I think you can take as a testament to quite how good this year’s Green Man was that it’s taken me over a week to get myself together enough to write this review.
If you’re in a rush and just want the headline: Best Green Man yet!
For more: read on!
If you’re not in the Settlers camping, general admission starts at 10am on Thursday. In Green Men past, I’ve always liked to be one of the first people in on a Thursday (gotta make the most of it, right? Also means you get to camp near Orange parking, which makes the get-in and get-out easier) but we were delayed a bit this year, meaning we ended up fenced out of our normal spot, and instead deeper into the camping areas – pretty much right behind the Mountain Stage. Which made our tent-festival-tent commute a staggering five minutes. YAS!
We put the tent up (we indulged in a trolley this year to assist us), had a tent cider, then wandered into the festival. We headed straight for Nature Nurture with swimming cossies, just in case there were any spaces in the hot tubs. And guess what … there totally were! So we splurged the £25, had a lovely shower, and then spent two hours intermittently boiling in hot water and then dunking in the cold plunge pool.
Thursday night was finished off with a viewing of the Ben Wheatley film Free Fire in the Cinedrome (which, judging by the number of napping adults in the tent, also doubles as a grown person creche).
On Friday morning we scrambled out of bed in time to see the Druids of Stonehenge open the festival. This year it was Rollo Maughfling on his todd, and he opened the festival with the traditional series of blessings and group chantings and wishes for peace throughout the world. He did also hope for good weather, but as if by magic, the heavens opened and it poured down during the ceremony.
The rest of Friday was mostly spent pootling around between the Mountain Stage and the Back of Beyond, a relatively new stage for the performing arts. Like many of the people at Green Man, we were with people who had kids in tow. But luckily for all of them, it’s a festival that’s built with families in mind.
You’ll see various families pulling these trolleys around the festival: they’re the same trolleys you can use to help drag all your camping crap in during the set up. You can also rent one out for £25 a day, complete with cushions inside and roof to protect your little ones from the weather.
They were an absolute godsend – like mini pillow forts on wheels. The kids slept, ate, and played in and around them all day – and more importantly, they weren’t as tired and crabby as if they’d been walked around.
Frankly, I was a little jealous that no one was pulling me around in one.
We managed to catch quite a bit of music on Friday. The weather was holding steady, which meant sitting on the floor (or rolling around if you needed to) were still possibilities. On the Mountain Stage we caught Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit (who we’d seen at Green Man a couple of times before – and has never disappointed), and the grungey, slow-roasted rock of US band Lift to Experience, who had on stage with them the biggest Texan flag I have ever seen.
We also enjoyed British Sea Power (who turned the stage into an arboretum for their powerful set).
For the big finale of the night, it was a toss up between Future Islands and Kate Tempest, which split our group. Personally I was in favour of staying in Round the Twist, which was busting out some 80s classics (and had handed out inflatable guitars to everyone for some serious moshing), but plumped instead to head to see Kate Tempest.
And my word, am I glad I did. I’ve never seen her live before, and she performed Let Them Eat Chaos, all the way through. Despite some ill-timed whooping from hammered ravers whenever she mentioned drugs, it was one of the most effective performances I’ve ever seen. I’ve listened to the album before, but there was something incredibly special – raw – vital – about her voice, about the words, about experiencing it live.
When she finished, I was so overwhelmed by it that I couldn’t even clap. We staggered out of the tent and headed to Chai Wallah’s to get a drink.
We headed back for Roni Size – I was hoping that listening to New Forms all the way through might help ease the tension, but the first 20 minutes was some straight jump-up, which I just didn’t have the energy for. We rambled back down the hill and to bed at 2am – a relatively early night – to get ready for Saturday.
Slightly bruised by our late night politics, we spent much of Saturday moving slowly from stage to stage, absorbing music, talks, djing, and many, many pints of Growler, which has now become the festival’s ‘house pint’.
We caught a couple of bands in between moving very slowly, many children in tow between stages: the excellent H.Grimace, who played on the Green Man Rising stage (and very kindly let us use one of their tracks for our video above – thank you Hannah!), folk veteran Shirley Collins, old school rnb revivalist Michael Kiwanuka, experimental disco-punkers Liars (although they were a bit loud for the kids, so we hung outside with Bloody Marys for their set), sludgy garage-rockers Thee Oh Sees.
There was also plenty of food explorations on Saturday – and although the jury’s still out, here are the best eats at Green Man (sorry there are no pics, we ate everything before we had a chance to take photos!):
- the Vietnamese place up by Fairy Power (I ate here three times can’t remember the name …!). They had the MOST AMAZING sweet and sour broth, stuffed full of veggies and noodles with pork balls on top … for £8 …
- the Roaming Rotisserie chicken place. Half a chicken, stuffing and potatoes for £8.
- Strumpets with Crumpets. Just do the blue cheese, jam and bacon one when you’re pissed and on your way back to your tent – and don’t even trip, dog.
So anyway, back to the festival, I guess …
My highlight for the weekend was always the Saturday night … Jon Hopkins into Daniel Avery (be still, my beating techno loop).
And it was, predictably, absolutely amazing. I’ve been a Hopkins fan for years now, and Daniel Avery’s Drone Logic is one of the best dance albums released over the past ten years. Hands down.
Myself and the We Are Cardiff technical futurologist have a fun tradition of waiting until we are the drunkest we can possibly be, and then rugby tackling each other down the between the hill between Chai Wallah’s and the Nature Nurture area. This is us, by the way (during the daytime).
This year was no different, but unlike previous years, we were either not quite drunk enough for this escapade (or far too drunk). So upon waking, I was a bit worried to feel extreme pain all around my ribcage when I moved, or coughed, or just breathed.
We decided to take Sunday a little bit easier. hiding from the rain in alternate locations (mostly between Chai Wallah’s and Far Out), grabbing slices of pizza and pints of Wrexham lager when the weather allowed, and absorbing Actress, Sunflower Bean, Richard Dawson, and Manu Delago.
As Sunday night drew to a close, and the weather drew in, Mountain Stage headliner PJ Harvey took to the main stage. You can hear her performance here on the BBC, and I read a great review of her set (and actually of the festival as a whole in the Quietus) so why not head over there, show them some love, and so I can pull this thing to a close!
My camera always falls to pieces every year when I try and capture the burning of the Green Man, so this year I thought your photos would be better to try and represent the ritual. Earlier in the festival I would check the wishes that were written on tags and tied to the man and dragon combo. They ranged from the fairly standard (I wish I was a fairy, please can I have a pay rise) to more fatalistic (my favourite: everything is fucked).
And maybe it’s just me – but after such a wonderfully rich weekend, with good music, good people, and good booze – was burning all those thoughts that we are troubled with – some sort of opportunity for a new beginning?
Radical ritual, folk hearted celebrations of art, music, literature, and people. This was the best Green Man yet. And I cannot wait to see what they pull out of the bag for next year!
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