The tenth installment of music reviews from the GREENBELT festival held at Cheltenham Racecourse, 26th to 29th August.
Continued from page 3
SUNDAY, 28th August
IDMC GOSPEL CHOIR - Mainstage - 11:45am
IDMC (Individuals Dedicated To The Ministry Of Christ) were formed in 1994 by John Fisher, who has previously worked with LCGC and Chaka Khan, and their sound is described as "contagious, urban and contemporary". IDMC took to the stage straight after the Communion Service to lead the Greenbelt throng in a 'gospel singalong set' that opened with a joyous, Caribbean-tinged version of "Glory Be To God In The Highest" that got the crowd dancing and singing from the first few bars - the sun even came out over the Greenbelt site adding to the goodtime atmosphere. Evergreens such as "You've Got A Friend" and "Lord I Lift Your Name On High" were given the IDMC treatment with deliciously funky beats and awesomely powerful vocals. There was also a mass singalong of "Sing Low Sweet Chariot" and an unexpectedly soulful version of the Beatles classic "All You Need Is Love". By the time the choir closed their set with "This Little Light Of Mine" everyone had a wide smile on their face.
HARRY BIRD AND THE RUBBER WELLIES - Performance Café - 12
Now here was a Sunday lunchtime treat. Harry Bird, Christophe Capewell and Paddy Durkan (minus accordion) kicked their set off with some new songs and over the course of their 40 minutes introduced some of the back catalogue, transforming a slightly subdued but appreciative crowd into 'true fans' desperate to offer a heartfelt, standing ovation to the troupe! Harry and co displayed a wonderful ability to make a strong connection with their audience - when not singing Harry always seemed to be interacting with the crowd, smiling or laughing and at one point he even jumped up and down on the spot with glee at an audience comment that tickled him. Paddy had a fine range of percussion that he showcased in a sweet little solo during "The Butterfly Song", while Christophe showed his dexterity on a number of instruments including, keys, fiddle, ukelele and what appeared to be a child's toy organ during a pirate song. The highlights are too many to mention but I'll give you a few: Harry's brother Jamie joining the band for the second half of the set; the wonderful harmonies juxtaposed with the sharp, convicting lyrics of "Who's Gonna Lead The March Upon The Jailhouse?"; the comedy build up and execution of "The Beard Snood"; the roll-call to find out whether Greenbelters who assured Jamie they would come had actually showed up (they had), and rousing set closer "Ban The Bomb!". Why did HB&TRW prove to be one of the most exciting acts of the weekend? Well, they showcased a blend of acute, powerful, funny songwriting and storytelling, a real sense of being friends together, the illusion of simplicity that masked some incredibly powerful and moving songs (a twist on the lyrics of trad folk song "He Was A Friend Of Mine" sung as a tribute to friends suffering in Syria) and the vital ingredient - warm humour. The band shifted effortlessly between the introspective prayerfulness of "Dirty Hands" to a lighthearted song about cycling, without ever seeming to just be anything other than themselves. Thoroughly deserving of the warm reception they were accorded, this is the kind of unique, fun, thought provoking band that Greenbelt should be championing - let's see them on main stage next year.
THE RISING with MARTYN JOSEPH, DUKE SPECIAL, GORDON GANO,
CATHY BURTON and LUKE JACKSON - Centaur - 12.30pm
The Rising has become a Greenbelt institution over the years. For those unfamiliar with it, it's part concert, part seminar in which Martyn Joseph, the host, and his guests play a song each and then chat about the art of songwriting before playing another song. It's hard to assess an artist I've never heard before on the basis of just two songs, but Luke Jackson's material demonstrated an amazing maturity for someone so young - clearly a star of the future. Duke Special, of course, is very much a star of the present, and unsurprisingly garnered the biggest cheers from the audience for his contributions. But the highlight section for me was the two second performances from Cathy Burton and Gordon Gano respectively, who each chose a worship song. Cathy's song was one she'd written herself for use in her own church when leading worship shortly after the death of a friend's nine-day old baby, while Gordon led us all in a traditional call-and-response American spiritual based around the theme of the Messiah making us happy - complete with laughing policeman style "ha ha ha ha ha" refrain. The two songs were so different in both theme and style that the juxtaposition could have been awkward, and yet in reality it wasn't at all - rather, it was a celebration of the diversity of worship music. Plus, of course, you don't often get to experience a scratch worship band with Marytn Joseph on guitar, Duke Special on keyboards and Gordon Gano and Cathy Burton on vocals!
THE SUSPECTORS - Underground - 12:40pm
With their selection of self-penned songs and covers, including a rocked out version of "House Of The Rising Sun", these dynamic Cheltenham youngsters bore a slight resemblance to Muse with their squealing guitar lines. Making waves last year after touring in the Lake Garda area of Italy lead singer Fabio Thomas' rugged voice was perfectly suited to soar over the crunching rhythms. He successfully engaged the crowd with his quick wit in between songs, and most clapped, some even sang, along with him.
