Sunday Part 2

I miss compere Dominic Berry’s final first entrance of the day (look, it makes sense to me, shh) while I’m picking out the slices of bread that don’t have (visible) mould for my sandwich (nearly typed sadwich; interesting parapraxis).

Gecko takes to the stage immediately making his guitar singing like a harp. It’s his tenth performance at Glastonbury Festival 2019. “Round of applause for me still having some kind of voice!” It’s an excellent voice – all down to Vocalzones, apparently, though I suspect good rehearsal and technique, but what do I know? He’s ludicrously talented, and I don’t have the guitar vocabulary to convey it. Like all the amazing guitarists I know, his fingers tease out sounds almost unconsciously, even while he’s talking to us (I’m trying to avoid cliché here about his instrument being an extension of him; how did I do?). He’s able to switch up between performance and very spontaneous audience banter, the wit and compassion in the songs bleeding straight out into other interactions (example: the wind blows a heavy barrier over at the side and he immediately breaks off to ask: “Is everyone okay?” – seems small, but it’s classy as hell, to my mind; then goes on to make a joke about how it’s his low-tech equivalent of Stormzy’s fireworks). His songs veer between silly, passionate, meaningful, sweet, and witty, and reflect all sorts of genres (which is pretty miraculous considering he’s just one dude with a guitar. One well-engineered encore later, he leaps off the stage to perfect timing.

Dominic sits cross-legged on the stage to give us a small poem while the technicians set up for Joe around him. It’s different from his usual stuff, in metre and subject – Glastonbury and new friends. It’s just lush, and I want a copy.

Bringing us the Sunday showcase – Monster – is Joe Sellman-Leava. He enters to a slowed version of the Friends theme, and a blatter of the slogans of toxic masculinity. It’s a story about a boy and a girl, and the boy (Joe) learning something from the girl (who he won’t name), and a play (Troilus and Cressida), and confusion and violence… He immediately switches up voices quickly, which helps later with the placement of the first conversation. It’s rapid-fire and a clearly not chaotic, but definitely disorientating. Joe is talking to his girlfriend as he tries to learn lines for the play, researching male (specifically inter-gender) violence, and he switches between the conversations, the play, reminiscence of their first meeting, the research (Patrick Stewart talking about his father’s violence against his mother, Mike Tyson talking about his relationship with various women), the rehearsals, showing us how violence can underpin even the smallest of interactions (mother and father, son and mother, boyfriend and girlfriend, male director and (virtually) silent actress), and – arguably – the limitations of Method.

And then it takes a left turn into the director and Sally talking about something that appears to be this play itself, and we slalom even quicker between reminiscence, quotes/ impersonations, conversations (arguments?), Shakespearean soliloquising, rehearsal, domestic interactions, but his voicing and placement with the spare set of two fold-out chairs assist us to see it, hear it, follow it, live it. And slowly, my own fear builds until I’m catapulted out of the tent just as the insidious voice of the director pushes for Joe to do unspeakable – yet spoken, here – things to the actress? The character?

“There is a fascist, a rapist, and a monster inside all of us, because no-one is innately good.”

“I’ve lost myself, and what remains is bestial.”

The inevitable course of this series of dilemmas and conflicts spirals into a break-up.

Patrick Stewart’s story is my story. And Joe’s story is my story. And fulminating, seemingly irresistible rage doesn’t just happen to men. But they’re both right – while anger isn’t, violence is a choice. Making that choice is important, and has to be made every day if the toxic legacy is to be left behind. This is a spoken word show. It’s all true. It may not be factual but, like all good art, it’s true.

Dominic gives us another of his Glastonbury poems from his time as Poet in Residence 2017: We Are Mud. It’s glorious and fun and loving, and a perfect come-down after the intensity that’s just gone before, after he walks us through some Toby Campion-inspired deep breaths in chorus.

