Wednesday 3 August 2011


I was still shaking bits of London out of my shoes (Olympic Park dust and Dalston hipster charity shop dandruff) when we realised it was time for our old chinas to come up and visit us for the Godiva Festival.  It calls itself the UK's biggest free family festival, which may well be true.  The only rival I can think of is Cambridge's Strawberry Fair which tends to feature more "your child's name on some glittery mud"-type stalls and less in the way of festivally music acts.  
I didn't see much of the promised "local history and culture" at Godiva (if you don't count the roller disco), and had a small tantrum at the sign on the curry stall assuring "nice and mild", but the entertainment was free, and we did have large amounts of fun. We were only there on Friday which was 80s night, headlined by Blancmange (yes!) and Heaven 17 (yes indeed!).  I shamed myself by complaining I didn't remember Mirrors from the 80s at all, to be gently told that they are a contemporary synth-pop band who spent the 80s mainly getting conceived.  They did turn out to be rather good though, in an Interpol-meet-Kraftwerk-but-unexpectedly-jaunty sort of way.
Blancmange didn't disappoint.  Well, I would have liked to have heard The Day Before You Came, but maybe it would have been a bit of a downer for such a pleasant evening.  However, God's Kitchen remains one of the most solemnly bonkers tunes of the keyboard-poking era, and nobody could fail to be excited to hear Living on the Ceiling, not even Blancmange themselves, apparently. Delightful.
Heaven 17 were a fantastic choice for headliners.  A genuinely good band containing two borderline geniuses, taking the music seriously but happy to play the hits to a casual crowd, and at least one song that everyone knows.  "Isn't this all a bit funky for you?" asked The Lovely Paul (I may have been grabbing that groove thang by the throat and throwing it in the ocean at the time).  He doesn't realise that in the olden days we had to take good music where we found it, be that in Unknown Pleasures or Penthouse and Pavement.  Wisely, that now-classic album is what the set's built around, and although it's had the now-inevitable anniversary tour, the songs evoke a thrilling combination of teenage exuberance and nostalgic horror at one's former self.  Not for Glenn Gregory though.  No, he simply looks genuinely pleased to have an audience, though he does apologise a lot for having crammed too many words into songs, never expecting to have to play them live thirty years on. There are new songs, and they are good new songs, and if they were the work of a new band (say, Mirrors) I would seek them out, but it is hard to hear them out of context in this setting.  Halfway through "Let's all Make A Bomb", Gary and I reminisce about spending a good ten years of our lives utterly convinced that we could die in a nuclear war at any given moment.  "We survived the eighties!" he cheers, and the song becomes a celebration.  They make sure they do the favourites - most people have, after all, come to hear Temptation, which they know from best-of-the-eighties compilations, or remember from high street nightclubs - but are careful to also include their own favourite which turns out to be a rather soulful Let Me Go.  Throughout, it's easy to drift off, thinking: "That's Martyn Ware, right there.  They might do Being Boiled or anything".  That doesn't make it a tiny bit less surprising and thrilling when they actually do Being Boiled.  After thirty years, STILL the only pop song to be written from the point of view of a silkworm.  Tch.  Pop stars today.
I suspect the other two days of the festival were just as much fun, featuring, somewhat surprisingly, Athlete and Musical Youth among others, but we had other destinations in mind.  That's a whole new post though.


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