Make sure you head to The 405's Green Man hub for all the latest previews, reviews and features from this year's event.

With another delightful line-up and one of the most beautiful settings in the UK, Green Man festival is nearly upon us. This year will see the likes of Caribou, Neutral Milk Hotel, Mercury Rev, The War on Drugs and many more take to the stage in Brecon Beacons, Wales. We caught up with their booker Ben Coleman to chat about the Green Man experience and how they manage to maintain such an earthly buzz.


When you first got involved with Green Man eight years ago, did you ever imagine it would evolve the way it has?

I suppose we hoped it would develop into a festival like it is now. We had an idea in our heads about the ethos behind it and obviously the music we were into. I don't know really, we just put on a festival that we hoped other people would enjoy and then it kind of developed to where it is now I guess.

So what do you think are the key ingredients that have ultimately made it so successful?

We've got a beautiful setting. Having mountains behind the main stage is a pretty incredible sight. Especially when we've had acts like the Flaming Lips, Beirut and lots of other people in the past where it's been such a suitable setting for them. This year for example, Mercury Rev doing Deserter's Songs with that kind of backdrop will just be incredible. So that, and a lovely audience. I think our audience is just really music loving so they appreciate perhaps the music that's programmed at the festival. They really get into it, they talk about it on our forums and all the social media pages. I think just taking care of people generally helps too. Having really great food at the festival and specific areas for people. We have ten different areas that specialise in different things so we try and make it as all encompassing as possible. You can go and watch a really great band and hopefully the music will build up to a crescendo, something you can stay up and dance to in the evening. Then you can get some really tasty food, watch a good film in the cinema tent or go to a talk in the literature tent.

Do you think not having it all about the music makes it more approachable?

I guess so. Like I said, I think the people that come to Green Man absolutely adore music but for anyone it's hard to actually watch music from 11.30am until 4am. You need different things to break up your day. It helps you to really appreciate the bands you want to see the most if you're breaking it up with a film, a workshop in Einstein's Garden, having a tasty pie or some local ales from the Real Ale & Cider Bar. Things like that definitely add to the whole experience and hopefully people can see that there's a lot of care and thought behind each element of the festival.

Given the ethos behind Green Man, what are your thoughts on hearty music festivals like SXSW slowly diving into a more commercial realm - would you ever cap the size of the festival to maintain its identity?

We have completely done that, cap the size. We want Green Man to remain a medium sized festival, with the ability for people to wonder around and feel comfortable within the setting. It's not about getting bigger and bigger, bringing in big sponsors or commercial partners to earn more money. With regards to SXSW, I think that's a completely different event because Austin is a very big city and I think they probably find it hard to control. Because it's just a city, if there's an empty space for them to have a marquee then I think they'd find it really hard to stop, say Chevrolet hiring that space for example. They're kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place really, because if they don't do it, other people will just go in and do it. It's an incredible event and it's mind boggling to think how they can even try to control that.

I was just interested as Green Man feels very down to earth, but essentially it's a business.

People do go down the commercial path, it's the nature of business. But we want it to feel intimate, it's a family run festival and we really want people to feel that when they come to the site. We want the people that work on Green Man to be having a good time: the crew, the people that actually build everything. If they're all happy, then everyone else will be when they arrive because they'll feel it.

Going on from that. For someone who hasn't been to Green Man before, what kind of festival experience would you say you provide?

I suppose it's going to be different for everybody as it depends on who you're with and what you're going to the festival for. If you're a music person and you want to see ten of your favourite bands, you'll get to experience that. But you'll be kind of blown away by the backdrop and the site itself, it's really beautiful. It's in the Brecon Beacons in Wales and if you were to wonder around and look at the waterfalls and mountains, the care that's goes into it. I think it's about being looked after and maybe taking yourself away from your normal life and being propelled into a fantasy world, a festival world.

You've got man of the moment Mac Demarco on the bill, there'll be entertainment for people partying into the early hours, but then it's suited to families too. Essentially you're trying to cater for everyone, is that difficult?

It is. I suppose Glastonbury does that, where you can be any kind of person (who wants to be at a festival anyway) and you can find something you want to do. I'm not comparing us to Glastonbury, it's a humungous incredible festival, it's a giant city. You arrive on a bus and see the sign and it takes your breath away. For everybody it should be enjoyable, we're inclusive not exclusive. You're dropping thousands of people into one place at the same time and everyone has different tastes.

This year the line-up is one of the best I've seen, personally. How long does it take to figure out?

Well at the moment I'm thinking about 2015 and have made tentative approaches for people already - just seeing who might be around. Or when I've been booking this year's festival, I'll speak to agents and managers of bands they'll say, 'we're not going to be ready for this year but 2015 looks good' - so remembering things like that. We start planning maybe like 18 months in advance, it takes a hell of a long time.

What about sorting set times and schedules. Is that a stressful task?

Yeah it can be. Newer bands obviously don't have loads of songs so a 45 minute slot is all they'd want really. There are other bands who have had half a dozen albums so you need to give them an hour at least. Then headliners might have a 75 minute show. Clash wise, there's a potential to be clashes but sometimes you just can't help it. The line-up is quite varied but a lot of the bands playing, a lot of people want to see. I try to make it work, for example there isn't a band on the main stage for 45 minutes and then another on the Far Out stage for the same 45 minutes. They won't be on at exactly the same time. There should be 20 minutes where you can catch them both, but I think people might need their running shoes this year. I try to avoid it, but sometimes a band might be here from Europe and will arrive on the day and have to leave straight after, there's lots of different factors in the running order.

