Live Music + Gig Reviews

Green Man 2010: Day 3 @ Glanusk Park, Crickhowell, Powys

22 August 2010

It’s third-day lucky as at last the sun comes out in full force to dry out the grass and smile on the hardy souls who wander through the heat of the early morning, idly kicking at the remains of Flaming Lips’ confetti shower, which blows across the main arena, caught on the breeze like little tissue paper kisses.

It’s now possible to experience the festival – and festival site – at its best, with green hills on either side, blue sky above or eco-science gardens to explore. One of them is full of rubbish performance art and even more rubbish poetry, it’s true, but when it’s warm and dry none of that seems to matter. Join in the hippie craft-making and egg on the hecklers who don’t seem to be entirely sure whether the comedians they’re shouting at are sincere, ironic, post-ironic or a mixture of all three.

The mid-day pub quiz seems considerably less popular when being outside is bearable, but it’s still fun, while out in front of the main stage, there’s a succession of folk-pop royalty waiting to entertain the masses. Field Music prove once again that they deserve to be much bigger than they are, while it’s Laura Marling who draws the biggest crowd of the day, proving to be even more popular than Mumford and Sons, which should surely be impossible.

As the evening draws in, the drizzle returns. Not as hard as it has been on previous days, but still enough to break the spirits of many weekend hippies. By the time Tindersticks take the stage, for a nostalgia-heavy set that recalls their early 90s heyday, the crowd has started to thin out as many of the bedraggled audience decide to call it a day and make their way home. By the time the final act comes along, the area in front of the main stage is starting to look almost embarrassingly empty.

Is it just the rain that’s the cause of this, or is it more to do with a lapse of judgement by the festival organisers? Joanna Newsom is an unusual and perhaps not best judged choice for the closing night headliner. Though something of a stalwart of the Green Man – she and the event have been very good to one another over the years – she is a challenging musician at the best of times and comes with the disadvantage of being a fairly fixed quantity: the audience knows what it’s going to get and already knows whether or not they want it. She’s not a performer who can throw in a well-chosen cover or two to win over the unconverted, nor whip up a sing-along to lift the mood.

She might have been an ideal choice for a warm, blissful afternoon set under a warm sun, but in the dark and drizzle, it all proves too much as she focuses on her more recent, less accessible album Have One on Me than on the better known Ys. Perhaps she thought an album named for a mythical city swallowed by the sea would be just too ironic this weekend.

Newsom is undoubtedly a superbly talented musician, playing complicated tunes on a notoriously difficult instrument, but she perhaps needs the acoustics of the Royal Festival Hall to really shine. A lone harpist on a wet and cold outdoor stage doesn’t really work.

Those who have stayed like what they get. She’s not going to disappoint, as long as what she’s offering is what you want. For many though, it seems that an early pack up or a visit to one of the indoor spaces has appealed more. As Joanna finishes, all that’s left is a quick walk up the hill to watch the burning of the Green Man statue and satisfy your inner pagan for another year.

It’s been wet, and it’s been muddy, but it’s been fun nonetheless: a beautiful setting, with a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, a diverse array of entertainment on offer and music that isn’t afraid to be challenging and different. Despite the mud, Green Man has managed to deliver.

  1. Green Man 2010:
    Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3

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