by Joanna Orland
We almost didn’t make it to this year’s Green Man festival. Pelting through the rain at high speed, with the Welsh border just under our noses, we nearly filled our pants when a stone hit the windscreen and the entire thing pretty much exploded. Thankfully, rescue was at hand and four or five phone calls, two multipacks of Doritos and a night in Hereford later we were back on our way.
Green Man is the ultimate hippy festival, with a folk-dominated line-up and a laid-back, non-corporate atmosphere. This year the Sunday night headliners were a re-formed Pentangle, who ended the weekend with a set that was weird, brilliant and completely right for the moment. But the organisers also chuck in a handful of non-folky anomalies for the electro and rock fans: Fuck Buttons, for instance, and a stupidly catchy Italian garage-rock band called Jennifer Gentle (look them up – you’ll be humming ‘Take My Hand’ for the rest of the week).
The North Sea Radio Orchestra were the first real stand-out act, wowing us with their sincere and rather wonderful blend of classical, medieval and modern minimalist influences. Just your usual festival band, really: bassoon, guitar, clarinet, chamber singing. And if people were turning up for shelter (theirs was the only area protected from the rain), they were staying for the music.
We caught the last couple of songs by the Orange Blossom Special, an ace banjo-playing duo, and liked (and in some cases fancied) Emmy the Great, who played bitter songs about break-ups then undermined the effect by reading out the football results. But the best set of Saturday was almost certainly the ever-reliable Super Furry Animals. Big lights, zany headgear, local-ish hero status and a back catalogue of instantly recognisable songs = success. Top stuff.
The rain finally cleared for a few moments on Sunday while the Bowerbirds brought their sweet harmonies and barbed, bucolic lyrics to the main stage. Having seen them twice since, we are now officially stalking this band, and suggest you do the same when they return to our shores in September.
Laura Marling has the sort of singing voice that sounds perfect even when it slips off the note (not that it does that very often) and made the crowd fall in love with her the moment she stepped on stage. And The National looked like a group of teachers putting on a show at an end-of-term assembly but inspired hysteria with a set of incredible emotional power.
Pentangle rounded off the festival – nice moment: ‘We’re called Pentangle, and we’re now going to play our hit” – and with that it was all over. We headed back to discover that a passing camper lacking in both human decency and sphincter control had left us a present by our vehicle. And the weekend thus ended as it had begun, with the shit hitting the van.