Last summer I headed out on a beautiful train journey to Abergavenny, Wales, for the Greenman Festival. It was possibly the most beautiful setting for a festival I could imagine. I can put up with a lot of rain in exchange for being surrounded by wet green mountains, stone cottages, and beautiful music.
Here is a rambling low-down. I hope it gives you some sort of sense of what this was like.
FUCK BUTTONS- MAGIC and ENTRANCING
KING CREOSOTE- entertaining, huge crowd, bubbles blown onto stage. Song for peoples with wasp phobia. Dadedededededum. Obviously used to entertaining a crowd.
JAMES YORKSTONE- voice can be heard across site. Clarinet, violin, accordion. Band member dances with small son.
LOU RHODES- particular song, rhythmic , voice lighter BETTER. Leaf TREMBLE . double bass+ viola picking. Sounds like she’s picking her own voice. Says she’s crap at love, Greenman has highest quota of attractive men with beards. The bearded man next to me tells his girlfriend he’ll see her on Sunday.
DUKE GARWOOD- blues voice. Strokes guitar. Everyone deadly silent. Rain falls. “try some blood warming country music” the way he holds his guitar is the closest I’ve seen a guitarist look as though he’s playing a harp. Short songs in between which he speaks to the audience in a quiet, low voice and drinks out of a can/ when applauded he looks sceptical. Not sure if that is because we are all standing in the rain to watch him, or how involved he was in playing that he forgot we were there. “thankyou friends, thankyou”.
CLARE MAQUIRE- from soundcheck sounds very promising. Rhythmic guitar, glockenspiel. Low brooding voice.
ROD THOMAS- following the programme’s description of rod’s music as “acoustic disco” I was fascinated. This description instantly makes sense when I imagined the pet shop boys covering the first track in his set. There is something about one man bands that means that almost whatever they play sounds 100000000 times better than it would if a full band were playing it. Thomas really shines on the tracks where the looping comes in to play. The crowd sing along and rod steps off stage to sing the last song in the midst of the audience. Exits to rapturous applause MORE MORE MORE. Acoustic or disco? DISCO”! “you’re so disco. Encore. Two little girls dance at the barrier. “I write miserable songs disguised with a disco beat.”
THREATMANTICS- “are we starting?” the background music plays on. Heddwym holds up a battered looking viola bow and all other sound drops, and threatmantics fall into their set. They fill the dark tent with echoing, sirenlike noise, the deep blue canvas and shadow covered ground giving the feeling of a midnight ramble, the bluesy guitar, constant drum beat and wailing viola prowling over an empty road in the still of night. Unsurprisingly, a crowd gathers. The drum is your own heartbeat, guitar like the jerking of your own limbs, voice is the voice in your head.
JENNIFER GENTLE riotous fun and noise.
ONE LITTLE PLANE- ritual like, sounding like the hum of traditional Indian music, but fronted by beautiful voice with underlying childish tone.
MUGSTAR- did truly sound like 1000 suns exploding. Got everyone dancing.
EUGEINE MCGUINESS- sharp lyrics that you follow impulsively. Flexible, willing voice.
EMMY THE GREAT- football scores. Unassuming. Crowd captivated. Voice sweet and true.
LOS CAMPENSINOS- how colours would sound if they were dancing around in an animal party in the deepest of woodlands.
ALELA DIANE- beautiful voice floats from the main stage over the hills, catching and dancing over the notes. Picked up band on London “street corner” dad, and alela. “I’d be pulling foxtails from your skin”.
GEORGE THOMAS AND THE OWLS. Don’t mess with me, my name is George, and I was once the heavy weight champion of the world. “A song about a sumowrestler George who had to loose weight because of a heart problem.” Red checked shirt, bright blue jeans and bright yellow ukulele. Wavering voice, accent. Bass drum and claps from backing. The couple next to me play a game of cards, and the smell of popcorn lingers. A bustling crowd gathers between café and stage. He is struggling not to strain into a jolting nervous dance. Expresses pity that his handsome brother Edmund? Cannot be seen, drumming at the back of the large stage. A little bit like ron sexsmith, but more wavering? Last song sings just with drums. Trouble. Squeeks, laughs, grips hair. Tuneless but captures. “the guitar’s completely fucked and I can’t sing in tune” as form of assurance following his offer to audience members to sing along.
BETH JEANS HOUGHTON you can definitely hear the Vashti Bunyan influence, Beth loops her beautiful voice over and over in earnest layers. “I’m not assed. I mean bothered.” Unexpected youth behind such music.
BOWERBIRDS blue shirt blue dress, bass drum accordion. A couple who live on a farm and make beautiful music.
MUMFORD AND SONS absolutely beautiful. Standing in a tent with the rain drumming all around, their music takes over and brings me to tears.
LAURA MARLING stunning live as always, with Mumford and Sons as band. They look like they’re having a whole lot of fun and the entire audience stands captivated by one small girl on the biggest stage.
IRON AND WINE play with a full band. Absolutely captivating. I stand the whole way through the set with my chin resting on the floor of the stage in front of Sam’s feet, hands clinging on like a child falling off a cliff not ready to swim in the stage lights.