FIESTA! a fantastic tune by Jem Finer and Shane MacGowan, based on a fairground melody from Almeria, Southern Spain and made big by The Pogues. Dirty, scummy, fag in the mouth, bad teeth, eyelids half shut, with anarchic leaping, yelling and bawling to drive the crowd wild.
We’ve played FIESTA! in sunny carnival parades from Manchester to small market towns, played it after dark through cobbled streets for Lantern Parades up and down Cumbria, indoors on a late night in full spotlight, on top of the Pennines, by the lake for 5000 sweating marathon runners, in aristocratic castle grounds with eagles flying overhead, in a 14th century graveyard over afternoon tea, in Merchant City Glasgow and at village fetes.
Blast Furness street band played FIESTA! This summer at Solfest, a small festival in NW Cumbria. 12 women and 6 men [ including half a dozen grandparents ], in our black and red costumes. No band uniform – every outfit different. Some immaculately tailored, sexy tutus in black and red net, outrageous tights, fabulous hats, sparkles, glitter, elegant and CLEAN. Clean hair, clean shaven, bright eyes and smiles. Such smiles. Brass and percussion shoaling through the crowd, making contact. We always get people dancing the moment we play FIESTA! They love it. But there’s always a tiny regret. We don’t quite exhume the disgusting anarchy of The Pogues.
But for 6 unforgettable minutes, we did!
After our good set to an energetic crowd, playing on the broad and breezy hilltop of the Festival site with its huge skies and mountains in the distance, we depart. Still playing, we funnel towards the exit leading back to our camp site. It’s down a dip and up the other side. Thousands of campers have trodden grass so flat it vanishes into the mud. It smells dank and the shadowy bushes to each side have an unmistakeable odour.
Our fans don’t want it to finish. They follow, dancing behind us, cans of lager in hand. We turn and face them and play Homecoming, our last tune. There are small cheap tents pitched unwisely each side of the path. It’s 3 in the afternoon and young people start to emerge, stretch, scratch and wonder what tonight will bring. A lanky pale youth is standing, brushing his teeth and spitting onto the grass.
We finish our tune, take a comic bow and make to leave.
“One more song, one more song …”
They won’t let us leave.
Rose is a genius, She calls FIESTA! and – knackered as we are – we hit it. Tent zips rip open, sleepy faces appear and within seconds, scruffy campers leap up to dance – the mud squishing between their bare toes. The energy builds, the crowd builds and we are cooking. Transported.
This is it – in pongy mud, joyous, abandoned, released.
This is why we do it.