Green Man Festival: Saturday
Once the enthralling night time world has dissipated and the sun reigns once again, we are back where we were yesterday, on the slopes of the amphitheatre.
Mutual Benefit- Mountain Stage
A very zoned out, dreamily spoken frontman tells us: ‘Its great how you lot all just sit there while we make sounds at you’. But it’s sincere, and rather amusing to have the extremely civilised nature of the Green Man audience actually made reference to by the musician. In our case, we just lay there as Mutual Benefit serenade us sweetly, lulling us almost to sleep (but in a good way, not a boring one). It feels more like a saccharine background than a full on show. No bad thing though. It’s the perfect remedy for a sleep-deprived, early afternoon crowd.
Our chat with Will from East India Youth!
Turns out even the toilets have delights in store, as the male of one us caught one-man explosive East India Youth aka Will in the urinals. He tells us he’s gutted that his own set headlining The Walled Garden clashes with Mercury Rev’s, as ‘Deserter’s Songs’ is one of his favourite albums. His feelings about the festival contrast with ours however, as he tells us he prefers a dance festival to the indie-pagan vibes of Green Man. We do agree on a couple of important points however, as he, like us, and just about everyone else ever, is really excited for The War On Drugs’ set tonight. Secondly, he has been a Caribou fan for many years, and thought his set was absolutely fantastic. Though after our conversation I am still left bewildered at how he can possibly not be touched by the magic of Green Man, and how he can think there was much more magic in Jon Hopkins’ set at Beacons. Beats me…
Fat White Family- Far Out
The festival programme tips them as the best new rock band, but given their shocking, shitty stage antics, I’m worried maybe they will be too much for the festival’s utopian hippie crowd. However, it turns out we all enjoy a bit of sludge. (Thankfully, there is no human faeces in sight.) The set is definitely a welcome, refreshing dose of dirty, dystopian rock within a line-up of shimmering indie acts. Punters are turned to the dark side as the band ooze their slime into our ears. They sound like a grimy old vinyl being played at 33rpm when it should be on 45. It really does capture one’s attention however, as they turn from slow, twanging guitars to bloodcurdling shrieking in an instant. The ‘wildest’ stage antics are the guitarist shouting out a thank you to “the two Scottish guys who gave me some pills last night.” So no one in the audience is left scarred.
Fat White Family do have real stage presence- their only rival really is Eagulls’ George Mitchell in the prize for most controversial, abrasive and impressive front man in up and coming rock. He’s highly cocky (of course, humility is nice but in doses, cockiness is good in a frontman too) as he sheds his shirt to reveal his skeletal frame. Looking emaciated and malnourished- his body fits the music. I mean this in the most complimentary of ways, if you can’t tell. He jolts, thrusts, fits and raises his arms to embrace the sludge. A group of converted lads beside me throw off their shirts and do the same. Turns out once the slime has penetrated, it’s difficult to escape.
The War On Drugs- Mountain Stage
For the past couple of days I’d heard excited mentions around the festival of The War on Drugs. It seemed they were the name on everyone’s lips, despite not being a headliner. When it came to the performance, the turn-out was phenomenal. I don’t think I would be far wrong to say it was perhaps the biggest crowd of the festival. 2014’s release ‘Lost in the Dream’ is for me, the best record of the year- a shimmering masterpiece and the perfect summer soundtrack. The thing that really amazes about the band is their simplicity; they make their music with apparent effortlessness, yet the result is enviably beautiful Americana. Their performance is flawless, making one feel totally absorbed and at peace.
Where they really impress live is in their tendency to sail away with some awe-inspiring improvisation, which feels so totally natural within the song, you almost don’t notice it happening. Frontman Adam Granduciel laughs: “Sorry, I got a bit carried away there”- the band are completely swept up in their music too. Adam makes highly self-aware banter with the audience, joking about his heavy use of the delay pedal: “What’s this thing in front of me? I don’t know how to use it, I’m not good with this model.” He’s a wizard and he knows it.
I’ve never felt so disappointed by a show ending- a band’s departure has never seemed quite so premature. It was probably one of the fastest flitting hours of live music by one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen. An immaculate set, worthy of a headliner. We really were lost in the dream.
Mercury Rev- Mountain Stage
Mercury Rev are the actual headliners, making an exclusive UK festival appearance playing their legendary 1998 album ‘Deserter’s Songs’ in full. When frontman Jonathan Donahue appears upon the stage last (an irritating convention of singers) and repeatedly makes magician-like hand gestures throughout, it appears to me a tad gimmicky. However, I realised throughout the performance that really, he just harnesses a lot of energy, which he absorbs from the crowd, the night, the music- and it makes him feel magical. Really it’s very apt on this spellbinding night.
A full performance of the album makes the progression of tracks ultimately natural. As the set draws to its close, Jonathan makes an extremely moving dedication at a time when the issues of suicide and depression are in popular debate. He speaks of the suicide of his friend, Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous and the band play the sweetly melancholic ‘Sea of Teeth’ from Sparklehorse’s 2001 album ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. As they play, Jonathan looks up to heavens in an attempt to make a connection with his fallen friend.
You can tell how much Mercury Rev relish this headline opportunity. Jonathan makes a touching speech, thanking all the people of Green Man for making such a wonderful festival happen, and for allowing the band a new lease of life that they wouldn’t find at any other festival, where “much younger, cooler and better looking” bands would be booked. After all, it is really the festival goers who have the power to shape the music choice.
The band seems completely rejuvenated by the experience. During ‘Sea of Teeth’ there is a particularly powerful moment where Jonathan tries to clasp the energy of the music and festival in his hands. As he does so he fits, his eyes rolling back in his head, showing how he deeply feels the power of this festival in his soul. Mercury Rev are triumphant.
It is wonderful when a band plays a festival because they really really love it, not for want of attention or money. This is the case for Mercury Rev, as Jonathan himself tells us with profound sincerity that “Green Man is really the best there is” in UK festivals. It is thoroughly uncommercial and full of soul. I deeply hope that throughout the years, the festival will retain its unique spirit, and remain small but mighty.