In a time when festival fever is at its height, with event organisers trying to cash in with more and more popping up each year, the idea of the ultimate British festival has become a little lost in the mix. Glastonbury is without doubt the Daddy, catering for everyone’s needs across its huge, 1,200 acre site; but many festivals are seemingly struggling (Oxegen, Rockness, Wakestock) to pull in the same amount of attention and cash, from both attendees and artists, who now have the luxury of picking from a saturation of events that take place each weekend from May to September. Festivals in general have become a huge money-making business and because of this, not all have kept to the true, independent and corporate-free beliefs.
However, amongst the mass of Summer events, there are still plenty of gems, including the incredible Green Man Festival. The organisers of this Welsh beauty ensure each year that they stick to their independent ethos and family-esque spirit. Now in it’s tenth year at Glanusk Park, nestled between the stunning Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains, this is quite possibly the most laid-back, eclectic and wonderfully organised weekend of the festival season. Its location, the friendly vibes, range of activities and consistently brilliant lineups make this an absolute belter.
A third of the 10,000 punters had actually been on site for the whole week, enjoying a vast array of fun activities and great artists (including TFFT favourite Georgia Ruth) – ideal for families wanting to make a week of it. But we joined the crowds on the Friday morning, hearing reports of an ‘awesome’ set from Leftfield the night before, and truly excited for what the weekend had in store for us.
Afternoon sets from the wonderful Sam Brookes and the foot-stomping Cocos Lovers kicked proceedings off in excellent fashion, followed by a stunning, early-evening performance from Villagers. Conor O’Brien has the amazing ability to make one feel both relaxed and at ease, whilst at the same time stirring up all manners of emotions, with his raw and heartfelt lyrics. The evening then played host to two particularly fine sets, starting with a scintillating tribute to the incredible back-catalogue of William Oneyebor. The performance of his African-influenced funk tracks came from the supergroup Atomic Bomb!, which included the likes of Ahmed Gallab, Sinkane, Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip, Pat Mahoney of LCD Soundsystem and Money Mark of the Beastie Boys. It was one helluva show and set the night up perfectly for Hot Chip’s epic headline performance – the highlight of which had to be their closing number – a sensational cover of Springsteen’s Dancing In The Dark, mixed with the LCD classic All My Friends. A sublime end to Friday’s entertainment.
Saturday began slow and hazy, with the sun shining bright on the rolling Welsh hills. Darren Hanlon delivered a fine set, telling stories of his trips across Australia and the US southern states, while on the Far Out Stage, Hooton Tennis Club brought their North-West indie tunes to the fields, with recent single Jasper going down a particular treat. The mighty Brecon Beacons make for an incredible backdrop to Green Man’s main stage, and Saturday afternoon allowed for a couple of hours spent blissfully sitting in the amphitheatre-like grounds, enjoying fantastic sets from The Leisure Society and Sturgill Simpson.
Our Saturday highlight however, came between these two performances. Back over to the Far Out stage, TFFT enjoyed one of the best sets of the weekend, presented by Mali’s Songhoy Blues. The tent was overflowing as the four-piece brought their incredible debut record Music In Exile to Green Man. Their talent for stirring emotions through grooving guitars, deep blues and traditional and modern sounds is something seriously good.
Though we were chiefly there to take in all the music offerings that Green Man had kindly laid on for us, we ensured that we took advantage of all other manners of entertainment as well! With bellies full of delicious food and our festival cups regularly topped up with beers, ales and ciders from the enormous Courtyard Bar, we visited the many stalls and workshops, took time to have a lie-down in the Walled Garden and checked out the Rough Trade tent for a few secret sets, including Calexico and Jane Weaver. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to take a dip in the new and extremely lovely-looking hot tubs in the Nature Nurture field, but we did take refuge from the rain in the Last Laugh tent, which ended up being a pre-Super-Furry-Animals two hour stint of gut-aching giggles thanks to Holly Walsh, Ellis James, Rob Newman and our all-time fave, Mr. Adam Buxton!
Unfortunately the rain didn’t stop pouring until midday Sunday, (resulting in waking up in a puddle-filled tent!), but thanks to sets from Meic Stevens, Landshapes and the hilarious Chris & The Celeriac, the sun finally poked its head out, and stayed on show for the rest of the day, resulting in a truly beautiful final afternoon of the festival. Another of our favourite sets from the weekend took place in the glow of the sun, with the sensational Matthew E. White and his band taking to the Mountain Stage. His smooth and soulful grooves, mixed with highly-entertaining lyrics from Big Inner and Fresh Blood were a real treat. And taking a look at the stage times, we decided to stay put and take in the delights of Antlers, followed by a truly stunning set from The Staves. In our opinion, those girls cannot put a step wrong, and with the sun going down on the final day, the mountains in the background and beautiful, angelic harmonies filling the air, it was hard evidence that Green Man is an unforgettable experience!
The Sunday evening continued to throw awesome talent our way, and following an epic set from Public Service Broadcasting, we nipped back to the Mountain Stage to take in Father John Misty‘s jaw-dropping performance of his latest work I Love You, Honeybear – bringing drama, passion and glorious vocals to the Welsh valleys! Unfortunately, we had take off before St. Vincent‘s headline set (booo!) but before we hit the road, we made our way to the Far Out tent for one final time, to go crazy to Courtney Barnett. It was, hands down, one of the best performances we’ve seen all year and for us at least, the best ending to an exceptional weekend!
Green Man Festival is always a pleasure, and once again, they nailed every single aspect of it. It’ll take a hell of a force to keep us from returning for a third year next August.