‘VARIOUS ARTISTS’ – GREEN MAN FESTIVAL, CRICKHOWELL, WALES 18-21.8.22
Day One – Thursday 18th August:
This is my first visit to the Green Man Festival, and it is an absolute cracker! I have never been to a festival in such a beautiful setting. It takes place on the Glanusk Estate which is just outside Crickhowell Powys, Wales. Mountains rise above the site to the north, and the view from the site is simply breathtaking. I have an urge to do some hiking, but the music must take priority.
Thursday is relatively low key and starts off (for me anyway) with Mandrake Handshake. I’ve seen (and reviewed) the band a few times now, and they never disappoint. Indeed, they seem to improve every time I see them. With a stage full of musicians there’s theoretically an awful lot that could go wrong, but nothing ever seems to. Well, not that I notice anyway.
Today the band are their normal cosmic selves. It’s easy to get lost in the band’s performance, and I only wish that they could play for longer. They finish their set with ‘Hypersonic Super Asterid’, which is about them playing on the main stage here “a couple of years ago” (it would have been either 2021 or 2019) and ‘losing their minds’.
The Far Out stage where they play this time is pretty large and they absolutely own it. I don’t think that the main stage at any festival would hold any terrors for them now.
I reviewed Wunderhorse at the Rockaway Beach Festival in January, and remember being quite impressed with them. There’s a definite Radiohead vibe about this band, with a lot of passion and emotion being expended. There’s delicacy, tenderness, pain, anger…..they run through the whole gamut of emotion. The singer becomes extraordinarily animated, as if he’s living the lyrics. The band are powerful and cohesive, with both guitarists playing interlocking lead parts. The last song is cataclysmic, ending amongst howls of feedback. Wunderhorse are definitely one of the more interesting live bands around at the moment.
Honeyglaze are another band that I’ve reviewed a few times now, and they seem to noticeably mature with each performance. Today, vocalist and guitarist Anouska Sokolow and bassist Tim Curtis are on opposite sides of the stage to how they’ve been when I’ve seen them before. For some reason I find this deeply unsettling! Luckily it doesn’t have the same effect on the musicians.
Tim Curtis still comes out with his somewhat unusual stage announcements. For example: “That was a song about hair. This is a song about burgers”. Naturally, ‘Burglar’ is the song that follows. Live the band are so tight that I can’t help wondering how frequently they rehearse: daily? Anouska is a superb vocalist, especially on the rare occasions when she utterly lets rip. In terms of dynamics, her voice has incredible range.
They play a song called ‘I Feel It All’, and it is unclear whether this is a new song, or whether it is a cover. However, bassist Tim tells us that they only “worked it out” two days ago. Tim plays chords during this one, which is always good to see. It could count as him unleashing his ‘inner Lemmy’. The final song is the utterly wonderful ‘Childish Things’, with its incredibly detailed and observant lyrics. The end of the song is met with rapturous applause. Bassist Tim tells us: “We are Honeyglaze. You’ve got the wrong band”.
I last saw Penelope Isles at the Rockaway Beach Festival in 2020. Since then they appear to have become far rockier than hitherto. This is a very good thing. The band were formed by siblings Jack and Lily Wolter. They are originally from the Isle Of Man (indeed, Lily has a Manx flag draped over her bass amp), although the band are now based in Brighton. Despite their newfound rockiness, they play a new song which they tell us is “quite quiet”. They’re not joking. It’s very delicate, starting with just guitar and keyboards with reverb-laden vocals. The bass and drums come in later, although they remain very understated. Do we get a title for this new opus? No.
Normal service is soon resumed however. There are some wonderfully deep, ‘out there’ guitar solos, and falsetto vocals feature quite frequently. Alfie comes onstage to guest on keyboards for one song. Exactly who Alfie is we’re not told, but Lily says that she cannot play this particular song without him, so he must be quite important. They play what they tell us will be their last song, and then proceed to play another. It’s a heavy but short instrumental which ends in feedback as the siblings lean their respective instruments against their amps. This has been a wonderfully tuneful and punchy set. Penelope Isles have gone up another level entirely since I last saw them two years ago.
Tonight’s headliners Pip Blom are an indie band from Amsterdam, and are named after their singer, Pip Blom. They trade in spiky indie, and sound like they should be signed to 4AD. They sound like they’d be right at home alongside the likes of Throwing Muses, Pixies, The Breeders and Belly. They have both the tunes and the live clout to match.
