Talent spotting

While the big festivals up and down the country charge more and more money for essentially less and less (Texas a headline act? Oh come on…), local fetes and carnivals are upping the ante.

You may remember this time last year when it seemed every one and their donkey was swanning off to see Take That, I went along to the local school fete with minimal expectations. It was chucking it down and I really thought after a lap of the sorry-looking stalls on offer, I’d be home within ten minutes. Well, two hours later the sun was out in force and I was still there, sipping Pimms and having an absolutely fantastic time. We even won top prize at the raffle. Sort of. I’ll let that lie, shall I?

Anyway the point was that for any parent mourning their festival/gig going days, a feast of delights awaited them at the summer fete.

So after receiving an invite on Facebook for the local school’s 2012 shindig, I was genuinely more than a little excited.

This year it wasn’t just a fete, it was a festival. There were bands in addition to the now resident circus and school orchestra. But best of all it was all happening at my local pub, just two doors down and across the road from our house.

Of course this meant there were other temptations at first. In the morning I was making progress clearing away some of the jungle that is our garden. As I heard the music start up in the pub, I did think should I just pop along later and finish sorting this hedge. But no, the lure of the music and the beer tents was too much to resist.

Over we went and paid the £4 entrance fee for the wife and I, kids go free. See, though there was an enhanced programme of events, prices hadn’t increased. We were even given wristbands this year. Wristbands! I know – just like a proper festival.

Out in the beer garden, it was comfortably heaving. You didn’t have to go too far to bump into somebody you knew, but nor did you have to trek a mile to find the nearest bin. And even if the toilets had been packed – which they weren’t – I only had a short walk home to reach one. A quick wave of my wristband would have got me back in, a friendly smile from the lady on the door as opposed to the mistrusting glare from your average festival security person.

So the kids went off with friends, the wife and I got chatting to various people, checked out a few of the stalls and then settled at a table – yes, a table – to listen to one of the bands. They were called Strange Brew, a local band of 50 somethings who can always be relied upon to knock out a fair few favourites from the 60s and 70s. As much as I was enjoying their set, I couldn’t help thinking that the one advantage of a, well, bigger festival is that there’s a good chance you’ll catch a few snippets of the next big thing. You’ll just get that feeling that tells you a band has something magical about them and you’ll know one day when they become famous and are regularly selling out stadiums in seconds, you’ll be able to say ‘I was there – I was there when they were starting out in a small venue.’ I can already say this about Muse, Coldplay and the Kaiser Chiefs but, as Strange Brew closed their set, I was momentarily sad that I might never quite be able to experience that feeling again.

But as I queued up for another ale (that’s a lie – I got served straight away), I felt a sense of anticipation building. There was one more act yet to play – a group of schoolkids who called themselves The Ducks. I’d actually taken the time to check out some footage of them beforehand that had been posted up on the festival’s Facebook page. Yeah, not bad, not bad for a few young’uns knocking about together. And the enthusiasm of the people in the audience who knew them and were there to support them was very infectious.

On they came. Now I don’t want to build them up to much, but from the off it was clear these four boys weren’t just mucking about in the lead singer’s dad’s garage once a week. They clearly knew how to play their instruments and, boy, could they make some noise. A drummer and a percussionist proved something of a twist that gave them extra charge – first percussionist I’d ever seen playing beer kegs – genius!

The songs were, of course, mainly covers, but a very select, well thought out, choice. Modern day classics like Are You Gonna Be My Girl sat comfortably alongside the old greats like Substitute and, erm, My Sharona.

No Achilles heel here. The only thing I’d say was the lead singer didn’t actually seem to know how good a singer he was, like they’d all drawn straws to decide who’d do it and he’d lost. With a few lessons in technique and a bit of swagger, he could easily outshine accomplished main men like Gallagher, Albarn or even Bellamy. It would be good to develop a few harmonies with the beer keg percussionist too.

I don’t think I was alone in this appraisal. People were dancing, blokes were watching them with genuine appreciation of the sound these kids were making and as they sung an encore of Chelsea Dagger, that’s when I really got the feeling they could be big, really big, so long as they don’t fall out with one another. They’ve already got themselves a decent manager and a few gigs lined up further afield than just our part of the Lizard. Speaking to the lead singer’s dad, they even have a potential self-composed single on the cards.

Sure, some people might scoff and say yeah, yeah, but it’s just a local fete. Maybe they have a point, but it put me in mind of another band of four teenagers who started out by performing at their local fete way back in 1959. They were known as The Quarrymen back then and they didn’t end up doing too badly.

Sorry, I did say I wouldn’t big up The Ducks too much but, as I say, the enthusiasm of the audience was very infectious. If nothing else, there must have been a fair few sets of proud parents watching.

So much so that next day when my son was banging on the piano a little too keenly, I stopped myself from telling him to go easy on the keys and keep it down. He was actually playing a bit of a tune for once.

‘That was really good,’ I told him as I wondered whether in 10 years time it might be him on stage at the local fete, me as the proud dad looking on and thinking ‘that’s my son’.

He may even cover a song by The Ducks, who by then would have had a fair few number one hits behind them, maybe done a few solo projects with other rising stars, and probably be on the verge of beginning their third sell-out international stadium tour. And I’ll smile to myself smugly and think: yeah, I was there.

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