Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Dyn Gwrydd :: 2017 :: Green Man - Part 4 - three vital bands on Friday.

I have said that I wouldn't go to a festival that I didn't believe had strength in depth. Green Man and End Of The Road tick that box with abandon. Here are a few more acts that I saw at Green Man and that come highly recommended in my humble opinion.
The first, and one that criminally I have failed to see live twice before, is a world away from the more "serious" music that some might think preoccupies me. From Madrid, with garage-rock attitude and a pop sensibility to match, comes all-female foursome Hinds.

Hinds' Ana Perrote. Far Out stage, 18 August 2017.

This is a move to a different stage and a very different artist. One that I seen live before but never at a festival.

Stevie Parker, Rising stage, 18 August 2017. Her first album 'The Cure' is out now.

Another act known to me but one that I had never seen live was Cobalt Chapel, touring their self-titled LP. Let's face it all three acts here were on my must-see-live wants list and this is yet another reason that festivals such as this work for me.

Cobalt Chapel, Walled Garden stage, 18 August 2017. (Klove Records, 20 January 2017).

Cecilia Fage fronts the show.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Green Man :: 2017 :: Dyn Gwrydd - Part 3 - vox pop

Some people choose festivals based in large measure on the main stage headliners. I have to say that I have never been one of them and on several occasions I have been to multi-day festivals and not seen a single one of said acts. This was not true last weekend and I saw much of Ryan Adams' set and all of PJ Harvey's magnificent closing act on Sunday.
There are no picture of these because I don't want to spend hours, and in the process miss artists on other stages, to be near the front. I'm happy just to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy a grandstand view from the back --- something that the topography of the Mountain stage at Green Man means that it is surprisingly easy to do.
While that set was indeed a true highlight of the weekend it was also the culmination of the work of many others. One artist I was delighted to see on the list - the one that prompted me to buy a ticket, some six months back and just before the release of the latest album, was Hurray For The Riff Raff.

When I first saw Alynda Lee Segarra and her band live at End Of The Road 2012 they were almost unknown, almost totally so in the UK. It occurred to me then that were there any fairness in the world then that should not remain true.  
2017 LP 'The Navigator' saw a change of direction, more reflecting her Puerto Rican heritage, and with a largely new band. Following on from 2014 album 'Small Town Heroes' not everyone saw this as a positive development. 
Almost five years on and this was an artist that I was willing to take time and effort to see live at close quarters. Time and circumstance have conspired to make Hurray For The Riff Raff one of the live acts of 2017 --- and one cause of that is a growing sense of injustice about fundamental issues of human rights; in particular the selective application of them.
crowd was already rather larger than I might have suspected. The moment she walked onto the stage on Friday afternoon I knew that I had made the right decision.

She had the audience round her little finger from the get go and both parties knew it. Stood by the barrier between audience and stage while trying to take pictures that made any sense of the circumstances was doubly interesting. Long story short, this was a humanist rally, combined with a concert, spontaneously happening in South Wales.

The greatest achievement is that although done with serious intent it was never preachy or indeed overtly political. It simply didn't need to be.  

We got to hear pretty much all of the album 'The Navigator' and the band does it proud live.

This was for people to enjoy - these folks had paid for tickets after all - and now the vox pop was singing Pa'lante back to her, swearing and all. This was amongst the most remarkable live sets that I have ever had the fortune to see close up.

The undisputed star of the show.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Dyn Gwrydd :: 2017 :: Green Man - Part 2 - Three to see (again)

Festivals are a chance to see new music as I mention often and it is a subject that I will come back to soon. After a while they also become a way to catch up and see acts again. This post is predicated on that theme. Three acts that I have seen before at three different festivals between 2012 and 2016 revisited at Green Man 2017 each playing on a different stage and on a different day.
I shall start with the one that I first saw at live Green Man 2014 and playing the Mountain stage that year. Back then she was touring her  2014 album 'Burn Your Fire For No Witness' and was one of the most impressive artists but also one that I knew rather little about at that time. This time she is touring on the back of the 2017 LP 'My Woman'.
She is also an artist never known to make the photographer's task easy. Once you know that it counts in your favour.

Angel Olsen & her '79 Gibson S-1, Far Out stage, Green Man Festival, Friday 18 August.

This next artist is someone that first saw live at End Of The Road Festival at the end of last summer. She opened the beautiful Garden stage on Sunday and I messed up almost all of the pictures that I took then but the music was great. I had to try and do something to redeem myself this time... and as luck would have it maybe I did. What is beyond question is that the artist has grown into her rôle too. In the time between these festivals Holly Macve released her début album 'Golden Eagle' on Bella Union Records.
That is a great record but this song isn't on it because it is a brand new one. It is also the only song in the set on which she played electric guitar.

