Greenbelt '06: The Music Reviews

Tuesday 29th August 2006

Our comprehensive review of the music at Cheltenham's arts festival GREENBELT concludes. A total of 17 reviewers filed 70 reviews. Read and be amazed.

Continued from page 1

PSALM DRUMMING WORKSHOP - Christian Aid Performance Café - 10am
You can't have been to Christian festivals in the UK in the past five odd years and not come across the Psalm Drummers, a collective of drumming Christians who passionately believe in the power of using drums in worshipping God. This was a workshop more than a performance. There were about 300 present to listen and take part, a lot of them teens and kids. We were told that drumming was about church unity and that was what a big part of their existence was about. Musically, we're not talking about super-tight showmanship, but a valuable rhythmic contribution to the wide spectrum of music for worshipping God. Their performances were well crafted pieces of percussive music. Long-time Psalm Drummer associate Chip Bailey led a part of the workshop where we learned that everything has a rhythm. His enthusiasm about drumming manifested itself in exuberant and comic dancing and he soon got lots of the audience drumming along under his direction on various instruments that were handed out. All in all there were some valid points raised and lots of people had fun praising God through percussion and that's a great thing.
Dave Griffiths

ONE LIFE LEFT - Stage 2 - 10:30am
The most obvious thing to say about this gig would have to be, "so good they bled." And you can quote me on that. One Life Left played a set that was defiantly in my top 10 of the Greenbelt weekend, and even bleeding fingers didn't stop them. What is so good about this South Coast band's music is that it is something fresh, it stands out with killer bass lines, to great guitar solos and instrumentals, which have a captivating melody and rhythm, to them. The performance was full of substance and variety, which soon got the crowd clapping along to the impressive rifts and tunes. The boys, who originally formed back 2000, showed us all at Stage 2 how a combination of backing vocals from Chris Gatland and Joe Hurr can really complement the performance of the lead vocalist Simon Paylor. Simon's performance was top notch; his vocal talent unquestioned and his ability to hit high, high notes is up there with Bedingfield. My personal favourite from the gig was "Ghost In The Machine", which starts with a punchy bass line and builds to an excellent harmonious climax. One Life Left showed how talented and tight their musical performance is. Defiantly ones to watch in the coming years.
Mark Lawrence

REVELATION - Stage 2 - 11.20am
Having not consulted my programme I wondered into the Stage 2 room having not the faintest idea who or what Revelation were but half expecting some ear-splitting rock. But then revelation struck. (Okay, no more obvious quips.) There hunched over the turntables were James Bragg, a doctor of medicine who down in darkest Bristol has been pioneering club music worship for many a long year, and Tony 'The Psalmist' Silcock, whose album production work and work with gone-but-not-forgotten Psalmistry has contributed much to the UK scene. With a charming female singer supplying the vocals the Revelation team ably transformed a couple of well known worship choruses into house music whoop ups which thankfully displayed none (or little) of the cheesiness that blighted many of those Nitro Praise albums of yesteryear. The DJ and VJ mixed the vibrant, slightly psychedelic graphics onto a screen at the back of the stage. The set progressed into some Andy Hunter and other chart friendly dance anthems, all with a clear theme of intimacy with the Lord. I have never appreciated DJ-led worship as much as I did during the Revelation set. They were worshipping God themselves and it made a great difference. Their set left me refreshed. I really valued the way they didn't feel the need to yell at me constantly, but the only spoken words they used were Scripture. Amen to that.
Dave Griffiths

EMERALD STRINGS - Christian Aid Performance Café - 12noon
This classical duo from Hertfordshire performed on violin and acoustic guitar. The melodic undertones of the guitar complimented the strong sounds of the violin. Playing a variety of classical style music varying from Vivaldi to South African music from early 20th Century they entertained the audience. I feel I must comment on the style of the guitar playing... with the tapping of the guitar and the style of the strumming it felt like the guitar was being used more as a percussion instrument than a guitar. This really suited the way the pair played. The duo were thoroughly enjoyed by all the crowd both by the classical music buffs and by those looking for something to chill to.
Daniel Cunningham

