15th-18th August | Glanusk Estate, Brecon Beacons
Photos: Jessica Bartolini
With a blissful Brecon backdrop, a sold-out Green Man welcomed over 25,000 festival goers last weekend for its seventeenth year. Every single one of us was clinging onto summer despite a yellow weather warning of rain. Thankfully, the only day that had us gravitating towards the shelter of any tent we could find was Friday, and that wasn’t such a bad thing with an eclectic mix of indoor entertainment to choose from. There was no chance a bit (a lot) of rain could deter from the magic atmosphere that is Green Man: a playground of music, literature, comedy and food. The latter of which deserves an entire article dedicated to itself.
One such tent was the Far Out Stage, which fortunately was host to some wonderful music on Friday, including new-to-the-scene TVAM who
Khruangbin (that’s Thai for ‘aeroplane’) also delivered an energetic set. I can’t figure out the aeroplane thing, but it could well be a nod to this Texan trio’s globe-trotting nature. A stand-out song was their penultimate track, 2018’s ‘Evan Finds The Third Room’, or – to the naked ear the repetition of the word “Yes” over and over, before finishing with a weird but wonderful medley of Black Eyed Peas’ ‘Pump It’ and House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’. We rolled with it.
American indie band Yo La Tengo headlined the Mountain Stage, followed by one of the other stand-out sets from electronic duo Maribou State on the Far Out Stage. They brought out the soulful vocals of Holly Walker for tracks ‘Steal’ and ‘Nervous Tics’ and North Downs for ‘Kingdom’, as well as welcoming the trio we’d literally just said goodbye to, Khruangbin, back out on stage for their 2018 collaboration ‘Feel Good’. It made for an epic electric line up of synth and soul for a Friday night in the fields.
The sun made a very welcome appearance on Saturday morning, so pitching up at the Mountain Stage with a selection of Green Man’s finest delicacies was the only thing for it. South Wales trio Adwaith began proceedings. These three are the epitome of ‘sistas doing it for themselves’, bringing some Welsh lyrics and charm to the picturesque Black Mountains. If you haven’t heard of them, then you should definitely get to know them.
Although the sun brought everyone out and about on Saturday, there was still such an abundance of space to roam freely. You don’t seem to get that feeling of space at festivals anymore and it did wonders for the atmosphere. And it’s also great for the influx of families towing their kids in trolleys. On top of that, the festival is kept incredibly clean. The toilets are no exception.
In true green spirit, the festival are also proudly doing their bit to fight the war on plastic, offering reusable stackable cups with every drink purchased. There wasn’t a plastic bottle in sight, and instead the festival hosted a whole range of wholesome eco-friendly exhibits, particularly in Einstein’s Garden (where there’s even a live music stage powered solely by solar), as well as solar-powered phone charging on offer. The garden was the perfect place for curious minds, young and old.
Saturday continued to host a plethora of wonderful music as well as some interesting chat in the Babbling Tongues tent, from a delve into the life of British Author Emma Jane Unsworth to a hilarious set from London-born comedian Angela Barnes. What’s obvious is that organisers have really thought about the curation of their line-up and have excelled in delivering something for everyone.
The main stage saw some incredible talent on Saturday night. Brit-French avant-pop band Stereolab took us all back to the 90s for some ‘French Disko’ before headliner Four Tet owned the stage, delivering a sensational set, complete with signature light show as we swayed into the early hours of Sunday. It’s amazing how much stage presence one man and his decks can demonstrate towards a crowd in their tens of thousands, and yet he does it with such humility.
Sunday saw more sunshine with experimental pop from Self Esteem taking the Mountain Stage early in the day. Lead singer Rebecca Taylor has been doing the rounds this festival season and has clearly got her routine perfected. She delivered a mix of tracks from slow songs about ex-boyfriends and break-ups to life-affirming female empowerment. She introduced one track, “I’m Shy”, with a snigger. That certainly isn’t a word you’d use to describe this lot. The gang leave the stage in a conga line, not before reminding us to stay hydrated and pick up our litter. Preach. Sunday, naturally, was also an opportunity for us to check out the ‘Nature Nurture’ area: an extremely relaxing if not slightly bizarre field full of yogis and gong baths.
Later on, Sharon Van Etten and Eels took the main stage by storm ahead of a knockout headline set from Father John Misty. It’s fair to say that American rock band Eels drew one of the festival’s largest crowds in the early evening, with an epic cover of Prince’s ‘Raspberry Beret’. For a minute we all forgot it was Sunday, but we were reminded by the ritualistic burning of the Green Man that shortly followed – a giant wood and straw construction containing within it the handwritten wishes of festival goers tied onto the effigy. Fireworks lit up the fields and a magical finale ensued.
If you’re yet to tick this one off your list, then I recommend you try it out. Green Man has something for everyone, from seasoned festival goers to families with young children. It’s an eco-haven of zen and brilliant music. Oh, and did I mention the food?
See the video for ‘The Best’ by Self Esteem here: