Green Man Festival: Folk, films and Fuck Buttons
Neil Outram on what the sold out festival has to offer
It's become quite trendy to be green these days - or at least to appear green: MPs ride on bikes with their chauffeur-driven
cars in tow; celebrities preach about doing your bit before jumping on a private jet to their mansion in Malibu; as for our
part, we can buy supermarket sandwiches, lovingly prepared in fossil fuel-hungry factories using industrially farmed products,
that come in recycled or recyclable packaging to make that little environmentally-conscious voice in our head hush for a moment.
In other words, people like to appear to be doing something about the environment, whilst others actually are doing something
about it. Step forward, Green Man Festival: where the only thing greener than the festival is the lush Welsh grass it's
'Folktronica' duo It's Jo and Danny started Green Man in 2003 as a one-day event with 300 people in attendance, who saw the likes of King Creosote and James Yorkston. Since then, their Green Baby has grown up with the assistance of Fiona Stewart, once of The Big Chill, and changed venues to Wales' Brecon Beacons, taking in 10,000 festival-goers for three days, which this year takes place from Friday 20 to Sunday 22 August. As the festival has grown in stature, so has the line-up, including in recent years the likes of Robert Plant, Donovan, Super Furry Animals and Seasick Steve, not to mention a host of acts better known by followers of folk, country, indie and psych.
Now one of the UK's most prominent independent festivals, free of sponsorship and merchandising, its environmental ethos has won many admirers, as well as a number of copycats who have flooded an already saturated festival scene with similar events, only for most to sink, never to surface again. What makes Green Man different is its dedication to an environmentally and family friendly event with a variety of attractions - including live comedy, film, science, literature and dedicated children's areas - to keep green men, women and children alike entertained. Oh, and the music's good, too!
Let's deal with the music first. Highlights from this year's line-up include:
The Flaming Lips
If you haven't seen them live, you must; if you have seen them live, you must again. As well as creating great, progressive, experimental music, the quirky festival favourites from Oklahoma are famous for their uplifting live performances, often incorporating animals straight from a Manga comic, giant hamster balls and psychedelic videos. Worth seeing for ‘Do You Realize??’ alone.
The rumour is that this alt-rock band from up north will be taking an indefinite hiatus after this year, so catch them while you can. Following the recent release of ‘The Places Between: The Best of Doves’, you can expect a top headline set packed with life-affirming, festival-sized anthems, including ‘Black and White Town’, ‘There Goes The Fear’ and ‘Kingdom of Rust’.
The two Bristol natives gave themselves a lot to live up to with a name like an unimaginatively-titled panto porno, but their sound, like their name, is likely to stick in your mind. Their music could be given many names, but let’s go with Aphex Twin-esque experimental electronic. Sometimes harsh, sometimes beautiful, always intriguing, they make noise melodic and melody noisy. Their albums are short but the songs are often epic, so prepare to have your ears punched and your mind opened.
Other notable acts include Billy Bragg, Joanna Newsom, Mumford and Sons, These New Puritans and Wild Beasts, to name but a few. In addition, the festival hosts a Green Poll each year, which searches for a band to open the festival.
As well as the live music across five stages and DJs playing deep into the night, there's a whole other dimension to the festival worth checking out. In the Comedy Tent they have some of the nation's best comics, including Robin Ince and Josie Long. There are film showings, including the premiere of 'lost' documentary of ‘Bird On A Wire’, capturing Leonard Cohen on his 20 date European tour in 1972, which is followed by a Q and A with both the director and producer.
Einstein's Garden provides what organisers call a 'creative fusion of science, art and nature' - an area packed with events that employ art, entertainment and participation to explore nature and science in fun and unexpected ways. Elsewhere there's literature, workshops, poetry and theatre. Last but not least, there's the children's area ran by Boutique Babysitting, offering parents a chance to dump the kids and enjoy the festival guilt-free. They promise to create a 'mini festival' for your little 'uns over the weekend in a safe, fun environment that involves an array of activities, including arts and crafts, music workshops, story-telling and much more.
Now, about those green credentials. Green Man has a number of initiatives that encourage revellers to support the environment. To keep carbon emissions down and to stay as traffic free as possible, they promote the use of coaches for medium to long distance travel and a shuttle bus from the local train station in Abergavenny, plus parking is free if you car pool and have more than two people in your car. To support this, the Green Man forum has a thread solely for arranging car-pooling with other festival-goers. Last year the festival had 20% fewer cars and they aim to keep that trend going. Organisers also encourage recycling by banning all glass and placing recycling bins for plastic, card and tin all over the site.
All tickets for this year's event are sold out, so if you're not lucky enough to be attending this year, make sure you're on the ball around Christmas time when tickets for 2011 go on sale. If you think it's not easy being green, Green Man will make you think again.