ANOTHER FINE ELKFEST YOU’VE GOT ME INTO
I arrived on Friday at 15 minutes past midnight, missing what is known as “Preparation day” in the ElkFest calendar by 15 minutes. Foolishly commenting that nothing seemed to be prepared, the Lodge Porter told me that the key to a successful ElkFest is the preparation, which is not to be confused with actually doing anything. It’s about being mentally prepared for what needs to be done. And so, I ventured, was Lodge mentally prepared for ElkFest 2011? “Haven’t really thought about it,” he replied. “And,” he added, “since when have we been on first name terms?”
As Mr Porter and I watched Josh, the head gardener, putting the final touches to the camping area and the Cube Stage arena, I asked if he’d made any new additions to this year’s ElkFest. He spoke of difficult economic times, consolidation and inevitable cut-backs, but he did mention that his land-grab policy was working well and pointed to the extended car parking capacity.
As the first ElkFesters arrived, you could feel the atmosphere changing. Not so much the eager anticipation and excitement, more the gathering rain clouds. Lightning may or may not strike twice, but the traditional ElkFest downpour hit poor Claudio and Jill for the second year running and had them running for their car. There was some mention of a problem with a zip, but I didn’t like to ask. The next morning the Lodge Porter simply commented: “It’s all in the preparation.” I may have misheard, but I believe Claudio growled: “No it’s not – it’s all in our tent – and it’s called rain.”
ENTER STAGE RIGHT, PURSUED BY BEER
As the drying out reached its peak, the marquee was erected in a matter of minutes (quite a lot of minutes, but minutes nevertheless) and the ElkFest site was transformed, as the colossal Cube Stage was constructed. It was all ready to go, bar the simple matter of installing the lights, setting up the PA, figuring out the cabling, and – ultimately – the Health and Safety Check.
In a brief interview with the chief engineer, Clive, I began to comprehend the immensity of these tasks – and the importance of gaffa tape and string to ensure a successful ElkFest.
THE LODGE’S PEACH
Lodge Porter graced the stage with his traditional cat flap at a suitable angle and delivered a rousing speech. Pausing briefly to ponder what happens to the old ElkFest virgins, he declared ElkFest 2011 open and passed on the reins to The Mitchell to oversee the cabaret.
REVERSALS, REDUCTIONS AND MANY HAPPY RETURNS
First up was the return of Doctor Philip Bailey, following his extended tour of China. This year’s DPB lecture was a complete break with tradition, as he introduced something hitherto unknown in his previous lectures: brevity. Quickly dispensing an analysis of Chinese drinking vessels (3 evidently), and a brief mention of recession, he launched into a rousing chant; mesmerising the crowd with a transcendental experience which left me wondering what to do with the inebriated matelot. He’s back; he’s brief; the word “imposter” springs to mind.
Next up was another sight not seen for many a year. Musical indifference has seen the Four Goatees split up, reform as a trio, rearrange the trio, become a non-performing duo, go their separate ways and not record solo albums, but this year they put all that behind them and returned with a festive song: “The 5 days of ElkFest”. It had all the trade-marks of a classic T4G performance – lack of rhythm, lack of tune, and lack of rhythm (despite Chris’s maracas), but they sported more beards than you throw a cabaret act at.
Then we had the curiously named Jill-Claudio-and-Andy, aka the reduced Star Trek Company. A brave performance from second time ElkFesters to boldly go where no second time ElkFesters have gone before. It was a whirlwind tale of stolen ElkFest beer and troublesome klingons, which was punctuated by Andy taking time out to argue with himself, while Claudio perfected his Canadian accent and Jill impressed, despite carrying an injury. (Her agent says she’ll have a scan on Monday, but it’s only precautionary and she should be fit for next year). A fine cabaret debut, marred only by the Lodge Porter imposing a fine for breaking the 3 minute rule.
Finally, another welcome return, with Suzanne putting the Lodge on a pedestal, while reading an obscure poem by Amperes – the obscure West Country poet, who also found a base SI unit in his escritoire and defined it as that which, flowing in two straight, parallel conductors of infinite length and negligible circular cross-section, one metre apart in a vacuum, will produce ... [no, I’ve lost the will to live – Ed]. Suzanne was unable to attend recent ElkFests due to a catastrophic cataloguing error, resulting in her being trapped in the Jeffrey Archer section of her library for three years – she wasn’t discovered until a dyslexic borrower arrived in search of Carp literature. But what a return: the props were back, so too ... the props ... and the props. Unfortunately some reverse looters interrupted proceedings by returning unwanted lingerie. But the R D Laing of ElkFest is back – it’s still a librarian thang – and she’s still got the knack.
