Sunday, August 30, 2009

GREEN MAN FESTIVAL Day Three: 23 August 2009

Day Three started with the threat of rain and darkened skies but bringing some sunshine to kick off the Main Stage was Manchester's Its A Buffalo.

They may not have appeared as dapper as some of the publicity shots I've seen previously of the band (very Deadwood) but the music was great: country-tinged, ramshackle indie with shout-along choruses were just what was needed to clear a foggy head. Their album "Don't Be Scared" is well worth checking out. From here Mr P and I headed for the Green Man Pub to see 'Fence affiliates' Love.Stop.Repeat.

Dave Millar and Lindsay West use mainly harmonium and ukulele or guitar with occasional percussion to create music described in the programme as "willowly nu-folk". This is pretty accurate but it doesn't convey the charm and beauty of their music. It was gorgeous set (including a version of Neutral Milk Hotel's "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea" every bit as haunting as the original) that had me joining the scrum to buy one of their CDs at the end. My only record purchase of the weekend as it turned out.

From here it was to the Far Out Stage for an afternoon of Fence Records started off by Rozi Plain.

I'd previously seen Rozi performing solo supporting James Yorkston and she appeared quite nervous and a bit giddy then. Here she was much more assured and was supported by full band. It was enjoyable but I'm not sure I gave it my full attention (lack of sleep? afternoon beers hitting home?).

Next up were The Three Craws aka James Yorkston, King Creosote and The Pictish Trail.

"The boys of East Fife" perform other Fence Records artists and traditional songs and nothing is taken too seriously. Certainly James was enjoying himself - possibly a bit too much during domestic violence sob-story "Blue Bleezin' Blind Drunk " - but when they held it together they produced some beautiful moments. It just felt all too short.

After a not-so-quick turn around it was label-boss Johnny Lynch aka The Pictish Trail. He started this full band set with just him and Rozi Plain on backing vocals before they were then joined by full band included James Yorkston and King Creosote.

Again this had some moments of real charm but at four songs (even if long-ish ones) this felt curiously unsatisfying. The normal Fence Records magic didn't seem to be happening this afternoon. Or it could have just been my high expectations. Or the booze.

And as if Mr P and I hadn't had enough of Fence Records we headed for The Green Man Pub were Player Piano had just started.

Player Piano aka American Jeremy Radway records all the instruments himself but today he was backed by three piece band. And this was a very different offering from most Fence Records - keyboard-led power-pop rather than lofi folk and highly entertaining to boot. Another one to add to the list to find out more about.

Next it was my first (and only) visit to the Literature Tent for David Thomas of Pere Ubu performing "Ghost Line Diary". He'd clearly heard about the likelihood of rain too - he was wearing a full-length overcoat and brimmed hat, all in black.

For this performance he read pieces ("songs" he called them whether sung or not) partly from printed pages which were either snatches of Ubu songs, travelogues of "places that don't exist" or general observations. He arrived on stage swigging a can of Red Stripe - after finishing that he kept take large mouthfuls of Remy Martin from a hip flask - he claimed the performance would be better if he "was liquored".

As he spoke he swayed dramatically looking close to falling over a few times (act or alcohol?) and at times he appeared almost confrontational (again, act or alcohol?). But he also gave some hilarious impromptu (I think) stories or observations. When the mike stand fell over, he picked it up and started railing against modern, frail and thin microphone stands "Would James Brown have put up with this??! Would IGGY have put up with this??!" He finished with a reading-cum-acapella version of ("my favourite song" he said) "Dark" from the "St Arkansas" album. It was spell-bindingly spooky and made the hairs on back of neck stand up. He finished with another acapella song but by then the magic had been broken, in part by the sound and rapturous applause from She Keeps Bees bleeding in. A shame because this was a great festival moment and I would have loved to hear more. "Ghost Line Diary" can be downloaded via digital shop Hearpen.

So following a second visit to Pieminister to help us get through the evening, we headed to The Far Out Stage to join an evening of psychedelia and freakiness. Just about to start were The Yellow Moon Band (featuring Green Man founders Jo and Danny).

This was instrumental psyche-folk that was heavier and proggier than I expected. Great musicianship and an enjoyable performance but over the whole set it felt too much like the same song being repeated.

If The Far Out Stage was a haven of psychedelia tonight, the Main Stage was home to different strains of Americana including the Australian post-rock version. This was my first time seeing The Dirty Three (who were "so fucking happy to be here") and I was unprepared for how funny main man Warren Ellis is. It's easy to assume all Bad Seeds are just plain gloomy buggers. As well as leading drummer Jim White and guitarist Mick Turner in their intense bluesy instrumental work-outs with a show of high-kicking, sashaying and spinning that made Jarvis look demure, he told some great jokes. Particularly the running gag of asking younger songwriters and musicians to send them songs or ideas ("chords, anything") for their next album because they have run out of inspiration.

I went back into the tent at the Far Out Stage for Amorphous Androgynous and thought I walked into 1973. The three men I could see all had shoulder length curls and beards half way down their chest. The keyboardist was sat infront of two banks of vintage keyboards, the flautist was bare to the waist wearing a full-length frock coat and the singer/ringmaster was in flowing white robes.

I nearly turned around and walked out but stayed with it. And I was rewarded by their live version of their remix of "Fallin' Down" by Oasis ("the first thing we did was remove Liam's vocals"). Featuring Alisha Surfit on vocals, sitar, more flute and general weirdness, it was great and far from the lumpen sound I associate with the Gallagher brothers.

Leaving here is was back to Main Stage for headliners Wilco.

I'm glad I saw this (and I particularly enjoyed "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart"); and the band seemed to be enjoying themselves but overall it was a subdued performance and not quite the punching-the-air finale Sunday demanded. So I am pleased to report that I then got to see Hawkwind where there was some actual punching the air going on.

You know that space-wooshing sound on "Silver Machine"? Well all four songs I heard (including "Silver Machine") were drenched in that. It was difficult to tell them apart or whether they were any good. But it was entertaining in its own way with two female dancers (space aliens first time around, then Japanese geisha with scythes) and a crowd of ALL ages really enjoying themselves. Plus it was fun to see Dave Brock in a straw hat.

So a few disappointments, a few discoveries and some general freakiness to this last day. Green Man may not be as consistently strong musically as say End of the Road Festival but it was a joy to attend and I am sure we'll be back next year (it was just a shame on Monday morning to take the tent down in pouring rain and then endure an eight-hour car journey home).

Its A Buffalo
Don't Be Scared [BUY]

Love.Stop.Repeat [BUY]

The Pictish Trail
Secret Soundz [BUY]

The Yellow Moon Band
Travels Into Several Remote Nations of the World [BUY]

No comments: