The unassuming Green Man Festival has achieved a large amount in its twelve year career. Now the most prolific music event in Wales, through positive support from the government and it’s fiercely loyal following 2015 is a sell out year as the basic celebratory principles of performance and variety remain unchanged years later. Set in arguably the most breathtaking location of any UK festival, Green Man promises a weekend of world class music, performance art, poetry, theatre and more with ethical practice and spirituality running throughout. The impactful and ubiquitous Mountain Stage has played host to the likes of Laura Marling, Beirut, Bon Iver and Ben Howard in the past so its weighty platform is felt by each performer yet all are prepared to manipulate it in a way they see fit to their music.
Marika Hackman seems confident to stand solo with only three guitars for company as she captivates the natural amphitheatre with somber alt-folk tales from her debut ‘We Slept At Last’ as the crowd watches on in hushed awe. Villagers offer grander production as five multi-instrumentalists unite for a career defining set allowing the band to showcase the cruelly overlooked ‘Darling Arithmetic’ featuring a grounding performance of ‘Hot Scary Summer’ that Conor O’Brien reveals is a response to the unrest within Ireland preceding the legalisation of gay marriage. The man who performed upon the stage by the purest meaning of the word was Joshua Tillman, otherwise known as Father John Misty. As Sunday night’s sub-headliner he heard the call to perform and delivered on all levels, faultless vocal prowess during ‘Bored In the USA’ and animated movements of the pelvic regions for ‘I Love You, Honeybear’ won over the crowds already sprinkled with devotees as John easily tripled the size of his viewers in one short unforgettable hour.
A delectable appeal of Green Man is the promise of surprise and intrigue as performers take to the courtyard for impromptu sets or frequent the Rough Trade tent year upon year. As Jane Weaver and Temples delighted within the bucolic setting of the Walled Garden, the truly anticipatory act of the weekend was to inhabit the Far Out tent at precisely 7pm on Saturday evening. As the sun lowers, hundreds steadily flow towards the flags with whispers in the crowd of appearances from the xx, the Maccabees and Bat For Lashes all permeating the night air. Tonight’s woman of the hour was Natasha Khan, under the pseudonym Sex Witch alongside Toy and producer Dan Carey performing in a manner completely unattached from her Bat For Lashes stage persona as she offers incredible vocal acrobatics and sonar structures similar to Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden all centring around voodoo hexes and witchcraft.
It would appear Natasha’s dark worship has affected the Brecon Beacons as that evening a volatile storm hits the valley seriously affecting the attendance for Television and Super Furry Animals‘ sets on the main stage. Both soldier on in good spirits yet the sodden crowds are noticeably restless and preoccupied with thoughts of damp socks and nights in tents as opposed to these two contrasting figures of alt-rock history. Sunday offered the broadest and most diverse selection of performers as Alex Burey, Public Service Broadcasting and Son Lux all descended upon Far Out with the former offering effortless neo-jazz with a proficient band set up and a conscious thought process to his live show. PSB performed once again to their own lofty high expectations proving them to be an intellectual choice with a following strong enough to be able to pack out a tent in the centre of sleepy Crickhowell. Trip hop/post rock musician Ryan Lott remains the stand out performance of this stage as the dramatic frontman demonstrates his ability in creating textured and vivid sonar landscapes suitably suited to his consistent work on the silver screen and association of Son Lux with cinema.
Two headliners vied on the main stage to be awarded the highlight of the weekend in its entirety. Firstly you have the arduous and committed Hot Chip who have risen through the ranks in the UK with consistently strong releases and a live show of ever changing dynamism and pure hedonistic electro that fluctuates from the demonic to the euphoric in a matter of moments. Another artist who has risen organically through dedication to the cause and a steely commitment to the overall art is Annie Clark more widely recognised as St. Vincent. Tonight she addresses the criminal absence of women in headline positions as she robotically shifts atop monstrous heels during the anthemic instrumental outro to ‘Birth in Reverse’. Hand selecting the very best tracks from her previous releases including ‘Marrow’ and ‘Cheerleader’ and interspersing with a set curated heavily from the eponymous fourth record, the crowd remain positive towards Annie’s impressive instrumental prowess and domineering stage persona. It is an undoubted headline worthy performance and a stand out of the UK’s scene in 2015 in general.
It would seem that through Green Man’s location perfectly centred within the Black Mountain range this festival has become a sturdy and reliable heart beating rhythm across the Welsh countryside and permeating various other counties across the UK. Its loyal array of performers, patrons, production and staff remain its ever present blood flow as everybody unites for the common love of spirituality, art, locality and pride. There is an indescribable and often unnoticeable electricity hovering around the Glanusk Estate yet it burns as bright as the crumbling green man as the flames lick the air and the crowds lift their voices towards the night in salute of another incredible year.