This is apparently their biggest headline show to date, but they seem to be unfazed by that. Indeed, their performance is impressive throughout. They are tight, tuneful and powerful – there’s nothing not to like! The drummer generally keeps things pretty simple and almost motorik in style. The vocals at times are at counterpoints, which is really impressive. The bassist has bass pedals to use when he is playing keyboards. Despite their undisputed musical skill, they also have a playfully hooliganish side! They’re a captivating live band, and worthy headliners of today’s entree to the rest of the festival’s main courses.
Day Two – Friday 19th August:
Friday at the Green Man Festival starts with my first visit to the Mountain Stage (aka the main stage) for John Francis Flynn, a folk singer and multi-instrumentalist from Dublin. He is accompanied by Ross Chaney on synths and drums. Initially he comes across as being pretty straightforward: folky finger-picking with mumbled lyrics. All very soothing. He plays ‘Bring Me Home’, a traditional Irish song from North Kerry, followed by ‘Kitty’, another traditional Irish song. So far, so normal.
However, this normality doesn’t continue. Things go somewhat off-piste and become far more interesting. Some of this is courtesy of Ross Chaney and his interesting electronic sound effects. They provide an occasionally unsettling contrast to the guitar. Imagine an acid trip accompanied by folk music and you’re pretty much there. John Francis also adds to the more interesting side of things. During ‘Tralee Jail’ he plays twin tin whistles taped together, which he re-christens a “twin whistle”, or as an audience member further renames it: a “twistle”. Whatever it’s called, John Francis plays the two at once and they harmonise together. I’ve never seen this done before. Indeed, I have no idea how this even works! It does though: beautifully. The set ends with ‘Come My Little Son’, a Ewan McColl song about an Irishman away from home building motorways in England, having been unemployed in Ireland, a far from uncommon story. There’s far more to John Francis Flynn and his music than initially meets the eye. Proof, were it needed, that first impressions are not necessarily the right ones.
I stay at the Mountain Stage for Mdou Moctar, the tail end of whose set I caught at the Visions Festival in Hackney last month. Mdou’s full name is Mahamadou Souleymane. He is from the Niger and is influenced by Tuareg guitar music. The band play traditional rhythms in an electric rock setting. You could almost imagine them playing in a souk.
Mdou is a bit of a virtuoso, dazzling in fact. He doesn’t use a pick, and still manages to play with considerable attack. He’s one of the most interesting and inventive guitarists that I’ve ever seen. He’s a very lyrical player. His band are a good match for him. Mdou handles most of the lead vocals, but the drummer also sings some lead. The bass and guitars occasionally riff together, which gives very powerful results. At one point Mdou appears to float in slo-motion! Must be an optical illusion…..
The crowd give a great reaction, and just as Mdou’s set is closing the crowd is buzzed by a low-flying military cargo plane. It’s a very bizarre and surreal moment. Mdou is as exciting a guitarist as Santana in his prime. If I hadn’t seen another artist this weekend, it would have been worth coming just to see Mdou. He indulges in some guitar trickery that Hendrix would have been proud of. This man is a truly astonishing guitarist. Get ready world!
I briefly call in at the Green Man Record Store to catch a quick blast of The Umlauts and their coolly European dance music before heading to the Walled Garden Stage for Prima Queen, who I reviewed supporting Lime Garden at The Hope & Ruin back in February. I saw them again supporting Sprints at Hackney Moth Club a couple of weeks later, and they had noticeably progressed as a live band. Today they’re even better!
Today is singer/guitarist Louise Macphail’s birthday, and naturally once this is announced the crowd sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to her. She is wearing a dazzling gold outfit doubtless as part of her celebrations, and probably also to make herself more visible onstage in daylight. ‘But what about the music’ I hear you ask?
Well, basically it’s damn good. It’s flexible tuneful indie that’s seemingly effortlessly powerful when it needs to be. I’m starting to recognise many of the songs now, after having heard them live only twice, which is a very good sign. ‘Invisible Hand’ is about not having a very good time, and features Louise playing slide guitar. ‘Eclipse’ is a new single which comes out on Wednesday, and is about having sex. Fair enough. However, their most moving song, and indeed one of the most moving songs that I’ve heard for a long time is ‘Butter Knife’. It is about slowly losing someone, and includes the line “nobody could go to your funeral, because of the coronavirus”. I don’t normally cry at gigs, but that line brought me pretty close….
