A taste of West Coast cosmic Americana breaks in a brand new day at Green Man 2019. Melodic folk-rock duo
Laidback coastal to inner-city Jazz; Sons of Kemet devoured a sunny afternoon set on the Mountain stage. Headed by the redoubtable Shabaka Hutchings, this four-piece fast-paced jazz outfit started their performance with such intense promise â even Big Jeff could be seen three rows from the front. Heavy brass and experimental technique mixed with Carribean Soca and grime influences; their Mercury-nominated 2018 album Your Queen Is A Reptile set expectations high for this afternoon act. Their creative combinations and high-energy creates the perfect recipe for one hell of a main-stage show - unfortunately, their technical work was somewhat sloppy at times. Throughout their performance, the Green Man 2019 crowd breathed in size, as one group left, another seemed to join; a choice metaphor for the ups and downs of their overall performance. Triumphant epiphanies and moments of sheer genius aside, we couldn't shake the feeling that the Green Man audience was yearning for something more from this London four-piece.
Saturday night began with one of the most seasoned musicians in attendance at Green Man 2019 - the legend that is Lee Fields. Performing with The Expressions, Fields provides an old-school class whilst hosting a main-stage performance, communicating with the crowd after each and every song, asking, "can you feel the love?" Boasting over 47 years in the business, this American soul legend was worked alongside the likes of B.B King, Clarence Carter and Kool and The Gang. His experience is immediately apparent, as he takes centre stage he stands so naturally, it's clearly now his second-nature. With an extensive back catalogue of albums to choose from, Fields had the crowd on their feet, dancing in the breaks of the sun through the clouds. It was almost as if he possessed the power of the gods, each and every time he mentioned the sun it would appear and the crowd would cheer in response. With his performance of 'Ladies' and 'Faithful Man', he really delivered on his reputation of soul, funk and R&B. A sheer magical performance.
Moving to the opposite side of the festival, we find Car Seat Headrest headlining with hard sweat and tears in the Far Out Tent; a raucous demonstration of emotional angst. Frontman Will Toledo has such a down-to-Earth feel to his stage presence, as tame as his presence may be. In his song 'Cute Things' he references this with the lyrics "Give me Frank Ocean's voice and James Brown's stage presence" - what a combination that would deliver! Toledo provides such honest reflections of his deepest obsessions with refreshing insight to the minds of so many today. He appears to be an unstoppable force in a new wave of American indie-rock, proving that if you have the will the talent and the time, you really can make it on your own after famously self-releasing 11 albums. This performance sees the heavy guitar and indulgent synth lines, mixed with heavily re-imagined, re-worked revisions of Toledo's early releases. The crowd certainly reacted in force, with the Far Out tent remaining densely packed from start-to-finish; we're certainly interested to see where Car Seat Headrest goes next.
Headlining Green Man Festival is certainly no small task and certainly is one large honour; taking a prominent position, Four Tet returns. Hitting the scene back in 1997, Kieren Hebden has become one of the most formidable DJs in the UK today; Four Tet is almost a household name amongst many a modern polymuse. Never one to stay still, his progression from folktronica into psychedelia into spiritual jazz and even into Indian-influenced house has become breath-taking to witness. This high level of anticipation was a great attraction for many of those looking to purchase Green Man 2019 tickets; such is the metaphor for the transition this festival has made, from folk to an all-pleasing goliath party. As Hebden emerged from the shadows of the apply named Mountain Stage to an iron-framed platform of his own equipment, the audience was waiting on Four Tet magic. Incredibly quiet, Kieren stood basking in red stage lighting with a solemn look and empty expression as he performed his first few tracks; the crowds appeared noticeably concerned. After an uncharacteristically flat start, Tet thankfully managed to turn things around; pulling in crowds of thousands with a one-man orchestration of dance-floor haze and zen-like party madness. Demonstrating an evolution of boundless curiosity and an active disdain for boundaries and creative borders, his performance manages to captivate all those who stood witness. As the Saturday night at Green Man 2019 draws to a close, we salute the headliner that is Four Tet.
Photo Credit Daniel Nixon