and my head was pounding! I had spent far more energy tokens than I had intended on Friday night deep into Saturday morning, I even introduced gin into the equation (some peer pressure may have been at play…well, I was offered it and said yes) and now I felt like grog. I attempted a cup of tea and to get into gear but had to succumb to another hour in the tent telling myself it was all going to be okay. Unfortunately due to my irresponsibility and inability to remember that I cannot party like the young I missed Jim Ghedi’s performance! (Sorry Jim if you’re reading this) but you can read about The Arbiter’s time he went to see him perform with Toby Hay by clicking THIS.
I quickly normalised and headed out, determined not to miss anymore! Within five minutes of re-emerging from the tent I was deep within a vast audience being wowed by Bo Ningen! It was clear that this band had had their Weetabix (other wheat based boring breakfasts are available) because they were pumping out non-stop, fast paced psych-rock like a well tuned engine. I couldn’t believe that ten minutes ago I had been cwtched up in my sleeping bag moaning about my condition and now I was throwing myself into a torrent of Japanese Psych-acid rock that was attacking me at all angles. The driving bass creeping up my legs and clenching my rib cage as cascading guitar journeys raced off into a treble-tastic whirlwind that tickled the ear drums, then suddenly without any awareness of transition we stumbled into almost break-beat, stripped back avenues of tormented beat poetry, some sort of acid-grime maybe?
Their energy was never ending and somehow it felt like they were charging me up for the rest of the day, as their bassist climbed about the barriers separating this great sound generator from a ravenously fuelled audience, it was like the scene from Shaun of The Dead where Dylan Moran’s character is pulled out of the Winchester, arms reached up from the debauched dancers below him as his fingers danced endlessly and effortless across the fret board, the level of utter wow completely overwhelming those at the front.
The set ended with an almighty crescendo that was probably medically advised given that it looked like people might start drowning in musical overload.
Like a vault dweller leaving 101 I shielded my eyes from the sun as I emerged from The Far Out tent, it was time to head down to The Mountain stage to catch a band that had recently caught my ear, Xylouris White! The two-piece band take their name from their respected surnames (George Xylouris and Jim White) – it was now a beautiful clear day and Graham and I got right down to the front in anticipation of what we were about to see. The two gentlemen came out and took their positions Jim White on drums and George Xylouris on what I now know is a Laouto!
The sweet, intricate music created by these pair is truly sublime. It’s timeless and takes you everywhere, with two instruments and a voice they show you the world and not just in the present day. Your brain will be throwing all kinds of images at you as you close your eyes and embark on this seamlessly effortless journey. Jim White is hands down one of the greatest drummers I have ever had the privilege to watch – his method seemed so simplistically intricate, which I think is actually impossible. He was completely fluid and at one with the kit around him, the sticks in his hands and totally in tune with George, maintaining eye contact where needed and subtlety counting them in. There unspoken communication between them is something rare, to find a fellow musician that you can work with like that, it’s incredible and to witness two people working so flawlessly together in building something that somehow sounded like a 5-member strong band was utterly mind blowing.
At one point George became a string down but continued to play until the end of the piece. He then calmly announced that he needed ‘two minutes’ to change his string. This prompted Jim White to ask us if we had any questions ‘How did you meet?’ shouted a voice, he chuckled softly ‘a party’ he replied – then they got back into it like nothing had even happened.
I was moved by their set and felt like I had been part of something particularly special. I was pretty sure that their music had helped sustain the nice weather with its magical powers. Enlightened I walked back to the Far Out tent to see Föllakzoid.
For the duration of their performance I was locked on a pathway across a perpetual soundscape that plateaued off in front of me, there was nothing tangible there, just shapes and shadows that drew into form as I involuntarily moved past them. There was a tribal element, a swirling channel of separate sounds that came together to form chants and voices, were they really there or was my brain clutching at answers within the engulfing abstract? The sensory input was so much that it looped around to depravation, I left the human plain and ascended into a place where form is not required. I felt completely lost at sea as the waves ebbed and flowed over me, playful shimmering notes like dancing sunshine prickled at my ears whilst the looming bass kept me anchored to the floor. There was very little stage lighting in use because you don’t need stage lighting to see through your third eye.
