Live Music + Gig Reviews

The Green Man 2006: Day 2 @ Glanusk Park, nr Crickhowell, Brecon Beacons

19 August 2006

“Oh, that’s so cool! That’s where I went in India!” So many times I must have overheard conversations to this effect at Green Man. People were so fascinating I could barely function properly. So I had to take some time out from this devastating interestingness, and the thumping rain, and retired to the literature tent.

Donovan’s insufferable interview was quickly over and out of my system (though the perverted side of me quite enjoyed the sing-a-long with There is a Mountain) in time for a truly colossal figure of folk and psychedelic music in the late ’60s.

Decorating Joe Boyd’s formidable CV is production for Nick Drake‘s three albums, Pink Floyd‘s early work, Vashti Bunyan‘s Just Another Diamond Day, Fairport Convention and The Incredible String Band. He read from his new book describing it all, White Bicycles. Passages describing his discovery of Norma Waterson and the ethereal beauty of the fragile folk nymph Annie Briggs led on to a question and answer session where he refuted having an affair with Beverley Martyn and imparted his own poignant memories of Syd Barrett.

Following him was Robert Kirby who wrote the orchestral arrangements for Drake, Bunyan and many others. His slideshow included photos from his personal collection of Drake, Fairport and Ralph McTell. He played the tunes to match them, talking us through his arrangements and revealed he has recently finished contributing to the new Magic Numbers album.

Headlining the main stage tonight was Jos Gonzlez – commercially speaking the biggest name on the bill. The main stage lost a few people to the Folkey Dokey stage for Four Tet‘s Keiron Hebden and Steve Reid, but Jose’s quiet niceness went down very well indeed amongst the many families here.

However, Gonzlez remains thoroughly bland with songs that are static and undeveloped, while his playing is repetitive and unimaginative.

“He’s a bit like Nick Drake” chirruped a girl nearby me. No, lady, Drake’s guitar wizardry spanned the entire fretboard rather than Jose’s limited talent for playing three or four strings and a single phrase extra extra fast.

Earlier that afternoon at the Folkey Dokey Tent there was a proper lesson in guitar playing. John Renbourn while being less of an influence on other musicians in the ’60s, is perhaps a more jaw-dropping player than his former Pentangle bandmate Bert Jansch. Owing heavy debts to blues as well as traditional Celtic folk, his performance was simply compelling. A broken string curtailed his set, but the young audience sat beneath a haze of marijuana smoke knew they had seen one of the best guitarists in the world. T’was bloody silly he wasn’t on the main stage – as far as musicianship goes, Renbourn owned this festival.

The Silver Jews preceded Jos Gonzlez – with the mere fact of them being here quite remarkable. Having existed with various line-ups since 1989, the Silver Jews had never toured anywhere until earlier this year and Green Man is their first ever festival appearance. Their lo-fi indie was a welcome antithesis to the winsome psych-folk everywhere else, and judging by the frenzied support they had in front of the stage, their cult is strong. A nearby camper piped up with “the Silver Jews’ bass player was a sexy little thing wasn’t she?” adding a further string to their bow. Personally, I preferred the fair maiden Lo Polidoro of those minstrels, Circulus.

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