Al Stuart Creative
Al Stuart Creative

Sunday, 12 July 2009


Up until last weekend, the last time I went to a music festival was back in 1979.
I'll let you maths experts work out how long ago that was.
The festival was at Knebworth, and it was a bit special for a couple of reasons. Firstly it was the last appearance by the mighty Led Zeppelin, and secondly it was my last day of freedom as a long haired student. The following day I was to start my first proper job in an advertising agency as a long haired junior visualiser.

I dont remember much about sleeping under canvas at Knebworth. Mainly because some arse stole my tent and I was forced to sleep in my mates car, a mini.
So last Friday I packed my two man tent, kindly lent to me by my daughter Lauren, along with a sleeping bag and headed off to the Maverick Festival in Suffolk.
I'd been asked to come along by Peter Christopherson who is the manager of the up and coming alt/country band Two Fingers of Firewater. Ive taken a few photos of the band in action in various pub back rooms around London and Peter wanted me to cover the band during the weekend at the festival.
Peter picked me up in his car in Ealing on Friday afternoon, we then had to head for Stoke Newington to collect the singer/songwriter Ange Boxall.Peter had had the misfortune to park his car in Hammersmith a few days earlier and had been rewarded for this foolhardiness by having his driver side window smashed. This meant I felt like I had travelled to Suffolk by motor cycle rather that car, having been buffeted by the wind blowing through Peter's ex window!
Anyway we all arrived looking suitable wind swept at Easton Park Farm and set up camp.
Lauren had shown me how to erect the tent but doing it on your own proved a little tricky.I put my rucksack and sleeping bag inside and rolled out my wafer thin foam mattress. Being an old git with a previously herniated disc in his back I had a feeling this was going to be far from comfortable, but I didn't have time to worry about that. I had to get over to the barn where the band were going to be playing that night.
Easton Farm is one of those nice farms you go to when you have little children. There's lots of pigs horses and chickens to stroke. There's also a tractor ride round the field for the more adventurous toddler.
However the main attraction for me was the toilet block,which meant you didn't have to risk usng the dreaded portaloos in the campsite field. How jolly civilised. Not very rock n roll I suppose.
The Maverick Festival is for fans of alt/country and Americana. I must admit I'm more of a blues/rock man myself, but the sun was shinning and with a glass of cool beer in one hand and my camera in the other I headed off to the main stage in the barn.
Ange & the Wagon Band were up first, I was amazed how cool calm and collected Ange was. She had travelled with us from London and we were running seriously late, but Ange didn't panic as we got stuck in yet another traffic jam. You'd never have guessed we arrived with minutes to spare before she was due on stage.
Friday night was to be a short welcoming set from Ange Boxall and the boys from Two Fingers of Firewater. Ange got things off to an upbeat and melodious start toasting the audience with a well deserved pint! Then Two Fingers of Firewater took to the stage. Each time I've seen them they sound better and better. I think a mini tour of the UK with Al Perkins (played with Stephen Stills, Rolling Stones to name but two)
has boosted their confidence. They played a rousing set complete with smoke machine and half decent lighting, which was nice for the photographers amongst us!
After curfew we staggered back to our tents, I used my mobile phone as a torch to negotiate my way across the field. When we set up our camp I had been encourage to put mine in part of a circle of tents all connected with the band. I did have doubts about this at the time but as we had arrived late I just got on with unpacking the guy ropes and wrestling with the poles.Now as I crawled inside my damp clammy living quarters I realised that it wasn;t such a good idea.
My plan was to have a quick butchers at my photos from the evening and then turn in for the night. That's exactly what I did at about 1am. The ground was really uncomfortable, two millimetres of foam is no barrier to the lumps and bumps of a field. Whichever way I lay was bearable for about 5 minutes before I wriggled like an old caterpillar int a new position. Outside in the dark the younger members of our party had no intentions of turning in. Oh no, cooking ,drinking talking and learning the banjo went on till first light.
To be fair, I think I could have slept if I had brought an inflatable mattress.
Anyway dawn gave way to bloody early and I decided to get up.The sun was already warming the inside of my tent as I crawled out to inspect the camp. Everyone was asleep as I made my way to the toilet block. Desperate for a coffee I was the first customer at the coffee vendor who was just setting up his stall for the day.
I also managed to track down a bite to eat as I explored the festival site.
Saturday was the main day for music, with a host of bands on from 11am till 11pm
The TFoF boys played a late afternoon set in the barn, the sun streaming in like a Ridley Scott film which made for some interesting photos. A highlight of the day for me was to say hello to Rod Clements from the band Lindesfarne who was sitting in with Rachel Harrington. I confessed to Rod that the last time I saw him play was October 1972 at the city hall Newcastle. The support band that evening was a little known band called Genesis!
Saturday night in the tent was no better than Friday. But at least I knew what was coming, Ange teaching someone to play Ukelele, "imagine you're flicking water off the end of your fingers" she said. Her keen pupil followed up with a "plinky plinky plinky on the strings.
A different sort of noise woke me on Sunday morning. Rain. I was worried my cameras would be getting wet so I packed them and everything else up ready to leave and crawled out the tent into the rain. Luckily I had packed a waterproof jacket. I wandered off to find a coffee hoping the rain would stop before I took my tent down. By the time everyone else had surfaced the rain had stopped and the sun had returned.Making the tents steam in the morning light.
There was a little musical entertainment in the barn, but folks were packing up to head home. I managed to manhandle my tent back into its carrying case and head to the local station to catch the train back to London.
A big Thanks to Peer for the invite and free ticket, I think I might have to go to Maverick again, but with a soundproof tent and an inflatable mattress.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

