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Late Doors

Green Man 2014

prolly a load of spelling errors n stuff but here ya go. All four days in one read     if you think that's a toil try writing it.

That time of year again. There are bigger festivals with bigger bands, more media attention and popular acclaim but this is the one for me. About as perfect as a festival can get. I know the "End of the Road"  fest is also great but timing makes it hard for us to get to and with the added bonus of glorious weather and a truly stunning environment the annual Green Man fix is all i need for a three day shot in the arm of all that is good in life. I say three days it has now grown onto a five day trip starting with a leisurely drive down on Thursday morning.

Three of us again this year with Si's car loaded to the gills with camping equipment and three lads who's lithe athletic days can best be described as maturing in memory.

Tewkesbury was the lunch time stop off. None of us had been before and the place seemed a tad staid caught somewhere in between the very old and post war bland without being something unique. Pleasant enough but nothing to entice you back. Excellent fish pie in the genuinely characterful  Nottingham Arms

Abergavenny, the nearest big town to the festival was next for fuel of the fermented apple juice kind before a 90 minute crawl to the site on the congested lane from Crickhowell to the site. It seems more and more are arriving on Thursday and only the driving rain prevented it being excruciating since this would be the normal time for putting up the tent. Better in the car and by the time we had arrived the rain had stopped. By half seven everything was sorted and a couple of ciders tent side and a chat with the neighbours preceded the walk up to the far out stage via a stroll around the area. Great to see our favourite Goan fish curry stall and its neighbour the Moorish north African souka food in their usual position.

The Chai Wallah tent is a smaller next to the far out tent. There's always a great atmosphere there and always throws up some terrific unknown bands to me in a variety of styles. By the Rivers were no exception. Ska jump and shuffle full of energy and some great songs with accomplished musician ship.

The Ace Chai Wallahs

Three Goan fish curries later accompanied by jack white and other tunes over the pa and  we were ready for Thursday night headliners The Waterboys.

This lot seem to have been around forever with their Celtic soul pop. Great festival band with their two jewels Fisherman's Wharf and whole of the moon. That song to  me represents the end of the pub anthem area around 1987. There was always one song where the whole pub sang that everybody loved and captured the age. This was the last before house music and rave took over as a new generation swept in. Still a great song and seemingly also loved by the latest generation of tech savvy twenty somethings with the whole worlds musical archives only a finger press away.

Despite these two being the only bands we saw on Thursday (at any length and from what i remember) it was a great end to the first day as we sauntered back to the tent, had a night cap and tucked in under the canvass as the last of the weekends significant rain peppered the around us.

Friday morning hailed in the mix of sun and cloud that continued throughout the fest. Cool under the cloud, very cold at night but with warm and sunny long spells that defined this year's recollections.

Chef Si dished out the bacon sarnies with spicy firecracker sauce and tea before the terrific picturesque riverside walk to Crickhowell and the fabulous bridge end pub with its equally beautiful riverside beer garden.

We'd seen clips of the massive winter floods in the area earlier on in the year and  chatted to the barman about them. He informed us of the local politics involving the fire brigade as both parties blamed each for the lack of containment and evacuation equipment. Keeping the pump in the cellar doesn't seem the ideal place to keep it given the cellar is the first place to flood but i was quite happy to stay out of the debate and retired to the beer garden with my pint  HB

Back at the fest refreshed the days music started for us with the brilliant Michael Chapman on the main stage. His familiar economic low key Yorkshire twang interspersing the English-American hybrid folk and amazing acoustic guitar with a certain degree of contradiction. His fully qualified survivor album is a modern classic and how to play guitar an established one for me. Well connected as well it would seem as he asked us to say hello to Kurt from him and Bill Callahan. A perfect start.

