Live Music + Gig Reviews

The Green Man 2008: Day 1 @ Glanusk Park, nr Crickhowell, Brecon Beacons

15 August 2008

When it pisses down with rain at a music festival, fans and performers alike are quick to declare everyone braving it as the hardiest, most devoted fans they could possibly be.

“Wow, you guys must really love music,” said Howlin’ Rain‘s Ethan Miller as he stood on stage on the Saturday afternoon, visibly bemused by the Welsh deluge, and even more disconcerted by the fact a sizable crowd had inexplicably gathered to watch him and his band.
However, on the first day (oh, happy first day!), the sixth Green Man Festival held all the magical promise and anticipation of the first day of any great festival, baked as it was in sunshine.

Capping the capacity at 10,000 was a good idea, while organisers had moved the Folkey Dokey Tent back to its 2006 spot; another good decision, although the bottle-necks and consequent mud baths, did little for this beautiful Glanusk Park site, savaged as it was by the wellies of 10,000 hippies.

The Main Stage opened with Cats In Paris, a quite remarkable Manchester band specialising in proggy, synthy, funky, weird pop. Their single, Foxes, provided the most startlingly original song of the entire weekend, yet it occurred within the first hour, before cider had started to flow, questionable substances had been smoked and it rained. Did we mention it rained this year?

The leftfield nature of proceedings continued on the same stage with Fight Like Apes, an Irish, female-fronted band who reek of Hoxton, with their hard electro beats, play-fights on stage and lyrics about ‘fucking her’ and ‘sticking it up her’. A LOT of fun, if not something worth more than an hour’s attention, probably even for themselves. It felt like the lilting sense of pastoralism pervading Green Man had been somewhat invaded, albeit in the best possible way.

Now while headliners Spiritualized, and indeed Drive-By Truckers, James Yorkston and King Creosote before them, were essential focal points in this year’s line-up on the Main Stage, it was over at the Folkey Dokey Tent where the really interesting stuff was going down.

One trick ponies The War On Drugs performed their one trick to perfection, that being drone-rock, not a solo in sight, with a little bit of Wilco-ish acoustic fun in for good measure. They acted as the appetiser for the freakishly energetic O’Death who, shirtless, hirsute and angry, ploughed through a set of electric gypsy-folk that turned the temperature in this sauna of a tent up a notch.

Then there was Fuck Buttons, who again only know how to do one thing, and it is barely music. The collective head-fuck the audience received was clearly too much for many here, as several members left the tent during the duo’s set. With their computers and gadgets, there was nothing either Folkey or Dokey about Fuck Buttons, yet the steamy area in front of stage was like a birds nest of chicks being fed, so aghast were so many.

The evening became truly special as The Cave Singers performed what must have been among the finest set of their career. The West Coasters have had a fine, fine year, which felt thoroughly culminated here. Their album Invitation Songs exhibited folkish melancholy to a tee, centred round singer Pete Quirk’s wonderfully nasal voice, yet live they are a cauldron of beautiful pain, as Quirk becomes possessed by his own seemingly unbearable anguish.

The intimate and packed nature of the tent only served to emphasise their passion, which could be matched only by their mates Black Mountain, who are, quite simply, the best live heavy rock band in the world. In an extended set, Druganaut and Don’t Run Our Hearts Around belted away The Cave Singers’ blues. They even had time to improvise, and chat about their affection for the band that preceded them. Together they provided a couple of hours to pass into Green Man folklore.

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