Into this post-Olympic, rain-drenched mid sum­mer, the tenth Green Man fes­ti­val burst into life. Nes­tled in the Black Moun­tains of mid Wales, Green Man’s are­na on Fri­day is a won­der to behold; still at this point a green and pleas­ant land with its beau­ti­ful­ly posi­tioned main Moun­tain Stage – a nat­ur­al amphithe­atre, with a con­ve­nient steep slope so those at the back can laze on the grass and still have a per­fect view of the action on stage. I head up to the Thali Cafe for the first of many addic­tive chai teas and some shel­ter from the rain, and take in a set from Irish band Cashier No 9, whose sound is a heady liq­uid jolt of feel-good sum­mer heav­en, a swirl of jan­g­ly gui­tars and heady har­monies. To Make You Feel Bet­ter is a song which does exact­ly that.

Over at the Far Out Tent I just man­aged to catch the lush sounds of Steal­ing Sheep. The Liv­er­pudlian girl trio, Becky, Emi­ly and Lucy, have beau­ti­ful voic­es and an indie-folk feel with their hyp­not­ic har­monies set against a heavy, trib­al drum beat and a rich psy­che­del­ic depth. Their sin­gle Shut Eye is a def­i­nite ear worm – in a good way.

Next up on the same stage are a band I was sor­ry to have missed at Field Day – Toy. They have some great songs, but the sound in the Far Out Tent is too loud and dis­tort­ed. As the set pro­gress­es, Toy’s hip­ster cool image and absence of engage­ment with the audi­ence feels increas­ing­ly less appro­pri­ate for the folky, ram­shackle feel of Green Man. Errors are a Scot­tish post-elec­tro band formed in 2004. Theirs is a thor­ough­ly enjoy­able set, with some of the more jagged num­bers slight­ly rem­i­nis­cent of Metronomy.

Time to take a wan­der up to the more inti­mate Walled Gar­den where Lon­don-based Vadoin­mes­si­co, fea­tur­ing mem­bers from Italy, Aus­tralia, Mex­i­co and Eng­land, enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly pump out an infec­tious mix of most­ly Latin and African rhythm to an enthu­si­as­tic crowd.

The Moun­tain Stage in the gath­er­ing dusk is the set­ting for coun­try and blues style Amer­i­can bar room sounds from The Felice Broth­ers: Ian Felice, gui­tarist and main vocal­ist and the impos­ing fig­ure of James Felice on accor­dion and vocals plus three oth­er band mem­bers. There is a real hon­esty about this raw, ram­shackle band of ex-buskers that is endear­ing and they are on top form, after see­ing a very under­whelm­ing and unco­or­di­nat­ed con­cert of theirs back in March. They play their foot-stomp­ing pop­u­lar num­bers like Frankie’s Gun and Whiskey in my Whiskey – to which no one has prob­lems remem­ber­ing the words.

By 11.30pm, plen­ti­ful cider con­sump­tion gets the bet­ter of me so long-await­ed Mog­wai remain on the ‘to see’ list. They did sound beau­ti­ful, though, from my tent, as I drift­ed off.

Wake up on Sat­ur­day to the sound of rain pit­ter pat­ter­ing onto the tent. We sur­face at lunchtime, and the are­na is now a sea of mud, but who cares, there’s a day of music, cider and danc­ing ahead.

At the Far Out Tent, singer song­writer Beth Jeans Houghton bounds on stage with her band, hair per­ox­ide blonde and bouf­fant Siouxsie Soux-style and dressed in tee­ny hot­pants. The Hooves are garbed in var­i­ous glam-rock guis­es. Fans push past us in des­per­a­tion to get to the front… fol­lowed close­ly by anx­ious look­ing par­ents – Houghton’s fan base is clear­ly hard­ly out of pri­ma­ry school, but then I notice more than a few of the 60-plus age dot­ted around too. Houghton’s vocal range is far reach­ing: she can hit high notes for oper­at­ic effect, and then take it down low for tracks like Man’s Life. Her songs con­tain a mix of ele­ments from new folk to pop, and she clear­ly wins every­one over. High­lights are Dodec­a­he­dron and Atlas.

