LODGE PORTER HOLDS PRESS CONFERENCE
The press conference was short, but brief. “I need someone to iron my overalls,” said Lodge. Being slow to join the stampede for the bar, it was down to me to do the honours. My reward was a tour of the extended lakeside chill-out zone, where I hoped to elicit some inside information or backstage gossip, but Lodge simply smiled and pointed to the “Quiet Please” sign.
MARQUEE IN BRANSON PICKLE
It’s an ElkFest tradition to erect the marquee over the main stage on Saturday morning, before the rain arrives. This year’s first break with tradition was to delay the construction until the afternoon, partly due to overenthusiastic rain clouds arriving early to wet the best seats in the house, but mainly because this year’s marquee sponsors were Virgin Trains. Did this deter the workers? In a word – No! They simply extended their morning tea break, then pressed on with afternoon tiffin and tiffing.
There was a further delay when a keyboard player was discovered in the marquee storage area; apparently he’d accidentally been packed away with the roofing section after last year’s ElkFest. But eventually the marquee was up and inviting any number of insects to accumulate within its upper reaches. Did this deter the Lighting Engineer? Not in the slightest. He just got on with it, in his professional way, and ate anything that flew in. “Protein,” he said, as yet another bug met its maker.
LODGE DONS HIS CAT FLAP
Dressed in his immaculate, luminous, whiter than white coat and wearing his cat flap at an haughty jangle, Lodge descended ethereally onto Stage B; although I’d had more than one medium sherry by now, so I may have been watching from a less than vertical position.
The opening ceremony was short, but brief. Lodge welcomed the Festal Virgins with open arms, berated seasoned ElkFesters for ignoring last year’s strict instructions: “Never darken my doorstep again”, then declared ElkFest open. One could only admire his brevity, although many were well-impressed by his well-pressed overalls.
LIFE’S A CABARET – PEDIGREE CHUM
It’s been so long since the Goatees have performed at ElkFest that I can’t remember how many of them there are. This year was no exception – they failed to turn up, and I still couldn’t remember how many they claim to be.
Regular MC, “The Mitchell”, was unable to officiate this year, due to the christening of his niece, unfortunately. (Interesting choice of name – Unfortunately – although I do have a nephew, called Unpredictability Jones, who specialises in surprising gardens – he creeps up on them and shouts Boo! when they’re least expecting it). However he did leave one of his clipboards, which passed the following message to his replacement: “We’ve run out of jokes – good luck”.
Did this deter Phil? Not in the least. Pausing only briefly to readjust his waistcoat and no doubt heeding Robert Fripp’s wise words – “Music is the wine that fills the cup of silence” – he kicked off proceedings with a song: “Welcome to the Cabernet Sauvignon.” And then he introduced the first act: Clive.
A regular opener at ElkFest, Clive treated us to an uncanny Pam Ayres impersonation, which coincidentally proved to be an homage to himself. It was all going really well until he attempted to cap his performance with a stage-dive. Unfortunately he caught his imaginary beak on Hannibal the Lectern, then choked on a wasp. As he was stretchered from the stage to the Cabaret-‘n’-E Zone, I clearly heard him whisper: “Protein”.
The abrupt end to the first act caught Phil unawares, as he was making yet further adjustments to his waistcoat. So we were subjected to a political rant from Asparagus Wee. It seemed to me that he was canvassing on behalf of the spoilt vote (in more ways than one). Unappealing as his presence was, he ultimately redeemed himself by introducing the next act: Hayden.
Hayden missed last year’s extravaganza; deciding he’d rather spend his time throwing up in Spain. (Honestly, Hayden, if you don’t like a country – why not just not go there – there’s no need to decorate the country with your disdain). Having wisely returned to the fold, Hayden’s contribution to this year’s cabaret continued the dubious political theme, with a lecture entitled: “The Benefits of Inflation”; a holey fascinating diversion.
With Phil still having problems with his waistcoat, it was down to Lodge’s next door neighbour to introduce the final act: Andy and family.
After a dramatic pause, we endured an elongated Pinteresque silence, followed by yet another dramatic pause ... and another Pinteresque silence. And then – there was silence. And then – another silence. The rest was silence, until Anne rearranged the furniture.
Finally, in a flurry of quivering moustaches, the band struck up. After a brief, but short miniature vuvuzela overture, they sang a song. And that was it. (Or so we thought).
As Phil attempted to close the proceedings, after his waistcoat adjustments were finally completed, up popped Jill to entertain us with an impromptu chair balancing act. Finally the surreal nature of the ElkFest cabaret had been restored.
