The festival scene in the UK is arguably like none other. Despite our annual grumbles about our indecisive weather and perpetually rolled eyes at the latest festival fad we hate, parties of every size, shape and type pop up every weekend as the whole nation comes alive from June to September every year. Such has this cultural hype boomed recently that there has been increasingly tense competition between independent festivals in the UK over the past few years, with more and more springing up from our much-loved grass annually.
One festival that has consistently stood out from the crowd for me, however, is Green Man festival in Wales – a festival I’ve been desperate to return since my first visit back in 2010. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is about Green Man that makes it so special; its relentless knack for booking my personal all-time favourite bands both big and small, old and new, its unassuming tranquillity matched with the hidden secrets and sights around every corner and the simply breathtaking landscape in which the weekend takes place all make for one of the very best festival experiences our lovely little island has to offer.
So what’s in store for Green Man 2014? I’m particularly excited to see the festival extending its “After Dark” repertoire this year, bringing in some hefty names in the electronic sphere to get us boogying after the sun sets and we’ve seen our favourite headliners each night. And, as always, the festival has packed in some extremely talented musicians across the weekend, both in the form of globally successful bands and some smaller, personal favourites too.
Neutral Milk Hotel
It goes without saying – these champions of the most sincere, heart-wrenching storytelling and imagery which has seen them rise as one of the most adored bands amongst indie / alternative music lovers are a simply unmissable booking from Green Man this year. Despite their huge popularity which sprung from two albums alone recorded over a decade ago, the band are known for their secrecy and sparse visits to the stage, epitomised by the discretion of front man Jeff Mangum – indeed, it’s the band’s only UK festival this year, and any attendee would be simply daft to miss it.
Sharon Van Etten
This solo artist’s steady rise to fame in recent years has seen her tour the UK and its festivals extensively, bringing with her to the stage a steady, powerful and almost hypnotic voice backed by simplistic but heartfelt accompaniments. If you haven’t yet had a chance to catch this wonderful lady, definitely get yourself down to the Mountain Stage on Saturday afternoon for what promises to be a stunning performance.
One quarter and founder of the truly unique Animal Collective, Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) has carved his own path in experimental, psychedelic-pop music with a number of highly acclaimed releases as a solo artist. Similar to the band from which he rose to fame, Lennox’s own work is hugely experimental and diverse, spreading across genres and soundscapes whilst maintaining its unadulterated addictiveness. Live performances from Panda Bear are a genius extrapolation of his sound on disk; Lennox’s searing, unique vocals backed by his staple psychedelic visuals and productions are a truly engaging experience, whatever your taste.
Simian Mobile Disco
Green Man have upped their game this year by introducing some seriously big names in electronic dance music to their bill. The first of these I’m excited about is Simian Mobile Disco, one of the finest electronic duos from the UK who will be performing twice over the weekend. The first chance to catch them is on the Sunday day/early evening, when the pair will reconstruct their new record “Whorl” live, entirely from scratch using just one synth and one sequencer each – a rare opportunity to witness first-hand the true skill involved in electronic music production. Later on the duo will take to the decks fully equipped, this time to bring the finest house and techno tracks to the Far Out dancefloor in an all-night DJ set. Get ready to pull some serious shapes!
Another UK festival exclusive for Green Man this year, Friday night headliners Beirut last graced the Mountain Stage with their presence back in 2010 – the last time I was at the festival, in fact! This band never fail to entertain and impress, with previous performances perfecting everything from their slow acoustic songs atop with Zach Condon’s dreamy vocals to their¬ huge, pitch-perfect sizzling brass sounds. Not a single ear at the festival should miss this set!
Unaccompanied, unaltered and truly enchanting – Angel Olsen’s voice moves with incredible control, mastering vibrato and pitch fluctuation with every note. Couple this with her instantly amiable stage presence and simply beautiful guitar melodies, Angel Olsen is a favourite acoustic performer of almost all who see her. The solo artist will no-doubt capture the attention and hearts of those amongst the hills of Glanusk Park on Saturday afternoon.
Bristol Afrobeat Project
My final pick for Green Man this year and something a little different – the Bristol Afrobeat Project, a 12-piece from the west country bringing a fresh repertoire of their own material and big covers of sounds from across the globe. Expect a truly funky, upbeat set from these guys which will have you up on your feet in a flash. If you can’t catch these guys over the weekend due to commitments at other stages, fear not! Just be sure to head over to Chai Wallahs at any point over the weekend – a new addition to the festival since my last visit four years ago, I’m seriously excited to see that the festival has fine-tuned an incredible selection of global sounds, including afrobeat, hip-hop, west african producers who will be delivering a non-stop party for the whole weekend.
Green Man Festival 2014 takes place between August 15-18 on Glanusk Estate, Black Mountains in the Welsh Brecon Beacons – tickets are available here.