Wednesday, February 5, 2014

On the Green Man Lineup

Truth be told, I was beginning to lose my faith in Green Man. I first attended the festival in 2009, which meant that I witnessed amazing headline sets from both Jarvis Cocker and Wilco. The following year was even better, not least because it gave me my long-awaited opportunity to see The Flaming Lips live.

But 2011's lineup was a little...disappointing. The three headliners were as follows: Fleet Foxes, who were dull as dishwater; Explosions in the Sky, who were okay but not really exciting enough to be headliners; and Iron & Wine, who were admittedly excellent, but hardly as life-changing as Wilco and the Lips were. 2012 was an improvement (Mogwai are always a pretty safe bet), but 2013's trio of headliners left me feeling let down yet again, and I decided for the first time in five years not to bother with the annual pilgrimage into the mountains. I mean, Ben Howard? Really? In the same slot that Wilco filled only a few festivals earlier?

Of course, the headliners are only a slender slice of the story, and by skipping out on last year's festival, I did miss great undercard acts like Midlake and Edwyn Collins. Besides, one of the best things about any festival - and Green Man in particular - is going to see bands that you've never heard of before and maybe, just maybe, discovering something worth cherishing.

But my point remains: somewhere between The Flaming Lips and Ben Howard, the Green Man Festival caught a bad case of diminishing returns. However! The first bit of the 2014 lineup was announced yesterday, and thankfully, it seems like the guys in charge have genuinely upped their game.

Exhibit A: Neutral Milk Hotel.

Hey, didn't we hear this one a week ago?

Jeff Mangum has been playing NMH songs at solo shows for a few years now, but the full band only reformed about nine months ago. It's very cool that Green Man have gotten them involved, and I reckon that Holland, 1945 and the various parts of The King of Carrot Flowers will sound bonkers good on the Mountain Stage (or whatever it's called nowadays).

There is, however, a snag. I've already got tickets to the Optimus Primavera Sound festival in Porto this June, and guess who one of the two currently-confirmed artists is? Yeah. And since I'll already have enjoyed the luxurious Milk Hotel by the time August rolls around, Green Man will need more than Jeff Mangum 'n' Palz if it's going to get me in a tent.

So. How is the rest of the lineup looking? Looking at the list that materialised yesterday, I'm most interested by the presence of Sharon Van Etten, who released a very good album called Tramp back in 2012:

I ought to revisit that one, really. Other promising prospects include First Aid Kit (who were excellent in Flaming Lips year), Anna Calvi (who'll be nicely dramatic), and - yes - Georgia Ruth, winner of the 2013 Welsh Music Prize (any excuse to link back to that, eh?) Beirut will be good, too, although I'm not entirely convinced that Zach Condon et al should be one of those all-important headliners.

All of that said, I won't be shelling out for a Green Man wristband yet, and not just because I'm going to Scotland next week and want to save my money. I'm not saying that I'm definitely going to double my one-year hiatus from the festival, but I'm at least going to hang on until the next wave of bands is announced.

In the meantime, I'll be getting excited about the Primavera lineup, which will be properly announced this Friday. The Pixies and Neutral Milk Hotel is already a pretty great lineup, but a few more knockout bands wouldn't go amiss.

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