Greenbelt 09

Greenbelt 2009Standing in the long Now’
Greenbelt mainstage.jpg
‘tent up
kettle on
music plays
happy days!!’

The above is the slightly cheesy poetry that could be seen on various T’ shirts and mugs at the festival this year. Cheesy as it is though it captures Greenbelt well as although there is a VAST amount of art, music, theatre, worship, talks etc etc avaliable, just being there in the vibe is awesome; arriving feels like a kind of home-coming. Happy Days!
greenbelt chai chapel.jpgAs ever, I invested a good chunk of time in the ‘Tiny Tea Tent’ and the ‘Chai Chapel!’ In the queue one time I was chatting to a bunch of teenagers who were loving the festival. It was great to find that the festival was so accessible to them (they’d chosen not to be involved in the youth programme but were instead taking in a wide range of options) and to be chatting to a bunch of teens who were being impacted by the faith, art and debate in the way that I was back in the day. (That was the funniest part of our chat when they asked me when I’d first come to Greenbelt, they clearly struggled to relate to the answer “1985” as anything other than medieval history).

Highlights this year:

Alex Horne ‘Wordwatching,’
which was an hilarious multi media account of his attempt to get new words into the Oxford English Dictionary. Subversively brilliant fun for word-lovers.
Sunday morning service: Loved the idea of the Olive Tree as the thread that both themed and wove the whole service together.

‘Duke Special’
with his quirkily wonderful stage presence and band, with a feel good headlining act at Mainstage on Sunday.
Hearing ‘Rob Bell’ speak! Great stuff to say and a great way of communicating it.
As ever it was the spontaneous moments too that will live long in the memory: One of which was sitting down for a drink and finding a couple of jugglers about to do their street act on the grass area where we were, one of whom claimed to be the worlds only “tent manipulation artist” and proceeded to pack up a pop up tent using only his legs!!! Hilarious.
I was saddened by some of the external criticism of Greenbelt (again), this time regarding Gene Robinson. I thank God though for somewhere where there is a chance to listen to the voices on the margins, to question, listen and debate.
Enormous thanks to ALL the organisers and volunteers for a Kingdom weekend, awesome!
greenbelt indian dancing.jpg

Michael Jackson

mj 80s.jpgI couldn’t believe it when I heard this morning that Michael Jackson had died. I’m currently working from ‘my’ coffee shop where his Music is playing and much of the conversation is about his life and music. I feel a greater sadness than I would have expected, something that seems to be echoed in overheard snippets around me.
His music was rarely far away from the charts in my teenage years, while his dancing was what I secretly aspired (utterly unrealistically) to.
Michael Jackson it seemed spent his life searching for the childhood he never had and longing to be accepted, leading to the very public mess of the last few years. His death though will draw a media line over this aspect of his life I hope, and he will be remembered as an extraordinarily talented entertainer who not only sold sixty five million copies of one album, but still had sufficient clout to sell a fifty night residency in the hope of seeing what he did best, great, great, feel-good high-energy pop music!
” ……. Gotta Hide Your Inhibitions
Gotta Let That Fool Loose Deep Inside Your Soul
Want To See An Exhibition
Better Do It Now Before You Get To Old
‘Cause We’re The Party People Night And Day
Livin’ Crazy That’s The Only Way
So Tonight Gotta Leave That Nine To Five
Upon The Shelf And Just
Enjoy Ourselves/Yourself C’mon And Groove (Yeah)
Let The Madness In The Music Get To You
Life Ain’t So Bad At All
If You Live It Off The Wall Life
Ain’t So Bad At All (Live Life Off The Wall)
Live Your Life Off The Wall (Live It Off The Wall) …..”

68 guns will never die

The Alarm were fantastic! Mike Peters and the band were on top form, it was a fast paced set that included the anthemic classics, 68 Guns, Blaze of Glory, The Spirit of 76 and Where were you hiding when the Storm broke? I’d have really enjoyed the gig regardless but the major nostalgia element was deeply wonderful ….. connecting to first hearing them as a teenager back in the day.
I was on the front row (this photo didn’t use ‘zoom’) and hence emerged from the concert happily hoarse and partially deaf …. but feeling fanatstic.
alarm live.jpg
…. The law of the jungle says
You look after yourself
But I remember this much
I love as I’ve been loved myself.
Don’t forget what I told you now
When the question keeps on coming
And it’s How much more can you take
When they’ve ripped your clothes to pieces
Shouldn’t you be gone by now
But you keep on
Setting your sights for the sky.
They can offer you anything at all
But your dreams must not be sold.
No price is high enough
I’m fighting back with feeling
I’m fighting back with love
When the nails are biting into your hands
And the cross is heavy on your heart
Now is the time to really make a stand
(Going out)