'Iris', Holly Macve, Mountain stage, Green Man Festival, Sunday 20 August 2017.

Last but not least is a band from Scotland and one that I have not seen live since the one-and-only No Direction Home Festival in 2012. Their latest release is 'Wide Majestic Aire' (2016); tongue-in-cheek the title may be but the band goes from strength to strength. A broken guitar string only added to the spectacle, but I'll come back to what happened then sometime later. All I will say is that it made me even more in awe.

Trembling Bells, Walled Garden stage, Green Man Festival, Saturday 19 August 2017.

Two of these acts also share a single person as a musical collaborator in their canon of work.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Green Man :: 2017 :: Dyn Gwrydd - Part 1

It is time to begin my commentary on the time I spent at Green Man Festival last weekend - and the 15th edition of the same. It is appropriate to start with this year's incarnation of the eponymous figure, burnt at midnight on Sunday he is reincarnated in a new guise the next year. This year he had a companion animal too, y ddraig goch (what else?)

Around the bonfire and the red dragon. Early evening Thursday 17 August.

The Green Man, a little before midnight. Saturday 19 August.

The best festivals have a sense of identity that is a combination of location, setting, careful curation - from the choice of music and other entertainment, to the food and drink choices on offer. If successful in time the audience that is attracted becomes an integral part of the festival itself. This is where independent festivals win over the corporate kind.

Now the music. On Thurdsay evening there is a limited offering based around the Far Out and Chai Wallah stages, both of which are tented.
One of the best things about festivals is being taken by live music that one was completely unaware of until the moment happens. This first happened last weekend on Thursday evening at the Far Out stage.

Anna Meredith, Far Out stage, Thursday 17 August.

The instrumental lead-in was enough to arouse my curiosity and not least because it put me in mind of Mary Epworth (see here). I have since determined that the track 'Nautilus' is epic on record but it is quite astonishing live - particularly the percussion.  It may be a highlight but the rest is snapping at its heels.

Anna Meredith 'Varmints' (Moshi Moshi Records, 4 March 2016.)

It occurred to me then that if Thursday evening has me thinking like this then it is either going to be quite some weekend or, on the other hand, it might wind up as a huge anticlimax. Suffice to say that it most certainly did not and I will post about why that was soon.

The next instalment should be up here tomorrow, probably sometime in the evening (UK time).

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 27 - Kashena Sampson - Wild Heart

I suppose that in a curious way and not least because I have never been there, East Nashville and the artists that have taken up residence there have had quite some influence on my musical existence for the last few years. Here is another whom, starting in Las Vegas, via LA and jobs that at best kept the wolves, if not necessarily the demons, from the door that was in time followed by a long stint singing to cruise ship audiences every night.
Then came the time spent bar-tending in Tennessee whilst trying to raise funds and find time to record. That is some apprenticeship. This is that LP:

Kashena Sampson - Wild Heart (New Moon Records, 18 August 2017).

It's too early yet for me to decide just how this stacks up against the competition, and there is plenty, but it is fair to stay that Kashena Sampson is very much in the running. Her vocals are strong, that's definitely one thing. This is probably an album I'm going to have to keep dipping in and out of for some weeks before I really can get the measure of it and quite how it works for me.

Kashena Sampson - Wild Heart:
  • Away from Here
  • It's a Long Way Back
  • Greasy Spoon
  • Wild Heart
  • She Shines
  • Never Give Up
  • Motherless Child
  • Hold Me Close
  • That Don't Sit Too Well with Me
  • Come Back to Me

New Music 2017 - Part 26 - Mary Epworth - Elytral

I shall soon turn my comments to that which I saw and heard at Green Man Festival last weekend. On Thursday evening I had one of those experiences where knowing next to nothing about an artist proves to be a blessing; being blind-sided like that is cathartic.
I shall reveal the artist in question in due course. About twenty minutes into the set it occurred to me that it was a similar situation to something that happened at Truck Festival 2014. In that case the artist concerned was Mary Epworth and, upon returning from that weekend one of the first things that I did was to order her début album 'Dream Life' (2012) and on vinyl for good measure. The good news, and the reason for this preamble is that her second LP is released very soon and the track list is below.

Mary Epworth - Elytral (Sunday Best Recordings, 1 September 2017).