Poet in Residence Vanessa Kisuule takes to the stage in… well, basically, yet another fabulous, glamorous outfit. How? How?! She always looks extraordinary, and it’s, as ever, a lesson in attitude and joy in yourself making a person look magnetic. ANYWAY, she starts with one of her recent favourites: Not Worth Shaving Your Arsehole For, complete with intricate introduction. Increasingly hoarsely, she gives us a touching ode to motherhood, then one to octopodes (I love them even more now). Her grandmother puts in an appearance now, divided by speech, Vanessa not having the language of her family, but loving her through the tales and fables told. And finally, laryngitis just about failing to throttle her, a list love poem to female camaraderie – proper friends and club friends (“babes, love, and pumpkin… don’t text back, babes!”). She tells such spare, vivid stories with her gorgeously textured lyricism – this is the perfect efficiency of poetry spun by an absolute master.

2017 Glastonbury Poetry&Words Slam Winner, multiple slam-winner, and Bard of Exeter Jackie Juno floats to the stage in layers of frilly white, resembling a very happy, earthly cloud, explaining that she’s from Totness, where you’re never more than a few feet from a homeopath. She starts with a terrible tale of fluffy white lighters. This woman who advertises tarot readings in the poetry campsite and professes a great love for trees (lovely poem), calling out to Lord and Lady during it, inducing the audience into evoking the spirits of thirteen British trees, she has the older pagan’s mild disdain for modern hippy culture, especially the consumerist element. I want to ask her how she feels about Glastonbury and its many, many stalls. Maybe I will later… She gets us one-two’ing to complete her poem, complete with many terrible puns. Her enjoyment is infectious, and the audience are chuckling along, especially to her anecdote about being booked for a “mini Glyndebourne”. The rhymes that follow are a fabulous send-up of the mangled diction of the intensely upper classes.

 

Sunday Part 1


One last time for pre-show act The Antipoet, kicking us off with typical bombast, then, three tracks in, they announce a Serious Poem – It’s Not Guns That Kill People. They ask if they should try doing more serious stuff, and the crowd absolutely concur. The moody bass rumble and the backing track add to the atmosphere of the rant against the NRA their ilk. Next comes their tribute to their sadly departed mate Tony, who they met at Glastonbury (Martial Artist Physiotherapist). By the time that’s done, the swelling crowd lap it up, chuckling and cheering. While Ian has finally donned his spiky, patent high-heels boots and basque on in this tent, Paul strips off for They’ve Got To Learn, an enthusiastic defence of the power of profanity. The lads’ partners join them to help the audience out with a set of cue cards with the extraordinary words written on them. The audience manage very well to chime in at the right time. Then crowd favourite I Like Girls kicks off (and I’m invited to grant the audience a alternative (queer, non-binary) perspective, as has become traditional over the years). They finish with a round of thanks to everyone, the flourish of new album title track Punk Uncle, and a roar of glorious cheers.

Compere Rosy Carrick takes to the stage in dungarees and revelations about her morning ablutions. She then gives a rousing, touching introduction to… oh, wait, it’s me…

Blogger Fay Roberts takes to the stage. To say I’m nervous would be understating this tremendously… And then I do my usual opening piece, Blissful Chance, and it turns out I do know what I’m doing, and the smallness and passivity of the audience and the loud drag yoga on the Sensation Seekers stage doesn’t phase me (though that’s quite the leotard!), and I’m grateful, in retrospect that my first appearance on the stage was with The Antipoet, because it’s only another festival stage and I know how to do this, and the key thing is not to let people know you’re bricking it.

The beautiful soul that’s Dominic Berry took some lovely photos and videos, and here they are (well, one of them – we’re experiencing a small problem with videos… they’ll come later)

We have a surprise guest (for complicated reasons – I won’t bore you), Australian artist Omar Mousa. His bars glitters across the beat of the outside, tackling Australian culture and toxic masculinity. I am in an adrenalin come-down, and busy signing the one book I’ve sold, so I don’t take in much, but I am going to look him up later, not least for stepping in at the last minute for reasons that… well…

Shama Rahman takes to the stage amidst a tangle of technicians and wires and instruments and cases and musicians and busy-ness (an audience member tells us he’d “rather be warm than Wu-Tang” in response to Rosy’s request for expansion on why he didn’t like their “mostly karaoke” set last night. I was busy having a loneliness and exhaustion melt-down, but I heard their chants and oddly congruent backing tracks while trying to settle down). Rosy performs her Arnold Schwarzenegger poem from Friday, then, the musicians being unready, another one I’ve not heard before, about the awkwardness of holding hands (called, oddly enough, Holding Hands).

