BANDWIDTH WARNING - PHOTO SPECIAL!
i went to the green man festival, yes i did, yes i did, yes i did.
i left work on thursday evening, and it had just started pissing down. i waddled to spar, with tent in one hand, sleeping bag in other and everything else on my back, and thought about booze and food. it was disastrous; a 2 litre bottle of irn bru was 175p, but you could get two for 2.25. so i stood and stared and got caught in a loop - 'i can't afford not to buy two, but i can't carry two...' i should have just bought a box of wine, but i refuse to buy any from outside europe and they didn't have any (in boxes). eventually i said to myself 'you've wasted your time and you have to go now' so i didn't get any. this was a large mistake. i got to picaddilly, bought a loaf of bread, cheese and ketchup from marks and spencers (classic travelling food) and a pastie, a train ticket and boarded with moments to spare. it was gloaming when i got off the train at abergavenny (y fenni dans cymraeg), but the shuttle bus wasn't going quite yet, so a few of us mancs went to the pub for a swift half. upon exchanging names, one said 'my brother knows a grilly', his brother being steve clegg of legend. which was great.the other two run an open mic at the whitworth pub, which i will have to get my arse to, yes i will, yes i will, yes i will. by the time we got to the site, it was dark, and i expertly fitted up my tent by mouthtorch light (i'm buying a petzl as soon as necerssary). it wasn't quite expert enough though; my pegs were twisted to hell, which meant i couldn't get the tent taught, which meant a couple of puddles after that nights violent thunder storm. there were no leaks as such, just the sheer volume of rain meant that enough simply soaked through the light walls.
the morning was beautiful, and i took the opportunity of an impasse to walk around the site in daylight. i picked up a fried egg roll, and about ten o'clock managed to get my hands on a programme, although it was designed by the annoying bbc collective, and only had previews of 'highlights' from the festival, 'hand picked' by someone who'd read too many press releases. fortunately, the festival was arranged such that someone started every 15 minutes, and was so small that you could actually, if you made the effort, see every single act performing. this of course would be a crazy idea, but it was often handy after watching enough of a band to make me sick i could wander somewhere else and be guaranteed at something at least different. on my first pass around the site, i went in a record tent, and came across the patton-applauded 'music from the body' by roger waters and ron geesin - very much the precoursor to jonny greenwood's 'bodysong', being a spin-off project that is a soundtrack, with 'body' in the title (although i don't think the film 'bodysong' is as medically orientated as the bbc series of 'the body'). it was fifteen quid, and having never seen it anywhere, i felt it an essential purchase despite the difficulty of getting it home, and the proportion of my budget. i've just finished listening to it and it is great, but it's also five quid on ebay on cd. i have learnt a very, very valuable lesson. then i got a phone call from danny, who was setting up his tent next to chrissy's and her friends', who i never got introduced to, despite moving my tent over there too. dan straightened out my pegs and helped me bang them in, and it never got wet in there again (well, a little on the last night). so then it was time for the festival to begin. i met up with kevin from work and his lovely, amiable and very fanciable friend clara (i don't know if that's her name anymore. i made a real good effort to remember it all weekend but now i can't) . enter chris t-t.
chris was lovely, and went down very well by all accounts; hopefully that'll translate into sales, and get him more than just 'critical acclaim'. can't find any photos of him anywhere though, that must be what you get from coming on first. i think we wandered around after that and caught elaine palmer:
she was okay, quite a john martyn-esque incomprehensible drawl. we left after a bit and wandered past the main stage. it sounded like they were playing some hardcore velvet underground on the pa, but it was none other than the saviour of the one man band, philip roebuck.
honestly, he was so good. ultimate folk blues garage punk action. we must have gone and done something else again then, because the next thing i've noted down is circulus.
oh, the contraversy. chris t-t and i both said they were like the darkness of folk - that's fancy dress they're wearing, not clothes. the music was the good side of pastiche, but still a pastiche. they were trying to sound like bands that i do like - gorky's, or flaming lips, or proper 60's psyche out (without the dark terror) for example. of course, most bands like them in the 60's were being wilfully pretentious too, so it raised a lot of questions for me. maybe what they were doing was actually really fun - turn around, as danny suggested, and i did actually enjoy the sound without the sight of them.