The set closes with ‘Chew My Cheeks’, which is probably their best known song. They were wearing sunglasses when they came onstage, and they put them back on because the video for this song was based upon ‘The Matrix’. With superb material and a captivating stage presence, Prima Queen seem to be very much on an upward trajectory. They seem to be very comfortable on a bigger stage too. I suspect that will come in handy in the future.
I stay at the Walled Garden for Bess Atwell. This lady has a sense of humour. She is wearing a hat which could best be described as ‘loud and flowery’. She conducted an online poll to decide whether she should wear the hat onstage. Ten people said ‘no’, so she decided to wear it anyway. Not only that, but she makes the members of her band take turns to wear it too. Is this tyranny? A power trip??? I don’t think so. The band seem to think it’s funny anyway.
Bess’s band includes two keyboard players. As a guitarist I can’t help thinking: “is this strictly necessary?” To be fair, one of them plays guitar too, the other one plays trumpet, and the drummer plays what appears to be a euphonium. So, they’re nothing if not flexible, and they can do all of this whilst taking turns to wear a silly hat too. Bess is promoting her ‘Already Always’ album, which was released last year. One of the songs from it sounds close enough to ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door’ as to be legally actionable. Bess’s material is quiet, contemplative and overall very nice. However, after Prima Queen it sounds a tad dull in comparison.
I head across to the Far Out Stage for WITCH (which stands for “We Intend To Cause Havoc”) the founder members of whom are from Zambia. With their mix of traditional music and psychedelia, it very much feels as if havoc is never very far away. This band is truly international, also featuring members from Bulgaria and The Netherlands. WITCH formed in 1972, and were a major band in the world of ‘Zamrock’. Vocalist Emanyeo ‘Jagari’ Chanda is the sole remaining original member, although keyboard player Patrick Mwondela joined in 1980. The band faded away in the mid 1980s because of the collapse of the Zambian economy and Government authoritarianism, but reformed in the USA in 2012.
The music is quite varied, not being just psychedelic, but also being fabulously funky in a funk-rock kind of way. The musicianship on display is fantastic – these guys certainly have got the necessary chops. They have a sense of humour too. ‘Get Out Of Here’ is about being a musician in Zambia, and asking for a lady’s hand in marriage. The song’s title being the father’s normal reply. It would appear that Zambian musicians are not particularly well paid…..
At one point vocalist Emanyeo asks us to headbang. Unfortunately the request is not met with universal enthusiasm. The set ends with ‘Evil Woman’, which is essentially African influenced prog. WITCH are a highly entertaining and very fascinating band. I think I’m going to have to track down some of those 1970s albums……
After this it’s time to grab some food and try to find a decent spot from which to watch tonight’s headliners, Kraftwerk. I must confess that not having seen Kraftwerk before I’m super excited at the prospect of them playing. Now Kraftwerk are not the most dynamic of live bands, effectively consisting of four rather anonymous guys standing behind desk-like synths. All day today at the bars, shops and stages people have been pushing Kraftwerk 3D glasses, so seemingly there’s a pretty spectacular show in store. Never mind the visuals though – what about that back catalogue???
I manage to find a slightly raised spot at the bottom of the hill, stage centre and quite a way back. This will be good for the visuals and sound, and let’s face it, who wants to be close enough to see the band’s craggy features? As it happens, Ralf Hutter is the only remaining original member of the band. The other members having all joined between 1989 and 2012.
The set commences with four tracks from 1981’s ‘Computer World’, including the title track. The 3D visuals start straight away too. They are utterly spectacular. Spaceships fly towards us, along with many other breathtaking images. The audience is transfixed. We very quickly start watching the visuals rather than the band, and that’s really the point. As far as the band are concerned, they might as well have signs hung around their necks saying “nothing to see here”. There is plenty to see however, and more importantly, plenty to hear. ‘Computer World’ is probably the most popular Kraftwerk album in the UK, and I must confess I thought that starting the show with four songs from it was a bit of a sop to the audience, and I did wonder whether the band were going to play anything released before 1981.
