Americana UK 2008 Report of the Green Man Festival
Festival Review - Green Man Festival, Glanusk Part, Wales: 15th-17th August 2008 by Jason Walnut
Jason Goes Nuts at Greenman
Mugstar are the first act I catch at Greenman 2008, Pete and the boys sticking it to the Folkey Dolkey stage Hawkwind style. Gloriously noisy and reassuringly loud, looks like it's going to be a good weekend. Agnostic Mountain Band provide their unique brand of fuzz box skiffle complete with double bass, banjo and harmonica. "You done fucked up again" go the lyrics to the track which is a response to a Newsweek story titled 'What Bush Got Right', they close the set with the rather biblically titled sing-a-long 'John The Revelater'. One Little Plane combine doomy chime guitars, mallet drums and tambourine to give us a Mazzy Star, Velvet Underground feel. Once this is augmented by acoustic guitar the sound takes on more of a Suzanne Vega slant, with a slightly anaemic feel due to the lack of bass. O Death open their set, made up largely of new songs, with 'The Air I Breathe'. Great stuff, like an anxious Bright Eyes on a dodgy pill the drums hit you were it hurts whilst the fiddle weaves its magic thread. An acid house Pogues or Decemberists meet Drop Kick Murphys, random overheard comment "They really ought to put tops on" (referring to the shirtless members of the band, too much info guys !) James Yorkston in good mood shocker, was that actually a smile and chuckle you were having ? A solid set proves popular with the Greenman crowd and JY is even joined onstage by dancing kids and John 'bigfoot' Smith. Fuck Buttons get best band name of the weekend but the set is all fore play no climax, The Orb with less ideas. One track starts like a mix between Dirty Diana and the one of Lost Boys that goes 'Cry little sister....Cry to your Mama....Thou shalt not kiiiiillllll' promising but doesn't quite arrive anywhere. King Creosote is always pleasure. 'Not One Bit Ashamed' is splendid and things all go a bit Blondie-esque, disco work out for 'You've No Clue Do You'. Drive By Truckers hit the stage complete with female bassist (ace) and David Byrne lookalike on guitar (not so ace). A southern rock Aphgan Whigs or contenders to My Morning Jackets' throne they dedicate a track to Jerry Wexler as the sun sets and they prepare to pass the Main Stage to Spiritualized. As the rain begins to make its first appearance Jason Spaceman treats us to his finely honed space rock stylings. 'Lord Shine A Light' is a triumph; 'Soul On Fire' is a life affirming experience, all shimmering, shuttle launching guitar lines and elegiac harmonies. It's an other worldly gospel masterpiece, Tune Of The Weekend ! We are then treated to 'Lay Back In The Sun/Good Times' (apologies I can never remember the exact title). 'Death Take Your Fiddle' is both sublime and apt at a folk festival, 'She Kissed Me and It Felt Like A Hit' follows and strobe light madness erupts during 'Come Together'. Sheer Brilliance. Fridays music draws to a close, think it's time to get busy with the fizzy.
Is it Cava o'clock yet ?
Day 2 at Greenman looks like it's going to be a wet one. Cait Le Bon should be further up the bill and is definitely a name to watch out for. Again the sound in the Folky Dolkey tent throws up some issues. The tunes are Melanie meets Nico over a band sound that mixes Gorkys, the Velvets and a touch of Love. Closing track has a Forever Changes feel with a kicking drum break and Arthur Lee/Johnny Echols fuzz guitar solo "split the time in two, half for me half for you". Great stuff. 9 Bach declare the weather 'flipping freezing' but do their best to warm out hearts with the beautiful blend of harp, Telecaster and soaring harmonies. Joined by a rhythm section after the opening track they make a truly wonderful listening experience. Harp and Glockenspiel flit and dance like dragonflies over a Radiohead meets Big Star backing track for their third song which apparently translates to 'When Will You Come Again'. Babel are the surprise of the weekend, epic sounding in a good way, delicious slurpy string section and charming band/audience communication a splendid time is guaranteed for all. We get songs dedicated to beards and the Isle of Mann. The sound is close to a Hup era Wonderstuff occasionally rocking out and showcasing some sometimes alarmingly threatening lyrics. Who knew so much could happen in "the backseat of a police car" ? 'Last song 'Make Your Bed' is a stuttering, stop/start, speaker scaling stomp along. North Sea Radio Orchestra give us Penguin Cafe style chamber music with a few Kate Bush 'Ah-Ah-Aaaahs' and a pleasing portion of bassoon. Devon Sproule is as cute as a button in her gnome like woolly hat and vintage Gibson, a more country Joan as Policewoman if you will. Truly wonderful stuff, Neil Young cover and the amazing BJ Cole on pedal too. Eugene McGuiness kicks off his set with the fantastic 'Bold St' and paints whimsical pictures of urban settings and he now has a band too. Is that an electric guitar ? Judas ! The sound is all the better for it, putting pubic hair round the balls of already great tunes. Richard Thompson is top notch, mixing new tracks such as 'Dads Gonna Kill Me' with classics such as his '73 quasi-hit 'I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight'. Brilliant guitarist and charismatic character, awesome behaviour. Super Furry Animals take the stage complete with robot headed, poncho sporting lead singer and treat us to 'Slow Life' and we are then led a merry dance through their back catalogue 'Rings Around The World' is genius, 'Golden Retriever' is as faithful as a family pet (did you see what I did there ?). 'Receptacle For The Respectable' is a joy to experience complete with celery munching. They make it all look so easy and so much fun. 'Juxtaposed With U' and 'Hello Sunshine' become anthems after the rains of earlier. A rousing version of 'Man Don't Give A Fuck' and old skool 'If You Don't Want Me To Destroy You' make this wet little chap a very happy man.