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Festival Review – Electric Castle, Romania

“What are you going to write about?” asked Alex. I thought about it for a second and when I responded, he looked surprised. “I don’t know, because it hasn’t happened yet”, I smiled as I melted into my seat. Lucy and I had just stopped the wrong bus in its tracks and bundled ourselves on, not so elegantly pulling our suitcase and bumping into poor unsuspecting passengers on the way to a couple of empty seats at the back. The boiling hot bus, which seemed to have rolled straight out of the 70’s, was full of subdued festival goers on the way to one of Romania’s biggest festivals, Electric Castle. And Alex? He was my new Romanian friend from Romania’s non-official second capital, Cluj-Napoca.

It was the truth. I could have guessed and said that I was going to interview a few bands, or that I was there to review specific bands, but no. I was there to review the experience – and if my previous festival experiences are anything to go by, I knew deep down that anything could happen. And despite having not done the ‘proper’ festival experience, camping and all, for the best part of a decade (where has the time gone?), I can’t see this being any different.

For five nights, me, Lucy and our friend Joe retreated to a camping hotel site, armed with a booking confirmation for a very comfortable bell tent, complete with blow up beds, bed sheets, a table and a bean bag. And for those five nights we sort of managed to gloss over the fact that we were camping right next to what was an almost 24 hour techno stage (the bass was earth shattering). Despite raging hangovers and non glorious sauna like temperatures firmly in place, we all felt glad that we didn’t have to trek back to a hotel in Cluj each night.

I had literally no idea what to expect from Electric Castle. But I just hoped that it wouldn’t be similar to a festival that Lucy and I went to twelve years ago in a Belgium. Dour festival, we thought, was enough to put us off going to a festival abroad for life, as it was the worst run event with ridiculously bad facilities.

So it was like both of our birthdays and Christmas had come at once when we started mooching. Proper showers and toilets, a (free!) laundromat, a charging station, lockers, a fancy coffee bar and… wait for it… the best bit, a fully functioning Lidl, complete with bakery and everything you could ever wish for during a 5 day festival. The supermarket even came with a BBQ area and if you couldn’t be arsed to BBQ your own stuff, all you needed to do was buy the meat and they would cook it for you. What was EVEN better, was that it was dirt cheap.

The festival site itself was a similar size to Lovebox and featured a good range of stages, some on show, others hidden in the trees and bushes, willing you to go and find them. The main stage had more screens attached to it than I could count and one of the best festival sound systems I have come across. One of my favourite areas, the Silent Disco, was situated in the trees and there wasn’t a day I didn’t retreat to it to play music channel roulette. To top it all off, the festival, which incorporated music, technology, art installations and performing arts, was situated within the grounds of the beautiful semi derelict 15th century Banffy Castle.

In terms of the music offering, I wouldn’t say there is something for everyone, but alternative music fans, especially techno / dance music fans, were seen to be having a field day. DJs Maceo Plex, Claptone and Dimension rubbed line up shoulders with bands such as Slaves, Counterfeit, Younger and Architects. And not one of the headliners disappointed on the main stage. Moderat’s light show, spine tingling electronic sounds and effortlessly cool silhouettes drew me in so much that I only caught the last song by Slaves who sadly played at the same time, while later in the night Paul Van Dyke’s light show drew me like a moth to a flame from the other side of the festival site. Alt-J, well I’m not much of a fan so their set definitely wasn’t a highlight, but I hear on good authority from fans that they played a belter. And Franz Ferdinand… well, you may have already read about that in another post.


Photo Credit: www.gigwise.com

The festival, which over the course of the weekend sees 130,000 punters pass through the gates, felt comfortable every step of the way. It helped that we seemed to be incredibly lucky with the weather – apparently the last two years had been a complete wash out, but the only time I had to don a poncho that volunteers eagerly handed out for free one morning, was when I was inside at an Alt-J press conference. Yes, I did ask a question, and no, there are no plans to write a book / make a film / put on an art exhibition as a collective band.


For those who wanted a little bit of extra luxury, the Mastercard VIP tent sat looking pretty on the right hand side of the main stage and featured table seating, proper cocktails, an amazing view of the main stage and a heated pool, which of course we ended up in one night, emerging from 20 minutes later with very soggy clothes.


Another band that deserves a mention is Slamboree. I have been off the festival circuit for a long time, so admit I had never heard this name before. But it became very apparent who they were on our second day, as the energy exuded out of their bones to create a fun loving party atmosphere like no other, both on and off stage. If you haven’t seen them yet, I urge you to do so immediately. Also keep your eye out for a post coming soon, where I talk to the band’s originator, Mike Freear.

