Continuing our series celebrating festivals, bassist Celia Archer recalls playing Glastonbury, her bandmate’s onstage engagement, and bumping into Jerry Cantrell from Alice in Chains coming out of the loo
Festivals can be tricky beasts. There have been moments where I’ve found myself in the wrong tent in the wrong field with the wrong people and wished I could teleport myself anywhere else. But when the right combination of factors comes together, it’s the most incredible feeling.
One of the best festivals I’ve been to is Simple Things in Bristol. It sprawls out over the city and they are excellent at pairing the artist with the venue. Over a few years, I’ve seen Abra in a sleazy club, Twin Peaks nearly breaking the floor in the room upstairs in an old man pub, Nicholas Jaar in an undulating auditorium and Marcel Dettman and Jazzy Jeff in a sweaty fire station (not at the same time). I can only describe seeing Charlotte Church’s Late Night Pop Dungeon there in 2016 as the purest joy I have ever felt.
The best show I’ve ever seen at a festival was The Raincoats at ATP in 2012. It was wild and tight at the same time and just the most perfect thing. I never thought I’d get to see it. They even brought out Verity Susman; I think she was playing a saxophone? It felt like a torch-passing moment. My teenage self was screaming. As was my adult self.
As for memories of being up on stage – crowds at festivals have a different kind of energy than gigs. Freer. You build this temporary lawless city for a weekend and people just let loose. It’s great to feed off that when you’ve spent the day stuck in the van. We’re normally doing a few festivals every weekend, so it can often be an in-and-out kind of thing – we rarely feel like we have enough time to hang around. But that just makes it even more special when we can stay. It’s also one of the few times you get to see other friends in bands; usually you’re all on tour at the same time, zigzagging across the world on different routes.
South by Southwest was a total dream for that, because as well as our shows, we were playing as a backing band for Marika Hackman. We got to spend the whole time with a dear pal. We rolled around the city and played 12 shows in 5 days and were running on mostly tequila. I think if we’d played fewer shows, we wouldn’t have been able to do it – the performance adrenaline keeps you going.
The first Glastonbury we ever played was in 2016. Waking up on that Friday morning to the Brexit results was gutting, and the rest of the weekend felt like such a blur. But playing William’s Green is always incredible. We roadtested our new songs for the second album there, which was a baptism of fire that paid off. And Jules always dresses up in a crazy outfit. The pasta colander astronaut might have been my favourite. I’m mainly excited for Glastonbury to be back on to see what she wears next time. When you’re done playing, you’re just at the greatest festival on earth. I think Self Esteem’s show up at the Crows Nest there in 2019 was my favourite. That woman is magnificent.
We’ve had some deliciously messy times at Live at Leeds, which will always be close to my heart. Jules got on stage and duetted with The Moonlandingz; we all missed it because we were at the bar. We were gutted because we never get to see her as audience members. Festivals also put you in crazy musical companion situations. We played one in Madrid that listed bands alphabetically, so that year it went: Alice in Chains, At the Drive-In, The Big Moon – which I never thought would be the company we’d get to keep. When we got there, I bumped into Alice in Chains’ Jerry Cantrell while coming out of the loo. There is absolutely zero way to be cool in that situation. But our guitarist Soph had a lovely chat with Nile Rodgers about tomato and mozzarella salad in catering in Kendall. Next time he saw her backstage, he said hi like they were old friends. A real gent.
Our lead singer Jules met her fiance Max at a festival. He and his mates set up The Secret Post Office, where they run around festivals dressed as posties delivering letters to people based on the descriptions given by the sender: “To the guy in the purple catsuit dancing stage left at King Gizzard.” I’m amazed they ever find anyone, but they are very determined. They’d seen each other around at one of these festivals and that night they met on a dancefloor and immediately walked up to each other and started snogging. They’ve been snogging ever since. Whenever we play a festival and the posties are there, they come on stage with us and surprise us with a new excellent piece of choreography. Last time we played Green Man, Max took the mic after the performance and proposed on stage in front of a few thousand people. A pretty risky move, but it paid off. It was a perfect circle moment for their love.
We had so so many great festival shows lined up for 2020 that were so painful to watch get cancelled one by one. We can’t wait to be back out there as soon as we can.