Laughter In The Dark..........To think one week ago I was living it up on the Welsh riviera taking in the sights and sounds of Greenman Festival 06. I wasn't really sure what the best method for reviewing the weekend through my eyes would be so I think i'll just blag it and hopefully in the course of the next however how long make a note of those acts that I thought really made the festival for me and hopefully those other wanderers that crossed my path through-out its course. Like a vast percent of the population of the festival I travelled down to the picturesque setting of Crickhowell on Thursday, so as to procure a fairly safe camping spot. Through the drizzle a little temporary village came into being, it was time for a wander around the site where slowly the concessionary stands and the bars were coming to life the sunny glow of a wine and cider powered evening sent me into a peaceful doze ready for all that Brecon could throw at us the next day.
Just what Brecon was going to throw at "us" the next day wasn't entirely unexpected but mercifully the rain was punctuated by at least a small dose of sunshine and some fairly wonderful music. Kicking off the weekend on the Main Stage was Brighton based singer/songwriter/poet and so it would seem Billy Bragg inspired political activist Chris TT. Next up and in the spirit of not moving much The Shortwave Set took to the stage with their blend of Victorian themed folktronica, as it had started to rain me and my other honorary Throwaway Stylers made the decision to have a wander up to Folkey Dokey stage. Although this meant missing one man band extrodinaire Philip Roebuck it did introduce me to the tearjerking slowed down folk baladry of Adrian Crowley. Dublin born Crowley self released his first album in 1999 before going on to record the followup in 2001 with Steve Albini at the helm. These sessions were released the following year on Ba-Da Bing records as "When You Are Here, You Are Family" a beguilling mix of Codeine and Leonard Cohern. A new record is currently in production, however my appalling memory appears to have consigned the title and label to one of the less travelled parts of my brain.
A quick wander later and I found myself just to the left of the main stage for gravel voiced, front porch blues man M.Ward. Backed by Adam Selzer who has worked with him since his early days in Rodriguez, he proceeded to roll through his back catalogue of material before making an unscheduled stop at The Carter Family's "Hey Stranger" and then introducing us to material from his new album "Post War" due on Merge records in September. Time then for a quick comfort break beore medievel psych act Circulus took to the stage and the evening got fully underway. Mike Tyack and his band of merry minstrels roll through their catalogue of material at a heady rate coaxing the sun out from its hiding place. A quick exit was in order though to grab a good spot for San Franciso's Skygreen Leopards.
Skygreen Leopards are yet another outlet for the songcraft of the Jewelled Antler Collective acolyte Glenn Donaldson. Eschewing the field recordings that have come to earmark JA releases, Skygreen is the pairing of Donaldson and Donovan Quinn; a magical psych-folk band with a unique perspective and clever wording ontop of well constructed and whimsical music. They introduce themselves as San Fran's answer to the Family Band before inviting the audience to be their family too! Managing a total of seven encores in the space of their alloted 45 minutes, due to a slight scheduling quandry. In the end its all good though and they leave everyone with a wide smile plastered across their face as they leave the stage for the eighth and final time. Their latest album "Disciples Of California" is due out on Jagjaguwar records in October 2006.
Skygreen Leopards - Disciples Of California
Due to a rather unprecedented number of people showing up to see Gruff Rhys, I made my excuses and had a wander over to catch the start of Teddy Thompson's set on the main stage. Sadly he seemed a little swamped by the size of the stage and I wandered off shortly the third song. Which is how I found myself nestled down the front of the Greenman Cafe stage watching the finger picking skill of the 24 year old Kent based James Blackshaw. Despite some problems with sound and Blackshaw's own self dreciation, he managed to turn out a magical blend of Steffan Basho-Junghans/Ben Chasney inspired song cycle. Currently in the process of recording new material his most recent release "O True Believers" is available now from Bo'weavil recordings.
James Blackshaw - Excerpt from "Transient Life In Twilight"
New Mexico's Hawk And A Hacksaw round out the night on the Greenman Cafe stage; Jeremey Barnes and Heather Trost blend together a mixture of accordian, percusion and violin. Barnes who is noted for being the drummer in the band Neutral Milk Hotel, and a key mover in the production of the Beirut album "Gulag Orkestar" released earlier this year to critical applause. A whirlwind tour of the Slavic regions of mainland europe, including a couple of songs from the new album "The Way The Wind Blows" the title of which is later revealed by Barnes to be a reference the radical revolutionary group the Weather Underground Organization, active during the US's ill fated occupation of Vietnam in the late 60's early 70's. The new LP should be out October on the Leaf Label.
Hawk & A Hacksaw - The Moon Under Water
Hawk & A Hacksaw - Portlandtown
After witnessing Barnes and Trost, Donovan's somewhat comedy take on his back catalogue seems somewhat less polished than normal. Aside from the rather odd Jamaican accent that peppers his on stage banter, he also chooses to preform the ubiquitous Sunshine Superman on three occaisons throughout his headline slot. As I wander back towards my tent I can hear take three, sharply followed by Mello Yellow. My head hits the makeshift pillow and i'm gone dreaming of cider induced klezmar punctuated parties and wishing that the students directly behind me would hurry up and decide exactly which decade was their favourite!
to be continued........