Thursday, 7 July 2011


Plain and Fancy is inviting. The first time I visited, I was greeted with a guitarist serenading the bar. It was certainly different to Whetherspoon’s “manufactured” surroundings. Different shaped, coloured bottles commandeered the bar top, making me think of an exotic apothecary. One of the barmen made me think of a young John Legend. Another had been making a gas chamber. I was drawn to his t-shirt logo, “Back to the Booze” and his distinctive beard style with a shaven chin (I wondered whether someone had shaved it as a joke.) I had watched as he poured alcohol, on fire and with a vivid blue flame, from a wine glass to a whiskey glass and then, using the wine glass, trapped the fumes. Wow. I would probably set fire to the customer’s face. The nearest bar experience I’d had was working at my local pub. Washing up dishes.

Tonight, I was going behind the bar, to learn how to make cocktails. The previous night I had met Dutch (shaven chin man) and discussed bartending. I remember arriving to find him clearing up from the night before- obviously it had been a goodnight. He was wearing a bright orange hoody. If anyone’s personality reflects bright orange, it’s certainly him, the man who has the formula for being drunk tattooed just below his chest. Picking up rubbish that littered the bar, I asked him how he had become a barman. He told me he didn’t finish University, blaming his “ADH span and nocturnal personality”. Before being headhunted by Plain and Fancy, he had worked at Whetherspoons. “I was serving students who didn’t want proper cocktails. Their taste buds haven’t evolved. They don’t care how a “woo-woo’s” made, they just want a quick drink. A “shit mix”.” I asked about different whiskeys, bourbons and ales. He talked of something called “Monkey Shoulder”, a triple malt whisky, which gained its name after malt men who turned the barley developed a temporary strain on the shoulder.

Writing this detail down, I realized what a novice I was at alcohol. Dutch, asking me if I wanted a drink, went to the bar, describing as he went how seven fathoms rum was distilled by dropping it in the sea. This reminded me of something concerning throwing barrels of Guinness down hills. Talking about Dublin factory, he came back to the seat and enthusiastically told me about a rum festival he’d been to in London. With lots of hand gestures, he told me how he drank through bamboo shoots out of a long coffin filled with alcohol and at the Habana street party he ended up having a lock in at someone’s pub, eating lasagne. Telling his stories with such nostalgia, he encouraged me to share some of my own. I mentioned that the boys back home loved Newcastle Brown. “You do know that was actually designed for girls with its sweet taste and served in half pints?” Dutch said with a grin.

I asked about the gas chamber. He explained how it was “Absinthe, Wrey & Nephew's, Framboise and a “dash” of Grenadine, which burns down quicker protecting the alcohol. Inhaling the vapours, it hits your lungs, your brain, and your liver and finally the shot hits the stomach. An alcoholic blitzkrieg if you will.” It sounded like something my friend Luke would have. Dutch took me to the bar and poured out some maraschino liquor. “Try it.” It smelt strongly of violets and tasted like a liquid flower. I noticed all the bottles had long thin pourers on their tip. “They’re called speed pourers. They allow you to count regular amounts of liquid.” He took a plain bottle and glass from under the bar. “Imagine how you measure in cooking, its kind of the same. For example, “bubble one” is 1/4 oz, “bubble two” 1/2 oz. A great way to measure 25ml is “you're Mum's a dirty slag”. Sorry? “Watch.” Spinning the bottle from one hand and into the other, he poured out water in an artistic flourish, saying the phrase. “Of course” he said “it can cause some good banter said out loud”. I bet. What was that spinning? Was that the juggling thing that bartenders do? “It’s called “working flare, where you incorporate it into the making of a cocktail. None of this fancy rubbish. It has a purpose. When people come for a drink they want entertainment and skill as part of the service.”

The next night was my shadow shift. I met Tim when I arrived. An ex-barman of Plain and Fancy, he now works at a Michelin star hotel. In a humble voice he explained how to harmonize the flavours between base spirits, liquors, juices and syrups, to find the balance and quality of a cocktail. I admired his attentiveness to detail. Had he considered working abroad? Canada appealed to him and he mentioned his fondness of the European etiquette. Just then, Dutch offered me a taste of Frangelica, a hazelnut liquor. It was like swallowing a spoonful of nutella. As Tim explained how the phrase “Benedictine liquor” originates from monks developing a revitalizing tonic, Dutch passed me a book on the history of alcohol.

