Anyone who's been to Green Man Festival before won't be averse to a dose of Welsh rain. It's a pretty standard occurrence in the beautiful Brecon Beacons in the middle of the British summer but Sunday's downpour, the tail end of Hurricane Gert breezing in off the Atlantic ocean was something else. Despite this, it didn't effect the behemoth crowd gathered to see veteran Dorset singer/songwriter PJ Harvey's closing set - said crowd being handsomely rewarded for their resilience. Even those poor folk stuck in the mud leaving the site left with no regrets.
That said, for those arriving on Thursday afternoon in time for shoegaze gods Ride, they were treated to a wonderfully sunny evening and a full on late night party. Ride played to a packed out tent and while the sound wasn't as clear as the main Mountain Stage's offerings, it was an epic set. The great thing about Green Man and where it wins out over many smaller festivals (and larger ones) is the after hours offering. It's diverse and well thought-out. You've got Far Out tent for those wanting to see some late night entertainment in the shape of established acts and DJs such as Roni Size and Jon Hopkins; there's Bristol's finest festival offering Chai Wallahs - a magical mix of live music, DJs (big up Diplomats of Sounds) and a bar serving a full mix of hot and cold alcoholic beverages; there's the walled garden, a magical little stage which plays host to live music in the day and indie DJs such as Tom Ravenscroft and Heavenly DJs into the early hours. It can be hit and miss but occasionally you'll get a blinding indie disco full of all those dancefloor filling indie hits you never get to hear out these days - think Nirvana, Radiohead, Pulp, Foo Fighters, Weezer and you're in the right ball park; Then there's the brilliant bonfire by the Green Man, a chilled place where you're as likely to join an impromptu Abba singalong as you are to make a few new friends for life. They're like bags for life, only cheaper.
This year seemed more 'family-friendly' than ever before with lots and lots of under 18s getting in on the act. It made it a bit trickier to navigate the slopes in front of the mountain stage but not impossible, if you got there earlier enough there were still prime spots to be had. There's plenty for the wee ones to do, with The Little Folk area proving their land - Bournemouth's Bonsai Pirates returned again this year wooing the young pirate wannabes with their set of pop punky pirate yarns. Altogether now 'wwwoooooaaaaaaawwooooaaaaaahhhoooo the Bonsai Pirates!'.
Einstein's Garden is another staple, a space to learn more about science, charge your phone using pedal power and generally meet interesting people. Babbling Tongues, which once saw comedian after comedian taking to the stage is now a good mix of interesting talks - from Charlotte Church talking politics to Pete Paphides exploring vinyl collecting as well as those hilarious comedians - Rod Deering, Mark Oliver etc. It's also home to a bar selling the best Whisky Macs. You're welcome.
The woods had a timely eclipse installation as well as some acrylic light boxes which were worth a look on an evening, but it wasn't a patch on End of the Road's installations so maybe there's a bit more work to be done there? One of the only criticisms along with the ever-rising food prices this year. You'll struggle to get a meal and a drink (even non alcoholic) for less than a tenner, most meals will set you back £8-9 with drinks coming in at around a fiver with a cup deposit scheme but one you can't get your money back on; and the parking is now £20 on top of your ticket, even with the 30 min walk to the campsite. Hopefully that's where they'll stay for a bit now, instead of getting even more expensive.
With a line-up this strong, it can be hard to bemoan all the clashes but the weather sometimes dictates where you head (indoors or out). Friday was pretty good, so you could catch the likes of Happyness, brilliant Pavement-inspired indie, the twee Hurray For The Riff Raff, whose cover of Bruce Springsteen's 'Dancing In The Dark' united the entire site, Brighton nu-folk singer and Green Man regular Johnny Flynn and British Sea Power who's obligatory greenery adorned the stage for their set of uplifting indie anthems.
Josh T Pearson has had a shave and is back on the sauce and he's like a totally different person. Playing Green Man with his band Lift To Experience, he seemed genuinely baffled/thrilled*delete as appropriate that such a crowd is here to see them, jesting about playing to 20 people on the other side of the pond. Mate, we'll always have your back over here. The Texan twang sneaks through as the whirring guitars and darker, heavier rock reverbs in the Welsh hills. A great set from a great guy.
Friday night was totally owned by Future Islands, who drew a huge crowd at the main stage. Frontman Sam's unmistakable 'dancing' mesmerising a mixed crowd of younger kids and older guys alike. Some head slapping and cossack style dancing complimented by intense staring that wouldn't be out of place in a horror flick somehow fits the music. It looked like there might be time to catch the end of Kate Tempest's set in Far Out, but sadly not. There was still time to grab a couple of Brandy Chais from Chai Wallah's before heading back to the second stage for Roni Size & MC Dynamite - bringing the Friday night party.
