Still expanding, now with 78 performance reviews, our coverage of the GREENBELT festival continues.
Continued from page 2
ONE ESKIMO - Big Top - 4.45pm
Being one of the few people in the venue who had never seen One EskimO's debut single/video "Hometime" or their most recent release "Kandi", I entered as a completely unbiased individual and was instantly blown away by Kristian Leontiou and his band with their unique brand of laid back, shoe-gazing indie rock. The beautiful melodies which seemed to soar out of Kristian and the guitar through the tent were underpinned by a more floating, ambient horn and bass part whilst being driven along by the percussion: it was a simply superb blend. With the bass being felt rather than heard, seeing One EskimO is more of a sensory, emotional experience, with the passion being evident from the stage. Reminiscent of bands such as MONO, this appeared to be the ultimate soundtrack to life and had me engrossed throughout. The use of samples and percussion gave some of the songs an almost tribal feel, with a driving, almost drone-like feel. One EskimO release their debut album in September and if this set was anything to go by, this is not one which can be missed.
KAT FLINT - Performance Café - 5pm
After a false intro and endless drivel from a potty-mouthed compere the restless audience was instantly stilled when finally the Barbados-born, Aberdeen-based singer began to sing. Kat's Celtic-styled voice soared over the keys, cello and percussion of her accompanists with such transcendent beauty that even the most wilful chatterers lessened their noise. Not every line made it to the back of the crowd but those that did seemed to hang delicately in the air. "Down to the water we go," purred Kat over the doleful cello part. Kat's ethereal compositions continued though the introductions to her songs were spoken in an impossible to understand garble. Songs from her 'Dirty Birds' album were particularly powerful with the image of someone throwing himself in front of bullets resonated with the audience. Rather disappointingly Kat finished her set with a cover but again the sheer quality of her voice carried it through. Overall, an excellent set from a major new folk talent.
V-RATS - Underground - 5pm
Pete Emms has been a session musician with some of the biggest names in UK metal, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest to name but two; this is a man steeped in '80s hard rock heritage. This becomes blatantly apparent right from the opening riff of the opening song, it's pure classic rock and quite frankly there's not yet been a bunch of Christians in the UK who've been able to capitalise on the surprisingly large market. For the live band Pete plays bass although he wrote pretty much the whole of their debut album, 'Intelligent Design', single handedly. Now fixed with a stable line-up, he can really get cracking with this project. Much to my beaming satisfaction he's joined by three members from various incarnations of those gone-but-not-forgotten metal marvels Gen. Oh how nice it is to see the Greaves brothers on guitar and drums and the mighty Rich Styles also on guitar. With musical heavyweights like that you can guarantee a stellar performance and they didn't let us down. V-Rats aren't a band for scenesters but for those who fully appreciate quality hooks and riffs played with expertise, this is for you. Admittedly the crowd size was pretty small compared to those for the two bands either side but that probably had something to do with the fact that the V-Rats weren't in the programme and were last minute replacements for Pantokrator. Those who did catch V-Rats' set lapped it up. Speaking to Rich after the set they say we can expect a heavier second album, which with his guitar heritage sounds like something well worth keeping an eye out for.
LZ7 - Mainstage - 5.45pm
As any seasoned British performer will tell you, the first on the bill spot at Greenbelt's Mainstage is something of a poison chalice. On the upside you've been allocated a prestige position with a chance to play to thousands rather than hundreds and with gear loud and clear enough to reach the edges of the throng. On the downside, first on means you have minimal atmosphere in the daylight and face a crowd that is often soporific in hot sunshine, or disgruntled and wet in the rain. Thankfully for Lindz West and his LZ7 crew he had neither heatstroke or pneumonia to contend with. And thankfully for the crowd Lindz is an old hand at whipping up excitement whether he's playing to 20 or 20,000. So what he and the other Manchester musicianaries did was a master class in hip-hop-pop-grime-R&B as the group gyrated through all their high energy gems like "Break The Beat", "Cross I Carry", "Get Out Ya Seat", "Gasoline" and most infectious of all, their pumping pop romp "This Little Light". Judging from the ecstatic response that number received from some sections of the crowd, Universal have made a smart decision in agreeing to release it as a single next year. Like LZ7's whole live set, "This Little Light" is impossible to resist.
