Green Man Festival 2011 review

'One of the most overwhelmingly lovely festival experiences out there'

Green Man Festival 2011 review

Photographer: Sara BowreyFrancis Whittaker on 21 August 2011

As soon as you cross the picturesque stone bridge across the River Usk and enter the stunning grounds of Glanusk Park, it's not hard to see why Green Man has fast become the discerning music fan's festival of choice.

With a touchingly welcoming atmosphere and sweeping majesty of Sugar Loaf mountain providing the most dramatic main stage backdrop imaginable, the Powys event has built up a loyal following among folk fans, families and alt-rock aficionados, all of whom return year-on-year to nestle in the whimsical and marvellously friendly comfort of Sugar Loaf's ample, rocky bosom.

A sign of the strength of that following could be seen when Green Man sold out many weeks in advance, despite arguably having a significantly weaker line-up compared to previous years. There are times during the weekend when the billing seems a bit thin on the ground, with many afternoon main stage acts peddling depressingly average Mumford-aping folk anthemics. That said, there is still a wealth of musical gems to be found. Oklahoma arkestra Other Lives (8/10), for example, create a multi-instrumental soundscape of epic proportions during their Friday afternoon set, while the hushed beauty of Rhode Islanders The Low Anthem's (9/10) low key Americana leaves fans on the main stage rapt on Sunday night.

Laura Marling (8/10) returns to what now must be her spiritual festival home amid glorious evening sun on Sunday, playing to one of the biggest crowds of the weekend, while Friday headliners Explosions in the Sky (8/10) create an intense, ebbing and flowing post-rock symphony befitting of the stunning surroundings amid a fittingly dramatic haze of misty drizzle.

After a few misfiring attempts at other events, Fleet Foxes' (8/10) confident bill-topping Saturday set finally sees them step up to the plate as a festival headline act, while fellow shamelessly beardy headliners Iron and Wine (6/10) generally disappoint by drawing too heavily on jam-heavy, funky newer material as opposed to older, folky favourites.

The line-up in the Far Out Tent is markedly less psychedelic than previous in years. Lia Ices (7/10) and Our Broken Garden (7/10) bring ethereal, female-fronted atmospherics to the stage, and curiously, both cover Pink Floyd during their respective sets on Friday and Sunday. Later, sweary analogue knob-twiddlers Holy Fuck (8/10) whip up a storm as a Friday night headline set leaves a sea of shape-throwing in their wake.

On Saturday indie hero Dan Bajar, also known as Destroyer (8/10), brings the smooth grooves of his sax-heavy 'Kaputt' album to the Welsh hills. The denim clad, beer-swilling Canadian cuts a rumpled, enigmatic figure as he croons his way through an intelligent, richly rendered reinvention on the kind of sexy, guilty pleasures eighties lounge music that makes you want to don a revealing kimono, grab a cocktail shaker and treat the lady in your life to a seductive dance. Or maybe that's just VF.

As night draws in, the tent transforms into a haven for hard raving electronica fans, with Chris Clark (8/10), Hot Chip's Joe Goddard's 2 Bears project (6/10) and the awe-inspiring six-string bass madness of Squarepusher (9/10) keeping festival-goers moving into the wee small hours.

Away from the music, there's also plenty to see. The whimsy of Paper Cinema in the Film Tent and the fizz-poppingly charming voyage of scientific discovery in the Einstein's Garden area all providing head-turning distractions in what is genuinely one of the most beautiful festival sites VF has ever laid its welly-wearing feet in.

As the Sunday headliners finish, crowds gather around a giant burning effigy of the Green Man, whose glowing eyes have been casting a gaze over the festival all weekend. As the poor, leaf-covered fella goes up in swirling flames, whoops and hollers emanate from adults and kids alike, none of whom are likely to leave without a smile on their face following what must be one of the most overwhelmingly lovely festival experiences out there.

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