Halfway through the evening saw the arrival of the DJs- Jasper, Saxon, Jo Jo. I eagerly listened to them telling me about their experiences. Soon Max (John Legend) arrived. He commented on how being a drama student helped him with the “performance and social element of bartending.” Could he do the whole “flare” thing? He grinned and picked up a dummy bottle. Just as Max was getting confident, the dummy bottle slipped and fell to the floor. He told me he had made a “Chilli Hendrix” and his favourite drink is Pina Colada. As we were talking we saw Dutch leaning over the bar receiving kisses of a group of girls.  

Learning how to speed pour, I was handed something very similar to a chemistry set. I had failed chemistry. Dutch told me to practice pouring water to the different measurements into each glass dial. I had to laugh. I’d gone over the margin for most of them by another ½ oz. Realizing I wasn’t gifted at this, I helped wash up some glasses. I soon met a bubbly woman called Cara, who told me stories of times at the bar. Across the bar I saw Dutch leading a Mexican wave of Sambuka shots to a group of students. As they threw back their glasses of bright blue liquid, I cringed- to me, Sambuka tastes like liquid Bonjela.

The bar felt as though it was a trench and the other side was a battlefield of drunken, euphoric soldiers. Watching Dutch make a Mojito for a customer, I noticed the smell of mint and lime merging together. Then it was my turn. Using the speed pourer I muttered “you’re mums a dirty slag” to pour out the rum. I muddled down limes with gomme. I slapped mint between my hands and turned, shredding the leaves. I went to scoop the ice. No Meg. No? Scoop ice like this, Dutch said. Confidently scooping ice up he furiously crushed it into the glass with a tapping motion, turning to me with a cocky smile. He discarded the silver instrument he’d been using, took three straws and placed them into the glass. I watched as he covered the end of the straw with the tip of his finger and then taking it out, sucked from the other end. I did the same. It was nice. “Ok” Dutch said, “Now go and find someone to give it to.” I picked out a guy sitting opposite and introduced myself, assuring him the drink was free.

Back at the bar, Dutch made me a cocktail. After speed pouring, energetic shaking in the Boston tumbler and meticulous dashings of raspberry liquor and cranberry juice, I was presented with a tasty cocktail. “Sex on the beach, but with a twist!” He asked me if I wanted to make one for a customer. As I went to use the tumbler and shook it over my shoulder, Dutch turned to look at my face. “People say you make your sex face when doing this”. Laughing but also aware of my pale face flaming up, I placed the tumbler back down and served the man a weird looking cocktail. He took it, before saying “Can I ask you one thing?” Oh god. “Are you married, single, or other” I looked up at him. How old do you think I am Granddad! Laughing in shock and bemusement, I swiftly made an excuse and went to collect glasses.

Clearing up, I realised how empty the space felt without people. Jasper and Saxon had left, and Max was heading off to film a course project, wearing a very cool hat. Dutch was thriving, his talkative nature amplified by how busy it had been. Listening to him speak, I couldn’t imagine him anywhere else. Jo Jo was talking to me about music, life and the universe. I could feel quiet tiredness creep over me. I tried to refuse a taxi offered by Dutch. On the way home, I thought of something I had read in the book behind the bar. A “bartender is not only an ambassador for the establishment they work for, but a sales person, an entertainer, a reference point, for anything drink related, a chef, an advisor, a friendly ear and safe council to boot.” I thought of Max and Dutch behind the bar. Yep, that made sense. Once at my flat, I couldn’t decide whether I felt alert or absolutely shattered. Pathetically, the latter won me over and I woke up half an hour later. On the loo.

