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About Neil

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    gone canoeing

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  1. I'm sorry, Dawn Penn

    I once wrote a review saying how dreadful I thought Dawn Penn was as a live act. I saw her a second time and that didn't change my mind. Both of those times she was backed by a DJ and not a live band.   I saw her again yesterday at Bristol's Harbourfest, with a live band. She was great!   That was a hard crowd to win over, too - and she got them.
  2. the eFestivals app for Android

    I'm really pleased that I've succeeded in knocking together a comprehensive and free Android app for eFestivals. You can download it here:-
  3. not so wet wet wet

    My own visits to camping festivals are over for another summer, and despite officially being the wettest summer on record I've not seen that much mud. Last summer I went to eight camping festivals. In every case there was more rain than any sensible festival goer would want, much use of wellies (tho I did get away with properly-waterproof trainers once or twice), and it was often far colder than you'd expect even with a British summer (the official stats confirm last summer as colder than this one too). This summer has been quieter for me, going to just five camping festivals (partly because so little of the line-ups of so many grabbed my interest). With the worst of the summer rain being in June and July, I guess I got lucky with four of those having been from mid-July until now, because the result has been pretty good. Of those five festivals, only one was badly muddy; another one was cold and dull. Of the remaining three, two have been in glorious sunshine without a sign of mud, while the last one did had a few heavy but short showers but not enough to get muddy and was otherwise pleasant with warmth and fair amount of sunshine. It might have been officially the wettest summer on record, but for festivals it's not all been wet wet wet.
  4. pay to say

    Payola was a big thing in the past; it probably still goes on - taking money from record companies to feature their products on mainstream radio to help push sales - but it's probably so engrained into the music biz now that it's no longer considered a scandal. From a moral point of view it probably makes bankers look honest. There's a second version of payola, which works within what is known as journalism. It's not actually journalists who do it of course, because writing fiction is not what journalists do. Anyway, it's no less the norm for writing than it is for radio plays. Which gets to mean that on occasions eFestivals gets offered blatent or not-so-blatent offers of 'incentives' to attend events, where the expectation from that incentive is to write nice things to either help drive ticket sales before an event or to enhance the repuation of an event after it's taken place. The masters of payola in music journalism has long been the dance scene, and with the almost-demise of the superclubs in the UK it's home is now Ibiza. This year we've been offered a blatent cash payment by an agent of an Ibiza based club night who are running a festival in the UK. They were told to fuck right off... and while I can't be sure - and I generally want festivals to succeed - it seems that this event is going to bomb badly. I'm not going to be losing any sleep if it fails as it deserves to. And this year an Ibiza events series has been paying for journalists to fly to Ibiza, and is providing them with accomodation. Again, they've been told to fuck off but it appears to be the case that an attempt has been made to subvert our principled stand - meaning that they've paid for a writer's treats but that writer has now found they don't have a platform for their writings. Good. Rather than them fucking over the public they've fucked over themselves. Anyway ... have you read that something in Ibiza is good? Chances are it's a lie. A lie that you're being asked to help fund via your ticket purchase. Ibiza is a great place for a holiday. It's also a great place to get ripped off by sharks running hugely erxpensive events, if not via the ticket price then by drinks prices - at sometimes over £10 for a small bottle of water (and that was 10 years ago). How big a mug are you?
  5. Wanted not wanted?

    I'd say not, but as I've only viewed it from the M1 what do I know? Is there much to love about Luton? Anyway, the 'Love Luton' event - I hesitate to use the word 'festival' - offers a line-up including The Wanted. And Olly Murs. I can't say it's top of my own list of where to go this summer. Tickets are now £15, and anyone who bought at ticket at the previous higher price will be sent a free extra ticket.
  6. the incompetence of BT

    I was thinking I'd perhaps been too harsh on BT here, and had thought about deleting this blog entry. But.... First thing yesterday morning, they managed to cut off my two main business numbers, as well as some of my broadband services. 24 hours later I've got my broadband services restored but am still waiting for something to happen with my phone numbers. Incompetent c**ts is a massive understatement.
  7. choosing the weather