Have I mentioned the prices yet? This festival is cheap. And when I say cheap, I mean it costs around £2 for a beer, and around £4 for a slap up feast. And if £4 is a little expensive, you can always go to Lidl and get a 20p pastry, or a 60p slice of pizza. We all know my favourite things in life are music, food, dancing, meeting new legends and hanging out with friends, so I was happy as a pig in shite. Thanks, Electric Castle.

Until next time.

All photos taken by Editor, Sarah Kemp (unless stated otherwise)

For more information, head to the Electric Castle website

 

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Recipe: Za’atar Baked Cauliflower with Harissa Garlic Yoghurt

It has been a bloody long time since I posted a recipe. Why? Honestly, I have been very lazy at trying new things. It isn’t that I haven’t been cooking – I still take a weekly trip to the market on Saturday mornings, but for the last few months I have been cooking the exact same thing every week. Boring, I know, but I haven’t had the head space to think about other options. Until now.

This dish is inspired by one of the most delicious things I tasted when I lived in Melbourne. I worked as a waitress in a cute little neighbourhood restaurant called Huxtable, which sadly closed down not long after I left. This cauliflower with harissa yoghurt had been on the menu since the restaurant opened in 2012. And remained one of the favourites until they closed their doors. Try it and you’ll see why.

The only real difference between their version and my version is that they deep fried it. I’m not nutty enough to buy a deep frier for my house, or even attempt to do it in a pan, so I oven roasted it for ages in olive oil instead.

Ingredients

1 large cauliflower – chopped into florets
100ml extra virgin olive oil
8 large garlic cloves – peeled
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 tsbp za’atar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Coriander (as much or as little as you like)

For the yoghurt
100ml Greek yoghurt
2 tsp harissa paste
1 small garlic clove, grated

Method

Pre heat oven to 475 degrees F, 245 C, Gas 8

1. Place cauliflower into large roasting tray with the garlic. Drizzle over olive oil and cover tightly with foil
2. Place in oven and bake for 15 mins
3. Take out, toss and place back in the oven uncovered for another 15 minutes
4. Take out, sprinkle with za’atar, toss and place back in the oven uncovered for another 20 minutes, or until golden brown
5. Meanwhile, mix yoghurt, garlic and harissa paste in a small bowl
6. When ready, take out of the oven, assmemble on plate, place a dollop of yoghurt on top and sprinkle with torn coriander

Electric Castle review: Have Franz Ferdinand still got it?

If any of you saw this post three months ago, you’ll know that I have just arrived back in the UK following a five night extravaganza at one of Romania’s biggest and best festivals, Electric Castle. You may also know that as well as being treated to a massive amount of world class DJs and acts, the band I was most looking forward to seeing was, you guessed it, Franz Ferdinand.

Although I’m going to make you wait a few days to hear ALL about the festival and just how incredible it was (it really did surpass any expectation that I had) I’m going to tell you about Franz Ferdinand and the first show I had seen them play in four years.

Sadly, I wasn’t as fresh as I would have hoped, having spent the previous four days and nights partying and sleeping in a tent that had earth shattering bass streaming through it 24 hours a day. But there was no way I was going to let this deter me and before I knew it, I was being ushered into the photo pit in front of the main stage, along with fellow photo pass holders, each brandishing enviable equipment. The stage lit up, a colourful Franz Ferdinand logo adorned with shooting stars, the band energetically ran on stage and as the music began, us photographers danced around each other, moving up and down, side to side, effortlessly managing not to bump into each other.

After the three-song limit, we were thrust back into the crowd, and I spent the rest of the set dancing to songs I have been singing along to in front of the band for the last thirteen years. Earlier in the week I dismissed new members Dino Bardot (guitar) and Julian Corrie (keys, vocals and guitar) without even giving them a chance. To me, Nick McCarthy was an integral member in the band, his unmistakable high tones and jagged rhythm guitar enjoyable every step of the way.

Questioning my stubbornness (is it because I don’t like change, perhaps?) I realised that I can’t deny that Bardot and Corrie really did prove to be a good replacement for McCarthy. And looking at the outfits and lighting during the show, I wondered whether the fact that Bob Hardy, dressed in all black, hiding away in the shadows, whilst Bardot and Corrie wore loud shirts and danced around in the spotlight, was a deliberate attempt to show that this band is not about to give up and that they really are just as good without one of their founding members.

