Friday morning began at 7am after a long night of practically no sleep and an overbearing fear that the River Usk could burst into the general camping area at any moment with a gush. Some people were only just getting to bed after spending the last six hours in the Far Out after dark tent, while others trudged their way through the mud to join the mile long queue for the toilets. It’s safe to say however, the rain and mud hadn’t dampened anyone’s spirits.
As 12pm rolled around the Mountain Stage arena became flooded – not by crowds, but by even more rain. This meant the first band of the day, Green Man’s Unsigned Act competition winners This Wicked Tongue, were greeted with a handful of avid fans, and a lot of audience members retreating to the bar for shelter. Having taken refuge in the festival’s Chai Tea Tent, the volume coming from the bands female lead Tina V proved to be much louder than the weather. Their songs were fun, loud and initially exciting, yet unfortunately after a few more guitar riffs and a lot of jumping around, each song began to sound the same as the last. With tracks such as Ray Mears Vs Bear Grylls and Creature from their upcoming EP Provinces sounding a little too much like a modern take on the all-female metal band Kittie, whispers of “are these guys really giving off a Green Man vibe?” began circulating. However they certainly managed to wake everyone up and, more importantly, as an unsigned act having been together for only a couple of years, their timing as a group was impeccable.
A little later on, we squeezed into Chai Wallah’s for Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate’s set. As Driscoll’s seamless beat-boxing got underway, I noticed that his sound had developed since the last time I’d seen him play at Green Man 2010. A somewhat unknown French ‘kora’ player Sekou Kouyate stood in Driscoll’s shadow for all of one minute before his talents began to take control over the whole hour long set. Originally having toured all over the world with the band Ba Cissoko – made up of his brothers and cousins – Kouyate is known as the ‘Jimi Hendrix of the kora’. The instrument is a sort of electric half harp – half guitar. Its sound is intense, as is the way Kouyate plays it. It’s certainly no wonder why Driscoll thinks of him as ‘a kind of musical kindred spirit’, while his faultless rhythm and lyrics about ‘life as a nomad’ float perfectly alongside Sekou Kouyate’s sound, as if the two were made for each other. Their single New York from their upcoming album, due for release autumn 2012, proves a huge hit with the audience, whose dancing and chanting becomes enough to make the wet ground shake.
During the hour and a half that the rain decided to take a break, the 45 minute wait for the Dexys to grace the Mountain stage began. The arena filled quickly, and within half an hour there was hardly a place to park your rain coat. As Kevin Rowland took to the stage in his crisp blue shirt and forties noir styled braces, alongside the rest of the similarly dressed band, the track Lost from their enormously anticipated album One Day I’m Going To Soar opened to thundering applause. The sun managed to stay out for longer than 5 minutes to watch Rowland and his female counterpart Madeleine Hyland burst into a rendition of the popular I’m Always Going To Love You, where both singers sarcastically squabble like an old married couple. Honestly, this basically sums up the band’s new sound – they tend to rely on amateur dramatics as much as they do the music. Fortunately for them, it works.
It’s Friday night headliners Scottish, post-rock band Mogwai, however, who undoubtedly and brutally rule the stage (and who I personally believe, stole the whole weekend). It’s dark, it’s wet, there are overly intoxicated people stumbling around and I’ve decided to get a cup of tea, which seemed like a good idea until Stuart Braithwaite took to the stage and made me jump out of my skin. The level of volume from the base and the heavy-beat of the drums sadly made it so loud that I had to move back into the middle of the crowd from the front. But dwindle my experience, it didn’t. Crowd pleasers Auto Rock (my personal favourite), I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead and Take me Somewhere Nice enveloped the arena one after the other and fell on total silence from not only the bands crazed fans, but by those more unfamiliar with their sound. It was easy to tell how passionate the band is about their music, with Stuart Braithwaite’s constant head-banging becoming so addictive that before long he had the whole arena copying him.
I left the gig a little disappointed that it was over, desperate to hear more (if only rock bands were permitted to do an encore), dizzy from the ringing in my ears and more than ready for Saturday’s shenanigans to unfold.