Brownstock. 2011.

by Phil Saunders

Three years ago, Tom Nelson and I where finishing our finals at Uni and preparing ourselves for the Holy Grail that is the London lifestyle.

Fast forward to today and the picture is completely different; living at home with parents, organising leaving balls, applying for visas,  writing blogs [or attempting to], and of course, practise excursions for the big journey; starting in Mar 2012.  


We’ve been like French men feeding Geese; but in case you don’t know already, next March we are leaving London on our bikes, and pedalling around the world in search of the ultimate musical experience.  So,  if you aren’t already throwing up Foie Gras, check out the rest of the web-site and read on to find out about our first adventure together.

We thought it wise to have at least have one practise before we left; we need to make sure that we could A) Cycle with a loaded bike B) Set up camp together and C) Write about it afterwards, in a way that doesn’t make you fall asleep.
On Friday 2nd September an opportunity to fulfil the above ambitions arose in my local County of Essexshire. The brief: cycle 60 miles to a specific location, set up camp, have a beer and enjoy music, essentially the our day-to-day life whilst we are away. Unfortunately, completing these tasks without incident proved to be more stressful and awkward then putting together an IKEA bed…using nothing but chopsticks.  

Packing panniers, prepping bikes, loading equipment [safely], cycling; all things that will become second nature to us after a few months of practise. Regrettably, we haven’t been on the road for a few months, and, in a rather dangerous and obvious fashion, our bike touring virginity was soon revealed to a few thousand people.

After 2 hours of prep and packing, we finally hit the road; one mile later, our oversized tentdecided it didn’t want to be with us anymore. Apparently, it was upset that Tom had forgotten his bungee ties; so like a fat petulant kid, it jumped off Tom’s bike and said its goodbyes.  Unfortunately for him, the one tie Tom had managed to wrap itself around the tent. Holding on for dear life and being dragged along it tried to take Tom and his trusty steed with him. Unfortunately for us, this happened at rush hour, in the middle of a road, whilst on the busiest round-about in my town. 

Causing a traffic jam, whilst wearing matching t-shirts, in front of thousands of people, might sound like an embarrassing situation. It could have only got worse if I had asked Tom if we should ring my Mum and get her to pick us up…Luckily, that didn’t happen and we composed ourselves, re-attached our equipment and got back on the road, making sure that everything was attached securely.

Soon, we were on the country roads and we realised exactly why we are doing this journey by bike; it gives you freedom that you don’t get in a car or a plane. There are endless beautiful places on Earth, and some people are lucky enough to visit lots of them, but the places in between A and B can sometimes be just as interesting and beautiful.

Winding through country roads, searching for pubs, eating blueberries that aren’t actually blueberries; these were the highlights from the rest of our journey. We cycled next to one another for hours, chatting about anything, taking in the scenery and, dare I say it, enjoying ourselves.

Finally we arrived at our first pedal powered festival; thank God that our journey had gone OK and the stresses from earlier had dissipated into 3 pints of larger and the Essex countryside. If that process of diffusion had not happened, Tom and I may have had our first bitch fight.

Tom, having already forgotten his bungee ties, decided that purchasing a ticket prior to a festival was something that only little girls did. So, in an unexpected twist of fate, we were presented with a fine opportunity to test another skill we will require whilst away…blagging it. Unlike riding bikes, this is something that both of us have had previous experience at; after some heated negotiations we obtained a camping ticket and were privately escorted to an area to safely lock up our bikes. Now the partying could begin.

Forget V Festival. He’s gone on holiday for the next few years; this festival is the one for Essex music lovers. However, having lived in South Woodham, the town where the festival is based, my opinion might be construed as slightly bias.
Brownstock. 2011. A fair cry from the original Brownstock which consisted of a few friends, a couple of guitars and a campfire. OK, it’s not a Glastonbury, but it is more than a breath of fresh air in comparison to the usual Essex night life I have so often frequented.

No queues for the toilets, lots of space to enjoy the music, fantastic and varied food, good security and, quite frankly, an unbelievable line-up considering this festivals humble beginnings.

Athlete, Missing Andy, Shy FX, Example, Ms Dynamite, Pendulum, New Town Kings, to name but a few. Every act treated the crowd of 4000 people with the respect the festival demanded. Considering the relatively small size of the crowd each performance created an atmosphere that rose and rose throughout the night; hitting a crescendo when Example came out on the Saturday night. He lived up to his reputation and put on a fantastic show; performing all of his hits, mixed in with some old school classics.

It was however a band called The Milk that stole the show for Tom and me.
They are, at the moment, relatively unknown in comparison to the number one record holder, Example. However, their performance of Danger, their overall command of the stage and their interaction with the crowd, meant that they w

ere, without a doubt, the highlight of the weekend. If you ever see them, look out for the Basildon soul clap…

Other highlights included the silent disco area, the skate park, the free runners, and, without a shadow of a doubt, the surprise performance from X-factor star Matt Cardel.

We used our ‘blagging’ skills once again, we managed to get press passes, allowing us to go back stage and interview some of the bands; the results of which will gradually precipitate through the semi-permeable membranes that are our videos; the Brownstock video should be ready by the end of October and the photos are already live. After speaking to the bands back stage and asking them what the ultimate music experience is, it became quite clear that is going to be harder to find than we had originally thought. Many of the bands, quite modestly admitting that we had already found it, and we needn’t travel any further.


All in all, the weekend was a fantastic insight into forthcoming journey; we actually learnt a lot about ourselves, our bikes and the challenges that lie ahead. Not only that, it was an amazing festival, surroundedby beautiful countryside, good people and unbelievable music.



So, next year, please, take a few days and familiarise yourself with the individually quirky, the beautifully boutique, the star filled festival, that is, Brownstock.

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Posted on September 24, 2011, in General and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Foraging a good food source. As a point I learnt that you can eat the FLESH of Yew berries – but DO NOT eat the big black stone in the middle – very poisonous, but the berries would make a nice jus – slimy but sweet!

  2. As a safety precaution – read this site on what berries are good to eat, & make your own judgement.

    http://www.countrylovers.co.uk/wfs/wfsberries.htm

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