By Stephen Lloyd
We’re back! Six years on and none of us can believe our luck. Reasons To Be Cheerful is still going and with a special performance planned for this year’s Latitude Festival, I know I speak for everyone when I say that we were beyond excited. Billed for the Theatre stage, this was very much a concert version of the show; loaded up with a twelve song set list and enough “Oi Oi’s” to shake your rhythm stick at.
Our last performance together was only eight months ago, but on our first day back in the rehearsal room, it felt a lot longer. While the band began thrashing through each of the numbers, the rest of us blockheads headed off to re-acquaint ourselves with Mr. Dury’s lyrics and Debbie’s old dance moves (sorry, choreography).
What I’ve always loved about this show is how it is still constantly evolving, each and every time we come back to do it; the staging of ‘England’s Glory’ and ‘What A Waste’ are always slightly different, mainly down to meeting the physical demands of a new space, but quite often, and very much so this time round, due to the country’s current political status. It feels as if Reasons is just as relevant now as it was back in 2010, maybe even more so.
During rehearsals we were thrown back in with the band, a noisy bunch of troublemakers, who aren’t half clever, as we busked our way through song after song, as everything, very loudly, began to fall back into place.
We’d been given two days to get the show up and running again and on the second we had a preview performance for an invited audience of friends of Graeae and locals who work in the area. The preview was a noisy, sweaty success, filled with anarchic fist punches, cult-like pelvic thrusts and one heck of a keytar solo.
By 8am the next morning, the van was packed and we were on our way to Henham Park, the location for this year’s festival; armed with jelly sweets, strong coffee and a few bumps and bruises from the gig the day before, all whilst listening to the artistically made and carefully selected playlist created by company member DJ Pickles.
Three and half-hours and two toilet trips later (the first one was out of order), we arrived at our final destination, warmly greeted by the ultra-cool, festival classic stewards, who promptly pointed us towards our campsite.
We had no time to put up any tents, as we were due to sound-check not too long after our arrival. As the band did so, some of us began getting into our costumes backstage. Out came the fishnets and Doc Marten boots, the white skinny jeans and sliced up t-shirts, the ‘extra-strong’ hairspray, that lets be honest, only holds for one or two songs.
As we were given the 2pm slot, we had no idea how many, if any, audience members we’d have, so it was an absolute pleasant surprise to hear that the theatre tent was almost, completely packed out. Like every Reasons show/gig/preview/rehearsal, we stepped out early to meet our new friends, handing out paper-bowls, filled with tasty bar snacks in what can only be described as ‘the calm before the storm.’ And what a storm it was.
I tapped the mic. ‘1,2…1,2…is this working? Can you hear me? Good, right. Hello!’
‘HELLO!!!’ they roared back. Yep, this lot was up for it!
Song after song, we gave it, everything we had: every note, every line, every jump, every stamp. From 0 to 10 within seconds, amps cranked up to 11. The audience was with us, every step of the way.
It was, as always, an utter joy and privilege to be singing, signing and playing these songs with this group of people, year after year to both fresh and familiar faces.
After the gig, once we calmed down, we headed out to grab some food together before half of the gang jumped back in the van and made their way back to London leaving the rest of us to (surprisingly quickly), put up a twelve-person tent in prep for spending the night at the festival.
The rest of the evening was great, filled with post-grunge all female rock bands, experimental comic storytelling, glitter fairies lurking in the enchanted forest and a mass sing-along to some of the most guilty pleasure tracks around.
We were up early the next morning, our bellies filled from a tasty fry up in the artist catering area, ready to hit the road again and rest up before our next gig at the Milton Keynes International Festival.