Join Joyzine for a fly-on-the-wall chat with Piney Gir and Angela Gannon from The Magic Numbers, as they rock up to the Betsey Trotwood pub in Clerkenwell to discuss all things Glastonbury and what it’s like to play the Pyramid Stage while being an indie chick at heart.
Piney: Hello Angela from The Magic Numbers!
Angela: Hi there!
Piney: Readers, we are at the Betsey Trotwood Pub in London, one of my favourite pubs and Angela, I know you are really involved in the day to day running of the place, how did that come about?
Angela: The Magic Numbers, did our first ever gig here, downstairs. About 19 years ago.
Piney: Holy Moly! I think we’re on a similar timeline, my first album came out around then.
Angela: So it was 2003, and originally we also had a violin player and a harp player with us and this was a gig that they couldn’t turn up to and we were so broke we had to make our way from West London to here, we were like, “How are we gonna do it?” We managed to convince this cab driver that we would pay him after the gig. And then we were dreading the gig without the full line-up. We did the gig and we suddenly looked at each other, that was the moment! It was just me and my brother and Romeo and Michelle, who are brother and sister as well. We were like, “This is going quite well, it feels quite right!” Even without the people that we felt were elevating it, it just worked and was a really nice vibe. So from that moment on we always say that was our first gig. And then I became friends with Raz and Scott over the years, it was after Scott left I said to Raz, “If you need a hand, maybe 1 or 2 shifts a week…” and here I am 6 and a half years later managing the place this week completely.
Piney: That’s amazing, it’s very cool, it’s such a good vibe here and I think Raz has done a really good job of keeping it rootsy and it’s cool, but it’s polished and nice at the same time, it’s got a bit of everything.
Angela: Yeah we’ve got all sorts coming in.
Piney: I bet you do. It’s an interesting cross-section of the city too! ‘Cause you’re not that far from the West End, you’re quite near all the banks and things and Farringdon has got such a cool history.
Angela: And it’s also a little bit away from Shoreditch as well.
Piney: Yeah but not crazy far if you do wanna go really hipster you can walk down the road.
Angela: We do have an annoying place across the street that we have to deal with, but that’s okay, we won’t name and shame that place, or promote them. *Ha ha*
*laughter bounces around the Betsey*
Piney: *Ha ha* So yeah, it’s funny how as a ‘rock star’ people don’t realise most of us indie rockers have other jobs… So, how do you juggle all of that being a rock star stuff and working full time at The Betsey?
Angela: The two go quite well together. Over the summertime it’s not that easy because there’s lots of festivals and I’m not always here on the weekend. It helps that Raz is a big music fan and he knew what he was employing. He’s supportive of that and it’s good for the pub and brings in all sorts of stuff, and with Patrick as well. It’s hard sometimes, but then if we know what’s going on we can organise around it.
Piney: Like time Tetris right?
Angela: Definitely, it’s time Tetris, people Tetris, who goes where a lot of the time.
Piney: For me, I’m a music supervisor which is more of a desk job, or sometimes you pop into an edit suite, although since Covid they often send you stream links now, so you don’t have to physically be in the edit. That’s hard touring because those people don’t always understand your erratic hours on the other end of those Zoom calls or whatever.
Angela: So what is that exactly?
Piney: Helping find music for specific scenes in film, television and advertising, which is a little bit creative, but mostly, if I’m truthful, it’s spreadsheets and emails, it’s not as glamorous as it sounds. You get people saying, “Can you get my song in a film?” and I’m like, “Well, probably not, but I can try.” You can put it in the mix, but ultimately the director decides. So yeah it’s mainly that, but I remember one tour with Gaz Coombes, Amy, who is one of the singers with me, we both were working on a big show for Amazon and we were waking up and going to coffee shops to hot desk and doing our emails and spreadsheets and then going to soundcheck and doing the gig and then getting on the bus, getting to sleep by 2 or 3 AM, and doing that every day was really difficult; so I just wondered how you make your own logistics work.
