Green Man Festival - Friday Day 1
Bands Watched = We Aeronauts, Wave Machines, Emmy the Great, Gang Gang Dance, British Sea Power, Pivot, Four Tet, Animal Collective Highlight = Gang Gang Dance Down Point = Animal Collective
As much as I had told myself the weather wouldn’t factor into my enjoyment of Green Man, when the strong evening rain ended and the morning sun began, I finally felt ready to embrace the festival- a thank you due to the anonymous Scottish voice that woke me with his suggestion for the rain to ‘fuck off’.
Dazzled by Welsh beauty, sunshine and excitement, I trundled towards the faint sound of music and activity, dodging organic-laden picnics and obnoxious children (how is it you can always tell which children go to public schools?)
Green Man Main Stage
Yet as soon as I entered the main stage area, all cynicism evaporated. It was impossible to escape the relaxed, peaceful atmosphere; an atmosphere possible only with good music, good weather and being situation beneath a mountain with a name like Sugar Loaf.
Competition winners and festival openers We Aeronauts certainly earned their main stage slot; their brand of serene atmospheric folk was a perfect accompaniment to their surroundings. Yet I couldn’t help but feel that bad sound and a desire to explore the site- the downside to playing so early, compromised the 9 pieces’ otherwise enchanting performance.
And what a beautiful site it was! Its beauty matched only by its confusing layout, the unfathomable labyrinth of walled gardens and fields concealing stages, stalls, and tents. In a brief spell of exploring I managed to stumble across a wishing tree, men dressed as old ladies, a blue neon robot beatbox man and not to mention the world record holder for bubble blowing ‘Sam Sam the [weird] Bubble Man’ and his incredible bubble shop - he was even able to put one of us in a bubble!
Excitement over I stumbled, stuffed from Nachos, towards the main stage to see art-pop 4 piece Wave Machines. I’m not sure whether it is their striking masked stage personas, or intelligent angular art-pop, but Wave Machines’ live performances are truly captivating; they clearly enjoyed it too Lead singer Tim even exclaiming he was ‘mighty happy to be here’. It was especially interesting to see the contrast between Wave Machines’ dark somber subject matter and the many children dancing brazenly to the upbeat synth-based backing; afterall, who said depression can’t be fun?
Wave Machines
I’m always skeptical of these cultural ‘revivals’ that sweep across England, none more so than ‘new folk’. But this said I was pleasantly surprised when listening to singer-songwriter Emmy the Great; her witty songs and endearing disposition a sweet complement to the beautiful afternoon sun. Yet I couldn’t help but feel her performance was ultimately spoilt by technical difficulties and inexperience.
A problem not faced by the slick, effortless experiential art band Gang Gang Dance. Having previously disregarded the band as another Animal Collective imitation, I was impressed with their powerful hypnotic live performance; together the band created a frantic mesmerising sound held together with a refreshing confidence and musicianship. Even when their enthusiasm and energy had subsided, interest was prolonged by the middle-aged Asian ‘Bez’ mascot dancing his heart out side-stage.
Gang Gang Dance
Watching GGD’s enthralling performance only compounded my anticipation for headliners Animal Collective. A feeling enhanced by the intense prog-rock barrage of Australian band Pivot as well as local chilled cider and atmospheric sunset. British Sea Power are a band that definitely produces atmospheric music fit for such an evening; their intensity and utilization of Oak branches made for an epic (if eccentric) set.
Before returning to the main stage to prepare for Animal Collective, I managed to catch a couple of disappointing monotonous laptop-driven songs from electronic icon Four Tet – since when has 1 man and a laptop ever made for an enjoyable headline slot?
British Sea Power
I couldn’t tell if the excruciating half hour wait for Animal Collective made me more excited, or angry? Lighting rigs, ladders, laptops and band members were moved back and forth as the crowd became restless, aimlessly shouting to the band members. When the 3 piece did finally come on to play, any atmosphere had died dead.
Watching the band was much like my experience of drinking alcohol legally for the first time, it seems exciting and inspiring in principle but in reality, it was disappointing and tedious. A poorly chosen set, lackluster performance and lengthy ambient interludes resulted in an underwhelming gig, which for a headline band that I had such high expectations for, was disappointing. I couldn't help but hope it was just tiredness that ruined the performance. A bad end, to an otherwise great day.