Friday, 14 September 2012

Truck Festival 2012

Myself, Emily, Stefan and Sheila were lucky enough to be offered complimentary weekend tickets to Truck Festival in Oxfordshire, which took place on the 20th and 21st July. We were really excited about going, with such a great line-up for a fairly small music festival. We're big fans of Tim Minchin who was second headliner on the Friday, with The Temper Trap, Mystery Jets and British Sea Power also topping the bill. We also loved the branding of the festival, with looked quirky and interesting.

Stefan and I had our picture taken with the Truck Monster, who was wondering around the site. When we got home we were delighted to discover that we were featured as the ONLY photo on the festival 'thank you' mailer that had been sent to their database! We had also been featured on their Facebook page during the festival weekend.

Our musical highlight of the weekend was an absolutely mindblowingly epic set by King Charles, whom we had only discovered a week or two before the festival. You may have heard his track The Brightest Lights, with Mumford and Sons [below]. Make sure you check out his album Loveblood, as it's full of exciting and lively tracks; King Charles is sure to be a household name in the near future.

Tim Minchin was also excellent as always, although he didn't really chat between songs as he would normally at a comedy gig due to the nature of the event. This helps set the scene, but it didn't affect my enjoyment as I knew the songs really well already. He did mention that he had caused great offence by singing Woody Allen Jesus [view on YouTube here], along with other songs of his and general banter, at the Henley Regatta a few days before. 

Whilst chilling by our tent on Saturday afternoon and again later in the evening, we saw a remote controlled device flying around that looked like an alien. It wasn't until a few days after the festival when this video was posted on the Truck Facebook page, that we realised that the 'alien' was actually a filming device, which had shot this great footage of the event! Such a great idea; I'm hoping to use this technology at an event soon. The company who made this video are called Sky Eye Cam.

There was a beach themed bar, complete with a sailing boat you could sit in [which we found fun to dance on!]. There were DJs playing music here til the small hours, which we thoroughly enjoyed. There was a great on site record store, run by Rapture in Witney; it's great to see independent record shops working along small independent festivals. The only downfall of the festival was a shortage of caterers, therefore not many options and long queues. We'll be sure to bring our own food in the future.

Although we were lucky enough to be on the guest list this year, we would definitely return for the small ticket price of £69 per person, which is an absolute bargain for such a great line up, with lots of other late night entertainment. Compare this to ticket prices of other similar festivals and it really does represent amazing value.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Grillstock 2012

Having written a blog post about 2.8 Hours Later in Bristol at the weekend, it reminded me to write a post about Grillstock in Bristol [logo above from website here] which a group of friends and I went along to in June. Grillstock is a BBQ & Music Festival, held on the Bristol Harbourside. I'm a vegetarian, so this may seem like a strange choice of event to go along to, however I was tempted by the music programming and knew there would be a few veggie treats on offer too. 

As you would imagine, there was a large amount of meat and meat based products at the event, which my friends enjoyed a lot. I'm not really sure what we were expecting, but it did seem to be mainly a large food and drink fair, with little return for your £11.50 plus booking fee ticket price per person. There were some tasters, however not a huge amount of entertainment or content to justify the ticket price. 

I'm lucky enough to go to lots of cool events and generally sing the praises of the experiences and organisation, however I'm afraid this is a rather negative review. Read on if you don't mind me having a  bit of a rant on my soapbox...

Working in events myself and going to many outdoor events as a customer also, it's not rocket science to know that you need adequate numbers of toilets at an event, especially an event where the primary attraction is a lot of food and drink! There were only 15 Portaloos on site plus a disabled loo, which was hugely inadequate for the number of people there. There were insanely large queues for the loos at all times, with no urinals available for blokes, which would have hugely speeded up the backlog of people. It also quickly became apparent that there was no plan in place for emptying the loos throughout the day, and every one of the small number of loos on site were overflowing half way through the day. I know Portaloos are never really a pleasant experience, but this situation really was a joke.

Secondly I had noticed on I noticed on the Grillstock Facebook page prior to the event that they had promised a better bar system and more bar staff than the previous year. I didn't attend the previous years event, but I can't imagine the length of the queues and customer frustration last year, if this year was apparently an improvement. Upon arrival we headed to the bar and waited for 25 minutes to be served. There were eight bar staff working, but only three actually doing anything at any given time. The lack of action was mostly due to the lack of pumps and staff standing waiting at the till. Logistically the bars were badly laid out, clearly not being properly managed and lacking bar staff who have been trained to multi-task or work in a fast-paced environment.

Overall these two main logistical problems left us feeling disappointed, as they're really rather important things you would expect from a food and drink event! I'm not one to pick people up on every little problem at an event as there is a lot to consider and I know how hard people work to make these things happen, however these problems simply came about due to poor planning and cost cutting in the wrong places.

