Monday, August 21, 2006

We've Come On Holiday By Mistake (Part The First)

I'm back. It's been an interesting and educative few days where I've learned some things about myself, found some new music to brighten my journey and found new types of back-pain that I'd previously never experienced. So how was The Green Man Festival and how was Mr Atrocity's first camping trip? Well, to begin at the beginning... We arrived on site on Friday at about 4 p.m. following a 4 and half hour drive from London. There were four of us plus all our camping equipment crammed into the youngest Doddling's hatchback. I was deputed to map read which was pretty straight-forward and we got to Glanursk Park without any major setback. The main irritant on the journey was the rain, which in hindsight should have given us some insight into how much of the weekend was going to turn out but in our youthful naivete we brushed it off as a transient shower. Once I'd assembled my tent, something for which I required technical assistance (they have two skins these days apparently, no-one told me) I set about arranging my pitiful belongings into the hovel. I have never been keen on camping; actually that's a bit of an understatement. I was pretty sure I'd hate camping, but so as not to dismiss the concept out of hand with having at least given it a go I put on my cheap fleece and unrolled my cheap sleeping bag inside my cheap tent. Hell, if I was only going to do this once I didn't want to waste a whole heap of money on kit I'd never use again. The photo here is the hovel, lovingly snapped as it sat there, with the rest of us getting rained on. In a rare fit of intelligence I did remember to pack my waterproof poncho which was purchased as US Army surplus many years ago. If you can fit a US Marine under it, I figured myself, my bag of things-that-I-must-not-allow-to-get-stolen (camera, wallet, house keys etc.) would fit a treat. And so we did, and I scoffed at those novices who had turned up with only a small waterproof jacket as I strode about in my own portable mini-tent looking very stylish. Once base camp was established we all pottered off to investigate the site and form our plan of who we would want to see and how the logistics of this might work.

Friday Night

The highlight for me on the main stage was Circulus, a prog-rock/medieval revivalist who seem to me like Gong in the Court of King Arthur. Lots of people say they're trite, silly and hackneyed. I say they're a really tight, great band, and where else am I going to see Moog synths mixed with a shawm? They played tracks from both their albums with the leadman Michael Tyack enjoining the enthusiastic crowd too "Move it out, villagers!" as the kicked into one of their uptempo numbers. I loved it and firmly believe that any band that believes in faeries and pixies has the divine right to do pretty much whatever the hell it chooses. Following Circulus I went for a wander and a bite to eat and eventually found myself in the Fokey Dokey Tent where Simple Kid was playing a blinding set with just a PowerBook for accompaniment. He used the technology well not only to add backing tracks for his own pieces but by linking the computer up to a projector was able to project karaoke lyrics for the audience to join in and perform a duet with Kermit the Frog on, "Its Hard to be Green." Following this I stopped by at the tiniest stage where A Hawk and A Hacksaw were performing. Main man Jeremy Barnes was playing the accordion whilst wearing a hat with bells and a drum stick. By shaking his head he could rattle the bells and then with a spasmodic jerk he could use the drum stick to hit a cymbal strategically placed to his right. Although the band are from New Mexico they have an almost East European sound to my ears and having bought the CD and listened to it this evening I still think that.

Saturday

Saturday had something old and something new for me. The "something new" came in the form of "Bat for Lashes" an amazing band about whom I'd heard nothing prior to the festival. All the band's members are multi-instrumentalists and effortlessly shifted from piano to guitar to percussion whilst lead singer Natasha Khan had stolen the hearts of most of the youthful and callow male members of the audience within seconds. A very magical act and they have a debut album coming out in a couple of weeks. I'd advise joining this bandwagon now. You can get their current single "The Wizard" (natch) on iTunes or from here. It's also on 7" single for the technologically suspicious.



John Renbourn

In the "something old" category the main reason for my wanting to be at the festival was to see John Renbourn, who've I've written about before. He put on a superb show, one of the best I've seen him do and the whole tent was absolutely buzzing as he tore through music from the 40 or so years of his career. Such was his energy he managed to break a guitar string on the final number, "Kokomo Blues" and yet due to his incredible skill was able to finish the song seemingly unimpeded. What a hero.

I'll write up the rest of the weekend's mayhem tomorrow plus my conclusions on the whole camping experience but for now I just have to go to bed...

For those who can't wait there's a flickr set of the whole enchilada...




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