Ah, Greenbelt, how I do love thee. I never did write about last year’s festival, so figured I should get something down about this one before the time slips away again. Let’s just say Greenbelt 2016 was a fabulous one. Something in the air. Something special. So impossible to define.
This was a great year for music. There’s never much I’ve heard of on the bill, other than from previous Greenbelts. The festival just doesn’t have the budget for big names, but you know what? That’s no bad thing. It means you never know what you’re going to come across. And this year there were a few bands I came away wanting to hear more of…
The Eskies did a late-night slot in the Canopy stage and were just amazing. I’m utterly rubbish at describing or defining music by genre, so here’s how greenbelt described them:
Purveyors of music that meanders from sea soaked waltz to Italian tarantella, from Brassy funeral march-esque lament to weep along Klezmar knees up, from chain gang holler to rag time finger snap. Skipping through the dark side of anything that makes you want to dance, steeped in melodrama and usually with not a small amount of tongue in cheek.
A wee listen on Spotify beforehand confirmed I’d want to catch them and boy am I glad I did. Such a great sound, such a great drummer (inspiring me to try new things at the kit) and such a great rapport with the crowd. Find them on Spotify and listen to the album. It’s good. So good. If you pay attention the the lyrics and wonder what they were doing at Greenbelt, don’t worry – they wondered the same; when they heard that Greenbelt wanted to book them they said “Are you sure!?” Such a fabulous mix of instrumentation and rhythm it gets me buzzing, every track.
Ella and the Blisters were my next highlight. Like last year, they took an ‘after hours’ slot on Mainstage (now technically called the Glade Stage) and what a fab band they are. Just like having a party up there on the stage. Have since heard that they’ve sadly decided to call it a day, so I’m glad I got to see them twice while they were a thing.
Tankus the Henge. Oh boy. What A Band. Stupid name: far from stupid band. I’ll let Greenbelt describe them again:
Six sharply dressed gents from London Town armed with urban tales or woe and wonder to take you on an eclectic musical journey. Their style draws from a multitudinous array of styles including; rock, blues, gypsy punk and funk.
Whatever that means, I’d simply say they were rapturously, raucously, delightful. I bought the album afterwards which has been, along with the Eskies, pretty much on constant play in the car as I go about my business. Every track is a triumph. (I’ve found one review of the album which describes every track as the stand-out song of the album.) Seriously, go listen. Spotify them up, right now. And then go out and buy the album.
I’ve come to realise over recent years that there are a couple of things that bands I enjoy tend to have in common. First up – they’ve got to look like they are having a great time. If they’re having fun, then so are the crowd. Second – just about all my favourites seem to feature a brass section, or at very least a trumpet. And if there are other instruments in there too, all the better. All three of these bands fit the bill in abundance.
But talking of bands with lots of musicians, there’s no doubt another highlight for me has to be Hope and Social; not just because I love the band, but because this time I got to join them up on stage. Man I love Hope and Social. Their sound, their passions, their projects. They’re a band who get involved, and involve people. And this year for Greenbelt they were invited to bring their “Band Anyone Can Join” project, and to close the festival with it as the headline act on Mainstage on Monday evening. Before the festival they invited applications for anyone to join, and about eighty of us did so: a cluster of guitarists; a mini orchestra section; a choir; and a collection of drummers on Djembes and the like. Except when I sent my application in, I happened to mention that I had a twenty-year dream “to play drums on Greenbelt Mainstage”. Well, what do you know? They only went and let me! The penultimate song of the entire Mainstage line-up of the festival, I was the drummer. Man, what a buzz. Biggest crowd I’ve played in front of by some considerable margin, and as part of an amazing band. Thanks guys. I loved it, and I love you.
Someone in the crowd captured my Mainstage debut and is happy for me to share this.
Dang, this is far too long, so I’ll leave it there. That’s just the music highlights for me. There was more; perfoming arts stuff, odds and ends, heck even some God stuff. They’ll have to wait for another post. Or two.