FAULT Magazine & LXN cover Greenman Festival

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Nestled in the famous Brecon Beacons is Green Man Festival. Surely, it is one of the most beautiful and unique festivals we have ever been to. Surrounding the festival, you are welcomed by mountains, valleys, babbling streams and dense, green forests. For many of the visitors coming from cities like homogenous, grey London, the contrast could not be more visceral.

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Upon arrival, you pass over a river and through a castle fort to gain access to the box office: a nice touch I thought of the organisers. Herein lies the essence of Green Man: you could quite easily spend a week here without seeing a single band. It follows that a lot of Green Man visitors are avid campers, and the rest are trying to reconnect with nature. The whole festival has a very paganistic theme of escaping the cities and getting back to nature; of travelling back to a time when nature, well being and balance were prioritised as key tenets to being.

This theme of paganistic revival is inherent in the structure of the festival. Ten self-titled “Kingdoms”, each with their own runes to illustrate areas, were individually styled, designed and catered to differently nuanced themes. From healing to humour, comedy to revelation, there was much to discover. We visited the mammoth green man statue, formed of roots, wicker and tree bark, which overlooked the festival at the top of the site.  From here, on could make noted of the plethora of food stalls, the outdoor hot tubs, cinema, comedy tent and the fortified walled garden at the centre of the park.

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The main stage ticked all the boxes. It showcased an effortlessly impressive auditorium, perfectly viewable from all angles. This was a really amazing placement of the stage as it made it extremely easy to great views, which in turn pulled a lot of the crowd. Behind sat two ominous mountains, presiding over all like giant monoliths. Much could be written about this remarkable getaway – but we must consider some highlights.

Hot Chip headlining on Friday at the main stage were simply stunning, and were the strongest headliner out of The Super Furry Animals and St Vincent. The version of “Over and Over” showcased a mix between the film Tron and Leftfield: intimidating, dark and serious. Surely an escape from the version we have come to know.“Boy from School” on the other hand was light and playful. You got a feeling that Hot Chip wanted to keep you guessing. The most exclusive moment was when they played an electronic, Hot Chip infused version of Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark, which mixed flawlessly into LCD Soundsystems all my friends creating a LCD, Bruce Springsteen and Hot Chip mash up. The crowd reaction lauded this as the optimum moment of the gig.

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The super group “Atomic Bomb” were a crowd favourite. Their music was fun, upbeat while bordering on the inane, but was oozing rhythm. Comprising of many artists from other bands but collectively play the music of Nigerian ex funk musician now turned priestly William Onyeabor. Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip lent his singing and keyboard skills as well as their drummer. Others composed Ish Montgomery on bass and Jonny Lam on guitar. They dance around with smiles on their faces: truly, I can’t recommend enough going to see these live enough if you get the chance.

Sam Brookes over in the Chai Wallah tent had the most beautiful yet haunting voice that cut through the torrential downpour outside. It stopped many in their tracks. His sound reminds one of the work of Keaton Henson, but whereas Keaton’s sound sometimes sounds tragic and of heartbreak, Sam’s holds more of a hopeful feeling and tone. His voice coupled with an acoustic guitar, drum kit and backing singers was very minimalist but was just so perfectly balanced. His song “Numb” stopped time for us.

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What would the XX sound like if they grew up in Iceland, home of the greats like Sigor Ros and Bjork, played saxophones and sang in Icelandic? Well, they would sounds like Vok. The Trio, placed in a Walled Garden, played an open air set during a welcomed respite from the rain and fresh sunny blue bird skies. With their relaxed electronic minimalist notes, we finally felt like this was summer, somewhere, in Wales.  Their simplistic aesthetic of clashing black and white was harmonious within the band and only emphasised their clean and crisp DNA. Singer Margrét Rán has the most enticing romanticising voice, drawing you in to each song ready for Andri Már and Einar Stef to blow your mind with incredible drum and saxophone skills. Whilst their guitarist Ólafur Alexander provides unique electrifying rhythms whilst sporting relative ‘icy’ graphic printed LXN clothing. Having just released their latest EP ‘Circles’, this band is receiving an enormous reception globally and we can’t wait to follow their progress.

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Sylvan Esso, freshly flown in, was another massive highlight of the festival regardless of some technical issues. We put this down to their having managed nine flights in five days, and being in a non stop tour of Europe. An American indie electro pop duo hailing from North Carolina, consisting of singer Amelia Meath (of Mountain Man) and producer Nick Sanborn (of Megafaun). They filled the Far Out tent, and more spewed outside hoping to catch a peak. The crowd was really feeling “Mami”, “H.S.K.T” and of course “Coffee”, with Amelia’s captivating dancing holding us to attention – that girl can sashay. They treat us two of their new songs not yet released, the first had a very high tempo Brazilian carnival feel to it while their second was a little slower but with a big fat base line. The only bad thing, the crowd were begging  to hear more, Sylvan Esso wanted to play more but their slot didn’t allow it. They should, and could have been, the headliner for the Far Out tent that night. More, please.

And finally, Son Lux. Sounding like the child of “Unkle” and “The avalanches” coupled with beautiful vocals and certain uncanniness. Such a fresh, original and unique sound, which has an epic feel. Listening to the drum arrangements, the brass and the melodies you really do get an appreciation of the artistry of these guys. Of course fan favourites “Easy” and “Lost it to Trying” really got the crowd going but their new track (which they opened with) titled “Change is Everything”, which sounded like a mix of 2001 Space Odyssey and David Bowie in its tone was so cinematic, grand and vast that they had everyone eating out of their hand right from the start. These guys are going be huge!

Words: LXN