Green Man

All the action from Brecon Beacons

With three days of alternate light rain and heavy rain forecast, 10,000 people made their way to the Glanusk Park Estate in the Brecon Beacons loaded with wellies and cagoules for the Green Man festival.

But instead of the predicted downpours, the scenic site was bathed in sunlight with only the occasional shower, until the heavens opened on Monday morning as the weary festival-goes packed-up their tents.

The first act of the festival Clash caught were Pivot, Warp’s only Australian signing, who unleashed a barrage of prog-rock with pounding beats and scratchy melodies clawing their way through the mix. After their onslaught of a set on the Far Out Stage, it was over to the Green Man Pub for some more relaxing alt-folk in the sunshine. After a handful of lesser known acts, including up-and-coming folk star Mary Hampton and Erland and the Carnival, who play contemporary versions of traditional folk songs, it was over to the main stage in anticipation of Friday night’s headliners, Animal Collective.

But before the New Yorkers took to the stage came one of the highlights of the festival – a set by the incredible Roky Erickson, founder of the 13th Floor Elevators. After spending three years in Texas’ Hospital for the Criminally Insane – due to a penchant for copious LSD consumption – and a couple of decades battling the his demons, Roky took the stage with his flowing grey beard blowing in the wind and grinded out some immense blues riffs. His set varied from dark, heavy musings on the occult, such as ‘Night of the Vampire’ through to the yearning ‘Starry Eyes’, which nodded in the direction of Neil Young at his most tender.

Then, with darkness setting in, it was time for Animal Collective. After garnering rave reviews across the boards for their last album ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’, the bar was set high for the psychedelic explorers. But, sadly, they fell short of the mark. The three piece opened with 20 minutes of ambient krautrock noodling, which left much of the audience underwhelmed, with the music sidelined in favour of drinking and conversation. They managed to claw their way back towards the finale of their set with a couple of off-kilter, harmonised vocal-drenched numbers, but after their meandering start, failed to live up to expectations.

Stornoway were the ideal way to ease the excesses of the night before, with 45 minutes of slick, pastoral pop balladry, before the brilliant Jonny took to the stage. Don’t be fooled by the purposefully run-of-the-mill, mundane name, Jonny are anything but. It’s the collaboration between Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub and Euros Childs, formerly frontman in psychedelic Welsh pioneers, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, and is in equal measures lovelorn finger-picked numbers and quirky Casio keyboard based tracks, dripping in melancholy. The duo haven’t released a single note on record yet, but have been working on the material for the past few years, and when it does see the light of day – which is expected in 2010 – it’s set to be something very special.

As darkness started to set in around the festival site, Grizzly Bear took to the Main Stage for a set of inch-perfect folk-rock, shot through with fizzing guitars and – one of the staples of this year’s festival – emotive harmonised vocals. They were followed by Bon Iver, whose delicate album of heartbreak ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’, was transformed live. The gentle log cabins strum-alongs were shifted up a gear and given some punch by his backing band, as Bon Iver’s falsetto vocals sounded every bit as much a call-to-arms as a means of conveying isolated introversion.

Jarvis Cocker brought Saturday night to a close with a set of material from his recent album and the rockier numbers from his previous solo outing. With a drum-heavy sound and buzzsaw guitars it was the former Pulp frontman at his heaviest in years, but the grinding music was perfectly set off by his effete dancing across the stage as he tossed lollypops into the crowd.

Zun Zun Egui provided one of the most experimental sets of the weekend on the final day. The Bristol four-piece tread the surprisingly fertile ground between discordant Fugaziesque hardcore and tropicalia, with periods of avant-garde noise merging into quirky funk-driven sun-kissed moments of reprise. Then it was time for lulling in the sunshine as members of Fife’s Fence Collective collaborated for a couple of hours of sweet, understated folk tunes with the occasional hum of subtle electronics. It was a rare opportunity to hear versions of a range of songs from the collective, many of which were covers originally penned by artists who refuse to perform live.

Camera Obscura took to the main stage in the afternoon with a crowd pleasing set of intelligent indie, with slight leftfield leanings and vulnerable vocals encompassing heartbreak and drawing strongly from their enchanting most recent album, 2006’s ‘Let’s Get Out of This Country’. At 10.30pm on Sunday night, with the Main Stage field packed, it was time for some of the founding fathers of modern day alt-country, Wilco. With seven albums under their belts the six-piece worked their way through a disparate range of material, veering from gentle country ballads through to up-tempo strum alongs, ending with an encore of a climactic volley of distorted guitars, driving drums and impassioned vocals.

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