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20 Sep 2013

Lloyd Griffiths looks back on Green Man Festival 2013

Photo by Richie Lord


Sometimes, you have to make yourself apart from the wonder to truly understand it. Lloyd Griffiths looks back at Green Man to recall the electro brilliance amongst a stellar folk and Indie line up.

Blame it on all manner of excess if you will - drink, late nights or vigorous dancing. But for me, the field-to-field quality of the line up at Green Man has made me take my time over this review. Pragmatically, it's been simply difficult to recall individual moments aside from the hermetic whole, which says much about not only the superbly put together lineup at Glanusk Park but also to take in the new, slightly more mystical feel of the place this year, which suited the late-night electronic line up superbly.

There's always been a weird-out after dark side to Green Man, with throbbing late night bass pulsing from the Far Out, the highest part of the site, across the fields where pleasant hippy vibes abound in the clear of day, and of course it's always welcomed innovative oddity such as Super Furry Animals and The Flaming Lips. This year though, there was something more visceral and intense from the off, helped plenty by the new symbology adorning each stage and area of the festival with pagan intrigue. Such feelings are solidified when a band as arresting as Fist of the First Man are very first on the Far Out stage on Friday. 

Photo by Luke Taylor


Fresh off the back of their Welsh Music Prize nomination, they manage to make their scuzzy three piece post-rock riffs cinematic and even ethereal, with visuals equal parts kaleidoscopic and creepy complementing the bombast. Their cerebral artistry never gets in the way of an intense set of songs though, and in fact there's something about their approach which makes the songs all the more wrought with tension, a feat not to be sniffed at 1pm.

Later in the evening, a sizable crowd were at the Main, Mountain stage for Matthew Houck's Phosphorescent. Sadly, whether because of sound or performance, it was a set that didn't show off the warm subtleties of latest LP Muchacho. While on record slight electro tones gives a space for his well crafted songs to breathe, live it felt a little strangely flustered, although some of his major key melodies did shine through. A few hours later Midlake shook off the recent loss of their lead singer Tim Smith to flutter beautifully between delicate acoustic pastoralism and the rock of more classic sounds such as Head Home and what's surely their masterpiece, Roscoe. At first listen they may sound like any one of the flurry of Fleetwood-influenced soft-rockers, but there's an enclosed feel to much of their work which feels both reflective and at points even besieged, but is ultimately compelling.

There's no doubt that the defining set of the weekend came last one at Far Out, with the return of dance-drone two-piece Fuck Buttons. How does one dance to it? The dark, drone textures call for eyes to be closed to let them permeate your head. Yet their electro-euphoria throws everyone into a repetitive frenzy, as somehow-an-Olympic-song Surf Solar is dropped early, foregrounding an fervour that doesn't relent. New album Slow Focus is perfectly pitched but there's little more to say other than it's time for bed straight after - you don't want to spoil the hermetic buzz with other sounds or chatting after Fuck Buttons. Stunning.


"...you don't want to spoil the hermetic buzz with other sounds or chatting after Fuck Buttons. Stunning."

Across the rest of the weekend, there's plenty more electronic wonder to get into, notably Saturday at the expanded Chai-Wallahs tent which hosts Mr Scruff collaborator Andreya Triana early evening, her electro-soul perfectly pitched which looped vocals and a rhythmic sound which captures the imagination just as the evenings headliners begin to draw nearer. Later, I manage to catch a few songs from the side of the cinema tent, of LCD Soundsystem's Shut Up and Play the Hits. Being relatively full though, one feels almost rude to enjoy only parts of the seminal concert/documentary, so after the beautiful All My Friends, I exit to leave the more dedicated watchers take it in. 

Photo by Catherine Farmer


Public Service Broadcasting pull a huge crowd at the Walled Garden stage, managing to maintain funny crowd interaction whilst remaining quiet, their use of samples saying their computerised hellos for them. They've been accused of being too conceptual by some, but live that idea is dissipated - mixing public information film samples with Neu style rock and electro, to thrilling, often euphoric and even creepily uncanny effect. There may be an element of nostalgia to their approach on record but seeing them live is really what is required to understand them, with visuals contextualising the samples and allowing the music to gain it's own momentum.

It was straight from there to the weekend's final band, British Sea Power, similarly giving vision to a lost Britain at points in their career. It's a fine segue from one band, with BSP brilliant as an encore in the small, imagined lost-britain-art section of the day. Their vision feels perfectly appropriate for Green Man though, combining exhilaration and a kind of imagined nostalgia at once. Songs such as Carrion invoke a subsumed wonder at nature, but far from being an arch conceit, they are as usual a rhapsodic, rocking, taut live outfit (eve if Swans baulk at said song's super-encore length!) and are greeted like old friends, their 3rd time in Glanusk park.

It's all the more ecstatic this year, as the whole tone of the festival has seemed to feel all the more edgy and weird. Even if it's a subjective assertion, it's nonetheless realisation of a truth that's always been bubbling at the fringes of the Green Man line up and it's a damn fine sight to see even more people embracing it this year.

Photo by Richie Lord

Contact Lloyd Griffiths on Twitter @lloydgriffiths
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