What better way to spend the last little spurts of Summer than by attending one of the most highly-anticipated events of the year? We eagerly returned to Wales for another weekend brimming with sensational music and festivities at the magical Green Man Festival, surrounded by a stunning backdrop of the emerald-green Brecon Beacons.
We arrived at the orange gate on Thursday afternoon after a pleasant drive, listening to our favourite Green Man bands, and were thankfully welcomed by the glorious rays of sunshine. After finally deciding on a decent place to pitch up our tent, we marched on into the arena for our first act of the night; The Pictish Trail, pseudonym for Scotsman Johnny Lynch who has respectably performed and attended Green Man every year since it all began in 2003. We then decided to do a spot of exploring, and the alluring sounds of the Hempolics drew us into Chai Wallah’s for some lo-fi reggae goodness. Melodica solos were involved, along with some fat beats and grooves that got us dancing.
We headed back to the Far Out stage and caught the headliners Public Service Broadcasting, who provided the electronic vibes for the night, filling the entire tent with prominent samples and layers of stimulating sounds. By the end of the set, we had decided to retire early back to our tents to ensure that we were able to fully immerse ourselves into the incredibly busy and exciting day we had ahead of us.
Friday morning came soon enough and we were woken up by the sunshine pouring into our tents, so opted to head out early. We wandered over to the Walled Garden stage where we caught Welsh electro-pop trio HMS Morris, who sang songs in both English and Welsh. After a little nibble (we settled for some twice-fried duck fat chips from the Crispy Rotisserie Duck stall), we slowly made our way through the festival site, to catch The Lovely Eggs at the Far Out tent for something with a bit more bite.
It was then that the inevitable happened, and the clashing commenced! We were stuck between the mighty King Tuff, sporting a hypnotic black and white suit that you could get lost in if you stared at it for too long, and Atlanta, Georgia new wave/post punkers Omni. We decided to catch part of King Tuff and see the rest of Omni’s set. King Tuff’s fuzzy licks and catchy hooks had us pumped, especially after playing fan favourite Psycho Star, which was stuck in our heads for hours after.
We were then dazzled by the extremely talented Lemon Twigs, consisting of siblings Brian and Michael D’Addario, re-inventing the 70s with their retro yet contemporary sound. Susanne Sundfor’s performance followed, with a stripped back, intimate affair. Her renditions of Can You Feel The Thunder and Silencer, with her celestial, mesmerising voice and the soft tinkering of her electric piano captivated the audience, leaving them utterly speechless (and in our case, slightly tearful and goose-pimpled).
Last but definitely not least of the night were psychedelic garage-rockers King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, they brought out the wild side of the seemingly tranquil festival attendees. Initially we felt it was a strange choice having them headline the Mountain Stage, but they pulled it off and it went down an absolute treat. Rattlesnake had the whole crowd singing along; with their gnarly, punchy riffs, distorted harmonica solos, and two extremely tight drummers, we could see why they were one of the most talked-about bands of the entire festival.
Saturday emerged and admittedly our heads were throbbing ever so slightly; we weren’t sure whether it was the amount of thrashing about we did for King Gizzard or whether it was the number of Growlers (Green Man’s home-brew) we had consumed from their extensive selection of delicious ales, but we woke up feeling slightly tender on this particular morning. However, we had to soldier on; as our extremely busy itinerary for the day awaited!
We were slowly eased into the day by the stunning Jim Ghedi from Sheffield, performing intricate and delicate pieces of traditional folk music. His music painted an enchanting image of nature, with the tender melodies of the violin along with the deep swellings of the bowed double bass, the choral, melodic sounds of the harmonium and Jim’s healing voice. Exactly what the doctor ordered for our sore heads, and equally as pleasant in person, as we discovered during an extensive chat after the set.
Food! We opted for something spicy to pep us up a bit and got the famous Goan Fish Curry (with extra chilli sauce of course) which was a delight. The line-up for the food at this festival is always extensive; there was a variety of different cuisines from around the world, and plenty of vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options. This year, for the first time, Green Man introduced an affordable meal scheme which meant that as many as eighteen food stalls would sell some of their dishes for a fiver, ensuring that everyone has a chance to get a decent hot meal down them for a reasonable price.