A beau­ti­ful­ly exe­cut­ed set with emo­tion and pre­ci­sion from Michael Kiwanu­ka is fol­lowed by Van Mor­ri­son. The signs are that he is in a great mood as he treats us to a crowd-pleas­er set, among them Brown Eyed Girl, Baby Please Don’t Go, Jack­ie Wil­son Said, High­er Ground, the gor­geous bal­lad Bal­le­ri­na (with an upped-tem­po sec­tion near the end which worked well) and for the finale, Glo­ria. No Plan B from the new album is includ­ed. His musi­cians are flaw­less. While the drum­mer gives a final flour­ish, Van is whisked away in a heli­copter, and every­one seems more than hap­py to have wit­nessed this superb set.

band playing under the trees, Green ManMetron­o­my were added late to the line-up: I was sur­prised as I was­n’t sure their elec­tro sound would fit in at Green Man, but it works. One or two tracks have a touch of prog-rock style  twid­dling which lose the audi­ence but tighter num­bers like The Look sound great and get a real­ly pos­i­tive reac­tion. For those after a more inti­mate gig, coun­try blues singer-song­writer Willy Mason deliv­ers a pow­er­ful and emo­tion­al set at the Walled Gar­den stage, sur­round­ed by an awed crowd qui­et­ly singing along, word-per­fect, to all his songs.

We hang around for a late-night Vinyl Revival set, with Pete Paphides. Every­one dances squelchi­ly in smelly mud to a storm­ing set.

Sunday at Green Man

The crowds have thinned con­sid­er­ably because of the weath­er which, actu­al­ly has­n’t been that bad.

I attend a work­shop called ‘Make Your Own Potions’. Twen­ty of us, includ­ing quite a few blokes, make a lit­tle pot each of nat­ur­al body and lip balm, under the expert tutor­age of Tania of Dream Thyme Herbal Body in Totnes (01803 847702).

My festie-pal whiled away the time in the Chai Wal­lah tent watch­ing folkie band Ahab, who he tells me are so good that we are now sched­uled to see them at The Lex­ing­ton in Octo­ber. The rest of the after­noon is spent drift­ing about the fes­ti­val site, look­ing in at Ein­stein’s Gar­den – a par­adise for kids with lots of learn­ing eco experiences.

Late after­noon the clouds com­plete­ly clear. It’s beau­ti­ful hot sun­shine. The Walk­men do a superb set of styl­ish indie num­bers. Now the finale is here, a set from Feist. Although she’s in a suit­ably upbeat mood for the fes­ti­val clos­er, her choice of mate­r­i­al is some­what on the intro­spec­tive side. How­ev­er, with her charm, and her strong, emo­tion-filled vocals which seem to soar out of the speak­ers, over the crowds and into the sil­hou­et­ted Welsh hills, she man­ages to get away with it. Most of the num­bers are from her lat­est album, Met­als. Her moody num­ber Anti-Pio­neer is an absolute stand­out. At one point, she orches­trates a crowd sin­ga­long – we sing a note accord­ing to the colour of our tent.

The final moments of the fes­ti­val are­here so we head to the Green Man and wait expect­ed­ly around the huge fig­ure. After a half hour wait, at 12.30, the Green Man is set alight. The crowds cheer. The tow­er­ing fig­ure at first burns slow­ly, and then more dra­mat­i­cal­ly, to a back­drop of fire­works which shoot into the sky. The tenth Green Man fes­ti­val is over.

GREEN MAN 2012: a few facts

Demo­graph­ic: a very wide mix of ages. Loads of kids of all ages, and plen­ty of old­er people.

The Rough Trade shop is worth check­ing often for appear­ances and sign­ings, usu­al­ly one every hour or so. If you find CDs you want, buy them ear­ly. By Sun­day after­noon they were run­ning out.

Facil­i­ties: There’s no such thing as a nice fes­ti­val toi­let, but the Por­taloos at Green Man were rel­a­tive­ly clean, and always had loo paper. There’s a show­er block near the are­na. There were also 4 eco show­ers in the Nature & Nur­ture area, sug­gest­ed dona­tion £2.

Sev­er­al bars dot­ted around the site, lots of beer choic­es, and no big queues. Food choice was very good. The Thali Cafe was a favourite: chai tea, good felafal and sal­ads and deli­cious cakes, plus its majes­tic view of the Moun­tain Stage.

One thought on “Green Man 2012

  1. Pingback: Green Man 2012 – Friday | Gourmet gigs

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