Synergy represented by:

L-R: Amanda Morrison, Micaela Haslam, (Jonny Greenwood!!),
Heather Cairncross, Caroline Jaya-Ratnam

 

“Steve Reich (playing piano 4 in Music for 18, as usual) was due to meet us in Poland at the sound check.  Meanwhile, the day before our performance Mandy, Heather, Caroline and I flew to Frankfurt for a brief “music minus one” rehearsal with Ensemble Modern at their rehearsal studio.  Having concluded that we all knew Music for 18 Musicians rather well, we went out for a very nice lunch and headed back to Frankfurt airport for our group flight to Gdansk.

 

Ueli (piano 2) and Jurgen (piano 3) in EM’s
Frankfurt rehearsal studio



It was a nice surprise to see Jonny Greenwood on our Dinky plane to Gdansk. He was due to play Electric Counterpoint just before us in the gig, having performed the piece with us in Krakow a couple of years ago.  He had since re-recorded the guitar tracks (because he thought they could be better) and played the piece in Sydney. Electric Counterpoint is quite a way outside the comfort zone of his Radiohead fans, and I really admire him for doing it at all.  He’s clearly a big Steve Reich fan and definitely “gets” Steve’s music.

So, after a free evening and a leisurely morning in Gdansk, we headed over to the Open’er Festival stadium to meet Steve and have a sound check.  It was a beautiful day and we were very excited with our “access all areas” backstage festival passes.  I just wish I could have been out front to hear Music for 18 through this sound system – it must have been amazing!

 

What a stack!

What a stack!

Mandy and Caroline have arrived

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main stage is a somewhat precarious place to be at events like this, as each crew seems only concerned with the destination of its own gear – no matter who might be standing in the way.  Finally we managed to get ourselves set up and played through a few sections of the piece to check that the microphones, foldback and speakers were all doing what they were
supposed to be doing.

 

Steve warming up

Steve warming up

Clearing away the Kings' kit

Clearing away the Kings’ kit

 

 

 

 

 

Steve looked like a very cool dude – clearly born to be a rock star!

 

My view from the stage

My view from the stage



As we rehearsed, I watched the bouncers being briefed for the evening. Having seen them in action, I now realise what an important (and precarious) role they were to play in the proceedings.

 

Mandy on a blow-up Chesterfield

Mandy on a blow-up Chesterfield

Artists' sandpit

Artists’ sandpit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mandy and I decided to hang around for the rest of the day.  Our chill-out on these deckchairs was somewhat short-lived.  Just after this photo was taken, my chair collapsed and I threw my cup of coffee all over my shirt! The blow-up Chesterfield sofas were hilarious.  This hangar was kitted out with several suites of blow-up Chesterfields and lots of potted palm trees. Unfortunately, there were also a gazillion swallows’ nests up in the roof, so several large nets had been suspended to catch the stuff you’d rather not have land on your head.  It was still wise to check the floor and the chairs before sitting down!

 

 

It was fascinating to watch all the comings and goings of the various artists, their entourages, the press etc.  The Kings of Leon all arrived in separate cars (don’t they like each other?), and at one point Rihanna wandered through to chat with them.  One of the crew tried to take her photo but she had a man with a special light machine that made sure he wouldn’t get a decent photo.  What a crazy world she lives in.

 

Corridor for squashed girls

Backstage

Backstage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following a support band or two, we went down to the main stage to hear some of the Kings of Leon set.  It was sheer madness beyond the bouncers, yet we could just wander comfortably around backstage – that felt a bit weird, though very nice weird!  Just in front of the stage, we watched the bouncers pulling girl after girl from the crowd, sending them running down this corridor back into the edge of the crowd.  A few of them were hauled out (rather unceremoniously) unconscious and there were medical teams on hand with stretchers.

The band did sound great and I liked some of their songs.  Caleb Followill probably wouldn’t thank me for this observation, but I reckon there’s a hint of Phil Collins in his voice.  Have a listen and see what you think….

 

Ready for action in our dressing room

 

Finally, we were driven down to the stage to watch Jonny perform, before going straight into Music for 18.

 

Jonny in action

Jonny in action



It takes some guts to go onto a stage straight after Kings of Leon and play Electric Counterpoint, but that’s just what Jonny did – and extremely well. Steve Reich was down at the sound desk with the marvellous Norbert Ommer, and at one point even punched the air as he was so delighted with what he was hearing.

Then finally, well after midnight, it was our turn.  Although it was very exciting to be where we were, it was bleedin’ freezin’ on that stage!  All the warmth of the day’s sun had well and truly evaporated, and the stage seemed to act as a giant wind tunnel.  In fact it was so windy that most of us had large sheets of Perspex over the music and/or clothes pegs pinning the music to the stand.

The audience was great – many treating Music for 18 as a connected “set”, clapping in the links between sections where the texture thins out.  I reckon that made all of us think about the piece in a new way – very refreshing!

So, Glastonbury next year perhaps?  We asked Jonny if he could put a word in…..”

Micaela