Friday, 10 March 2017

greenbelt - music and events

We were at Greenbelt, Friday 26th August - Monday 29th August last year. This is what I did.

Friday.
Canopy - end of Joe Waller.
Canopy - Emily Moulton.
Canopy - most of The Morning Suns.
Main stage - Beth Rowley.
Main stage - Kitty, Daisy and Lewis.

Saturday.
Canopy - Big Sing, led by John Bell and Wild Goose.
Main stage - Justin Welby interview.
Canopy - The Rising, with Martyn Joseph, Mahaliah and Sam Duckworth.
Canopy - some of Pip Mountjoy.
Canopy - Seth Bye and Katie Griffin.
Canopy - Danni Nicholls.
Canopy - Human Cargo.
Village Hall - The Old Plough Folk Club. I sang The Brown and The Yellow Ale.

Sunday.
Canopy - end of Gerrard Bell-Fife.
Canopy - start of Stylus Boy.
Main stage - part of Folk On (I paused briefly for a song and a bit as I passed).
?Treehouse - Mark Yaconelli talk on disappointment.
Village Hall - Greenbelt Introducing. I sang Cruel Brother.

Monday.
Canopy - Fischy Music.
Canopy - Peter Bazely.
Canopy - The Edi Johnston Bit.
Canopy - Ngawang Lodup.
Main stage - The Rising, with Martyn Joseph, Mike Peters and She Makes War.
Main stage - Mike Peters.
Playhouse - Josie Long.
Village Hall - The Old Plough Folk Club. I sang Old Maid In The Garret.
Playhouse - James Acaster.

I started off making notes, but didn't manage to make any notes after Saturday lunchtime. In general, a lot of the music I heard was more unremarkable than I'd have hoped, though only one thing I saw was (to me) actively bad. Most of the music acts I saw at the Canopy, which was my main venue, were of the standard I might have seen at the free nights in the Bedford in Balham (or similar cheap pub multi-artist gig) or a free stage at a London park event; technically okay or better, but nothing special, and especially nothing special in terms of tunes or lyrics - it continues to be demonstrated that writing proper, good songs is much harder than most people seem to realise. Also, being of that standard, means (as with London) not as good a standard as a guest act/floorspots night you'd get at a folk club.

I was going to make specific notes on everyone, but that seems unnecessarily harsh on the majority I wasn't that keen on (especially those less well-known). I will say that Kitty, Daisy and Lewis were unnecessarily loud, tedious and ramshackle; rough 'good time' music, not designed to be listened to. Never trust anyone who substitutes volume for power, who relies on volume for impact.

Of everyone I heard who I hadn't heard before, there were only two acts that made me want to hear them again: Beth Rowley and the Unsung Roots (Seth Bye & Katie Griffin).

I got the impression Beth Rowley was well known to the Greenbelt crowd, but I'd never heard her before; I also got the impression that her set was a slight change of direction; but the songs were good, the band were good, and her voice was very good. (I did wonder later to what extent singing with a band helped; would she have seemed less remarkable if I'd seen her by herself with a guitar in the Canopy, or would other Canopy singer-songwriters have seemed more remarkable if I'd seen them with a band, with their songs given a full band arrangement. I concluded not, but it was worth considering.)

The Unsung Roots (Seth Bye and Katie Griffin) were the only straightforwardly folk act I saw, a banjo/guitar and fiddle duo. The festival experience moment was enhanced/created by the fact that during their set the power across the site was switched off, as it was raining so heavily, and they went into the middle of the tent to play unamplified in the round, which went, and went down, very well. But I'd have enjoyed them just the same without that drama.

Human Cargo - a history of emigration/exile/refugees illustrated by folk songs - was a shorter version of a longer performance, and that was well-done and enjoyable; I'd recommend it to others, and might even go to see a fuller version.

And of course I knew of Mike Peters before, but I was prompted to investigate what he's been up to since The Alarm by his performance, which was a solo reconstruction (with backing tape) of a notable Strength-heavy concert.

Folk On seemed to be Greenbelt regulars, and filling in for someone who hadn't been able to turn up; comedy folky versions of pop songs. They seemed to be playing quite well; I'd have to hear more of them to tell if they transcend the initial joke.

Of all the things I probably enjoyed the Old Plough Folk Club nights and the Greenbelt Introducing night best; on each occasion there was what would have been a perfectly respectable standard for a singer's night at a London folk club (Greenbelt Introducing was, essentially, an only slightly broader version of a folk club, though I'm sure that wasn't its intention).

Josie Long was good, James Acaster was better.

I heard two 'talks'. The interview with Justin Welby was interesting; I have always found him interesting. Particularly telling, I thought, was that the questioner who asked about 'equal marriage' in the church got applause, and Justin got applause when the crowd thought he was saying something about it that they agreed with, but when he said that inclusivity cut both ways and you had to recognise that there were many people in the Anglican church around the world who thought it was deeply, deeply wrong - not a sausage. Greenbelt is definitely not as non-judgmental and open as it thinks it is.

The Mark Yaconelli talk caused me neither harm nor benefit, which is as much as I could have hoped for.

I missed quite a lot of Sunday, through not feeling well, but missed nothing I had especially wanted to go to, and didn't feel that I'd particularly missed out on anything I might have discovered and enjoyed (though I'd much rather have not felt so unwell).

A low hit-rate for a whole festival (my first camping festival). In theory I'd much rather go to a folk festival. The music would be a lot better, but the reality of the camping experience might be quite different, as one thing about Greenbelt is that people say it's safer and more family-friendly than other festivals, less intoxication and rowdiness, and quieter at night. And I guess this is true, even though I'd expect my kind of folk festivals to be just the next rung up on that ladder. The physical camping experience itself was more civilised than I'd expected (not least because we didn't have to bring or put the tent up ourself, thanks to Susannah), especially the toilets, and the 24-hour cafe in the camping area was a pleasant haven at various points.