29 hours… 3 events… sleep not included

Wow. Simply put… WOW! That one word sums up this weekend pretty well. Of course, another word for the weekend would be “Chaos” or maybe even “Whirlwind” – then there is “MAD”. I’m not complaining – don’t get me wrong – it was a totally stunningly awesome weekend that I 110% loved and don’t regret in any way!

We always knew the weekend was going to be a mad but I don’t think any of us fully appreciated just how much of a rush it would be. So, beginning at the beginning of the weekend as it’s probably the only way I’ll get my thoughts together, here goes an update of life with the Hartleys (and not just us 5)

>> WARNING << This blog post is HUGE! Get a cup of Coffee/Tea before reading it!

A steady, relaxed Saturday morning saw us all getting packed and ready for a quick drive up the A1 to see my parents and bruvver… the quick drive did actually turn out to be that as well which is always nice, although driving around Nottingham with Big Brother monitoring you every 100 yards is one of the most frustrating driving experiences there is.

A nice hearty lunch and a relaxing time catching up with the folks whilst watching F1 qualifying soon gave way to the chaos that would become the hallmark of the weekend. Quali finished and Mrs H, me and my bro all started rushing around as we got ourselves sorted for our wonderful trip to Stoke. Yes, I did say Stoke. Why Stoke? (and you’ll have spotted that I can’t quite get over the fact we voluntarily went to Stoke)… to finally get to see a band who I have been a fan of since 1995.

A local organistation had put on an open-air event at the really beautiful Trentham Gardens featuring bands such as thebandwithnoname, RPM, TBC, yFriday and finishing with the first appearance in the UK for 6 years, and only one this year, of the awesome Jars of Clay!

With the stage set up in front of the lake, and picnic blankets adorning the sloped ampitheatre area we settled down for an evening of absolutely stunning music and great fun.

thebandwithnoname (tbwnn) kicked off the evening (and yes, their name is spelt in all lower case with no spaces!) in heart-pounding, ear-shattering form and definitely appeared to have more than filled the void left by the demise of the worldwide message tribe/the tribe. With a mixture of dance, rap, punk and rock (sometimes all four together) they soon had most of us on our feet and joining in – much to my brothers amusement as he kept threatening to video me on his mobile and publish it on YouTube 🙁 I didn’t look *that* ridiculous joining in, did I?

RPM were next up with a definite, undeniable, loud, rock sound. Sadly their sound wasn’t setup right at the beginning and following tbwnn was always going to be difficult so their start was a bit rocky in more than the intended manner… but once the sound got sorted (although it never was fully right which was a shame) they really shook the area and were great fun.

TBC… a girl group in the stylings of all girl groups. 4 good-looking lasses who do dance routines and sing pop songs. They came on and immediately warninformed us that their target audience was 9 year olds in schools (I guess they probably realised they were in for a fun time after seeing how we all reacted to tbwnn and RPM.) They weren’t my cup of tea in any way but they definitely were good at what they do and I can easily see their ministry working in the schools. They know their target audience and they definitely have styled themselves to reach that!

Ah… that led onto the northern sounds of yFriday. I remember when their debut EP, rainmaker, came out in 1999 and how much I loved that CD but with everything that went on I managed to completely lose touch of what was going on with them. Thankfully I was lent a copy of Revolution (thanks Mark!) to listen to so knew some of the stuff… and very rapidly bought “The Universal Broadcast” on CD/DVD! (along with tbwnns latest – whilst me brother bought the RPM album) They were brilliant – so much so that I was genuinely concerned that Jars may struggle to follow them… yes, there were THAT good! With a good mix of more worship songs, along with some storming rock songs it was a brilliant time that left me with virtually no voice (no comments on that please!) and feeling shattered but euphoric at the same time.

