Here’s a review of Green Man Festival’s nightlife for premier online electronic music mag Resident Advisor. (Some errors [tense inconsistencies, largely] were editorial.)
Green Man Festival 2012
The Welsh Brecon Beacons are not (often) known for their resident nightlife and neither is Green Man festival, now a long-term visitor to those expansive green valleys. But 2012’s manifestation of that pastoral family-friendly event showed over four nights that its after-dark entertainment not only exceeded expectations but stands as a quality, if not expansive, showcase of dance music.
Despite Green Man’s demographic—largely there to see acts like Van Morrison and Feist during the day—the midnight chime spells more than a mass exodus to céilidhs or bed. The more liberal young parents (glad to dump kids in tents) and the remaining twenty-somethings, meanwhile, flock in decent numbers to the few stages left offering nighttime entertainment.
Admittedly the names playing there were appropriate for the more acoustic, pop and rock-grounded festivalgoer—particularly at Far Out After Dark, where a waterlogged dance floor made gauging the reactive movement of crowds tricky: “is this DJ falling flat or is everyone stuck?” Friday night saw Bullion warm up there for Mr Scruff with a playfully sporadic blend of sound-bite-heavy electro/disco. It was mixed with more filter transitions and loops than a Fatboy Slim party, though his own “Magic Was Ruler” closed the set with a welcome stagger. The cheeky Mancunian himself more than provided on crate-dug funky hip-hop, riffing on gently oscillating breaks with live beat loops and rolls.
Elsewhere the autonomous, New Age festival hoppers Chai Wallahs served exactly the kind of rootsy jams you’d imagine after dark: mostly hip-hop and dubstep inflected with swing or dub reggae. Parker and Lazy Habits stormed through a 140 BPM set spattered with Diplo-esque smashers (not at all shy on the reggaeton) and a live swing-hop-plus-MC show respectively, each getting hemp-laden limbs and weathered Wellington boots shaking.
Besides this, The Walled Garden provided some extra variety on Sunday night with Oxfordshire folkies Stornoway improbably spinning tunes there, with a trio of astronauts manning a small panoply of lights and horrendous sci-fi electro between stages—a joke gone well too far.
However, it was Far Out that delivered the saving grace on Saturday night with an R&S records takeover, showing off their second wave dance music credentials together with plenty of nods to their rave origins. Opening the affair, Vondelpark delivered a masterful transition from the day’s live music, their kitschy tropics and preset-laden drum loops replete with Lewis Rainsbury’s signature moan and a dull blue light.
Airhead cheered things up a bit, his set all ’90s rave tropes of piano riffs and 303s, though peppered with a lot of chopped and screwed vocal pops. Sifting through breaks and saxy bass tunes, the set ended up very garage, with Mosca’s “Bax” bringing energy levels up high for the first time all night.
Lone stepped in while the crowd is buzzing, segueing from early Warp acid into his trusty crowd-pleaser: Outlander’s “The Vamp.” By 2:30 AM the tent was packed and Rustie’s “Hover Traps” was unleashed to maximum effect, Lone subsequently ending the dubstep drought with some half time bass swoops as James Blake hovered awkwardly around.
After Lone’s well-restrained but heavily upward dynamic curve, the gangly star of the show poorly sated the post-dubstep craving masses initially with some awkwardly low-key selections from his back catalogue. By the time he got to low-swung ’90s R&B alongside jungle breaks and house, it came across as pulling the curtain from the bulk of Blake’s old sample base.
Though pockmarked with frequent drops in volume, Blake actually boasted an expert repositioning of background frequencies, mixing new tracks in with half-full basslines and sidelined snares to make his post-dub picks befit hip-hop and classic soul. He had everyone singing in unison before he brought out the Michael Jackson, and although it seemed like a long time coming when he ended with “CMYK”, it closed a set as refreshingly varied and well-chosen as the host of acts that made up the festival’s after dark roster.