Monday, August 20, 2012


"And if you can't stay dry, have a good time getting really wet". Well that late afternoon stage announcement at Green Man Festival pretty much summed up the whole weekend to come. Having got the tent up in a fierce downpour (again), the first band I got to - two hours into the tenth edition of the festival in the Brecon Beacons - was Welsh youngsters Sen Segur in the Walled Garden. Their chugging pysche-rock was quirky and inventive in equal measures - one song title's English translation got it right: "It's Angular". Impressive start to the weekend.

Next saw M J Hibbett and “my friend Steve” present their science fiction rock opera “Dinosaur Planet” featuring acoustic songs, multiple headwear changes, plastic dino masks, a guest appearance from Van Morrison and the total destruction of Peterborough. Silly but very entertaining.

Two songs of King Charles on the Mountain Stage was enough to send me back in search of some noisier, more interesting fare. Step up Mowbird from Wrexham. The four-piece complete with new birthday guitar play a zippy surf-punk mixing the energy of the current nofi movement with some of the wayward melodicism of Pavement’s “Wowee Zowee” - plus they also covered Sex Hands who they have a split single with out soon. Excellent stuff – one of my highlights of the weekend (and it was still only Friday afternoon).

After a pit-stop to check out the festival ale Growler (OK and to stand under cover for a few dry minutes), it was back to the same stage for Joanna Gruesome (and if Sen Segur were youthful...). The Cardiff five piece - “piledriving indiepop fans since 2011”- had a loud Dinosaur Jr-like sound complete with blistering guitars and topped off with male/female vocals. Again another excellent live set from a noisy Welsh band early in the day.

Over at the Rough Trade tent Cate Le Bon played a short four-song solo acoustic set in which I may have been standing inappropriately close. Truly entrancing and a perfect warm-up for the later, headlining set.

The reformed – and name-shortened – Dexys on the Mountain Stage turned out to be an unexpected treat: dapper soul revue theatrics meets personal therapy. The in-song dialogue between Kevin Rowlands and Pete Williams acknowledged the former’s problems and struggles but in a playful almost light-hearted manner. And they even managed to return one of most overplayed songs ever to its original desire-riddled angst by making ‘Come On Eileen’ a deep soul song complete with extended pleading finale. Last song ‘This Is What She’s Like’ saw Kevin Rowlands stomping across the stage, saluting the audience and repeatedly chanting “this is our stuff” with utter conviction – and rightly so. A welcome return.

Last time I saw The Felice Brothers, singer Ian Felice was so intense and scary-looking I had him pegged for a convicted murderer on the run. Tonight and especially on the larger Mountain Stage the New York stage quintet were a less ominous - but still thrilling – presence, mixing the idiosyncratic moodiness of songs from their latest album like opener ‘Honda Civic’ and ‘Cus's Catskills Gym’ with earlier and more rowdy and rootsy singalongs like ‘Whisky In My Whisky’ and ‘Frankie's Gun’. Good raucous fun.

Next a band whose stage show you would never describe as raucous: Eagleowl in the Cinema Tent. The Edinburgh ensemble now expanded to a six-piece with drums and cello and freshly signed to Fence Records played a typically exquisite slo-core set to a group of soggy but attentive festival goers enjoying a rare sit-down on the matted floor. “This will be our last song but don't worry it's very, very long”. Eagleowl: not only not raucous but a group who know how to take their time.

The night finished for me back at the Walled Garden stage with the headlining set from Cate Le Bon and band: Huw “H. Hawkline” Evans on keyboard and guitars, Steve “Sweet Baboo” Black on bass and Andy Fung on drums. The first time I ever encountered Cate Le Bon was at this very festival four years earlier. My obsession has grown steadily since and been cemented by the excellent second album ‘Cyrk’ from earlier this year. The set drew strongly from that album and was similar to the one I was at in April at The Soup Kitchen in Manchester but, even with senses a little dulled by steady drinking, felt beautifully darker and more intense. Mesmerising and an utter joy.

The Set List:
Julia / Fold The Cloth / Cyrk / Carmelo / Eyes So Bright / Falcon-Eyed / Puts Me To Work / The Man I Wanted / What Is Worse / Ole Spain

Day one summary: wet but wowwed.

No comments: