Rockin’ & Shockin’: Athens, London and Yorkshire

ROCKIN’: Traveling 4,500 miles for my first rock festival of the summer…
SHOCKIN’: …The same weekend my local Hunter Mountain hosts its first ever weekend-long campground summer rock festival.

ROCKIN’The weather in Athens for the Ejekt Festival is 30C/861F and blue blue skies all weekend long
SHOCKIN’: The weather in Hunter for the Mountain Jam Festival (starring Govt Mule, My Morning Jacket, Spearhead, and Martin Medeski and Wood), is rain rain and rain all weekend long.

The Ejekt Festival is held at an airport
But if you’re going to hold a rock festival at an airport, it may as well be with views like these

It’s better than playing to a field of mud…

Greek opening band Film look like an easily-influenced cross between The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Interpol.
But their dramatic gothic new wave is better than you’d expect, and their album is damn good.

Film’s Eleni Tzavara: the Greek Karen O?

ROCKIN’: Watching Radio 4 play on a big outdoor stage with a great PA to an enthusiastic European audience for the first time.
SHOCKIN’: They reckon it was even better at a festival in Spain the previous Saturday night

SHOCKIN’: Hooverphonic follow Radio 4 with possibly the most insipid set of MTV Europe MOR soft-jazz balladry it’s ever been my misfortune to witness
ROCKIN’: The dance hangar (it’s an airport, remember) offers a more rhythmic, electronic – and far more emotional – alternative.

ROCKIN’: The two girls of Marsheaux giving it the ‘Addicted To Love’ look while delivering a laptop set in the dance hangar.
SHOCKIN’: I assume they’re beat-mixing their own music until I hear The Killers’ ‘Mr. Brightside’ comes over the PA.

ROCKIN’: Marsheaux present us with a Limited Edition mix CD straight after their set.
SHOCKIN’: It’s a CD of their set. That’s just a little quick for it not to have been recorded prior to their set, hey ladies?

Marsheaux doing their… um, not exactly sure.

ROCKIN’: The dance hangar also features sets by Vitalic and James Lavelle.
SHOCKIN’: Unfortunately, they’re lined up to play after New Order (reviewed here), who come off stage at 1am – and we have a 6:30am room call.

ROCKIN’The hotel’s panoramic rooftop bar stays open until 1:30am
SHOCKIN’: We get back at 1:35am.
ROCKIN’No rapidly-regretted early-morning hangovers

Radio 4 giving it loads in Athens

ROCKIN’: Getting to see my mum for Sunday dinner
SHOCKIN’: Having to get from Athens to London to the Yorkshire countryside in time for Sunday dinner.

ROCKIN’: My plan to catch the A2 bus direct from Heathrow-Kings Cross.
SHOCKIN’: Turns out the line was discontinued two years ago.

ROCKIN’: My plan to then take a leisurely tube journey across London
SHOCKIN’: The Piccadily Line happens not to be running trains from Heathrow to Central London today. (But of course!)

ROCKIN’: The Heathrow Express from Heathrow to Paddington…
SHOCKIN’: …Costs £14.50. Come on

ROCKIN’: The whole wheat vegetable pasty courtesy of the Cornish Pastry Company at Paddington Station actually tastes good
SHOCKIN’: It’s good value, too. The hole-in-the-wall has a comfy sofa in the back, too. My only company is an Asian lady wearing an England footie shirt feeding her baby. Nobody comes back to chase me out. And I get to plug my laptop in. These are the little places that it pays to discover.

ROCKIN’: Wine critic Anthony Rose‘s Alphabet of Summer Drinking in The Independent Magazine: British wine writing is surely the most accessible in the world
SHOCKIN’: I’m not staying in the country to work my way through the supermarkets and pick up the various recommendations.

ROCKIN’: Free World Cup supplement in my Sunday paper
SHOCKIN’: Free World Cup supplement in every Sunday paper

ROCKIN’: A country that is genuinely excited about the impending World Cup
SHOCKIN’: Its obsession with one young (and, at international level, essentially unproven) player’s injury. If you can’t win the World Cup without such an inexperienced star player, you shouldn’t expect to win it at all.

ROCKIN’: The New Yorker who wrote to The Guardian insisting on “soccer”s popularity in the USA.
SHOCKIN’: Even an American-based “soccer”-booster like myself has to come clean and admit, Enthusiasm about the World Cup is minor in America. (And up here in the Catskills, now that I’m home again, I’m not sure that it even goes that far.)

ROCKIN’: Hull Trains let me sit in First Class because… well, and not for the first time, my reserved seat doesn’t actually exist today.
SHOCKIN’: If I knew Hull Trains didn’t have a monopoly on the Hull line and had boarded a GNER train instead, I could have got up to my birthplace and mum’s cooking two hours earlier.

ROCKIN’: Snoozing on the train, after sneaking two hours sleep on the plane. Who knows: one day I may be able to sleep on a moving tour bus.
SHOCKIN’: Paying £1.50 for a small cup of plastic coffee on the train. Come on…

ROCKIN’: The view coming in to Beverley across the Westwood
SHOCKIN’: That I don’t have time to walk around the town

ROCKIN’: Mum’s got a bottle of champagne on ice.
SHOCKIN’: There’s nothing shocking about that.

ROCKIN’: My bottle of Cornas 2000 from Vincent Paris, stored for five years under my mum’s stairs, has reached maturation.
SHOCKIN’: The idea that I might not stay up to finish it.

A classic English back garden

ROCKIN’: My mum’s garden in summer
SHOCKIN’: No cats chasing the birds: they’ve sadly passed away.

ROCKIN’: Free wi-fi once again – A hearty thanks to whichever of my mum’s neighbours doesn’t bother installing passwords
SHOCKIN’: I successfully resist the temptation to read work e-mail on a Sunday evening

ROCKIN’: It’s still light in Yorkshire at 9 at night.
SHOCKIN’: It would be dark in Greece by now.

ROCKIN’: Small Japanese cars that get 2000 miles to the gallon and go at a zippy 80mph down the M62 first thing Monday morning
SHOCKIN’: Where are you meant to put the luggage in these things?

SHOCKIN’: The “official” England merchandise stand overflowing with World Cup souvenirs at Manchester Airport.
ROCKIN’: I think of the other English dads I’ll be seeing for the opening game this Saturday and buy them each a baseball cap.
DOUBLE ROCKIN’: The caps cost only £5 each

ROCKIN’: Continental flies twice a day between Newark and Manchester, at sensible times of day, the prices are good, the flights are on time, and check-in and customs clearance alike are painless.
SHOCKIN’: They fly narrow 767s with just two rows of three seats and hardly enough space in the aisle to push a food cart. On the red-eye flight over, I was stuck in an exit row. On the long-haul daytime flight home, I get stuck in the middle of a row with the archetypal obese American on the outside. These must rank as the most uncomfortable transatlantic flights I have EVER been on. Swings and roundabouts, I guess..

ROCKIN’: Seeing the Catskill Mounatins emerge over the New York State Thruway after spending three of the last four days traveling
SHOCKIN’: Still another hour until I’m home.

ROCKIN’: Campbell clambering all over me when he sees me.
DOUBLE ROCKIN’: Noel waddling over and giving me his newly acquired Teletubbies-style “big hug.”

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September 2022