RHIAN GRUNDY - Performance Café - 6pm
Rhian Grundy has an absolutely stunning voice, a fantastic range, bundles of confidence, sex appeal and spark, not to mention a brilliant band backing her. However, for the first couple of songs in this set, the soundman just didn't do them justice, distorting the low end and struggling to place the keys in the mix. Thankfully, these issues were soon sorted and this sparky, exciting set really delivered. The band showcased their ability to put their hands to a bit of soul, swing, gospel, acid jazz, classic standards and original compositions, but at the centre of it all was Grundy's sass and her astounding jazz voice. It was amusing to hear Rhian belt out numbers with gutsy, powerful vocals - accent free - and then to tune in to her inter-song banter, delivered in a strong Welsh accent (no complaints here - it made us valleys boys feel right at home). The cafe crowd went wild for a storming version of "Cheek To Cheek" that was so energetic that the whole song was over in about 90 seconds with a note perfect performance by Steve Preston, Grundy's writing partner and pianist. To close, it was with more than a hint of irony that a mostly church-going crowd found themselves awkwardly singing along with set-closer "Amen For A Sunday", Grundy's lyrics taking a side-step from tales of ex-loves to revel in the prospect of a long Sabbath lie-in, a hangover-cure cooked breakfast and a lazy afternoon in front of the box. "Amen" indeed.
THE CUT UPS - Underground - 6.35pm
What a glorious mix of folk protest and English punk this Exeter band have produced. Imagine if Billy Bragg had yanked the mic from Mick Jones and started to create his own unique Clash. England if not Europe's best known and most respected punk label, Household Name Records, clearly recognised The Cut Ups' punk pedigree as they released the band's debut full length earlier this year. Of the regular lineup only lead singer and lyricist Jon would consider himself to be a Christian. He's a theology teacher no less, and there's certainly a heavy dose of righteous indignation in The Cut Ups' music. Almost all the songs are heavily political and take on topics like the harsh treatment of a local lad with learning difficulties who tried to blow up his local shopping centre. The standout tracks for me had the added bonus of guest vocalists, Ben on "A Song Of Lament And Regret" and Pippa on "These Bones Were Built On Rice". Pippa added a sweet counterbalance to the masculine tones of Jon et al, with an added fragility provided by her need to sing the lyrics off a piece of paper. Jon seemed pretty keen to encourage more women to get involved in punk and hard music, this being the theme of one of his between song talks. This weekend I've had the unexpected joy of sampling the bulk of Exeter's punk scene and for me these guys were the pick of the litter.
SWAY - Mainstage - 6.50pm
MOBO winner and Mercury nominee Sway is, according to the Greenbelt website, "noted for witty wordplay delivered via a razor-sharp flow, as well as lyrical role-playing performances and rib-tickling showmanship." I can certainly concur with the above assessment of his performance skills. Faced with the difficult early evening slot on Mainstage, when the sun is still up but audience numbers can be down, the Mercury-prize nominated rapper kept things buzzing with a selection of material from his back catalogue as well as new songs from an album that he's been working on with a new record label. He also gave a powerful testimony of his faith in Christ which may have surprised some hip-hop devotees. His passionate verbal barrage may not be my cup of tea, but the enthusiastic crowd certainly appreciated it.
MIRIAM JONES - Performance Café - 7pm
I was pleasantly surprised that this London-based singer had brought a band with her, consisting of "Jez" on keys, "Steve" on bass and "Tom" on drums. Miriam opened with a strong performance that had a Norah Jones vibe, an Alanis Morissette feel and a slight country twist to it. During Miriam's performance she explained that her new project 'Solitary Songs' involved her writing a new song every month. She then proceeded to sing "Helicopter", a more mellow composition "Dust In The Sand" closely followed by a great performance from the 'Being Here' album. Unfortunately this was let down by Jez singing flat on the backing vocals. Next came "Come Clean", another song from the 'Solitary Songs' series. This turned out to be my favourite song of the set due to a lovely understated melody and some wistfully beautiful vocals. One interesting aspect of the performance was that the drummer was using a wooden crate as his snare and bass. The last song, the upbeat "Fancy Free" was a particular gem. Overall a fantastic gig though occasionally let down by gaps in between songs during which Miriam tuned and retuned her guitar. Having said that, if Ms Jones' EP is anywhere near as good as her live performance, I'll be buying it.
THE TREEHORNS - The Underground - 7.40pm
With their slightly unique brand of country-tinged rock, The Treehorns entered the stage faced with a small audience, and unfortunately this did not seem to endear them. With a few interesting sections, they were regrettably decidedly average, being good for what they were but only sometimes had my curiosity raised. Being vaguely jaunty and fun, they had the small crowd nodding their heads, but this supposedly entertaining side of the band did not really appear. Maybe if the crowd had been larger or more active then the energy may have rubbed off but on occasions they gave the impression of sleep walking through their set. Not The Treehorns' finest hour.