Then there was a technical error of some sort and I came soaring back to reality, confusion replacing freedom, I’ve no idea what happened but I knew I had to go and have a sit down and not think about it too much. I guess I’ll have to go and see them again (shame).
We took the opportunity to chill out at Round The Twist and take in some brilliant disco and funk all interlinked. There were some hardcore day dancers out making wonderful shapes and the weather was continuing to hold up. I couldn’t stop for long though because next up in Far Out was The KVB. On the way there I was distracted by some beautiful music stretching out of Chai Wallahs. What irony that it was Sound of The Sirens a wonderful duo that harmonised wonderfully over a trail of acoustic guitar. I’m sorry I didn’t stay longer but the itinerary was gospel!
Whilst on my way to check out The KVB I remembered that I wanted to have a glance at Boy Azooga as I’d heard a lot of people raving about them but I didn’t know where they were playing and as I frantically wandered around trying to figure it out I inadvertently became locked into a jazz frequency which, for jazz lovers is an actual medical condition where the faintest whiff of jazz enflames your Jazz Gland and your body is compelled to move towards it. This is how I discovered Nubya Garcia, an insatiable talent on the saxophone backed by some fantastic jazz cats – it was lush. I don’t know any jazz terminology at all but it was like sinking into a hot bubble bath at the end of a five day festival excursion (honestly!) – what an absolute skill. A friend of mine is currently learning to play sax and he’s not bad, I tried it out at his place recently and I cannot get it to make a sound at all – it’s the one instrument I think I’ll have to resign to accepting that I cannot play. So when I see someone on stage in this, the year of the saxophone (as predicted by The Shoracle) absolutely killing it in all manner of cool, I can’t help myself but stand, slack-jawed in awe, AWE I say!
I was glad to have discovered this little unknown jazz oasis, it was like a super magic bonus round for not giving up trying to roam around a field yet, but time waits for no holistic journalist and now I had to attempt to walk up a hill post-jazzed which is harder than pre-jazz because it’s medically proven that jazz relaxes you into a soft putty. But I made it…
The duo had been introduced to me by, you guessed it, The Shoracle! It just so happens she knows I’m a fan of anything remotely electro, krout avante guard minimal, analogue, shoe gaze… and these guys have sussed out how to blend up all of those words into a milkshake of perfection. Behind them a rolling scape of electro-infused visuals took place as haunting vocals, hard-hitting beats and the nostalgic warmth of the synths melted together in fondue of minimal bliss. I don’t know why but I kept thinking of scenes I had imagined when I read Cormac Mccarthy’s ‘The Road’ – despite the solid tempos of each track there was a sensation of an increase in urgency, like something terrible and awesome was coming and we were like rabbits in headlights. But this feeling of unknown potential peril was offset to the overwhelming desire to move to the beat and it reminded me of a reoccurring dream an old friend of mine once had where he would be at a big party on a beach at night celebrating the end of the Earth and everyone would all leave into the night happy and content from dancing before a meteoroid hit. That’s what The KVB are like and that’s why it’s important that you go and see them!
I think by this point I must have gone to acquire more caffeine because I was now faced with a clash debacle and so I decided rather than miss anything at all I could nip quickly between the stages and see everything. But by this point I still only written down who was on and when and I had forgotten to make a note of where. However Green Man is populated with incredibly friendly people who don’t mind if you ask them to have a look at their Program or if they just mind telling you where so-and-so is. In fact quite often the response to me saying ‘can you tell me where X is playing (not The XX because they’re boring)’ and the person would say ‘hey we’re going there to, why not come with us. And before you know it I’d know their name, job, favourite breed of dog, top three films and fridge temperature setting. These delightful people continuously aided my mission to see as many bands as I could and I thank them all.
So that being said I was relieved that after The KVB I only had to alight to another stage once before midnight, everything else was on The Mountain stage. So with that I set off to find my friends (yes I have friends!) so that we could watch the highly anticipated Baxter Dury together. By this point you already know who introduced me to his music so I’m not even going to say it… and for anyone who doesn’t know, because some of you might not Baxter Dury is Ian Dury’s son and that is Ian Dury of Ian Dury and The Blockheads. Now that’s a lot of Dury’s for one paragraph so let’s get to the Dury Jury shall we?