I needn’t have worried. We get ‘Spacelab’, which was the b-side of ‘The Robots’ from 1978. Following that is a really deep cut: ‘Tango’, which is unreleased but was first performed live in 1997. They couldn’t not play ‘Autobahn’ from 1974. They do play it, with visuals featuring 1960s Mercedes and VW Beetles. ‘Radioactivity’ from 1975 gets an airing, as do the 1983 and 2003 versions of ‘Tour De France’. Three tracks from ‘Trans-Europe Express’ from 1977 (including the title track) are a treat. Interestingly they name-check David Bowie and Iggy Pop who were releasing the fruits of their Berlin sojourn in 1977. Another deep cut is ‘Robotronik’, which was the b-side of the 1991 reissue of ‘The Robots’ single. The set finishes with two songs from 1986’s ‘Electric Cafe’, including the rather wonderful ‘Musique Non-Stop’. Of course, the music isn’t non-stop though. During the final song the band leave the stage one-by-one, the final member switching the machines off.
It’s impossible to underestimate the enduring influence of Kraftwerk. They invented electro-pop, although their music is arguably too serious and artistic to be designated as ‘pop’. Their music was also the first popular music to be made entirely with machines, the first ‘techno’ music if you will. Pedants will argue about how ‘live’ Kraftwerk’s music really is. In many ways this is rather missing the point, as Kraftwerk are more of an art installation than a band anyway. It doesn’t matter who’s in the band, it doesn’t matter whether the music generated onstage is made by machines. All that really matters is that this marvellous music continues to be performed to audiences around the world for as long as possible.
Day Three – Saturday 20th August:
Saturday starts at the Green Man Festival with Tapir! at the Rising stage. As the name suggests, this stage is essentially for up and coming bands. I had previously seen Tapir! at Paper Dress Vintage in Hackney last month, (Review HERE) where they’d been really impressive.
Today they are far more laid back than previously, and they somehow seem to lack a bit of dynamism. A child (possibly the daughter of the stage manager) dances onstage for much of the set, which must have been a little off-putting. At one point the child puts on one of the band’s red papier mache heads. Overall Tapir! seem a bit shambolic today, but apart from that, still pretty good.
Passing the Mountain Stage I have the grave misfortune to hear an Australian singer/songwriter called Donny Benet. The only reason I mention him is because he’s so god-damn awful. He is like the bastard offspring of Chris Rea and Dean Friedman (I know this is actually physically impossible, but bear with me). He is the purveyor of some of the most anaemic funk I have been unfortunate enough to hear for a very long time. To make matters worse, every song is overlaid with the most horrendous skronking sax. To be fair, he is very good at what he does, but to say that his music isn’t to my taste doesn’t even come close. He seems to be doing a very good job of recreating 1987 though.
With cheesy sax ringing in my ears, I make it to the Walled Garden for Strawberry Guy. He is a singer-songwriter from Liverpool, and his real name is Alex Stephens (I had a vision in my head of a christening: and what is the baby’s name Mrs & Mrs Guy? Strawberry). Alex (you don’t mind if I refrain from referring to you as Strawberry do you?) specialises in piano driven soft rock. He has a song called ‘Without You’, but it’s not the Nilsson one. It’s really quite a sad song. The songs are laid-back and well crafted. The band are top notch but they look bored, and their performance is consequently a bit dull. They could do with some oomph.
‘Back On My Feet’ stops and starts a bit, which is a tad annoying. It’s a nice uplifting lyric though. Another song with a good lyric is ‘Company’, which is about how we all depend on company sometimes. ‘Sun Outside My Window’ is much punchier than the rest of the set. Alex could do with a few more like this, as unfortunately the rest of the set seems to be on one level. So, broadly speaking, a bit dull, but the positives outweigh the negatives. There’s plenty to build on here. More oomph please Alex!
Next I head to the aptly named Far Out stage for the Psychedelic Porn Crumpets. The band formed in 2014 and consist of English singer and guitarist Jack McEwan, guitarist Luke Parish, drummer Danny Caddy, bassist Wayan Billondana (who couldn’t make it over this trip. More on which later) and Chris Young on keyboards and guitar.
They come from Perth in Australia. This explains a lot. I don’t know why, but Australian bands seem to do psychedelia really well! This is psychedelic stoner rock with an inventive twist: there are some very interesting time signature changes at work here. A typical song is ‘Naughty Naughty Naughty Naughty Naughty’, which is about “taking drugs in a field with everyone”. There’s some impressive musicianship, with harmonised lead guitars. Due to Wayan Billondana’s absence, they have a guest bassist: Jamie from Wales, who has learnt the entire set in three days! He looks like he’s been playing these songs for years. Frankly, this is a fantastic band. If you don’t know of them – you need to!
