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 4

LIES DAMNED LIES - Foxhunter - 10pm
Steve Butler, Charlie Irvine and Dot Reid are, of course, a Greenbelt institution. All through the '80s, '90s and through to today Lies Damned Lies have been offering thinking man's rock, richly textured ambient and nimbly executed acoustic music to all Greenbelters with ears to hear and on the rare years that you don't find them gigging in some Greenbelt tent or other you're likely to see them hovering near the Sticky Music tent - the legendary Glasgow record label that since 1981 has been giving a leg up to a wide range of creative free spirits. This year the combination of an out-of-the-way venue and a late start meant that the room was populated primarily by LDL aficionados who listened in almost reverent silence to an hour of gentle folk-rock interspersed by anecdotes from the band. Refreshing.
Mark Goodge

MONDAY, 28th August

[CRAVE] - Stage 2 - 10.30am
At 10.30 on the last morning of the festival, [crave] were always going to struggle to bring in the multitudes. Thankfully the audience steadily grew as passing freshly-awakened punters heard their infectious sound. Vocalist Scott's rather strong Northern Irish accent was hard to decipher between songs but rang out loud and clear once his musical accompaniment returned. Their grunge-tinged Britrock would have almost definitely got a packed crowd jumping were they on later in the day, but first thing in the morning any form of movement or bobbing of the head can be classed as a ringing endorsement. Thankfully that was prevalent, despite the usual Stage 2 sound desk difficulties. I'm really encouraged by [crave]'s new stuff, "Break" was fantastic - but it was great to see them do their better known songs live and they did the right thing by finishing on "Content And Restless Souls". A really solid set that totally deserved a bigger audience later on in the day.
Greg Sammons

THEREIGN - Stage 2 - 11.20am
The worship band theREIGN attracted a reasonably sized crowd for 11.20 on the Monday morning of Greenbelt. It seemed evident from overexcited members of the crowd that the group's entire church youth group had come along to support them! After a bad pun (the reign, it's raining outside) the band from Hull started their set. It lived up to their title as it was very much in keeping with modern worship styles. It had a sort of fast folk feel with female support vocals. The lead guitar/vocalist was supported by a man in a very bright shirt and shades - I think he secretly wants to be in an '80s metal band! That aside they moved crisply through their set and the crowd seemed to enjoy it. theREIGN are very church friendly and offered plenty of heartfelt expressions of faith. The guitar riffs seemed quite familiar throughout and I couldn't locate much which was musically fresh. However, the band had come to worship and they did just that, while their song that spoke of "tearing down barriers" came as a welcome change, even if I wasn't sure of some of the harmonies.
Rachel Nixon

THE RISING - Centaur - 12.30pm
Wasn't too sure what to expect when I entered the Centaur but as soon as I saw Ben Okafar and Martyn Joseph tuning their guitars I knew we were in for something good. This was a montage of four talented artists, Martyn, Ben, Juliet Turner and Iain Archer who through the course of the performance treated us to two songs each and their personal accounts of how they get inspiration for writing their music. To finish, each shared a gem of advice to any budding artist out there. As an extra bonus we also had a very amusing poem from the genius that is Stewart Henderson. Martyn's two songs were "Skin And Bone" and "Your Beauty". He also gave a wonderful tribute to the late Rob Lacey. Martyn managed to tease from Ben that inspiration for a song he had been working on recently came whilst sitting on the loo (you heard it here first folks!). Usually though Ben's songs came from reading the papers, watching television, etc, and the questions that arose in his head as a consequence. He tends not to take specific time out for song writing, it is a continual process, sometimes the words come first or he gets a catchy melody. Ben's two songs were "Humbled", a love song for his wife, and one of my favourites from 'Acoustic Close-up', "Lift Up Your Heads". Juliet's inspiration for one of her songs, "Pick A Story", was her love of fairy tales as a child and this was written for her friend's new baby. This was a gentle, thoughtful song and has been released as a single. Juliet's second song was a catchy tune, "The Girl With A Smile". Iain commented that songwriting can be a solitary task and when he has dry moments he finds that it helps to collaborate with fellow musicians and hear their ideas for a collective piece of work. You then have to be willing to take direction from others, which is quite different to working alone. He has really enjoyed working alongside the guys in Snow Patrol. Another good way that works for Iain is just to mess around on his Mac and experiment with new sounds. Iain sang "You Make Me Forget Myself" and his soon to be released new single "When It Kicks In" which he played with real passion. This song is on his forthcoming album 'Magnetic North'. The pearls of wisdom for anyone wanting to join the music industry were as follows:
Ben: Write exactly how you feel and don't write about what you don't understand.
Juliet: Do it! It's an incredible time for musicians to reach people with forums like Myspace.
Iain: If you get dry times just keep playing through it and you'll get back on track. Keep absorbing new ideas and they'll come back out.
Martyn: Play! Songs are a record of where you were in your life at the time you wrote them. They are like little photographs of yourself.
Ruth Saint

ELLIOT JACK - Christian Aid Performance Café - 12.45pm
Elliot Jack are a relatively new talent to emerge from the lo-fi ambient/chillout scene. The band is collectively made up of four guys, Rob, Richard, Jon and Simon who all hail from the West Midlands. They played an eclectic and sometimes dreary performance to lunchtime loungers and folks sheltering from the Cheltenham rain. Their set was powered by an Apple laptop and an '80 Casio synth that looked as if it had been salvaged from the bargain bins in Help The Aged (perfect for this style of music I might add). In addition to the electronic gear, two of the band members strummed acoustic and electric guitars to compliment their live performance. Elliot Jack played seven songs in all. Their moody, minimal, electronica stuttered on, catching the unsuspecting by surprise. Occasional tracks were littered with crooning vocals which sat uncomfortably on the side of flat for my liking. I also felt that the over liberal scattering of fx/vocal film samples was a horse that has certainly been flogged one too many times as well. But saying all that, Elliot Jack certainly do have potential AND some followers if an assignment for a short film soundtrack for a BBC is anything to go by.
Paul Cooper

I happened to stumble across this performance in time to hear the closing two songs and was sorely disappointed not to have found it sooner because it was truly amazing. A London youth group had put together an explosive set based on their experiences with street kids in Kenya. They were also selling CDs of their songs in order to raise money for their noble work. From what I saw the choreography was astounding involving all the group members in an expressive enactment of confusion and questioning. The lyrics were challenging, blunt and thought provoking; the music exceptional and exhilarating. It was a fantastic display of urban music.
Sarah Lawrence

Lleuwan Steffan
Lleuwan Steffan

LLEUWAN STEFFAN - Centaur - 2pm
LLeuwan Steffan might be an unknown to many Cross Rhythms readers (or indeed Greenbelters) but in her Welsh homeland she's a star. Classically trained, Lleuwen has shared a stage with opera superstar Bryn Terfel, performed on Song For Wales and with pianist Huw Warren and makes music that is eclectic, fun and often very, very Welsh. Accompanied by piano and bass, or occasionally playing guitar alone, she delivered a set of songs drawn from sources as diverse as Welsh hymnody and Bob Dylan as well as her own compositions. This is the sort of gig that couldn't have happened at pre-Cheltenham Greenbelt, with the delicacy and clarity of the performance needing a proper concert hall rather than a tent. Most of the songs were sung in Welsh, and in one of the English songs she drew a tongue-in-cheek portrait of the record executives' assessment of her music - "The language that you sing/It won't bring in the bling" - but this didn't seem to put off the audience even at an English festival. Stylistically, Lleuwan's performance ranged from classically-tinged hymnody, gentle blues and jazz and with one up-tempo jazz number given added rhythm by a guesting beatboxer. With the right backing, Lleuwan could be a star in the same mould as Eva Cassidy or even another Greenbelt discovery, Corinne Bailey Rae. But I have to say that the record executives are probably right about the language barrier.
Mark Goodge

MY SPOON - Stage 2 - 3pm
My Spoon kicked off Monday's Meltdown Sessions with aplomb, launching into their funk-meets-punk rock explosion. A strong youth following and great sense of fun guaranteed a great atmosphere and experience for all present. Why neither this band nor Dweeb are not yet signed to a label is a huge mystery to me and probably everyone in the room. My Spoon really knew how to entertain us all but especially the teen majority of the capacity crowd - who enjoyed the sing-alongs and slow motion moshing. Maybe some of the older members of the audience wouldn't quite know what to make of them but they hit their target audience right between the eyes (sonically that is). After this gig the band can only grow in reputation and in the size of their fan base. Really well delivered and hugely well received.
Greg Sammons

THE STEELS - Stage 2 - 3.40pm
Fresh after their debut album, The Steels are now able to tour with a decent set of songs. Music-wise it's hard to pinpoint their sound, it's pretty young and fresh (like the band members) but akin to the Elevation bands and their manager's band, Yfriday. The more modest crowd seemed up for it, although perhaps seemed to have Mammuth and Fire Fly (up next) already in the back of their mind. The Steels are not a bad band and are steadily climbing on a steep learning curve; it's just that they were outclassed by some of the other bands on the afternoon line-up. A band certainly to keep an eye out for in the future, when hopefully they'll have further developed their own sound.
Greg Sammons