Angela: I guess if I’m going on a tour I try to get it all done before hand, sort out the timings and make sure everything is covered, so I am able to just go off and enjoy it, playing a festival or whatever. Although the phone does still go off, “What do we do about this?”, “What time is the food meant to go out?” but I try to get as much planning done in advance as possible.
Piney: So I noticed that y’all are ridiculously busy at the moment, you were recently supporting Elbow on tour and you’ve done loads of festivals this summer including Glastonbury. Which stage did you guys play & how was it for you?
Angela: We were on the Leftfield Stage on the Sunday around 6:00, we were on at exactly the same time as Elbow on the main stage, I know a lot of our fans would have been torn between us and them. But still, it was great, everytime we play Glastonbury it’s been amazing.
Piney: I think there was a clash with Róisín Murphy and Jessie Ware, which I had a load of friends who couldn’t figure out which one to go to, as they love them both.
Angela: It’s a similar demographic right? And like Cate LeBon was on at the same time as us and Diana Ross was on as well… I was like *sigh*
Piney: Oooh Diana Ross?
Angela: I didn’t get to see her.
Piney: Dang! That’s a bummer… I love her! I love the legend slot at Glasto.
Angela: Me too! The first time I saw the legend slot it was Brian Wilson.
Piney: I love him! Was he on good form? I know he has his ups and downs.
Angela: We had been on tour with him at the time so we’d done a gig in Bristol the night before and then we all went to Glastonbury on the Sunday.
Piney: So I didn’t know you did that, but I have a funny Glastonbury story that involves you both. I remember one very muddy, rainy year I had a gig at Bimble Inn back when it was near Avalon Stage and I was camping behind the Park Stage which was the whole other end of the site, it was such a palaver getting my guitars/amps/etc across the festival, we had to carry everything knee-deep in mud, but also you couldn’t set anything down because of the mud. So I really felt done in and we decided that whatever was on at the Park Stage when we got back we’d stay and watch, no matter what it was, I was not leaving that place once I got there. And one of my bandmates said, “If you could see any band play the Park Stage tonight/right now, what band would that be?” and I said “either Brian Wilson or The Magic Numbers,” and there you were doing Afrika Express. And I was like, “What is this? But I don’t care because it’s The Magic Numbers!” it made me smile so much!
Angela: That was really a late night one as well.
Piney: It was fun though! And what was that like because there were loads of superstars involved in that.
Angela: I haven’t done it for a few years but Romeo still does it, I think he did it not that long ago actually. It’s kinda Damon Albarn’s baby, but there’s loads of other people involved, so many people. I think he has a core band of session type players with lots of amazing African musicians as well, they are great!
Piney: So do you know how many times you’ve played Glastonbury.
Angela: I was trying to count this the other day… the first year was John Peel, 2nd time was Pyramid Stage, next one we did a tent that was portrayed as a bar, but I don’t know where that is now!
Piney: Those are like the magic, hidden venues of Glastonbury, which make is sort of special. I mean, Glastonbury is special but those late night, Rabbit Hole, Bimble Inn, Croissant Neuf type of places are really nice.
Angela: Yeah it’s great! So we did that one and then The Other Stage and then we had a gap and in 2017 we did the Acoustic Stage and 2019 we did Avalon and then this year we did Leftfield. So it feels like I’ve done most of the stages by now!
Piney: Wow, you’ve done the rounds! So the Pyramid Stage is a biggie! I recently played the Pyramid Stage singing with Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds, which was of course an amazing and magical thing to do and I’ll always cherish that experience, but also I was singing somebody else’s music, I was la-la-laing behind somebody who I admire greatly, but I don’t feel like I own that per se, so I thought this would be cool to talk to you because you’ve played the Pyramid Stage legit with your own music, your own band, your own family in fact… and so I get asked “What was it like?” but I wanna ask you, “What was that like?” It must have felt great!
Angela: It was a long time ago now, it was 2007, so that’s 15 years ago. Wowzer! The funny thing about that day when we did it is that I actually opened up the Jazz/World stage (now West Holts). Sean Rowley had put on Guilty Pleasures, and I actually opened up that stage by singing ‘Nine to Five’. At like 11 in the morning!
Piney: FUN! But wait a minute, you had to sing it in the morning? That song is difficult, especially first thing in the morning.