I return to the Walled Garden stage for Art School Girlfriend, which is an atmospheric electronica project with guitars based around Polly Mackey, who hails from Wrexham in North Wales, but is now based in Margate. The band come onstage to a pre-programmed drone on the synth. The bass also comes from the synth, and the live drummer is accompanied by electro beats. The lead guitarist’s Telecaster is heavily treated, at one point sounding like bells! Polly also plays guitar, in her case a Stratocaster.
The songs are indeed atmospheric, and this quality is enhanced by the effects used. The keyboard touches add to that feel. The band have a great sense of dynamics. There are lots of crescendos and decrescendos; lots of loud and quiet. Polly switches to bass, and at one point she overdrives it, drowning out the vocals. Or at least, they’re drowned out from where I’m standing against the barrier. When the synthesised bass takes over, it’s even stronger! I last saw Art School Girlfriend at The Old Blue Last in Shoreditch in January 2019. They were good then, but they have come on in leaps and bounds since then. Their debut album ‘Is It Light Where You Are’ is out now. Additionally they play Kentish Town Forum, supporting The Big Moon, on 28th September – Tickets HERE.
My next stop is the Rising stage for Deathcrash. They were excellent when I saw them at the Mutations Festival in Brighton last November, and also when I saw them at the Visions Festival in Hackney last month. They do not disappoint today. It’s odd how sometimes when you see bands repeatedly you notice aspects that you hadn’t noticed before. Today, for example, I notice hints of Mogwai that I hadn’t noticed before. There’s Radiohead in there too.
The vocals in the first song start out achingly delicate. The band quickly move from being delicate to being brutally loud and then back again. This is fabulously complex, serious music. It’s interesting and exciting. They already quite deservedly have a very vocal following. The set is over far too quickly, and ends cataclysmically with both guitars and bass leant against their respective amps and feeding back. They play the End Of The Road festival on the first weekend of September.
Black Country, New Road are on at the Far Out stage, and I’m definitely not missing them! They are at an interesting stage at present, following the (hopefully temporary) departure of vocalist Isaac Wood. Live they are still ignoring their two albums ‘For The First Time’ and ‘Ants From Up There’, and playing all new material. As they knew for quite a while that Isaac was going to leave, they started preparing new material quite early on.
Lead vocal duties for the new material are spread around quite evenly amongst the band members. The first song starts with a sax figure and then becomes quite rocky. Tyler Hyde takes vocals. On a song which may or may not be called ‘Jackdaw’, keyboard player May Kershaw plays accordion and sings lead. Sax and flute player Lewis Evans also takes on lead vocal duties. At one point there is some wonderful interplay between Lewis’s flute and Georgia Ellery’s violin.
May Kershaw plays a song on her own as the rest of the band sit on the drum riser. Georgia Ellery joins in on violin from her seated position. The collective standard of musicianship in this band is astonishingly high. This is progressive music in the true sense of the word, which is something that I’ve actually told the band before. After the last song the applause is huge. Tyler Hyde tells us that we’re the best crowd that they’ve ever played to. The band look decidedly moved. Tyler tells us not to ask for more, as they have no more material. They’re certainly keeping their heads above water musically without Isaac Wood. However, Imagine how good a Black Country New Road gig would be with the rather excellent new material, plus the songs from the first two albums. Get well soon Isaac!
Tonight’s headliner on the Mountain Stage is Beach House. The core of the band consists of vocalist and keyboardist Victoria Legrand, and guitarist Alex Scally. Together they are responsible for some of the most ethereal music I’ve ever heard. Alex sits down to play. I’m always slightly suspicious of guitarists who sit to play, but some of the greatest have done just that, so who am I to judge? Alex is responsible for some surprisingly muscular soloing however.
The band are backlit for most of their set, which gives them an air of mystery. They last played here in 2009, and none of the material played tonight had even been recorded then. The oldest material played tonight is from ‘Teen Dream’ which was released in 2010. We get ‘Silver Soul’ and ‘Take Care’ from that particular opus. In contrast we get six songs from the current album ‘Once Twice Melody’, which was released in February 2022. I’m not altogether convinced that Beach House are entirely festival headliner material. There is a fraction of the crowd that was there for Kraftwerk last night; but then again, Kraftwerk are legends. Another thing about Beach House is that there is a thin line between ethereal and soporific. This line was crossed toward the end of the set, when I found myself nodding off. Ultimately, this was not a bad performance, but it certainly wasn’t brilliant. There’s no encore either.
