Friday, August 24, 2012


"I'm not going to lie to's going to be slow". But actually the meditative folk musings of Fence Records’ Seamus Fogarty were the perfect start to the final day of Green Man. The mud and two long days of excellent music plus the Growler ale had taken its toll and rather than launch noisily in, songs from the excellent “God Damn You Mountain” performed with accordion from brother John, vocal harmonies from friend James and from Rozi Plain (also on ‘shaky egg’) was a great entree to the brightening but long day ahead. The accompaniment took the songs closer to the album versions than the solo versions I’d seen but in any configuration and live or recorded, the music of Seamus Fogarty is highly recommended. And not just for festival Sunday lunchtimes.

Seamus Fogarty Set List
The Evening Lay Down Upon Us / Down By Waterside / Little Mama / The Undertaker’s Daughter / Train To Mexico / Heels Over Head / God Damn You Mountain / The Wind / The Question

Knowing I was going to miss Tiny Ruins later, I hot-footed it to see her in the Rough Trade tent. Songwriter Hollie Fullbrook with double bassist Caz have been touring Europe constantly since I saw them last at No Direction Home. However they have used the time wisely, writing songs on the road and using this session to air some of them – plus ‘Little Nose’- saving “the greatest hits for our main set”. Gorgeous.

Alaska make an offer too tempting to miss: “reverrrrrrb-heavy, B-movie-influenced psychedelic garage rock with a surf pop twist”. The Leeds four-piece, all dressed in white (at a festival?!), were not quite as quirky and blatantly B-movie kitschy as they claimed on this boisterous encounter but have done enough to send me in search of their EP.

I caught three songs of dark, electronic angst from Ghostpoet on the Mountain Stage - was pleasantly surprised how well it worked in the open air festival setting – before heading for Crybaby on the Walled Garden stage. With a stage name taken from a Garnett Mimms song, Danny Coughlan writes soulful balladry that occupies a similar space to Richard Hawley. Here with three piece backing band Crybaby suggested "we’ve brought our rainy set not the sunny one" but whatever the weather (the sun came out for final song ‘Twist Of The Knife’) these deceptively simple songs of heartbreak were neatly engaging.

More weather references from Damien Jurado: “I’m from Seattle, Washington. I like the rain”. After hearing Jurado on various compilations a decade or so ago, I’d wrongly ignored him until this year’s excellent ‘Maraqopa’ album. On the Mountain Stage, seated, he played songs from that album plus much older ones to a hushed crowd – compact stories of heartbreak, departures and failings. Entrancing. Before he brought them on he introduced Megafaun as a band “seeking marijuana”. The North Carolina band then backed him for two noisier final numbers including the “psychedelic rock jam” that opens the latest album to close with. One of the highlights of the weekend for me and now I have a ten year plus back catalogue to catch up on.

King Creosote and Jon Hopkins make an odd couple physically – one tall and neat even severe, the other shorter, rounder and more – well – cuddly. Musically however it is an inspiring musical partnership. With Hopkins at grand piano and harmonium, King Creosote at the front of the stage plus backing vocalist and drummer, they navigated the “Diamond Mine” album plus a cover of ‘The Only Living Boy In New York’ with graceful aplomb to huge cheers.

I stayed at the Mountain Stage to secure a front-rail view for Tune-Yards and glad I did because there was a hefty throng waiting for them when they came on. “This mud’s for you”; Merrill Garbus had used Green Man mud in place of her familiar warrior face-painting but I think most people missed this reference as her band launched into ‘Party In A Can’. I’ve written before (here and here) about the inventiveness, fun and energy of Tune-Yards live and today it remained fresh despite this being the last date of a “very, very long” world tour but it was even more energetically charged. The loud mock-angry shrieks of Garbus drew equally loud responses from the crowd. It really was a party, finishing with a mighty segue of ‘Killa’ into ‘My Country’ featuring heartfelt thanks, a dedication to Pussy Riot, posing saxophone players and a dancing tour manager. Of course the band could only be called back on stage for an encore.

Tune-Yards Set List
Party In A Can / You Yes You / Gangsta / Powa / Real Live Flesh / Es-so / Bizness / Killa / My Country / Jumpin' Jack

I didn’t last the full set from Jamie N Commons - a disappointing Brit School take on faux blues-rock-noir. But proving to be the real deal in the Far Out Tent was Jonathan Richman. It’s difficult to capture the playful fun of a man in his sixties acting the kid in such an idiosyncratic, slightly camp fashion accompanied by Tommy Larkins on drums and dark glasses. The opening song sung of Vermeer being better than Rembrandt but included a welcome message and some high kicking dance moves. The next song invited everyone to come to the party with verses in Hebrew, Arabic, Italian and Spanish at least. A snippet of 'Egyptian Reggae' led to a lengthy crowd singalong to ‘I Was Dancing In the Lesbian Bar’. Good to see someone live up to their legendary status.

I went to Daughter at the Walled Garden expecting some intensely moody noir-pop along the lines of Esben And The Witch. Instead it was cosily predictable and fairly dull fare. A major disappointment.

Several songs in Megafaun referred to their performance two years ago in the Far Out tent as “the most meaningful show of their career”. It was certainly one of the most joyous, surprising and life-affirming live sets I’ve seen - astonishing to be part of a moment when band, even wearing basketball vests, and the crowd felt indivisible. I’ve seen the band subsequently so I know that their Green Man festival appearance in 2010 was the exception not the rule. I think some here seeking a return to that communal spirit were disappointed. For others it was a good-natured and heart-gladdening - if short – set of laidback jams with the band making up the set-list as they went. It may not have matched previous festival heights but the off-mic rendition of The Band’s ‘I Shall Be Released’ to conclude did feel suitably celebratory.

So another Green Man over. There had been a few minor disappointments in what I chose to try out, mainly due a mismatch with expectations, but overall this was a very strong musical programme, much better than last year. As always what I missed could be a whole festival in itself but I saw will stick with me – unlike the mud which only now remains stuck to the soles of my unwashed wellington boots. Diolch Green Man!

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