Angela: I woke up at like 7:00, and we had a gig in Aylesbury the night before so it was a late one, but I knew I had to wake up really early just to warm up because it’s so very high.
Piney: It’s high and it’s wordy!
Angela: I know, so wordy!
Piney: Respect! I mean, you did that in the morning before playing the Pyramid Stage, that’s amazing!
Angela: Um, yeah! I don’t know if I pulled it off. I was kind of on a high after doing that and then it was kinda of a bit of a blur. I was also so nervous to do it that when we did it, it was like, go with the flow, enjoy it as much as you possibly can but when I think back on it now, it’s like, ‘Do I actually remember the gig?’ I do remember looking out and it’s like that crowd does not end.
Piney: I know, it’s just people forever, and the flags look really cool, they look different from that side.
Angela: Yeah they do. And it was mad because we were on after Amy Winehouse, I think it was a Friday 4 or 5:00, so it was a good slot but my sister was in the crowd and she was watching Amy Winehouse and when that finished the crowd just disbursed and she was like “NO! This is gonna be terrible!” *ha ha*
*laughter bounces around the Betsey again*
Piney: *ha ha* No way, but I have a theory that Glastonbury do crowd control by booking things that the same people might not want to see. So I remember the year Dolly Parton played I had to suffer through The 1975 for a good spot for Dolly, and after Dolly Parton was Ed Sheeran and a whole lot of the Dolly fans were like, “Buh-bye” for Ed Sheeran, and all of the kids were rushing in for Ed. So I think there may have been an element of crowd control at play there, and so I bet it was busy by the time you started.
Angela: Well yeah, my sister did go grab a beer and when she got back it was busy again. So it was cool!
Piney: Do you remember what the catering was like? Because for me that was a high point of playing The Pyramid Stage.
Angela: Ya know, I tend not to eat too much on gig days and so I probably didn’t go to catering… ya know I’ll tell you another secret about that day… It was another muddy one.
Piney: Classic Glasto!
Angela: Later on that day I think Arcade Fire and Bjork were on The Other Stage that year.
Piney: I was there that year!
Angela: And I got really drunk.
Piney: As you do.
Angela: Because I didn’t eat! And I had a gig in the morning and a massive gig in the afternoon, so I didn’t eat, but drank an awful lot that day and was top-to-toe covered in mud.
Piney: Getting into the spirit of things!
Angela: Yeah it was okay! My friend had to pour a bottle of water over my face for my family to know who I was, so yeah I didn’t really go anywhere near the catering which is why I don’t remember it.
Piney: So I never eat a big roast dinner before going on stage, but I always eat a little something ‘cause I don’t want to be distracted by hunger.
Angela: I think I do that now. But I was…
Piney: A younger gal then? Making less-wise decisions with your body. *ha ha!*
Angela: Yeah *ha ha!*
Piney: Well this year because Paul McCartney was headlining all the catering was vegetarian and vegan. Which I like because I’m vegetarian.
Angela: Me too!
Piney: Everything was delicious, it was so good I was like “Can I box some of this up for later?” But a couple of the guys in Noel’s band were like, “Where’s the beef?” and I was like, “Can’t you have one day where you don’t eat meat for crying out loud?! Also it’s really delicious, just try it.” I think they went out and bought a burger somewhere to prove a point.
Angela: Oh come on, so silly!
Piney: It made me respect Paul McCartney even more than I already do.
Angela: So how was that going on before him?
Piney: Incredible! I’m such a Beatles and Macca fan! But also his entourage was so star-studded I didn’t know where to look. Bruce Springsteen made me go all shy and speechless. But also, the gig was incredible because I think they (Noel Gallagher and Paul McCartney) do share some fanbase.
Angela: Oh definitely!
Piney: It was already rammed with a lot of bucket hats at the front, the crowd were definitely gearing up for the whole night, they were settled there in front of the Pyramid Stage. What was quite cool, ‘cause I’m on a lot of Noel’s new solo stuff, the High Flying Birds stuff which I love… but he got us girls in on a couple Oasis songs at the end, which was really special ‘cause I think perhaps that’s why he got that juicy slot and it was amazing just to have the crowd singing those songs, it was really special.