NLIGHTEN - Stage 2 - 12.10pm
His fellow musicians and feedback initially drowned out the lead vocalist but by the second song things had much improved and the crowd were getting into the music. NlighteN have a good indie sound, and I know bands hate to be compared because they like to have their own style but they did remind me of Coldplay and Delirious? at times, particularly on "Struggle". I particularly enjoyed the bass on this song. They played a short set finishing with a brilliant number with quiet intro and vocals as the sound gradually built up to include the whole band in a powerful explosion of sound. A great finish. I liked NlighteN, they were full of enthusiasm and were obviously enjoying their set but one thing bugged me. The lead singer kept turning around to sing at the drummer instead of the audience and I found myself trying to figure out what was on the back of his t-shirt rather than giving my full attention to the music. Sorry! Can anyone help me out? It read, "... Tenfoot Tigers". I missed the first word!
Ruth Saint

DAVID CLIFTON - Christian Aid Performance Café - 12.45pm
This was Dave Clifton's first solo gig at Greenbelt. After a brief introduction he played to a small but appreciative crowd opening with a poignant song of love. The stage was big and he was one man and his guitar modestly serenading the crowd but he filled it perfectly well. David's music is timeless and there's clearly a mixture of influences. He puts Bible passages to modern tunes and there's a gentle passion running throughout his worship songs while his mixture of funky rock 'n' roll guitar rhythms brought something different to the modern worship scene. David's rendition of Isaiah 43 was particularly poignant and powerful. Despite the background noise of the café his set was contemplative and humble. He ended his half hour set allowing the audience to sing along with a rendition of Bill Withers' "Lean On Me", departing the stage to heavy applause..
Rachel Nixon

JESSI MARKEE - Stage 2 - 1pm
She's the daughter of pastor, writer, broadcaster and bassman extraordinaire Dave Markee and has been singing from the age of eight. Jessi has a lot of credentials but would her performance of soul music at Greenbelt's Stage 2 live up to them? It most certainly did. She began with the beautiful "Seasons", which, like all the songs in her set, was about love. Jessi's vocals were gorgeous and clear, every word was sung with precision and beauty. Her two backing singers were equally stunning vocalists and their harmonies with Jessi were sheer class. They were also given several opportunities to show the audience what they could do solo. One such occasion was in the second song of the performance, "One More Chance", where Lynieve gave an astounding vocal performance. Jessi's favourite song of the set, "Tongue Tied", was particularly well received getting a second performance straight after its first outing. It had a sexier tone than the previous numbers and showed the vocalists' amazing abilities with each singing a different part but all three blending beautifully. The group clearly enjoyed performing and a huge grin never left Jessi's face. The emotion was contagious and quickly spread to the whole audience, who had a great time dancing along to the infectious rhythms. It was a set that thoroughly deserved a longer time allocation.
Sarah Lawrence

LUMA - Stage 2 - 2pm
After gracing the giddy heights of Kingdom Bound Festival in the US, Greenbelt may almost seem like an anticlimax, especially after coming out to such a small crowd (which thankfully grew substantially throughout their set). But Luma's brand of indie/thinking-man's rock kept the audience entertained. I saw this band at least year's final of the Ultimate Showcase where they were outshone by the likes of The 29th Chapter, Dweeb and Soulcry - now they seem much more capable of standing on their own two feet. However showmanship is not so much a part of the live experience of art/indie rock bands, so anyone who expected fireworks and a blistering light show was bound to be disappointed. Anyone who came simply to let the music soak in and let it touch their heart and soul left with a soft smile on their face. Unimposing but thought-provoking, Luma simply were what they were.
Greg Sammons