The band launch as swiftly as possible into their truncated set with Ships In The Night, which passes through at least three different musical genres that I can count in dizzying profusion. Shama tells us that all her songs start as poems, and the next one is another person’s poem, which translates as Matchstick – “It’s a revolution song… don’t underestimate the power of a single matchstick – it could burn your whole house down…” I assume it’s in an Indian dialect (I’ll check later). She then gives us the title track from her latest album: Truth Be Told, the one with the glorious dance (the one I had in my head as (I Sing To Myself) Song To The Sea, as that’s a repeated refrain). And the synaesthesia shivers kick off for me with the beautifully dissonant ripples of instrumentation, and her voice dances between ribbons of mystical shimmers with an almost forceful, rock-inflected delivery. (I find myself forgiving her for sitting on my beloved cajon, which I unwisely left on the stage after its brief appearance with The Antipoet). The final track (All In Your Mind?) is yet another genre, the sitar and bass snarling under her chanted, almost rapped lyrics. The sound technician outdoes himself, giving her almost more reverb than is decent (almost!), and the growl of poem-song draws more intrigued audience members. Let’s hope they stay through the inevitable disentangling (and me retrieving my drum) to watch the next act!

Murray Lachlan Young takes to the stage, introduced as “the suavest man in existence”, which he grins at (and somehow manages that with faded, black jeans, a nondescript top, and flip-flops – it’s probably partly the voice, and partly really suiting silvering hair), asking us to bring the energy up with applause for ancient nomadic structure, recently emptied compost toilets, the benevolent part of Universal Consciousness, then a series of things that no-one likes or wants to applause. Then bongos. “Tippy-tappy-tip-tap-tap” he demands from the audience, which they’re, well, a little too listless to engage with. It melds into a series of rhythmic portraits of festival clichés, followed by a query: should we have a national referendum about the thong (men, wearing thongs, specifically). Young men flee towards to the end, and he weaves that into his outro. According to his recent reading, the tipping point has come: Britain has more famous people than normal people. He gives us a poems mostly using the words known and unknown, which growls and keen through the full range of his amazing voice. Honestly, his voice has only got more theatrical and astonishing over the years since my brother and I first stared at him on late night 90s TV. He goes on to rhythmically pillory one of P Diddy’s more outrageous antics in something uncomfortably close to an impersonation of a stereotyped, young person of colour. Avoiding going to the loo has apparently reached new, dark levels (eating charcoal tablets to avoid defecation until the person takes a laxative). The toilet talk continues. Horrific mentions of despair and death concerning Glastonbury history… with regard to defecation. Again, I’m struck with the phenomenon of headliners talking more between pieces than doing pieces. The Voice of a Portaloo follows, almost inevitably.

Someone tried to crash out in his tent, which is near the naked male sauna, where he did a naked gig, including the next piece: Tae A Scrotum (yes, in the style – and accent – of Rabbie Burn). I snigger helplessly. I won’t lie. We finish with the “erotic folk song poem” Dogging – what folk songs aren’t singing about, apparently, but should. “You’ll be pleased to know there’s a singalong chorus: And a-dogging I will go/ Oh, a-dogging I will go”). It’s a tour of the UK as seen through the medium of carparks.

(Yes, I got a selfie. What?!)

Courtney Conrad takes to the stage in a floaty, open black dress combo with big, pale flowers interweaving on it (yes, I’m still noticing clothes – don’t @ me, as they say). Her delivery is even stronger than her first performance on Friday. It’s a very similar set to that one, but with some I didn’t hear last time, and the usual enjoyment of summoning up other moments I’d not captured then. Maybe I’m in a different place myself today, but I hear more strongly the intensity of both her love and despair for her family and cultures, the difficulties of language and translation of Otherness within Otherness. It’s brave and quiet and a gritted teeth sharing of brutal, beautiful truths.

(I missed taking a photo of her. Sorry!)

