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from the FPG Chronicles / The Acoustic Stage

Born without a clue. A lifetime later, situation largely unchanged. Nevertheless, one perseveres.....

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The Acoustic Stage

One year it REALLY rained at Glastonbury. We’d parked up midweek at a central crossroad in glorious sunshine, with the primary worry being how much road dust we’d end up being covered by. But once we’d set up, the heavens opened and just kept pouring throughout the whole weekend. The whole site was a sodden muddy labyrinth in no time. We couldn’t patrol, so we had to approach some of the small stages to see if we could get a spot. We managed a couple, including a spot in the enormous Cinema Tent when their equipment broke down, but the breakthrough came when I approached the people at the Acoustic Stage - in those days, a fairly modest, smallish marquee. There was an attractive but mildly fraught young woman at a sort of reception table handling all kinds of enquiries from all kinds of muddied up people. As I got to her, she was listening distractedly and clearly about to say “Really sorry but….”, when her eyes focussed on my lapel, frowned, then looked up at me again. She stared into my face for a moment, then suddenly she stood up, grabbed my wrist, and dragged me back behind her table and into a separate canvas chamber beyond. A relatively quiet and dry refuge, this was where a bunch of damp and exhausted crew members were recovering from their exertions. “Look what I found,” she announced. Blank, fairly indifferent faces turned towards us, and she pointed to the small FPG “Pretend you’re normal” badge on my lapel and added, “The Flying Patrol Group!”

Never before had I felt so rewarded for my efforts. The canvas room felt suddenly charged as blank faces immediately broke into smiles and people stood up and came over and started talking all at once. It transpired that we had played to nearly all these people in one setting or another, including, apparently, an informal end of festival Acoustic Stage staff party! They were trying to explain how and where but I was completely overwhelmed and, feeling not a little emotional, could hardly speak. The upshot was, “Yes, please, come and play on our stage.”

Nick and I showed up that evening at an allotted time, fully kitted in our usual strap on equipment plus ponchos for keeping off the rain. The stage guys simply set up a couple of mikes at thigh level to pick up our portable amps, and, discarding the ponchos, we were away. It was, for us, a relatively long gig - there being not many other places we could go in the rain - but it was absolutely rollicking joyous and intimate as we all forgot, for a while, the incessant bucketing outside. Many of the wet punters seemed to know us from those endless nights of patrolling and were even asking for favourite numbers.

In the following years, we became irregularly regular on the Acoustic Stage as it and its top notch team grew larger each year. At that first stage, people could, and did, come up and sit on the front. Later the stages were higher, but they could still reach up and leave notes. I recall Nick receiving one which I couldn’t read but he managed to scan as we played. He never missed a beat, but he told me after that he was more than a little unsettled as the note was a threatening one from an aggrieved boyfriend of a woman he, Nick, had slept with.

From that first gig in about a forty foot, two pole marquee, they became a six pole proper stage, complete with a distant control booth handling the clear sound and a very sophisticated lighting rig. It even had backstage dressing rooms where, once, we were tracked down by some alleged BBC reporters who wanted to interview us, but we were already late and had to go on.

Of the many moments of intense chagrin in my life that still make me sweat years and years later, one was at a now massive Acoustic Stage post-festival party. It was an honour to be playing to the wide range of staff and performers we knew were out there (having just walked through the throng in civvies). These were precisely the people I’d wanted to target from the very outset. We were asked two questions beforehand. “Do you want us to announce you?” and “Do you want the drum kit from the previous act removed?” Foolishly, I said “No thanks” and “Yes please”. Nick and I waited, all kitted up, in the darkened wings as some geezer spent what seemed like forever to dismantle and remove the drums. When he finally cleared off, we stepped dramatically out on to centre stage - only to discover that the vast majority of the throng had left! They’d clearly thought, in the absence of any announcement and on the basis of the drum clearance, that the show was over and had moved on to another party. We played for the few remainers and, despite several of them later coming up to say how much they loved it and where they’d seen us before, I felt physically sick at my stupidity and the missed most marvellous opportunity.

Just Like A Woman

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© 2020 Deacon Martin

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