then the aliens came out. three members of the beta band, and a couple of other people, playing music, that, for all the hateful hype in the program, sounded like oasis. we left before the first song finished, and went to see james green.
here we met mum's friend nicky crewe (possibly that red hood there, although it could be her daughter vicky) as there was some familial link to green. he was very good, somerobert wyatt-esque moments as well more trad songs, and the first person we saw that weekend to be using one of those infinite delay/loop boards. honestly, they really are all the range now. it was the festival of the one man band, be it similtaneiuous-multi-instrumentalist, or the loop-based sonic artiste.
there's another: gruff rhys. that was a much better view than the one i got, so i went back to watch the collection of archived virtuoso folk perfomances, cut up with footage of ufos, in the cinema tent with dan. and as we were leaving to catch 5 minutes of donovan (awful) before a hawk and a hacksaw (more of them in a minute) something wonderful happened:
i bumped into a short man with a guitar on his back waiting for his band, looking for his venue. james milroy (there, on the left, with his blue grass band, later at the festival). it turned out he was here with the aliens of all people, playing (essentially) session guitar. he asked me: "did you see the aliens earlier?"
"yes," i said, "i left after one song"
"i don't blame you. i was playing with them. but it's just rock and roll, just a bit of fun. i'm making a living from my music now, so that's good" (quotes may be somewhat inaccurate)
it sure as bloody fuck is james. it was so great to see you. but obviously grilly does not value 'fun'. or does he just think that 'fun' is not an excuse to be dull?
so james wandered off to the campfire to sort things out and we went to see donovan, who as i said, was awful. i have heard good stuff by him, on a compilation of his 'more psychedelic' work at my aunties. but this was rubbish; i heard someone telling someone that he started and finished the set with a song that's on an advert at the moment. so we went to see a hawk and a hacksaw.
i think they might have been the highlight of the festival for me, and i knew that as i watched them play. i thought there was about seven of them or something, like most ornate post-rock bands, possibly because of the brass on the album. there were two, and hacksaw apparently often plays solo. sat down with his accordian, playing lead/bass with his right hand, rhythm with his left, and percussion with every other bit of his body. like some mad leper king he had a hat covered in jingle bells, a drum stick gaffer-taped to it, with which to smash the cymbal there; plus a stick on his right knee for the cowbell and other cymbal, and then an array of floor pedals to trigger various drums and noisy things (visible in the top photo). one big bass one, and a slightly smaller one doubled with tambourine as the alternate hit, to facilitate polka rhythms. there was even a bit of double kick at one point. simply as a technical musician, that man was a genius (lets not forget his lovely wife on violin, another common theme of the festival to have a wife helping out). and with the music veering from idle patient beauty to crazy full on klezma to trad folk, it was like they were not only the best act, but the whole point of the festival. that is going far i know, but blimey. and i've had their album for ages (thanks the bobby mcgees).
at somepoint i'd gone back to the tent for my uke, and after the hacksaw, i went up to the campfire to play accompany jed (james milroy's name, although i variously called him james and even jim whenever i saw him). so we were sticking it to the crowd - well, he was sticking it, i was just playing along as well as i could. people would recognise him from his stint with the aliens, but then a guy - ben - came up and said 'did you play in bars in edinburgh? you played this amazing song once, me and my mates loved it'. he brought out his harmonica (in c) and suddenly we were a power trio. while jed had a rest, i played my uke adaptation of 'enjoy the silence' and got a little applause. eventually his completely awesome bluegrass band turned up and after a while i went to bed.
the winds blew that night, and i felt like i was the only thing holding my tent down.
when i woke up, dan and i walked out to the nearest post box to get my time sheet away. a lovely stroll that was.
vito were like the doves but not as good (whatever you think of the doves, they were not as good as that).