Monday, 4 July 2011

The Voice of Music- Ludovico's Piano

Everyone has a certain response to music. Even those of us who aren’t great “listeners” or “musicians”, have a certain song, genre or even section of notes that can hit something deep within. It is something that sometimes can’t be put into a verbal definition or if it is, causes a passion inside of people that reverberates into every aspect of their life. Nick Hornby relates to music well, turning its ambiguity into something personal; "I love the relationship that anyone has with music...because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out...It's the best part of us probably..." Nick Hornby
I have always agreed that music, like many of the arts, is a universal cathartic element and it should be celebrated. Michael Jackson and James Brown spurt a “get up and go” into you, Eminem spills lyrical euphoria into your ear, Nina Simone, Carole King and Louis Armstrong crackle into your Sunday afternoon head and Rodrigo y Gabriella shoot energy into you. Example, Beyonce, Coheed and Deftones make you want to dance into the night, Adele makes you sing, Led Zeppelin reminds you not to roll, Coldplay and The Foals make you feel, Jack Johnson, John Mayer, Brooke Fraser and Mazzy Star mellow you, and Seth Lakeman and John Butler lead you in a jig. Kamchatka, Stevie Wonder and the Toots and the Maytals help you find your groove. Kayne and Rihanna lend you an ego, Free says its alright now, Bob tells you not to worry, Lost prophets scream with you, Incubus and Red Hot Chillie Peppers take you to a beach. Muse and Wolfmother empower you, Maynard James Keenan takes you to another place, Sting and The Police Bring on the night, Thin lizzy, The Clash and R.A.T.M sing the words we’re all thinking. Oasis keeps our memory in check and The Beatles assures us heaven holds a place for those who pray. I would be shocked if Wise Guys Oh la la didn’t get you moving, or Eddie Vedder performing Black with Pearl Jam didn’t cause a small tear to your eye.  

Music creates and explores. It encourages emotion whether we are aware of it or not. Although I can appreciate all of the above as cathartic, there is the argument that music is more so when it is instrumental, “pure” music, such as classical scores or film soundtracks. Classics such as Bach and Beethoven have proven that their music is timeless. I specifically find present composers of film soundtracks such as Angelo Milli (Seven Pounds), Mark Isham (Point Break, Blade, Crash,, The Black Dahlia), Thomas Newman (The Shawshank Redemption, Meet Joe Black, American Beauty, Road to Perdition, Finding Nemo, Cinderella Man,), Hans Zimmer (The Lion King, Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Holiday, Dark Knight, Inception), James Newton Howard (The Village, King Kong, Blood Diamond) and James Horner (Enemy at the Gates, Troy, Avatar) produce some of the most beautiful music, scores that evoke heavy emotion. Thomas Newman’s starting notes of American Beauty are iconic, not to mention, make me crumble every time I hear it.  You could argue that as soon as vocals are introduced to a piece of music it becomes more signified, directed into the meaning of the words rather than the sound of the music itself. Is this the case? Or is it solely dependent on the individual?

A recent example which proved to me that instrumental music possibly holds greater cathartic power was in November at the Apex concert hall, Bury St Edmunds, where I saw Italian musician Ludovico Ein Audi perform.  Described as an ambient, minimalist contemporary pianist, Ein Audi’s music has grown throughout the world, engaging both traditional classic music lovers and those of a more modern nature. He is more widely known through film scores such as the poignant This is England, and collaborations with Channel Four, such as the drama Any Human Heart, which Ein Audi’s album Nightbook was used. I was introduced to him through the Le Onde album. I immediately fell in love with his simple compositions and sweeping melodies- specifically teaching myself Le Onde on piano which truly echoes the motion of waves. From this album I have to highlight Questa notte, Onde corte and Passaggio, all three tracks having very fluid, slightly buoyant elements to them. With Onde corte and Passaggio specifically it is as though Ludovico is taking the music dancing; listening to the tracks one gains a real sense of freedom, hope and character.    

Therefore, going to see him perform, I was anticipating how a live audience would react to his music, how I would react. The Apex itself gave a real sense of contemporary grandeur, the space open, the walls lined with light oak. Going into the auditorium, I was reminded of the inside of Sydney Opera House and immediately felt that quiet anticipation that embarks before a gig or music concert. As I took my seat amongst the rows of pews and looked at the towering ceiling, I couldn’t help but imagine the concert hall as a type of church, as though we were taking our seats for something spiritual. The Steinway piano stood proudly on stage, burnt orange blinds hung behind at the window, embellishing the seclusion of the room. I was aware that this may be due to my personal relationship with music but looking around at other audience members, I saw many with bowed heads or looking up at the space around them.  