DAN LE SAC VS SCROOBIUS PIP - Mainstage -
The Essex duo who surprised everyone with their 2006 10 Commandments parody hit "Thou Shalt Always Kill" have split critics down the middle. Some have vilified them for their temerity in rapping moral statements over electronic rock rhythms a million miles away from the standard urban beats, while others have praised the sheer ingenuity and freshness of their sound which combines everything from Radiohead samples to drum'n'bass grooves. I approached their Mainstage appearance with something less than enthusiasm for too often in the past few years Greenbelt have allocated the prestigious Mainstage venue to acts with a little "sec cred" (Sac & Pip's 2008 debut album reached number 31 in the mainstream charts) rather than their suitability for an open air venue which is often cold, wet and windy. As it turned out though, the eccentric twosome produced a storming set which for the young people jumping at the front was as good as any clubland night out. David Meads (that's Scroobius Pip to you) is a semi-comic figure with his bushy beard and semi-satirical raps on life and the cosmos while Daniel Stephens (Dan le Sac) is a veritable master of turntable trickery as he drops in layers of rhythm from the time-coded samples with the precision of a scientist of sound. All the duo's best known songs were there including the rant against "soulless music" "The Beat That My Heart Skipped" while the closer "Letter From God To Man" was witty even if you could drive a truck through some of its theology. What really was impressive was the polyrhythmic climax with Scroobius creating a massive noise which mutated into a rhythmic pulse. I'm told that one or two people were complaining about swearing from the stage though I can't say I heard any.
QUENCH - Underground - 8.50pm
On the same day that Oasis broke up Quench also called it a day. The difference, apart from fame and fortune, was that this farewell gig had been advertised for some time, which went a long way to explaining why crowds of people had to be turned away. It was certainly one of only two occasions that the Underground was crammed to capacity right through a band's set, testament to how many grassroots supporters the Cheltenham/Oxford rockers have accumulated down the years. All the classics came out plus a few takes on mainstream hits, and the band really gave it their all - more than matched by the energy of the crowd. When the Underground is packed the room gets very warm, when the crowd respond to a frenetic band the place turns into a cauldron. Talking of hot stuff, Jamie did seem to make a few too many references to how much he enjoyed the benefits of being married to a beautiful lady - stop rubbing it in to single red blooded Sammons, Jamie! Every Christian who has been a teenager in the past 10 years will no doubt have a soft spot for these guys, they certainly were one of the first bands I got into as a 17 year old newly converted rock lover. After such a long delay in releases, admittedly not really their fault, following their stunning début album the momentum was clearly lost. However last year's 'Reality Radio' EP was a good way to bow out and their Greenbelt performance rounded things off gloriously. In a cheekily satirical way, the lads walked off the stage to Take That's "Never Forget" Does that mean they might reform a few years down the line?
CALAMATEUR - Performance Café - 9pm
Calamateur is prolific and highly-praised singer/songwriter Andrew Howie. Hailing from far-flung Inverness, Howie was tonight accompanied on keys by Mark Hilditch who flew down from Glasgow to play a couple of shows over the Greenbelt weekend. Howie's strength is his voice, a powerful falsetto at times, lullaby soft at others. His guitar floats over beat loops and backing tracks, while Hilditch further layers synth over the mix, adding some much needed bass. Close your eyes and in the more sublime moments of this set the duo transport you. However, for the most part the performance didn't seem all that it could have been. Starting strongly with a slow, atmospheric re-imagining of legend Steve Taylor's "Jesus Is For Losers", Howie followed up with the clever, regret filled "Perfect Moment". However, as the set wore on the guys seemed tired and many of the songs lacked energy or urgency. "Banoffee" was sweet and engaging but on the whole, this collection of middle of the road tracks made for a mildly diverting 40 minutes at best.
ROYKSOPP - Mainstage - 9.35pm
Like, I suspect, most people, my primary knowledge of the Norwegian electronic duo had previously been through their earworm hit, "Eple", although I'd taken some time before the weekend to catch up with their latest album 'Junior' to get an idea of what I'd be listening to. Performing live here, the duo became a foursome with the addition of a bassist and female vocalist allowing a more complete recreation of the material as recorded. Tracks from the current album were strongly in evidence, with the recent hit single "The Girl And The Robot" going down particularly well, but a productive seam of back catalogue material was mined to excellent effect. It says something for the quality of the songwriting as a whole, and the dynamism of the performance, that when the aforementioned "Eple" was played it almost felt like an interlude rather than a highlight. I'd say this was one of the best Mainstage headliners that Greenbelt has had for some considerable time.
STU G - Performance Café - 10pm
This being one of the first Delirious? guitarist's solo performances, he was certainly playing to a packed and biased crowd. Using a loop pedal, Stu instantly had the audience curious and waiting with baited breath for what he would do next as he layered guitar parts and vocal harmonies to create a rich and textured sound. His choice of covers amazed many, Rhianna's "Umbrella" had the audience clapping and singing along while Kanye West's "Heartless" was an equally surreal choice. Stu kept the audience on their toes with his solid guitar work and clever harmonies. Unfortunately, once he reached a cover of "Personal Jesus", the rather simple style of singer/songwriter playing began to grate on me, but Stu's mastery over an audience was evident and for an acoustic set, playing to an obviously biased crowd, he did very well before the expectant and excited assembly. Bringing in a superb blues-influenced version of the Delirious? classic "King Of Fools" was clamorously received while new material such as "Where Is Hope" sounded good. Not the d:boys of course but the crowd still loved a solo Stu.