Mary Epworth - Elytral:
  • Gone Rogue
  • Last Night
  • Me Swimming
  • Watching the Sun Go Down
  • One Big Wave
  • Bring Me the Fever
  • Burned It Down
  • Towards the Dawn
  • Lost Everything
  • Surprise Yourself
Summer music this is not. As autumn comes and the nights grow longer the muscular power and discordant aspects of it will seem appropriate I suggest. It would make for an interesting listen around a camp-fire should we enjoy the luxury of an Indian Summer.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Thinking about festivals...

It is raining hard as I write this late Monday evening. In 72 hours time I shall be camping for the first of four nights and this time next week, all being well, I shall be back here at home in front of the computer writing about Green Man 2017.
It will be my fourth visit to Green Man in South Wales in successive years since 2014. All those so far have been accompanied by rain to a greater or lesser degree. This one looks like following the theme, yet it has not spoiled any of them thus far. I'm hoping that the same holds this time.
The thing is that, at least to some extent, I know what rain during Green Man involves when it comes because it did in both 2015 and 2016. Truck Festival 2017 was a surprise however, as I had never been to one (four actually) that were bothered by more than a few sharp showers. The deluge was survivable, I'm used to camping in less than ideal conditions, but I certainly don't wish to have to deal with mud like that twice in four weeks. 

I imagine that I would do so however.
There is a limit somewhere, cancellation of the festival being an obvious one, but I'm hoping not to discover it. The thing is, if one were to dwell on all this too much you'd never buy a ticket. These festivals are sold out, weeks if not months in advance, and there is a reason for that. 

So what am I looking forward to...

You might spot that I'm unlikely to be left short of choices. In fact the clashes are likely to many and various. I'll try and add some of my ideas over the next two evenings if only for the fact that it will help me decide some kind of priority. Any suggestions are of course most welcome and I know full well that, once I'm actually there, much of the planning will go out of the window because it always does!
What is not included here are artists appearing on the Green Man Rising stage; new artists that auditioned in a competition for a gig at Green Man, and if the previous years are anything to go by I shall be there on more than a few occasions.

Many are the artists that I have seen live before but would love to see again. There are plenty and then some that I have never seen live.
Several further options are available as there are a number of artists here that are also appearing at End Of The Road Festival 2017 a fortnight later. One of those, that I am absolutely determined to see (at least once), is Gaelynn Lea. She is without doubt one of the finest fiddle players of her generation, and there are plenty of challengers for that crown I'm happy to add.
The perfect description of what being at a festival is actually like was inadvertently provided by former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld:

"There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know."

OK. It is now the aforementioned tomorrow evening,  so what has changed?

I am cautiously optimistic concerning the developments in the meteorological prognostications, which is a pleasant change from the situation this time four weeks ago and a few days before Truck Festival.
Another consideration is what balance to strike between seeing acts that I have already seen live and enjoyed, those I am aware of but have never seen in a live setting and those that are essentially unknown. This is a re-working of Rumsfeld's Ruse in a festival setting. My response is, I suspect, much like his. I will spend much of the next two days thinking about all the options and how they might pan out.  Once I'm actually there and things are happening for real I suspect that will mostly go straight-outta-the-window; I'll do exactly what seems a good response to the circumstances of the moment. I'll come back to some specific acts of note shortly.
Last summer at End Of The Road I saw a number of acts that, had I not already been inside a tented stage when the rain came pouring down, I would never otherwise have done. I strongly suspect that several of them were actually rather more interesting than those that I sacrificed by staying put.

The other question, that of right now, is what to listen to at home in the two days before a festival? I should possibly do a little on-line homework regarding the unknown unknowns.  I will certainly not listen to anything by the artists that I know about whether or not I have seen them live before. I've tried that before and it is in my experience a complete waste of time; like revision just before an exam it sows confusion instead of clarity.
I will for the most part listen to things that are of no direct relevance to the forthcoming festival that are either entirely new to me (hello, Spotify!) or might possibly serve as a frame of reference during the weekend.
To finish this evening's thoughts (the lists are arranged alphabetically)...

Five artists to see live for the first time:
Aldous Harding

Cobalt Chapel
Michael Kiwanuka

PJ Harvey
Ryan Adams

Five artists to see live again:
Angel Olsen

Hurray For The Riff Raff
Sunflower Bean
This Is The Kit

Here is the latest (no Rising stage listing here, that's all secret).  That's it until tomorrow evening and I have changed my mind again.