UNCLE STONEHILL'S HAT - Christian Aid Performance Café - 2pm
Still suffering from jet lag, Randy Stonehill arrived at Greenbelt Saturday midday after a morning journey from Portsmouth, following a Friday evening concert. Almost immediately he was performing in Martyn Joseph's The Rising songwriting circle. Consequently at 2pm when he entered the Christian Aid tent for the pseudonym Uncle Stonehill's Hat performance, Randy must have been worn-out. However, dressed in a black tail coat, multi-coloured Hawaiian styled shirt, orange and blue dotted tie, black trousers and a large black hat, Randy enthusiastically marched on to stage.The Uncle Stonehill's Hat show is something that came about over 10 years ago when Randy began noticing that the look of his audience was changing and older fans quite often were returning with their own children. After a concert, children wanted to meet Randy. "There was a real connection there, and they seemed to respond to the kid in me. They liked my story songs, my vulnerability and my sense of humour. So my enthusiasm for this whole new audience bloomed into what I've described as a musical adventure for children of all ages." Uncle Stonehill's Hat is basically an adventure with a story line - a niece and nephew come to visit their somewhat quirky and mysterious uncle who lives in an odd hat-shaped house. As they begin opening the different doors to the rooms inside, they meet new characters and embark on wonderful adventures. So, as the doors are being opened, the intent is that the eyes and the hearts are being opened in the process to the miraculous gift of this life. With the help of Terry Taylor, a CD of the songs has been released and it is hoped that it will bloom into a book series, a video series, or possibly a 30-minute television show. Currently interest is being shown by a film maker. The Christian Aid Tent at Greenbelt is divided into two sections by open plan. The half nearest to the stage is for the concert audience, the other half is a Christian Aid run café. During Uncle Stonehill's set the concert section was full of young children with accompanying parent. Randy endeavoured to get the kids participating with question and answer chat, show of hand games and fun sing-a-long songs ("Mouse In My House", "Shut De Do'", etc). However in the background you always got the impression that Randy was competing with the clanging noise of a canteen and folks chatting over the adjacent café tables. The time allocated to Randy to communicate the theme of Uncle Stonehill's Hat was too short allowing for only five songs. And the Christian Aid Tent venue was frankly inappropriate. However, given all the circumstances the children appeared to enjoy their contribution to the Uncle Stonehill's Hat show. Watch out for the movie!
Alan Gibson

Brian Houston
Brian Houston

BRIAN HOUSTON - Centaur - 2pm
The stage in Centaur is actually bigger than nearly all the other stages at Greenbelt, except the new main stage. A nearly capacity crowd of about 700 'belters had come to witness one Ulsterman fill this venue with his flamboyant music and big personality. Houston used both electric and acoustic guitars to delight his audience and his stage presence was enough to captivate me as he rocked his way through old and new material. In a stark contrast to his acoustic contemporary and friend, Martyn Joseph, Houston's songs fill the mind with images of a happier disposition. His lyrical content is often written from his point of view rather than detached story-telling a la Joseph. His Celtic orientated guitar skills were particularly impressive on a song from his latest and 10th album, 'Sugar Queen' called "These Days". A more delicate and poignant tune was "Woman's Touch". The set ended with a rousing rendition of "Childish Things", easily a standout track on 'Sugar Queen'. I jotted into my note book, "sounds like 1970s Van Morrison" and then he suddenly burst into the closing refrain from "Caravan" off Morrsion's 1970 hit album 'Moondance'. Houston happily displays the influence of his fellow Ulsterman in his musical and lyrical style, but one thing is for sure; you'll get more movement and passion out of Houston these days.
Dave Griffiths

RADIATE - Stage 2 - 3pm
It would seem that the Stage 2 bad sound production curse had hit Woking-based Radiate at the start of their set - they were no doubt not allowed the same lengthy sound-check that they had last year. Vocalist Steve seemed to be giving the man on the sound desk the middle-finger, but hopefully the crowd realised that he was simply asking for more vocals. Yet the further away from the stage you went, the worse the bass sounded (something not unique to this band's set though), something that was left unresolved. However, the band put on a good gig and gave the near-to-capacity crowd plenty to sing and dance about. New songs slipped in with ease alongside more well known songs - sing-alongs happened naturally and brought the gig to life. Their brand of Britrock meets nu-metal leaves me baffled as to how to better explain them. But suffice to say the band, now established as a Greenbelt favourite, are well worth catching - particularly when they complete the line up and replace their recently departed guitarist.
Greg Sammons

Courtney Pine
Courtney Pine

COURTNEY PINE - Centaur - 3.30pm
A long queue snaked round and round outside the Centaur venue. It took half an hour to get everyone in. Greenbelters had turned out in force to witness a living legend. Saxophone wielding jazz giant Courtney Pine took the stage to excited applause and cheers. Dressed in a flowing African silk shirt, with his dreadlocks flowing down his back, Pine was supported by drums, a double bass, Hammond organ and fiddle. The first track was called "Right On" and Pine used some incredible circular breathing techniques to play notes that went on and on. Members of the audience looked on in admiration as he flung notes out into the ether with this extraordinary ability he has. "Shakedown" was a funky number rooted to a drum and bass rhythm with a sweet breakdown near the end of the piece into a nearly conventional chord sequence! Next was "Devotion", another piece set to a break-beat played by his gifted young drummer. All the musicians made it all look so easy. I must admit that I am not really into jazz. I can appreciate great musicianship, and that is what I was taken by, but sometimes when the free-form honks and squeaks really kicked in we were back in the era of Coltrane & Ayler when the avant-garde seemed less of an artistic cul-de-sac, it eventually became. But on the whole the rapturous reception shown this most gifted of improvisers showed that for a sizeable number of Greenbelters jazz is a much welcome alternative to most of the other Greenbelt music fare.
Dave Griffiths