Ludovico arrived quietly on stage to applause. He began with pieces from Nightbook, caressing the piano to create a melodic dream. For the first three pieces I was immersed into his music, loosing my sight to the Steinway and letting my ears soak up the sound. Part of my way of understanding music as a cathartic element is that I imagine it to be something innate, something that is constantly “playing” around us and that is when we go to play an instrument or “tune” in that we experience it in our world and allow it to affect us. Watching Ludovico play, I noticed how, like many musicians he too was lost  in his music. He was playing with his eyes closed and by taking the expressions on his face, it was as though the music was being composed by his mood rather than any planned manuscript. This reminded me of what my piano teacher once said- “ Always play so that it feels right, even if the notes aren’t” Of course, I was never much of a pianist and I have a feeling it was said more out of reassurance than anything.

Ein Audi, after hooking us with the evocative beginning then went on to play a more funky, hip hop beat. Elongating the notes by holding down the pedal, stringing them into one, he effectively placed his flowing trademark onto a rhythm that is usually quite defined and happy staccato, bringing the element of blues. I was surprised at how quickly my mood changed and I felt myself nodding along with a real sense enjoyment. I looked around at the audience, who of all ages and surprisingly a lot of men, were too nodding along to the beat. Everyone seemed genuinely happier than five minuets previously- aside from a man that was sitting two rows in front who seemed a little lost at the sudden change in mood and kept clutching at his neck. Watching the audience members I felt rude as I realised what a personal moment I was invading on but at the same time it clarified my thoughts of music as cathartic; there was a sense of calmness, poignancy and emotion. This was heightened further when Ludovico went back to his more melancholy sounds with the album Una Mattina (2004) from which he played the piece Nuvole Bianche. It was at this point that the snuffles in the audience that has previously been stifled became highly more audible- people all around me were crying. Some were silent, some were looking away, and others were sobbing. I could feel the lump in my throat that had been growing for a long time, press even further into me. The man two rows in front had let go of his neck and was now with his head in his hands. I have never experienced a grown man completely breakdown before. As Ein Audi brought the notes together in a soft climatic build, I realised the extent this man had taken solace in this music. Following this came the Divenire album, which holds two of my favourite pieces the enigmatic Primavera and Oltemare. The album means “to become”, “to grow” in Italian. After experiencing quite a depressive, emotional piece before, these two brought into me a great sense of determination and realization, especially during the build of strings in Primavera.

Ein Audi spoke to the audience between sections of his music, which at times, I felt interrupted the atmosphere. Yet, one memorable time that seemed to justify his interlinking discussion was after playing from Divenire and explaining the influences for the music. He described a festival in Italy that takes place in the mountains and explained to the audience how he had asked an artist to paint the mountain scene. He related the music to the painting and how these mountains were “framed” in life and the image was cinematic. He described how he put the original melodies onto his ipod as a “canvas”, creating a basis for harmony and then layered over the piano as “paint”. Ludovico went onto play pieces from This is England, starting with the haunting track  Ritorante. As a track on its own merits, this piece easily creates atmosphere, yet, knowing what scene it is used for in the film, I couldn’t help but relate to that moment which only encouraged my emotion further. The album, unlike Le Onde, is terribly beautiful with moments of real ambiguity.

Playing pieces I didn’t recognise, Ludovico suddenly went darkly staccato further down the piano. Immediately I was provoked to imagine gothic castles, dark atmospheres. To be able to influence my mood so much in such a short amount of time was worryingly impressive. I had realised by now that trying to contain my emotion was proving difficult. If the man in front of me could let go, why shouldn’t I? It was a strange sensation- with every note of Ludovico, came heavy tears. I’m talking about real crying, crying where you can feel your chest shake, your breath shudders, when you don’t have any control. Where was all this emotion coming from? All I knew was that it felt right, it was a release and to be sharing the same experience with the rest of the audience made me happy- we had all forgotten our British inhibitions, this music had moved us. All, as an entirety. This was reflected in the standing ovation. I don’t think anyone will forget that concert in a hurry.