In the Falling Dark

My son has been listening to this track by Bruce Cockburn, repeatedly recently, meaning that I have to as well! This however is not a problem as it is a truly great lyric.
I love the imagery Cockburn weaves of what he sees, feels and hears as the darkness falls, but even more I love the concluding observation, so easily overlooked, “From the first to the last, we are all one in the gift of grace!”
In the Falling Dark
and the lights lie tumbled out like gems
the moon is nothing but a toothless grin
floating out on the evening wind
the smell of sweat and lube oil pervades the night
and the rush of life in flight at the speed of light
a million footsteps whispering
a guitar sounds — some voices sing
smoke on the breeze — eyes that sting
far in the east a yellow cloud bank climbs
stretching away to be part of tomorrow’s time.
earthbound while everything expands
so many grains of sand
slipping from hand to hand
catching the light and falling into dark
the world fades out like an overheard remark
in the falling dark.
light pours from a million radiant lives
off of kids and dogs and the hard-shelled husbands and wives
all that glory shining around and we’re all caught taking a dive
and all the beasts of the hills around shout, “such a waste!
don’t you know that from the first to the last we’re all one in the gift of Grace!”

You can hear the track here if you are not familiar with Bruce Cockburn

Seriously mellow

I was enjoying some seriously mellow music last night and thought I’d flag up a couple of the tracks that I thought were fabulous:

nick cave.jpg‘Into my Arms’ by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
I’ve only just discovered this track, but the genius of such a beautiful, simple and elegant love song that can begin with the line, “I don’t believe in an interventionist God” has to be heard to be believed.
You can find it here on but I’d recommend listening to it on Spotify if you have access to it.
10,000 maniacs.jpg
‘Verdi Cries’ by 10,000 Maniacs.
I’ve loved this song for years, an evocative and haunting reflection on a holiday of long ago, the opera-loving occupant of the next hotel room inadvertently providing the mood and soundtrack to the memory.
It’s here, live on Youtube, but again I’d recommend the studio version on Spotify.


For on-line music I was a big fan of Pandora before the plug was pulled for European subscribers. I discovered a whole heap of new (to me) artists from the streamed recommendations that Pandora ‘radio’ played and loved the instant-mellow-evening-of music-old-and-new vibe that it excelled at. The ability to pick by genre, artist, suggestions or to be able to mix it up was (still is if you are in the U.S) unbelievably excellent!
Of late I’ve been using Last.Fm a bit but it feels like a pseudo Pandora and I haven’t got into it in the same way, although it is really good.
spotify.pngBut I’ve been playing big time with the new kid of the block, Spotify! I’m by no means an early-adopter, I’ve got into it at the same point as the entire blogosphere it seems, but nevertheless it warrants a mention especially if you’ve not given it a spin yet. You can do the genre radio stream, you can assemble play-lists BUT it’s biggest plus is that whenever you are online it’s like having access to the biggest i-pod (adopting Clarkson voice here) “In the world!”
The free version involves the ocassional advert but these tend to be for music it seems rather than the very cheesy, corny, ‘singing’ double-glazing-pitch beloved of l-o-c-a-l Raadiiio! Spotify also contains a wealth of artist info … and the sound quality is spot-on.
What’s not to love?
I’m currently listening to a whole heap of Natalie Merchant, her solo stuff and the entire 10,000 maniacs back catalogue, nice!

The Get out Clause

paper vid.jpgA story from the press this morning that amused me:
Unsigned band, “The Get out Clause” had no money to make a video to go with their single, “Paper!” In the very best traditions of Plan B though, they headed to Manchester and at various times, set up and played to a total of eighty different CCTV Camera’s. They then (and this is the genius bit) requested the footage back under “The Freedom of information Act” and voila, a video. Nice!
Here’s the low down and some clips from the video.

Camera Obscura

I am loving this version of “Super Trouper” by Camera Obscura, there’s something about the haunting pathos of the singers’ voice and Scottish accent that is wonderful, kind of sad and hopeful at the same time. But what d’you think?
(Be patient as the player takes about 15 secs to appear)

Barenaked for the holidays

bhfth.jpgI am listening to SUCH a great Christmas Album at the moment. Having been a fan of The Barenaked Ladies for a few years, I’d really really wanted a copy of Barenaked for the Holidays but had not been able to find a copy in the UK. Yesterday though I downloaded it ($9.99) and am loving the live, musically brilliant party that combines the sublime and the ridiculous. VERY VERY COOL (and great fun) especially their version of “God rest ye ….” with sarah mclachlan as a guest vocalist. (You can listen to some previews on this site)
For a wonderfully eclectic art slideshow to accompany the music, check out Christianity today, a series of pieces that happily draws together artists as diverse (but equally talented) as Giotto di Bondone and Dave Walker, fab!

Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie

Driving back from a Youth Ministry Meeting thing last night I stumbled across a brilliant new show on Radio 2 (This is not a contradiction in terms, you cynics). From Monday through Thursday, starting last night, Maconie and Radcliffe co-present a live show that plays GREAT eclectic music, blends a silliness about life and a seriousness about music seemlessly, and is just a fab piece of radio!
also: Stuart Maconie has one of the best titled autobiographies around, it’s about his life in the music business and called, Cider with Roadies!