Then, after a period of stage changing and muffled sound-checks behind the stage curtains (that never seemed to slide out of the way smoothly or easily – leaving the bands hidden at the start of their sets) the moment I had waited 13 years for finally arrived. Jars of Clay took to the stage and blew us all away right from the first note. I managed to capture the first song using the camcorder mode of the digital camera and you can find it on YouTube if you can cope with shaky hand syndrome 🙂

With a set that covered all the way from their first album to their last release (though sadly nothing off the new EP that is released next month) I was in total heaven. From rocking out to Work, Love is the Protest (which Dan led into by describign the meaning of the song – really quite challenging!) and Dead Man to the intimacy of Frail, Love song for a Saviour and Liquid (with bits of Worlds Apart thrown in) the whole set was a completely awesome event. The hilights for me though have got to be when they performed “Flood” live (which everyone recognised from the first strum of the guitar and went totally mental to!) and then the gorgeous intimacy of “Oh my God”. That song had me, and many others around, totally wrecked by the end… tears streaming down faces and arms held high crying out “OH MY GOD!” – and the sensitivity of the bands performance just served to completely embrace that atmosphere with the lights completely dimmed apart from one spotlight on Dan who stood before the mic wit arms by his side and head bowed as he sang… not moving and not looking up. Even as I write this I find my eyes welling up at the memories flooding back.

The organisers of the event are taking huge steps of faith with this event as they knew they wouldn’t recover their costs on the evening (there were probably about 4-500 people there), or the whole weekend, but they want the event to grow by starting big and believe that God will reward their faith… I pray He does as we are already talking of going back next year and taking our eldest with us.

And so the concert ended… followed by us driving back to Nottingham and eating a cardboard McDonalds at nearly midnight before finally crawling into our beds at just before 1am to be woken at 6:15 by our dear, darling, sweet, youngest child!

Leading us into the second of our three appointments (don’t worry… the next two aren’t nearly as long-winded as the above section!) – going to Trent Vineyard.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Vineyard churches and events. My first experience of lively, charismatic, churches came about through Vineyard and I always used to love listening to John Wimber so I was really looking forward to visiting a church that had touched the lives of two of my cousins and that I’d only heard good things about. Sure enough I loved it. It was similar, but different, to our home church but also so familiar in many ways. The worship time was right up my street (although I did feel sorry for the worship leader who managed to go into the wrong song at quite a tender moment and then had to stop and change to the song he should have gone to – been there, done that!) and I found that picking up the songs that I didn’t know was so easy and that worshipping just felt so comfortable there.

Definitely will be going back there again – and I’d love to get to an evening service there at some point but that’s a bit more difficult to organise with the three kids!

The service finished and we dashed (well, not really as Robo-Cameras were watching us) across Nottingham to grab a quick bite to eat before heading out to our final booking of the weekend.

The Hartleys all gathered together for the first time. From Uncles and Aunts, to cousins and all of out kids – it was the first time we had all been together. Yes, alot of us had seen each other at Phil & Louises wedding and at Alisons birthday or at my parents earlier this year… but this was quite an occassion.

We all gathered at my uncles house for an afternoon of food, fun and the inevitable fotos (yeah – spelt deliberately there to get three f’s in 🙂 ) – and had a brilliant time. Whilst I didn’t get to speak much to my uncles and aunts I did spend the majority of the afternoon chatting to Louise & Phil and to Jamie/Jamie/Jim.

I’ve always loved chatting to my cousins and spending time with them, even though it never seems to happen often enough, and Sunday afternoon was just so nice getting to re-connect with them and chat about anything from the F1 to the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. It was also really good to be able to get to know Phil a bit better and chat with him.

Finally dragging ourselves away and driving back we got the kids sorted and, after getting everything unpacked and all the lunches ready for Monday, managed to crash and watch Top Gear and the F1 race we had recorded and kept dozing during – we were (and still are!) *that* tired.

So a very tiring, exhausting, busy, chaotic weekend but one that was definitely one of the best weekends I can remember for a long time.

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