MAMMUTH - Stage 2 - 4.20pm
This is Mammuth's second time at Greenbelt, after their sensational set in 2004, and my first opportunity to see them play their latest album, 'Die To Rise In Spring'. In short they were fantastic, well worth the wait and so good to see live. After coming on to a great intro they launched into the album's title track, laying down the formula for the rest of their set. The Swedish band's unique blend of melodic/emotional hard rock meets rapcore somehow works amazingly well. As lead singer Daniel explained, many of their songs are prayers about life's problems and issues. Therefore his passion and emotion comes across in a deeply honest and sincere way, never appearing whiny or grating. Instead, the band stirred up the passions and emotions of the rest of the room, leaving everyone who wasn't drained or tired absolutely captivated and hopefully inspired. Please don't let this be their last Greenbelt.
Greg Sammons

RACHEL TAYLOR-BEALES - Christian Aid Performance Café - 4.45pm
A gathering of fans was assembled in front of the Performance Café's stage in order to see Rachel, the first signing, other than Martyn Joseph himself, on Joseph's Pipe Records. As she was announced a great cheer went up and the afternoon's performance began. Her work on the keyboard during "Oh Sister" was impressive and her involvement in the music was apparent during the instrumental. Backing singer Karen's voice complemented Rachel's on "Brilliant Blue" which expressed a need for freedom, but personally I felt their voices had a harsh quality that made them hard to listen to. It seems Rachel was suffering from a bad cold and this clearly affected her performance. There were also some problems with the stage performance which, due to leaks in the roof, resulted in Rachel standing behind her keyboards at one end of the stage and her backing vocalist/flautist at the other end. Hardly a recipe for a tight set. Considering all this, Rachel did as well as could be expected and the majority of the audience responded to the set with enthusiasm, though overall I found it uninspiring.
Sarah Lawrence

FIRE FLY - Stage 2 - 5pm
I can't have been the only person there that felt Fire Fly's set was a little on the short side. I'm guessing logistics and a slightly late start were always gonna put pay to an hour long extravaganza but it just didn't seem enough time to do them justice. Yet despite this they managed to squeeze in two new songs from their forthcoming album they've optimistically slated for a spring 2007 release. Interestingly, the two songs in question seemed to be more guitar-laden and less progressive/arty - could this be the general new direction for the band on their next release? Fire Fly's more recognisable tunes were the usual gloriously thick-layered, bass-heavy, synth-decorated metal brilliance that we've come to expect. Simon's crisp voice counterbalances Mark's booming bass beautifully - whilst his own guitar managed to hold up this year where last year it failed (only in the sense that he broke a string). You can't help feeling that the expectation surrounding Fire Fly this year (although high) was understandably nowhere near last year's. Then their set was on the very same day that 'Breathe' came out; this year by comparison it felt much more like a band between releases.
Greg Sammons

NOTE FOR A CHILD - Christian Aid Performance Café - 6.45pm
Note For A Child have been one of my favourite bands ever since I saw them perform at Greenbelt a couple of years ago. This time of course they were minus founder member and composer Daniel Goodman so I wandered how different they might be. My conclusion was, and shame on me for doubting it, they were still brilliant and the Performance Café was bursting at the seams for this all too short set of just six songs. Dressed in a long white net and satin tutu skirt (one to outshine some of the fairy outfits being increasingly worn now at Greenbelt) I realised that Susie Beattie had "that" Victoria Beckham haircut first! Girly trivia out of the way, Susie and band started off with "Can You Hear Me" from 'Eternal Curve', then the classic "Day Of Your Return" with Kathie's haunting voice intro from their debut album 'Impossibly Beautiful'. I was thrown a little when Susie sang "Always" because I was used to hearing Dan sing the lead on this one and it was faster than the album version with keyboard input as opposed to acoustic guitar and drums. That said it was still sung well and its up tempo rhythm made it more of a cheery singalong tune. "Fate" was definitely that distinctive Note For A Child sound and Susie captured her audience perfectly and with ease with this song about losing God's subtle voice. Firm favourite with most present, "September Song" was sung for Susie's mum currently in hospital with a broken leg. The set concluded with "Western Reach" and gave the now seven-piece band the chance to show what they were capable of. Inspired by the plains of Africa this song took you there with its wonderful drumming (some of it by Susie). Despite the MC being showered with boos by appearing on the stage, but he was now used to this as it was the final day of the festival, NFAC finished here although I feel they would have been more than happy to continue, and so would the crowd.
Ruth Saint

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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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