Angela: Are you on in-ears or floor monitors?
Piney: Ears, but I sometimes take one out.
Angela: Definitely just to hear that back.
Piney: Yeah, people were singing with their whole bodies.
Angela: And they are so loud sometimes. I was there watching Paul McCartney and it was such a big thing, the singing along. I saw Adele a few years ago, I wouldn’t normally go to see Adele but like…
Piney: …She’s ‘of interest’ right?
Angela: Yeah yeah, so I watched that Glastonbury show and it was very emotional, the whole crowd singing along it was cool! Amazing.
Piney: Music is so powerful for that! So what is the best act or acts that you’ve seen at Glastonbury over the years. Definitely Dolly Parton would be very high up on that list for me.
Angela: I wasn’t there that year. God that’s hard. You know what? The first one I would say, I didn’t really know her music and it was the Sunday just after midday we just walked over and saw Laura Mvula.
Piney: I love her, was that her first album?
Angela: No I think it was the 2nd one, she was on the main stage. She was singing a song called “Show Me Love” and it was like every single person I was with was in tears. The crowd wasn’t even that big but you could just feel it, so that always stays with me. And then the same thing happened with Lizzo a few years ago. There was about 15 of us, we traipsed our way over from the Park Stage to West Holts, you know the trudge, and it was really hot as well. When we got there I was like, “I have never seen this many people at West Holts.”
Piney: I love Lizzo! I wasn’t there that year but I watched it on TV and it was like the crowd didn’t stop, which is a bit unusual for West Holts.
Angela: She was unbelievable as well.
Piney: Yeah, I have a lot of time for Lizzo.
Angela: There’s so many!
Piney: I mean, every year you’ll have several special memories, so it’s always worth going even though sometimes you feel like you’ve been through a battle.
Angela: Especially when it’s raining it’s like, “Wow!” Don’t know how many steps I’ve done but it feels like double when the rain comes and then the sun comes after it. It’s like a mud suction on your wellies. You don’t have to work out for about 2 weeks after this!
Piney: Totally, I think one of my most magic moments was Leonard Cohen. He wouldn’t allow it to be televised. We were actually taking our stuff out, we were trudging up the hill with all our stuff and I was like, “OMG that’s Leonard Cohen!” so we just stopped and stood in the crowd with all our stuff, just crying and singing, the sun was low and golden it was magic. Yeah unfortunate he wouldn’t allow it be filmed but also that was kind of cool.
Angela: I like that he did that! But yeah he was one of my favourites. When he died, I was like, “No I’m never going to get to see him now!”
Piney: Oh no, sorry to rub it in! But with BV’s I always try to achieve the Leonard Cohen BV.
Angela: “Who By Fire” and “The Partisan” have such a lovely pure sound, goes so well with his low voice.
Piney: It’s not pitch perfect but it works perfectly.
Angela: Who else would you say is a good music memory at Glasto for you?
Piney: The musicians from the Éthiopiques collective were great! It was ages ago, when West Holts was still The Jazz World stage. You might know them from the film Broken Flowers, some of the songs on that soundtrack were artists from Éthiopiques, which gave them a bit of a moment. It had a Buena Vista Social Club vibe about it, amazing musicians from Ethiopia doing their local music. It was cool to see them on that stage, they were on quite late and they had really cool marimbas and tuned percussion and amazing singing and honky saxophones and stuff. Dolly Parton was great! You guys were great! Bjork and Arcade Fire, I was there for that too.
Angela: I know, I have seen so much there, but then I’ve also seen so little.
Piney: Yeah, ‘cause you’re busy! You’re busy getting ready to perform and stuff.
Angela: Yeah and even on the days when you’re not performing the walk is intense.
Piney: If it’s raining it’ll take an hour and a half to cross the site.
Angela: Yeah, it’s always great though, it’s a magical and emotional place. I don’t think I’ve been to a Glastonbury and not cried.
Piney: Oh yeah, sometimes I cry for good reasons and sometimes I cry for bad reasons. It’s like a roller coaster and in hindsight you’re like “Well that was wonderful.”
