Friday: Green Man Festival launches with its best lineup yet, 2015.
Photos via Wales Online.
Like an old friend, Green Man welcomes us back to the Brecon Beacons for a fourth year running. Our relationship with the gregarious green bastard is similar to most who’ve come to the festival: even though you gather and burn him to the ground every year, the team at Glanusk Park are going to put him back together. He’s not going to change beyond recognition and, like a Stilton, you can rely on him to be more nuanced and textured every year, so you must return. You must! I didn’t personally foresee myself turning out for another consecutive year, but when a festival – and not just any festival – constructs its finest lineup thus far, you suffer from a severe case of the ‘fear of missing out’ factor. Funnily enough, this year’s bill puts together my two highlights from the past two Glastonburys: St Vincent and Father John Misty. Closely followed by Super Furry Animals, Dan Deacon, Television, Jamie XX, The Antlers and some of our finest upcoming bands: Hookworms, Trust Fund, Marika Hackman, and you arrive at that whole ‘unmissable’ quality that has brought me into the shadow of the Black Mountains once again.
Far Out or Far Off?
This here is the perfect example of the dilemma facing the ‘Far Out’ Tent at this year’s festival: I’ve been listening to Viet Cong intermittently over the past twelve months, and have struggled to reason how they’d come across at a festival. They seem destined to occupy dingy spaces, lit up by bar fridges and squeezed by the small ceilings, and this is the same as many scheduled to play on the festival’s second stage. Hookworms, H Hawkline, Slowdive, Courtney Barnett, Son Lux all stand as an illustration of both shrewd curatorial work from the team and an ambition to make entering the stage feel like a backdoor entrance into the eye of a scene. Whether the group’s can express themselves in the environment is a different question.
Alberta’s Viet Cong bring a spectral, jagged sound to Green Man. Their rhythms autonomously rotate and distort emphasis, whilst singer Matt Flegel’s gravely vocals exist at its centre. A boisterously industrial performance, there seems to be a genuine sense of spontaneity and unevenness to the material: it’s perfectly imbalanced. The group were in London on Wednesday, played a show in Poland on Thursday, and arrive in West Wales on Friday: “we need to buy our booking agent a map”, they suggest with a dead-eyed glare and a smirk. Finishing with cacophony of stabs that manifest over a fifteen-minute period, we’re wound into a noise-driven coil and sent out into the festival without a release. You’ll struggle to see a more captivating, perplexing show over the weekend.
Viet Cong? Far Out, man. Headliners Mew? I’d have to say Far Off. Though supported by a loyal core and a receptive crowd fresh from ‘wigging out’ with psych-revivalists Temples, they lack that same genuinely off-kilter quality that seems to unite those involved otherwise. I can’t criticise a group for being exactly what they aspire to be, which is architects in melodrama, a nu-progressive canvas, but I can’t help but question what their exact place is in this backdoor Far Out scene that the Green Man team had otherwise mastered.
Main Stage for In-store? That’s a Rough Trade.
“The monitor mix here is already better than the main stage” Calexico singer Joey Burns quips, after strumming one chord on his acoustic guitar. And, fresh from a slot on the iconic Mountain Stage, don’t the Latino-infused alt-heroes look at home here? Dedicating their first track ‘Cumbia De Donde’ to fifties’ writer Charles Bukowski, they have my attention and curiosity within seconds. With two acoustic guitars and a small brass section, they manage to transport this packed wet and windy Rough Trade stage to the winding backstreets of Oaxaca. It is an ability that not many in modern music can manage, and yet they lackadaisically with little effort, bringing an unmistakable warmth in their interchanging vocals and smiles. They finish the show inviting the crowd for a drink and a song later on: sure, Joey, but after my siesta.