This summer marks my excited return to Green Man festival in Wales after a four year gap since my last visit in 2010. Set in the stunning mountains of the Brecon Beacons, and with the festival’s unique mark printed around every corner of Glanusk Park it’s no wonder this festival manages to bring in some of the best music the world has to offer year after year.
As the first morning of the festival blooms, my eyes and ears are anxious to take in everything Green Man has to offer. My curiosity culminates in a morning spent exploring Einstein’s Garden, that loveable hub of happenings I had missed so much – the vibrant enclosure nestled in the trees squeezes in an abundance of interactive stalls, which cover everything from wildlife walks to workshops in animation.
Friday’s musical highlights include Adult Jazz, an experimental indie band who draw an eager crowd into the Walled Garden, Bristol Afrobeat Project’s funky rhythms and smooth vocals which get Chai Wallahs jiggling, and, of course, headliners Beirut. It’s been a long while since I last saw Beirut headline Green Man 2010, and although their sound has this year dwindled slightly, their setlist rolls the band’s refined mastery of intricate ukulele rhythms, dreamy but hugely powerful vocals and big, brass sounds into one – not to mention their cover of Balkan legends Fanfare Ciocarlia, which sends me spiralling into a happy nostalgic pit after their mirrored performance in 2010.
To wrap up the day I head to the Far Out tent for the highly anticipated The 2 Bears. Unfortunately the ‘After Dark’ party isn’t quite what I hope, with an imbalance of bass slightly drowning the inoffensive melodic house I’d been eager to hear. Still, the set finishes with the signature ‘Bear Hug’ track, and I leave happy.
For me, today’s line-up shines with the incredible solo artists Green Man is hosting this year. First is Angel Olsen, whose truly astounding vocal range and control has previously nearly had me in tears. I park up a spot on the grassy hill that overlooks the Mountain Stage, eagerly anticipating what she has in store after new release, Burn Your Fire No Witness. Although she seems to restrain herself slightly, Angel simply stuns her audience – most notably so with a new, drawn out adaptation of ‘Acrobat’ that sends chills down my spine.
I am next transfixed by Sharon Van Etten, who pulls in a huge crowd to match her steady but certain rise to fame over recent years. As the closing lines of ‘Save Yourself’ ring out, I run over to the Walled Garden to catch the last of Frank Fairfield, whose remarkable fiddle playing has everyone open-mouthed and jigging along.
As the night draws in, however, it’s Panda Bear who completes my second day. Whilst maintaining the trademark experimental sound of Animal Collective, Panda Bear’s solo project manages to distance itself just far enough to create its own unique impression on our ears with an electronic haze of progressive psychedelic-pop woven with technical precision and hypnotic visuals, topped with Noah Lennox’s uniquely captivating voice.
With glorious sunshine soaking our final hours and a line-up quite unlike any other this year, it’s the Sunday which makes GM 2014 so special for me. Having parted from the atmospheric realms of Portico Quartet, Nick Mulvey’s intricate, beautifully melodic solo project starts the day. Next is Ry X, whose steady, ambient vocals sing to a field in which the entire audience is lounging on the grass – the perfect soundtrack to a blissful summer afternoon.
Bubbling with a love for the festival and those around me, I now cannot wait for the most highly anticipated act of the weekend. Despite an over-enthusiastic drummer who frequently pushes the tempo – and, consequently, the band and those that singing along – forward, Neutral Milk Hotel still manage to pump us into a screaming frenzy that dissolves into a deadly silent vigil in seconds as both In The Aeroplane Under The Sea and On Avery Island are brought to life.
After catching Simian Mobile Disco live earlier in the day, I can’t wait for their DJ set after the annual ‘burning of the Green Man’ ritual, which sees the entire festival flock to the towering structure as it is sacrificially brought to the ground. An impressive booking from a festival of its kind, SMD whip up an energetic house-driven set to get our feet moving as my festival season comes to an end.