Music is, as with any art form, based on personal opinion and influence. Some of us are more avant garde and others Einsteins, some of us prefer tea to coffee, some of us are equally as moved by Jay Z as we are Mozart. I personally blame my Mother for playing Enya whilst I was in the womb. Either way, music, whether instrumental, hard rap or moody blues holds something to each and every one of us. If you do anything new for 2011, I would recommend that if you haven’t already, impulsively buy a film score or even better, a Ludovico album and give it some attention. Music is cathartic and I find that instrumental music, especially when being played by Ludovico, compels you to take time out of this busy world we live in and listen.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

The Voice of Music.............. Southside

Finishing University for the summer, I was very aware of all the thousand of festivals that were being planned- none of which I had managed to get a ticket to. However, I was planning a trip to Munich to visit a good friend studying there and she marvelously stumbled across a festival held in Germany, near Tuttlingen, called “Southside” that was on the weekend I was visiting. My euphoria at seeing the line up was indescribable- Lykke Li, Chemical Brothers, Artic Monkeys and oh, wait, could I be dreaming? Incubus?! I’ve been in love with their music (and not to mention beautiful Brandon Boyd) for many many years and I had resigned to the notion of never seeing them tour. However, here they were. If that wasn’t enough, I then saw that the Foo Fighters were playing- finally, a chance to see Dave Ghrol in action.
Tickets were bought, flights were arranged and the family tent was shoved into a suitcase. Packing for a festival is like the night before Christmas for me- even with the prospect of rain, mud and sweaty crowds, I eagerly found my trusty wellies, carex gel, loo roll and any girls saviour, dry shampoo. Oh, and lets not forget some colourful face paints. Forget 'festivals' with its VIP tents and fluffy-mud-repellent pillows, this was going to be a real festival, with a tent, in all weathers.   
Munich is too beautiful and energetic to explore in a day- with intricate architecture, zigzag streets like Prague, bustling beer taverns and steeped in history from the Second World War, I felt like I had only just scratched its surface. After last minute packing with my friend, we went to sleep with a deep thunderstorm, excited for the next day.  
Travelling on the U bahn the next morning, we stood out like a sore thumb dressed  for the festival. Never before have I taken so much food- people must have thought we were feeding the whole campsite! Arriving at the station (with seriously painful hands already from the food bag) we met many over festival goers, all with luggage and an eagerness to get going. Many a time I’ve had to sit in the corridor of a train, but this was beyond the definition of “packed” with each passenger having another person worth of bags latched to them. After various stops (where we bundled out, ran down the platform to another carriage, and bundled back in) we finally came to Ulm, where we had to change to Tuttlingen.
Here we were met with even more people carrying rucksacks, sleeping bags and in some cases wheelie bins or home made crates of German beer. I was starting to gain that familiar sense of pilgrimage you find at festivals- people from various nationalities were appearing but we were all headed in the same direction. Boarding the train for Tuttlingen every backpacker was jamming into each other in desperation to get onto the train, least of all to find a seat. For the last part of the journey to the site, we found ourselves on the floor amongst bags, people, flags and an old radio that was blasting out various tunes from samba to Hendrix.
Someone we met in the Conga Line...
The journey from here to Tuttlingen was surrounded by stunning scenery- Germany really is beautiful. Finally we reached our destination and everyone clambered off the train, where we waited in the rain for the shuttle bus- Andy's face summed up the collective "we just want to get there" feeling. Arriving at the festival I suddenly appreciated the British for their queues- we might complain, but they work and trust me, after waiting for hours in chaotic crowds, in the rain,  you will long for one! I got my Southside band tightly clamped around my wrist, and went off gladly in search for a pitch. Our tent was soon snuggled between our fellow campers and once everyone had found a jumper and a beer we went off to explore like kids in a big play park. Unlike English festivals that I’ve been to, this was on an old airfield and without the usual fairy lights, flags and trees that I was used to, it felt very open and wide. Something that was also different was the “man stands” dotted about the place- guys could easily go to the loo in the middle of the pathways. Nice.
As we walked along I saw the usual food stalls, merchandise tents, bars and ahead, the main arena with its magnificent circus tents and stages. However, as it was the first night, the main arena was closed off to us festival folks and so we decided to reside the night outside the disco tent, dancing, drinking and talking with excitement for the music that was only a day away. 

