The Small World Festival
Tattershall, Lincolnshire (August 20-22 2004)
Glasto, T in the Park, VVVV and so it goes; middle class and middle class wannabes, anarchy with an access card, weekend freespirits and then back to The Man for another year of nine to five to pay the bills. Is there no alternative? Well, yes. The small local festival scenes (Deptford was always good for a laugh) continue to burgeon. Rather than playing inflated prices to see bloated Rocksters Reformed in a big muddy field check out your own back yard; it may surprise you.
Small World is the tiny brother (just two this year) of the Wolds fave, Ecofest. Situated on a beautiful riverside site far enough away from civilisation not to annoy the natives, we get tented up just before the rain hits and flee to the safety of the marquee for a libation or three just as Twelve Thousand Days take the stage kicking up an electric wall of noise which, as it fades away causes the hippy beside me to comment ‘Now, that was fuckin’ weird.’ Weirder is to come the second track is a fantastic a cappella which gets me checking my program this incredible voice is emanating from none other than Eyeless In Gaza frontman Martyn Bates. In a tent in the middle of nowhere in Lincolnshire. Noise! settles down to listen. The next track is a plangent lament to something or other in which Bates employs something like a bazooka to odd effect, followed by a right little rocker that wouldn’t have shamed the early Velvets before a couple of backing vocalists take the stage for a swirling invocation that sounds witchy in the extreme. The changes keep being rung with no two songs alike; one a duet for whistles, another a duet for voices, a cover of Cyril Tawney’s classic Sally Free And Easy, and a final solo vocal. Underpinning Bates’ soaring vocals is a roaring wall of psychedelia from the other guitarist and fluid percussion; throughout a spellbinding set the audience are acknowledged not once. Cracking stuff, and on talking to Bates later, this is apparently a tryout for a later tour, so watch out for them.
As the rain continues to pound, Noise! is reluctantly forced to stay in the bar and so catches the first of two sets by The Blue Book Project, possibly a perfect band for a venue like this like some hybrid between the Mondays, the Roses and Snapper, they hit a groove and keep on going; drums, toms, samples, guitars, rapping are all thrown into the mix and the loping swagger soon has everyone up and dancing. There isn’t a lot to choose between different songs, but that doesn’t seem to matter, and it is some time before Noise! heads off in search of further entertainment, of which there is plenty on offer – starting with tequila and then downhill all the way. By around 8 in the morning we can no longer differentiate between the pounding of the various drum schools and that in our heads, so after a sterling veggie brekker in The Big T-Pot (and only 2 quid cheers, guys) we sink into oblivion. To be awoken by a swirly skirling lordy lordy, not the pipes; but Oh Yes.
The main stage is now up and running and one Dicky Deegan is giving the local felines a run for their money, and battling against power cuts as he goes. Now, Noise! may be an insular bastard, but we recognise harmless worthiness when we hear it, and there turns out to be rather a lot of this (tho this is the fault of main stages festivals over; the worthwhile weird shit is usually hidden away out of sight) in fact, one of the more earnest turns is called Streetworthy for gods sake, who treat us to their collection of Tunes From Around The World (including an appalling version of that Maori anthem that the Seekers used to maul about. Long thing, few consonants.)
As Sunday afternoon starts to sink in the sound of a hammered dulcimer lures Noise! back into the beer tent. Well, lures isn’t quite the word; seems we were heading back that way anyway, and just as we entered. In fact, the hammerer of dulcimers looks pretty familiar, being Dave Fielding of The Chameleons who I last saw at the I-Beam in San Francisco, and here as then he gives a pretty damned good account of himself as a string basher supreme, playing some really nice, drifting stuff. The following ska/brass concoction results in us downing several pints before the road, which we’re just about to hit when two unassuming blokes take to the stage, and with their backs to the audience start what turns out to be a 45 minute improvisational piece of a psychotic iciness that causes one woman to, erm, ‘freak out’ (maan) and the organisers to desperately try and turn things down seemingly to no avail. It’s something like Orbital, something like early Floyd or Tangerine Dream, something like Main, Loop, Spaceman 3 and unlike anything else at all. It’s guitar and bass (in fact, the bloke from 12000 Days who isn’t Martyn Bates and a bass player from The Beloved), though you wouldn’t know it from aural evidence alone … a drifting, writhing wall of noise with piercing harmonics emerging from the mists. They’re called Temple Music, and this is real psychedelia, folks.