News & Insights 14 August 2008

One of the highlights of my summer…

The Lightyears play Brightlingsea FestivalI am writing this from an idyllic rural paradise in the South of France. Herman & The Hermits are on the stereo, the sun is beating down from high in the blue sky and I am sipping from a glistening, chilled bottle of The Greatest Beer On The Planet – Desperados, a terrific French lager flavoured with tequila. Things are, I think it is safe to say, going pretty well.

However, I digress. I’m not just writing to you to show off about how sweet my holiday is. I did actually have a purpose in mind…

Last Saturday we played a tremendous little festival near Colchester called the Brightlingsea Festival. Brightlingsea’s only a small town but they throw a heck of a party every August – and everybody in the local area comes along. The organisers book a line-up of local and national acts and if the weather’s good, which is usually is, it goes down a storm.

We played for the first time in 2006 and this year we’d been placed near the top of the bill (the only out-of-town band amongst the four final acts), due to hit the stage at 5.30pm. George and I turned up at around 4pm, about twenty minutes after Danny, who is always early. We’d brought Emily with us too, as she’s recently started selling her line of hand-made dresses at LYs gigs and was manning the merch table for us that day. No sign of Tony though. I called him, out of curiosity, just to find out where he was.

“Hello mate. Just thought I’d give you a quick buzz to check everything’s OK. Weather’s looking beautiful – should be a good one…”

The level of concern in his reply was not particularly encouraging.

“Umm… yeah. Look, erm, we are on at 6 o’clock right? Might be just a tad on the late side.”

“No mate – 5.30. Why? Where are you?”

“Well… it’s just I may have very slightly underestimated how long it’s gonna take me to get to Brightlingsea. Where are you now?”

“Brightlingsea. Where are you?”

“Wales.”

Ah. 

“I’ll put my foot down.”

I’ll be honest, at that point it wasn’t looking good. George and I sat down to write the set-list and had to come up with a back-up plan to cover the very likely eventuality that Tony didn’t make it in time i.e. vamping on acoustic tunes until the drummer put in an appearance. 

When we filtered onstage at around 5.25 for sound-check, there was still no sign of him. The bill was running about 10 minutes late so we still had some leeway – but not much. Danny set up the drum-kit and then dashed out to the sound-desk to start setting the levels. 

Would we have to start the show with twenty minutes of acoustic numbers? Would Tony cause a massive traffic pile-up on the B1029 to Brightlingsea? Would The Lightyears give the people the show they deserved?

Fortunately, the answer was yes.

George signing CDs at Brightlingsea FestivalAt 5.37, three minutes before we were to due to play our first number, the T-Boss turned up. He was immaculately dressed in black shirt, black tie, black jacket and black shades – but if you knew him well enough, you could detect an air of mania beneath the cool exterior. This man had just pushed through the burn and come out the other side barely intact.

It’s perhaps not appropriate to fully outline some of the sacrifices Tony made in order to reach Brightlingsea in time, but let’s just say that his bladder was tested to its very limits. When you’re as late as he was and you’re doing 90 down the motorway, you can’t really stop for leisurely toilet breaks. That’s just not cricket.

Anyhow, enough of the drama. With The Lightyears’ line-up complete, we were ready to rock. And, I have to say, I thought we played a pretty killer festival set. We opened with She’s The One, Beat Alive and Sleepless to set the tone, and then started knocking out our more anthemic numbers like Run and Brightest Star. The moment when we hit the Brightest Star coda (“You’re the brightest star in the morning light”) and the sun came out – and I could see people in the crowd singing along to a song they’d never heard before – was one of the highlights of my summer. 

Having said that, the thing I loved most about playing this gig was discovering that Brightlingsea has its very own LYs fan club – a group of teenagers who obviously saw us here in 2006 and seemed to know the words to almost every song. They were requesting Banana Republic from the very beginning and so, a few numbers from the end, we gave them what they wanted. A triumphant moment.

If you’re ever in the Colchester area during the first weekend of August, check out the Brightlingsea Fest. It’s a cracking event and a shining example of how British festivals should be.

And now, if you don’t mind, I’m off to the fridge for another bottle of Desperados.

Chris Lightyear

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