You only need two things for a truly great festival: bands who impress and weather that doesn’t depress. GREEN MAN is certainly offering the former this weekend. The headliners are a mixture of bona fide legends and current members of the zeitgeist. However, the weather, even as we make the short walk from the shuttle bus to our chosen pitch, is looking pretty ominous.
BILL RYDER-JONES’ stage demeanour is reliably passive-aggressive whatever the weather. However, a well-received set of new and old tunes seems to elevate his mood, even with one of the Brecon Beacons’ boisterous wasps interrupting one of them. Newies Catharine Huskisson and Two To Birkenhead bring images of home rolling over the green hills that surround the Mountain Stage as, accompanied by members of By The Sea, the Wirralite puts on a beautifully realised performance.
The sunny songs of SWEET BABOO keep the mountainous mist and cloud at bay and the Welsh native, along with his nine-piece band, are a deserved hit with the main stage throng. His latest LP was released just a week previously, and songs like Got To Hang On To You and Walking In The Rain (which he prefaces with a wish for a “Travis moment”) look set to elevate the pint-sized balladeer to wider appeal.
Canadian noiseniks VIET CONG offer something entirely different over at the Far Out Stage. A protracted soundcheck leads into an intense sprawl of soaring post rock. Matt Flegel’s Celtic-style growl complements painfully tight riffs and Mike Wallace’s unbelievable drumming. An epic breakdown seems to last the entire afternoon but is hypnotic in its engagement. Thrilling stuff.
It’s party time back at the Mountain Stage as a veritable supergroup play the unearthed hits of reclusive Nigerian genius William Onyeabor. THE ATOMIC BOMB BAND features members of LCD Sound System, Hot Chip and Beastie Boys collaborator Money Mark and is led by musical director Ahmed Gallab. They are the first of two bands this weekend who will bring music which seemed destined to be only enjoyed on vinyl into the live arena. This collection of disparate figures come together to fantastic effect, ensuring that Friday night finishes in style and setting the party bar high for the weekend.
The weather takes a turn for the worst just as we anticipate two of the highlights of the weekend. Fortunately, nothing can distract from seeing a masterpiece such as Marquee Moon being performed in the flesh by Tom Verlaine and his band TELEVISION. The performance hits all the spots the record does with razor-sharp guitar, anthemic call and response choruses, and Verlaine’s vocal sounding exactly the same as it did in 1977. This is a real treat and you get the impression from many wet attendees that it was the reason they bought their ticket.
However, there is more to come: trues heroes in this part of the world, SUPER FURRY ANIMALS, follow in the footsteps of giants to great effect. Their career-spanning set further postpones the realities of a soaking wardrobe. There’s the obligatory arms round shoulders, a beautiful singalong in the form of Run Christian Run, and a fully-fledged wig-out with Receptacle For The Respectable. Traditional set closer Man Don’t Give A Fuck pours down on the crowd to infinitely more appreciation than the accompanying drizzle, and it’s a triumphant end to Saturday.
Sweet Baboo talked tongue-in-cheek about Travis’s festival moment at Glastonbury some years ago and Sunday sees Green Man’s own version of this pathetic fallacy halfway through MATTHEW E WHITE’s set. The super-smooth soul man performs a great RnB version of The Velvet Underground’s White Light, White Heat before inviting the curiously named DEEP THROAT CHOIR on to the stage for Feeling Good Is Good Enough. With that, the sun cuts through the thick grey cloud to reveal a beautiful blue sky which illuminates the grounds at Glanusk; the day is saved.
FATHER JOHN MISTY is an artist who has seemingly come from nowhere in the last couple of years (in reality he spent years recording mediocre albums under the moniker J Tillman and drummed for Fleet Foxes before hitting on his magic formula). His performance this evening justifies his rise in status. Like an even sleazier Jarvis Cocker, he prowls the stage exuding a camp, cool charisma which causes the entirety of Green Man to fall in love with him whilst simultaneously being sick in their mouth. From opening track I Love You Honey Bear with its swell of orchestral splendour, we are transfixed and it’s a delight to be in the palm of Father John’s sweaty hand.
Such a monumental bill of stellar acts inevitably comes with clashes. Perhaps the biggest dilemma of the weekend comes last. ST VINCENT is set to put on her set of funky electro pop at the same time as Swedish psych giants GOAT perform their ceremony of the apocalypse. The option of sampling a little bit of both means compromising one’s immersion in the shows, but it’s too difficult a decision. The pain of the choice is tempered by the fact that St Vincent plays many of her best songs in the first part of her act. Rattlesnake and Digital Witness, dripping with Prince-esque sexuality, look all the better for the epic light show lighting up the main stage congregation as well as Annie Erin Clark’s perfectly executed moves.
Goat put on a performance which is perhaps not quite as energetic as their showing at last year’s Psych Fest, but still contains all the atmosphere and trademark timeless aesthetic. The ritualistic performance also provides the perfect preface to the traditional burning of the Green Man. The ceremony is still moving, awesome to behold, and incendiary despite the wet, wet weather. How apt.