    The weather has been dreadful lately, it's hard to believe that the country is suffering a drought. And last summer's festival weather was dreadful too, the worst I've encountered across a summer since I started running eFestivals back in 2000. With this year's summer festival season just about to start, I'm betting there's lots of festival organisers and festival goers wondering when it'll stop. For some they're now in the two-week range, when the more reputable weather forecasters are prepared to give general-ish forecasts for that long into the future. So up pops one of the festival season's more ridiculous happenings. Everyone of course wants great weather for their festival, and there's nothing that will stop them finding it - in theory at least. People will trawl around the various weather forecasting websites looking for the best one, and will then try and convince everyone that the weather they'll get will be what is forecast by the best forecast and not by the worst forecast. Perhaps there's a place for a new weather forecasting service, where only good forecasts are ever given? It'd certainly get a lot of traffic from festival goers. PS: cheer up folks, this summer IS going to give us some great weather.
  8. the incompetence of BT

    eFestivals moved premises in mid-January. A move of phone services from one premises to another should be an easy task for any competent business to manage. And yet... - BT took the order wrongly. - BT failed to fulfil the order properly. - BT did the bits they did several days later than they should have. - The engineer did a dreadful job, requiring the wiring in both my house and the exchange to need to be re-done. - it was near-impossible to get them to send that diferent engineer, instead I was told I had to take my office offline for several days while they did more pointless tests. - the tests they do are very pointless; they said my broadband was down when I was speaking to them on ta voice over IP line that uses broadband. - The billing of all this was a dreadful cock-up. The above are the extremely brief version of events. Trying to deal with all of the above took 25+ hours of my time. After being given the run around by the normal numpties on the phones who told me there was no complaints dept, and nowhwere within BT that I could take these issues to, I finally managed to find the following... 0207 356 6243. This is the number for Barbara Malone, who is the secretary to the MD, or Chairman, or someone (I forget). She directed me to "the chairman's office", which is a higher level complaints team to the normal complaints team (if you can reach even them). The number for "the chairman's office" is 0800 169 6126. The person who (in my experience) normally answers that phone is Jackie Craig. Jackie palms you off to one of her team. I firstly spoke to someone called Bill (I forget the surname) who was so incompetent that he ended up offering me much more compensation than he should have. Moving on from that, the compensation issue was handled incompetently too, so that I got paid double the compensation that Bill offered. That might sound like a good result - and it was better than nothing - but I'd rather not have had weeks of my time wasted getting to that point. That double compensation doesn't compensate me for the issues to that point. Following on from Bill, I ended up having the issues with the billing dealt with by Rona from the "HLE Business Complaints" team. After some to-ing and fro-ing I thought she'd got things sorted at the beginning of March. Forward to the end of April, and i get my first bill at my new premises, only to find that I've been charged about £200 more than I should have been, because they're still billing me for broadband at my old premises on my old number (despite that number having been diverted to a voice over IP line when I moved), for a phone they sent me which i never ordered, and for a voice over IP line and number that I never ordered. So i'm back on the phone to them, to get the bills amended. I make it absolutely clear again and again that it's only the billing that is wrong. I get told only the billing will be altered. And then I get an email to tell me that my broadband is to cease next week, as ordered. I phone up, to be told there's nowhere I can take my complaint about this, because there's no complaints dept. Even BT's head office switchboard tell me there's no complaints dept that can be dialed directly. So feel free to use the number above. Bug the hell out of these useless people. I'm surprised they manage to arrive at work each day ... given the constant incompetence they show I'd expect them to go to the wrong offices. I'm still trying to get things sorted. I could be here for some time. PS: I've always been a fan of BT, encouraging others to use them instead of alternatives. I've no experience of the alternatives but I can't believe they can manage incompetence in every single part of the process, even within the parts that are meant to sort out the incompetence of others.
  9. twice as big, half as good?