I was straight up relieved that the sound was great at the point that I chose to sit down because I really needed a sit down. The view wasn’t the worst or the best, but the sound was great. The crowd was plentiful and all was good. There was of course a great influence from Baxter’s father within his music and persona, some of which I would argue is inevitable – but I think it’s important not to weigh it up with the shadow of Ian’s musical accomplishments looming over it – their overall sound meandered through and between avenues of music that are far more recent than what would have influenced Baxter’s father, was there a disco groove? Sure but woven into that fabric were patches of electronica, dabbles of indie and florets of a grime like beat poetry. One of my favourite points was when the word ‘cunt’ emitted in full song formation from the speakers and across the festival to the instant shocked faces of children who had clearly heard the word, looking to their parents with a face that said ‘what have you brought me to and I am I in trouble?’ it was fantastic and I think it’s a reaction that Baxter Dury would appreciate. He is after all, a salamander.
I think it’s incredible that Baxter Dury is making music, it requires no comparison to anything else because in its own right it’s fucking awesome (see now I’m swearing), there’s no requirement to think outside of it, so don’t. Just listen to it for what it is, cheeky fuckin’ tunes done really really well.
This was the moment that I had to alight so I got my bony self up off of the floor and we set off to The Walled Garden only to get trapped into a slow funnel of people attempting to get through a doorway in a stone wall. It seemed many people had had the same idea as me to go and see Goat Girl because they’re awesome. The problem was now that I wasn’t seeing Goat Girl because they were on the other side of a wall and there were people in the way. But patiently we shuffled, distracted by the humour of an individual in a Kaftan called Alfie. Seen pictured with a man in a very blue suit who we met just on the other side of the wall.
It seemed everyone was in The Walled Garden to see this well hailed group! Their indie-rock, jingly fast paced yet simultaneously slacker-like take on ‘ahem’ sci-fi fusion was well received by all ears, including mine. It was a little tricky to fully appreciate them as I was still near the door in the wall and sort of wedged between a toilet and some railings, but I clung on for dear life to absorb as much of their greatness as I could. Unfortunately given my condition at the time I did not last as long as I would have liked and for the one and only time over the weekend I abandoned the mission and relocated.
Back to the Mountain Stage I hobbled to see the Welsh Ambassador for Los Angeles, Cate Le Bon. I had discovered her music a few years ago when looking up songs with Duke in the title (for obvious reasons) which was of course the first track I ever heard by her. I was enraptured by her unique and soothing voice paired up with a celtic knot work of indie folk rock that serves as a delicate and pinnacle accoutrement to her vocals.
To take that in live was a touching experience, I didn’t know just how much impact her music had on me until I heard it live, it was like a great weight being lifted, like all of the times I had been melancholy whilst listening to her had been forgiven and cast away into the ether. Then just as you think things can’t get more heavenly John Grant stepped up and sang along with her! I don’t know what they sang (don’t confuse me with a real journalist) but it was beautiful, Cate did admit that it was like giving us our pudding before our mains because of course John Grant was due on next, but it was a well deserved little taster that no Weight Watcher would ever contest. If I was offered the chance to go on an activity with Cate Le Bon I think we’d go collect seashells. That sounds like we’d have fun.
The next show I saw doesn’t need an introduction because I just said his name and I feel that I very don’t need to explain who introduced me to his music either because if you don’t know by now you must have been asleep whilst reading this! Now I’ve never heard a John Grant song that I don’t like but for me the two key tracks that I had to hear from him on this very night at Green Man was I Wanna Go To Marz and G.M.F. The latter being my selected funeral song because in true thematic irony I believe it’s about me. (I discovered the track G.M.F on the 6th June 2013!)
John Grant is perfect. It’s proven. He’s an exquisite showman, a glorious songwriter and he has an incredible beard. Every single nuance from a tap of percussion to a particular squidge from a synthesiser played a vital part in the exceptionally arranged pieces that they played for us. Budgie played the drums Bill Benter played cards (with a lot of counting).
When G.M.F started I lost my composure and teared right up, throwing my arms into the air and singing it right there with ’em. I’m pretty confident that John Grant and I harmonised perfectly and so if he’d like to do a duet I’d be happy to check my diary.
