‘Overwhelmed’, ‘Delighted’, ‘Magical’, ‘Joyous’ – just a few of the most-exclaimed words at Green Man Festival 2021. From stage to stage, tent to tent, field to field and bench to bench, the sumptuous cocktail of relief, delight and gratitude ran through the veins of each and every punter lucky enough to find themselves back amongst the Welsh Black Mountains.
There was always a glimmer of hope that Green Man Festival would be one of the few fortunate events that still went ahead this Summer – thanks not only to its position late in the festival calendar, but because of the loving community that surrounds this event. The organisers had worked tirelessly to ensure that it wasn’t postponed for another year, local MPs had lobbied the government in PMQs for it to be given the greenlight, and each and every attendee had prayed to the festival-gods that we would embark on Glanusk Estate once more.
The euphoria that was therefore felt once Green Man 2021 was given the go ahead in July, was beyond words, and clearly this was still the case at the weekend. Bands and artists grasped for the right way to articulate how they felt about being back. Lest we forget that many of these glorious acts – some new, some very-much established – had not played live, never mind at a festival, for well over eighteen months. It was simply beautiful to have them with us again.
As always with Green Man Festival, and despite the obvious complications that the pandemic and travel restrictions had caused, the lineup was carefully-crafted, beautifully diverse and yet with a clear eye on the Welsh contingent – taking the opportunity to focus even more on the stunning array of talent that the country has to offer. From Green Man Rising-winner Teddy Hunter, to the effortlessly multi-talented Boy Azooga, to the festival equivalent of The Father of The House, Gruff Rhys. Not forgetting the ridiculously-dazzling and ludicrously-entertaining Charlotte Church’s Late Night Pop Dungeon that closed out the Friday evening.
New acts and artists, who must have been chomping at the bit to play this weekend, are always celebrated at Green Man, but this time it felt even more poignant. The growing hunger over the past eighteen months to not only discover new bands, but then to actually see said bands do their stuff live, has been immense. The likes of Porridge Radio, Wet Leg and Melin Melyn have all become firm favourites in recent months, yet to finally see them up on stage was a complete joy. Equally as wonderful was the chance to see firm favourites making a much-anticipated return. After almost fourteen years away, it was a delight to see Stephen Fretwell live once again, playing tracks from new record Busy Guy, plus a couple of the old hits.
As eclectic as always, genres bounced from stage to stage and set to set over the weekend, with a glorious mixture of alt-folk (Richard Dawson), dance-pop (Georgia), groovy-as-fuck jazz (Thundercat), frenzied indie-punk (Fontaines D.C.), contemporary classical (Erland Cooper) and neo-soul (Greentea Peng) all getting a look-in…plus everything in between. Sets from Matt Maltese, Self-Esteem, Billie Marten, Django Django and Jose Gonzales were particular stand-outs, whilst any opportunity to see The Staves play on a cloudless, Sunday evening is one to stick right in the memory-bank – they were breath-taking as always.
And lest we forget a number of secret sets dotted across the site as well. Ahead of meeting up with the rest of her LUMP bandmates to put on an awe-inspiring set on the Far Out stage, Laura Marling popped-in to the record tent to play a handful of beautiful solo tracks. This Is The Kit’s Kate Stables put on an equally-gorgeous acoustic show, as did the superb LYR, headed by the Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, who had performed in the Babbling Tongues tent earlier on.
Green Man Festival is a celebration of diversity, equality and the creative triumphs of music, artists, crafts, food, booze, charity, science and our future generations. It’s also a place where one can feel welcomed, comfortable, reassured and at peace with oneself. The community-vibe, the normality of it all, the respect between those ready to party and those choosing to still mask-up, that little extra bit of love for life, nature and each other after such a tumultuous year – it flowed throughout the fields this weekend.
And here, we end with the most-exclaimed words of the festival – “Thank-You”. A short and simple phrase that could be heard at any given moment – from musician to crowd, drinker to bar staff, camper to steward, giggler to comic, DJ to dancer, organiser to weatherman, person to person, child to child. As the weekend ended with that most special of rituals, the burning of the Green Man, a final “thank-you” echoed across the Black Mountains, with hugs a-plenty, finally.