We’ve seen ElkFest unlogged, but ElkFest unplugged is a bit new. This year the acoustic stage was relocated to the main stage. In previous years acousticers were directed to a field 5 miles away, which had no stage, no audience and not a hope in hell of finding their way home. Many folk artists have arrived with hope in their hearts and fingers in their ears, and have never been seen again, but this year we were entertained by Gary Andthreeothernames; a Festal Virgin, who was ruthlessly misled by Lorraine into thinking that free admission was entirely dependent on performing. Nervously, he took to the stage and delivered two songs; one sad and one glad. I wasn’t quite sure which was which, but they both involved some serious strumming. The crowd went wild, but the Lodge Porter simply fined him for not playing unplugged.
And then it got LOUD! Progability Theory took to the stage, after a year of no gigs and three rehearsals to deliver a rousing set of progressive rock. After last year’s success, they decided to keep it exactly the same, apart from the new tracks, the addition of a multi-tasking bass player and a smiling guitarist. No rush to start – that came later (in the form of TS Eliot’s Huckleberry Finn). And strictly informed to play only three tracks, they added a fourth – Schizoid Man. Vocals soared, rhythm section grooved, growled and gurned appropriately and the guitarist smiled ... the word “imposter” sprang to mind again.
THE REDUCED ELKFEST COMPANY
In these dark times of recession, would we still have the radio play, I wondered. The answer was yes; we will have a radio play about the dark times. Despite the inevitable cut-backs reducing both the cast and the script, I was pleased to see Samantha back to confuse the sound effects, although not as much as usual; one wonders if she’s been taking lessons.
“An ElkFest Echo” was a chilling, but festive, tale, which had no room for the Mistress or Sludge, but ample space for the brooding Phil, as the reforming Doctor, and “paragraphs” for Hayden, as the witless Watson (who found the Doctor’s explanation of string theory rather more revealing than he had imagined). Cat played echoes past and future excellently, most excellently, and Sue excelled as the echo of ElkFest present, but it turned out that they were ghosts! (Should have spotted that sooner).
AT THE END OF THE DAY
Crimsons Had Ow finally emerged from the Green Room (that’s the mysterious building you can see in the distance, complete with its green light) to grace the Cube stage with their familiar wall of noise. And what a noise.
It was a little crazy at first, but it was soon perfected and after a short walk and listening to the answering machine, they felt lucky and started to believe in their dreams. [Is this some kind of reference to their set list? – Ed. How did you guess? – BKB. I’ve read your reviews before – Ed]
With Richard, Paul and Shaun forming a robust back three; it left a lot of room for the front line (Andy, Jane and Richie) to provoke a frenzy of dancing. And dancing there was. With the return of Chris (2-beards Pescod), much OTT dancing was to be witnessed, plus (despite the absence of Jemma), I noticed some slow-mo gyrations in his wake.
And then they augmented the line up with yet another welcome return – Sandra the Sax arrived to bolster the attacking formation. Not sure the referee noticed that they’d fielded an extra player, but no doubt it will be in his match report.
BREAKFAST AT THE LODGE
It’s not all over until the Lodge makes bacon sarnies. So he did. And then it was all over.
On this, the fourth day of ElkFest, I asked him about the fabled 5 days of ElkFest. “Well, there’s Preparation Day, ElkFest Eve, ElkFest Day, Breakfast Day and Recovery Day,” he replied. I don’t know about you, but I need more than one day to recover from ElkFest these days.
I heard rumours that next year will be the 20th ElkFest, but this could be some reverse engineering by Cat. However, Lodge has confirmed that next year’s EF will be a little bit special; he did emphasise “special” and made light of “a little bit”, so I’m expecting something bigger and better (can it get bigger and better?). So, be there or be somewhere else – my plan is to be there ... Take care ElkFesters and keep your diaries free for EF 20-ish ... just hope I can recover in time.
To be or not to be ... at ElkFest 2012 – it’s your choice ...
This report of Elkfest 2011 has been cloned from the Widdington Evening Moose using the latest low tech hacking tools (hammer, chisel and pliers with dodgy handles). The Widdington Evening Moose has since been patched up with cardboard, sellotape and string.