Franz Ferdinand clearly has longevity. Since forming in 2002, the band has recorded four studio albums; the first two released in consecutive years, but with four year breaks between the third and fourth. The fact that ‘Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action’ was released in 2013 makes me excited at what is potentially to come this year. Not many other bands that I obsessed over as an excitable teen are still around today and none are still able to headline festivals all across the world.

But despite enjoying a sing along with thousands of other revellers, my negative mind just wouldn’t pipe down. As Kapranos drawled the lyrics “let it go” in his soft Scottish lilt during new song ‘Always Ascending’, I thought to myself that maybe I should finally let this band go. Since I first saw them opening the NME tour when I was a fresh-eyed seventeen year old, they have been firmly in the number 1 spot on my favourite band list. But despite enjoying the show, I just didn’t feel the same. Was it that they didn’t have the same presence on a big festival stage as they did in the small intimate venues I’m used to seeing them in? Or could it be that the band isn’t as accessible to me as they once were? I don’t know, but as these thoughts travelled through my head, the song changed pace, becoming more like one of my ultimate favourite Franz songs ‘Van Tango’ with each chord and drum smash. It was almost brilliant and I thought perhaps they could draw me back in again. I’m unsure, but I’ll await their new album with open-minded patience.

As is usual with every time I have seen Franz Ferdinand play over the last few years, they ended with crescendo building ‘This Fire’ and before we knew it, they were gone. Months of waiting for a solitary hour. And an hour that left me questioning what is next for me musically. Will I ever feel that way about a band again? Are the feelings you feel for the first band you ever truly obsess over, the same as that of a first love? Who the heck knows, but it has made me determined to watch more and listen to more new music, as I’m sure that diamond in the rough is out there somewhere.

Head to the Electric Castle website for more info on the festival

All photos taken by Sarah Kemp, Editor, Life’s Loves

 

Brixton Beach

What
Brixton Beach Summer Pop-Up

© Photography by Jake Davis (fb.com/hungryvisuals)

© Photography by Jake Davis (fb.com/hungryvisuals)

Where
Brixton Beach Rooftop Pope’s Road,
Brixton London,
SW9 8JH

Experience
Brixton Beach is back, and just in time for the heat wave! In the words of our favourite Wham boys ‘all that’s missing in the sea, but don’t worry you can suntan’! Or sit in the shaded huts, whatever.
On a roof in the heart of Brixton Market, Brixton Beach hosts some cracking food stalls. Among them are my favourite New Yorkers from Del74 serving up tacos and margaritas to liven up your beach trip. Del74 has a permanent restaurant on my road in Clapton which I rave about SO much I was given two ‘vouchers’ from my pals for my birthday (but shhh…it’s my little secret!)
I arrived before my friend, but took the opportunity to begin my wander around the rooftop. It was a feast for the eyes and ears. The DJ was playing Cuban beats, the sun was shining and the cocktail list was tropical. I ordered two beers from the bar, grabbed my friend from the entrance and sat in a wooden open booth to bond with some other newbies to the beach. The four of us shared some delights from Mac to the Future (mac ‘n’ cheese with tata tots) and sliders from STAKEhaus which were jaw-droolingly good. We followed the sun to the other side of the roof to end our evening conveniently next to the Chandon Bubbles bar.
If you like beats, sun, sand and street food then look no further. There is too much going on this summer at Brixton Beach to talk about – check out the diary here.

Cost
£10 will get you grub
£5 will get you beer

Good Luck from Bill Nighy – Vitality 10,000


There are some moments in life that leave me speechless with their perfection. This morning I had of those moments. I woke up, had a shower and made myself some toast with peanut butter and banana. Afterwards I pulled on my running gear, grabbed my backpack and headed to the tube.

I was on my way to the Vitality 10,000 race in Central London. And in all honesty I wasn’t exactly in the mood to run. I arrived at Green Park and, along with 100’s of other runners, queued to exit the station. As I shuffled towards the escalator, I saw a lone man walking down the escalator on the other side. As he edged closer, I recognised the face as the one and only Bill Nighy. Being alone I had no one to tell and no one around me seemed to notice.

My face lit up and as I opened my mouth to tell anyone that would listen, he caught my eye, nodded, winked, blew me a kiss, mouthed ‘good luck’ at me and carried on walking. It was as if he was secretly saying, “I know you know who I am, but I don’t want anyone else to notice, so I’m going to acknowledge it secretly.”

What I loved most about this little encounter was that, based on what I had read about Bill Nighy’s brush with fans in the past, this was 100% his style. I seriously hope he walked away in the knowledge that he made my day, if not my year. And boy did that help kick me into gear for my race.

