Friday, August 22, 2008

Green Man (Friday)

It feels odd that this is my first festival review on funfunfun. I went to Reading for six consecutive years in my teens but since starting this blog my summer's have been barren. I wouldn't have gone to Green Man if it weren't my brother, Joss. He's been working at festivals for the last two summers and with his position at Green Man he was given a +1, which he generously offered to me. I snapped it up in an instant. For his kindness i thought i'd give him, and his girlfriend Becky, a review spot for eahc band we saw so after every band i write about you'll see "J says" and "B says" and then a few words. To be honest some of them are probably better than anything I could muster.

Firstly I have to mention the site. Glanusk Park, in the middle of the Brecon Beacons, is such a picturesque setting for a music festival. Encircled by green, lush hills, next to valley-cutting river, its perfect scenery for the music on offer, which is of a folky, indie persuasion. I was taken aback when I first laid eyes on the main stage, with its amphi-theatre-like slope around it and the table-like hillock behind it.
Cats In Paris kicked off the festival for me with a noisy, synth-led beauty. Sometimes it sounds haphazard but
when it comes together, like on single Foxes, they make exquisitely twisted pop songs. Unfortunately I had to leave them premature to carry on playing to the early birds so that I could meet my bro at the Folkey Dokey stage and watch Cardiff trio, Threatmantics. The band play folk that frequently is attacked by punk invaders, turning violins from purring felines to screeching beasts and guitars into jet engines. Its sloppy at first but as the set progresses it gets better and even moving. (J says "foolhardy, diligent, kickass, smart ass", B says "mediocre to bloody brilliant")

As it was sunny (one of the only times all weekend but I'll get to that...) we decided to go and sit by the Main Stage, unaware of what was waiting for us. As we got comfy on the grass, four oldish Canadian enter stage right and started playing. These were Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir and they were ruddy brilliant. Playing lightspeed bluegrass numbers and slower country ones, they picked up the mood of the crowd and made it feel like a festival for the first time. The pace of the hoe-down numbers got a good portion of spectators dancing to the beat of this huge bass drum and twangy banjo and frontman Judd got the nicest sound out of his harmonica. It was great to dance and lay-around to. (J says "jangly, speedy, heart-warming, oaky rustic blend", B says "bad fucking ass, go see")
We couldn't move due to the sunshine so stayed at the Main Stage to watch Fight Like Apes. I'd heard good whispers about these lot so I was interested to see what they were like. Their odd, electro punk wasn't bad but after such a rustic band, they felt out of place with the surroundings. Keyboards were squealing and everything was distorted and it did get some little kids rocking out by the side of the stage but it didn't feel right. Ev
en their cover of McClusky's Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues wasn't enough to pull them into positives, they just didn't seem right all round. (J says "Mostly uptempo, predominantly boring", B says "YeahYeahYeah's mixed with the 00's")

The Green Man Cafe was our next port of call for a drink and to see Rod Thomas. His description in the programme talked about disco beats, hand claps, loop pedals and was the reason we ventured to the tiny stage, it was a little bit mis-leading. When I thought disco beats, i was thinking bass-heavy, ground-shaking blast not drum beats from a Casio keyboard but what we saw was a pleasant set from a singer-songwriter just trying to be a bit different. Using the loop-pedal, he self-harmonised and added hand claps and tambourine to the tracks but after a few songs, Rod and his songs got a bit cheesy. The best moment came when he enter the crowd for his final song and sang only accompanied by a ukulele. Maybe that's the way he should go. (J says "Tried hard with occasional okayness", B says "Nice music but since he's Billy-No-Mates")

The evening was filled with even more solo goodness by two singers from bands I really admire. Lou Rhodes, from electro, dancey, odd act Lamb, has an amazing voice and now she's turned her hand to more folksy matters, her voice can be even more instrumental than before. Unfortunately, while her voice is so clear that its seems to cleanse your skin, her tunes aren't up to much and after half an hour I was really after something with a bit of kick to it.(J says "Lovely, boring songs", B says "Beautiful voice but up herself")

Luckily Ben Ottewell was headlining the Green Man Cafe to give us just that. Known for his deep, gravelly voice in the bluesy sextet Gomez, Ben knew how to please his audience and played a set comprising mostly of his band's best songs. Get Miles, Hangover Cup, Here Come the Breeze were all present, drunkenly and probably very loudly accompanied by half the crowd. It was a delight to see him on such a tiny platform and it made me feel quite old to think that Gomez's debut came out ten years ago, its such a solid album. Highlight of the set was Make No Sound, accompanied by a friend on guitar and Ben's voice soared into the Friday night air. (J says "Exactly what I wanted", B says "He touched me to the bone")
After such a rousing end to the evening, the night began triumphantly in the Rumpus Room with much dancing, green moustaches, beer can feet and tidy gestures, but, i guess, you had to be there...

Cats In Paris - Foxes
Threatmantics - Sum Sum
Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir - Buried Them In Water
Fight Like Apes - Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues
Rod Thomas - Debris
Lou Rhodes - The Rain
Ben Ottewell - Get Miles (live)

To see more of Green Man check out my (quite fuzzy) photos on my flickr


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