Monday, August 07, 2006

Big Green Gathering (and Sidmouth)

Musical highlights for me included:
  • United Vibrations featuring vocalist/MC/poet/bard Rob the Rub - They're from New Cross, highly politicised (in a refreshing sort of way), generally very young and exceedingly talented. Pok's been talking about Rob the Rub for a while now and I wasn't disappointed. I was a bit disappointed to find that the CD of theirs I bought appears to be blank, but I'm sure it was an honest mistake.
  • The Mighty Redeemers - an very young roots reggae band who impressed me so much last year - I caught most of an excellent set on the Small World Stage featuring the United Vibrations horn section...their 16-year old guitarist Tony Isaac was doing some amazingly subtle and beautiful playing, too
  • Fraggle's "gypsy-hup-wobbley-jazz-diddley-ska" band Gadjo (who I last saw in Barcelona back in Spring 2005, shortly before launching this blog). I caught three incomplete sets, all excellent, although I particularly enjoyed their friendly little afternoon set in the Green Mobility disabled camping area.

    Gadjo in Barcelona
    Gadjo in Barcelona

  • a couple of even-more-high-energy-than-usual sets from The Mordekkers (with whom I travelled down from Wales) - their first set, in the Green Forum, was particularly insane, energy-wise...I'm sure most of the crowd had no idea what the name of the band was, but the reaction was a kind of frenzied rave-type energy that one doesn't usually associate with primarily-acoustic live bands.
  • a pleasantly chilled Sunday afternoon set from The Green Angels (who play European folkdance music in a way which is as enjoyable to experience sitting on a cushion as dancing...was particularly taken by what their bass player George was getting up to - reminded me a bit of Danny Thompson's inventive bass playing)
  • a funky dub band called Dubterrania who I've seen a couple of times before in Cornwall and Devon (but who have massively improved) playing in a little timber-framed building built by someone called Ben, apparently (James S from COTD was involved with this)
  • Mal Webb, an Australian multi-dimensional human beatboxer who makes extensive use of a sample-loop recorder pedal (the Akai Headrush E1) and who's really got to be seen/heard to be believed.

Prof. Appleblossom at the BGG, 2006
Prof. Raphael Appleblossom at the BGG 2006

I didn't play a huge amount of music myself, but enough. A lot of the festival was spent doing "freestyle walkabout performance mathematics lecturing" as my eccentric alter-ego Prof. Raphael Appleblossom (that's how I got my free ticket). I had my saz and Pignose amp to fill in the gaps when there was no one to "lecture", but there were suprisingly few of these. At one point, Stef stopped by with his concertina, and a session kicked off, with Jon E. Aris, Rohan, Frazer and others sitting down and joining in.

Prof. Appleblossom, Stef and Banana Tom
Prof. Appleblossom, Stef and Banana Tom

I only recorded one thing (festival sites aren't really very good for spontaneous acoustic recording - too much going on, soniclaly). It was an extended modal saz-and-mandola jam with Stef in "The Grove" (formerly "The Mermaid's Grove", presumably someone noticed that the sea is miles away from the festival site...). We bumped into each other wandering around the site with our instruments on the Saturday and got this together. I've edited out three excerpts:

Listen Here

The Sunday night I found myself in "The Magic Canyon", a little strip of reclaimed quarry which runs along the middle of the site. This was beautifully illuminated with hundreds of candles and lanterns. I found myself in a little circle, jamming with a couple of German-Lebanese Rainbow sisters, etc. (all the usual chants and bhajans, but lovely to play along with, particularly so having a Pignose amp to allow me to play gently and yet still be heard).

Wandering further along the "Canyon", I ended up sitting on a ledge for a while listening to Pok trying to sing some songs, but being sonically swamped by annoying/hectic/drunk people. After a while, it seemed to calm down, and I went to join him in the little elliptical space he'd found (what he'd call a "pook"). He suggested a couple of folk tunes, which we delivered most energetically (saz and mandola), attracting quite a crowd of people, most of whom then stayed put for hours while a spontaneous Gorsedd (a sort of unplugged, bardic open mic session) unfolded. Pok and I started off playing a lot of his stuff, old Spacegoats songs, Hawkwind's "Brainstorm" (?!) and others. One mathematical tutee who recognised me from earlier in the day asked if we could play any Incredible String Band (we couldn't, but it's always very pleasing when someone asks). A guitarist called Justin, who Pok's known for many years, came to join us, provided some nice simple chord sequences for some wild jamming, and then helped to facilitate the proceedings, encouraging people in attendance to come forth with their songs and poems. Some really quite profound and cosmic poetries were spoken that almost got too much at times...I can remember a woman with elaborate face paint and feathers in her hair singing in some kind of alien-sounding language shortly before dawn. Pok's been talking about the concept of a "roving Gorsedd" recently (they're traditionally things associated with a particular location), and he's been talking for years about "pooks" (circular spaces in which magick is worked through the singing of songs and speaking of poetries). He's particular good in the compering role, and so it was truly excellent to see him so much in his element.

I headed back to the camping area just as it was getting light, and as I passed The General Store (closed obviously), witnessed someone just standing there, absent-mindedly playing beautiful, simple, flowing acoustic guitar. I sat to listen for a while, and then couldn't resist getting my saz out and joining in. A few passers-by sat down to listen. One mushroomed-out young woman came out with a rather moving soliloquoy about the poignancy of the Green Gathering in the face of imminent destruction of the ecosystem, how she'd arrived bitter, learned to love life again, and remembered how important it is to "tread lightly", even if there's no hope for humanity on the Earth...

The guitarist later introduced himself as Richard, a.k.a "Richardardard" (Richard d'Dard? Rich Ududud?). I hope we'll meet again.

On the Monday, I got a lift home to Exeter in The Mordekkers' bus, they being on their way to Sidmouth for the Folk Festival. I got myself out to Sidmouth on the Wednesday for their gig in the hilltop Bulverton Dance Marquee. They were scheduled to play disappointingly early, but they still managed to get a respectable number of people grooving out enthusiastically and, afterwards, we realised that the full moon had risen during their set. Pok was there, particularly pleased with the proceedings, as he has deep-rooted psychogeographical connections with the various hilltops, etc around Sidmouth, where he had many formative experiences in his youth. I slept out in the open that night on a hill above Sidmouth, looking down at the silvery moonlight reflecting off the sea, shooting stars whizzing about above me...


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