Green Man, 2011, Crickhowell, S.Wales.

Well, I’m green, isn’t it? This was my third festival of the year and the one I visited with my family. It is a very rounded and content festival and also the most overtly hedonistic! It is essentially a hippy bash but realises that hippies, per se, no longer are at the forefront of the musical industry and so allows sons and daughters of hippies to oft take centre stage.

Some good, some average and some simply atrocious. I didn’t carry any notebook, just a programme and an inquisitive streak, but I still only watched or even sampled a fraction of the music on offer. The site is beautifully placed in a valley in the Brecon Beacons with all the fresh country air you could need. This weekend we had sun aplenty as well – “Hottest, sunniest Green Man yet”.

Usual camping folly was to go for “General Camping” as access turned out to be via a long, in places steep path downhill. We carried our belongings in a big quite heavy trailer. I saw problems at the end of the weekend getting out! For the whole group it meant two trailerloads. By teatime all was set up and the first evening was comedy of Tim Minchin, the musical Australian who dont use a wobble-board. In fact, subject to the rather graphic nature of some scenes he set, he is an entertaining individual, worth a watch. I nipped off to catch “The People’s String Foundation” in Chai Wallah Tent for a few minutes. They were good, human fun and, luckily, I was able to see them again later in the weekend.
String of names now and, as I’ve lost the programme, I’ll not be able to link the sequences properly. I’ll add impressions now and maybe order later. “Mine’s a pint of Reekin’ Hindukush, please, and have one yourself.”
Fleet Foxes – headline act and fairly worthy of such accolade. A show, musical and non-aggressive, not full of themselves and cocky, just having entertaining, musical fun. But you know what they sound like anyway so, if you’ve not seen them live yet, do so, as it’s an affirmative experience.
Noah and the Whale – cough. Well Mia and I did see this crew at Green Man two years back, middle of the afternoon, laid back, unknown and as FF, above, they were fun. This time, however, nearly TOTB (before FF) the scene was set by an extended intro of Bohemian Rhapsody, several minutes, as they shuffled onto the stage. Come on, boys, you cannot outshine Freddie Mercury. He was the epitome of “Shine”. Like Blur using “Sergeant Pepper”. So the Whale became stranded as the tide went out. Jonah?
Iron and Wine – closed on the main stage on Sunday. They are all they were sold as; that is solid, American, Drive-In rock. Exciting, melodic, entertaining, predictable… but certainly enjoyable.
Explosions in the Sky were Friday’s headline act, on the main amphitheatre stage and they were good Americans. That’s they were good and they are American. And they made explosions in the sky. That is their music it was like, man, it was, hey, explosions. In the sky. Man. Like. Wow. There goes another one and it’s like. Spacy.
Laura Marling – I was out one day, marling… Our Laura, she was Marling. Verb “To marl”, to sing monosyllabically, monotonously dolorously, drowsily, blowsily. To simper with musical form. In minor key.
Bellowhead – Who I feel we almost know personally, we’ve seen them – and enjoyed them – so often. Shrewsbury Folk Fest, this year’s Womad, even, and they came to Caernarfon. Splendid playing, much colour and use of the wonderful range of musicianship they have available. I’m never wholly happy with the leader’s voice, if I’m to be honest, but otherwise brilliant.
Griff Rhys – had the bad luck to be considerably delayed in getting onto stage for technical difficulties but kept his spirit going and quickly brought the crowd back onside. Welsh language rock usually makes me shudder, I’ve heard so many, so grim, but this was good. With no hangups, with no chip-on-shoulder. There, I’ve said it. Da iawn – bendigedig, Griff.
Polar Bear – Sampled too briefly
The Burns Unit – Sampled from campsite, over the trees. They must have something or we’d not have noticed them. One’s to follow up, I guess.
Suuns – American and awesome. Not been so excited about an American combo since Television and these will probably be better. On the Far-Out Stage they frequently concealed themselves behind elaborate lighting and masses of dry-ice. I mentioned Kraftwerk but this white noise, black noise and rainbow coloured noise was alive and not pre-programmed mechanistic. It was ripping structures out of music and driving assumptions way beyond their limits of tolerance. Superb.
She keeps Bees – But these had nothing to inspire me bar their enchanting and so wholly misleading name.
Alessi’s Ark – Who would be a worthy support act for ….Laura Marling. Alessi? Hark. What’s that? The clone drone. Save me.
Ellen and the Escapades. What can I say? Oh yes: “See above – as per Alessi’s Ark”.
2:54 – Were good only I cant for the life of me remember how or why. Must find my programme!
Benjamin Francis. Was watched by many in the party with awe and admiration as he strummed and sang gently. That’s “Strummed and sang, gently”.
9 Bach. Here we had a name which conjoured up a “Snow White” scenario. Nine littles. Were there nine? Dunno, it was quite a big group but I didn’t count. Hell, I was listening and so enjoying what I heard that such details were left unexplored. Lead female vocal was brilliant/perfect/soulful/attention grabbing and support music an inspired Welsh distillation. Well it wasn’t Eisteddfodd but it did have harp. Only flaw was the name. Change it or, please, EXPLAIN it cariad.
Y Niwl. Fog. These were good, too, but like 2:54 I’ve now no idea why. Call yourself a reviewer – you must be joking, man. You must be jokin’.
Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog – from the Llyn peninsular the Cowbois are a wild bunch of Welsh country bumkins. Honest. Again, though, we were in camp when they were on so not fully attuned to their jangling sounds. Sori, bois, amser nesaf siwr iawn.
Mancub Babywoman – read well in the programme but I missed, being on other listening duties at the time. However Freya gave me an excellent rating for them so these Mancunians must be worth catching if you can.
Tim Minchin – The musical, Aussie comedian who “does not use a wobble board” (as far as I know) but plays a mean classical piano.A quiet family man, his gentle manner is wholly misleading as he launches into strings of blasphemous comedic routines that would be ill received by the mothers’ union (1950s version). Here, though, it was a brilliant ice breaker and event opener and a huge audience was delighted by his cunningly crafted musical monologues.
Chi Wallah’s. The “Festival within a festival” Chi-Wallah’s is a couple of snazzy tents – you’d have to see them – with hookahs, food, drink, clothes, jewels and, of course, classy music. Roots music, mosly, though of all genres. Reggae, rap, soul, jazz, African, New Orleans, you name it. All high quality, low key stuff – dance, enjoy. Mandala Band brought CW’s festival to a climax and did a great job with predominantly, though not exclusively, African township driving, brassy, soulful, twanging, percussive exuberance.
Green Man. This was a big, wooden sculpture. Set in a big, open clearing. This was so we could all see it well. And so’s they could burn it as the final spectacular, totemic, pagan, ritualistic finale. Which they did at midnight on Sunday with knobs on. Well, with fireworks, I mean. Great best described as “Explosions in the Sky”. Which is kinda rounded, don’t you think?

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About greencentre

Non grant supported hence independent scientist, green activist, writer and forest planter.
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