Tuung next up. They were kind of interesting in a supporting band kind of way. A bit quirky and fragmented  I struggled to label them. "Let's go up to the chai wallahs away from this dreary shit" said Si. Harsh I thought but now that is how i remember  them. Up at the chai wallahs a band called the hot sprockets energised things with some great if unoriginal Canvey island George Thorogood influenced r n b (RnB in the classical sense, not most of the shite that passes fir it nowadays)

A finer Setting? i think not

Last time we saw Jonathan Wilson was a brilliant lengthy set at the Brude. He now had 50 minutes on the main stage in the afternoon sun. We settled on the grass in readiness taking in the vibe around us. We noticed big groups of young lads in '80s gear the previous night and this afternoon it was the young lasses in early '70s post hippy pre punk regalia that caught our eye ( in a completely appropriate observational way of course) fashion  moves in mysterious ways, or at least ways that i do not comprehend. I just think someone in some far flung executive boardroom is having a right laugh right now at the end of those strings they are pulling. As jack white brilliantly said, i think i smell a rat.

On came Jonathan Wilson and band with his long coat a now beard in what has staggeringly become the look de rigueur amongst a certain kind of young man. Maybe it's just because they can.

Alternating entirely between his two epic albums gentle spirit and Fanfare  his consolidated honed set  with not a wasted second was a thing of beauty. Fantastic crafted intelligent songs laced with emotion and delivered with musicianship of the highest order.  A green man high for me.

Sun kill moon on next so we tarried a while in the same position. A bare chested lad danced enthusiastically in a needy  kind of way that had me thinking it would be unkind to mock him before wrestling with his mate. Quite the, errr character he was.

The band set up, seated guitarist center stage with top lad Mark Kozelek behind, also seated with classical guitar classically positioned. This guy is a bit special. A magnificent poetic rhythm in his narrative ridden songs of personal experience and recollection. His melodic picking and oscillating sin wave voice  almost knocking me over with reminisces about personal situations  friends and family over the years. Sometimes he takes center stage with the microphone almost rapping but still with that decorative rhythm and tone. Various British boxers are referenced and he has a humorous friendly disposition with his amiable chat that is nowhere near the platitudes of other performers and is at odds with his surly reputation.

Every song had me enthralled with  the lyrical intensity and Marks precision delivery of them but one of his latest "Micheline" actually produced a few tears I felt running down the side of my face. Three young lasses in front saw, i was a bit embarrassed but it seemed to impress them as momentarily i thought i was 27 again. One of them continued to smile at me throughout the set. It's been 15 years since i had anything like that or maybe i just don't notice anymore as a contented middle aged bloke. It was quite confusing anyway and only complimented what was an immaculate unforgettable hour of something very special from an artist at the top of his brilliant game.

It could have ended there and still have been a brilliant day but this being Green Man there was still lots to enjoy.

Up at the far out tent kids were playing in the hay bales picking it up throwing it at each other with laughter and abandonment. What a treat to see in this day of electronica and the fun industry. Took me right back to the '60s on Kilner bank doing exactly the same thing. The same excited laughter and smiles with the same smell of grass and hay.

Policia were whispering out their sweet but ultimately uninteresting electronica in the far out tent so we headed to the ever reliable chai wallah tent. Sam Green, a young blues band were just falling short with some slide blues but considering their youth were making an admirable noise. Just lacking in power but quite accomplished.

Urban folk quartet didn't quite cut it for us with their fiddles so we headed back to the far out tent.

Mac  Demarco is currently getting acclaim and he was next, Si n Shaun ensconced themselves at the side whilst i made my way into a more central position . Clearly there is massive love for this band as masses if young people made their way excitedly   through the crowd to get nearer them. I had to move further back to feel anything like comfortable. Well I just didn't get it. Utterly average with no redeeming specialness at all. Not bad, just run of the mill indie pop with jaunty angled baseball caps. The crowd loved them though but all three of us had come to the same judgement as we rejoined at the side of the far out tent to watch the test of the set together.

Much cider had been drunk that day, more than we usually have and since headline band Beirut held no appeal for me I retired. By the time I'd got back to the tent the trumpets of Beirut were cutting through in the dark distance making me wish i had stopped. I was fine anyway as i sat outside our tent with a night cap piecing together the day as an ok sounding indie band played in the nearby hurly burly cafe tent. Finally got to sleep after much fumbling in the dark searching for my torch. What is the point of having a torch if you can't find it in the dark? That was my last thought of the day as sleep finally took a hold.


