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Under Welsh Woods... Green Man Festival Provides Perfect Escapism

Green Man Festival, held in Glanusk Park within the Welsh Brecon Beacons, shy’s from the broad and unflinching scale of larger festivals. Instead opting for an experience driven organic, Pagan infused gathering with folkloric undertones.

Held within breath taking Welsh countryside and boasting a two and a half thousand foot mountain as a scenic backdrop and more ancient trees than you could wave a stick at, Greenman's setting provides a perfect environment for urban, and rural existential escapism. As a small scale festival the feeling is relaxed and festival goers are spoilt with a range of activities, stages, acts and food to choose from.

A lack of super star names suits the low key, secretive feel of the festival, and facilitates a diverse and mutable ongoing line-up. This year Hot Chip, St Vincent and Super Furry Animals rose to the challenge of being the biggest crowd drawing acts. Hot Chip delivered a much needed energy boost for those experiencing the Friday night slump, ending a paradoxically mechanical and organic high octane set with an impressive cover of 'Dancing in the Dark'.

Super Furry Animals were possibly the biggest draw performing after a solid and nostalgic performance by ‘Television’ and, exuding the tangible sense of national pride evident in the crowd with a stage presence that mixed Celtic heritage with Pop Art reference points. In white boiler suits and Power Ranger masks they preached Welsh pop Anthems to a devout and devoted crowd.

St Vincent ended proceedings on the main stage with a set on Sunday night, despite intermittent rain her flawlessly prepared showmanship won over the crowd and was a visual treat in contrast to the more casual feel of the festival with elements of ballet-esque physicality interwoven in the energy driven dominant and tense sound of the spectacle.

This is not, however, a festival solely dominated by the major acts. Without looking too hard many musical delights could be unearthed. Possibly one of the most profound performances came from Meic Stevens. The seventy three year old Welsh folk legend charmed and enchanted the audience with a mixture of songs sung in Welsh and English, and a sound imbued with flavours from Jackson C Frank, Bert Jansch and Donovan (his Contemporaries), particularly worthy of mention was a moving rendition of ‘Blues run the Game’, which, surprisingly, given its subject matter made the sun come out. A sensation of music supernaturally affecting the mood and climate of the festival is not uncommon at Green Man.

Away from the main stage the feeling of a carnival or Pagan village fayre was more potent. A series of small scale performances in the walled garden from the likes of Black Yaya, Sweet Baboo and Jane Weaver were intimate audio delights.

In the far out tent, the second largest venue Bat for Lashes and Toy collaborated on a relentless droning and entrancing set as the festivals 'Special Guests' a spectical that could very well have been interpreted as a ritualistic summoning of damnation as the aptly named SexWitch, accompanied by lumbering backing music that hovered with expertise between melody and discord to the sound of vocals, screamed and sung to devastatingly, frighteningly and beautifully perfect effect.

On Sunday the main stage was given a dose of sunny American optimism from the soft rocking ‘Matthew E White’. An awe inspiring musical sermon delivered expertly with a tightness and competence equal to Led Zeppelin or the Faces in their prime. Guitars were thrown and caught with little more than a blink.

The festival closed with the ceremonial burning of the twenty foot high Green man amid an impressive fireworks display. This was a perfect note to end the spiritual revelry and sanctuary of the previous few days and a symbolic ending to an impressive, unique and unusual festival.

To find out more about Green Man Festival click here.

Words by James Stevenson