Monday, August 21, 2006

Green Man Festival 2006

After the disappointment of The Isle of Wight Festival earlier this summer, I was dead chuffed when I managed to blag two press passes for the Green Man Festival, from the lovely Mojo magazine. I'd heard good things about Green Man and so went along with high hopes. I'm happy to say that it lived up to its reputation. Ant was off away sailing with his parents, so I took Jen along with me. We'd already planned a girls' weekend, so this was the perfect setting for two hippie-chicks to chill out. Sadly, Jen had to work Friday night, so we missed the folk legend that is Donovan, but we arrived on Saturday lunchtime, just in time to catch the end of Quasi's set. These Can-esque folk-rockers set the tone for the weekend, as we wandered about getting our bearings. The surrounding scenery was breath-taking - mountains shrouded in mist and lush greenery everywhere. It was raining, there was mud, but were well-equipped with waterproofs, wellies, etc. and I made it my mission for the weekend to keep us dry!

Over in the Folkey-Dokey tent, we saw our first full set - Misty's Big Adventure. Neither of us had heard of many of the bands before, so we took a chance and hoped for the best. The Green Man site is small enough to nip between stages without getting blisters, so it's no big thing if you change your mind! 'Misty's' was just we needed to get us going - a lively klezmer/ska/jazz fuelled line-up fronted by the po-faced Grandmaster Gareth. The eccentric mix of dark-humoured performance poetry, boppable tunes and crazy dancing mascot (who looked like a reject from Yellow Submarine) had the whole tent boucning about in a distinctly non-folky manner! Next up were Bat for Lashes, a glam-hippy girl band who I can only describe via their evident influences - e.g. Kate Bush-meets-Bjork-meets-Enya-meets-Shakespeare's Sister-meets Portishead...wrapped in capes and rolled in glitter. Arch, to say the least. The lyrics to their eletro-folk songs proved as contrived as their attire, and I wasn't sure whether it was meant to be comical or not. Unfortunately I had become somewhat inhebriated by this point, and lost the power of internal dialogue. So when the lead singer invited audience participation by declaring "We need help" I was compelled to retort "yes you do" in an unintentionally audible manner. Jen was seized by the giggles, and we thought it was probably a sensible time to depart.

In between bands, there was plenty of people-watching to be had, and no shortage of scenic spots to sit and relax. The food stalls were pretty impressive - lots of veggie stuff and everything from tapas to thali, but thankfully no M&S (which I'd been shocked to see at Isle of Wight). There were also loads of little kids running around, and it was such a laid-back, friendly atmosphere, that parents seemed happy to let them. Back on the main stage, King Creosote were inoffensively affable, providing cheery folk-indie crowd pleasers, but failed to inspire me. By the time the Saturday headliner, Jose Gonzales, was up, Jen was suffering from exhaustion (having finished work at 4am the night before) and I was rather too rum-and-flapjack fuelled to appreciate him. We sat swaying on the hillside for a few songs, then decided we could enjoy it just as well from our tent, which was just behind the main stage, and promptly passed out.

Jen was up and about before me in the morning, grabbing tea and making friends. I can't say I had a comfy night's sleep (missed the air mattress), but was suitably refreshed to embrace the day's offerings with enthusiasm. After a hearty veggie breakfast, and some bimbling, we went to see Brighton band Fink. The singer's vocals put me in mind of Boo Hewerdine, and I liked the blend of folk-finger-picking and bluesy soulful rhythms. Some of the lyrics were a bit contrived, but overall it was a pleasant experience... Which is more than can be said for the Eighteenth day of May. I went along to this, forgetting that I already endured them earlier in the year at Brighton's own Great Escape Festival. I would normally dig this kind of psychadelic folk, but these guys are severly let-down by a terrible drummer. There's no getting away from the tedious, heavy handed percussion that sadly overbears an otherwise pleasant enough sound. It was also threatening to rain again, so this was an opportune moment to to strike the tent and pack up the car.

I was intending to stick around for folk-guru Bert Jansch, and a surprise addition to the line up, Cerys Matthews, but my rational brain kicked in and reminded me that I had to be at work in the morning, and had a 200 mile drive ahead. So, as it turned out, our final band were Archie Bronson Outfit, described in the blurb as 'garage blues... with apocolyptic fervour'. They were certainly compelling - prog-rocky, with folky undertones, but funky enough to get people dancing. The distinctive, edgy vocals provoked a sense of urgency, and there was certainly fervour...a good note to end on. I was really impressed with the festival as a whole. The only let-down was the DJ tent, which never seemed to really take off (apart from a brief funky stint on Saturday night, or did I imagine that?). I'd have liked it to be almost an antidote to folk - a complete contrast, to re-set the musical receptors. Folk-DJing just doesn't really work. But apart from that, eveything was most satisfactory - even the toilets were relatively salubrious, for a festival.








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