It's definitely not by choice i sleep in a field sheltered only by fabric. It's a case of needs must and making the best of it. It isn't quality sleep but is not without its excitement. Half eight seems to be rising time with mugs of tea and this time Shaun rustling up some mighty fine chorizo and egg sarnies before the 40 minute walk into the charming village of Crickhowell along the River Usk. This time its the Britannia  with their sky tv just in time to watch the mighty whites against 'Boro complete with Jumbo records T Shirt.  

I've watched Leeds united on tellies all over the world and as usual there are other fans in the place and these days always with the same shell shocked stoic demeanour complete with self mocking. There was a time i wouldn't contemplate giving away my season ticket but not now. I text my mate whose lad was in my seat  and shared the 90 minute agony/joy show with him and the others in the pub. A win is a win and i can't deny it set the rest of the day up perfectly.

Back at the fest Neco Case was starting her set on the main stage her striking flame hair visible from our vantage point as her set of classic banjo and pedal steel fuelled CnW swept across the field with her sweet voice and warm patter invitingly started the days music for us.

Had a little walk on my own around the  stately house walled garden area, a micro arena within the fest it generally hosts barely known bands on a small stage but is an intimate setting with its own identity. I had a venison burger whilst watching a cool young band go through their groove with a Jarvis cocker type singer and good tempo control as they built a momentum of sound that reminded me of doves along with Jonathan Richmond. I think they were called my sad captains

The Walled Garden Stage

Hamilton Leithauser has abandoned the Walkmen but for why i don't know. It cant be for musical differences because his band on the main stage are carbon copies. Not a bad thing of course as they played along to a set of his new album. Trade mark fender guitar lines decorated his powerful intense vocals. The songs did seem to have a more personal theme with his own love stories prominent but it was the walkman in every other way which is to say excellent.

By now it was getting nippy so up to the top field where we caught the last bit of Fat White Family and their raunchy set of psycho rock. Pretty damm good, will have to investigate them further

Across at chai wallah. A soul singer was singing a version of ace of spades but the rest of the set seemed to dissolve into blandness. A shame really, she had a great voice and presence just needed some better material for me.

Back down to the main stage and the very lovely girl next door Sharon Van Essen was about to commence her set. She gave us a great collection of womanly perspective countrified Americana complete with inviting chat about her and the band finishing with Hamilton Leithauser joining her for a terrific when the sun comes up I'm in trouble finale.
Daylight was vanishing as we had a little wander taking in a fabulous mackerel curry from the goan fish company.

The toilets at green man are as good as any and well maintained but even they can't keep fresh all day. The communal urinal area outside the main entrance into the main stage area was dark and dingy with that odour of bloke piss no amount of maintenance can counter over a full day. " jeez" a lad said upon entering. "its like the end of Blair witch project in here" to massive laughter.

War on Drugs are an enigma. Theoretically they shouldn't be this good being an '80s derivative taking influence from critically maligned bands. However, like so much modern day alt country Americana they take a bland and often shallow blueprint and blow it apart with fabulous spirited witty and intelligent interpretation. Here at green man they were at their best. A brilliant rampage through gliding roller coaster pop with wonderful guitar lines that wrap around and then thrust through and carry a sparse factoryesque almost synthed drum. Lots of energy and yelps with memorable hooks and ultimately fabulous songs.

Another little wonder around before setting our by now much needed folding seats as near the main stage as reasonable for something a bit special.

Mercury Revs Deserters' Songs for me is one of the great albums of all time and here they were to play it in its entirety within the spectacular and lavish landscape of the Glanusk Estate. A match truly made for each other. On they came and delivered. Jonathan Donahue looking in great ackle wondrously pouring the lyrics into the night with his arms sometime birdlike conducting the band into crescendos and tempo. Not the same running order as the album but still a great symmetry with funny bird and goddess in particular simply stunning. Yeah he doesn't quite hit the vocal highs of the latter but the crowd help him with the "it ain't gonna lasts". The three of us were entrapped and silent.