ZEALOUS - Stage 2 - 3.40pm
Zealous are a different beast from the band I saw last year. For starters, only one ex-Zedisforzebra remains, with bassist Pete now residing in New Zealand. Secondly, all the songs they played are new (or should I say less than a year old). Musically they are in similar territory - a form of rock and roll that incorporates funk and early '90s grunge. Lyrically, it's hard to guess on first listen - but it seems to be on familiar territory. One song was made particularly poignant by the singer's recent loss of a close friend - as mentioned in his pre-amble. But without a familiar song, the band don't seem to be as good as I remember them being last year. The one familiar song was a David Bowie cover, but sounding like it was sung by Jamie Hill of Quench! The band was enjoyable but for me a little something was lacking - for now I'll use their lack of a full time bassist as the scapegoat.
Greg Sammons

FOR THE DAY OF REDEMPTION - Stage 2 - 4.20pm
Anyone for straight-up hardcore Belgian-style? Don't bother answering, it's rhetorical. The point is I was, and boy was I in for a treat. Taking their influences from NYC tough guy hardcore, their set was jam-packed full of passion, power and integrity. To be honest, I spent most of their set flinging my arms around like an idiot - an endorsement in itself - but by all accounts it was straight-up with build-ups and breakdowns. What was encouraging to hear was that the band hail from a burgeoning Belgian hardcore scene, although they remain their only Christian band, much like Taking Names here in the UK. More power to them, long may they bring light to their domestic scene. I really am looking forward to their next EP but more importantly, catching them live again.
Greg Sammons

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Reader Comments

Posted by Kerry in manchester @ 15:37 on Nov 27 2008

wow you did good and have you listened to LZ7 they are respectful xx

Kerry xx

Posted by Luke in Kent @ 19:32 on May 13 2007

hi imluke the drummer of somethingABOUTnothing. just wanted to say thank you to anyone who left any nice reviews of our set and i hope everyone enjoyed it. the crowd may of been surprised by our win but to be were we. all credit to every band that played that afternoon and i hope to see more of them soon.

take care and god bless

Posted by Tim in Kent @ 16:05 on Sep 27 2006

How come The Cadets managed to slip in and out of Greenbelt almost unnoticed? Fresh from their previous night's victory - coming first out of 50 bands at London Rock Garden's Battle of the bands - they entranced a modest lunchtime audience at Stage 2. Main Stage next year?

Posted by Revd Paul Timmis in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire @ 15:18 on Sep 19 2006

Liam, I guess we're not going to agree on this one. Scripture often doesn't make clear pronouncements in the way that people sometimes think/claim. It always has to be interpreted. I simply don't think that the Bible says anything about what we now understand to be loving same-sex relationships and so there's absolutely no "sacrifice of principles" here for me.

Reply by Dan in Lincolnshire @ 20:26 on Sep 20 2006

There’s no "sacrifice of principles" for me either. John Bell put it very nicely but he still needed nearly an hour to explain very carefully the language and context of certain scriptures. Would be very difficult to condense this to 600 characters, so I won’t try. I accept you don't wish to kick people out, but when you suggest that diversity has been stretched too far I'm not sure how diversity can be restricted fairly and biblically.

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Posted by Rich in West Midlands @ 23:05 on Sep 18 2006

Carrying on, Liam, on one hand you say "of course we need to welcome people in and show them love" but does that exclude people who's viewpoint doesn't agree with your own? I really hope that's not what you're implying. The one reason I love Greenbelt is it's inclusivity of people who's lifestyles differ greatly from mine (in some instances) and are made to feel welcome and accepted in the light of the Christian faith. Something I saw in action again at this year's festival.

