Green Man Festival 2015 - Brecon Beacons, Wales
Few of the huge number of UK festivals sell out. The fact that Green Man did, and well in advance, suggests it's built a reputation as one of the more consistent festivals of the season. And that it gets its line up right. Hosted at Glandusk Park, with the main stage (aka Mountain Stage) set at the foot of a Brecon Beacon mountain, it’s also one of the most picturesque. And one of the most musically diverse. Here are our thoughts on the weekend.
The Spacebomb record label
One of the few times the sun was shining over the weekend was for Friday's mid afternoon set from Natalie Prass. Her easy charm, chatty stage style, and quirky pop made her one of the highlights of the weekend. Also on the Mountain Stage, on Sunday, was her labelmate (and label owner) Matthew E. White who delivered his own brand of chipper charm and had the soggy crowd in the palm of his hand. The addition of Green Man Rising stagers Deep Throat Choir just added to the occasion.
The friendly nature of the home country was only enhanced by the lovely people on the the awesome Dragon Deli food stand; their locally made sausage rolls, Dragon eggs, and cakes of all varieties were oh so tasty. Also boosting the Welsh reputation was one of the musical highlights: Sweet Baboo. Taking up an early slot on Friday, the artist also known as Stephen Black is perfect for a festival stage. His mix of summery pop sensibilities and perfect observations of life work as background music to a pint of locally brewed beer - there were 100 on offer - or even better as the focus of your attention. Also proving a huge hit were similarly idiosyncratic Saturday headliners Super Furry Animals and their deliriously barmy set.
As the only traditional country music act in a prominent place on a mainstream stage, Sturgill Simpson (the current darling of trad.country) had a lot of weight on his shoulders. What a relief then that he cranked out one of the most ferocious, heart-on-sleeve, and well constructed sets of the weekend. Despite a deluge clearing the Mountain Stage just before he appeared, the chance to turn a jig to some bluegrass meant the field swelled in numbers. Also faring well was the meandering psychedelic folk-rock of Steve Gunn and the finely honed flower power folk of Ryley Walker in the Walled Garden.
Cheesy 80s movies
Who would have thought that watching Patrick Swayze zen his way through 1989 cheese-fest Roadhouse would be a highlight. Well it was. The crowd, at 1am, cheering as he kisses the girl, and going wild when the villain of the piece gets his just desserts, more than made up for the ropey acting, terrible hair, and risible dialogue:
Doc: Your file says you've got a degree from NYU. What in?
Doc: Any particular discipline?
Dalton: No. Not really. Man's search for faith. That sort of shit.
Doc: Come up with any answers?
Dalton: Not too many.
Doc: How's a guy like you end up a bouncer?
Dalton: Just lucky I guess.
How good is festival food in 2015?
Fantastic. Whether it was the bittersweet chocolate coffee taste of the mocha from Coffee Pop-up, the bubbling spices of the Goan fish curry, the reliably excellent burritos of the Flying Cactus, or the delicious pad thai of Manna, food at Green Man is bloody marvellous. Throw in their own beer festival in the Courtyard and you’ve got a gastronomic confection to cater for all.
Friday night is party night
With a Friday double whammy of Arizona mariachi band Calexico and London synth poppers Hot Chip the opening day left revellers dancing into the night. Despite their very different musical genres both acts got the drizzle-covered crowds moving their mud covered wellies to their own beats. The Grand Canyon State band brought some of the spirit of the Arizona weather to Brecon, if not the actual weather itself, while Hot Chip just brought the fun.
Showing that it’s not only the likes of Rudimental that can rule at festivals were the Sunday afternoon trio of New Yorkers Son Lux, North Carolina’s Sylvan Esso, and London’s Public Service Broadcasting. Starting with Ryan Lott’s trio, their intelligent dance music ruled. Despite the many technical hitches during Sylvan Esso’s set the sheer amount of goodwill in the crowd carried on through to the beautfully paced and pitched set from J. Wildegoose Esq. and Wrigglesworth. Much cleverer than a set of signposted euphoric highs.
All in all Green Man is a magical festival with plenty to do for music lovers of all ages, bringing diverse genres together whilst keeping its own outsider vibe intact. Buy your ticket early for 2016, they're gonna go quick.