Thursday, September 10, 2009


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This was my first visit to the Green Man Festival. And all things being well - it will not be my last. The festival takes places in Glanusk Park Estate in the beautiful Brecon Beacons. I’d heard tell of how in previous years the festival site has been turned to mud; and crossing the border to Wales Mr P and I were greeted by a shockingly severe rain storm with zero visibility. Yikes. It looked like the druids were going to be wrong. But luckily the clouds passed quickly (heading to England) and the sun came out as we approached Abergavenny. I knew I wouldn’t be catching the first bands of the day but the race was on to get there/get the tent up in time to see Broken Records. Luckily we just made it, as it turns out so did Broken Records.

We arrived at the main stage to "Nearly Home" (inappropriately?) to hear the band had suffered a long, stressful journey with the possibility of missing their slot. So glad they didn’t because it was a brilliant start to the festival – rousing, passionate Scots art-rock was just what was needed after four hours in a car and three attempts to put up a tent. And as they played "A Good Reason" the sun came back out too.

Having successfully reached the festival and got to see our first band we then had to consider how to approach the shock news that greeted us at the site entrance: "No Alcohol on Site" and "Persons Entering This Site May Be Searched". As Green Man virgins, Mr P and I hadn’t even considered this possibility. However we soon realised we only needed to do what all the other more experienced festival goers were doing. Put the booze in a bag. And then walk it in. Problem solved.From Broken Records we then went to the Far Out Stage (a large blue tent beyond the hill facing the Main Stage) to see Beth Jeans Houghton.

This was fun, glam art-pop with big wigs, face-painted band and then party bags thrown out into the crowd too but the music didn’t make an huge impression on first listen. I was more endeared by Beth’s plea to us all to buy her EP so she can afford to move out of her Mum’s house. It might have only been 5 o’clock but it was time for first visit of the festival to the excellent (and probably essential) Pieminister.

So pie, mash and mushy peas it was whilst watching Emmy The Great from the grassy hill opposite the Main Stage. This was entertaining but I have to confess I didn’t really pay her enough attention. Yes the pies really are that good.

Then our first visit to the Green Man Pub stage (basically a walled garden with a stage in one corner and a beer tent opposite) for Mary Hampton. Having seen Mary at End of the Road in 2007 but not remembering much due to a cider overdose incident I was keen to hear her properly.

Here she played with a three piece band seated behind a keyboard, later swapping to guitar for a couple of songs performed solo. The first couple of songs were melodramtic folk which was much more experimental and er 'unhinged' than I remember (sorry but that's the only word for it). Mr P did a runner to catch Errors (he was not impressed) but I stayed with it and she really grew on me. And the sun was still shining.

Next up British Sea Power back on the Main Stage at dusk. The festival was starting to fill up now but it was still relatively easy to secure a place front and centre of the stage. For some bands it takes half of a forty five minute set to getting going. Not BSP and not tonight. Some folk with us who'd never seen them live declared their performance worthy of admission alone. It certainly worked as a belt-out-the-fast-songs-and crowd pleasers slot. "Spirit of St Louis" was as usual a highlight and the final song "Carrion" descended (or ascended?) into "Rock in C" noise-freakout with guitarist Noble donning airpilot helmet to go crowd-surfing. My only quibble other than brevity was the poor sound on the vocals for "No Lucifer" - really spoilt the song.

The Set List:Lights Out For Darker Skies / Remember Me / Waving Flags / The Great Skua / Spirit of St Louis / Atom / Apolgies to Insect Life / No Lucifer / Carrion - Rock in C

Actually there was another quibble. Actually more of a complaint - for Green Man. From BSP onwards the acts on the Main Stage were introduced by comedian Stephen Frost acting as compere. Why? In a word: totally unnecessary.

The temperature really started dropping noticeably now so it was back to the tent for an extra layer and supplies before returning to the Main Stage for Roky Erickson. Roky's return to live performance has been greeted ecstatically before and I was really looking forward to seeing him but I had mixed feelings about this set.

Knowing all he has been through it was impressive just to see him on stage (with three piece band) playing mainly material from his late 70s/80s phases finishing on the great Thirteenth Floor Elevators' song "You're Gonna Miss Me". But for some songs he occasionally looked slightly bewildered, even lost, and seemed to be looking to his second guitarist for instruction. It was painful to watch. But then the next song he appeared strong and was playing well. The selection of songs also meant he drew mainly on the heavy blues-rock stuff which over the sixty minute set started to feel a bit lumpen. And tragically didn't play "I Have Always Been Here Before".

So a real curate's egg but great to see some freaky dancing in the audience (Hawkwind fans arriving early and making their presence felt). Now we were faced with a difficult choice to close the evening. In the end we over-ruled Animal Collective on the Main Stage (but caught "My Girls" in passing) in favour of British Sea Power performing the soundtrack to 1930s documentary "Man of Aran". It was a good choice. Sitting down in a packed out Film Tent watching the struggles of the Aran islanders against the elements, accompanied by loud rock music and Welsh Whisky, was a moving - but not quite sobering - experience.

So an uneven day in some ways but we had beer, whisky, dry weather (so far) and two more days of bands to look forward to.

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