Festivals

Green Man 2015

St. Vincent and Slowdive shine brightest amongst the stormy mountains.

Wales is wet this weekend. Green Man, set in a valley in the beautiful Brecon Beacons, is particularly susceptible to such conditions, and as such each day of this year’s festival doesn’t come without torrential downpours.

Villagers’ Conor O’Brien embraces the gloom during his Mountain Stage set on Friday afternoon though, apologising with tongue in cheek for there being “no happy songs in the set”. “We’re not really a festival band, I think they must’ve thought they booked The Village People - look what they’ve ended up with”. His set is perfect for Green Man though, and yet another example of a series of step ups from campfire to tent to main stage that the festival is so good at bringing about.

The festival’s knack for fitting together polarising artists on the same bill is shown most strikingly with the dash from Villagers to Hookworms, who appear to get louder, brasher and more brutal with every next show in support of ‘The Hum’.

One of the real gems of this year’s festival comes just before headliners Hot Chip on the first night. Atomic Bomb! is a performance and celebration of the music of fascinating Nigerian musician William Onyeabor, transmitted onto the stage (which Onyeabor himself has never graced) by the likes of Alexis Taylor from Hot Chip and LCD Soundsystem’s Pat Mahoney. As expected from such a cast, the Mountain Stage is turned into a disco for the next hour, with closer ‘When The Going Is Smooth & Good’ bringing a joyous feeling the rest of the weekend never quite matches.

Hot Chip and Mew close out the first night with dual headline sets of equal power and beauty. Hot Chip's glistens on the main stage first, proving 'Why Make Sense?'s credibiltiy as an album to headline festivals with, and afterwards Mew's shimmering production cries out for something greater than the confines of the Far Out stage.

After a summer void of performances, Trust Fund have made things a whole lot bigger for their return and run-up to their second full-length, with a now-six-piece team rolling out 'No-one's coming for us'' more delicate cuts and crunchy, full band rock with equal conviction early on Saturday.

The only slither of sunshine on day two is one which Marika Hackman makes the most of, ending her excellent summer with highlights from 'We Slept At Last' and a woozy Joni Mitchell cover.

The brightest in new British talent is then swapped for returning heroes (Television) and still-going legends (The Fall) into the evening, before Slowdive provide the Far Out tent with a blistering headline set, bathed in white light. The set casts such a blanket over the enclosure that even an absurdly hit-packed late night Jamie xx show can't remove the shoegazers from being the highlight of the evening. Before a glorious 'Alison', the band reveal in response to a heckler that this is their last show of the summer as they are, indeed, settling down to record a new album.

Waxahatchee's hectic touring schedule in support of 'Ivy Tripp' over the past few months has made her impeccably tight with her new band, while cracks were still showing on her UK tour in June. The delicate folk of debut LP 'American Weekend' appears to now be completely cast aside by Katie Crutchfield in her setlists, but back-to-back performances of 'Blue' and its '..pt. II' twin to begin Sunday's proceedings show she can still do quiet as well as the loud that dominates the set, just in smaller doses.

The Antlers are the anti-festival band, but manage to make being one of the least suitable acts imaginable for a muddy field in bright daylight into something that actually charms Green Man, and last year's 'Familiars' is changing and growing into their strongest to date.

Following this, conversely, is The Staves, who couldn't suit an event and a location more than this. Between giving shout outs and happy birthdays to seemingly everyone they know across the set, their acoustic folk captivates one of the biggest crowds of the festival. Continuing a repeated dash between the Mountain Stage and the Far Our tent, Courtney Barnett gives a penultimate set in the latter that feels like a celebration of her long summer, with her debut LP growing into a new beast when performed live.

If St. Vincent's meticulously choreographed set for her self-titled LP seemed too weird to headline festivals with, a bam-bam-bam-bam beginning to tonight's set with 'Birth In Reverse', 'Rattlesnake', 'Digital Witness' and 'Cruel' takes all of these preconceptions and rubbishes them inside fifteen minutes. The set is striking, touching and anthemic all at the same time, with Annie Clark surpassing her fellow and seemingly more well-suited bill-toppers of Hot Chip and Super Furry Animals to put on the headline set of the festival.

For a party atmosphere, few can end a festival like Goat, and their manic psychedelia which closes out proceedings in the tent - the best example given of the festival's penchant for putting on weirder, heavier and more far out styles than the straight-up folk many associate it with - is one of many sets this weekend that show Green Man stepping out from a stringent mould many have placed them in, and what makes this year's festival shine.

Photos: Caitlin Mogridge, Marieke Macklon, Wunmi Onibudo

Tags: Slowdive, St. Vincent, Green Man, Festivals, Reviews, Live Reviews

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