And so to another Green Man. Over the past 2 years this has been my favourite festival, held in a gorgeous site in the Brecon Beacons, with a wonderfully diverse range of music, food, drink, and additional entertainment.
Unfortunately, you do have to actually get there. Queues of traffic into festival sites are a normal thing for many of us, but arriving into this year’s Green Man was especially bad - the last 3 miles taking over 2 hours. I don’t know if this is the fault of the festival’s organisation, but this is the worst and most tedious arrival I’ve had since ferry queues to get to Bestival back when it was held on the Isle of Wight.
One minor gripe aside, Green Man started off excellently. After pitching the tent, we took a short detour on the booze run to go see Plastic Mermaids after hearing them compared to the great Flaming Lips. While their soft psychedelic notes merited some of the reference, when combined with their reverberating layered vocals it reminded me more of Pond, which is still a definite compliment.
After another campsite trip and a first food grab, we headed out for the main portion of the evening. The Walled Garden is a wonderful stage, with the walls amplifying the acoustics, and the setting sun only made it even more beautiful while Sister Wives played their slightly rocky folk music.
After some thoroughly enjoyable upbeat bops from Girl Ray, we headed for the first planned catch of the weekend, Spiritualized, whose garage-infused psych rock meandered around the tent, showcasing a wonderful range of styles with an eerie light showcase.
Green Man has a bunch of late night entertainment options, and most nights we ended up in Chai Wallahs, a groovy staple of the UK festival circuit who hosted Diplomats of Sound DJs each night. It had a slightly early finish on Thursday, but with other options including Round the Twist and the Cock’s Tail Bar, there was still excellent entertainment and boozing to be had through until 4am.
Friday was, to put it simply, wet. The rain was steady until noon, then close to incessant from 4pm onwards, thankfully, the main run of bands I wanted to see that day were all indoors, with an excellent run of bands happening for nearly 7 hours in the Far Out tent, starting with Jockstrap’s glitchy noise-pop, before the seriously impressive Warmduscher were seriously impressive. I’d heard a couple of their tracks before, which were both dark electronic songs, but they showed a full variety of absolutely filthy styles, shifting sharply between almost ambient to modern punk. I don’t know what they’re meant to be, but it’s dirty, in your face, and brilliant. Much like the day’s rain to be honest.
As per usual, food at Green Man was diverse and excellent. There was a huge range of delicious options, and nothing that disappointed. Food does keep on improving at all festivals, but the selection here was especially good, past the point of choosing the best option to eat, and onto trying to work out how many different things we could justify sampling.
Squid returned to Green Man, having played a storming and very angry set on the Walled Garden two years ago, but their sound has matured since then, and for the better. This time they infused their intensity with some more ethereal noises, crafting a sound that while still dissonant, had a lingering hint of subversive melody, reminiscent of shoegaze. Maybe they were focused on appeasing the tent’s audience, with the next band being Slowdive, pioneers of the movement.
Sometimes, you see a legendary band, icons from before your generation, and they end up a little flat, a little disappointing. Not so here. It’s a long time since I’ve heard or felt anything as beautiful as Slowdive’s artistry here, magical, dreamy beauty that soared through me, uplifting me, and bringing a tear to my eye. This was truly special, and a wonderful end to another night's musical offerings.
Lots of festivals have different levels of beer ranges, but to paraphrase a conversation “Oh wow, is that the selection at the full pub?” “Nah, that’s just a smaller bar, the full beer range is over 100 barrels round the corner.” Put simply, every single bar had a good selection, and then there’s the Courtyard beer festival range, with (120?) different cask ales, on top of the 6 different beers served at the standard bars. At any point until things start to run out on Sunday, there’s basically the absolute full range of everything you could possibly want, and personally, everything I had was delicious.
Through the Saturday afternoon, I’d mostly been focusing on the beer over which bands we’d ambled to, but here’s a shout out for Aoife Nessa Francis and her performance in the Walled Garden. I’m not a particular fan of the folky singer-songwriter style, but this was both beautiful and lively, and perfect for the Saturday afternoon sun.
There’s something to be said about a festival where by the sheer depth of the line-up I can ignore the main stage for the first two-and-a-half days. That said, Lankum’s performance there was an excellent way to start my foray there, infusing noise into traditional Irish folk masterfully. Following them were The Walkmen, who’ve been on hiatus for a decade but returned full of vibrancy, with Hamilton Leithauser’s energy and showmanship leading their punchy post-punk revival sound brilliantly across the natural amphitheatre of the slopes down to the Mountain Stage.
The first real personal clash of the festival was next, and having seen Self-Esteem produce a blistering performance at Bristol Sounds 2 months earlier, it was gutting to miss her, but it’s much longer that I last saw GOAT, and I didn’t want to miss them. It was hard to regret that choice just for the spectacle of their elaborate costumes and stage show, let alone the intense psych-fusion sounds that dominated the tent.
Onto the “After Hours” performances, and we stuck in Far Out for Confidence Man. They’ve been hammering the UK festival circuit this summer, but their almost throwback style of electro-pop was perfect late night dancing music. Even better was Marie Davidson, who produced one of the best DJ sets I’ve ever seen, dripping with intensity despite the minimalism of the beats.
Sundays at festivals can vary in mood, particularly if it’s muddy and people are a bit grumpy. Not so here, the sun was out, the ground was a little kinder than it had been, and the general vibe felt like people eager to eke out one last day of joy. My day started with a wander over towards the Rising Stage, where Oslo Twins displayed their beautiful stripped-back trip hop.
Having not spent much time exploring this year’s offerings yet, this seemed like an excellent time to check out what was in Einstein’s Garden, the all-ages science information section with a bunch of guests happily talking to anyone who enquired about their display and topic. Inside the human library we chatted to a lovely expert about hedgehogs, who also informed us that they’ll eat almost anything, including baby birds. Sorry if I’ve ruined your love of hedgehogs!
After a pleasant meander there, it was time to go back to stage-hopping, and I went a little manic here. Nuha Ruby Ra’s voice was brilliant and haunting, before a trip to sit outside the tent and enjoy the overflow of Billy Nomates. Thus Love felt a bit flat and uninspiring, unlike Arushi Jain, who brought yet more beautiful noises to drift across the Walled Garden.
Plenty of impressive music, but none of these compared to Les Savy Fav, whose lead singer Tim Harrington brought a ridiculous level of mad chaotic energy, spending more time in the crowd, stealing fan’s clothing to combine with his own elaborate outfits, than he did on stage. With a backdrop imitating a failing Zoom meeting, their noisy art punk felt as jovial and uplifting as it was musically brilliant. They played for an exhausting, exhilarating hour, that simultaneously felt like they’d crammed so much in, and yet no time had passed at all.
More time, more bands to check out, and Say She She impressed with some lively old school R&B/soul, Horace Andy showcased his brilliant melding of reggae and trip hop, Mary in the Junkyard were another excellent find on the Rising stage, with a downbeat anger that somehow remained uplifting through its restraint. Amyl and the Sniffers, playing on one of the biggest stages of their career so far, were in-your-face, intense, and brilliant.
And so to the final act, and the only main-stage headliner I actually caught this year, First Aid Kit played some beautiful, slightly melancholic indie folk, that was just bittersweet enough to punctuate a beautiful finale to a wonderful weekend. They’ve climbed through the stages at Green Man, and it’s heartwarming to continue seeing bands at different moments through their careers. Their music created a perfect tempo to lead into the closing ceremony, the burning of the Green Man effigy, and the highlights that come from something ending to begin again. This is one of the truly great festivals in the UK, and I hope I can keep being a part of it.
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