on the man trying to have his wicked way with a giant, mud covered, inflatable whale, and urging a group of gents dressed in immaculate white sailor uniforms (how DID they stay so white for so long?) to wrestle with a completely mud-covered man wearing the remains of a cocktail dress!

In addition to the commentary, Esser gave us a brilliant set, which I very much enjoyed. The next set, by the Bombay Bicycle Club, was also fabulous – I would have danced joyously to both sets if I hadn’t been standing up to my ankles in mud!

The period between those two sets took on a slightly surreal air. The night was cooling, and many had, by this time, lost their clothes. An extremely drunken young man ambled aimlessly around, shivering a little and wearing only boxer shorts and a plastic bag, before staggering off to meet his comrades. Another was going round trying to hug anyone and everyone while his (much more sober) mate ran after him shouting “Josh, Josh, don’t do it! He’s a stranger and he might not want to get muddy!” At this point we decided a little supper was in order so went off to discover some sausage and chips (both of us). I was quite impressed with the standard of the ketchup!!

Then, as darkness fell, the star attraction (with apologies to Noah & The Whale) arrived on stage. Just before the set began we bumped into a man who also unzipped his coat to reveal a Boxer Rebellion t-shirt!! The fans were there! Like us, he’d been at Scala, and his female companion had come over from Germany for the festival. We suddenly felt very at home.

As “Flashing Red Light Means Go” started up, I forgot the mud, the cold, the state of my feet and knew that it had all been well worth it. By the time Todd started the fabulous guitar part of “Semi-Automatic” I was totally lost to the world of mud and instead tuned my ears into the 3-bar structure of the riff. The familiar sounds, the magic combination of the four of them, just BRILLIANT!

After the set, which, for us, WAS the headline, we chatted again with our fellow fans before they headed off to find a tractor to tow them out of the car park. We moved away from the stage up the hill and stayed just long enough to hear the opening of Noah & The Whale’s set – I might have stayed longer, but we were ready to get going by that time. The set was clearly audible as we walked back to the car to start the journey back to my Mum’s house (where the hall was lined with newspapers in anticipation of the mud we would bring, and a bubble bath had already been run for us – thanks Mum!!).

So, that was how we got a bit muddy! We’ve now lived the festival mud experience and survived to tell the tale!! Furthermore, Y-Not turned out to be a great festival overall: really friendly with some fabulous bands. We’ve booked to see The Boxer Rebellion again – but I’ve researched the venues thoroughly and I don’t think either of them is likely to be muddy! Only two more things remain to be said. One is that the Wonderspouse has written up his own account of the day – shorter and more amusing than this one – you can find it here! The other is that although while we slept that night the washing fairy sorted out our muddy clothes, it took 3 days and a lot of scraping to remove the last remnants of Derbyshire field from under my toenails, and both pairs of shoes were declared beyond help, having met a noble end in the name of excellent music!!!


  1. Sounds like good fun! Bombay Bicycle Club are my next favourites after Boxer right now!! Sounds like fun! We have done V for the last two years but decided not to this year we are moping round the house now bored and wishing we'd gone :-(((( now!!Fortunately V has been pretty mud free the last two years! x