Jonny Fluffypunk is greeted with an “Edinburgh Fringe size of audience” so, to the sound technician’s mild disquiet, he drags the mic and stand into the auditorium, but luckily he knows what he’s doing when it comes to sound equipment and feedback, so no horrific feedback ensues. “If you were here yesterday, you’ll learn a valuable lesson about the craft of seemingly spontaneous banter.” And then goes on to start with a very similar rant, minus the rock ’n’ roll bit, then a different kick-off poem – his ode to coffee, which breaks the fourth wall at nearly every other line, asking for audience participation to better complete the fourth line in the spelling section gifted to him by Oxford: “F – Fuck Tea!” (we end up with “Filtered, frothy, fumigates my brain…”). It’s reached that point of the festival where nearly everyone references the toilets… To be fair, they get emptied halfway through JFP’s set, adding a distinctive fragrance to proceedings. And, like the drifting whiff of human marsh gas, I wander out of the tent to make myself a sandwich. I’m sure the set ended well, though.

Interview with Paul Eccentric/ The Antipoet

We sent interview forms out to our artists, and we’ll be sharing their stories here on the blog. Next up:

The Antipoet by Scott Tyrrell

The Antipoet by Scott Tyrrell

Your Name

Paul Eccentric

Name of Act

The Antipoet

Website

https://www.theantipoet.co.uk/

Twitter handle

@theantipoet

Instagram handle

@onehalfoftheantipoet

Video

Audio

Facebook Page

https://www.facebook.com/AntipoetThe/

How did you get into poetry/ spoken word?

In 1991 I supported John Hegley whilst singing with my band and decided that was what I wanted to do.

Who are your influences/ idols?

John Hegley and Ian Dury

What’s the one thing you’d like people to know about your work?

We play for food

What advice would you give to someone starting out in spoken word/ performance poetry?

Don’t give up your day job

Who are you looking forward to seeing/ what are you looking forward to doing at the Festival?

John Hegley and The Cure

Have you been to Glastonbury Festival before?

Yes

What’s your stand-out memory of the Festival?

Medical Tent 20 mins before being due on stage

What’s the one thing you simply must bring with you to the Festival?

Rum

What advice would you give someone visiting the Festival for the first time?

Bring loo paper

Have you performed at Glastonbury Poetry&Words before?

Yes

What’s your standout memory of performing at the Glastonbury Poetry&Words stage?

Holding the record for the highest number of entries in the accident book

What advice would you give someone performing here for the first time?

Play the cafes and the bars as well as the slots you’re paid for. Great way to sell books and they pay in food and rum!

What words would you use to describe your work/ your act?

random words in a random order

What do you like best about doing whatever you call whatever it is that you do on stages?

The horror on people’s faces

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

We’re Artists, we’re of a sensitive disposition


You can see Paul Eccentric/ The Antipoet at 11:30-12:00 every day at the Glastonbury Poetry&Words stage. Read our previous article about them here.

Interview with Will Sanderson-Thwaite/ Gecko

We sent interview forms out to our artists, and we’ll be sharing their stories here on the blog. Next up:

Gecko by Scott Tyrrell

Gecko by Scott Tyrrell

Your Name

Will Sanderson-Thwaite

Name of Act

Gecko

Website

http://geckoofficial.com

Twitter handle

@geckoofficial

Instagram handle

@geckoofficial

Video

http://youtube.com/geckoofficial

Audio

Spotify

Facebook Page

http://facebook.com/geckoband

How did you get into poetry/ spoken word?

The Apples & Snakes open mic Jawdance at the rich mix in Hackney was my entry point into this wonderful world. I come from a music background where open mic has very different connotations and I was absolutely blown away by the warmth and energy of the place.

Who are your influences/ idols?

Randy Newman

What’s the one thing you’d like people to know about your work?

There might be some audience participation!

Who are you looking forward to seeing/ what are you looking forward to doing at the Festival?

I’m ridiculously excited to see Stormzy headline.

Have you been to Glastonbury Festival before?

Yes

What’s your stand-out memory of the Festival?

Playing after Billy Bragg in the Green Fields. Not only that playing after Billy Bragg closing with a Bob Dylan song. No pressure!

What’s the one thing you simply must bring with you to the Festival?

Vocalzones

What advice would you give someone visiting the Festival for the first time?

Explore off the beaten track, try not to have too much planned so you can be free!

Have you performed at Glastonbury Poetry&Words before?