Often after the headliners have finished there is usually some more exotic fare on offer. This seemed to be the case with The Utopia Strong featuring snooker legend Steve Davis! This should be interesting…. However, they take being soporific to a whole new level. Steve sits with his back three-quarters to the audience, at an unidentified synth – like instrument with lots of blinking lights, which looks like it could well have been designed by Heath Robinson. The singer and guitarist resembles Syd Barrett from Pink Floyd. The guitar is largely inaudible. There is another guy who plays a bass recorder which is fed back into the mix. The vocals are heavily treated and harmonised. This appears to be little more than an experiment carried out by a trio of mad scientists. Oddly it starts to make me feel quite nauseous. The music appears to be one piece that drones on and on into infinity. I feel a terrible urge to escape, but I don’t feel that I can. I worry that panic is about to set in.
Essentially this is prog techno, or perhaps techno prog. There are occasional flashes of musical skill, but largely this is aural wanking. This is music that would best be enjoyed by its creators in the privacy of a rehearsal studio. I don’t see the need for the larger public to be subjected to it. Thank God the bar was still open.
Day Four – Sunday 21st August:
So I enter the final furlong at the Green Man Festival with the very marvellous Keg at the Far Out stage. Keg are a seven piece post-rock band based in Brighton. They consist of vocalist Albert Haddenham, bassist Joel Whitaker, synth player Will Wiffen, guitarists Frank Lindsay and Jules Gibbons, trombonist Charlie Keen and drummer Johnny Pike. I’d seen them a couple of times before at festivals during May, and quite frankly they’re insane. This appraisal however nowhere near does them justice. There is a high level of musicality at work here, together with some drily humourous lyrics.
There is an air of organised chaos throughout their set, but it is instructive to note that the key word here is ‘organised’. Having seen them soundcheck it is clear to see that they are very serious indeed about their music. There are one or two seemingly ‘mad’ trombone solos, but these are in fact very complex constructions: essentially jazz.
Their lyrics are very funny: ‘Camden Town’ makes fun of the rivalry between London districts, whilst’ I Forgot To Sing Again’, ‘I Missed My Wife’s Wedding’ and ‘Heart Attack In 5/4’ are pretty self-explanatory. They translate well to the big stage, and they connect well with the audience. They’re well worth seeing live, so it’s just as well that they’re playing the End Of The Road Festival on the first weekend of September, and Brighton Komedia on 16th November. Purchase your tickets HERE.
For something completely different, I head to the Mountain Stage to see singer/songwriter Katherine Priddy. She tells us that she is going to soothe us into the afternoon: and how! She has a crystalline voice accompanied by some quite wonderful finger-picking. Katherine would make a perfect Sunday afternoon artist at Glastonbury. Well, at Glastonbury about thirty years ago anyway! She released her debut album ‘The Eternal Rocks Beneath’ in June, and most of the songs played today are from there. Early on in her set Katherine is joined by John Smith on guitar and backing vocals. He and Katherine are going to be playing some shows together later in the year.
Katherine is very influenced by literature in her songwriting, and by Greek mythology in particular. ‘Wolf’ is inspired by Heathcliff from ‘Wuthering Heights’, whereas ‘Icarus’ and ‘Eurydice’ are obviously from Greek mythology. ‘Letters From A Travelling Man’ is faster than anything else in the set. Instrumentally it reminds me of Johnny Cash. Next we have a cover of ‘Talk To Me Of Mendocino’ by Kate and Anna McGarrigle. Katherine and John Smith have recorded this and it will be coming out as a single in October. Katherine and John will be touring in November. Prior to that Katherine will be supporting Loudon Wainwright III (father of Martha and Rufus) when he tours in September. She has a busy schedule ahead!
I walk past Green Man Records where The Murder Capital are playing an acoustic set. This is so unexpected, and they sound so different to their normal amped-up selves, that initially I don’t believe that it’s them! I don’t stay long however, as I’m on my way to the Far Out Stage to see The Wedding Present. There are those who believe that I can’t get enough of this band, having already seen them twice this year, and they’d be right!!! In fact, it’s only a couple of weeks since I saw and reviewed the Weddoes at the Rebellion Festival, but in all honesty, you really can’t get enough of a good thing.