After wolfing down our curries, Cardiff based group Boy Azooga dished out some fun-filled music, with their set ranging from raucous, bass driven garage rock like Loner Boogie, to sunshine-filled sentimental songs such as Jerry. Their finale got the whole of the Far Out tent strutting their stuff with their rendition of Jungle Boogie, with the addition of some friends who joined them on stage with various instruments, including the famous, friendly giant and avid gig-goer Big Jeff on a maraca shaking his blonde locks. We then stuck around for Bo Ningen, a Japanese neo-psychedelic/noise rock band, who got some heads banging for those who wanted a break from anything more honeyed and pleasant, and put on an astounding, energetic show as usual.
Later that evening, John Grant completely stole the show with his strong presence and golden voice. His performance of Marz took our breaths away, reverberating around the mountains and through our bones. The crowd fell silent and were utterly spellbound by his performance – definitely a tough act to follow. However, headliners Fleet Foxes just about pulled it off with their golden presence, filling the entire Mountain Stage and immediately cloaking the audience in a warm blanket of blissful harmonies, resonating an air of peace throughout the crowd. They performed a lot of their fan favourites, including Mykonos and White Winter Hymnal, as well as a few from their latest album Crack-Up. After a quick visit to the Courtyard for some delectable local cider, we spent the last part of our night dancing to the brilliant Nathan Fake in the Far Out tent until the early hours.
The last day was upon us and we were astounded at how quickly the weekend had gone. After a mouth-watering breakfast of Shakshuka (North African breakfast consisting of eggs poached in a spicy chunky tomato sauce served over warm flatbread) from the Poco stall, we made our first appearance at the Green Man Rising Stage, where we caught Welsh band Sock performing. This stage area is tucked away not too far from the Mountain Stage and the wonderful Einstein’s Garden, nestled next to a small pond with plenty of shade and trees to sit under, for anyone that wishes to escape the sunshine for a bit.
Stella Donnelly, an engaging story-teller through both her music and her interaction with the crowd, was both charming and humble as a performer at Green Man Festival. Her songs had little stories behind them, some of them humorous, some of them more serious and upsetting. She covered the topic of sexual assault in one of her songs Boys Will Be Boys, which left us all emotional and teary-eyed, a very important subject that needs addressing. With her music, sugary sweet but with a sharp tang to it, and her charm, she definitely won the crowd over in the Walled Garden.
We were lured into the Mountain Stage for a set from Kevin Morby. Armed with subtle, delicate harmonies and strong Bob Dylan vibes, he completely owned the stage. Later on in the evening we were blown away by Grizzly Bear’s performance; the contrast between Ed Droste’s haunting, drawn-out vocals, drenched in reverb, and Daniel Rossen’s unique, syrupy voice, the hammering of the jangly guitars, the sporadic time signatures…absolutely flawless.
It was then time for the final headliners of the festival on the Mountain Stage – The War On Drugs. After Grizzly Bear’s spellbinding performance, we personally felt that they were a very difficult act to follow, but the layers of soft, gushing synths and luscious guitars swept us all into a lucid dreamscape. A sublime set, although after a while we did feel each song melded into the next, and the set remained quite linear throughout without much of a shift in dynamics. Not to worry though, we had the burning of the Green Man and the firework display to sort that out for us, which was a spectacular sight and gave us all a sense of communal spirit.
We thought that was the end, music-wise, but we were wrong! Chai Wallah’s stage was pumping with a 47-piece folk ensemble (yes, you heard correctly, 47!) called The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble, all one on tiny stage, jumping and dancing around, fiddles and all, performing fusion-folk music, and the crowd went wild for them. The energy in the air was incredible, and set us up for a final night of dancing and celebrating.
An unforgettable weekend teeming with exceptional talent, scrumptious food and drink, and not forgetting the friendly crowd and the new friends we made. We’re already looking forward to seeing what next year has in store for us, see you in 2019 Green Man!