#32: Go to a gig

Having three children means that our house is constantly noisy.  Giggles and laughter, bickering and shouting, the TV, impromptu Sunday morning kitchen discos… it’s rarely quiet.

(I tried to upload a video that the husband took of me dancing with the girls but it refused to load.  Probably a good thing!)

And then when the girls are finally in bed in the evening the husband has the TV on or is playing on his Xbox.  So when I’m on my own on the 2-3 evenings a week that he is at work I make sure everything is switched off and I thoroughly enjoy the blissful silence.

However, when I’m in my car or listening to my ipod whilst I’m travelling to/from London on the train for work I always turn my music up loud.  I’ve got a pretty varied taste in music I guess – anything from Meatloaf to One Direction, Eminem to Ludovico Einaudi, Jack Johnson to the Stereophonics (and everything in between).  I used to love listening to Classic FM on the car radio but since my Dad died last year I haven’t been able to bear it.  Instead I’ve got a selection of three or four CDs that I rotate depending on my mood.  I get a *little* bit obsessive and will listen to the same CD over and over for months on end, before suddenly remembering a band I haven’t listened to for ages and switching to that one for the next few months!

One of my husband’s stocking fillers presents at Christmas last year was James Bay’s album ‘The Chaos and the Calm’.  Sometime back in January I borrowed it from him and have somehow managed to never give it back – it’s been my car ever since.  Oops!  The title of the album actually inspired the tagline for my blog: ‘Capturing the calm, the chaos and the moments in between’. So when I discovered in February that James Bay was one of the acts announced to be playing at Forest Live in Cannock Chase this year, I knew that I had to get tickets.

On the morning the tickets were released I dropped the girls at school, raced home as quickly as I could and frantically dialled the number.  I was stunned to get through immediately (I’d been expecting it to be permanently engaged) only to hear the automated message “You are currently 1,726 in the queue…”.  I was absolutely determined though, so I stayed on the line, simultaneously refreshing the website until eventually I got through and snagged two tickets!  I’ve been looking forward to it (and counting down the days!) ever since.


That date was yesterday and I was so excited all day.  I’ve heard such good feedback about previous years at Forest Live and knew that it would be a pretty special experience to be present at a concert in the middle of the forest as opposed to in an enormous stadium.  I’ve been to concerts before (Jason Donovan was my very first experience of a gig, with my Dad(!) and then Bryan Adams with my best friend when we were teenagers), and the husband and I went to V Festival together in the earlier stages of our relationship pre-children, but nothing like this.


The husband and I eleven (!) years ago at V Festival, looking very young and carefree

I’ve been wanting to go to a gig for years as there is so much music out there that I enjoy, but either I’ve not been quick enough off the mark to secure tickets or we’ve not been in a position to afford it.  That’s why it went on my 40 Things Before I’m 40 list, otherwise I would never have got round to it.

So here it is, my write-up of our experience watching James Bay at Forest Live

#32: GO TO A GIG

The venue for the concert was Birches Valley, a place we visit regularly a/ because it’s beautiful and we’re very lucky to have it pretty much on our doorstep and b/ because it’s an awesome location for the girls to have adventures and explore outdoors.  Birches Valley is part of Cannock Chase, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).  Every year the Forestry Commission of Cannock Chase hold Forest Live, a series of concerts showcasing headline acts in forests across the UK, including Thetford Forest in Suffolk and Sherwood Pines Forest in Nottinghamshire.  Previous acts at Cannock Chase have included Tom Odell, Robert Plant and Paloma Faith.

We were blessed with an absolutely beautiful evening – the morning had started out with torrential rain but by lunchtime the sun had come out and the blue skies and warmth continued through the rest of the day until sunset.  I’m so glad it stayed dry – I’ll admit that I was dreading it raining and having to deal with all the mud and being cold and wet.  I did plenty of camping during my year in Australia after college and vowed that after that I’d be conducting all future adventures in at least a little bit of comfort.  So needless to say I was super happy that the sun shone for us.  The forecast is looking a bit soggy for those going to watch The Kaiser Chiefs on Sunday – I’m keeping my fingers crossed it stays dry for you.

We took a picnic blanket to sit on, a couple of hoodies for warmth and that was it.  The husband bought coffee and doughnuts from one of the many delicious-smelling food stalls.  I decided against taking my DSLR because ‘professional photography’ was strictly prohibited and while I’m certainly not a pro (yet), my camera is and I didn’t want to risk it being confiscated.  So all the photos you see here are from my phone.  Other concert-goers had gone all out – camping chairs, picnic baskets, blankets and more… I even saw one group with a duvet!  There was a real mix of people too – couples, groups of friends, families with kids – it was a great atmosphere.  There was plenty of space for everyone to spread out too – so much better than being jammed into tiny, uncomfortable seats.

The warm-up act was a three-piece girl band called Joseph (named after their grandfather who lived in the tiny town of Joseph in Oregon, which, coincidentally, is where my Dad’s ex-wife (who I’m still in touch with) runs a B&B.  Small world!).  They were the perfect combination of being both chilled out and energising at the same time and their 45-minute-set was just right to get everyone in the mood for the main event.

Needless to say, James Bay was incredible.  You know how some artists don’t quite sound the same (or as good!) when you hear them live compared to when you listen to them on CD?  James Bay absolutely does NOT fall under this category.  His raw talent and obvious passion for his music lit up the stage for the entire hour and a half, with the whole crowd on our feet singing out loud, clapping along and dancing/swaying as appropriate.

He performed all the songs from his album, plus a few that I didn’t know (and am already looking forward to hearing more of).  He even added in his own version of Elvis’ ‘I can’t help falling in love with you’, which was wonderful.  My personal favourites were ‘Let It Go’ (not the Frozen version!), ‘Move Together’, ‘Best Fake Smile’, ‘Craving’ and ‘Incomplete’.

In short, he was amazing and the husband and I loved every single second of it.  I’m already looking forward to next year and wondering who will be performing – it’s an experience I’ll be more than happy to have time and time again.


Our view of the stage


A rare photo of me!


Coffee and doughnuts for the husband


The warm-up band: Joseph


What a beautiful place to hold a concert


Obligatory husband/wife date-night selfie!


Having a wander round the venue


A big crowd, but it still somehow managed to feel intimate and personal


Pretty pink sky accompanying one of the slower songs









Please note: I have not been asked (or paid!) to write this post.  All images, thoughts, ideas, feelings and opinions are my own.  We had a fantastic time and I wanted to document it as part of our story.

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