Lucy and Emma-Bee
I should have started charging....

Nicola and his butterfly...

The next day we said good morning to Friday, and  putting on our war paint (consisting of a lot of flowers, bumble bees, a lion and a butterfly which left Nic with a sunburn imprint) we went to see the dynamic Flogging Molly, led by the crazy wonderful Dave King. Having a little jig together in the mud, the bands rhythmic beat increased and so did our dancing. Suddenly the heavens opened and we took shelter at Mario’s- a soon to be favourite food stall with the boys. With the vast array of acts that were on over the festival, we parted our ways, with plans to meet up later for the headline acts of Artic Monkeys and Foo Fighters. Venturing to the red tent, we gratefully moved our way between the dry and remarkably warm atmosphere of bodies. Although I was only going to be here for a half an hour, I was desperate to see Lykke Li perform. We settled at the front of the crowd, the empty stage smoldering in the dark. With similar stage presence as Florence, the Swedish singer song writer is a gem in the music scene. Her stark performances and music that blends all elements of instruments, she creates a memorable unique identity. Entering the stage space in a black veil, she created a storm of cries and true to her style held the audience in an intense glare. Although I only saw a few tracks, she was one of my highlights, making her way around the stage with attitude and charisma in abundance.
Making myself an enemy of nearly everyone in the crowd (even more so when people realised I was a blundering English tourist) I made my way uncomfortably through to the edge of the tent and back into the arena. Meeting my friends, we ran around the side of the main stage and snuck into a decent space near the front. Just as the Glastonbury style rain started, Artic Monkeys graced the audience. Although they gave us great tracks such as “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor”, “When the Sun Goes Down” and “Dancing Shoes”, which got the audience ignited like dynamite, Alex Turner disappointed many with his bulshy, uninterested attitude that made him look more sour than sexy. Either way, we were dancing with the rain and the party watch (a highly technical, coloured flashing light watch all the way from Thailand) made an appearance. As Artic Monkeys left the stage, the rain pounded even more onto us- what really is the point in a waterproof eh? 

Grohl's hair is his source of genius
The man himself!

Looking around at the sodden coats and caked wellies, there was a mutual understanding- everyone in the crowd was freezing, soaked and shivering but we were happy in the united thought of the Foo Fighters being ten minutes away. Soon enough the lights on the stage went down and the screams and shouts waved through the crowd- mine being one of the loudest. I’ve wanted to see Foo’s for ages. On came Grohl, his shaggy hair and wide grin making him unmistakable to see. After seeing the recent documentary on the band, I was delighted to see the line up- Grohl, Shiflett, Mendel, Smear and the mighty drummer, Taylor Hawkins. A band that has been with me since my teens, the Foo’s music resonates such presence and importance. They started with a track from their new album and then one of my favourites, My Hero. Hearing the starting notes, I screamed along with the crowd in sheer delight- I love the strong drum beat that begins that song and the lyrics are some of the best I've heard. They then went on to play the famous track The Pretender which gained even more acclaim from the now drowned audience. Giving a good balance of old and new, the band assured the audience they would try and play everyone’s favourite’s. However, as Grohl stated, they had “ a lot of fucking songs to get done.” We ignored the rain and danced along, singing until our throats were sore- Grohl was running about the stage, madly shaking the rain out of his dark mane, grinning like a Cheshire cat that had certainly got the cream. At one stage he ran over to our side and of course we went mental, like our lives depended on it. Cloking eyes with him, he reached out a hand making the sign of the horns. What a dude. However, I couldn’t ignore the rain anymore. Just as the Foo’s were finishing with their beautiful song “Disenchanted Lullaby”, my friend voiced what I had been thinking- “I can see my breath and its June!” One look at each other and we turned in the mud and headed straight to the hot chocolate stand. Arriving back, we found a small puddle in the tent ( the boys had been flooded) and I genuinely felt like was going to die- I love camping but never before have I been so bloody freezing and falling asleep I couldn’t help but picture my gravestone “Meg Burrows, death by pneumonia”
Beautiful bin bags- thanks claire!