I arrived around an hour early, which gave me time to meander around the grounds, before joining a long snaking toilet queue and finally dropping off my bag. The whole event was very organised and I made it to the start line with a couple of minutes to spare. I had given my time as a sub 50-minute 10k, so I was at the front of the pack and as a result there was limited congestion once we set off.

I don’t think I have ever run in such hot and humid weather and this made me nervous. It’s no secret that heat and me do not go well together and literally as soon as I set off I was thirsty and counting the steps to the first water station at 3km. It came quickly and I was soon sipping and pouring the contents of the bottle over my head.

Every time I run a 10k race, I groan and grunt all the way around. If anyone who has experienced this happens to be reading, I’m sorry. I have tried all distances and find 10k the hardest. I would even go so far as saying that I found the London Marathon easier. Why? Because I haven’t learnt to pace myself for a 10k yet and always run off much faster than I should. By the time I get half way, I’m cursing myself, wishing I’d have set off slower. Today was no different.

The route however was perfect for sightseeing. I live and work in Central London, but even I get tingles when I see sights such as Admiralty Arch, Nelson’s Column, St Paul’s Cathedral, Mansion House, the Bank of England, the Old Bailey, Somerset House, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. I have to admit though – I didn’t see all of the above sights because, and if any of you have ever experienced a race like this, you’ll know what I’m talking about – my mind is usually concentrating on how horrible my body feels, rather than how lovely the sights are.

Having struggled with injuries during my Marathon training, I was slightly nervous that my IT band, or shin splints would rear their ugly head, but no. The only pain I had to endure was a mental one – counting each km, as each one seemed to be longer than the last.

I always find km’s 6 and 7 to be the hardest, and once I passed the 8km mark I sped up, leaving only a small amount of energy for my last km. And as I approached the last 100m, I looked at my watch and felt a pang of terror, similar to how I felt at the London Marathon when I saw the seconds ticking by towards the 4 hour mark (I came in at 3:59:57). Today I wanted to get sub 49 minutes and kept glancing at my watch as it edged closer, each second ticking by quicker than I hoped. At the last minute I found a little bit of much needed energy in the tank and sprinted, as fast as I could, to cross the line at 48:55. I did it. And after picking up my medal and race t-shirt, was off to be pampered with a free massage, hosted by Urban Massage.

I want to thank Magdalena for giving me 20 minutes of pure massage bliss and a few exercise tips to strengthen my legs ready for my next race. Once done, I wandered out of Green Park, down into the tube and smiled as I retraced the steps where my magical Bill Nighy moment had happened earlier in the day.

The breast time at KERB – The Bucket List

“Who of my friends likes chicken and is free on Saturday?” read my Facebook status last week. Purposely cryptic, I wanted to dangle the proverbial chicken wing and see who would take a chunky bite. Unsurprisingly a lot of questions followed and after a short time, I had a willing participant.


Jasey and I arrived at KERB – The Bucket List on Saturday night, tummies empty and a severe raging thirst threatening to ruin the chances of us swapping niceties until fulfilled.

Luckily we were ushered straight in, given our chicken buckets, tokens and free chicken cards and let loose. We pushed our way through the crowds to sort the first problem and minutes later we were hydrating with a can of Beavertown’s finest Session IPA.

Only once we had started sipping did we settle in to really check out our surroundings. Situated in West Handyside Canope, next to the swankiest Waitrose I had ever seen on one side, and the industrial exclusivity of Central St Martins on the other side, this two day festival featured eight fried chicken stalls, a couple of bars, a small seating area and some very loud music; not to mention a pen featuring robotic remote control operated chickens.

The idea? To taste a chicken dish from each of the vendors, decide on your favourite and vote on your way out. Easy, right? Yes. Who would have thought there would be so many different variations of fried chicken? Surely, it’s all the same, right? WRONG. Over the course of three hours, we politely queued for each stall and duly tasted every single bit of free chicken that was on offer to us.

We started off so well with Mother Flipper’s Korean Spiced Wings. The next few went downhill, reaching rock bottom with Only Jerkin’s strips of ginger beer battered toughness with sickly lumpy Jerk gravy. After being so impressed by Mother Flipper’s Korean goodness, it was hard to eat, and as I don’t like leaving food, I picked out the tough innards and threw the exterior in the bin. Sorry guys, but you won’t be receiving my token!

