The Divine Comedy at Wychwood last night….

The Divine Comedy headlined the Wychwood Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse last night. It was only the forth year the festival has been running and from the sound of it it’s getting bigger every year.
Last night was The Divine Comedy’s only UK show this year. We’ll be playing two shows late September at the Cite De La Musique in Paris, but for the time being Neil is concentrating ..ing Swallows & Amazons.
We had three action-packed days rehearsing before the show. We haven’t played together as a band for a whole year so things were a bit rusty to begin with. I got a shock when the intended set list came through from Mr Hannon. The Drinking Song had reared it’s ugly head once again (I swear I have nightmares about that song… it has got so many changes it’s almost impossible not to cock it up) and there were a couple of tunes I’d never even heard before. Neil wanted to put in a couple of the ‘French’ songs in preparation for the Paris shows later this year. I’m using inverted commas because only one of the songs is actually in French: ‘Je Changerais D’Avis’ by Francoise Hardy (it might be a Morricone tune… we’re not quite sure). The other one was ‘Home’ which Neil wrote for Jane Birkin’s last album. By all accounts, our version is better! To be honest, I was hoping for a version of ‘The Songs That We Sing’, but I think this will have to wait until September.
My Bloody Valentine were rehearsing in the studio next door. I say rehearsing… apparently they had to spend an awfully long time trying to figure out how they actually played a lot of their songs, they used a lot of funny tunings and obviously a huge amount of guitar effects. I didn’t go in but Neil had to sneak a quick peak and said there were literally hundreds of pedals covering the floor in their studio. When they did finally start actually playing the sound was awesome. There were a few more coffee/fag breaks after that juncture to facilitate us standing around listening outside!
We had an eight-piece band this year, including the triumphant return of Ian ‘Squeezy’ Watson on accordian and Charlotte Glasson on saxes & flute.
Wychwood is quite a small festival. It takes about 10 minutes to walk around the whole thing. We were headlining on Saturday night. I arrived at the site at about 4pm just in time to hear the last couple of songs from Palladium. They sounded fantastic. Wish I’d got there half an hour earlier really. The Blockheads were on next, followed by Duffy. She put on a great (although very short) set with a fantastic band. Went out front to watch her with my friends Clare and Muddy who came to see me play. Duffy resorted to playing B-sides halfway through (she obviously doesn’t have that much material, hence the early festival slot) but I thought these were the best songs in her set.
Duffy was followed by Orchestra Baobob. I went backstage. They were great fun but to be perfectly honest I can only stand about half a song of that kind of music before it all starts sounding the same. And their set ran over….
We were on at 9.30 for a ninety minute set. As usual, I have no set list so I can’t tell you exactly what we played. All the usual suspects were in there, as well as some old favourites making a comeback: Billy Bird, Songs of Love, A Drinking Song. There were a few rarities dropped in too: Count Grassi’s Passage Over Piedmont made it’s debut live performance, we played Sweden for the first time in years (love that song) and we did a great new T Rex-y version of Europop which went down a storm.
The crowd were fantastic: shouting, screaming and singing along! We all had a ball. Neil even suddenly decided to give everyone a solo during National Express for the encore so I got a bit of ‘foot on monitor’ action in. I expect that will be the first and last time you will ever hear a bass solo on a Divine Comedy show! Definitely the only time you’ll hear me slapping!
We had a great show and hopefully we’ll play Wychwood again some time. We all agreed that if we were to do only one UK show this year, then last night was the way it should be. It’s been a while since I’ve done a big festival show like last night’s, and to honest I really miss it. Hopefully there’ll be some more in the near future…
For the meantime, we’re all looking forward to the Paris shows which by all accounts are shaping up to be a true TDC extravaganza! Miss it at your peril!
Until then….

The Divine Comedy

ps. If anyone’s knocking about town tonight, I’ll be playing with Lea Delaria at the 606 in Chelsea. Our special guest is the amazing American blues singer/guitarist Chris Bergson. I was meant to play the Leicester City Blues Festival with him yesterday, but obviously I was otherwise engaged. Looking forward to it immensely…

pps. I’m really into Last.fm and Twitter at the moment. My Last.fm usermane is simonlittlebass if you want to be friends, and my Twitter page is at Twitter if you want to follow my updates…


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