Scotland's Pictish Trail is in a class of his own when it comes to Green Man Festival regulars, having played every single event over the past 15 years. He's trod the boards of many a stage and has gone from strength to strength, culminating with this banging Saturday lunchtime set. Arriving on stage with his motley bunch of flesh-coloured clothing clad musicians, he burst into a diverse set of folk-infused electro-pop. As fun as this glitter bear is to watch with his on-stage gymnastics and as hilarious as his inter-song banter is, it's his vocals that really shine through - lifting each song to an utter belter. Alongside a host of songs from Pictish Trail's back catalogue, including 'Dead Connection', he ended with a Silver Columns' song (from his duo days with Adem). Full strobe lights, full shape throwing from the crowd. A great start to the day.
His old pals This Is The Kit pulled in a huge crowd for a daytime set on the main stage, striding out onto the stage in Jeremy Corbyn t-shirts. Kate and co's contemporary folk offerings hang on her incredible vocals and there's times when you could hear a wooden fork drop. New album 'Moonshine Freeze' gets a good airing along with some of the older songs, 'Spinney' and 'Sometimes The Sea'. Continuing with the folk scene, veteran UK folk act Shirley Collins was joined on stage by a bunch of traditional folk artists and a flamboyant morris man.
Ryan Adams has been back on form of late, playing a brilliant gig for the launch of his latest album 'Prisoner' at Rough Trade East earlier this year. In some ways he's turned his back on the acoustic melancholia a bit and spiced things up with more electric guitars and angstier vocals and this set showcased that evolving sound perfectly. The staccato opener 'Do You Still Love Me?' set the tone, before we were blasted with 'Two', 'Doomsday' and a plugged in version of 'Where The Stars Go Blue' (kinda pined for the original during that) as well as a couple of Cardinals tracks, 'Let It Ride' and 'Peaceful Valley'. Adams disappeared into the stage at one point masked by a storm of dry ice billowing out into the bowl, look closely and you would've seen this Donnie Darko style figure dancing around the stage too. Predictably, one of the last songs 'Come Pick Me Up' proved one of the highlight of the set, before we were given a choice between a rocky one or a really rocky one - 'Halloweenhead' winning out as the really rocky one.
The rain came pouring down on Sunday, leaving only the most hardy - or those lame/clever* delete as appropriate folk in beach shelters in front of the main stage to enjoy a crystal clear set from the brilliant Julia Jacklin. By the time Conor Oberst took to the stage with half of the Felice Brothers, there wasn't a dry ass in sight. It didn't matter too much, The Bright Eyes man's set warmed us up. The band initially looked pretty pissed off to be there, but they too warmed up by the end. The weather proves a bit much for this drenched reviewer and faced with a choice between The Shins and Julian Cope and Sleaford Mods under cover, she picks the latter.
Cope is a born storyteller, not just with his songs and books but with his stage banter - the crowd is in the palm of his hand as he tells tales of getting sober (then drunk again), or archaeological digs and ancient mysteries and other anecdotes from his hilarious life. It's an older crowd and totally different to the one filling those canvas walls next for the critically acclaimed Sleaford Mods. They may be pushing 50, but the South East duo have captured the mood of a generation or three - the tent was full of younger kids getting it. Getting their angsty critiques of this government and the way society works, getting the frustrations of being a young (or old) person today. Just getting it. The music is catchy and gets the room moving and the lyrics are inspiring. A cracking set from the Mods, who live up to their name with sniffs of The Jamm in their sound. There's no escaping it though, there's only one place to be on Sunday evening and that's back outside in the rain for PJ Harvey.
Polly Jean remains a bit of a woman of mystery - her songs take you away into another world in a similar way that Nick Cave's albums do. This show was tight. Perfectly choreographed and composed to create a seamless journey through her diverse material. Entering the stage procession style, flanked by the likes of producer John Parrish, the graceful musician instantly stood out in a brilliant purple gown and elaborate feathery headdress. Launching into the compelling 'Chain of Keys' caught the attention of the entire valley, what followed included pitch perfect renditions of 'The Community of Hope', 'Let England Shake' and 'The Ministry of Social Affairs'. Many of the older, fiercer songs were missing from the set but we were treated to 'Down By The Water' and 'To Bring You My Love'.
No Green Man festival would be complete without the Wicker Man style burning of the big guy- this year he was bigger and better than ever, a natural sculpture you could climb inside and one which was battling a red dragon at that. They cleared him out before torching him and letting off some big fireworks. A fitting end to an explosive weekend.
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