Kicking off with natural aplomb Green Man 2019 brings dreampop, psychedelia and lots of soul to the Black Mountains.
An evolution of inclusion; diversity could be seen across this festival's 17th-year celebrations, with Isle of Man band, Penelope Isles delivering an incredible set of what they self-describe as 'melodic fuzz pop'. For many Green Man veterans, this was an entirely new experience, based between Brighton and Cornwall, Jack and Lily Wolter prove that their hypnotic, chiming bedroom pop music can draw strong crowds, even in the heavier rains of South Wales. This brother and sister duo effortlessly blend gently layered synth and guitar lines into an almost new-age Brit psychedelia, creating edgy give-a-damn rock moments to break through their laidback cool simplicity. It's no surprise that they were signed to Bella Union earlier this year; definitely a band to watch!
From the Walled Garden stage to the Mountain stage, we meet a soul-driven band of twenty-somethings, Durand Jones and The Indications. Performing to the hazy, cloud-laden black mountain backdrop, this smooth groove, no-frills early seventies style soul music punches through the rain with Mr Jones fiercely at the helm. Durand managed to conjure the easy dreaminess of an early Curtis Mayfield, presenting the thousands-strong crowd with the gift of optimistic, soulful dance music. It's no wonder from their subtle picks, alterations and low-key sample mods that Rhein, Frazer and Houpt of The Indications met whilst audio engineering at Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music. The overall stage performance given on Friday afternoon was clean, professional and to the most subtle degree, a well-balanced auditory delight.
Returning to its inherently folky-roots, the main stage welcomed Irish indie-folk band Villagers on Friday evening. Currently signed to the same record label as Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys, this Dublin-based band has reached high levels of critical acclaim with an incredible array of album releases over the last nine years. A performance so care-free, frontman Conor O'Brien made it look almost too easy to lull the crowd into states of warm embrace mixed with stages of feet-stomping dance revolts and in some cases, tears. During his performance of 'Courage' from their 2016 Ivor Novello award-winning album Darling Arithmetic, one audience member fell to their knees with such strong emotional connection that it made the performance all that more special. A veteran band, with thirty-five years' experience in the business and a cult following of diehard fans; Yo La Tengo took to the headlining slot on Friday evening. They came, saw and did exactly as they pleased. Their performance started off with a very strange air of abstract ornamentalism. Conveying a strong sense of detachment from their headline slot and an almost civilian demeanour, their song title 'My Heart's Not In It' came to mind as they entered the stage. They began their headline set with heavy abuse of their instruments in a three-way procession of dissonant self-indulgence; it was hard to work out whether these were musical geniuses or doppelgangers posing in place of the real Yo La Tengo. Perusing the faces of the Green Man 2019 crowd, mixed reviews could be seen for the first few songs with the outer rings leaving the main stage after expecting 'I'll be around' or 'Green Arrow' to set the tone. However, as their set progressed you could begin to understand exactly what they were putting out there; switching between instruments, they managed to deliver a 90-minute strong performance of impressive artistic credit.
Stealing the limelight, Texan trio Khruangbin gave arguably the most exciting performance of Green Man 2019 so far. With a heavy mix of music, fashion and showmanship, it's easy to see why this straight-faced trio has been building an ever-growing following throughout the UK. Their debut album The Universe Smiles Upon You, released in late 2015, draws heavy influence from 60's and 70's Southeast Asian pop. This could be seen throughout their performance as they drew songs from each of their three main albums, summoning elements of cosmic Thai pop. Every element of their Friday evening performance was so incredibly polished it felt almost too good to be true; it was a genuinely non-stop 60 minutes of pure guitar-driven heaven. There was no surprise to see the entire Far Out tent left completely spellbound; their performance could not have been better! Bring on Day Two of Green Man 2019!
Photo credit: Daniel Nixon