My friends and I won't be returning again, however I sincerely hope the organisers learn from their mistakes and actually act on it next year; not just promise they will like they did this year.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Stefan's Birthday - Where's Wolfie

My lovely girlfriend Emily, housemate Stefan and I organise each others' birthdays. When our birthdays come round, we write a list of all the people we want to invite and the other two organise a surprise birthday extravaganza. You can read about my awesome army themed birthday party back in April here. It was myself and Emily's turn to organise an awesome surprise birthday this weekend just gone - and it was excellent, even if I do say so myself!

Stefan's nickname is Wolf/Wolfie. It's a long story how this name came about, but he answers to it more than his real name! We made the theme for the party Where's Wolfie; everything all things Where's Wally! We all dressed up, which is easy enough for people to get involved with fairly little effort, but looks great - especially when a large group of us went into town together later in the evening!

Emily and I went on a lovely little holiday to Bath a few months ago, where I found a Where's Wally table cloth in a lovely toy shop, which is where the party theme inspiration came from. I got matching paper plates and balloons from eBay, where I also got my outfit. Red, white and blue bunting [there's tons of it around at the moment, can't think why!] also looked great with Where's Wolfie logos stuck on the white flags.

Emily and my sister Sarah also made this cake; it tasted as awesome as it looks!

We thought the game Guess Who [below] tenuously fits in with the theme, so bought it and changed the characters to friends of ours. This was fairly easy to do with stickers and a bit of trial and error. It was fun to play at the party and a nice extra present for the birthday boy too! 

Looking forward to organising Emily's birthday party in January already :)

Saturday, 8 September 2012

2.8 Hours Later - Zombie Street Game

Last night I spent an incredible evening being chased by Zombies at 2.8 Hours Later in Bristol. If you've not heard what all the fuss is about, the 2.8 Hours Later Facebook page describes it as:

"Starting from a secret city centre location, 2.8 Hours Later is a thrill-packed roller coaster ride of zombie movie action.

You will find yourself in a city that has been devastated by a zombie invasion. Your aim; to find the small pockets of survivors hiding out in some amazing locations. While all the time running from the hoards of bloodthirsty zombies roaming the streets between you and your goal. Each location will get you one step closer to resistance HQ; the last safe place in the city. Can you and your friends make it through this nightmarish world and find the Zombie Disco? 

The game starts at sundown and will be 2.8 hours of pure adrenaline. The experience will be physically and psychologically challenging but you'll find it exhilarating as well as exhausting".

This city-wide game takes place in several locations around the UK, including Bristol, London, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow and others. I don't want to describe it in too much detail and I don't want to give the game away; I will tell you that the game utilises several inner-city buildings and spaces and the whole experience really does get the adrenaline pumping! I've done a fair bit of running this evening and can feel muscles aching that I've only just discovered exist!

When you finish the game you will either have survived the infection or be one of the infected. I was caught by Zombies twice, but wasn't at all disappointed to be made up as as Zombie myself at the end! Here's a great team shot they took at the end...

SlingShot Effect, the company behind the game, run several other street games which I'm hoping to check out in the future. The cost of 2.8 Hours Later in Bristol was £28 per person, which may sound like a lot - but definitely worth every penny! 

Check out 2.8 Hours Later website here and take a look at an excellent promo video for the event below...

2.8 Hours Later from Slingshot on Vimeo.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Creamfields 2012

Recently I returned to Creamfields dance music festival in Daresbury, UK for a third year. In 2010 I went as a customer with my friend Ian, attending last year and this year working for an event contractor. This year I was pretty delighted to get an AAA Production wristband, however sadly none of the other 38 people who I'd brought along to work with me had one, including my girlfriend, so I couldn't make as much use of it as I would have liked!


We were fairly baffled as to why we were given a Challenge 21 wristband, which is offered so that you don't get asked for ID to prove you are over the age of 18 every time you go to the bar. Great idea, except you have to be 18 to get into the festival, so surely the actual festival wristband should be all that is required to prove your age? It was orange and sparkly though, which the girls seemed to love!

Above is a small group of the large crowd of us who went along - I'm fourth from the left. We had an absolutely incredibly enjoyable day and night on the Saturday and partied til the bitter end of the night at around 4am. Highlights of the evening include spectacular sets by Crookers and Major Lazor, both of whom I was really excited about seeing, as I'm a big fan of the record label Mad Decent. Being the fan boy that I am, I have nearly a dozen Mad Decent t-shirts - they're such good quality and the designs are great.  You can check out a great Crookers Megamix here:

As you may be aware, on Sunday the festival management were forced to cancel the remainder of the event, due to heavy rain and horrendous flooding on site. See photos below [taken from the Creamfields Facebook page] for an idea of the damage that was caused by two weeks of rain falling overnight on Saturday! I walked back to my tent in that rain in the early hours of Sunday morning, and was so wet by the time I got back [despite wearing a proper waterproof jacket], I may as well have been sat in the bath fully clothed. 

