Green Man Festival
Quasi, Simple Kid, Fionn Regan, Sunburned Hand of the Man, The Earlies, Gruff Rhys, José González, Marissa Nadler, A Hawk And A Hacksaw, Tunng, Juana Molina, Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid, The Aliens, and CirculusEdit this event
- Adem »
- The Aliens »
- Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid »
- Juana Molina »
- Tunng »
- A Hawk And A Hacksaw »
- Marissa Nadler »
- José González »
- Gruff Rhys »
- The Earlies »
- Sunburned Hand of the Man »
- Fionn Regan »
- Simple Kid »
- Quasi »
- Circulus »
Jonathan Fisher and Jane Oriel fight their way through deluges and howling winds to bring you the DiS round-up of Wales' most picturesque festival.
As festivals go, there's been something of a population explosion since last year's Green Man that warrants a trip up the road to Glanusk Park, overseen by the mighty Sugar Loaf Mountain. We arrive on site Friday, through a tiny castle-shaped guard house over a burbling river. Tents are set up in a storm that fully justifies the use of the word 'torrential' before we trudge through the mud, missioning past the Folkey Dokey Stage tent where the sounds of a genre-defining female voice and acoustic guitar is carried past on the wind.
On reaching the real ale tent, beside The Green Man Cafe Stage, the handsome and floppy-fringed **Benjamin Weatherill** cuts quite a figure in a white shirt and black tie in a joint like this. His delicate, tremulous voice over a short-neck banjo spreads a sweet nostalgia and proves fascinating enough to draw quite a crowd, especially for his enchanting, dirty-cheeky songs about seduction. Time to find the Main Stage now, where **Philip Roebuck** - a prime example of the disappearing breed of one-man-bands - is hammering out some foot-stomping swamp blues.
Dubliner **Adrian Crowley** brings a dignified melancholia to the afternoon, making it delightfully easy to drift away into reverie on his highly beautiful songs full of maritime references. DiS stays put for **Sweet Baboo: although his pretty music is quirky and fun, there's steaming gore at the centre as he sings of guns and the loss of temper.
It's still raining hard as cavorting breaks out by the Main Stage, where a pirate brandishes a cutlass overhead to the sounds of **Circulus**'s Chaucer-esqe psych-folk. It's fun on paper but highly boring in practice - unlike **Fionn Regan. Bella Union's newest joy raises the bar in the weekend's singer/songwriter stakes. He charms the pants off everyone with well-written, cute and lustful songs matched by some fabulous, subtle guitar playing. A real highlight. Despite containing former Beta Band members, **The Aliens don't command many attentions. High on irony, with exaggerated fake US accents and '80s rock gestures, they bore big time, but not half as much as California's Sky Green Leopards. Yawn...
We then find ourselves in front of **Gruff Rhys**, whose choosing to explain songs in both Cymraeg and English would be tiresome if he wasn't so charming and charismatic about it all. Using the 'rock beat' from those duffed-up Casio keyboards last seen in school, he weaves uplifting tales about death (a recurring theme for the festival) and venereal diseases (not so recurring, fortunately) into colourful swathes of sound. **Simple Kid** ruins the mood somewhat with grumpy outbursts at the soundman, but recovers by performing a bizarre duet with Kermit the Frog and then previewing his excellent new single _'Serotonin'_, replete with its grounded message about joy: _"Happiness ain't nothin' but serotonin in your brain"_. **A Hawk And A Hacksaw** come on annoyingly early, running ahead of schedule, but what little is seen is enjoyed. Accordion and violin combine to craft Balkan folk, overriding the rude chattering (another unwelcome recurring theme). We're sure at least a few more attendees than DiS would have liked a wider berth into Saturday, following a surprisingly heavy night. But still, **Quasi**'s discordant fuzz-rock goes down well, with Janet Weiss breaking at least two different parts of her drum kit with her powerful beats. A little later, operating in the wake of Guillemots' and Sufjan Steven's uplifting multi-instrumental efforts, **Aidan Smith** comes off a little 'lounge jazz'. We drift to the Folkey Dokey Stage mid-afternoon and find the pre-schoolers are out in force, perched aloft on parental shoulders enjoying the funny man wearing too many gloves, bouncing around the stage. For the rest of us, **Misty's Big Adventure** provide a fun ska leg-up that has us dancing hours earlier than scheduled.
On the Main Stage, where the heavy rain has stopped at last, **Tunng** blossom the sky with the perfect electro-folk soundtrack for whatever further joys the day will bring. Joys like **King Creosote**, who does a blinding job, enhanced further when mainman Kenny Anderson's brother Gordon's lot, The Aliens, help swell the stage.
Since relocating to Cardiff, **Brave Captain (on at The Cafe) has built upon his Boo Radleys heritage to develop a very special and idiosyncratic sound, all wrapped around his intrinsic knack for a good tune. Then it's back to the Main Stage for **Micah P Hinson**, a rather interesting character, witnessed from the Indian nosh joint above the stage basin. The perfect compliment to aloo, his rich songs are borne of heady experiences and wrought with triumph. It's _that_ rare for **Silver Jews** to tour, let alone play a festival, that they are a natural must-see act, but David Berman's skewed alt-country players come across as surprisingly subdued, with little evidence of their twisted wit. In need of a pick-me-up, DiS is drawn to the bulging, pounding DJ Tent where The Earlies are psyching things up. It's truly amazing how fast and furiously feet can dance in wellies.
Soothing, though, is Jack Rose. He looks like a trailer park redneck but plays like a true blues legend, overcoming tuning issues – "Blame the terrorists for my guitar getting battered in the cargo hold" – to build majestic, forceful melodies with the aid of his abused twelve-string guitar.
The songs of José Gonzalez come out even darker in this valley than they do on record, with enough solid and original tunes to detract from his appalling choices in covers, but we choose to run along to Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid. Instantly making up for being really quite disjointed on both of the improvised Exchange Sessions released this year, one supposes that the extra time spent practising has led to a more fluid understanding of one another’s trade. Turning the six-minute ‘Morning Prayer’ into a quarter-of-an-hour techno-jazz freak-out reduces us to exhausted tears. That’ll be an early night, then...
Sunday dawns with Cymbient. Excuse the trite comparison, but there's more than a bit of Ben Gibbard in the singer's voice - a more chilled Postal Service, then. Emma Tricca* sits demurely under the Cafe Stage canopy, singing sweetly to her guitar. The lady has a voice of gentleness with a slight sprinkling of vibrato for emphasis. Her wistful songs engage easily and draw the sun from behind the clouds. Argentinian songstress Juana Molina benefits from the improved weather, and her native language combines with some delightful looped guitar to set up the weekend's finale. With smiles on faces, it's off to the Folkey Dokey Stage to see *Marissa Nadler, whose dreamy, mesmerisingly off-kilter songs are something very special. _"All my songs are about dying and madness," _she tells us, comfortingly.
** Adem **combines select cuts from both of his luscious solo albums, with harmoniums and ba-ba-ba harmonies building to a euphoric version of 'These Are Your Friends' and its lilting refrain of "Everybody needs some help sometimes". Amen.
It's left to Sunburned Hand Of The Man to finish proceedings with their frazzled psych-folk-rock, leaving a long night ahead to take in the beautiful surroundings a few more times; to gaze at the stars without streetlamps, breathe in some lovely country air (which, by the way, we're convinced is a contributing factor to the overall 'nice'-ness of this festival) and to wonder about the Green Man Streaker's next Ha-ra!. And finally, to speculate whether anyone ever got to that cave Gruff was supposed to be playing in.
See you next year, Green Man.
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