We took a bit longer getting back from Green Man than expected, both physically and emotionally, but now the fog has cleared, here are our thoughts on a wet and wonderful weekend in the Brecon Beacons.
If you read the festival preview, where we hailed the work of the musical programming team, you might expect a comprehensive set-by-set account of the weekend’s action. This however, would be to miss the point of Green Man and ignore it’s real charm. Nestled within an opening of the surrounding Black Mountains, the aptly named Mountain Stage is situated in the most perfect amphitheatre you could envisage for a festival main stage; a natural gradient with a bit of clever landscaping has created an area that benefits from excellent acoustics, great views all round and never leaves the crowd feeling like herded cattle.
This spacious atmosphere was in no small part due to Green Man’s capacity of 20,000 people, in an area that could probably have packed in an extra 10,000. Comfort over profit equals happy campers. After a long old trip from Newcastle (via Newport), Connan Mockasin was the first act we saw on the Friday evening – his serene and off kilter numbers, occasionally interrupted by wild showers, setting the tone for a weekend of adventure.
The rainbows of Friday gave way to the forecast showers of Saturday. They never lasted long enough to fully dampen spirits and remarkably didn’t turn the festival site into a mud bath. It must take a clever irrigation system to keep a site, which is engulfed in a cloud half the time, relatively dry. If it all got too much though, you could take a dip in the hot tubs up at Nature Nurture, whilst sipping champagne. The expenses budget wouldn’t stretch that far, so a trip to the Green Man bar to get one of the 106 ales, beers and ciders was the plan on Saturday afternoon, before seeing BC Camplight. Brian Christinzio and his band played at the Walled Garden stage – an area of the festival found on the other side of a small opening in a vegetation covered stone wall, which made it feel like you’d discovered a (not very) secret garden.
This intimate, fairy tale setting was also where we returned for Pictish Trail’s headline set that evening. Full of as much energy and surrealism as he’s displayed on Amazing Afternoons a few weeks back, Johnny Lynch provided one of the more colourful moments during what was a kaleidoscope of a weekend.
Going back to the bar, as we did a fair bit during the festival, we have to mention how easy and efficient the whole experience was. The staff were friendly and informative on all aspects of the festival – acting like booze bringers-come-tourist information stewards. With queuing rarely a hindrance to quenching your thirst, the process was made even more simple by Green Man’s adopted stack-cups; the idea being you keep your cup with you and trade it in for a clean one. They were easy to hold, thanks to an ingenious handle design and there was no plastic pint carpet of litter under foot at the end of the night. As the comprehensive drinks guide pointed out, the only thing you needed to worry about was the percentage of what you’d ordered.
Well oiled and very grateful for the clearing rain clouds, the Far Out tent was the setting for Saturday night’s rave. Black Mass brought the beats with his dark and expansive, synth driven techno. There was never a shortage of things to do well into the early hours, with the festival site itself and it’s many twists and turns, leading to secret corners to indulge your senses.
Sunday was arguably the best day for music, if you needed any reminding that on top of the many excellent features of the festival, the 14th Green Man boasted a stellar line-up. Gengahr, Julia Holter, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Warpaint were among the acts bringing the festival to a triumphant finale. Such is the layout and strength of the overall running order, the Mountain Stage never really got “festival busy” until Belle and Sebastian emerged to headline – providing arguably the best set of the entire weekend, before the Green Man went up in flames. Stuart Murdoch’s flamboyant showmanship was a fitting way to conclude a weekend often noticeable by it’s understated brilliance.
There was an appropriate amount of fanfare for a quite exceptional live band – with Murdoch even comparing himself to Madonna early on. It would be difficult to pick a set highlight as such, but the band inviting the teenagers from the front – who as Murdoch pointed out weren’t born when Tigermilk was released – to come and dance on stage was the postcard moment from the weekend. There were accusations that a member of team Amazing cried at the end, but I’m sure it was just a bit of glitter in the eye.
We go to a lot of festivals and depending on who you ask they’re all the greatest one – but it’d be very difficult to not hold Green Man up there with the very best. The campsites were well laid out, the toilets were the cleanest we’ve ever seen at a festival, the food and drink was excellent and rarely too expensive (even by entertainment standards), the staff were the best I’ve encountered and the setting was beautiful. And there weren’t too many flags!