Then a few words from the clearly moved and seemingly levelled out JD talking about depression and suicide before singing a Sparklehorse song dedicated to his late friend if the band Mark Linkous.

More genuine thanks to the crowd and they finished with Dark Rising From the follow up album All is Dream which for the most part is the equal of Deserters Songs. It ends as usual with the line "in my dreams I'm always strong" complete with arms wide and bent in strong man pose as he stares defiantly to the sky above.

It took a few seconds after the end for all three of us to say wow.
There's been great bands and performers over the years at green man and other festivals but back to back War on Drugs and Mercury Rev were the best pair certainly that I've ever seen at a festival and something i will remember for the rest of my life with rapture.

wow. i mean wow.

Sunday particularly early Sunday was always going to be pub time and there is no better place to be than the bridge end beer garden with mates a few beers, lots of chat and laughs, the Sunday papers and a ridiculously good Sunday dinner. So that's what we did. So much so we bloody forgot about Anna Calvey which is a shame.

By the time we had got back Bill Callahan was the next set i certainly was not prepared to miss but we had time to have a peruse around the far out tent.

Local heroes from Cardiff Johanna gruesome were due next but they cancelled much to the disappointment of their fans. Si and i staid for the stand ins, a band who had played earlier on the day. I can't remember their name but enjoyed the whispy high end Bon Ivor type vocals and their songs had a cool depth to them.

Speedy Ortiz up next on the same stage so we lounged on the grass a while longer in the sun with a cider or two. I got nearer into the actual tent for the band. Dunno if the lead gal is actually Speedy Ortiz herself but she certainly cut a classic rock chic figure with low slung guitar over skin and chiselled bone structure. A good start then went into two new tracks before the whole set got a tad trudgedy for me although it sounded interesting enough. Maybe i should check the cds out to see if they hit the spot then see her again.

We perched on the grass up on the hill  for  Bill Callahan on the main stage. There are so many great places to take in the music at green man and its an art matching them to the band and time of day. For me late afternoon in the sun high up on the grass for Bills understated but filling delivery is perfect. The natural amphitheatre of the valley and the stillness of the summer just draws in Bills rich baritone and  narrative. Matt Kinsey's brilliant guitar fills stir into the mix to produce 50 minutes of grown up intensity. Too much for some as one women said this is not what she wanted to hear with her Sunday hangover. It was 4 o'clock for chuffs sakes. If you've got a hangover at a festival it is your silly fault not Bill's.

Bill himself seemed a bit miffed mentioning at least twice it was a short  set. I got the impression he may have been shunted back from a Saturday headline spot to a shorter Sunday afternoon. Whatever it was a great short set with drover, javelin and America particularly enthralling.
Not sure if I've got the last recount in chronological order. Not that it matters. Four days at Green Man renders perspective on time somewhat unnecessary, maybe that's why it takes me several days after to level out. Somehow Simian Mobile Disco got a look in but I can't quite remember when. I do remember them being a little bit calmer and under it than I was expecting and hoping for to be honest.

Bill a bit Green?

I've heard a bit of next band First Aid Kit recently. Quite like their sweet harmonious duets. Drawing from so much classic song writing over the years it's easy to make comparisons but they do project a certain freshness. Two Swedish sisters so not without obvious charm they maybe overdo the sweet cutesy angle for me and they were certainly too sugary for Si who left me to them. I enjoyed their set particularly in the context of this setting.

Just time for Pad Thai from the hugely popular Thai food stir fry stall and it was into the last sessions up at the far out tent that i again have been looking forward to. Both the Real Estate and Kurt Vile latest albums have been regular listens to this year and have come to be the soundtrack of this summer even though they came out last year. I remember butts recommending we see them at the Brude when they were supporting someone. Naturally we stayed in the bar and missed them but the lad certainly has a nose for talent.

