Thursday, 17 July 2008

I'll be on my mobile!

"Ben, it's someone called Brian from Dandelion Radio, he wants to interview the band and he's asking what time they're onstage?"
"Tell him I'll call him back"
"OK. Brian, he'll call you back, he's just driving right now..."
"Daddy, can you put on Jungle Book?"

Five minutes pass. Esther starts crying from behind us. Clearly the pointy bit of croissant we'd tried to placate her with hasn't done the trick.
"Daddy, I'm thirsty," says Maddy.
The mobile rings again. Robyn answers like last time.
"It's Kev from Radio 1, he wants to interview the band too."
"Daddy, I'M THIRSTY!"
Esther's crying gets more like The Great Gig in The Sky.
"Hang on, I'll pull over..."

The Scottish Band are at T In The Park and I'm doing my job; fielding calls, hooking people up, making things happen. But of course, I'm nowhere near Balado, Kinross. To be precise I'm now parked up in a lay-by somewhere outside Nantes, on my way to a campsite in Brittany. After this my small family car full of sweaty people, toys, and boulangerie products will finally be heading to Calais and home.

I'm actually writing this having been back in London for several days. We made it back in one piece, despite the A13 not living up to the Billy Bragg song. We sat on this infamous East London access road for what seemed like days, listening to the CDs I wrote about in the last blog entry, as four lanes of traffic squeezed unhappily into one. Never had Elbow's plaintive balladry seemed more appropriate.

And on returning home and finally looking at Email, catching up on calls and doing all the re-acclimatisation you do after a two week break it became apparent that some really exciting things had happened to the Sb while I was away. Admittedly I knew about some of them already - some more plays on Radio 1, including Zane Lowe, our first NME piece - but looking at the Glastonbury BBC footage and getting emails from people telling me they'd seen the video on T in The Park coverage on BBC 1 and BBC 3 made me realise how quickly things change in the music business

When I left England, our girl band from Swindon were a five piece, on my return they are a four piece. OK, it's easy to lose a band member but that change has resulted in new songs, a new look, a Myspace redesign and frankly, a massive improvement. All that in two weeks. Blimey, all I did was lie in the sun reading John Cheever stories.

I've also come back to discover Black Kids being everywhere. Their album went in at 5 this week and the reviews appear to be largely favourable despite what the temptation must be to lead the backlash. Musically, to me at least, they play a rather pedestrian yelpy boy/girl indie pop not dissimilar to a band called Semifinalists, who I looked after when I was at V2. The latter had already released 2 EPs before I inherited them and were about to put out a third and an album. Their press person told me how the NME had lavished praise on them, singling out band member Ferry as a genius. The album did OK and then we began the long process of making the follow-up. I was still A&Ring it when V2 got sold to Universal and the record finally came out a couple of months ago. I bet you probably never even noticed, right? Exactly. Thus are the breaks of rock and pop: one minute you're at the top ... Good luck, Black Kids.

Going on holiday when you work in music is hard but let's be honest, these days, going on holiday during the tenure of any job is hard - there is so much competition, back-biting and overcrowding in all business, that 'taking a vacation' is treated with similar sniffiness as taking a sick day. Come in even if you feel like you're about to die; you should always be contactable on your Blackberry or mobile; you never know when you might be needed. I can remember holidays in the music business before the days of ubiquitous electronic connectivity and there was only stress the day before you left: had you spoken to everyone? Had you delegated to people? Were all the artists clear on what they were doing? But once you were out of there, you were on holiday: it was like going to bed - goodnight, see you all in the morning!

Now, there isn't much stress on the eve of departure because if you've forgotten anything, or not informed anyone of your whereabouts, your mobile is assumed to be on all the time. You're never quite fully on holiday. It's like meeting friends: I used to be very organised when I went out: I'll meet you in Pollo on Old Compton Street at 7.30pm, next Thursday. Now everything is much more fluid: we'll meet in Soho next week, I'll text you on the day or you call me, OK, bye!

This is all fine of course, and frankly for those of us who tend toward vagueness, it's a massive step forward. But sometimes, this reliance on technology backfires. Particularly where there's no mobile phone signal. I'm not sure whether mobile phone culture was the problem for the Sb at Glastonbury, but no one quite knew where anything was when they arrived on Friday afternoon in Pilton; a smile and a shrug seemed to be the main body language on show. Where was the guest parking for example? They eventually got directed to a field where they could park the van, but quickly learnt that it was the wrong one and miles away from guest camping. Then the van sank into the mud. The rest of Friday night was spent waiting someone to come and winch them out. After making the call - they got through on the mobile - they waited five hours. Imagine it: FIVE HOURS of sitting in a muddy field hearing the distant sound of Franz Ferdinand wafting over from the main stage. The chasm of difference between life at the top and life at the bottom of the bill can never have seemed so apparent. I never asked them, but I wonder if the onboard PC came in handy while they were waiting. Let's hope they had something to do other than sit there cursing Michael Eavis. When the rescue truck finally did arrive, the driver said he'd only got the mayday call ten minutes beforehand. Hmm, let's blame it on Somerset's bad mobile connectivity shall we?

Hearing about this ordeal two weeks after the event makes me even more proud about the band's triumphant performance on the following Sunday. There's even footage of them handing out those triangles to the crowd. And two weeks later, they drove up to Kinross and did it all again, getting the whole tent singing along to their tunes at T In The Park. And they did both those interviews too - I sorted it out with Brian and Kev, employing the wonders of mobile phone technology, while Robyn fed Esther and Maddy listened to the Jungle Book in the back of the car.

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