CMU Festival Review: Green Man

My third year running at the Green Man and this time around I was suffering from a debilitating cold. I’ve heard all the man-flu jibes but this wasn’t the weekend to be feeling ill as heavy rain fell for much of the festival.

However, in my experience, rain is partly to be expected of any trip to Wales, and I wasn’t going to let it spoil things, even if it did mean favouring “things in tents”. It was this thinking that led us to the cinema tent early on Friday afternoon for some short films organised by 7″ cinema. Drying off and watching some classic cartoons was a good start to the proceedings.

Via the Green Man pub – taking in the hunting pictures and clocks that make this more than another beer tent – we found ourselves Far Out watching The Hundred In The Hands’ electro-pop, which was pretty good. Fionn Regan on the main stage during a dry spell, sounded inoffensive enough, but it really was all about the Far Out tent for us on Friday night.

Sleepy Sun struggled with a poor sound balance meaning the lead singer wasn’t really heard, which was a real shame as their last song hinted at great possibilities. Next, though, was the highlight of the entire festival, and I know we’ve banged on about Steve Mason almost as much as Justin Bieber in CMU recently but I thought he would be the best thing of the weekend and I wasn’t disproved.

Starting with a stripped down version of The Beta Band’s ‘Dr Baker’ and then playing the highlights of his ‘Boys Outside’ album, and a King Biscuit Time number, he finished on a song he doesn’t play very often but which was wholly appropriate given the conditions, another Beta Band song, ‘Dry The Rain’. In fact, it was so impromptu, it seemed, that Mason had to advise his drummer on a bongo beat, while the keyboard player was given the simple job of knocking a couple of sticks together, but when it all came together it was a pretty phenomenal way to finish the set.

On in the tent after Steve Mason were Fuck Buttons, who I have now seen live three times, and I never want to see them again. Not that they are bad, in fact, the first time I saw them at Green Man three years ago I was very impressed with the show and the relentless build up, but after watching them from the balcony at Hammersmith Apollo, where the dramatic lights were replaced by a view of two guys twiddling knobs, I didn’t expect much from this return appearance. They were good, to be fair, but it really is like an aural rape standing through their full set, so powerful and unrelenting are the noises they squeal out of their machines.

So then to another band I’d been disappointed with before, but on this occasion Doves impressed me. Maybe it was low expectations but when they soar, they do it pretty impressively. Lead singer Jimi Goodwin was entranced by the gossamer nature of the bubbles that were blowing across the arena throughout and it was quite a beautiful scene, man.

My cold was kicking in at this point but I couldn’t go to bed without having a bit of a gander at DJ Yoda’s VJ antics and a fine collection of amusing videos he mixed and matched for our entertainment.

In the morning, we headed into the arena around midday to check out the California vibes of El Goodo, just in time for the most dramatic rainstorm of the weekend, which left us bedraggled and searching for shelter, which was a shame because they sounded pretty good. Still, the cinema tent was the venue for possibly the second most entertaining thing all weekend from the half cut members of Sweet Baboo. With songs about how good a dancer he is, how he is in the best band in the world and other similar grand claims, it takes a certain amount of chutzpah and wit to pull off, but luckily they have both in spades.

From there we checked out Besnard Lakes on the main stage, their proggy sounds kinda getting lost in the arena in the afternoon and failing to grab the attention. Johnny Flynn was less poppy and more folky than I imagined him and was quite-good-if-you-like-that-sort-of-thing.

Our choice of These New Puritans didn’t quite pay off, we left after two songs of overblown melodramatic posturing and went to see Trevor Lock get heckled by children in the comedy tent. From there Billy Bragg was excellent on the main stage, holding the crowd with a guitar and some banter as the seasoned pro he is.

Apparently the Flaming Lips were great, playing a psychedelic set with some new tricks, but unfortunately I was tucked up in my tent by that point feeling sorry for myself.

We weren’t able to stay until the end on Sunday either, which was a shame because the sun had come out by that point. Before we left, Darwin Deez played a bizarre show as we were reclining on the bank, part choreographed dance and part pretty average pop, all I took from the performance was that they knew how to make the most of what they had, and you can’t say fairer than that.

I’ve written about my bafflement when it comes to the praise that is levelled at Animal Collective before but, glutton for punishment, I was talked into going to see their movie ‘ODDSAC’ in the cinema tent. Not what I would call a pleasant experience, the bizarre representations at the beginning were strange enough but when the scene with the family eating marshmallows around a fire turned into a horror show with vampires it was too much for my addled state of mind to take.

Field Music on the other hand were a nice way to finish, with some well crafted tunes and a cheerful stage presence, just the thing for a Sunday afternoon.


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