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by Naouel Zenaidi

Tags: Green Man Festival

Green Man @ Brecon Beacons, Wales, 17-19/08/2012

'10 years on, the Green Man spirit is live and kicking'

 

Green Man @ Brecon Beacons, Wales, 17-19/08/2012

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Capturing the essence of a festival in a few hundred words is a challenge at best of times - in the case of Green Man, it borders on impossibility. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the independent festival has grown from a one-day event attended by 300 to its present-day format: a three-and-a-half day festival of music, comedy, literature that extends to a full week for those opting for the Holiday Ticket experience. The atmosphere at Green Man is unpretentious and resolutely friendly, and you can even go as far as saying there is something sacred about the place (not many festivals can boast on-call druids responsible for the blessing of their visitors).

Set on the beautiful Glanusk Estate, Green Man has cultivated a loyal fan-base, which doesn't end at festival-goers. Some of the bands performing at this year's festival are 'regulars' too. Among those on the 2012 line-up, Pictish Trail, who played the inaugural Green Man back in 2003, and James Blake, who performed on the main stage in 2011 and was back for a DJ set this year.

Thursday
Comedian Adam Buxton kicks off Green Man 2012 with BUG, a live show featuring a mix of disturbing videos and absurd YouTube comments shown on the Far Out Tent's giant screens - with highlights including Buxton's own Festival Time music video, and the stop-motion music video for Delta Heavy's dubstep tune Get By, where Rubik's cubes and Hungry Hippos meet a somewhat untimely end

Friday
As people flock to the Mountain Stage to see Dexys (previously Dexys Midnight Runners), it is quite clear that no amount of rain has the power to dampen the resilient Green Man spirit. The band's performance is smooth and sensual, and the set features a seamless blend of songs from the Dexys' debut, as well as some of their more recent tracks. Halfway through the set, the band engages in a 10-minute rendition of crowd-pleaser 'Come On Eileen' that has everyone dance around the muddy field and even helps bring the sun back out. The Felice Brothers are next to play - theirs is a moving set, which fits in with the band's unassuming image, and a perfect build-up towards headliner Mogwai's electrifying sound- and light-packed performance.

Saturday
The sun is making a grand comeback over Glanusk by the time US band Dark Dark Dark bring their ethereal folk to the Mountain Stage mid-afternoon. Singer Nona Marie Invie's voice seems to be able to capture something both fragile and elusive. Daydreaming, from the band's second album Wild Go (2010), is precisely the sort of track that can send chills down your spine and live on the main stage, the lyrics 'Its land I can see for miles, with only the wind whispering' simply happen to depict perfectly what the audience is experiencing at Green Man that day.

Later that evening on the same stage, Brittany-born Yann Tiersen, who is perhaps best known on this side of the Channel for the Amelie soundtrack songs, delivers a set that gradually draws the crowd in with its fast-paced, edgy style, offering a natural progression from Van Morrison's performance to that of headliner Metronomy.

Later still, on the Walled Garden Stage this time, American singer-songwriter Willy Mason plays an intimate gig where a large crowd of faithful fans have gathered. Performing alongside four musicians, Willy Mason's set includes recently-released Restless Fugitive and Sold my Soul (Where the Humans Eat, 2004), as well as a song he explains his mum and dad co-wrote. Willy asks one of the musicians on stage to tap dance to his deep soulful vocals and responds to the audience's request for an encore with a touching sincerity, extending his scheduled set by an extra ten minutes.

Sunday
Without a doubt, the highlight of Sunday for many is Alt-J's set taking place at the Far Out Tent. The audience is crammed under the marquee, with the band's most avid supporters sporting face-paint with the delta symbol. You can feel the excitement mounting as the four-piece band from Leeds takes to the stage, opening with first single Tesselate. Each new song from the set receives a thunderous response from the crowd - hypnotic melodies and signature sound live do confirm their well-earned reputation of most promising band of 2012.

Later that night, another young promising band is playing at the Walled Garden Stage. Meet three-piece band Daughter. They played at independent film festival Sundance earlier this year and open their set with Landfill. Singer Elena Tonra, whose delicate vocals carry the intensity of the lyrics in a superb way, whispers into her microphone you make me nervous before adding in a good way - as a response to the crowd's rapturous applause in-between songs.

By the time The Walkmen take to the Mountain Stage, there is a certain air of melancholy floating over Green Man's last night. The band's frontman Hamilton Leithauser gives an intense performance, verging on anger at times, and fading into something more mellow when the band play the particularly Dylan-esque 138th Street and I lost you.

The much-anticipated performance by Feist doesn't disappoint and before long, it is time to leave the Mountain Stage and head over to the watch the Green Man go up in flames, as is the tradition on the festival's last day.

Green Man brought us yet another exceptional line-up this year and leaving the site on Monday morning, you can't help thinking the weekend has gone too fast and you wish you could do it all over again, if just to be able to catch all the other acts you didn't have the chance to see.

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