    The cancellation of some of the more major festivals this year have brought a lot of easy headlines for newspapers and the music press, with a raft of reasons suggested as the cause - the olympics, the recession, poor bookings, expensive tickets, and the like. Those things are of course in the mix and it would be foolish to dismiss the effect they have, but there's much more going on to effect the festivals scene than just those. Back in 2006 I wrote this article titled "Regulation, Retro and Rubbish", and having just revisited it I can see I called much of it right. Regulation has tended to tighten again, the change of licencing laws being just a false dawn. Spontinatity is now only permitted if it's been included in the programme and a full risk assessment is carried out. The freedom that festivals once represented and gave the central appeal to the whole idea is long dead and buried. Retro came and stole the show, and with the dominance of so much dreadful indie landfill it deserved to. But when it goes huge for pop acts like Take That and even Steps can get in on the act then it's time recognise that retro is hitting the bottom of the barrel marked sub-standard, and it's time to move on. And the rubbish - both kinds - have got more rubbish. When The Hop Farm's booking of Bruce Forsyth is the freshest thing to happen in festival bookings for years then it's time for a re-think. I said back then "with festivals now so firmly mainstream that they’re something even your grannie might do, are the fashionable days of festivals numbered?." The grannies have eaten the festivals.
  10. I'm not one to get all mawkish about the death of someone I don't know. And if you try juggling knives then why be surprised if they cut you? She did what she did and the consequences are hers. All the same - and I don't say this lightly - the world of music has lost a huge talent. In the 13 years I've been writing about festivals and the acts I've seen there, I can't think of any act who's talent has jumped out and grabbed me in such a strong way as Amy Winehouse. I first saw Amy and heard her music when she was on the Jonathan Ross Show in 2003 or 2004. While what she played wasn't my thing it was impossible to not be struck by her authenticity and talent. On the basis of that I first saw Amy perform live on the Jazzworld Stage at Glastonbury Festival in 2004 (when she was promoting her debut album 'Frank'), and was hugely impressed. I saw her again a few weeks later at T in the Park and that was re-enforced. And then at Summer Sundae that same year, as a sub-headlining and not-cut-down set I saw her at what for me was her best - a charisma and talent that told me she'd be a huge star. Summer Sundae 2004 In 2005 at Cornbury Festival I forced some friends to see her. They knew her only from snippets on TV and hadn't liked what they'd seen, but couldn't help but agree with me after having the full experience. The words they used were "jaw droppingly amazing". The next summer (2006) saw her at Bestival, doing 'Valerie' with Mark Ronson as a cameo. The words from my review of that festival say "a guest appearance from a stick-thin Amy Winehouse – pure class!". Yet while I said 'stick-thin' - something which to me was very noticable - that was her fat compared to what she was to become. But her slide had clearly begun. Fast forward to the summer of 2007. 'Back in Black' had been released in October 2006 and deservedly went massive, and she was now a huge star and a tabloid fascination - with her publicly displayed problems detailed almost daily. While I was grabbing a beer backstage at Glastonbury's Jazzworld she wandered in with friends who looked like they had similar 'issues', and pushed past me to get to the bar - not that she needed more intoxicants by the look of her. Later that day she was a disappointment with her Jazzworld set, while her Pyramid Stage performance the next day was even more shambolic. It didn't take a genius to guess where it might end. Today she's being put in the '27 club' of talented musicians who died at that young age. To my mind she's deserving of the comparison by her talent, but sadly not with her output - just two albums (and one of those passed most people by) is a poor amount in comparison to those others. Musicians come and go, and some leave something lasting behind. She's left us her music, but with her death it's music that's the loser. There's so much more she could have been, there's so much more she could have left us. What a waste!
  11. What you like is what you like; you don't have to agree with me. Ali Campbell UB40's ex-frontman is now out on his own. The fall-out with his brother and other UB40 members looks like it's pretty large - perhaps as large as Ali himself now is in his ill-fitting suits - because the set contained absolutely no original UB40 compositions as far as I could tell. All you get linking back to then is the classic covers - 'Red Red Wine', 'Kingston Town', and the like. Meanwhile, Ali himself puts in very little effort, crooning away and hoping that by charisma alone he can pull it off. Sorry Ali, but you just don't. James Blunt Just about everyone's favourite rhyming slang, everyone's favourite hate figure, even James' quite often - he's not scared to take the piss out of himself .... but it's not like he's short of reasons why. He might sell shit loads of records but they're surely being sold to the Westlife crowd who wouldn't know a challenging composition if it hit them in the face. Status Quo could show Blunt an extra chord. Perhaps Blunt manages an endearing performance. I wouldn't know, I was long gone.
  12. It's now just over a year since the revamp of eFestivals, and the massive increase in traffic thru the year proves that it was long over-due and that it's gone down very well. :angry: There were about 6.2M unique users over the year, which is over 3 times the number claimed by our nearest competitor. There were about 75M pages viewed thru the year. Approximately 40% of those page views were for the forums, with the rest being on the main part of the site. The percentage of unique users for the forums was approx 20% of the total. Compared to 2008, there's been an increase of 26% in unique visitors, a 34% increase in visits, and a 41% increase in pages viewed - with the increase at the end of the year being greater than the increase at the beginning of the year, implying that there should be a further increase in traffic through 2010.
  13. There's been a big fuss about flags this summer, with many people complaining that their enjoyment of acts at festivals have been spoilt by the huge number of people in front of them in the crowd with flags, blocking their view of the stage. They have a point - at times, particularly at Glastonbury's main stage, this long-running problem stepped very firmly into the realms of huge excess. Why do some people have these flags? At the most simple level, they have them because they think it's a fun thing to do, that it makes them different and special in some way. Except of course that with so many having flags, it doesn't make them different or special in any way. With a more purposeful reason, they have a flag so that their mates can find them within a crowd, and I can see that this would work. Yet in my 28 years of attending festivals I've always managed to locate my friends in a crowd without the need of flags - but then again, I am taller than most, so I guess that does make a difference. But even so, it's still not a difficult thing to do even in the biggest crowds if you've told each other where you'll be. And with little purpose? The modern disease as demonstrated by the likes of Facebook - "look at me, look at me". One day they'll realise that no one is looking, or that if they are they don't care. Why the fuss right now? It's the Reading and Leeds festivals this weekend, and they've taken the decision to ban flags. Melvin Benn, the man behind these festivals, recently talked about that decision (reported here), saying that "I'm doing everything I can to ban flags this year. For some reason those that buy a flag want to be closest to the stage." and that at Glastonbury (which Melvin also has involvement in running) fans complained about the view during Bruce Springsteen's headline set in particular. "You couldn't see the acts. The flags were everywhere. There have always been flags but not to the level that there has been. And the flags have become very long and tall.". So Melvin has reacted at Reading and Leeds with a ban, and says that he is also talking to Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis about introducing a ban there. All very worthy in the name of the paying customer. But.... When is a flag not a flag? Melvin also said that some people were using flags to advertise goods. That's more than a little over-stating things I feel, as although there are indeed company or product branded flags to be seen amongst the other flags, they're there I feel not directly in the hands of the company involved, but simply because that flag is the one that a particular festival goer has because it's come into their hands somehow, quite possibly because the company involved was giving them away as a promotional item at some point - in fact, much like the promotional things done with Melvin's backing and for his company's financial benefit at some of the festivals he's involved with. For example, a certain drinks company gave away many hundreds of flags to festival goers earlier this summer, and they're bound to start being seen on poles in festival crowds sooner or later. Melvin said that some people were using flags to advertise goods - and it seems a rather strange thing to include when it's of no relevance to anyone's blocked view. And I wonder if this is the heart of the matter. :angry: When a festival organiser has taken a fat pocket of fifties from a drinks company for that drinks company to have the exclusive rights to sell their drinks to the festival attendees, and with the festival being broadcast all around the world, then that drinks company isn't going to be hugely pleased to see other drinks companies get better promotion - and for free rather than at huge expense - via their flags being seen on TV than that drinks sponsor is getting. Is this flag ban, at least in part, a ban on festival-goers' fun for the commercial benefit of the festival organiser and the festival's sponsors? Or is it only because people's views are getting spoilt?
  14. eFestivals on the up

