I’ve been a fan of Elbow around 15 years. I like to think of myself as one of the early day fans, I enjoyed their music before it was cool to enjoy it, before some tunes became overplayed on the radio, before they were ‘mainstream’. I have been lucky enough to see them play live 4 times. At Reading Festival, Latitude Festival, The O2 Arena and now Thetford Forest as part of Forest Live.
A mind blowing band in any location, there’s something earthy about Elbow that really suits playing in the outdoors. Being able to see the sky, the clouds, the sun and then the moon whilst listening to their echoey, nostalgic sounds. You feel grounded, content, happy. So when I read that Elbow would be playing in the middle of a forest only 30 minutes drive from my house, I had to go!
A relatively easy experience buying tickets this time, which you’ll know is quite the rarity if you’ve read some of my previous rants!
All tickets for Forest Live at Thetford (and as far as I know all forests) are booked in the same way, there are no ‘accessible’ tickets. Which means no awful accessible phone line to keep pressing redial for! I purchased a regular ticket online just like every other fan, you can buy any amount, up to the maximum allocation, carers/PAs excluded. Then once receiving your email confirmation you can request complimentary (free) carer/PA tickets by providing your order number and proof of disability. This meant that on sale day I had an equal chance of obtaining tickets, not only due to me being able to get them online just like everyone else, but also because this gig was in a forest, with no allocated seating (although there are raised platforms I will discuss in a mo), so as many wheels could attend as wanted to. There could have been a field full of wheels!
Being a stickler for timekeeping, no rain forecast, and knowing the roads can get fairly busy on gig days I left in plenty of time. The route was still fairly clear which was good really because once off the main roads to reach High Lodge Thetford Forest there is a very long winding track through the trees to get to the carpark. As much as I don’t get phased by holding people up and just think everyone should stop just rushing everywhere all the time and take life a little easier, it must be frustrating driving behind me and my wobbly head when you could probably walk faster than my PA is having to drive. Careful not to cause me whiplash at the startling speed of 5mph.
Parking between the trees, although fairly orderly there were no ‘ruled’ parking spaces so you could pull in and take up the amount of space necessary for your needs. The ground was uneven, however not too bad, more like a track than just in the trees as it were. I could still get the ramp of my WAV out on to level enough ground not to feel as if I’ll fall down a hole.
I could see the disabled entrance to the outdoor auditorium (clearing in the trees) from the car. I don’t know if this is new or if I just didn’t see it previously, but I’ve always made my way to the main entrance when attending a Forest Live event before. Anyway this discovered entrance was not far for me to wheel at all. Bumpy to begin with getting over the small patch of grass, but then there’s a pathway leading right up to the entrance.
Tickets shown and bags searched I am directed towards the accessible viewing platform. If you’ve not used these before they are raised platforms often at outdoor performances and festivals, usually at a fair distance from the stage so that you don’t have to push through the crowds at busy events. Ramped and slightly raised from the ground they allow for wheelers or people that need to be seated to still be able to see when the audience is standing. They also mean that you don’t have to be within the busy crowd if this is something that you find difficult.
Wheelers don’t have to use these platforms, and I don’t always because you are often restricted to having only one friend or PA with you, if in a group its sometimes nice just to chill out on the grass. On this occasion with only 2 of us and me wanting a good view of the stage I headed towards the platform.
Still a while to go before show time I enjoyed a bit of people watching. One of my favourite pastimes! That was money well spent there alone just watching people. I mean yes I could do that for the price of a Caramel Macchiato in Starbucks. I do love me some coffee shop entertainment! But the variety of people at a gig way supersedes Starbucks! The quality of the people watching is second to none. Families and friends interacting. People weighing up the perfect spot to lay down their blankets or put up their camping chairs, hoping that they have chosen well and that the annoying teenagers or the man with giant hair won’t come and perch in front of them.
Starting to feel peckish I get out my cheese and pickle sandwich (oh very English!) when I notice a group of middle aged, and dare I say middle class ladies in front of me setting up their evenings delights! They were making cocktails with an actual plastic cocktail shaker (the admiration and jealousy I had!), booze, fresh fruit and mixers. They set up a little makeshift table with the picnic box and set on it an array of dips, breadsticks and carrot batons. Yes carrot batons! Around me there were also people with boxes of wine and plastic wine glasses. I really need to up my Forest Live game next time! My cheese and pickle sandwich was very nice but would have been even better washed down with a strawberry daiquiri.
First on was support act Steve Mason. I have to say I’d not heard the name before but will be listening to more in the future. With quite a similar tone to Guy Garvey and style to Elbow, he made the perfect warm up. Steve drew us in and entertained us as we waited for Elbow to appear. While some of us drank more wine, and I warmed up with my flask of tea!
I later discovered that Steve Mason’s recent album was produced by Elbow band member Craig Potter, it makes perfect sense.
Now for the pièce de résistance, the reason I am here, Elbow. They were fantastic, obviously. Music is like a mode of time travel, a song or band can take you back to certain stages of your life. I first discovered Elbow when I was in my teens, and there’s something about hearing them that makes me feel at ease, at home. Elbow always has a place.
Uplifting poetic melancholy, Elbow bring magic to the mundane. Lyrics about everyday experiences, things you can relate to, its like they are singing to you, but at the same time make you feel as if you are part of something much larger than you could ever realise.
Much of this is down to the incredible, northern romantic and storyteller frontman Guy Garvey. A kind of earth voice as I like to call it. Soaring, it hits somewhere deep. It’s soulful and down to earth. Comforting.
I enjoyed the great mix of songs, the new album ‘Little Fictions’ interspersed with old melodies and then anthems that everybody knew and sang along to.
Guy Garvey conveyed a genuine warmth and friendliness, saying ‘hi’ and ‘I love you too’ back at shouting audience members. Also complimenting each individual member of the band and lighting crew throughout the show.
There is something wonderful about Forest Live, being able to breathe the fresh air (as Guy Garvey directed us, breathe in, breathe out) and see the sun setting on one of your favourite bands. Particularly the style and honesty of Elbow’s music, the vocal and instrumental sounds harmonize perfectly with nature.
What an enchanting evening.
‘One day like this a year would see me right’ and indeed it would.