Last night I joined Barking bateria for a gig on the boat HMS President, moored near Temple on the Thames. We were dressed as pirates.
It was a beautiful summers’ evening and we played on the stern of the boat as people in black tie came in for the charity event. Within a few minutes however we were stopped by the Captain. The police had been called. People were complaining from all around, across the river, in the OXO building, that we were too loud. Of course water carries sound and samba is loud. Another problem was that the mestre (conductor) uses a whistle (important as this is something we can hear over the drums). Every time he blew his whistle, the river rescue team thought that someone had fallen in the water, as this is the same signal used. The harbour master was going past in his boat, very slowly, glaring at us. We tried to play more quietly, without a whistle, but it was useless, we had to stop.
The charity guests looked at us askance…we were in our pirate finery, all dreadlocks and rambunctious behaviour, half the group on various chemical substances (to the point that we kept missing the ‘breaks’). In fact they regarded us as if we were real pirates, dirty, rough and probably criminal, come to mess up their nice party.
I left and drove out to Epping Forest in Essex. Euroburners, the London branch of fans of The Burning Man festival, were having a party on the same night that it was taking place in Nevada. A whole salmon and a large pot of real cowboy style baked beans was cooked on the massive fire. People were dressed up as Marie Antoinette, or burlesque girls, or cardinals. You felt naked without a hula-hoop.
We were in a cottage on the edge of the forest. It was very dark and unusually for the South-East one could see the stars quite clearly. People talked about how crap Glastonbury is nowadays(1). Where to go ? Boom in Portugal is good, Mad Max on acid. Nowhere festival in Spain. Secret Garden Party and Shambala in the UK.
Spoke to an American ‘burner’, he said “No other country has a festival season like they do in Britain.” Which is strange when you think of how awful the weather is here. But the British are a nation of hedonists.
(1) Rumour has it that one of the new camping fields at Glastonbury, constructed out of earth that has been moved from another part of the site, collapsed a week after the festival. A truck is buried in it. This has been kept quiet. But can you imagine if it had happened during the festival? Glastonbury has gotten too big, too commercial, too money-grabbing. Emily Eavis, Michael’s daughter, has not got the right approach.