By Russell Warfield
August 17th-19th, 2012
Green Man 2012 might have been the year when the festival completely transcended my abilities of articulation. At the very least, I’m not going to be able to say anything desperately fresh about it, so let’s start at the most tiredly clichéd, lowest common denominator: we arrived in deluges of rain. Nestled into the crevice of the everlastingly gorgeous Black Mountain range, there have been years when I’ve actually, after grimacing at the swelling Usk on the periphery of the campsite, feared for Green Man’s cancellation. But not only was this year bringing the heavens down with as much Old Testament sadism as I’ve ever seen (or felt), it was the first time I’ve had the misfortune of actually having to put my tent up in that shit. But, in spite of this, it also just so happened to mark the beginning of the best Green Man Festival I’ve been to yet.
This may or may not have something to do with the fact that—in typically mischievous Green Man flavoured pagan sorcery—the rain cleared up at almost the very second my tent was up, and pretty much stayed off for the whole weekend, making room for copious sunny spells in its wake. But, it without question had more to do with the fact that this year’s Green Man offered up some of the finest runs of music it’s ever summoned, especially placed in contrast with the widely regarded low ebb of last year’s offerings. Instead of last year’s meandering, crowd-losing performance from Explosions In The Sky, we were treated to the ground swelling panorama of Mogwai. And instead of closing the weekend on the damp squib of Iron and Wine touring an LP nobody much cared about, we were left for dead by Green Man’s most jaw-droppingly astonishing one-two-three punch in the form of Tune-Yards, The Walkmen, and Feist—possibly the greatest run of live music I’ve ever anticipated on paper, or experienced in reality. Merrill Garbus in particular offered up the most life affirming set of the whole weekend with Tune-Yards—almost impossibly surpassing all previous performances of hers, and earning the first ever mid-afternoon festival encore I’ve ever seen. (It would have taken the world’s bravest, or stupidest, stage hand to try to deny the crowd on this occasion).
— Mogwai, Green Man 2012
Even Van Morrison—a man not exactly defined by his reputation for his joviality—seemed positively impacted by the sunny landscapes and juicy vibes; cracking jokes at his own expense, bantering a little and—most importantly of all—delivering an (hour and a half) bona fide ‘Green Man Moment,’ at the slap bang halfway point of a weekend absolutely stacked with them. Cass McCombs; Three Trapped Tigers; Alt-J; Ghostpoet; Mr Scruff; Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks; Michael Kiwanuka; The Tallest Man On Earth. Essentially, Green Man 2012 was a festival whose programme doubled as a highlights list. Put even more frankly, it’s about as close to perfection as a weekend of live music gets: hosting the loveliest people, with the best real ales, in the most gorgeous location imaginable. (I’ve been to Green Man five years running, and even grew up in Crickhowell, but the view from the top of the site’s natural amphitheatre as you look down onto the Mountain Stage still never fails to catch my breath). And in these increasingly turbulent times for medium sized boutique festivals, Green Man has spent a decade proving that sticking to your guns doesn’t have to go hand in hand with commercial suicide—and they’ve have had a blast doing it. And with that in mind—and with reflection on another sell out this year—the festival’s closing fireworks feel even more sweetly celebratory than usual. Here’s to another ten years.