Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Day Two at Green Man Festival started for me at the Green Man Pub. A light rain may have been falling from the overcast skies but on stage the music of We Were Evergreen recalled summery childhood innocence via ukulele and toy instrument tweeness. The Parisienne trio’s sweet, airy songs and good natured warmth won over the lunchtime crowd and even promoted a spontaneous of outbreak of crowd dancing. Copies of their EP sold out in minutes.

In the Cinema Tent, I caught end of R. Seiliog, the vintage synth kraut-rock project of the H Hawkline drummer. It was only one song but its Neu motorik left me wanting to hear more, much more.

Next up in the Cinema Tent was duo Trwbador who played a seven song acoustic set starting with covers (Kate Bush and Gorky's Zygotic Mynci), then English language songs then Welsh ones to finally be joined by “two more Owains” for the seventh song ‘Shapes’. I’ve written about how much I like the Trwbador EP before and was equally charmed here by the band live. The simplicity of Angharad van Rijswijk’s child-like voice, even on songs with more adult themes like war, over-consumption and bitter relationships, with just acoustic guitar and toy glockenspiel accompaniment is enchanting. Utterly lovely.

I’ve missed out on earlier She Keeps Bees appearances at Green Man but this time managed to get to their Main Stage debut, the duo here joined by Oh Ruin’s Eoin O'Ruinaigh on second guitar. Their gutsy blues-rock had a tremendous, husky sexiness to it live, off-set by Jessica Larrabee’s humbled reaction to the enthusiastic crowd response and the Welsh scenery. The occasional lapse into between song ditziness or talk of star signs slightly took away from both the toughness and the sexiness but I’m being overly harsh. Must listen to their albums properly.

Back in the Cinema Tent briefly for Yoke, the electronic side project of Cate Le Bon and Meilyr Jones from Race Horses. The darkness of the tent and the curious Casey Raymond and Ewan Jones Morris videos were a perfect backdrop for the eerie judderings of the three songs I caught – one largely instrumental, one sung by Meilyr and one by Cate. This all too brief listen was enough to whet the appetite for seeing Yoke properly later this week and to prove again that the daytime programme in the Cinema Tent is often the place to discover weird and Welsh gemstones.

Dry The River on the Main Stage slightly disconcerted me. The handful of songs I had heard prior to today sounded impressive. On stage they were given more a rock edge than I was expecting: big, explosive drumming, lots of flinging guitars around on their straps and tattoos and shaggy hair a-plenty. As much as I enjoyed some of the songs, I was left with a feeling of something not quite authentic about Dry The River, as though they have taken the Fleet Foxes songbook as a template to achieve chart success rather write their own songs from the heart. Again too harsh probably. I will definitely be giving them the benefit of the doubt and giving them a proper listen.

Last year one of the joyful surprises at Green Man Festival was H Hawkline’s lunchtime set in the Cinema Tent. This year (“today’s our first anniversary – happy birthday us”) the band were on at tea time in the Pub; and if last year was droning krautrock and post-punk shoutiness, today’s excellent set was angular Welsh garage-beat and shoutiness that had more in common with The Fall than Faust. None of these songs were from quiet, melancholic second album “The Strange Uses Of Ox Gall” out next month – instead Huw Evans and co had decided to play a set of (largely) unrecorded songs that will probably form album number three. A talented trio as prolific as bass player Stephen Black’s Sweet Baboo output but five times more contrary. Great noisy fun and one of the festival highlights for me.

The H Hawkline Set List:

In The Far Out Tent, the chiming, late summer guitar sounds and melancholic undertow of Wild Nothing was a pleasant diversion but it never really engaged: singer Jack Tatum was just a bit too much of a tender soul to play the front man. Still worth catching and final song ‘Summer Holiday’ deservedly got the biggest cheer.

Next a surprise on the Pub Stage. I have the Oh Ruin single on Static Caravan: a doomy piece of acoustic alt-folk. So here I was expecting an introspective solo performer. But clearly Eoin O'Ruinaigh has moved on. With full band, fierce electric guitar playing and guest vocals from Jessica Larrabee of She Keeps Bees, Oh Ruin here played some noisy, rockin’ blues – still doomy but with the volume and the intensity jacked right up (He Keeps Bees maybe?). A surprise but a gem of a performance.

On to the Main Stage next for North Carolina’s The Avett Brothers. In a word “barnstorming”. The five piece delivered their bluegrassy folk-rock with a minimum of glossiness and a maximum of sweaty, energetic playing and passion. Two years ago, I saw Dent May scissor kick whilst playing the ukulele; here Scott Avett was dropping to his knees whilst playing the banjo with the cellist head-banging and everyone else was giving it their all. And The Avett Brothers proved adept at changing the mood without becoming over-sentimental: a duet from the brothers dedicated to their father had at least one person next to me in tears and then the final song ‘I And Love And You’ had the whole crowd singing out those words to the Welsh hills was a touching moment of warmth and unity rather than mawkish soppiness.

Another artist who I have consistently missed live is Hannah Peel but the intimacy of the Pub Stage at Green Man felt the perfect place to break that duck. And this was another treat – the intricately layered full band songs were clever and engaging but the quieter moments with just Hannah Peel’s high, airy voice, music box and subtle guitar or keyboard accompaniment from Laura Groves aka Blue Roses were mesmerising.

The Hannah Peel Set List:

And to close the evening on the Pub Stage was the ever reliable James Yorkston here performing with a band comprising guitar, accordion, two violins, clarinet, two backing singers plus The Pictish Trail on “space invaders machine”. The band opened with an acapella version of ‘Tortoise Regrets Hare’ but the remainder of the set was a more animated, foot stomping party if a little rough at the edges (“we had a rehearsal”).

It wasn't as emotionally devastating or as accompolished as some of my favourite James Yorkston performances (my expectations are always exceptionally high) but it was a brilliantly celebratory way to finish Saturday night. And to top it a cover of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ to close the set and the evening.

Now I did not see that coming at all. Saturday had definitely upped its game and proved to be a treasure trove of good music and frequent surprises.

The James Yorkston Set List:

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