Tuesday, 29 June 2010

"Dance, Dance To The Life You Wanted"

I had waited for The Eden Project Session to come around for a good few months. Before I knew it, the time was upon us and we took a roadtrip to Cornwall which took about 6 hours.

We arrived at our B&B which really wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be (reviews complained of lots of mould!) and the staff members were really nice and friendly. We had some dinner and listened to Sara's story of her Mika trip to Japan and some of us got merry on some wine. (Yeah, you know who you are...!)

The next day we left our B&B at about 1pm and we arrived at Eden. It really is a beautiful place that's just filled with flowers and gorgeous plants. I actually hate gardening, but you can't deny a good garden when you see it. (I know, it's a bit bigger than a garden...)

This is a cactus flower...apparently.

A completely wooden horse, which quite frankly I found remarkable.

So after a few hours and a bit of sunburn we noticed the queue was getting a bit larger at about 4pm so we joined in, hoping to get front row. There were two entrances either side of the stage so we chose the side that had the shade. Luckily for us we managed to hear some of the soundcheck! Mika wasn't there singing for most of them (otherwise that would have been a free gig...) but we heard the instrumentals, so we sang to it instead! Pah - who needs Mika when you have the us?

More soundchecks happened and more time passed by. I then noticed a crew member approaching the crowd and she was asking for volunteers to be on stage with Mika, so naturally I volunteered myself!
For so long I had wanted to be a Lollipop Girl - since the beginning, actually - and now was my chance. All my friends had been on stage as Mika's characters so I told them I was going to go and they completely supported me, so I followed Maria - the crew member - all the way round the back.

There was quite a crowd of us there, and then Mika's mother - who everyone calls Mama P - came out and started to choose who was going to be who. I was wearing a baggy top and knew that only skinny girls were going to be Lollipop Girls, so I hand my hands on my hips to try and show that I wasn't as big as I looked (come on, I had waited years for this moment!) It's been a while since I was nervous. Eventually, four or five Lollipop Girls were chosen and I didn't make the cut. I was a bit down by this point because I was pretty sure that I couldn't be a Big Girl, but Mama P looked at me and said something along the lines of "Would you like to be a Big Girl?"
My chance to be dressed up as a character on stage was there right in front of me; at this point I didn't care who I was and was very grateful that Mama P picked me, so I gave her a big smile and politely "Yes, thank you very much!" and went to join the other chosen ones.

After that was done, Maria and Mama P took us backstage to practice our march. It was very easy; you had to put your arms out in front of you and pretend you were holding a bouquet of flowers and then just march. Even though it was pretty darn simple, I concentrated hard and focused on the job because, of course, I wanted to give a good impression especially since Mama P was watching. After that was done, we were taken to another room (behind the stage itself) and Mama P sorted out everyone's costumes.

The Lollipop Girls were fitted and most of the Big Girls were done, too - I was second to last. She beckoned me over and I knew that the blue corsets were the smallest ones so I was pretty sure that I was going to get that colour, but she started off trying to fit all these bigger ones on me and I kept thinking "I'm pretty sure I'm not that big..." but of course I didn't say anything because they are her clothes and she made them. Corset after corset and I was still too small for them - she definitely spent the most time with me and I was getting worried that I wouldn't be able to do this at all. I also kept feeling a bit guilty watching her take the corsets off the hangers and trying to put them back on so I offered her my help. Eventually I tried on a blue one and she said "Perfect!" Phew. I was going to be a Big Girl after all!

My next worry was what I had to wear on my head. Lollipop Girls only had veils, but Big Girls have to wear these massive skull masks that are elaborately decorated with designs and flowers and veils. Inside the mask was a helmet so it could rest on your head, but the viewing was very restricted. The "peep hole" was the nose but that was quite far up for me, and there were several holes as well but it was still difficult to see anything. I discovered this trick where if you tilt the mask backwards, the gap at the bottom gets bigger so you have more space to keep an eye on your footwork and see where you're going. However, the skulls are so massive that they wobble everytime you move! As effective as they are, they are also a bit of nuisance.

Whilst backstage I saw his keyboard player, his tour manager and his previous cameraman Andy, whom I all said hello to. After all this, we were told to leave and come back at 8:15.

We all started to leave in single file and I saw quite a tall woman. I looked and realised it was Imogen Heap! I didn't say anything as I didn't really have anything to say to her, but her appearance was very unexpected so seeing her took me aback a bit, and thought that perhaps she and Mika would sing "By The Time".

Anyway, we all left and in the distance I saw iMMa (Mika's backing singer) and Cherisse (his drummer) coming our way, and they said hello as they walked passed people. I was the last one in line, and they both recognised me and stopped to talk to me, which was rather lovely of them. They came back from a gig in Lebanon recently so we talked about that and the stage invasion and the cushion fight they had. After a couple of minutes we both left and I went to find my friends in the queue.

It soon turned 6:30, and the gates to the venue opened. We ran to our spots and we got front row! Well, I would have got front row if I wasn't a Big Girl, but for a while I could be front row and see what it was like myself before 8:15.

 It was soon time for me to leave, so I took a picture of the crowd before I went (as shown above). As you can see, it started to get packed and I was beginning to look forward to my backstage adventure.

We went backstage and we had to choose what shoes to wear (I wore Lollipop Girl shoes, so I guess you could say I was part Lollipop Girl...no? Okay. They were too big for me anyway) and then we were taken to a changing room where we all got changed. I have to say, I felt rather nifty in my Big Girl costume and Mama P is just so sweet.
After that, we were told to cover up so we could go out into the audience and watch some of the show, but had to come back when Mika started to sing "Rain".

I stood at the side and had a bit of a rubbish view, but at least I managed to see some of the gig itself. I also recorded all of "Relax! (Take It Easy)" and some of "Billy Brown". I got some good shots of the audience fist pumping, clapping and arm waving to the songs, and it was so nice seeing an audience really into somebody - the vibe was really good and positive.

"Rain" came on a few songs later and it was time for us to head back. When I was in the audience I could hear that the crowd was really loud, but backstage the sound was amplified and almost deafening. It was really quite heartwarming and I felt so proud - Mika hears that at every performance.
We put on our big skull heads again and it got darker since we last wore them since it was an outside gig, so it was even harder to see than before. Suddenly, someone grabbed my hand and was shoving something in them, and as I looked I realised I was holding a bouquet of flowers and it was Mama P who gave me them. After Mika sang "Happy Ending", it was time for us to march on stage.

Was I nervous? Not at all, I was more nervous about the skull head! Of course I was concerned about how I'd see on stage, but I wasn't at all nervous about being on the stage in front of 6000 people. I marched on, stamping my feet to the rhythmic thumps along the way and kept looking down through the gap to see if there were any wires. I tried to capture a glimpse of the audience but I couldn't look for too long as I knew I'd lose my balance, so I just marched on. I didn't see Mika or any of the band members; I pretty much just went on and walked off, job done.

When we came off we got to watch the gig from the side of the stage and it was my first time hearing "Kick Ass" live, which was a real treat. Before I knew it, it was time to go on again so halfway through the song "Lollipop", we came on. The Lollipop Girls decided to stay on the side they got on, so I went onto the other side to dance where I thought I'd have room. Wrong! Everyone followed suit (naturally, I guess) and all of our skull heads kept banging against each other! It was utter madness, I couldn't see anything through the mask and didn't know where or who I was dancing to most of the time. You couldn't really go for it because you would lose control of the skull head otherwise, and when I tried to wave my hands up in the air I got self conscious of my corset. I haven't seen the video yet so I have no idea what I looked like.
I managed to see Jimmy and succeeded in capturing his attention! He's Mika's bass player and I met him earlier this year at his own gig (I wrote a blog about it). I think he must have recognised me either by what I was wearing, height or perhaps he saw my face through the skull nose, because he came up to me and started to play his bass right at me, so I pretended to play my very own (invisible) bass!
After that, I saw Mika grabbed a fan on the stage so I thought it was time to bow. I followed them to the front of the stage and I bowed to the crowd, but then I felt someone grab my left arm and drag me backwards! I was so confused and thought "Oh my goodness, I can't see a thing and I'm getting completely battered here!" but I managed to compose myself and saw that it was Jimmy who pulled me back! I don't really know what happened but I think he said that it was time to bow, but then that confused me because I had already bowed...nevertheless I turned the face the audience and Jimmy had his arm on my back and pushed me forwards when it was time to lean forwards.
The music came to an end and I was about to go off stage, but then I felt my left hand being grabbed and forced open, then having something placed in it and being forced shut. I looked and the culprit was Jimmy, so I shouted "Thank you!" as he walked off stage. I opened my hand and saw that he gave me his black plectrum. I smiled as I thought it was nice that he chose me to have it out of everyone else.

We got off stage and I saw him again, so I said thanks one more time and we hugged. Maria came over and told us to get into groups so we could have our pictures taken with Mika. We were still in our costumes and we were the last group to be seen by him. He came over and he looked at me and smiled as I told him that it was a really great show. We had our picture done and I saw Mika holding a wristband. I said "Oh you got a wristband! Who gave it to you?" and he replied "I don't know, it was thrown on stage so I just wore it" (or words to that effect) and then he gave it a proper look and exclaimed "Oh it's got my name on it!" so that was quite cute. That was pretty much our meeting, but before we dispersed Mika introduced us to Imogen Heap and we all said hello. I took what I believe to be a ballsy approach and told them "You should play "By The Time" together sometime!" and Mika smiled and nodded...but I'm unsure as to what that response really means.

I then got changed, said a final thank you to Mama P and Maria, and a final goodbye to Imogen, Jimmy and Cherisse and headed off out. As I left the back of the stage I saw Mika talking to some disabled people and I also saw iMMa standing there watching. We said goodbye to each other and she hugged me.
I then left the backstage area completely and met up with my friends.

That was pretty much the entire day and it was a manic blast! Here are some pictures of people in costumes and, of course, the picture with Mika! Thank you to those I have borrowed pictures from!

Sorry to the girl on the right who is slightly blurred!
 Us in our Big Girl costumes! I'm in the blue on the left.
iMMa took this picture and put it on Twitter! Follow her at @iMMamusic
Us on the stage! I'm in the blue with the orange skull mask.
Jimmy giving me the plectrum on stage!
Jimmy's black plectrum that is now all mine!
Mika, fans and I standing around talking. Yes, I know I'm mega short.

And of course...the group picture!


jemma said...

Amazing Caz! Beautifully written- you area a star!

CazStacey said...

aww, thank you my Fabuleux Fokker!

NikJass said...

Thanks for the detailed report Caz! I just re-lived my BG experience through yours :)

sparkyrachel said...

Great blog and pics - love that there's loads of detail from the perspective of being on stage with Mika and about the atmosphere at the gig!

Sarahlou said...

Aaah....it's just like being back there x

CazStacey said...

Glad you enjoyed the report!

CrazyChloe15 said...

hey Caz, i absolutely loved this report. i was amazing :)
you seemed to go through a lot on stage, but wasn't that a bonus about Jimmy's plectrum :D