Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Green Man (Saturday)

Saturday was when the skies opened and from the moment I woke up, it rained continously all day. After the heavy night before, this was not what was needed and so the tent was unoccupied til about 11. After a hearty, free breakfast we went in search of some shelter and some music. The Folkey Dokey tent was the perfect solution to both those needs.

The first band we saw were The Yellow Moon Band and they didn't help the hangover. Their messy blend of intricate, over-long guitar solos and post-rock, epic freak-outs was meandering at best and at worst sounded like a rehersal on a bad day. There were no tunes, or point, to the songs and the soloist kept hitting wrong notes and playing out of time, he stole so much of the time that the rest of the band left feeling a bit redundant. Their saving grace was the last track which sounded like that famous Bhangra song but played on mandolin and with big, crunchy chords injected into it. Not too impressed. (J says "A load of wank", B says "Noise with too many guitar solos")

With the rain having grown stronger and wetter, we decided to stay inside the tent and the next band offered something completely different. North Sea Radio Orchestra were in fact a orchestra, but on a smaller scale. Comprising of guitar, violin, cello, bassoon, clarinet and vocals, the band created etheral, folky waves that were so pleasant you almost wanted to close your eyes and drift off with them. It was lovely for a few tracks but by the end of a couple of songs, I wanted something a bit grittier, something to get my teeth into and this had nothing. (J says "Nice but neither here nor there", B says "Good musicians but no build up")

The rain seemed to have got stronger, I had a great position at the front and I really wanted to see Emmy The Great so it seemed like the FD tent was going to be my home all afternoon. I hadn't seen Emmy live for over two years and so was very interested to see how all the newer tracks, and older ones had mutated and morphed in that time. Initial signs weren't that promising. MIA was playing in a slow, delicate way which rob the song of the buoyancy that keeps it from being depressing and a bit dull but after that opening misfire, the set was spot on. City Song, Gabriel and We Almost Had A Baby were all performed with a wonderful urgency and sense of wit, which was then showcased with each member of the band reading the day's footie scores from Emmy phone. Tracks from Emmy's forthcoming album, First Love were also displayed with the title track being the highlight. Its leading drum beat and beautifully crafted lyrics, based around the word hallejuah, made it poignant and Emmy's voice and delivery just cut right through to the core emotions. The set ended on Absentee, one of my favs, and as the violin, guitar and vocals build towards the climax, it made me realise why I fell for Emmy in the first place, she just writes good tunes. (J says "Enchanting", B says "Bloody, fantastic, perfect")

After venturing into the downpour and quagmire to get some food and watch an edited version of 2001 with an amazing live prog-rock soundtrack, we could decide who to go and see so we ended up watching Lightspeed Champion, who was headlining the Folkey Dokey stage. I struggle with Dev and his band because I like the music but I find Dev to be an annoying individual. It may have to be with him whining and whinging on his website after I wrote a negative review on him last year, so now I just want to find something bad to write about him. Luckily for me, there was a plethora of niggles I had with what I saw. He is a good frontman, i'll give him that, and a great guitarist but all the songs seemed to be incredibly slow, dragging them to being and letting them fall flat on the audience. Even Galaxy Of The Lost, which I really like, lacked the edge and vitality that it usually has. It wasn't good at all, but I was happy to see Dev had got a new drummer, a girl who sang backing vocals, which are the two main things I said last time so it nice to see when my advice being listened to, shame it didn't help. (J says "Jangly", B says "Reckons he's too cool for skool")

We wander over to see Super Furry Animals on the Main Stage, it had stopped raining by this point I'll add, but were too late to get anywhere near the front so stood on the slope for a better view. The techno intro was great but as the band started playing, we realised we weren;t in the best place to be caught up in the atmosphere, it was a bit subdued on the hill. We watched a few songs. Rings Around The World was great and the crowd were probably louder than Gruff Rhys and Golden Retriever was bouncey and fun, it just a shame we weren't in the thick of things bouncing along with everyone else. Instead we went for a dance in the Rumpus Room but as we walked off, I could hear the robotic voice of Juxtaposed With You and wished I'd stayed. Ah well. (J says "Unfamiliar, semi-skimmed", B says "Boring")
We had a nice early(ish) night and hoped for less (meaning no) on Sunday.

North Sea Radio Orchestra - Joy For My Heart
Emmy The Great - First Love (live) *awful quality
Emmy The Great - Short Country Song
Lightspeed Champion - Back To Black
Super Furry Animals - (Drawing) Rings Around The World

See more photos of the weekend on my flickr

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

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Absentee are back!
I know i'm a bit late on this one but i can't stop listening to Bitchstealer. There's something so infectious about it. It might be the brassy fanfare or the scuzzy, urgent guitar lines or the contrasting interplay between Dan Michaelson's growling baritone and Melinda's cute vocals, i don't know, but whatever it is I'm hooked.
I was really hooked after last year's LP Schmotime but after an initial barrage of plays, it ran its course by the time the new year came around. But with Bitchstealer, and its ep, and a new album coming out shortly, all things are go for Absentee.
Check out Kruger Magazine's Single Club this month for a few free Absentee tracks.

Absentee - Bitchstealer

Monday, August 04, 2008

Rival Schools @ KCLSU

Sometimes its better to take your time over things. Take this review for instance: nearly 2 months overdue, but perhaps with hindsight I'll be able to portray a more rounded account of the event in question, Rival Schools' first London show in six years. Walter and co, it seems, have definitely benefited from their break.
Reunion shows must be a nervy affair for the band, especially for one with a history of poor live shows, and front man Walter Schreifels seemed on edge as the band began their set with Travel By Telephone, opener of their only album United By Fate, backed by a huge banner of their now infamous logo. The crowd were enthusiastic though and sang every word right back at the band as they stormed through more tracks off their album and eased into the performance. It didn't feel like they'd been away for over half a decade. High Acetat
e packed a riotous punch and Good Things caused a lot of over-excited pogoing but it was the somber Undercovers On which got the most pleasing reaction. Nearly every attendee singing their hearts out, nostalgically remembering what it was to be fifteen and free again.

But Rival Schools don't just want to be remembered for United By Fate and tonight they revealed three or four new tracks, some taken from the unreleased sophomore effort that got leaked onto the web, that will hopefully feature on a new album (!). Each track showed huge amounts of promise -they've been "practising for 6 years", Schreifel joked - highlighting the band's tight playing, especially Ian Love's swirling guitar lines and Walter's growling vocals, and it will no doubt establish them with new fans and confirm old ones.
The end of the set came with a surprising cover of The Smith's How Soon Is Now, which I failed to recognise at the time without its jangly Johnny Marr guitar and thought was just another new RS track, and then as everyone expected the unique, abrasive blast that is Used For Glue. As the front of the room launched itself into a pit of swarming bodies, Walter peered from the edge of the stage, a satisfied smirk spread across his face, and I think all the attended had the same feeling as him as they stumbled out onto the embankment, wishing it was 2002 again but happy that even though its not, United By Fate can still take them back.

Rival Schools - Undercovers On
Rival Schools - Shared Information