Another highlight was the Szechuan miso tenders with fermented green chilli hot sauce from Bill or Beak, but there was only one clear winner for both of us on the night. We stood at the bar, took a big chomp on our Masa fried pieces with guava glaze and habanero mayo and jumped around on the spot, faces squirming as the heat continued to rise, and rise, and rise. I looked over to my left, mouth on fire, face red as a sunburnt Brit in Marbella, to see ‘habonero chili mayonnaise’ plastered all over the boards. Oh. Neither of us had read that bit. Oops. Laughing, we blew furiously and gulped our beer to try and calm down the heat. And although we had our faced blown off by the guys at Petare, they undeniably made the best tasting chicken of them all.

After what felt like more chicken than I had eaten in years, countless beers and a dance to the Maratchi version of Spice up Your Life, we were well and truly battered, so we popped our token into the box and clucked off into the night.

I woke up this morning and it seemed many others also placed their token in Petare’s box and they were crowned KERB Bucket List ’17 Colonels. CONGRATULATIONS GUYS.

Bridget Jones does Snowbombing


“I feel like Bridget Jones does skiing”, I mutter to my friend as we near the top of the gondola escalator, skis ever so elegantly slipping out of my grip and ski boots digging into my shin causing me to walk like John Wayne in his worst form. She turns around, giggles, and promptly agrees with me. “Let’s do this”, she said. And as those three empowering words escaped her mouth, I knew that the next few days were going to be unforgettable.

You may be wondering how I ended up at a banging dance music festival, with skiing as an additional activity no less, three weeks before the London Marathon. Well, let me tell you. I’m a weak ‘yes’ person who will not turn a fun opportunity down. And when I received the text asking if I was up for a week of two of my favourite things combined, music and skiing, I just had to say yes. Five days of hungover skiing and five epic Jäeger Bomb fuelled nights of debauchery. What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

I have to put in a disclaimer here; I didn’t quite make it to see everything the festival had to offer. Over the course of the week, revelers are treated to an incredible amount of activities, spread out across the resort and up on the slopes. Things I missed included the street party, chair lift speed dating, Voga (a fusion of Yoga and Vogueing) and the Smirnoff Arctic Disco, but I hear they were pretty shit hot.

So what happens when two kindred spirits collide and decide to go to Snowbombing together? Sadly I can’t divulge exactly what happens, but let me tell you this – they have an inordinate amount of fun, create cute little rituals, partake in ab-defining laughter for days on end, talk to nearly everyone they meet, help each other out in that time of need (there’s always one) and of course come to sleep deprived blows in the final hours, making up with ‘I love you’s’ almost instantaneously.

Before heading out to the Tyrolean Alps, I only so much as glanced at the line up a couple of times. And there were two acts that stood out – Mike Skinner and Pat Sharp. I never thought I would write those two names in the same sentence, but that slightly surreal mixture completely epitomises the Snowbombing experience. One day you can be dancing to serious house music, the next you can be engulfed in a mosh pit singing along to the Antarctic Monkeys, and the next you can be watching Pat Sharp DJ whilst dancing the Macarena in the Fun Haus.

And that’s just the evening. In the daytime, you can ski with your friend one day in your own ski suit; the next you can borrow an 80s all in one masterpiece and ski without your friend, while she picks up Eddie the Eagle on a ski lift, only to spend the day pootling down the slopes with him and Pat Sharp. Not to mention skiing down to Rompa’s Reggae Shack for a spot of lunch and a boogie with Mr. Motivator.

This is Snowbombing, so the more surreal the better. At midnight that night, my friend received an invite to ski with Eddie and his random clan again the next day. And let me tell you, having had an eye watering two hours’ sleep and no chance for the alcohol levels to subside, skiing with a group of people that didn’t know each other, led by Eddie the Eagle, was very surreal.

So, how do you get there? Getting to a ski resort is never straightforward and my lack of planning related anxiety was very appropriately fuelled by the fact that neither of us decided to plan our travel very well. Luckily my friend had read the pick up location for the shuttle bus at Munich airport, but without tickets we were unsure whether we would be able to get on it. To my surprise we weren’t the only idiots to rock up without a ticket and with a short wait, we were given the last two seats on the bus. Result. The way back wasn’t so lucky and we ended up paying £80 each for a shared taxi to the airport. Trust me though, reader, at that point it felt like the best £80 I had ever spent.

Right now I’m sitting here having completed the London Marathon almost a week ago. Back when I started training, I wanted to complete it in 4 hours. I will admit I felt like I might regret my skiing festival trip, undoing all of the months of hard training I put myself through. But on Sunday 23rd April 2017, I pounded the streets of London and finished one of the world’s most famous Marathon courses in 3 hours, 59 minutes and 57 seconds. So what does this tell me…? I think I would be stupid not to include unforgettable festival holidays into my training plan from now on.

For more information, head to the Snowbombing website.