    The new website design seems to be going down extremely well. While it's not possible to do a true like-for-like comparison of last year's website traffic compared to this year's traffic due to some of the changes in the redesign as well as some other background changes, it's certainly the case that there's been a very significant increase in website readership, and the 'stickiness' of those readers. For example:- - number of pages viewed is significantly up. - number of pages viewed per visitor is significantly up. - visitors from .uk domains is significantly up. Unfortunately, due to the 'background changes' mentioned above, it's not possible to make a like-for-like comparison of website visits or unique users by IP address. Even so, visits are up, while the recorded (just recorded!) number of unique visits by IP are down - which suggests that if it were possible to make a like-for-like comparison then both visits and unique users would both be showing a significant increase. And of course, also from those 'background changes', the significant increases in the 3 items mentioned above would actually show a far higher increase than they are showing. So it's all good. The other very noticeable difference within the hit stats is the proportion (just the proportion) of pages read on the forums. While the number of pages read on the forums has increased by around 15% (which is great considering the popularity of facebook and the like), the proportion of all pages read on the website that the forums account for has fallen very sharply, by over half of what it was. Again, this shows that the trend on the main part of the website is a massive increase! So a huge thanks to all of our long time readers for their continued support, a 'welcome back' to those who didn't like the old-style eFestivals but who like the new style, and a big hello to all those who are new readers here. We hope that this year's festivals are all that you dream of.
  15. RSS feeds

    As a part of the website redesign (which will go live within the next week sometime) there's now an RSS feed available of the latest eFestivals News. For all the information, please see here.