After that storming set I was feeling pretty done in but I wasn’t ready to retire. I had a 0045 appointment at The Walled Garden with a very curious group but I had negative three energy left so I had to assemble some kind of plan for the interim. We took refuge at the fire pit for a while to warm our bones and we sat outside Far Out listening to Teenage Fanclub for a while – I thoroughly enjoyed whatever it was that they were playing and I did kick myself that they had slipped me by up until this point. Since seeing them I’ve seen their name crop up here there and everywhere so it’s definitely a sign that I need to spend more time on them.
We then returned to The Mountain Stage as the banks provided an optimum slouch-to-view ratio of the stage meaning you could slob out without jeopardising your view! (something that came in handy more than once) and so it was that I ended up Fleet Foxes.
I’m going to be a bit diplomatic here because in all honesty Fleet Foxes aren’t my cup of tea but there were thousands of people there to see them and they were having a great time. They clearly know how to write a song and perform it impeccably and I have no lack in respect for what they do – in fact it was perfect for us because we were finally getting in our much needed catch up and they weren’t particularly distracting for us. It was great seeing other people enjoy them and cheer them on between songs, none of it depreciated my experience – it just didn’t stimulate me musically.
By about 0020 I was feeling ultra-spent and heavily contemplated returning to camp, my friend and I had parted ways and I was meandering back to the tent when I was drawn in by some comedy taking place at The Babbling Tongues… by the time I made it there it had mostly wrapped up but the Tea dispensary / double decker bus offered a chance to energise a little so I acquired a cup of tea and before you know it I had wandered right into The Walled garden. I figured I was meant to be there as it was where I was.
Whilst waiting for the band to start I leaned against the railing by the central sound desk and sipped my tea. There was a two-way conversation taking place between the sound guy on the stage and the one in the
booth next to me. It was an interesting thing to listen to, lots of little codes and terms that meant everything to them but nothing to me – they went over everything and it really made me appreciate the enormous level of effort that goes into all music events, especially festivals – I have a hard enough time understanding how PieMinister have a never ending supply of pies for the constant 30 foot queue outside their stall without even contemplating the folks who make the sound sound amazing.
A few familiar faces from the Le Pub crowd emerged but by the time the band started there was just two of us left because Butler and I are seriously hardcore party animals. Thus it was that we danced hard to Snapped Ankles who, and I’m saying this now have come in as one of the top bands I saw over the weekend (there’ll be a list at the end but it means very little). Well… if Devo had adopted Ewoks and raised them to make music this is probably what would have happened. Some uncharacterisable gilly-suit toting shaggy creatures emerged on stage wielding large branches of which were covered in various…things that made various sounds when hit or struck with various other things.
Even though I’ve seen them now I still don’t think I know what they are, I mean, a band obviously… but a band of what? Who knows… does it really matter as long as they appease you musically? No I don’t think so. Some parts of it reminded me of a band my chums were in called Sicknote – an ice-cream of trip-hop beat techno dance electronica smothered in a thick punk sauce with a vocal delivery more akin to a rant or breakdown than anything singing based. Then they’d take a right turn down structure street with something like NSA Man, a popcorn-beep-boop tune about how much the government spies on us all… then it’s the third exit on the roundabout down psych-street with Want My Minutes Back… all of which encapsulated every single molecule of music that I love. The part of me that loves The Residents was satisfied, the part of me that loves Stump was satisfied, the part of me that loves The Happy Flowers was satisfied… it was all in there, I’m starting to believe that they were invented with me and me alone in mind. Which means Butler has impeccable music taste because he was roaring his approval between each track!
As the set went on into the night I noticed that there were more of them on stage, more anonymous little forest monsters jumping about to the cacophony of hypnotic insanity being created by the rest of their kind – it tripped me right out fair play!
After their set wrapped up I was thoroughly thoroughly thucked and so Butler and I headed back to camp for some much deserved and required sleep.
It had been yet another truly tremendous day on the Glanusk estate – even after my very rough introduction into the day I had managed to make the most of it and there was a lot of most to be had! I was just settling into the routine of festival life which was a nuisance really as there was only a day left. I knew I had to make it one hell of a day… you can read about that in part 3!