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Green Man Festival 2014

Venue: Glanusk Park, Brecon
Date: 14th - 17th Aug 2014

Of all the festivals I have been to over the years, I can honestly say that Green Man is my favourite. There is something incredibly magical about the idyllic setting of the Black Mountains in the Brecon Beacons that draws you in and makes you want to come back year after year after year. All festivals should be about escapism and the setting of Green Man more than allows you to escape from everything else that may be going on in the world. For the time that you are there nothing else matters apart from spending time with those that matter to you; surrounded by a scenery that makes you glad to be alive and spoilt with an abundance of incredibly good music. This is the only festival where I don’t have to be too hung up on a strict timetable for the day as I feel confident that whatever stage I may be at there will be something that I will enjoy.

The crowd this festival attracts also makes it that bit more special. You only have to read the forum on the Green Man website to get an indication as to how loyal people are to this festival and the regulars who keep coming back every year. Thankfully this is not one of those festivals that people have on their list to tick off, just to say they have been and then never return. This is a crowd who all share common interests and a genuine love for music.

In the build up to this years festival, I was getting more and more excited with each line up announcement. It felt as though the organisers were going through my record collection and booking as many bands as they could. Adam Granduciel from War On Drugs paid homage to the incredible line up during his set when he commented that it was like listening to records in his own home. Picking highlights from the weekend is a tough thing to do as everything I saw was a highlight but, to save you all having to read too much, I will try and be selective.

War On Drugs were, without a doubt, a highlight. The Mountain Stage area was probably the fullest it had been all weekend. The band stormed their way through an incredible set with so much passion and energy which was mirrored in response by the crowd. Following War On Drugs was going to be difficult but Mercury Rev took to the stage to offer something completely different. The band were performing their classic album ‘Deserters Songs’ in full and throughout the performance they seemed to cast a spell on the entire crowd who appeared to be hanging on intently and drifting away to a place of pure bliss. Jonathan Donahue completely got the meaning and relevance of this festival as he thanked the crowd for letting them headline when there are much younger and more popular bands who would love to be where they are now. If listening to Deserters Songs in full was not enough of a treat, the band ended their set with a spine-tingling version of ‘The Dark Is Rising’ from the ‘All Is Dream’ album. This is a moment that will stay with me for the rest of my days.

‘First Aid Kit’ provided another highlight, and in a way took me by surprise. I was expecting them to deliver a great set, but the performance they gave was in another league. They had the whole showmanship down to perfection; the way they commanded the stage, had the entire crowd in the palm of their hands and looked like they were having the time of their lives more than proved that ‘First Aid Kit’ are going to be with us for the long haul. They offer something which would appeal to those aged 6 through to 80 and they never once overstepped the mark into the realms of throwaway cheesy pop.

Sharon Van Etten and Sun Kil Moon were two artists who I was eagerly looking forward to seeing and neither let me down. Sharon and her band played songs from the depths of their hearts in a beautiful and humble manner and, whilst interjecting humour between these heartbreaking songs, ensured she touched a chord with everyone in the crowd. Sun Kil Moon and Green Man proved to be the perfect match. His songs, which are full of genuine emotion and honesty, held the crowd captive.

Neutral Milk Hotel and Kurt Vile were posing a dilemma as to who to end the festival with. After much deliberation I decided to start with Neutral Milk Hotel with a view to finishing with Kurt Vile, however, as soon as Jeff Magnum took to the stage and played the first chord on his acoustic and sung his first lyric, there really was going to be no room for Kurt Vile. Neutral Milk Hotel brought the festival to a close in a brilliant and chaotic way (who thinks of using a set of saws in songs?). ‘The King of Carrot Flowers’, ‘In The Aeroplane Over The Sea’ and ‘Two Headed Boy’ sounded absolutely amazing.

Another thing I love about Green Man Festival is that every year I come away with a list of new discoveries, those gems that I have come across by chance together with those in the programme who I did not get a chance to see. Some of the new discoveries for me this year include ‘Vancouver Sleep Clinic’ and it was pure chance that I got to see these. Turning up at the Far Out Tent waiting for Joanna Gruesome who had to pull out due to illness, Vancouver Sleep Clinic offered to fill the gap by playing their second set of the day. Their opening song had a Bon Iver sound to it, instantly managing to grab my attention and guaranteeing that I would remain for the remainder of their set. ‘Woman’s Hour’, a name that I have heard mentioned a lot this year but never really listened to, ensured that I will be making it a priority to get their debut record after their performance in the Far Out Tent; their set was full of atmospheric sounds that swirled around the tent with grace. ‘The Pooh Sticks’ were another new discovery for me although for many their set must have been a moment of reliving their youth, as this is a band who were together from '87-'95. Their set was full of indie pop songs overflowing with energy and fun and I will be sure to be investing their back catalogue.

These are some of my highlights from the greatest festival of the year, although that really only touches the surface as to how much great music was played out across the stages. I feel guilty for not mentioning Daughter, Georgia Ruth Williams, We Are Catchers, Bill Callahan, John Mouse... the list really is endless.

After watching the annual burning of The Green Man, the only thing left was to walk back to the tent for the last time, feeling sad it is over for another year, but feeling privileged also...see you next year.

Steve Tay

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