widdly widdly

I love a bit of guitar! This guy is the business. (so are his regular band RAQ)

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Past, Present, Future.

Back in the Spring of this year I witnessed a house fire in my street. I had a camera with me and took a few photos of the firemen in action,the billowing smoke etc.
I then emailed the photos to the local Ealing newspaper.

The following day I had a telephone call from a reporter from the paper. He thanked me for the pictures and then asked me a few questions about the incident. In true tabloid style he asked me my age. You know the kind of thing, Madonna aged 50, Kate Moss 32 etc. Anyway, without thinking, (something I'm very good at) I blurted out "I'm 51.."

Oh how I regret this confession.

There are a couple of mums I know who live locally who have taken to shouting
"Al Stuart 51" at me, as they pass me in the street. They think it's highly amusing.

I don't very often think about how old I am, but recently I've had a few reminders.
A couple of weeks ago my oldest and best friend from art college was down in London with his wife visiting their kids. I met them as they came off the Underground.I don't get to see them very often and I always imagine them looking just like they did in the 70's. There they were coming up the stairs from the train, looking like me, a lot older than the fresh faced long haired art students we were. (I hope they don't take this the wrong way!)
Seeing someone I've known that long makes you realise that you're older than you like to think you are!
The other indicator of impending old age has been at a couple of concerts I went to recently. Stephen Stills guitar player with CSN, who played at Woodstock was in town.
Looking round the Shepherds Bush Empire before the lights went down revealed a sea of grey hair and middle aged spreads! I also went to see an old, fairly obscure prog rock band called Nektar. I was a fan back in the early 70's.
The audience at the small but friendly Borderline were the usual old hippies like me.
The band were probably even older. Close your eyes and it could be 1973. Open them and you'll see the keyboard player have to put his reading glasses on to see what was next on the set list! The drummer looked like my dad.
Nick my advertising copywriter and friend (of a similar age) have decided that perhaps the Ad industry thinks we can't cut it anymore. So we've launched our very own food website.
Nick is editor and I've decided I'm creative director (stop laughing at the back). We've been out and about interviewing chefs, going to cookery demonstrations and enjoying some wonderful free lunches. Who says there's no such thing!
Mind you there's no escape from the 'age thing'. We constantly meet lovely PR girls who are young enough to be our daughters. We attended a cocktail evening at the very posh Langham hotel, the four young PR girls awaiting the arrival of the hotshots from foodepedia, only to turn round to see two blokes in their early 50's shuffling through the door!
Still in true Jeremy Clarkson style, being an old git isn't going to stop me wearing jeans, leather jackets, cowboy boots (yes really) and it won't stop me going to gigs either. Mind you in a few weeks time those mums will have to revise the number they shout at me.....Al Stuart 52 :-(

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

That's entertainment

February and its time to go see the latest US guitar slinger, you know the kind of thing, started playing at the age of two!
This was Joe Bonamassa and his band. Touted as a blues guitar player his style is very much in the classic 70's hard rock envelope. No complaints from me,Shepherds Bush empire is Sold Out. Quite impressive for an artist not well known over here in the UK.
We've got tickets in the stalls,and position ourselves with a reasonable view of the stage. That was until the world's tallest bloke and his best friend (who was runner up in the competition) come and stand right in front of us! I'm six foot -ish and I had to stand on tip toes to see anything, no such luck for the smaller members of our party who only had the back of a xxl demin jacket to look at.
Still the sound was good. You could feel your trousers flapping in the 'wind' from the speakers,and the next day a fine whistling sound in your ears. Rock n Roll.

March. Were off to see the rather excellent british blues/rock guitar player, Matt Schofield at the Borderline in central London. A nice little venue. We arrived early and got seated with an unobstructed view of the stage. I took my camera along and despite the gloomy lighting I managed to get a couple of good photos. We've seen Matt a lot of times and he always puts on a great show.
Next month were going to see the Black Crowes at the Brixton Academy. Their only UK date which has sold out, looking forward to that gig.

This weekend our kitchen/diner had its official launch or should that be Lunch?
On Saturday we had my brother and my dad and their partners over and on Sunday ,my brother and sister in law. So it was my chance to slave over a hot new range cooker.
It's certainly easier to entertain now with the extra space.