Posted by Revd Paul Timmis in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire @ 20:46 on Sep 15 2006

Liam, it's your final comment that says it all, I'm afraid. Did you listen to James Alison or John Bell at all over the weekend? If not, please download the MP3s. What you have just put in print is, to me, far more offensive than ANYTHING said from mainstage on Friday night. We're meant to break down barriers, not put them up. INCLUDE.

Reply by Andrew in York, United Kingdom @ 14:16 on Mar 28 2011

I fear that you have become slightly taken by the tide around you. If you're standing in a river with a strong opposing current, you have three choices: you can go with the flow (applying all the new doctrines society throws upon us); you can stand still (being on the fence over such matters as abortion and fornication etc), but the problem with standing still is you'll just get dragged along by the strong current anyway; or you can battle against it (opposing the customs of the world, like Paul says in Romans 12:2).

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Reply by Rich in West Midlands @ 23:01 on Sep 18 2006

Liam, in what way does including a person or group in to a community imply condoning an action? If the Christian community is ever to be seen as inclusive to those outside of the faith or the traditional Church "clique" then EVERYONE must be invited to the table, whether we agree with their standpoint or not. I thought the Bible (and especially Jesus) taught inclusivity not exclusivity?

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Reply by Liam (cont') in Glasgow @ 14:25 on Sep 18 2006

Dan also implies that I was suggesting that certain people be "Kicked out". However this was never suggested. I was mearly pointing out some of what went on. Of coarse we need to welcome people in and show them love, but we do not need to condone & turn a blind eye to actions which are clearly contradictiry to what the bible teaches us.

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Reply by Liam in Glasgow @ 14:20 on Sep 18 2006

I didn't listen to either of the artists, but if I get a chance I will download them. However I fail to see what is offensive. Dan (above) states "I don’t see how diversity can be taken too far unless it’s done under a sacrifice of principles which this isn’t", but how can condoning homosexuality not be a sacrifice of principals?

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Posted by Dan in Lincolnshire @ 16:41 on Sep 15 2006

To be honest, I saw no one drinking in the village outside organic beer tent. I'm sure it happened, but I honestly didn’t it, so can’t be that widespread. And if it is, what should we do? Kick out the atheists? Should take the opportunity to kick out the gays too. GB is beautiful in its diversity and I don’t see how diversity can be taken too far unless it’s done under a sacrifice of principles which this isn’t. GB doesn’t condone drunkenness and has been known to evict people. Also, the diversity has not been stretched. GB has ALWAYS fully welcomed anyone, and long may that continue.

Posted by Liam (cont') in Glasgow @ 15:23 on Sep 15 2006

Whilst I would agree that it is a good thing for Greenbelt to attract a diverse range of people, I would also say that it has in many ways allowed the diversity to be stretched so far that it has become almost new age rather than Christian. The advert in the Greenbelt magazine which promotes the 'Gay Christian Community' says it all I'm afraid

Posted by Liam in Glasgow @ 15:22 on Sep 15 2006

To say that you 'know nothing of the "bunch of youth clutching Tennants cans" (clever cans!)' is beyond belief. I was at Greenbelt for the fist time this year and was shocked at some of what was going on. I witnessed several drunk /intoxicated people who were suffering the effects of consuming too much alcohol and cannabis (which I witnessed on more than one occasion).

Reply by Ymladd in somerset @ 19:40 on Sep 20 2006

So liam you saw several people over an entire period of time allowing for the sheer numbers on site it is quite possible. But I was there for the entire weekend including standing in the mainstage pit on duty as steward and I saw none. BUt anyway Several out of thousands is good in this day and age.

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Posted by Revd Paul Timmis in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire @ 10:24 on Sep 15 2006

Sleeping on this, what I should also have said is that the church needs to engage itself in political debate and not exist in some kind of ghetto divorced from the world - a ghetto in which everyone is NICE to one another. Sometimes love means speaking out and being angry. Wish Tony Blair had grasped this. Glad Martyn has. Keep going MJ...and Greenbelt!

Reply by Zee Zee in Herts @ 08:06 on Mar 20 2007

Martyn clearly lost it on that occassion. If he had thought it out he would realise that his ranting outburst spread a smoke screen over the real issue. The use of certain language was a loss of control. Shame. I've followed Martyn's career for over 20 years and have agreed with him, disagreed with him but always appreciated the way, and the passion with which he's stated his case. Until now! And then to release it?

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