Thankfully, I woke to see the next day- and to hear more rain. However, by the afternoon it passed and with the new found sunshine came the make-shift wellies, bin bag coats and cellotape drink holders. Rustling as we walked, we made our way to the red tent to see the awesome, memorable Darwin Deez, who I think I can say, are one of the most entertaining bands I’ve ever seen. Playing music of a layered indie, funk, disco, the band’s trademark are the dances they perform between songs, alongside musical genius such as Enya or Simon and Garfunkel.    

what a voice!
They sang em's favourite song- daddy's gone?

They had a good beat and the audience involvement and support was incredible. Another band that was unheard of to me was Blood Red Shoes, who were another pleasant surprise. Going back to camp briefly, we were engaged to watch the boys of our camp play “flunkball” which was very entertaining. But, if anything to learn for the next festival, don’t play this game near the toilets or man stands where lovely pee is draining out over the pathway- bottles get rolled through it too many times. The next act we saw was Glasvegas, a band that’s singers voice (James Allan) is iconic and just pure loveliness. Forgetting about the swamp of mud and rain, he actually jumped off the stage and waded through the dirt to greet fans. My friend was ecstatic at this and ran through the crowd to try and get a glimpse of him. 
the wobbly man!

After that we high tailed it to the main stage for the magnificent Elbow- who were beautiful. Half way through their set, the sky cleared to reveal blue skies and a bright sun which was welcomed gladly from cheering crowds. Guy Garvey exclaimed that it was the "power of music" and the crowd’s good will that encouraged the good weather. He added that if anyone in the audience could realistically copy the floating man dance then they’d win a prize- his jacket. I have to congratulate Emma Bonshor here- for our section of the crowd, she was 110% the winner. The rest of the night gave us Jimmy Eat World- I felt like I was in an episode of the OC but either way they had a good style to their music. It was there that we met some of the Jagermister salespersons who gave us lots of free goodies- I forgot to mention that there was a “crane jagermister bar” which raised people a certain height to enjoy a drink.
We then saw the atmospheric Portishead with their haunting melodies similar to Zero Seven and Massive Attack, followed by the acclaimed Arcade Fire. Although not a personal favourite of mine, friends were ecstatic to see them. I must admit I was impressed by  their stage design of old American cinema and the dynamic energy they held as an ensemble- in this day and age of commercialized music, its good to see a group that can actually play their instruments, and well to that matter. Following that was the Klaxons which were great as always and finally The Chemical Brothers. I hadn’t seen the arena so crowded as it was for the Brothers- although the music was fantastic with strong bass lines, techno blurred edges and strong addictive beats, the graphic design on the screens were amazingly colourful- they looked like something from Tron or Banksy but distorted as to make an impressionable image. With tracks such as “Hey Boy Hey Girl” and “Galvanize” the crowd was pleased, moving along with the beat as their conductor. However, just as they were coming to an end we decided to leave, as again, Germany proved very cold at night. 
Balls to festival fashion!