Real Estate first and deep into the tent i went. When it was announced they were appearing at the fest i had imagined them on the main stage in day light. Here they were in the far out tent late in the evening. It didn't matter   they were excellent. The bassist seemed to miss the point of the burning green man ritual and was in fact a bit ignorant. I can forgive his youthful cocksureness because the band breezed through their set with joyous aplomb. Beautiful melodic guitars, gossamer vocals and songs bursting with craft and substance.

A completely chilled out content had by now rooted me to the far out area. Neutral Milk Hotel are an interesting band but i had no appetite to wander down to the main stage to catch maybe 20 minutes of them before coming back for Kurt who was the main attraction for me that night. Not just me either, the far out stage was full and an excited fondness for the band was all around. On they came and rolled into their set. Often wrongly referred to as slacker or stoner music i think the subtle laid back understated delivery of the vocals lead into easy assumptions. This music is far from lazy. There are textures and nuances that not only make it interesting and dynamic but to me they also capture the times and mood of a certain demographic. Yeah, that demographic is predominantly white middle class under 40 but as we know, they have feelings too you know. As do their slightly older brethren with slightly less class. Oh yeah, yeah yeah, yeah yeah yeah.

Kurt sings with a degree of restraint that never gets out of his comfort zone and that too may contribute to the slacker perceptions. His guitar fills  roll with tasteful relish along with the rest of the band.  It was a perfect end to the whole four days of music. An aural surf along a cool deep wave of groove before it ended with much love for the band and the walk back to our tent.

The three of us had gone our separate ways at some point in the night. I sauntered through the very cool night passed the burning green man effigy, across the bare ground in front of the main stage through the gates and along the pathways through the many tents that still remained. Fireworks were splattering the sky in the distance to my right. I had one last night cap of cider outside the tent contemplating the whole fest and with a touch of sadness that it was all over hit the lilo inside the sleeping bag to wait for tomorrow.

Evacuation time. Finishing off the bacon, bread and tea we packed up, heaved the gear back to the car to hit the north. Not without a few pit stops. Firstly the river side quintessential English town of Evesham then Ashbourne before a terrific tea just outside Buxton after the beautiful Derbyshire dales. Inn in't Thorn I think the pub was called, a worthy end to truly splendid few days. Thank you to all, i guess you know who you are if per chance you have read this.

Great stuff! Heard great things about NMH from someone else who was there (and Beirut) but who you saw would have been my choices also. Lovely pics too, glad you waited for the sunshine
Late Doors

Ahh man, cheers , so much to see, there was bound to be some things i had to miss. Some unforgetable moments that ill maybe summarise some time or tell you about. Sun Kill Moon though have made the most telling impact thus far. You off to the End Of The Road?
Late Doors

Oh Aye, missed Zac Cale due to that Damm football thing. Thanks for heads up though

Marvellous write up.

However I did think for a minute you were on about THE Green Man - the one I shall be frequenting on Saturday before the Leeds RL v Cas game:
Sir Bulldog Craggwood

Really interesting thanks and great photos

Who cares about spellkng mishtakes ? Spelling Narzis!!!
Sir Bulldog Craggwood

Really interesting thanks and great photos

Who cares about spellkng mishtakes ? Spelling Narzis!!!

Thanks LD.

If I was going to go to a festival it's definitely the one i would go to.

'Whole of the Moon'.  Lovely words.

I was grounded
While you filled the skies
I was dumbfounded by truths
You cut through lies
I saw the rain-dirty valley
You saw Brigadoon
I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon
Plastic Man

Thank you very much taking the effort for the, as always, entertaining write-up.

Late Doors wrote:
Ahh man, cheers , so much to see, there was bound to be some things i had to miss. Some unforgetable moments that ill maybe summarise some time or tell you about. Sun Kill Moon though have made the most telling impact thus far. You off to the End Of The Road?

Some heavy stuff on that SKM album, looks like he's still playing End Of but solo - yes off to it - will try to file a complete report this time.

Especially looking forward to the Gene Clark No Other Band, Connan Mockason, Chad Vangaalen and, of course, Flaming Lips Forum Index -> Pump up the filter
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