Unlike many festivalgoers who have aired their [often explicit] opinions on the Creamfields Facebook page, I am very supportive of the festival management team for taking the difficult and sensible decision of cancelling the festival. Having done so will have almost certainly avoided serious injury or death. Reports suggest that flooding had caused king poles in the large tents in the arena to subside, crowd barriers at the front of stages to move and many areas of the arena and site knee deep in mud and water.  I wasn't too sure how refunds would be dealt with [not that I had paid for a ticket]; I thought they may have pointed at a clause in the ticket disclaimer that would say something along the lines of refunds not being given for force majeure. I was pleased to spot that refunds offered were very generous, as detailed below. 

Having followed the ongoing press releases from Creamfields, I was very impressed by the way they handled the situation. Inevitably many people are going to be angry that the festival was cancelled, however the weather has been horrendous all summer, with most outdoor events I've been to being affected by the weather. For me this includes a washed out Summer Solstice at Stonehenge, Grillstock, Wychwood and the Royal International Air Tattoo to name a few. I'm sure many of you will have heard about the problems at Isle of Wight Festival this year, which I wasn't involved in. Click here for a news story with more info. 

A lot of peoples' gripe seemed to be that they didn't think the organisers had done enough to prevent flooding and problems associated with heavy rainfall. How do these people know whether or not a lot of time and money had already been invested in putting extra drainage etc into the site? I'm no expert, but I'm sure it's not easy to plan for two weeks rainfall in one night. 

Despite the early finish, I had another brilliant weekend at Creamfields and I hope to return next year. 

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

End of the Road Festival 2012

I've just got back from End of the Road Festival, held at the Larmer Tree Gardens near Salisbury. I wasn't sure what to expect from EOTR, but the festival far exceeded my expectations! My friend Pob and I went down for the weekend, but we had to travel back to Cheltenham on Saturday daytime to set up Mega Roller Disco - it was an exhausting weekend!

The attention to detail at this festival is incredible, with dozens of cool installations around the site, along with loads of quirky things to see and do. Check out the photos below of some of my highlights from the weekend.

We were delighted to discover the End of the Road Gaming Association hidden in the woods, including Table Tennis tables, giant Jenga, giant Connect 4, lots of board games and other large custom made activities.

Left: A giant walkman installation, complete with headphones made from car tyres
Right: An aeroplane made from wicker and other natural stuff

This is the Forest Disco, with LED dancefloor, mirror ball hanging from the trees and an incredible DJ booth boat at the centrepiece, complete with beautifully made staircase leading up to it at the back. We were also really impressed by this barrel below, with built in iPod for choosing your own tracks during the day when DJs aren't programmed. We had a dance to Stevie Wonder and loved the overall vibe of the area. 

We stumbled across this guy doing an amazing performance. I'm told he was on Britain's Got Talent a while back. He did a hilarious routine which involved him bouncing around inside the ball in time to music [it was funnier than it sounds!] then he goes completely inside the balloon, and in a flash the ball bursts and he appears wearing the Elvis outfit. Surreal, but very entertaining!

Left: This is probably my favourite of all the little features, yet so simple to do! Few festivals would bother 'disguising' a flooded area, but this is just awesome.
Right: Of course the simplest and yet most enjoyable form of entertainment at a festival, is a lovely big open fire. Such a nice way to relax, just a shame no one had an acoustic guitar when we were sat there!

End of the Road produced the best merchandise area I've seen at a festival. Lured in by the nifty sign, inside they'd made a really effort to make it look like a lovely little boutique. This included lots of little speech bubble signs displayed by various characters, including this Lion telling people they were doing a roaring trade and not to delay in buying your merch!

 Musically we absolutely loved Alabama Shakes, [above right] who we were lucky enough to see from the side of the stage with our backstage passes. The lead singer had such a powerful soulful voice and the intricate guitar work was outstanding. I've already bought their recent album Boys & Girls on Amazon and can't wait to give it a proper listen. Check out one of their tracks here:

We also stumbled across Deer Tick in the Big Top, who we were also really impressed by. The lead singer had a great, gravelly voice and I'll be sure to check out more of their stuff.

On arrival we heard John Grant from a distance, who Pob and I had seen support Midlake a couple of years ago. It was a shame we didn't get to see him properly again, but enjoyed hearing Queen of Denmark in the distance all the same!

We caught a brief bit of Midlake's set, a band who I've like for a long time. There are several of them in the band and so many instruments and musical layers. If you're not familiar with them, make sure you check them out. You can listen to my favourite Midlake track here:

Overall a really fantastic festival experience. Thanks End of the Road - keep up the great work!