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Blog: Popfest

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As I rode up the elevators at Kentish Town last night, heading for the first night of Popfest, I felt my stomach DROP. "Oh blimey", my INNER CORE was saying, "Are we really back at The Bull & Gate?"

For LO! I very much was - every time I've played there for the past DECADE I've thought, WISTFULLY, "This'll probably be the last time I play here" and then found myself DRAGGED BACK. I still associate it in my aforementioned inner core with Monday night "showcase" gigs, playing to an empty room before anybody has turned up, drinking horrendous beer and feeling AWFUL the next day, so you can imagine my surprise, then, to find that it has all been rather SPRUCED UP. It still looks pretty much the same, and you still have to go through the LOO to get to soundcheck, but there was an air of RENEWED VIGOUR about the place symbolised, for me at least, by the fact that they were now serving DOOM BAR! Someone said they thought it'd been taken over by Club Fandango and that it was back on the up again, but for me the main thing was DOOM BAR!

I found and hugged Mr J Jervis (always the first thing to do at ANY festival), dropped my gear off and then strolled up the road to The Southampton Arms, which was JUST as nice as everyone has been telling me it is, where I met Mr S Hewitt and indiepoppers SUNDRY for a delightful beer and chat. I got back to the Bull & Gate to find that the Doom Bar was NICE, did a soundcheck, and then sat around waiting for things to get going.

I sat in the pub for what felt like ages, thinking "where IS everybody? Is NOBODY going to come?" and felt a wave of FLASHBACKS to all those empty rooms in the past. Then I thought "Hang on, I'm in the pub bit. Everyone'll have gone in the venue entrance won't they?" and LO! I went into the main bit and there were LOADS of friendly faces! HOORAH!

So it was a rather BUSY room that saw me take to the stage and Officially Open The Popfest with the cardboard scissors I made yesterday, "cutting" a carefully DOCTORED ribbon... which took a little while to be persuaded to cut. It wasn't exactly the HUGE piece of THEATRE I'd hoped for, but I think it did the job, and I went on to do THIS:

  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • The Gay Train
  • My Grandad Is Nuts
  • A Little Bit
  • Hey Hey 16K
  • Theme From Dinosaur Planet
  • Do The Indie Kid
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • Boom Shake The Room


  • It all went surprisingly well - I'm so USED to doing THEMED sets that I kept thinking "Hang on, this bears no relation to the song that went before" and being ALARMED that whole songs would go by without ASIDES, or STEVE joining in, or LARFS, so was surprised when each song got applauded at the end. Also ODD was doing "the hits" - the only time I've done non-themed gigs lately has been at Totally Acoustic, where I try to do new or UNUSUAL stuff as much as possible, so it felt like CHEATING to be doing Do The Indie Kid... although also GRATE to find that people knew the WORDS to a lot of them and were FULLY prepared to join in!

    It was a WHOLE LOT OF FUN, and the evening carried on very much in that vein, with some CHAT, some BEER, and some EXCELLENT bands. It was, as I'm sure 1,000,000% of all attendees are duty bound to say at some point, Like A Mini-Indietracks, In A Pub, as the main joy was seeing so many friends again, all in one place, and as I strode out into the night, the rather SMASHING sounds of Cats On Fire still ringing in my mind, it felt rather like coming home!

    posted 24/2/2012 by MJ Hibbett

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