Green Man Festival, Glanusk Estate, Powys
Thursday 26 August 2010
Set on one of the most beautiful festival sites, the Glanusk Estate in Wales' Black Mountains, the Green Man Festival returns for its eighth year. A family-friendly vibe and an eclectic line-up – plus the only 24-hour drinks licence of any UK festival – means that Green Man has a staunch following and a particularly welcoming atmosphere.
Not that this isn't severely tested by the soggy weather; a rain cloud settles over the Sugar Loaf Mountain, the stunning backdrop to the main stage, on the first day and stays there stubbornly for most of the weekend. Festival early-birds seek shelter in the Far Out big top, but it's not just to escape the drizzle: Green Man is also playing host to the British premiere of the "lost" Leonard Cohen documentary, Bird on a Wire. Filmed during Cohen's 1972 tour by Tony Palmer, who introduces it in person, this is a wonderful movie – intimate, intense, poetic and often moving.
Beirut bring their Eastern European-flavoured tunes to the main stage, with strident trumpets, ukulele strums and oom-pah rhythms, topped by Zachary Francis Condon's yearning voice. Doves round off the first night of music with songs from across their four albums, their expansive, soaring vocals and melodies proving suitably epic for the headline slot.
The new-folk contingent is out in force, with popular performances from Johnny Flynn, Laura Marling and Mumford & Sons. Billy Bragg's pared-down set is more old school, just him and his guitar – although there are good-humoured political messages a-plenty and rallying cries to reject cynicism.
Headlining the next night are The Flaming Lips, whose extravagant show – complete with balloons, "magic dust" glitter, a crowd-surfing space ball and trippy visuals – enraptures the audience. Their final number, "Do You Realise?", is a sublime psychedelic spirit-raiser and the highlight of the weekend.
A subdued but dedicated crowd brave torrential rain to hear American harpist and Green Man favourite Joanna Newsom and her band as the weekend draws to a close. She's demonstrably fond of the festival too; they crossed the Atlantic especially for the show, and Newsom's bewitching presence out-performs even a downpour of torrential rain to round off the weekend nicely.
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