With Mogwai, Dark Dark Dark, Slow Club and more
Mogwai - Green Man Festival 2012

To look around one can’t help but notice the beautiful greenery of the picturesque Welsh countryside. Sprawling, sheep-dotted hills spill down into the valley where Glanusk Park is situated. The air is fresh with daily rain showers and even the resulting mud can’t dampen the mood of those whose home this will be for the weekend, for there is something pure and wholesome about this place, aptly named Green Man.

Friday afternoon sees English folk rock duo Slow Club take to the Main Stage with a set consisting of songs from 2011 album ‘Paradise’. Rebecca Taylor’s vocal rings out to the assembled audience, soulful and true (if at times a little abrasive in its volume) whilst she and Charles Watson strum in perfect unison. Sweet Baboo joins them on stage for an epic sax solo, which is met by cheers and finally ‘2 Cousins’ receives a well-deserved round of applause.

The evening finds us in Chai Wallah, with Hot Toddy Rum Ting in hand. The blend of hot apple, ginger and rum provides the intoxication that’s required to dance to DJ Cheeba who follows the latest trend in “mash up” DJ sets to lead his audience through a number of artists and genres: from Hendrix to Run DMC and electro to D&B. Not a soul stands still as a sea of arms are held aloft in appreciation.

When Cheeba is spent, a quick stroll across the site leads us back to the Main Stage where headliners Mogwai play out their final few songs. ‘Mogwai Fear Satan’ lulls this unsuspecting punter into a dream-like state with its delicate middle section, soft and perfect, before the band explodes into a deafening frenzy of thrashing guitar: a musical slap in the face causing one to choke on one’s pint.

Saturday’s daytime highlight is Dark Dark Dark. The sun shines down as punters adorn the hill facing the Main Stage, with cider in hand. Hailing from Minneapolis, the folk-based five-piece are led by Nona Marie Envie whose vocals are at times reminiscent of Regina Spektor, whilst their pace and solemnity brings Elbow to mind. Accordion and trumpet are alternated to add texture as songs gradually build with emotional intensity – stirring and beautiful.

Later, Yann Tiersen takes us on a multi-instrumental journey, owing more to his racks of analog synthesizers than to the traditions of French folk music that he’s famed for with the ‘Amelie’ soundtrack. Songs from his last two albums provide the framework for the set, but mid-way through, Tiersen takes his violin and demonstrates his classical training with frightening expertise. He plays a virtuoso solo which builds in speed and dexterity as the strings of his bow snap and curl away one by one, his fingers a blur. The crowd go wild.

Sunday’s recovery time takes us on a stroll through Einstein’s Garden, which is an area that supports the festival’s truly green roots. Stalls educate about sustainability, with pedal-powered phone charging and a solar stage. By night the area looks more like something from Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory with its extravagant flower beds and chocolate-looking mud paths.

Also worth noting at this family festival is the presence of children. Kids are a frightening concept to the child-free contingent of attendees, but these are the best-behaved little pixies: running, playing and giggling to their hearts’ content. One encounter with a family in a giant egg-shaped juke box sees a boy of approximately five years old requesting that his dad play his favourite Beatles songs – his knowledge of their discography is astounding.

Sunday afternoon sees the eagerly anticipated Alt-J take to the Far Out Stage, which is more packed than it has been all weekend. The four-piece play songs from their debut album ‘An Awesome Wave’, with ‘Tessellate’, ‘Matilda’ and ‘Breezeblocks’ providing personal highpoints. Their unusual vocals are crisp and three-part harmonies are at times like that of a barbershop quartet. These guys will be hop, skip and jumping up the bill in years to come.

Green Man is picturesque and peaceful in comparison to some of its British counterparts. A tenth of the size of Glastonbury, this Welsh wonderland continues to delight even the most hardened festival-goer. It is certainly worth a visit.

Words by Becci Ride

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