Lying in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park, Green Man enters its sixth year (in its current format – the project originally began in 2003) having been named 'Best Medium-Sized Festival' at the UK Festival Awards 2010. The Glanusk Park estate will be packed, with a sold-out quota of tickets being snapped up by this summer’s festival goers. So with beautiful scenery comes beautiful music, and this years lineup is certainly no exception - here's the first half of our pick of the country and folk-heavy bill, brimming with the finest talent from around the globe.
1. Fleet Foxes – 'Helplessness Blues'
Naturally, Fleet Foxes' sophomore effort Helplessness Blues may not have the breath of fresh air that accompanied their debut, but it’s still packed with folk tunes to bask along to in the early evening sunlight. The title track perhaps best showcases the Seattle band’s rustic charm; a brief bildungsroman narrative which ends pining for the idealism of working an orchard rather than be a "# functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me #". Deserved headliners.
2. Treefight for Sunlight – 'Facing the Sun'
Let’s hope the weather is as bright for the festival as the music, band name and song title. It was Efterklang last year, and now it’s Treelight for Sunlight who are flying the flag for Denmark in the Brecon Beacons. I envisage widespread sing-along and dancing to this, the sprightliest of summer tunes that waltzes along without a care in the world. Music to forget the world to, I can’t imagine a better setting than beautiful surroundings in the Welsh countryside. Four minutes of layered pure pop bliss.
3. Villagers – 'On a Sunlit Stage'
There’s not much more to say about Villagers that I haven’t already said here and here and here. But come festival weekend, they’ll have a huge crowd hoping to catch a glimpse of the Irish folk group playing tracks from their Mercury nominated debut album Becoming a Jackal - and perhaps some new songs too. Let’s hope another bright song title brings the August sunshine out to play and their watchers give them a rapturous applause. After all, "# your own audience will decide you fate #"!
4. Oh Ruin – 'Just Like Kat’s Guitar'
One thing I love doing is hand-picking a performer based solely on their name alone. And when sifting through a music magazine in mid-March, Oh Ruin stood out by name alone. A little superficial? Perhaps, but it lead me onto a good thing. Yet more Irish folk for this year’s festival, and traditional melodies are rife with singer-songwriter Eion O'Ruainigh (see what he did with the band moniker, there?) The troubadour has released the Silver Lining EP and the single The Pillow Where Your Head Does Lay.
5. Iron & Wine – 'Walking Far from Home'
Fact: I first heard of Iron & Wine in a film, kind of how most people discovered The Shins via Garden State. But In Good Company is certainly no Garden State. Thankfully, the soundtrack saved the day and a beautiful friendship was born! 2011’s Kiss Each Other Clean is another excellent record, Samuel Beam’s fourth studio album, and the lead single 'Walking Far From Home' is a prime example of his storytelling abilities, contrasting the ugly with the beautiful.
6. Benjamin Francis Leftwich – Butterfly Culture
Fact: History has taught me to be suspicious of people with three names (Sophie Ellis Bextor, Corrine Bailey Rae, Mike Flowers Pop, etc.) but BLF as I call him is actually quite a revelation. His debut long-player Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm hints at Damien Rice and Ryan Adams, and is one of my favourites of 2011. It’s that rare breed of record that comes along only every two or three years but does exactly what you want it to.
7. Laura Marling - Sophia
Name-checking Ryan Adams in New Romantic was enough to endear her to me. Even younger than BFL, Laura Marling is ready to release her third longer-player A Creature I Don't Know this summer, so you can bet your life that plenty of it will be aired during her appearance at this year’s festival. 'Sophia' is the first single to surface from her new record, beginning with familiar plaintive acoustic loveliness before bursting into a bright, bouncy pop song. The fact that Ethan Johns produced the record too is quite exciting.
8. Alessi’s Ark - Wire
Even younger than BFL AND Laura Marling, if there’s one thing guaranteed it’s that Alessi Laurent-Marke will make me feel way old but she’ll still be her sweet and charming self as usual. Always a pleasure to watch, her heart-shaped folk tales mean that the aformentioned Marling won’t be the only solo female act worth catching at this year’s festival. Musing upon "# Another wasted day counting every single breath #", 'Wire' is a delightful cut from her third (and latest) record Time Travel, with an equally as sweet video.
9. Emily Barker & the Red Clay Halo - Calendar
Hailing from Australia, some may have heard the song 'Pause' as the title music from the Christopher Ecclestone drama The Shadow Line. Following two solo records, Almanac is the third long-player from Emily and her backing band. Orchestra sweeps over the wonderful new record, including on this choice cut, 'Calendar'.
mixtape by Stephen Grindrod
The Green Man Festival 2011 takes place at the Glanusk Park Estate near Crickhowell, South Wales, between August 18 and 21. The site opens at 10am on Thursday, August 18 for camping. The box office is open between 10am and 2am on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and between 10am and 8pm on Sunday. Tickets are now sold out. The nearest train station is Abergavenny and there are free shuttle buses (which must be pre-booked) running from the station to the festival from 8am to 11pm on Thursday and Friday. To help the environment, why not car share to the festival? It is called GREEN Man after all.