Can you tell me a bit more about Green Man Rising and how important that is for the festival?

Trying to give an opportunity to emerging artists is really important to us for sure. I think Green Man is a platform for new bands to push on and maybe play other festivals, or headline other festivals. We had Mumford and Sons play in 2008, they were second on the second stage and they pushed on to headline Glastonbury. I think it's important for the whole festival industry and the music industry to support new bands coming through because they could potentially be the headliners of the future.

Green Man Rising will be launched in June and people can apply through our website. Once we launch the competition people can upload a profile to the site. We're working with a lot of blogs this year, and we'll send them a shortlist of some of the bands that have applied. We'll work that down to six bands and hold a final at a venue, which was the Dublin Castle in Camden last year, I think it's the same this year. Then the panel will choose a winner, and the winner will play the first slot on the main stage on the Friday of the festival. The other five who make the final will also play on the rising stage - there's 24 bands playing the Rising stage this year.

That gives you quite a bit of power to promote bands that you personally love. Do you ever do that?

We're at a time where there's so many bands and they can get noticed really easily because of the internet. Just by setting up a Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook - you can record in your bedroom and it sounds pretty good now. The potential for good, new music, you have to be able to (as a festival) give people a platform for these people to perform. It's a career for some people, so if that's the path that they've chosen to take the you have to listen out.

Are there any bands that you can remember from past years that Green Man has given a boost to?

Temples played. I kind of heard them really last minute like two or three weeks before the festival in 2012. I just made a slot for them. I think it was like their second show and they'd never played a festival before. Now they're doing really well, so they're definitely one for sure. Then there's Will and the People, they won the Green Man Rising competition a few years ago. They seem to be doing really well and have definitely made a career out of it. Those are a couple and I'm excited about the ideas I have for the bands who are going to be on this year - I just can't say any yet!

Obviously you're pretty passionate about live music. What's the best live music experience you've ever had?

It's really difficult because I'm very fortunate that I get to go to a lot of shows. But if I had to pick one it would be Michael Jackson's Dangerous tour in I think 1992. I just remember he came out of a rocket and it was just amazing. To see him for real back then is an outstanding musical memory that definitely inspired my love of music and going to gigs. In terms of festivals, I saw Sufjan Stevens play a few years ago and that was definitely one of the best. Show wise it was just incredible, the choreography, it's not just one chap on stage which is special in its own way. On our main stage, I still do this day think that he would probably be one of the headliner's I'd most want to play the festival. Supposedly he won't play on an outdoor stage.

Do you think that is a contributing factor? Obviously festivals are amazing in their own way, but do you think it inhibits the live experience at all being outdoors - because of the sound quality?

I think the people that we work with are so good that it doesn't. We've been working with the same sound teams and production managers for a long time and we try to make sure there are no sound bleeps between stages. There's nothing more annoying than listening to a band and hearing another stage in the background. I don't know, I do get it as it's obvious the sound quality outdoors isn't going to be as good as being in a 300 capacity venue with a great sound system. I've been to enough festivals and been to enough shows, especially at Green Man to know that the sound wouldn't ever really be a problem.

I should say a Green Man highlight too and Patti Smith at Green Man last year was just incredible. Patti Smith and Jonathan Richman the year before. Even when James Blake played the main stage, you imagine that he'd be someone musically that wouldn't be the best on an outdoor stage. But I've never heard bass like it outdoors, it was like a dinosaur was coming over the mountain face at about 8 in the evening.

Who are you most looking forward to this year?

Beirut - they're headlining on the Friday, everyone will get dancing and it will be kind of party time. Then Caribou is playing straight after on the Far Out stage. From Beirut to Caribou and then the 2 Bears are after that so that will be a lot of fun on the Friday. Mercury Rev are headlining the Saturday, the whole Saturday on the main stage is amazing: Mercury Rev, War on Drugs, Sharon Van Etton, Hamilton Leithauser from the Walkmen, Mutual Benefit. Neutral Milk Hotel are meant to be incredible live too - they're headlining on the Sunday.

Can we expect anything different in 2014?

We have a real Ale & Cider festival this year which is going to have 99 different local ales and ciders. There'll be descriptions of what it tastes like and where they're from. There isn't another festival that has their own beer festival at the festival. Especially for our audience, they like to drink, so being able to get geeky about the beer and cider we have as well as the music, I'm certainly looking forward to it. I think I'll be in that bar quite a lot. That's one thing and then the Settler's Pass, we have a settlement. People can arrive at the festival on the Monday this year and camp from Monday to Monday. We've got entertainment - three local bands each evening, nice food and it will encourage people to explore the local area. You can go horse riding, canoeing, and spend the week in the great outdoors. Wales is stunning, so it's great to encourage people to make the most of it.


The festival takes place in the beautiful Brecon Beacons from 14 - 17th of August. For more information, head here. We'll see you there!

Make sure you head to The 405's Green Man hub for all the latest previews, reviews and features from this year's event.