LIFECOLOUR - Underground - 1:20pm
Cross Rhythms Radio listeners will already be familiar with this teenage band from Stoke-on-Trent as a number of their melodic indie rock tunes have been selected for airplay over the past couple of years. This was the band's first visit to Greenbelt and after a slightly nervous start the four-piece soon settled into a groove and second number "Hello Good Morning" rewarded the surprisingly busy Underground venue with some pounding Switchfoot-esque rock. The great songs kept on coming: "Failure & Calamity Always Meet A Remedy", "Above The Clouds" and "Time To Be Free" all displayed Sam Frawley's passionate vocal delivery supported by some fine musicianship from his young bandmates. Lifecolour expertly blend classic pop songwriting with a rock edge and meaningful lyrics and it's not hard to imagine them playing the Mainstage in years to come.
CHIP KENDALL BAND - Underground - 2:00pm
The baying crowd received the Chip Kendall Band with huge enthusiasm and their Scripture-inspired rap songs offered hope to a generation of young people who may have lost their way. "Let's hear it for grace," shouted Chip triumphantly and the crowd responded rapturously. Mr Kendall's new aggregation showed much of the bombastic flair that made thebandwithnoname such crowd pleasers and in Roo Walker have one of the best guitarists in the land. The performance culminated with a reunion of sorts, as the passionate evangelist was joined by old bandmate, thebandwithnoname's Straff, as they played fans' favourite "Amazing Grace". Hard to put a stylistic label on the Chip Kendall Band. All I can say is, if you think of a Christian version of Limp Bizkit you can't be too far wrong. The great crowd atmosphere made it a real hoot while the new songs from the 'K Is For Kendall' went down well.
LOBELIA - Performance Café - 2:30pm
Solo bass anoraks (of whom, to paraphrase Paul, I am chief) were disappointed that there was no Steve Lawson set scheduled for Greenbelt this year. Happily the best thing ever to happen to Steve was about to play a set, together with hubby and some of hubby's gadgets. Unfortunately for Steve the technology gremlins were biting hard and he and Lobelia were beset with sound problems, most notably a subterranean chasm of reverb that caused more than a little gnashing of teeth from our normally placid friend. With two stunning new albums to plug, a few sound issues weren't about to dissuade Lobelia, so while Steve pottered about trying to fix stuff, she opened the set with the title track from her covers album 'Beautifully Undone', originally recorded by Canadian/Icelandic singer/songwriter Lindy. Lobelia possesses a captivating voice and a wonderfully gentle guitar technique, a style which paints a different picture of some of the songs she has chosen for the album. Who, for instance, would have expected to hear an acoustic arrangement of Dead Or Alive's '80s classic "You Spin Me Round", but there it was and it worked surprisingly well. Steve joined in the set for the duo's arrangement of Pat Benatar's "Love Is A Battlefield", an eclectic version in which Steve took one of his effect-laden solos featuring distorted bass and reverse loops. He had a lot of fun with that one causing Mrs. L to remark on the truth of the song title. Despite the technical issues this was a really entertaining set and the crowd lapped it up.
FALLEN TIDE - Underground - 2.40pm
Fallen Tide are Greenbelt first-timers, winners of the Bath YFC battle of the bands, their prize being this very gig. On a damp Saturday afternoon, inside was a good place to be and steam visibly rose from the enthusiastic crowd. The band confidently ride this wave of affection and bashed out an upbeat set full of songs that pleased the crowd some of whom clearly know their stuff already. Frontman Zach Hayes clearly has an ear for a vocal hook and the lads harmonized well which added depth to the sound. Hayes dealt well with a broken string in the middle of "Pop!" - a swift change of guitars and he's barely away from the mic, recovering quickly and back in the zone without breaking the flow. Musically, Fallen Tide stick to pretty standard acoustic pop rock fare, which occasionally rose above the ordinary when bassist Charlie Millard got a chance to shine. His lines are, imaginative and energetic. But even Millard's dexterity could'nt stop "Missing You" from sounding soppy nonsense - no song should start "I'm sitting here, all alone" but 'Feel The Same' brought me back onboard. Official fan favourite (according to a Facebook vote) "Left Behind" was the highlight of the set - again, the bass leads the way and the rhythm section comes to life. There's some indication that taking the music in a slightly funkier direction could prove the key to a more distinctive sound. Yes, there's a touch of Mumford And Sons at times, particularly in Hayes' faux-folk vocals but influences also stem from further back as a cover of the Stereophonics' "Have A Nice Day" testified.
