We couldn’t do what we do without the support of these wonderful people
Here we go again, it's Firefest VI. As usual when we signed up for FF, it seemed so far away. We had plenty of time to get it all together didn't we? As is usually the case life has a way of getting in the way of all the most carefully laid plans. We'd been busy recording tracks for the new album, in amongst all the other day to day stuff one has to do, it was mid-August and for one reason or another it became apparent that releasing the album this year wasn't going to be in our best interests. We felt we had to have something out there to coincide with FF if not just to prove that we weren't a bunch of lazy old codgers. So plans were hatched for the Wildside EP to take priority. We had recorded Jim's début with us at Winstanley College so we could use some songs from that, but we wanted some studio tracks as well.
Now getting the five of us together all at the same time is never very straight-forward and time was marching on. During September, while doing the EP, we were also trying to get rehearsal time booked and only actually managed one day. Even that was without Jim!!!! With emails flying around detailing everyone’s available dates we managed to secure 8 days in October for our FF rehearsals. I remember being really concerned at the very meagre rehearsal time we had booked, but after our first day my fears were gone. The band was sounding good, okay not gig-ready but it was a fantastic first day. Second day we ran the set to time it. Ah, a teensy weensy problem occurred. At FF we had one hour twenty minutes max and this run through was over one hour forty minutes. We had to lose 3-4 songs. We had taken a lot of notice of postings on the forum about what people wanted to hear us play but due to time constraints we had no choice, some people would unfortunately be disappointed.
Due to Papa Joe's (our normal rehearsal room) shutting down we kind of went on a mini-tour of rehearsal rooms around the country. We started at Hanwell Town FC which is near me in Ealing, then off to Kings Langley which is near Craig from Romeo's Daughter. We finished off up in Crewe at The M Club which is near Steve and Jim, and also where we shot the Wildside video. On the Thursday in Crewe the talented Mr Critchley had organised for some students to travel from Wigan to see the rehearsal. It's always good having some faces at your later rehearsals as it gets the nerves jangling a tad and makes it more of a gig situation. Friday, the day before FF, we had one last run-through, packed the gear away and hit the highway, well the A500, towards Nottingham.
I arrived at the hotel around 8.30pm, had me a shower and went to bed…
Now if you believe that you don't know me very well at all, because in between the shower and bed bit there was a quick - blink and you'd miss it - excursion to the hotel bar. Obviously just to check that the other guys had arrived safely and to sign the Vintage & Rare CDs. I met Andy Wells, drummer with Romeos, and to be sociable I had a beer with him. I met Doddy and was sociable, then John Oz arrived, mmm… better be sociable. Richard - our soundman - entered and then Lidia - it was all very sociable... So much so that we went across the road to a pub full of people I've never met and within minutes a very sociable situation was in full swing. Around 1am feeling terribly sociable I headed back to the hotel and climbed into my pit.
I woke around 8am feeling surprisingly chipper. I was sharing with Richard, and with
morning ablutions out of the way we headed off to the multi-storey car park to get
our respective vehicles just after 9am. Thankfully due to the wonders of sat-nav
my journey to Rock City was a lot quicker than the previous FF where I'd spent around
half an hour to do the one mile journey, thanks to Nottingham’s one way systems all
going the opposite way to where I wanted to go. When we arrived the backline was
just going in but wouldn't be ready for half an hour or so, so Richard and I headed
into town and found a Starbucks and indulged ourselves in coffee and cake. Breakfast
over, we hauled our caffeine-invigorated bodies back to Rock City and prepared for
soundcheck. Festival situations are always very chaotic, and that's putting it mildly,
but at least it was well organised chaos and soundcheck went very smoothly.
I checked into The Welbeck Hotel, which is directly next to Rock City, as this was where I was staying after the show. Unpacked a few bits and decided to have a wander about Nottingham. I met Steve and Jim in the lobby, we decided to go have some lunch and headed into the city. At the previous Firefest Steve and I went to TGI's at this time, so we thought why break with tradition, seems like a plan. One slight problem occurred when we couldn't find it so we ended up in a Mexican restaurant which actually turned out to be pretty much directly above TGI's, blind fools that we are. Stuffed full of Mexican nosebag we went back to the hotel.
I wanted to watch Romeo's Daughter so I made my way over to the gig and they'd just started. Result. I positioned myself behind the mixing desk and boy did they sound good, it was like they'd never been away and what a great reception from the crowd. I had to leave just before the end of their set to get ready for our meet & greet which I was looking forward to immensely.
The meet & greet room had been done out in spectacular fashion by Dave T and his wife Tiff - it looked brilliant, top marks guys. Soon we were in the thick of it, meeting people from all over the UK, Europe, everywhere. One guy had travelled all the way from Australia, wow! The meet and greet took us up to about 7pm and with the nerves starting to jangle I made my way back to the hotel to get ready for the show.
I got to the gig dressing room about 8.30pm, stomach tightening more as each minute passed. Showtime was 9.15pm. Honeymoon Suite finished their set so I made my way to the stage to do all the last minute checks on the kit. It's fairly fraught and I'll be the first to admit I'm a bit of a nightmare to be around at this time. The crew, bless them, know me and keep out the way. Sorry again guys, it's just the nerves that turn me into a tw*t. That's twit spelt with a capital "A".
House lights go down, I hear the crowd cheer, intro tape starts, with stomach in knots I get up behind the kit and look out on a sea of smiling faces. The intro to Wildside kicks in, uh-oh Merv's bass gear isn't working. Luckily we'd planned on a long intro and just in the nick of time it springs into life. Poor old Merv, just what you don't need. Bang! We're off and into it, the crowd are going mental, I see Jim, Jem and Merv grinning away. Steve enters the fray, hopefully with shirt buttons securely fastened. It's sounding good where I'm sat, bring it on again! Wildside finishes and it's tough to know who is more ecstatic, the crowd or the five grinning loons known collectively as FM.
Steve starts Face to Face… the roar from the crowd is deafening and when they start singing the verse I'm at the back, tears of unadulterated joy / pure emotion welling up in the old Jupp mincers. Jim is looking assured, like he's been in the band forever, Merv and Jem still grinning, all playing a blinder and with Steve singing as only he can we shift into overdrive. We get to Hard Day in Hell and we welcome young Chris Dyer to the stage for some sexy saxaphoning. It goes down a storm. We finish the set with Grapevine and after a quick rub down it's back for Frozen Heart and Bad Luck. At the end of Bad Luck we are joined on stage by Kieran and a host of other Firefest reprobates all dressed as FM members from the 80s for a rousing version of Purple Rain. Dave Ling takes the biscuit dressed in the most outlandish - and I must add unnervingly tight especially around the old family jewels - pink suit, copyrighted by Merv the Swerve circa mid 80s, and not forgetting the boys from White Sister. We take our bow on yet another unforgettable night.
Thanks to everyone involved with putting it all together, and of course to all the loyal fans who part with their hard-earned cash and turn up to make Firefest the "happening" that it is. I've said it before and I'll say it again now, God bless each and every one of you. xxx