No

What words would you use to describe your work/ your act?

poetry, spoken word, music, multidisciplinary entertainment

What do you like best about doing whatever you call whatever it is that you do on stages?

Building up trust with an audience so that you can become more playful with them as the show goes on.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

I will have some CDs of my album Volcano with me if anyone would like to support that dying medium.


You can see Gecko at 15:35-16:00 Saturday; 14:45-15:10 Sunday at the Glastonbury Poetry&Words stage. Read our previous article about him here.

Introducing: Shama Rahman

Shama Rhaman
Performing for the first time with us is Shama Rahman, 12:35-13:05 Sunday. If she’s new to you/ you’d like a reminder, read on:

In her own words:

“British-Bangladeshi, UAE-born, Londoner and multi-instrumentalist Shama performs her album, ‘Truth BeTold’. The live album showcases Shama’s unique approach to sitar performance and composition, with electro-acoustic tracks seamlessly crossing genres including jazz, beat poetry, live electronica, psychedaelia, pop, hiphop, afro latin worldbeats, and Indian/Western melodies.

“Truth BeTold Official Music Video: https://youtu.be/hNSqymlXtQQ

“As the first artist-in-residence with the the groundbreaking mi.mu gloves, the album features it throughout; cutting-edge, wearable tech that allows the Shama’s movement to trigger sounds and effects as part of the live recording and performance, underlining her status as a ‘futuristic storyteller’. Her stunning immersive performance of the album at London’s Southbank with interactive visuals and dancers was a breath-taking avant-garde show, featured nationally on Channel 4.

“She is the first Sitarist to perform in Antarctica as part of the first Antarctic Biennale, featured in The Times and Radio 4’s Front Row She has performed internationally in Korea, Hungary, Croatia, Germany, Canada and the US, and nationally at Glastonbury, Bestival, BoomTown, Secret Garden Party, Green Man, and the Manchester and London Jazz Festivals.

“In my Line of Sight Official art/music video: https://youtu.be/HUMgBoe1rQo

Reviews:

Her music has been championed by Songlines (4* Review: ‘The triumphant expression of a unique vision and inimitable sound’), Gilles Peterson (“Its Great. ‘In my Line of Sight’ is my fave”), the BBC, Wonderland (“You’re about to get goosebumps…With stunning melodies and a dream-like vibe, Shama switches between English and French vocals throughout the track to always keep us on our toes… absolutely gorgeous, prepare to have it stuck with you long after you’ve finished listening”, Songwriting Mag (‘Imagine DeadCan Dance and Björk getting together in a folk club, to make jazzy trip-hop records…with sitars.’), and Louder (‘An album by a singer-sitarist who’s also a scientist, neuro philosopher and actor, and dons wearable Mi.Mu gloves to trigger sounds by movement, is likely to be acutely cutting-edge. The sonic panorama stretches as far as the listener’s imagination, and then some.’)

Fay’s words:

Considering that one of my real joys in life is discovering new artists, this whole journey of blogging mostly artists who are new to me has been an immense treat. Shama Rahman is a musician whose says that her work starts as poetry and evolves into music, and it really shows. She sings in several languages, intent on exploring and extending her own bilingualism, and that treading of boundaries seems to be the key to her style. Her voice, not to get too hyperbolic, frankly reminds me of something like liquid light – high, preternaturally clear, with the kind of effortless-sounding flexibility that comes from countless hours of practice and training. It is a perfect complement to her sitar playing and – again, not to go overboard – I’ve never heard sitar-playing quite like it. Her music sounds absolutely like a blend of the best of Indian traditional, jazz, funk, latin, and folk music of various nations. It would fit as well in an old-fashioned French cafë as a world music convention as a film score as a modern nightclub. And for a synaesthete like me, it becomes an extra challenge to try to describe the sheer ribbons of colour flying off this music, as well as the incredible textures it draws over my palms and forearms. In other words, her performance is going to be perfect for an Glastonbury-early Sunday experience. And I haven’t even delved into the richness of the lyrics, painting their own pictures, telling stories that weave in and out of the music (or vice versa). She’s frankly a superstar in the making – catch her with us before she’s on much bigger stages in future festivals… It’s going to be glorious!

