Review: Green Man Festival 2014

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Set in a valley between the stunning Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons, it came as no surprise this weekend that performers and crowds alike spent a few moments taking in their surroundings and agreeing that this is one of the most beautiful festivals in the world.

Green Man Festival took place this weekend in the Welsh hills, bringing together an array of exceptional artists, both upcoming and established. A friendly, loveable festival – with a great attitude towards providing educational fun for kids, support for emerging local artists and a wonderful beer and ale festival all within itself – it is a much needed ego-free event, without a single neon-painted, Strongbow-swigging moron in site!

Instead, the eclectic lineup displayed a smörgåsbord of folk, indie and alt-rock delights. With the event officially opened by the druids on Friday morning, the music started with the likes of Jonathan Wilson, Boat To Row, Tunng and Patch & The Giant setting a great, folky precedent. The exceptional Sun Kil Moon, The Phantom Band, James Yorkston and Francois And The Atlas Mountains all followed, taking us into the night, (gorgeous local lamb and a delicious cider in hand), before Elena Tonra and Daughter took to the Mountain Stage, delivering one of their finest performances to date.

Headliners Beirut have the ability to get your heart pounding and make the hairs on your back stand up, with considerable ease! Zach Condon’s perfect vocals, coupled with the atmospheric brass, enraptured an enormous crowd, much to the band’s pleasure, with singalong after singalong to a ton of hits, from Nantes to Santa Fe. 

The Saturday kickstarted with an exceptional local act that is Georgia Ruth – a firm Thank Folk For That favourite! The afternoon also saw glorious performances from Angel Olsen (we enjoyed her even if she didn’t enjoy being there!), Hamilton Leithauser, Farao and Neko Case. Saturday also provided three of our favourite sets of the entire weekend. Firstly, Woman’s Hour – hailing from Kendal (home of Wild Beasts) and now residing in the capital, this female-fronted four-piece provided the Far Out tent with a sumptuous mix of synth-soaked pop and shoe-gaze grooves – think Chvurches meets The XX, meets Beach House.

The evening then greeted another favourite, Sharon Van Etten. Playing tracks from one of the finest albums of 2014 so far, the Brooklyn singer-songwriter unleashed her combination of emotional, melancholy lyrics and driving vocals to a sizeable crowd, celebrating the final show of her current European tour. There was also a surprise appearance from Hamilton Leithauser (of The Walkmen), who had delivered an extraordinary performance earlier in the day, for the set-closer Every Time The Sun Comes Up. And then, sandwiched in between Sharon’s storming show and Mercury Rev’s blast from the past, The War On Drugs deployed a truly magical set, performing tracks from another of 2014’s finest records to date – Lost In The Dream. With guitar solos to die for and mesmerising grooves drifting into the night, their set brought warmth to an otherwise chilly evening in the Welsh hills. It was certainly a Green Man moment to remember.

Sunday’s lineup was quite possibly one of the best we’ve seen all Summer – we could have happily sat in front of The Mountain Stage from midday to midnight had it not been for a quenching thirst and a couple of loo trips! The likes of Other Lives, Boy & Bear and Anna Calvi provided storming efforts, each one adding a different layer to the day. In addition, Nick Mulvey, as expected, pulled an enormous crowd midway through the afternoon, despite the ever-altering Welsh weather – coat on, coat off, coat on, coat off! His talent with a guitar is truly remarkable and mixed with his glorious vocals and delightful stage presence, it was a true highlight.

Sunday also hosted incredible performances from Bill Callahan, Oklahoma’s Samantha Crain and Joanna Gruesome, before the Swedish Söderberg sisters – First Aid Kit – took to the stage. Throughout the festival, it was the imminent arrival of this performance that was on everyone’s lips, with much hype surrounding the sisters – even more than some of the headliners! And the duo absolutely delivered, with an utterly stunning performance, laced in gold and covering all three of their three dazzling albums to date.

The weekend came to a triumphant finale with a memorable show from New Jersey’s Real Estate. In support of their latest record Atlas, the group provided their masterful escapist vibes, echoing sounds of the American coast to a full Far Out tent. Then, with a light wander over to The Mountain Stage, the return of Neutral Milk Hotel came to the Welsh valleys. As ever, no pictures or videos were allowed, so memories of this fine performance has to suffice, with In The Aeroplane Over The Sea ringing in our ears!

The burning of the Green Man and an excellent firework display brought this absolute gem of a festival to an end on the Sunday evening. Under the twinkling stars, surrounded by smiling faces and breathing in the fresh country air, one could not help but wish that it was time for next year’s festival already.