Wednesday evening thoughts:
It's pouring with rain just now (9:25pm), which is actually a good thing because it suggests that the weather systems are currently running to the predicted timetable.
In music, it is very tempting to go and see St. Etienne again, not least as this will be featuring songs from the latest LP 'The Home Counties', which is of course just lovely.
Also lurking somewhere in the line-up is Frome's very own Stevie Parker, promoting her 2017 début album 'The Cure'. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 25 - Paul McClure and the Local Heroes EP

It is with much pleasure, having seen him play live at Truck Festival just three weeks ago, that I come to review the latest EP from the self-styled Rutland troubadour and that is named for both himself and the collection of artists with whom he tours this beautiful land of ours come rain or shine --- with an abundance of the former and a paucity of the latter at Truck 2017!
Following two great albums 'Smiling From The Floor Up' (2014) and 'Songs for Anyone' and vast amounts of playing live across the UK with myriad of local heroes often different ones in different places.
The idea here was to get a band of Local Heroes in a studio and record some songs, playing together as if it were live.  This EP is what resulted from that.

Paul McClure and the Local Heroes, paulmccluremusic.com, Clubhouse Records (2017).

Paul McClure and the Local Heroes EP

  • Million Dollar Smile
  • Baby That's You
  • The Good And The Bad Of It
  • Weight In Time
  • Troubadour's Lament
The Local Heroes on this recording are:
Rhiannon Payne - vocals
Mike Monaghan - drums/percussion
Neil Segrott - bass
Joel Payne - keyboards/vocals
Paul McClure - guitar/lead vocals

All of this body of work is worth your listening time. Three of the five tracks on the EP were on the playlist that afternoon (see below). Even more important, and this is actually how I first became aware of Paul McClure, is to see him play live. It matters not if he is solo or with any number of Local Heroes that can be mustered for the occasion. You will not be disappointed.
Paul McClure, Saloon Bar stage, Truck Festival, 22 July 2017.

A picture is no substitute for being there listening live.  This is the play list that you missed.

What is more Paul appeared time and again over the three days, both supporting other artists and as part of the collective performances that are a great feature of the late evenings on this stage.

New Music 2017 - Part 24 - Iona Lane - Pockets EP & Solace EP

One principal artist and two releases make up this little pot of gold. I should have mentioned the first months ago but I didn't, which is entirely my fault. With another now available to pre-order the time is right.

This is the forthcoming one (1 September 2017)...  you can order it here.
With Iona on acoustic guitar and vocals and Abi Plowman on violin and backing vocals this release consists of six tracks.

Iona Lane - Pockets EP:

  • Weighted Dice
  • The Loch Tay Boat Song
  • Living Life out of Pockets
  • Carved by Another
  • Northern Town
  • The Leaving Song
This is the first song to be released from it.

Back in February of this year she released the EP Solace. It was recorded with more of a full band sound.

Iona Lane - Solace EP:
  • Amsterdam
  • Sometimes
  • Fly or Fall
  • I'll Run Without You
Which of the four songs here is my favourite very much depends on my mood at the time. I'll go with opening song 'Amsterdam' that has an guitar intro that reminds me of many things and also nothing at the same time, which is very appropriate to the lyric.

The same is true of the seven songs on the 2015 'Dry Stone Walls EP'. 

Taken in total this amounts to a considerable body of original work and one that I enjoy listening to very much.
If you have none of the above you can get all 3 EPs (and a cover of Joni Mitchell's 'A Case Of Me') for £12.60 here. If I were you then I would.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Truck Festival - Part 3 - Solace in The Saloon - Don Gallardo & Friends

Another artist returning once again to The Saloon Bar was Don Gallardo. When in his native United States he performs with his band 'How Far West'. In the UK it is 'Don Gallardo and Friends' and they are many.

Don Gallardo and Friends, Saloon Bar stage, 22 July 2017.

If you haven't heard him live, or failing that heard the live LP --- Don Gallardo & How Far West - Nashville: Live Sunday Night at Third & Lindsley (2017) --- then you need to do that. Really.
The new studio LP, the successor to 'Hickory' (2015), should be out before the end of this year and we were treated to some songs from that. The set finished with a truly magnificent rendition of 'The North Dakota Blues', taken from the aforementioned studio album but that concludes the live one too.
In fact we got some of the live set pretty much as-it-was-in-Nashville but in a mucky little dive-bar in rural Oxfordshire: Life is art, but actually being there is simply like nothing else imaginable!

The full five-piece (and the sound guy too, far right). There really was an audience but it is just not in-shot.

That is not to say that these were the only artists to appear on stage during the gig; far from it.
This was a duet with Hannah Rose Platt.