The band take the stage one by one, with David Gedge coming on last. It’s good to see that John Stewart is back with them on guitar tonight. They open up with the magnificent ‘My Favourite Dress’ from the ‘George Best’ album.
They are playing tonight as replacements for Low, who were unable to make the festival. “The super subs are back!” exclaims Gedge. “Every year! They might as well book us!!!” Well indeed. They play ‘Canada’, a Low song, as a tribute to them. The show is filmed for screens at the side of the stage. It is noticeable that both Gedge and John Stewart smile cheesily when the camera is on them! The setlist is one song longer than at Rebellion. It is similar, but with the addition of ‘Granadaland’ from ‘Bizarro’, and ‘Flying Saucer’ from the ‘Mini EP’ at the end. The band are, as ever, awesome.
I remain at the Far Out stage for The Murder Capital, this time in their fully amplified glory. They start off with drones and feedback. It’s easy to forget what an excellent live band they are. They have inevitably been in the shadow of Fontaines DC for the last couple of years, but that unfortunately is understandable. Since The Murder Capital released their sole album so far in 2019, Fontaines DC have released two more. Hopefully The Murder Capital will do something to redress that balance before too long.
They seem tighter and more self-assured than when I saw them at Camden Electric Ballroom two years ago. They certainly sound very different to when I saw them earlier today! It’s a credit to them that they can be so versatile. They play a new song with a fabulously echoey guitar intro.
Some songs sound oddly psychedelic, which is something that I hadn’t noticed before. Crowdsurfing breaks out and continues for the rest of their set. The biggest reactions are for their singles ‘Green & Blue’ and ‘Don’t Cling To Life’, which causes the moshpit to erupt. The singer crowdsurfs and sings whilst he does so – impressive! This has been an excellent set, but according to the band’s website there are no upcoming dates! Come on – we need more of this!
Next up on the Far Out Stage are Ty Segall And The Freedom Band. I’ve been waiting to see Ty Segall for quite some time. To my mind he is very much his generation’s Neil Young. Every album he releases seems to be different, that is each has its own character. He writes and plays what he wants, when he wants, without pandering to the requirements of record companies.
The set commences with Ty playing solo on an acoustic. He is then joined by bandmate Emmett Kelly, also on acoustic. They have fantastic harmonies, reminiscent of Crosby, Stills and Nash. They start soloing together, getting faster and faster. This is astonishing! The man is very possibly a genius, and this is only about a quarter of an hour into the set!
The rest of the band appear. Now they are more like the electric Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. If you’re not sure what I mean, check out CSNY’s live album ‘4-Way Street’. It’s a bit like the early 1970s being brought into the 21st Century. Now Ty is tapping. Is there no end to his talents? Fabulous on acoustic guitar, coming close to shredding on electric. With his singing as well he reminds me of a cross between Gregg and Duane Allman. Occasionally solos are shared between Ty and Emmett Kelly. It’s wonderful interlocking stuff. This feels very much like a headline set. Perhaps it should have been.
However, Ty and the band give way to the actual headliners, Parquet Courts. They are from New York and consist of Andrew Savage on vocals and guitar, Austin Brown on vocals, guitar and keyboard, Sean Yenton on bass and vocals, and Max Savage on drums. There is also an occasional percussionist on stage tonight too. They are a really interesting band as their material is very diverse. A lot of their stuff is quite punky, some is very dancey, whilst one song is sufficiently discofied to include repeated whistle blowing.
Unsurprisingly Parquet Courts’ set largely concentrates on the albums ‘Sympathy For Life’ from 2021 and ‘Wide Awake!’ from 2018. However, midway through the set we get the title track of 2012’s ‘Light Up Gold’ and the set concludes with three songs from the same album: ‘Master Of My Craft’, ‘Borrowed Time’ and ‘Stoned And Starving’. ‘Borrowed Time’ features some serious (and very entertaining) guitar misuse by Austin Brown. This has been an enjoyable set, and would have been a fine introduction for those not already initiated into the world of Parquet Courts. However, I can’t help feeling that they must have been less than thrilled at following Ty Segall and the Freedom Band.
And so the Green Man Festival 2022 ends. This has been the most enjoyable, chilled, laid-back and friendly festival that I’ve attended for a long time. What a setting too! I shall be back next year, and that’s a promise, not a threat!
The Green Man Festival will return on 17th – 20th August 2023. All tickets will be going on sale on Thursday 29th September 2022 for Green Man 2023.
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