No welcoming committees or reverential banners lined the ‘istoric city streets of Gloucester but A and I arrived back from the Green Man Festival in the early hours of this morning. It was a low key return witnessed only by the furtive creatures of the shadows. The gentle and kindly fellow was a late replacement for all three Cole females; illness had scuppered their plans to accompany me.
Where to begin? Well, I have plenty to report and I may have to write a bit today and bit more on the morrow. I am wan and weary but keen to post.
I think I can speak for my comrade in proclaiming Green Man 2009 as one of the finest festival experiences ever. After a brace of disheartening wash-outs I was hoping only for fine weather and was ready to salute anything else as a pleasing bonus. Merrily, the sun shone and the site remained dry and there were bonuses galore. The whole vibe of the place was majestic. More kindred spirits thronged the arenas and alleyways than one could shake a Word Magazine subscription form at and the overwhelming friendliness of all Green Manners led to some tremendous chummy chats and the making of some pleasing new pals. Funnily enough, the fifth Ashes Test bonded many a hipster. With thrilling events at the Oval distracting plenty of cats, trannies were pressed to ears and conversations about cricketing matters were manifold. Comradeships galore were nurtured over debates over whether one or two spinners were needed and who should comprise the home side’s middle order. It was so gloriously English and rather beautiful and when the peerless urn was finally reclaimed by a brave eleven, the euphoria proved tangible.
With one or two exceptions (the moribund and uninspiring Roky Erickson and the disappointingly sterile Animal Collective), the music was consistently bewitching, challenging and – important word this – entertaining. “Highlights?” you ask with just a hint of impatience, and rightly so. For me, the most tremendous hour and a half was provided by a sensational Wilco weaving warmth, wisdom and wistful wonder underpinned by charming and exquisite musical skills. This is a remarkable beat combo able to proffer unusual and unconventional soundscapes within fairly traditional country rock terms of reference. I’d bestow ‘essential’ status upon the gnarled Jeff Tweedy and his adroit players. I commend Wilco’s compelling and wondrous numbers to all hepcats. They were remarkable last evening.
If Tweedy (on behalf of the whole band) bounds proudly onto the Cole podium to claim a gold medal for a mesmerising set, who receives the other prizes? Earnest Bon Iver would collect a worthy silver for a stunning quiet-is-the-new-loud performance. Justin Vernon’s renditions of his fragile and reflective masterpieces (against the odds, really, considering how quiet and introspective his songs are) managed to subtly captivate a huge Saturday night crowd with an understated swagger and poise. Bagging a bronze would be the Phantom Band who didn’t exactly exude rock star cool but banged out belter after belter to a remarkably receptive and animated crowd. This affable Scottish collective conjure up magical and textured gems, mixing krautrock sturm und drang wi’ captivating rock riddims. They were fabulous and graced the main stage like old troopers.
Plenty of other acts caught the eye and ear. Grizzly Bear were tremendous value; they harmonised sumptuously and tendered multi-layered brilliance. British Sea Power were as energetic and quirky as ever. Beach House’s studied sonic sensitivities soared smoothly. And I loved the Leisure Society’s affable, raffish allure; this group’s ultra-melodic treasures had me sprinting towards the Rough Trade record store soon after they had finished in order to purchase their latest long player. Heck, it was (almost, almost) all splendid.
I'll write more soon. Glance confidently above for pictures. They, as ever, grow cleverly if clicked. I provide captions:
1. Your host in relaxed mode near the Green Man Cafe stage. All the gentlefolk on the table were charming (even the Cardiff Blues rugby fan sat opposite me) and were desperate for cricket knowledge. England were one wicket away from scooping the Ashes when this photo was taken.