i bumped into my 'very sexy lady friend' ewa at the water fountain. bumping into people was difficult and easy at this festival - every body looked like someone i knew anyway, so actually recognising people was tricky, despite the fact that it probably was them, given the circumstances. despite living in the same city, i'd kind of lost contact with ewa - it gets difficult to get in touch when it's been a month since you last made the effort and it didn't work out. in fact it was hard to avoid people you knew at this festival - it made mobile phones quite redundant, like being back in first year on campus when you could just wander down to the bar and your friends would be there. she's much more scene than me too, she'd probably be famous one day if she made the effort; we were always going to have a two piece, but she doesn't have her own kit, and you may remember the night she was meant to be coming round and never made it past the pub (or something. anyway, she never turned up). but it was really great to see her there. she really does have excellent taste in music.
we got excellent veggie breakfasts -
like most festivals, the food wasn't cheap, but unlike most festivals, it was really fucking good.
we walked past james raynard -
(who played an excellent song about working in a chicken farm. tag it 'funny and moving')
- then we went to see nalle.
nalle were like cirulus done right - retro, but comfortable at it. the lead singer's 60's style dress looked well-worn. dark, droney psych-out folk, with lots of jangly bits. that was the other common phenomenon of the festival - bands with toys all over the stage and different things to grab and make sounds with. nalle did this, so did bat for lashes, and others. i really liked them.
we went to the main stage for quasi - slightly disappointing given the hype people told me. ben folds five comparisons fly thick and fast (accent, line up, style), until the man picked up his guitar and played a bit like graham coxon.
we stuck around for euros.
funny man euros childs,
the lovely and cute alun tan lan
and two new members of the band who don't add much (as a trio, the band would swap instruments all over the shop so i didn't notice the new addtions much), but are nice to see anyway. the bass player is an especially good singer, but the poor keyboard player only got to play to about half the songs. euros is a clever kind of a guy - even his songs in welsh have catchy singable choruses, like 'henry and matilda'. still playing a near identicle set to seven months ago, but great fun.
bat for lashes!
we love abi.
costumes you see - how to make an effort and not look like you're being stupid. the egypty stuff really worked with the swirling smoke and low lighting and the music, which is kind of experimental and daring in itself, so the costumes go with that). there was a bit in 'i saw a light', when just as the song was reaching it's peak, natasha's piano started crackling as she was playing it too hard, which clearly distressed her even more and just pushed her well into the nic endo. magic.
then i went off to see brave captain, who was disappointing. he started off by doing the old loopy guitar trick, but it wasn't going quite right, and everything seemed a little shambolic. his picking was off, his songs, dare i say it, ordinary, and the poor lad's parents had just got divorced. by the festival's standards, he was really shown up. which is a shame, because he does have good songs that would stand up to a pure acoustic performance with none of that laptop dillydallying. if only he'd just done that. i went off to see tobias froberg, but he was really bad, i couldn't even sit through the one song, but then it did go 'it's alright, don't worry, everything'll be fine' or something (see, it wasn't even memorable).
btw, before brave captain came on, i saw a man walk past me with a 'yeti' sticker on his guitar case. 'wow,' i thought, 'who would have a zabrinski sticker on their guitar?' it was of course richard james, formerly of gorky's. the geezer.
i walked around, past micah p.hinson (who seemed very good) and gareth pearson (more later) back to the folky dolky tent for john renborn.
what a star. gentle, accomplished, and friendly, and the only person i saw all weekend with a miced up acoustic guitar (go on, call me a geek).
we stayed there for james yorkestone.
i didn't know anything of yorkestone, but when he came out i thought, 'oh, he's refreshingly old'. another eclectic performance from beguiling beauty to full on noise core. i'll definitely be investigating his back catalogue. natasha out of bat for lashes was watching from the sides, and afterwards i called her over and she remembered my name and everything. i don't mean to see this festival as a shopping trip. more of an eye opener.
we stuck around for keiron hebden and steve reid, who i hated. they were keeping in time, but i found what they were doing completely boring. reid never settled into a beat, but seemed to spend most of the time just hitting everything on every beat. hebden just made some crap knob twiddling noises. piece of shit.
i like noise as much as/more than the next man. but i found this frustratingly boring and it put me in a bad mood; i went over to see malcom middleton, and found him dull too, so i wandered back up to the campfire for a couple of minutes, stuck jed (who was in full flow with his bluegrass band) a cd, and went to bed.
