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Saturday, June 27, 2009


If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise

Shortly after The Tofu Love Frogs reformed, back in 2007, Paddy came up with the idea of a festival featuring the Frogs and any band that featured ex-Frogs. Given the number of people that had done time with them, this opened up the possibility of a fairly big bill. A field in Devon was sorted and word was spread through cyber space. Unfortunately Jupiter, Uranus and the local constabulary all aligned to make sure the motley gathering did not happen.

Jump forward in time for another crack at it. Frogstock 2009 is announced on ye-olde interweb.

Yep - you guessed it - Frogstock is coming! They begged them to play at Glastonbury but the Tofus want to play a free party in the woods instead. It promises to be one of the greats - so change whatever plans you had, put on your stomping boots and prepare for a night (or few) of mayhem and madness.

Free up the 27th of June and be prepared to settle in for a party that promises to last for days. More details about the exact location will be released closer to the time - but you’re looking at a half hour train ride from London in a kinda north easterly direction and a water taxi to the party location (taxi charge £2)

There’s a field for camping and the music is going to start around 9pm so arrive early to give the ferry a chance to get you all there, and to set up your canvas abodes (more details about best times to arrive as they become available)

As I was due to be in London on the 30th anyway, and the unions were paying for my rail fare, and I had annual leave to take, it was a no brainer, I was going. I waited with baited breath for more details. Then eventually….

Get to Harlow Mill Station. From the station, walk to the river and then walk up the river (north, so that the river is on your left) for 15 minutes or so until you reach the site. It’s inaccessible by road, if you prefer not to walk up the river, you can get the river taxi up there which will be running all afternoon. Bands will be on from 9pm so arrive early to set up your tents beforehand.

Can you bring a van/bus? If you do you won’t be able to stay in it because you’ll still have to walk up the river to the site.

Dogs (and free range kids) - this is important!!! The place is right next to a railway line and the fence is pretty much non existent, so don’t bring them for their own sake! It’s just not safe for them there. So if I hear of anything happening to them after I’ve warned you I will personally visit and kick your arse.

Who’s playing? Palm Tree Club, The Paisanos, Nutty and the Blazers, Chicken Shed Zeppelin, The Tofu Love Frogs, … and plenty DJs after and between

Last minute notes: BRING A TORCH!!

So, I emerged from the railway station and headed off in search of the river. Being a bloke I did not bother asking, I just wandered. After ten minutes I decided that I was getting to wet too worry about things like being a bloke and asked someone where the river was. I then turned around and headed in the right direction instead.

Paddy had already text me to say that the ‘water taxi’ had broken down, so with a purposeful step I headed north, with the river on my left. I pondered on the location. The theory was that the plod would not have time to muster enough boats to raid the place and it was unlikely they were going to walk. As the purpose in my step diminished, I could see why the old bill would not be up for raiding it on foot.

Beautiful houseboats were moored along the banks of the river, generally far enough apart for them not to be able to intrude upon each other’s space. My mind drifted off to a week spent on the Norfolk Broads. Eventually I spied an armada of houseboats, or whatever the collective noun is, moored up together. These were less beautiful and had the look of a scrap yard about them. I guessed, correctly, that this was the place. The boats belonged to Paddy and his mates and before mooring up for the night had transported all the gear that was to be used for the party up the river.

Three blokes ambling in the other direction advised “When you get to the woods, take a right by the big gas bottle”. I was not sure if I should be flattered or insulted that they had recognised me as a party head.

As soon as I turned right into the woods, I had to negotiate a ditch about twenty feet wide and five feet deep. A rope for people to hang on to indicated that this was not a wrong turning but the easiest way to get to the party. I followed the sound of laughter till I reached another ditch, this time about fifteen foot deep and thirty feet wide. From the tarps stretched between the trees above and the sheets of plywood at the bottom I guessed that this was what passed for ‘the main arena’.

With the reflexes of a cat I managed to avoid being garrotted by the ropes holding the tarps up and found my way to the bottom of the ditch (sorry, to the dance floor) without a slip, trip or fall. I decided that rather than relax after my seven-hour train journey, the best plan of action was to strive on a little longer and get my tent up. Besides, there did not really appear to be anywhere to relax that did not involve rain or mud.

Kel (Tofu Axe Hero) was doing something roadie-like with the PA but took a few seconds out to say hello and point me in the direction of the huge slippery embankment I had to climb to get to the ‘camping field’. After conquering the south face of the camping field with only one near death experience, I surveyed the terrain to decide which patch of nettles I was going to pitch my tent on, then proceeded to erect my canvas abode; well, nylon actually but that does not have the same romantic connotations. Last summer came rushing back to me as I remembered what it was about my tent that was broken. The pole that holds out the mini-awning. No matter, I was going to be dry.

I then took a bit of a long cut, back down to the tow path then in past the gas bottle again; a tricky route, but considerably safer than abseiling down the wall of the dancehall. The worrier in me was trying to work out what the odds were of me getting through the night without going apex over base into a ditch (very good odds actually). I also wondered how long it would be before I walked straight into a tarp rope in the dark and if I could go twenty-four hours without having a shit (did I mention the absence of toilets, water, fire extinguishers or anything remotely health and safety related?).