JOE ROSE - Mainstage - 4:50pm
Wow. I wasn't expecting this! Joe Rose - joined by sister, Esther and brother, Jack came onstage with the poise and look of a hero in a Victorian gothic romance and proceeded to belt out a dramatic, engaging, romantic and tragic set of songs that managed to channel the Sisters Of Mercy via Enya, or, when Esther sang, perhaps a goth tribute to Kate Bush. I'm not making myself clear - all of this preamble is to say that Joe's set was one of the unexpected highlights of the GB'11 weekend. The definitely won't have been a set that began more dramatically with lush keys, Rose's soaring violin looped and feeding back, building to create an swathe of sound. Armed with a floor tom and playing his guitar one-handed the set continued with bold, driving bass riffs, a riveting performance across the board and a huge sound. The beautiful "Till I'm Dust" left me reeling with its intensity and it was followed by a brief foray into major key territory for "Likely Lads". The set ended in a characteristically emotive fashion, huge reverb on the drums, a tolling bell and a mournful violin melody floating above - it made me want to go and find a moor to roam just as the sun came out.
LISTENER - Mainstage - 5:50pm
Listener were described in the Greenbelt programme as combining "poetry and stomping rhythms to make an authentic hollering noise to wake all the American South". Expecting something along the lines of folk Americana, and arriving slightly late at mainstage, I initially thought I'd got my times wrong and turned up at a heavy metal act instead. But no, this was the duo I'd intended to see. Dubbed "talk music", Listener's unique style consists of screeching guitars underlying a spoken and shouted lyric. And when I say "unique", I really do mean unique - I have honestly never heard anything like it before in my life. Elements of hip-hop, rap, country, folk and grunge metal all find their way in there. The songs - if you can call them that, maybe monologues is a better description - cover an equally wide range of topics, from glaciers to relationships. The small, but enthusiastic, crowd were a testament to the Marmite qualities of Listener - this is not a band that you can sit on the fence with. But, once I'd got my head around what I was hearing, I found myself increasingly drawn in. Two of the standout tracks for me were a cover of Pedro The Lion's "Priests and Paramedics" and a self-penned reflection on life based around the story of a poverty-stricken congregation from the Deep South who had built a church out of wood from shipwrecks. "We're all made out of shipwrecks", mused the speaker as the guitars wailed in the background.
JUDAH AND SECRET - Underground - 6:45pm
"There aren't many people here but we're going to rock it like there's thousands!" shouted Judah as the London-based hip-hop duo took to the stage of an almost deserted Underground - in fact the venue's staff initially outnumbered audience members! Producer Secret and MC Judah are, of course, ex-members of pioneering Christian hip-hop aggregation GreenJade and they have lost none of the sharp rhymes and big beats that made that group so great. The show was a little rough around the edges with some backing track issues but Judah And Secret kept the small crowd on their side with witty between song banter and even handed out CDs to the audience members who shouted the loudest. As the crowd grew towards the end of the set the duo's performance became more and more energetic and reached a climax with the utterly brilliant Radio 1Xtra playlisted "Do What You Do". First rate hip-hop from an amazingly talented duo.
GORDON GANO & THE RYAN BROTHERS - Mainstage -
I approached this gig by the veteran American with mixed feelings. On the plus side Gano's folk/punk band of the 1980s, the Violent Femmes, recorded a classic, "Jesus Walking On The Water" (recently featured in CR's Spirit Of Rock And Soul series). On the minus side the only time I'd seen Gano live he was leading the short-lived Mercy Seat who played Greenbelt back in the mid '80s where micro-minnied singers sang covers of old black gospel songs to bemused Greenbelt punters. But I needn't have worried. Despite never approaching the wild excitement of the Femmes, Gano and the Ryan Brothers produced a good set of rollicking Americana. When he slowed the pace for one piano-dominated the effect was less good with Gano's creaking voice - always an acquired taste - jarring despite the passion it engendered. But when Gordon and the Brothers kept it upbeat and rocking with good ol' Southern States rhythms the effect was engaging even if the small-but-growing crowd waiting for Duke Special in the windy sunshine didn't seem too interested one way or another. But I enjoyed Gano's gothic tales of faith and the sight of Gano with a fiddle in hand exhorting the crowd in his gnarled Southern drawl to read their Bibles was hard to resist.
THE AUSTIN FRANCIS CONNECTION - Underground -
This quirky and unique hip-hop aggregation from Gloucestershire are now such firm festival favourites that they received whoops and cheers from the eager Underground crowd even as they set up their equipment in the packed venue. But bad news was just around the corner; after an extended appearance with Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly on the Mainstage the previous night, AFC's beatboxer Hobbit had been diagnosed with a serious case of tonsillitis and would have to miss the show. With one third of their crew missing, bespectacled frontman Edi Johnston and guitarist Mark Finney called on a little help from friends, audience members and several mugs of hot tea to put on a humourous and charming performance. Drums on the opening number "Jobcentre" were provided by a pal of the group, John, and former thebandwithnoname MC Ad-Apt contributed some beatboxing to the hilarious "Ginger Pride". Hobbit's absence provided AFC with the perfect opportunity to play the rarely performed "Can You See The Stars?" which displayed their more delicate side. Despite clearly missing Hobbit, The Austin Francis Connection still put on a great show.