Sneak preview:

Introducing: Gecko

Gecko Theatre & circus promo 2
Performing for the first time with us is Gecko, 15:35-16:00 Saturday; 14:45-15:10 Sunday. If he’s new to you/ you’d like a reminder, read on:

In his own words:

“Gecko is a singer-storyteller, his playful lyrics cover the big things in life; think iPhones, Libraries & Guanabana fruit juice to name but a few. Gecko has performed across the world from Stockholm to Wellington, Paris to Crawley. His debut record ‘Volcano’ was made ‘Album of the year’ in the Morning Star. He has shared stages with the likes of Ed Sheeran, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Robin Ince, Josie Long, John Hegley & Billy Bragg.”

Fay’s words:

Here’s the weird thing: I know Gecko, but I’ve never seen him perform… He’s been part of Spoken Word @ PBH’s Free Fringe for a couple of years, and in 2018 was the show before mine. We’d talk briefly, wish each other well, and get on with the business of The Next Thing (this is how Fringe is, frankly!). So now I get the treat of not only previewing his work here but watching him live in a few weeks’ time. Let’s get stuck in…

For a start, unlike many of the other artists (shyer? fewer opportunities?), Gecko has a profusion of videos to choose from. And while his YouTube channel has a plethora of official videos (high production values, innovative presentation styles, and the odd familiar name from the world of south-east-England-spoken-word rap/ rap-inflected artists), it’s the live performances I find myself gravitating to. Here, not only does the beautiful musicianship and the slightly breathy, but incredibly flexible, vocal delivery shine through, but his stage craft and audience rapport dominates. Gecko focuses on a range of topics, mostly bedded in pop culture (iPhones, Instagram, the studied nonchalance of selfies), but some as old as humanity (the search for relevance, connection, autonomy – no matter how scary that is), and he manages to steer you into the profound via humour and whimsy, tight rhymes and plangent notes guiding audiences to revelation after revelation. His deep love for humanity rings through every line, and he is an absolute master of his craft. I’m really looking forward to seeing him win over yet another audience next month (and to finally get to experience this live for once!).

Sneak preview:

Introducing: Thunderclap Murphy

Thunderclap Murphy
Performing for the first time with us is Thunderclap Murphy, 15:05-15:30 Friday; hosting the slam 17:00-19:00 Sunday. If he’s new to you/ you’d like a reminder, read on:

In his own words:

“Thunderclap Murphy is a spoken word performer, songwriter and live looping multi-instrumentalist.

“For five years, he was the host of Dublin’s monthly poetry slam, Slam Sunday. He has been the host and organiser of many spoken word and music events in his home town of Dublin. The weekly open mic show, The Monday Echo, was a first performance venue for many Irish based poets.

“His live performance combines poetry, songwriting, live looping and hip-hop. With influences as diverse as welsh poet Alun Lewis to 90s rap legend Skee-lo, Thunderclap combines covers and original material in a high energy show.

“2018 saw the release of self-penned single “The Party’s Over”. He occasionally performs arrangements of his songs live with a string quartet. His arrangements of other songwriters material for string quartet were showcased in a regular event called the Bamboo Sessions featuring live string players.”

Fay’s words:

Thunderclap Murphy is likewise new to me, but here we see where my plan to post in chronological order of appearance on the stage might have some issues. See, I may have to admit my first research defeat on this one, as I can find video and audio of Mr. Murphy’s music – either intricately looped, multi-instrumental covers or original music – but no written or recorded versions of any poetry in his name. (What hasn’t helped is that there is a (much older) Irish poet called Aidan Murphy who, conversely, I have been able to hear. He is not our Aidan Murphy, though…) I have found a recorded version of an interview with him on Irish spoken word podcast Boundless & Bare in May 2018 about setting up and running spoken word events. All I can tell you at the moment is that he has a really beautiful speaking voice – deep and resonant and expressive. And his music is catchy (I’m still humming one of them), deceptively complex and moving, delivered in a light baritone/ tenor, just to throw me into more confusion (man has an impressive vocal range!). If I discover any more before I see him in action in June, I’ll update this article! 🙂

In addition, he’s hosting the slam on Sunday along with Brian McMahon Gallagher, about which more later!

Sneak preview: