Bolkov, Poland, July 13, 2019
A month after the rather successful gig at Wave Gottic Treffen in Leipzig, my band UK Decay arose at ridiculous o-clock on the morning of July 13 to set off for Poland. We found ourselves at Luton Airport which to all intent and purpose resembled a building site and headed for check in for the early Wizzair flight to Wroclaw Airport.
We landed at 11am and we drove an hour to the Krokus Hotel in Kamienna Góra where we were staying for the event. Our wonderful host’s there cooked us a wonderful local Polish meal after which we took to our rooms for a short afternoon siesta. I had been up since 3.30am and we had to rest as much as possible for our performance. I guess i got about an hour and a bit nap, better than nothing! At 6pm the minibus arrived to drive us the ten miles to Bolkov and the festival. Apparently the small town of Bolkov does not have enough accommodation for the huge Castle Party Festival.
Finally we arrived at the small medieval market town and noted the old stone houses, most of which seemed worse for wear and in need of a lick of paint here and there but the overall aura was charming. We turned up a narrow cobbled street and then we found ourselves navigating slowly uphill through a throng of wild black and sometimes colorful dress. Eventually we arrived at an area set with a multitude of stalls selling food, beer and fashion accoutrements of all different shapes and sizes. We were stopped by an official who escorted us to the Festival office round the corner. At this point we had our first view of the castle walls and tower looming impressively above us.
Festival wrist bands now in place three nice chaps took our heavy cases and guitars and led the way up the Castle and from there to our changing rooms which it turned out was high up in a tower behind the taller main tower.
The Castle reminded me of the classic Norman Motte and Bailey Castle which was then rebuilt in stone in places like Wales by King Edward to hold the welsh to check. Built on a high outcrop of stone there was a classic ribbon wall surrounding the Bailey in which area hosted the large stage and crowd. This then led to the inner castle fortifications surrounding the inner halls and towers. So as we walked past the side of the stage we looked across at the impressive audience gathered. Unfortunately Ed our bassist had twisted his back the week previously and the climb up to the castle was taking it’s toll. Now we had a flight of a rough stone block staircase to navigate with the ‘steps’ some 10 to 12 inches (25 cms) apart to take us into the now roofless great hall. Quite a climb even if you are fit and healthy, Ed struggled along but he was in pain. We crossed the hall where several folk were drifting about, perhaps in other bands or working. We passed a row of cannons to get to the other side and now had yet another flight of stone steps to clamber up, to an open hallway that featured a small trebuchet .
Next to this was our changing rooms where a host of people were milling about and to the side was a spread of food and soft drinks people were dipping into.
We found a space and started prepping our stuff for the show. Looking around there were museum exhibits and information boards in Polish. From what I could gather the Castle seemed to have been built by the polish version of the Knights Templar (Tuetonic Knights?) I promised myself I would look into the history later. Meanwhile it was getting closer to our performance time. I looked out of the windows, three of them with magnificent views of the local landscape. There were mountains not so far away and in context it seems Bolkov and the castle are in the foothills of these mountains. Over to the right the sky was looking foreboding. Up until then it was cloudy with warm sunny spells , now a downpour was on it’s way. The band that was onstage before us was still playing when the clouds burst forth with a heavy downpour. Most of the crowd ran for cover and I felt really sorry for the band. The rain continued to pour, the light went dour and dimmed. A word from the promoter said we had to await the storm passing over. Eventually a few minutes before we were due to start our performance the promoter gave us the all clear and we made our way carefully across sodden cobbles, puddles and muddy patches towards the stage.
We went through a stone lined tunnel entrance and then entered the soggy auditorium which was still largely vacated and quickly started setting up our equipment. The stage manager was keen to get us playing as the storm had caused a considerable 15 minute delay to the proceedings so after a very quick line check and with the audience returning , we opened our set with UK Decay’s classic “Shake Em Up” from the album, ‘New Hope For The Dead’
Time goes on away-day once in performance mode, from my perspective, it was a huge stage to fill and my supplied amp (Marshall JTS) seemed somewhat distant and I struggled a bit to get the guitar to ‘sing’ the feedback especially as I managed at the recent Leipzig gig. Having said that I soon adapted as the songs of our set passed through. Aside from a couple of minor cock ups most of the songs were performed really well, If I say so!
Abbo was with the aid of his Iphone was communicating in Polish with the crowd which they seemed to love! God knows what he was saying but hey, good on him! Before long the last few songs were on the radar the crowd had returned and seemed huge! There were people on the parapets watching us and the sun was setting in the distance. And then we were on the last song. The promoter was looking at his watch, I had no idea of what time it was but he leans over to me and said “last song”, I shouted that to Abbo. We had two songs left on the list, we played through the first which was “Unexpected Guest”. The promoter said that was it. The message didn’t get through to Ray who started to tap the would be final song but Abbo stopped him and we left the stage to thunderous applause.
So we then packed up our gear, chatted to people and caught up with a few beers. Time to chill before the return to our hotel. At midnight the minibus took us back so we could maybe get a couple hours shut eye and a shower before leaving for the airport once more at 3am. We then drove across back road Poland during the night about 70 miles at sometimes eye watering speeds in two vehicles. At one point the van in front swerved and we braked sharply to avoid a wild Boar. Finally we got to the airport and all the rigamarole and eventually flew back to Luton, where we had to wait over an hour for our baggage reclaim. Tut Tut Luton Airport ! I can only assume it will all be so much better when they finish the building works.
So I got back home at 10am, that is 31 hour after I left, what a day!