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Review: Green Man Festival 2013 – Friday

Beki Kidwell


The picturesque Green Man Festival takes place beneath the Black Mountains in Brecon Beacons national park. I believe it to be the most magical location for a British music festival to take place. Guests tend to resemble those fortunate hippies that tread the fields of Woodstock ’69, while the music offered is a wholly unique experience in itself.

Opening the Mountain Stage and kicking Green Man off to a dazzling start was Derbyshire-based trio Haiku Salut. Let it be said: These women are brilliant. Using ukuleles, accordions, mind-altering laptop trickery, keyboards and glockenspiels, the sound coming from the stage transformed the crowd into shiny, happy people. Their debut album Tricolore was released on March 25th 2013 to the open arms of their many fans. Their sound has been likened to the beautiful ‘Amelie’ film soundtrack and their look – a combination of glitter and authority with an endless ability to captivate.  Eerie, crashing beats mingled around whispering tones evoked a sense of calm mania from the crowd – we wanted to start a revolution, right after finishing our pint.

With a new lease of life, I wandered to the Chai Wallah’s tent (always a favourite of mine at GM). About to enter the stage were Gringo Ska, a rockabilly/ska band from Somerset, who began what was probably the fastest mass dance off that I’ve seen in many years. Within moments of their first song, the place was bouncing. The sun was shining outside and the place was packed, much to the bands obvious enjoyment, as well as mine – the atmosphere was truly happy, with the music reflecting the spirit of the colourful crowd.

Born in New York, Annie Dressner released her newest EP titled ‘East Twenties’ on April 8, 2013 – and it’s success is fast coming and very blatant. She has a following of fans that listen to her music religiously, as if her lyrics are a letter addressed only to them. The crowd was packed to the brim and as I stood idly at the mid-way point, I heard a growing tremble of cheers coming from the front row like a Mexican wave.  Her voice is irrefutably soft and quirky with an elegance to it that became crisper as the gig went on. She proves to be quite a small presence on stage, yet she makes it very difficult to become distracted; letting each song drift into one another with ease, giving nobody a reason to leave, and plenty a reason to stay.

A little later, after trying three different ciders from the 99 Beers & Cider Festival taking place in the Court, I returned to the Walled Garden to see the first band of the day that I purposely decided to see. Previously known as Lulu and the Lampshades, Landshapes originate from London and comprise of four people with plenty of aptitude and skill when presented with a stage full of instruments – and Luisa Gerstein (their lead singer) demonstrating a powerful set of lungs.

Crowd favourites In Limbo and Cups (You’re gonna miss me) fell, strangely, on people sat tapping their feet. Until the girls requested a few people to get up and dance, it wasn’t happening, which seemed a shame as the music was everything a festival goer looks for in a set – loud, fast, up-beat and led by four people swimming in talent. By their third song, there was a good amount of people dancing at the front – much to the girl’s delight after announcing “we are amazed by the weather and the amount of people sitting down, we want you all to dance!”

By far my ‘band of the day’, Landshapes – in all meanings of the phrase – killed it. Their set lifted the spirits of those feeling the exhaustion from standing in the hot weather, displayed tremendous professionalism and presented the GM crowd with a fantastically thought-out set list and some top class tunes.

Midlake took to the stage later that night, while the Green man gorilla held flames high above the heads of the audience and the place filled with those who’d had a little too much to drink. The set opened with a U2-esque monochrome shot of the keyboardist with fake smoke rising behind him. It was very atmospheric and somewhat pointless; while some of the disillusioned crowd readied themselves for what was obviously going to be an opening love ballad with plenty of over the top guitar riffs, fans of the band knew better. The Texas-based band opened with a triumphant bang, crash and wallop of instruments with lead vocalist/guitarist Eric Pulido’s booming, beautiful voice entering the arena to a very relieved crowd. They played some of my favourite oldies like Roscoe, but focused more-so on songs from their new album, Antiphone. Each aspect of the show was faultless – the lighting merged dark reds, blues and greens to form a subtle rock & roll vibe, the bands enthusiasm got the crowd going and even the U2-style filming became pretty spectacular after just a few songs. I find it safe to say, that what I can take from the weekend, if anything, is the knowledge that there is another great American rock band out there that can put on a bloody good show.