This is our second year at BerkoFest and it could be said that 2016 was defined by one thing – rain. Relentless, driving rain. So you’ll be glad to see this glorious sunshine when we arrived.
Now I’m not saying it lasted all day. But we weren’t soaked to the skin this year….at least not yet. I’m writing this while watching Alabama 3 as my boy sits next to me, also engrossed in his phone. Nathan and Eva are up front dancing but Reuben’s gone a bit sulky so the two of us are stuck further, reduced to just listening to those Deep Southern grooves.
Of course if you know one thing about Albama Three, it’s that they’re not really from Alabama. They’re from Brixton. If you know a second thing, it’s probably that there aren’t three of them. Today there are four but Nathan reckons there were about eight of them when we saw them at Jamm on Brixton Rd. That was in the hazy pre-children days where we could go and see bands whenever we felt like it. Nowadays it’s not so easy, but it’s still possible. I’ll come back to Alabama 3 later but let’s start at the start.
In case you can’t guess, I am no longer perched in front of the main stage as I write this bit. So we’re going to make an awkward shift into the past tense and rewind to the first act of the day. As we walked on to the site, the words “Who the hell cares about Kasabian?” drifted across from the stage. We were intrigued. We also didn’t care much about Kasabian. The singer was Grace Petrie, a self-proclaimed leftie who hated Theresa May before it was fashionable. I liked the cut of her jib. Her set finished with a Spanish Civil War-themed singalong (thankfully not that latter-day MSP song) – if we take action today, we can “Save Tomorrow!”
And with that revolutionary spirit in our hearts, we went to do sand art. I’m not sure how Eva making a Disney princess picture is smashing either capitalism or the patriachy but ho hum. I’ve probably been kicked out of the lefties club this weekend anyway, after that whole nationalist moment on Friday night.
So back to the sand art. Hooray, it’s something that keeps Eva occupied for a full 45 minutes. I sometimes think we should get her a kit to do at home, but then I remember the inevtiable sandy mess. Best kept for festivals. Their sand art from last year is still up on their walls so it was something they were very keen to do again. Reuben made a giraffe for Eva because that’s her favourite animal (he can be sweet occasionally) and Eva made Cinderella. There’s a slight black smudge on her nose but it’s something we’ve agreed never to speak of again.
Roo had knocked the giraffe out a lot more quickly than Eva’s carefully crafted princess so he and I went for a wander. Along the way, we had a go at Splat the Rat at the Young Farmers’ stall. He didn’t splat any rats but he scored two packets of haribo, so was pretty happy with that. Under some pressure, he gave one to Eva. See, I told you he was only sweet occasionally. Then the first rain shower of the day started and so we dived back under the cover of the Sand Art gazebo to wait it out while Eva perfected her princess.
Next, we ducked into the beer tent for the kids to have a sandwich and were entertained there by the sweet sounds of Lucy Mair, harmonising with herself through a loop pedal. As she was singing, the next rain storm broke and suddenly the tent was rather fuller than before. The horizontal rain created a bonus crowd for Lucy but what Robin Ince described as a “health and safety nightmare” on the main stage. Still, he said he’d chatted to Thor and Odin and from now on the rain would only happen between bands, not during them. That’s one ominous looking sky though:
It was time for John Power, and the first episode of “keeping the kids still while Mummy and Daddy listen to music”. As challenging as it sounds. They lay on the grass for a bit in a catatonic state, but Eva eventually perked up and had a dance at the front with the other children:
This is the sum of stuff I know about John Power. Cast were one of those bands that fell on the oasis side of the blur/oasis divide so I’ve always classed them as one of my brother’s type of bands (he was oasis, I was blur). And there was that whole thing in Southampton in 1999 where someone who now calls himself Akira the Don made some offensive t-shirts about him. And I know that his speaking voice is a lot like John Lennon’s, which is unsurprising when you realise they went to the same school. I knew he’s been in the La’s and I had a vague awareness he’d had a solo career. But that’s pretty much it. So I didn’t have too many expectations.
It was a good set though. He started with what sounded like solo material and then played the familiar opening to “Sandstorm”. I can’t remember exactly what followed but I recognised a lot of the old Cast singles – “Fine Time”, “Guiding Star”, “Alright”, “Walk Away”. The sun shone throughout and we had a good singalong, even if Reuben was still lying on the grass.
Time to perk them up a bit. We’d never had churros before but I figured that doughnuts rolled in sugar and dipped in chocolate might be just the energy boost they needed. And it worked. Which brings us back to Alabama 3, with Roo sitting playing Minecraft, Eva on Nathan’s shoulders and the band giving the children advice on which super-strength lager to drink.
Yup folks Alabama 3 are in the house and Berkofest’s no-swearing-on-stage rule seems to been tossed out of the fast-moving car on Coldhabour Lane. Presumably next year, there’ll be an additional rule about not giving kids cans of Red Stripe, as A3 did at the end of the set. Or talking about how “drink responsibly” labels are pointless when you’re drinking Strongbow. Or telling everyone how stoned you are. They’re outrageous but I love em.
At some point, I abandoned my sulky son so I could actually watch the band. It was an acoustic set and at times descended into freestyle acapella rapping but they played most of the hits, including Sopranos theme “Woke Up this Morning” and a joyous version of “Old Purple Tin”. I heard “U Don’t Dans 2 Tekno” while accompanying small children to the portaloos but the good thing about Berkofest is that you can still hear the music wherever you are, so I was tapping my foot in time as I was pumping water for Eva’s hands. Eva had earlier got hold of A3’s mic for a brief moment as they were passing it around the children at the front, but she got stage fright and ran away. In a really bizarre way, it was a very family friendly show. And that seems a good note to end on – thanks once again Berkofest. It’s been fun.