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Green Man - Glanusk Estate, Brecon Beacons - August 15-18 2013 (Live Review)

Thursday, 29 August 2013 Written by Dave Ball

After 10 years of steady growth, the 2013 edition of Green Man Festival was the biggest and best yet. Its setting alone makes it something special every year, residing as it does at the Glanusk Estate in Wales' Brecon Beacons. It's not every weekend you get to be at a music festival based in an area of outstanding natural beauty. 

While Green Man is of course a music festival at heart it's so much more than that. It's everything else that goes on at the event that makes it so special; the care and love put into every aspect by the organisers evident around every corner.

As an independent festival the lack of commercial pressure means you get quality and value unheard of at many events. The food is superb, the beer plentiful and well priced. The children’s areas were popular, as usual, and bigger than ever. They were good fun to nose around even as an adult, and there were the usual variety of stalls including vintage second hand clothes, hand made wood carvings, local crafts and plenty of music from independent stores Rough Trade and Tangled Parrot among others. 

The cinema tent hosted a huge variety of screenings. After enjoying half an hour of a silent Slovenian short film, you could take in Shut Up And Play The Hits and Withnail And I. Talking Shop featured some fascinating segments, with Pete Paphides’ interview with James Yorkston a particular highlight, while the standard of the comedy line up was particularly high. Big names included the excellent Josh Widdicombe, while Mike Bubbins and Bethany Black were also hilarious.

This is a review of a music festival though, and there were brilliant performances everywhere, with the best of the lot coming Thursday from Patti Smith, who was mesmerising throughout her set in the Far Out Tent. Among the headliners there was a a lot of variety, with Kings Of Convenience's polished acoustic harmonies on Friday’s Mountain Stage a direct contrast to Fuck Buttons’ electronic intensity on Far Out and Ben Howard's pop singalongs lined up opposite Swans’ heavily layered grandiosity to close things up on Sunday. 

Saturday’s Mountain Stage headliners, Band of Horses, were the pick of the top-billed acts as they blasted through an incredible set with such energy that the day’s rain was forgotten. They were ably helped along by a fantastic sub headline slot from the Horrors. Public Service Broadcasting were the pick of Walled Garden acts, drawing a huge crowd as their quirky songs and unique crowd interaction won out.

Across the three main stages other high points included British Sea Power, who performed amid a stage full of foliage and to a massive crowd at the Far Out. On the same stage, Blaenavon and Wild Smiles both provided some fuzzy guitar rock for those of us who were looking for something a bit edgier on Saturday afternoon. 

As always with Green Man there was plenty of folk and Americana with some of the better performances coming from Bear’s Den, Annie Dressner, Joe Banfi, Huw M, Fossil Collective, Rozi Plain and Zervas and Pepper, whose summery tunes seemed to will the rain to wait for them to finish their slot opening Saturday’s Mountain Stage. All of this without mentioning solid turns from Edwyn Collins, Midlake, Stornoway and Phosphorescent

Last but not least, the new Green Man Rising stage was a great success. Showcasing the best up and coming artists, there was a host of wonderful performances with the pick of the bunch coming from Laurence Made Me Cry, R Seiliog and Dan Bettridge, who is going to be an absolute star in the near future. 

Local Natives (who were also very good) hit the nail on the head when they told the Mountain Stage crowd on Sunday night that they loved the festival because it wasn't covered in branding and was truly independent. This was an event with a huge amount of love, care and attention put into every tiny aspect, which made it what it is. Enormous credit should go to the organisers for maintaining that personality, and long may it continue.


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