I bumped into Paddy who looked like he was on a mission to do something technical, although it was not exactly clear what. I asked where the bar was. “Its down there Clint, where those dogs are fighting”. He paused for thought, “How many times do you have to tell people? But they don’t listen. Those dogs are going to get run over by a train before the weekend is out”.

I forgot to mention, the side of the site that was not bordered by the beautiful river, was bordered by the very same rail track that helped those Stanstead Express trains on their way.

I followed the sound of fighting dogs. I have to say, if these dogs had wandered onto the tracks, I would not have fancied the train’s chances of coming out unharmed.

I purchased my cider from the lean-to that passed for a bar and found a log to sit on next to the campfire. It was still raining so went for a wander to ‘explore’ the ‘site’. It came as no real surprise to discover that I had actually already seen all there was to see. In the grim reality of daylight it looked like the sort of party I would imagine results in the piles of cans by the side of the river I often find when going for a walk on a Sunday morning; but with a PA, which had yet to kick into life. I convinced myself that it would look better in the dark, even if it did mean the tarp ropes would be more dangerous. I decided to retire to the tent to read until it got dark; or stopped raining.

As darkness descended and reading without a torch became impossible, I headed back to the arena. I was right, it was starting to look more like a party now, more people had arrived, more tarps had gone up, more fires had been lit and a party atmosphere was descending; even if the PA was still showing no signs of life. It reminded me a little of the old Casbar parties in North Wales. There was a healthy contingent of veteran festival heads and aqua-crusties with a sprinkling of the local chavs up for a party. No security trying to charge a ‘door tax’, no dodgy dealers, no one with an attitude, just people out for fun and looking after themselves.

I spotted a rather dodgy looking bloke in a top heat serving hotdogs from a trestle table and kicked myself for not getting food when I was still in civilisation.

More wandering. More cider. I sat by a campfire and started chatting with a young girl. “I wish I had brought a torch with me” she commented. She asked my name. “Clint? Not Clint Iguana is it?” Fame at last! “I am Jenn”. It soon clicked, this was the Tofu’s webmistress; not quite as famous as I thought then.

“Should have taken your own advice and brought a torch then!” I quipped. We chatted for a while about the Tofus, Oxford and Bristol, then went our separate ways.

I was starting to get hungry now so asked dodgy chef guy if he had anything vegetarian. “The hot dogs are vegan”, I was advised by one of his assistants. Whilst I had no reason to doubt her, it was dark, she was pissed and they were serving food in the open air in the rain. She fished the packet out of the bin for me to prove their provenance and I handed over my cash. As I was waiting for the food to be delivered a young lad, who I assume was dodgy chef’s son, performed a free magic trick. The food was nice; I handed over more money, had another vegan hotdog and watched a young lad make an eyeball disappear.

The PA kicked into life, all be it intermittently. The party went up a gear. I went back to the ‘bar’. By now they had sussed my favourite tipple.

I bumped into Ade, erstwhile Tofu bass player, who informed me he was looking forward to watching the band from the audience for the first time, although he was intending to get up and sing at some point. Kel informed me that the guitarist with the first band had not turned up so the Tofu’s would be on in ten minutes. It seemed an odd set up, the main band coming on first, but it was late already and it meant I would not have to wait till sunrise to see the band I had travelled all this way for.

This was the moment we had all be waiting for. Under a leaky tarp, with electric plugs under water, with a broken bass guitar, on a sloping stage in the bottom of a ditch, in a wood miles from anywhere, the most hardcore folk band on the planet ripped into an hour and a half of no nonsense punk. New bass player Mikey was having trouble with his guitar, but with his charity shop suit on he looked like Isaac Hayes. Paddy, also in a charity shop suit, looked like Albert Steptoe. Kel was in metal mode and the set was rough, spiky and edgy.

You had to be there to appreciate it, but it suddenly all made sense. Who needs the ‘alternative’ bits of Glastonbury when you can have the Tofu Love Frogs playing at a free party in the woods? It don’t get much more D.I.Y. than this.

Ade got up and did his bit, then slowly the Tofus morphed into Ade’s new band Chicken Shed Zeppelin and entertained us all with their own take on bluegrass punk. Everyone enjoyed, even the local chavs were happy, despite the lack of repetitive beats. I slipped off into the night and fell asleep to the chunky-punky sound of the Passianos (or at least I think that is what they were called).

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At 9:56 pm , Blogger Jen W said...

Ahhhh it were a nice night! The weather was boss in the morning - pity about the thunderstorm that moved in of the evening.
I reckon they did really well considering the elements were against them, Nutty's band mates lunching her out was really unfortunate and where on earth did the jerk chicken guy get to? But I grew up on the thrown together free parties of north wales - so frogstock was right up my alley. frogstock '10 anyone?


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