BEST BAND IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
What are the chances of a band called Progability Theory turning up at ElkFest? It’s about as likely as William the Conqueror having a bit of a fracas with King Harold at somewhere called Battle. Not only did they turn up, but they tuned up as well, although some took longer than others.
Shaun (keyboards) had promised mixed expletives, but his microphone wasn’t on, so he settled for providing an unusual mixture of strings, resulting in an uncanny resemblance to a mellotron. Did this deter the other members of the band? No. They simply followed his lead and delivered a nostalgic quartet of songs, which some ElkFesters were old enough and bald and bold enough to admit to remembering.
One of the highlights was Starless and Bubble Wrap, with Claudio on Cloud 10, as he nailed his drum parts to a tee, Andy Van Helsing waking the undead with his earth shattering undertones, and Catwoman and the Smoking Man attempting to soar above the unshakeable blancmange. But Lodge Porter seemed most impressed with their rendition of 21st Century Schizoid Man. I asked Lodge if he’d be rebooking the band for next year. “Nothing I got, I really need,” he said. (Not sure, but that could be a yes).
After a late start to the evening, due to the late arrival of the Widdington Marching Vuvuzela Band, and with time quickly running out, Clive was despatched to rescue the radio play scripts from a lack of obscurity and ensure their eternal existence in the ElkFest Archives. (Samantha usually deals with the archiving, but her presence was sadly lacking this year, although she did convey her best wishes to Clive: “I’m sure you’ll make an excellent job of filling my slot”).
This year’s play was entitled “Doctor Who and a Mid Summer Night’s Terminator” – so I had absolutely no idea what to expect.
Was it pants? Or was it socks? Or a pair of socks? Or a paradox?
Rather like Watson musing over what thinking might sound like – I fear I will never know. However, what I do know is that Phil excelled as the Doctor (watch out current incumbent – your days are numbered); and Cat (as the Mistress) brought the writing desk down with her “escritoire”.
Hayden didn’t get his skates on, but still managed to score a perfect six for his Watson; with Andy managing a 5.9 for his naked terminator; best cyborg in a supporting role for a long time.
Clive’s donkey was regarded with awe, particularly after the preceding “ee”, as was Sue’s long-suffering Anne Hathaway, who certainly hath a way with impromptu improv. Dave was Bard. Lodge has been trying to get him barred for years, but this wasn’t quite what he had in mind.
Lodge provided his usual dead-pan narrative and Liz interjected with suitable guidance, but the hero of the evening was surely Sven. In the absence of Samantha, Mr Smith did such a good job with the sound effects that Clive suggested he might consider retiring now; before audiences expect too much in the future.
AND FINITELY: CRIMSON SHADOW
Rather like my waistband, this band gets tighter every year; yet another high decibel performance from the inventors of the wall of noise.
This year they adopted an attacking 3-3 formation, with Richard, Paul and Shaun keeping it tight at the back, and Andy and Ritchie providing the width up front, to support the lone Miker, Jane.
At one point, Paul complained about a lack of activity out front, but most of the male ElkFesters simply nodded and blamed the descending cold air, old age, and excessive amounts of beer. But when the true meaning was understood, much dancing resulted.
On the dancing front, Chris’s manic manoeuvres were sorely missed, and it was odd not to see the slow-motion action replays from Jemma and Dave, but were Crimson Shadow deterred by the absences? In a word – Not on your Nellie. In fact, the band are so huge now, that I did hear talk of them demanding a fee to play next year’s ElkFest. I mentioned this to the Lodge, but he simply scowled and said: “I think they need a wind section. No wind, no fee.”
But all in all – it was a great performance, although the sound mixer might disagree, as he’s still being scraped from the back of the marquee.
And then it was all over ... some people were on the bits of ElkFest that were designed for tents to be pitched ...
“Bacon butties all round,” declared the Lodge, as Sunday morning cast a wary eye over the aftermath of the night before ... and decided a lie-in was in order.
Having treated us all to a magnificent week-end of surreal humour, music, song and dance, food and drink, and more, Lodge brandished a frying pan and resisted the urge to use it for anything other than much needed protein. (Clive was well-impressed).
ElkFests come and ElkFests go, but despite all the best efforts of the M25, ElkFesters manage to arrive – and, as we all know, being there is all the fun. ElkFest 2011? Bring it on!
This report of Elkfest 2010 has been stolen from the Widdington Evening Moose using the latest high tech hacking tools. Hopefully no one will notice this report is now missing from the Widdington Evening Moose.