Monday, 12 July 2010

Football, cookies and the artist formerly known as

Since there is a good chance that if you are reading this then you were probably at Cactusfestival on the weekend, I will tell you about all the things that Cactusfestival wasn't. For everything else festive, including; music, food, conversation, sunshine, happy people, you can presume that these things were here in abundance.

This is a picture revealing the secret world of music festival technicians. Not far from the rocking crowds huddle a close-knit group of predominantly male technicians. Their purpose was clear, the tiny 14 inch screen on a trestle table with a makeshift aerial made from microphone wire and cable tied as far as up the tree as the ladder would allow. All in all, the reception of the television image was their greatest success of the evening, since their deep-rooted allegiance to the Netherlands needed a goal which was sorely denied from them till the very very end of an extended game, and when it came it was the wrong net, and too late to do anything about it. The technicians had to slowly stand and console themselves that at least the musical backing of Admiral Freebee and Tori Amos made a frustrating game spectacular by association.

The inside story for why none of the huge screens at the festival were broadcasting the world cup final, is that because the festival was a paid-entry event, FIFA insisted that 1 Euro per head should be paid to their coffers. In a festival of 10,000 Euros that becomes an expensive spectator sport when the town square in Brugges just a kilometer away was playing it for free.

I watched most of the first half, it was a frustratingly tight game between two teams that both deserved to win.

2 Cookies
There were no cookies.
Not in my house anyway.
But the suggestion made me nervous. Saturday was hottest day of a hot week in what is shaping up to be a hot summer. If there were any cookies in this oven, the cookies were me. The leafy covering provided some shelter but it was baking hot for most of the day and despite my best efforts at drinking warm tea to keep cool, the lack of breeze was intensified when the windows clogged up with visitors.
The answer to the following notes I received in the mailbox are: yes, yes I do - yes, utterly out of the question - shit, I hope you don't mean roasted - yes, I surely should - and no, not on your life I need all the space I can get.
It wasn't until I got out of the house, compelled by a need to see what this festival I could see only through my front window was all about, that the rain finally came and cooled the crowds off.... which brings me to the third absence.

3 Prince
The rain fell like bad ideas fall on the heads of the misguided. It was a necessary antidote to the heat of the day but in the night air it quickly turned soggily chilly. Elvis Costello played on, his self confidence growing with the enthusiasm of each soggy front row fan. Then came Jamie Lidell, a musician I only previously recognised through his one pretty cheesy radio-hit, but he proved to be a wonderful wonderful performer. He played with the ego of olympians, the musicianship of someone playing for their life and the energy of the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince. Hang on a minute.... what did you say?... Back up the soundtrack a moment...
Jamie Lidell "thanks for your applause, we just just got here after playing support for Prince"
Me (standing now, but on soggy ground, and spoken through thought bubble) "What?"
JL "It's a great night for us"
Me "Did he just say he was playing support for Prince earlier this evening?"
Informative guy next to me who had seen the speech bubble appear mysteriously over my head "yeah, Prince was just playing at the Werchter Festival up the road"
Me (Speech bubble now expanding to the size of my ignorant disappointment) "I didn't know that"

But wait, the story gets worse. Not only did Prince play 30 minutes away from here, he also played a second very small impromptu concert in Brussels later into the morning.

Don't get me wrong, I was very happy to see JL on Saturday evening, it was a great way to rediscover my legs and to finally take the advice of many house visitors earlier and have a cool drink or two. This is the privilege of being in the centre of Europe, if it's culture you want you're right in the thick of it. So in many ways my house has become a miniature Belgium; never far from the centre of the action and you can be pretty sure that sooner or later the talented, the beautiful or the curious was just turn up in your front yard unprompted.
Here is my own version of that particular anecdote.

Every now and then you meet someone who's looking for the big talk not the small talk. This is one such guy, someone who knows what it is to do what you mean and mean what you do.

And finally I leave you with an image of what families do best.