Sunday morning we woke to b-e-a-utiful weather (although strong wind in the night had meant a lot of lost gazebos) and we reveled in the sunshine. The first act we saw was on recommendation from Lucy, a band called Friendly Fires- wow. What a funky moving lead singer! We were certainly dancing along, trying our own funky moves. The Band itself, a dance punk band from Hertfordshire, was really in tune with each other and has a truly distinctive sound. Moving on we saw Two Door Cinema Club play the end of their set and then the enigmatic, mad, but awesome Gogol Bordello! As we were pirate dancing around in the mud, Claire summed up the lead singer, Eugene Hutz perfectly –“ He’s someone you’d meet in a Mexican bar and you’d want to drink tequila with!” What I love about the band is their abundance of energy and their punky, rock, even folkish sound- they really are a breath of fresh air. After them, we went to see Kasabian rock up on the other stage. It was unfortunate that the levels of speakers were horribly off and with the added factor of the wind; it was pretty hard to hear anything of the singer. You would have thought in our technical era that this would be fixed pretty easily but it wasn’t.
The time had come for Incubus and I couldn’t contain my excitement. The skyline was beautiful and although a small patter of rain had started, I was ready to see one of my favourite bands serenade the evening to a close. I could go on forever about Incubus, they were simply amazing. The band walked on stage looking as young as ever; Mike Einziger, a genius, looked ready to show the audience the new sounds they had to offer, Chris Kilmore appeared with a look of quiet confidence, his dredded hair silhouetted against the stage lighting, Ben Kenney and Jose Pasillas taking to their thrones of music and of course, there appeared Brandon Boyd. Taking away the fact that I love their music and generally him, I admire Boyd, as, like many musicians, he lacks the ability to read music and therefore gives a style more layered, unique (and in my eyes) emotionally and artistically driven. They started with the awesome track “Pardon Me”- as soon as I heard the lulling chords, I immediately pictured a wave roll and knew instantly what was coming- along with many others I screamed, loudly. Boyd was singing into the wind, the band strumming out poignant attitude. The equally great track “Nice to Know You” followed, beginning erringly with floating notes and edgy scratches from Kilmore and then a sudden plunge into beat. Floppy haired Boyd was in his element, weaving around the stage in some sort of psychedelic state to the rhythm of the music. A lot of their new music from the up and coming album “If not now, When?” followed, which sounded very promising. Then came “Circles” with its heavy off beat, funky, charismatic rifts and Boyd’s voice echoing over, once again philosophizing to the crowd via his lyrics. The lights went low and Boyd went to collect something at the back of the stage. As soon as I saw the small percussion shaker I knew what was coming, my favourite Incubus song, Wish you were Here- a song that is as familiar as my own skin. I’m not sure how to describe what noise I made, but I was on cloud nine. What a beautiful song. This particular one is extremely personal to me and I found myself, like in Foo’s, taking a second to soak in the atmosphere around me- it’s a credit to a band that makes you feel like this, to the core of you. Both I and Claire, for our own reasons, have such a personal meaning to Incubus’s music and I was so glad that it was played. The crowd's dynamics nicely lead into the aggressive track “Pistola”. We then heard another new track   “Adolescents”- there’s been some debate over the new album trying too hard to find a new sound but this track, I feel, stays close to the Incubus attributes. Then came the famous “Drive” but Boyd layered vocals and beat as to change it slightly, which worked really well. Again, just as the set was coming to a close, I suddenly realised how cold I was- I had been so distracted it hadn’t registered but now, I couldn’t help but chatter my teeth alongside the music. Although part of me was desperate to stay until the very end, I and Claire left just as they finished the track “A Kiss to send us off”- another great one. This treachery to Incubus was justified, not only for the cold, but for the fact that Sum 41 was playing at the same time in the red tent. Another band that saw me through my teens, it only felt right to go and see them. We managed to sneek into the crowded tent on their last song “In Too Deep” and I automatically felt like I was fifteen again- cheesy rock never fails!  
Going back to our tents, I noticed the festival had the feeling of Reading, a sense of potential anarchy. However, unlike Reading, there weren’t any toilets being dismantled or tents being thrown, just lots of merriment and bad singing. Now that I hadn’t got music to distract me, I realised that I wasn’t actually feeling my best, so alas, I went to bed early. The next day saw us getting up early to catch our shuttle bus, train and U bahn. Leaving the campsite at 7:30am, I could see some people had already left. One thing that we were encouraged to do was to collect a bag full of rubbish each and return we were given five euro’s. With the amount rubbish Britain festivals must accumulate, I think this would be great to see at every festival. After a long journey, we found ourselves back into Munich- if we had felt odd to begin with, it was even worse now, turning up in such a clean city in such a typical post festival state.
 Although it felt different to any British festival I’ve been too in the sense of layout, Southside was one of the best for music, friends and fun. I would greatly recommend for anyone to go abroad more for festivals- you experience different cultures and people but the feeling of unity in music is just the same. Just always remember your wellies, especially if you’re passing the 'man stands'.