Monday, September 01, 2008


The next morning we decided not to take part in the Tan Hill Olympics (ten events for teams of six) to ensure we saw the acoustic acts advertised as a 1pm start. Whilst potato rolling has it appeal, the music was the main attraction.

Instead of following the programme however the afternoon consisted of The Sounds of Science film screened in the barn, birds of prey handing and flying displays from the Cumberland Bird of Prey Centre (inspired!), more British Ale Power, veg curry and even a game of Scrabble. Plus the rumour was the story of the Arctic Monkeys secret gig had hit the press (actually The Northern Echo - see here) so it was expected Britain's highest pub was about to besieged by fans and journalists.

The acoustic sets eventually started at 5pm. This was Matt Eaton performing solo in the Snug Bar; and then joined by Hamilton on bass and Noble on drums to form three quarters of the Modern Ovens a "which are we? A covers act or a tribute band?" to Jonathan Richman.

Matt performs fairly straightforward folk revival-style songs (a great one about what would happen to all the parts of his body when he died prematurely) but with real heart and charm. The Modern Ovens then gave us four Richman songs including Buzz Buzz Buzz and a lovely Ice Cream Man to finish. So more innocence and charm in an intimate and very cosy room - great stuff.

Then into the barn for Rose Dougall, an ex-Pipette here performing solo with just keyboard accompaniment.

She has a fantastic voice, a set of love (and lost-love) songs that reference the 60s with more depth than the Pipettes, and although very agreeable to spend 30 minutes in the company of, it all left me a bit unmoved.

Sparrow and The Workshop are (I find out afterwards) based in Glasgow even though at first hearing their accents this doesn't seem likely. They are a three piece country-blues outfit with Cat Power'ish lead vocals, although not as languid, and songs that swing from bluegrass-y ballads to alt-country power trio rock. Split of opinions on this one but I thought they were excellent and well worth further listening.

Then Dirty Cakes a six- possibly seven-piece from Brighton, including for this performance Thomas White of Electric Soft Parade and Brakes. However this gave no indication of what we were about to hear. Dirty Cakes perform mutant electro-cabaret with lead singer Stuart Flynn playing at being Eartha Kitt. This didn't split any opinions: Mr P and I were unanimous in our instant dislike to it ("quite possibly the worst support band I have ever seen"). We gave them a chance to the second song - but it was more of the same featuring a chorus (a chant?) of "Flap the Flap" that sent us scurrying to the bar.

We returned for iLIKETRAiNS who had in their words "been laying low" for some time but got the invitation to play on Tuesday (there's nothing like advance playing for putting together a festival ...).

Now I have tried to like iLIKETRAiNS songs before. And I have tried to tell iLIKETRAiNS songs apart before. But I have been unable to do either. They start slowly with steady martial drumming, chiming guitars and doom-laden vocals before building up in tempo and volume and then ... well by this point I've stopped paying attention. Went down well here tonight though.

So the "double nuts" British Sea Power set. It started with a triple opening savlo: Apologies to Insect Life, Remember Me and The Scottish Wildlife Experience. As requested/predicted the crowd went double nuts. It was good-humoured, sweaty but heaving in the small barn so don't expect any good photos from me, there was little chance of standing still for even a second (but plenty of other people with proper cameras were there plus someone videoing the whole event).

The manic pace of the set did get interrupted when guitarist Noble's effects pedals seemed to pack in. So after a version of How Will I Ever Find My Home without him, there was a five minute break to plug everything back together. Noble obviously took the opportunity to crowd surf.

The set restarted with Blackout then into A Trip Out (so a change to list posted below) and soon got that manic tempo back. This was a great BSP performance - despite the technical interruptions the whole band seemed in good humour and to be really enjoying themselves. The problem with seeing them in a venue this small (200 capacity) and then having two sets to include so much from their back catalogue is that seeing them again in a normal venue for a regular set will just not match this.

Strangely Carrion was a bit underwhelming tonight but the final two songs (Lights Out For Darker Skies and No Lucifer) topped a great set. See later for Pelican ...

Following the set there was a chance to cool down and dry out in front of the bonfire whilst waiting for the fireworks to be set off. Now why can't every gig finish this way?

And then back into the barn at 1am for those surprise guests. And other surprises?

Well eventually BSP re-appeared and tore into Pelican. This then stretched into a 50 minute jam with various members of Dirty Cakes, James Ford, possibly some Klaxons (not that I'd know) and the audience joining them on stage to play and swap instruments, dance, drink and indulge in some people-flattening diving and crowd-surfing.

Still all good-humoured, it was amazing that in the chaos no-one got injured. And though enjoyable it wasn't exactly musically vital. If anyone tells you it was an outstanding musical high-point of the weekend - well it's probably the altitude sickness speaking.

Due to other commitments (Happy Birthday Miss C!), we had to miss the Sunday. The advertised programme was much quieter (Sunday roasts, a pub quiz at 3pm and BSP performing Man of Aran early evening) so although a shame not to be there, if you had to miss one day ...

So will Sing Ye From The Hillsides become a regular event? Let's hope so. Not everything that was advertised happened (no drunken catwalk competition on Saturday evening), the weather was as rubbish as the rest of August and many things did not happen on time, mainly because there was an air of we'll-see-how-it-works-on-the-day about the whole event. But this and the setting and warm feeling it generated in everyone was part of the real charm. Roll on next year ...

Elegies to Lessons Learnt [BUY]

Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers
Rock 'n' Roll with The Modern Lovers [BUY]

British Sea Power


Anonymous said...

Excellent report as ever - I relived every moment!

Ms N was well chuffed with her shout out - Miss C rather less impressed!

Dirty Cakes rivalling Superqueens for worst ever support band. It's rare that we actually leave the room when any band is on (we made it all way through Djune for god's sake) but that was just unlistenable.

Cheers for organising, driving, thrashing me at scrabble, helping me work my first mobile phone, and general all round mateyness.

Mr P.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone tell me if Arctic Monkeys actually played a set?

John J said...

I can tell you they never, I spoke to Alex asking if the lads were going to play or even get up on stage. He could beary string two words together, but did slur "not a chance"

Anonymous said...

Some people are saying they were on the stage during the jam at the end (along with half the audience) but I certainly didn't see them! Quite pleased really, because if they had actually played it would have overshadowed everything else - and it was such a fantastic weekend.

Anonymous said...

Can you confirm whether there was a sweaty, late forties, rather camp looking bald guy crowd surfing?

The Archivist said...

Rumour Control:
a) I saw Alex Turner (and presumably some other Monkeys) in the bar BUT they were definitely NOT on stage
b) I'm sure no-one in their LATE forties would crowd-surf. How irresponsible