the morning brought a guitar playing masterclass with gareth pearson. he's only 17, only been playing for three years, but/and he is a phenomenon. his own tunes aren't that good yet, but that may be only because he was so willing to play his influences and show exactly where he got the different bits from (and where his influences picked up their stuff from); but his form is incredible. it's real meeting the devil at the crossroads stuff.
i spent most of the rest of the day in the cinema tent. first a talk entitled 'gravity, gas and stardust' with 3-d flights through the universe that was as magic as anything that weekend. then 'rock guitar in 11 dimensions' with a slightly less child-friendly doctor of something, which covered the basics nicely, and the more advanced stuff - what happens when a sine wave is overdriven to hypercubes and 10-d tauroids - but didn't go far enough into the whole 'we are 11 dimensional music' idea in my opinion, cause that's the bit i really like. physics guys who just read to much tolkien. although dan was right to have a pop at him for claiming that evolutionary psychologists just 'made stuff up' (this was a talk on string theory remember, it doesn't even qualify as a 'conjecture')
9 bach - trad welsh psych-folk, like the stuff on that 'welsh rarebeat' i've got compiled by gruff rhys (ewa: 'massive ego') and andy votel (ewa: 'vile'). actually it their songs sounded like eurovision songs.
juana molina, proving that girls can use looping machines too.
watched ira cohen's 'invasion of thunderbolt pagoda'; a nauseating mixture of bizarre images of death and nature filmed reflected on ripp;ing silver, given a new soundtrack by sunburned hand of the man.
more ex-gorkys action: richard james.
richard didn't play anything by gorky's though, while euros played 'billy and the sugar load mountain' since that mountain was now very much in the vicinity (actually that song's been in the set every time i've seen him). last time i described james' stuff as 'like gorky's b-sides', but that's unfair; it's like the songs he wrote for gorky's. he went down really well too. lots of nice picking harmonies and fun. harmonicas were too loud though, and in one case a song was aborted when he realised he was using the wrong harmonica when he blew into it. and for this i missed bert jansch.. i felt really bad about that, but never mind.
the legendary meic stevens. he was secretly delighted (?) that so many youngters had come, spurned on by having both euros childs and gruff rhys cover his songs this weekend, although refusing to play those songs in particular ('houdini' and the one about going down the river in a banana boat, irrespectively). very sentimental songs, often in welsh, and a thouroughly rapt audience. although a rapt audience is nothing to go by, judging by sunburnt hand of the man. another piece of shit headliner, they reminded why i hate 'ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space'. they started up, the bass player playing a slow, steady, simple riff, the drummer keeping time with it (and little more) while two guitarists and a saxophonist made stupid noises. this pile of bollocks went on for about ten minutes, then stopped, at which point i left. danny had already gone home, his lift chrissy (with whom i exchanged a cd in return for her excellent festival zine, and recommend you do the same) having decided she'd rather do that than stay another night, i'd lost everyone i knew and wasn't about to go back to the campfire tonight, so i went to watch the mainstage headliners calexico. i thought ahead to the morning, packing up the tent, and how i wouldn't get any money out until i hit shrewsbury and imogen, and suddenly wondered how on earth i intended to get to the train station having spent all my budget. which meant i had to use the mobile cash point.
i got out twenty quid, and promptly gorged myself silly on potatoes d'or and pizza. and a brownie. i was happy being hungry and broke, but stick some money in my pocket and i will eat myself poor again.
photos taken by paperfaerie, chris barber, stevo, mr atrocity, dwlwen, mockney peirs, junctified, and of course, hot gril, all off whom have many more excellent pictures of the weekend. but you're probably sick of it now. sorry i'm not going to link the pictures to their big versions, it'll take to much effort. it'll take you more effort to find them, but they're all in those people i just said so you could.
in the end i did meet imogen in shrewsbury, but i didn't get a chance to buy her a parma violet lollie (suitable for vegatarians? since when?) at abergavenny station. shrewsbury is gorgeous - the three fishes pub on fish street (connecting to the thin, winding 'grope lane') is a pub like i've not seen for too long. it even shuts at three for two hours. but they had that guest stout i knew i needed.
speaking of too long, it's time to go to bed.