Green Man Festival - Glanusk Estate, Crickhowell
A music festival must always be judged fundamentally on its line-up, but a stunning setting can only help those performing on the bill. It doesn’t get more picturesque than Green Man – the rolling hills of the Brecon Beacons provide this mid-sized festival with a widescreen, landscape stature.
Folk music has always been the primary core of Green Man’s appeal but recent years have seen it swell into a showcase for cinema, comedy and literature. Writer Caitlin Moran is the main draw from the Talking Shop tent as festival goers fill the venue both inside and out as she plucks no-nonsense vignettes from her latest book, How to be a Woman.
Back to the music, Norwegian duo Kings of Convenience are more than worthy of their headline status on the Mountain Stage. Eirik Glambek Bøe and Erlend Øye have a wonderful synergy – playing beautiful, intricate guitar lines with deft precision. Eirik is the more reserved of the two as Erlend provides the comic repertoire throughout, dancing like a Scandinavian Jarvis Cocker on the stunning I’d Rather Dance With You – he is gleefully loose limbed and full of bespectacled charm.
Cardiff Americana enthusiasts Zervas and Pepper open the Mountain Stage on Saturday, providing a slow-burning, harmony-fuelled hangover cure to those who may’ve peaked too soon. The Chai Wallahs tent had been living on a diet of dance and ska until psychedelic throwback Syd Arthur took to the stage with his band. You have to admire an artist that changes time signatures at will mid-song and still sounds wonderfully coherent.
The Horrors are much more direct prospect than Arthur, but no else impressive with a show that sways between all out blasting riffs (Who Can Say) to reflective, synth-laden loveliness (Still Life). Saturday headliners Band of Horses up the ante further with a set brimming with pounding rock. Closing track The Funeral is the ideal number to sign off the evening.
On Sunday, another Cardiff outfit, Gulp, fill the Far Out Stage with their saccharine melodies. Recent single Play is a clear highlight, sounding like a lost track from a female fronted Britpop act but very much positioned in the here and now.
French collective Melody’s Echo Chamber keeps the dream pop theme running and they’re in top form. This is the final touring show for their eponymous debut album before they retreat back to the studio – it provides an atmosphere that’s both sad and celebratory.
For reasons I won’t go into, I had to make an early departure from Green Man so Londoners Public Service Broadcasting were to be my faux headline act at the Walled Garden Stage (Ben Howard was the official / everyone else’s headline act). The W duo, Wrigglesworth and Willgoose, have tapped into something rather unique; they play stirring electro-rock entwined with a visual backdrop of Public Information Films. They revel in their eccentricities, using a pre-programmed voice box to interact with the crowd. This was another vintage year for Wales’ most endearing music festival.