Angela: When was the first time you played?
Piney: 2007 I think, it was the first year the Park Stage existed and I played it twice because my slot was on Saturday but then Micah P. Hinson broke his leg and couldn’t do his slot on the Sunday so they asked could we do it and my band accepted it, but I had gone AWOL, Glastonbury AWOL and nobody could find me. And it was getting close to stage time and they found me and I hadn’t slept, and they were like, “ You’ve gotta go on stage in an hour,” and I was like, “Why? What are you talking about?” because we’re doing this slot, that’s great! But, “Oh sh*zz” I had to get my dress and put make up on and it was right after The Libertines or Peter Doherty had done a secret set, so Kate Moss was there at the side of the stage and I hadn’t slept, I didn’t feel glamorous, but I got through it. In the middle of our set someone from The Rabbit Hole stage-bombed our set and they were completely naked apart from a fuzzy rabbit head that they were wearing.
Angela: Yeah, that sounds like a mad one.
Piney: The Park Stage is the largest stage I’ve played as Piney and then obviously The Pyramid Stage with Noel. And then I’ve done a few Rabbit Hole and Bimble Inn type smaller shows and guested on sets with people on various stages, for different years.
Angela: You know I’ve never even been into The Rabbit Hole.
Piney: It’s really changed. It was literally hidden, and now it’s like a destination and has a whole area, but actually it was The Rabbit Hole where Gaz Coombes discovered Piney. So he had played the Park Stage to the biggest crowd the Park Stage had ever seen or something like that.
Angela: Yeah the Park Stage, it’s a big space, but it’s not the hugest field, it’s a great stage.
Piney: Right and people were spilling out into the edges and down the causeways. He had a great show and then I was playing at The Rabbit Hole right next to the Park Stage just two hours after his show, so he came over and watched us and decided he needed three girl backing singers which included myself and Amy (who still sing with him now) and Emma joined us later. So that was a little Glastonbury Magic.
Angela: Did Garo know Gaz before?
Piney: Yeah so Garo and Growler who are in my band are also in Gaz’s band and they were playing with me, so that was an impetus for him to pop over. And he’d met me because I’m Garo’s plus one. It kind of felt like a Glastonbury Miracle!
Angela: Yeah that’s great!
Piney: So… thank you for having a chat about what it’s like to be on the Pyramid Stage and I don’t know about you, but I still feel like an indie chick at heart.
Angela: Oh definitely. It felt very… well the Arctic Monkeys were headlining that night.
Piney: That must have been a “You Look Good On The Dance Floor” era?
Angela: Yeah, definitely around the 1st album. It wasn’t very glamorous backstage, I was glad of the shower though because I was top-to-toe covered in mud. So that was good. It’s a mad place. I also met my partner there.
Piney: You did? That’s your Glastonbury Magic.
Angela: Uh-huh, it was like 5 years ago.
Piney: How did that happen? It sounds like a meet-cute.
Angela: That story is off-the-record *ha ha*
Piney: *ha ha* Okay, well before we go, let us know what you have coming up.
Angela: Sure thing, we’ve got a few more festivals over the summer we’re playing a festival in Inverness, playing a festival called Belladrum, it’s really lovely it has a sort of natural amphitheatre.
Piney: Yeah I’ve played that one it’s beautiful!
Angela: But Patrick (fellow Betsey Trotwood manager) is also playing Belladrum on Saturday so straight after our show on Thursday I have to jump on a night train back to London to cover the shift.
Piney: This is the work-life balance we were talking about.
Angela: Yeah and me and Patrick are kinda crossing in the night on opposite trains. Then we have 2 more festivals in the summer, Beautiful Days and another one in Kettering and then we’re going to South America in November.
Piney: I’ve never done the South America thing, that’s awesome. I bet they love you over there.
Angela: They do, it’s kind of mind-blowing, why don’t we live there? They treat us so well all the time. I think Liam is playing that festival. Maybe we can get the brothers back together *ha ha*
Piney: *ha ha* Good luck with that!
Article and photography (unless otherwise stated) by Piney Gir
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