Live Music + Gig Reviews

The Green Man 2008: Day 2 @ Glanusk Park, nr Crickhowell, Brecon Beacons

16 August 2008

Today was not only the start of the football season, but also the final of the 100 metres in the Olympic Games.

But who in their right mind gives a Will O’ The Wisp about Usain Bolt’s ludicrous world records and Man Utd being held at home when Green Man Festival is on, even if this Saturday was arguably the most uncomfortably sodden day in the event’s history?
There was, of course, a great deal of sublime music on display, but it was at about 1am in the cinema tent where your reviewer did stumble across the essence of this festival, and it wasn’t music.

It was a heart-warming hour spent in the company of a much-frazzled, gentle young man giving a lecture on the psychedelic effects of smoking Mugwort. That’s Mugwort, the weed you find by the side of the motorway.

Apparently, its effects are mild, but you feel as though “Mugwort is living through you, communicating with the rest of the world,” because “Mugwort is a human too, and we need to respect our relationship with it and all other plants”. This seemed wise at 1am in the unremitting rain.

He went to on to explain the folklore and heathen history surrounding the plant, before he handed over to a man lecturing on magic. But at that point it all seemed a bit silly. So we left.

That was the fondest memory of the second day, yet there was some decent music on earlier. The Yellow Moon Band are the new vehicle for Jo and Danny, the folk duo who started off the Green Man Festival. Perhaps mirroring the festival’s evolution itself, they have eschewed their acoustic origins to embrace a meandering psychedelic vibe reminiscent of stoner gods Dead Meadow, who stole the show last year. Danny proved himself a tidy electric guitarist, as well as a dab hand on electric mandolin. A captivating set in the Folkey Dokey Tent from the mummy and daddy of the festival.

Before them on the Main Stage was Jennifer Gentle, an Italian band who are, well, strange. Their vocalist’s freakish voice and oddly music-hall-like melodies, and idiosyncratic narratives for lyrics, they are comparable with Wild Beasts, who performed later in the Folkey Dokey. Italian indie rock has never had it so good. In fact, this is probably the first time they’ve ever had it at all. Plus they take their name from a Pink Floyd song; Pink Floyd in their acid-drenched, Syd Barrett phase. Jennifer Gentle are clearly Green Man material.

During the unfortunate Howlin’ Rain‘s set, the rains howled more than ever before, and it got to the point that even the bars weren’t enough of a distraction. The San Franciscans are a fascinating proposition, with Ethan Miller’s Joe Cocker voice and Allman Brothers-esque instrumental sprightliness. However, like many, our next few hours were spent stewing in a tent wondering at what point it became not worth it.

But this ennui only lasted until Richard Thompson emerged on to the Main Stage. Billed rather hyperbolically in the programme with “no artist to emerge in the 60s… has gone on to have a more productive and vital career” (clearly this is a world where Bob Dylan, The Beatles and Neil Young are phantoms), he went on to perform a set that must have felt like going through the motions for him, but was a lesson to us all anyway. I Want To Hear The Bright Lights Tonight, as ever, stood out, as one of the Godfathers of what this festival stands for swept all before him.

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