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Green Man 2018 – festival in review

It was the sixteenth Green Man Festival this year. It remains a wonderful and immersive experience – free from blaring corporate sponsorships and steeped in the magical Welsh mountains. In our opinion, this was the best Green Man yet.

The Mountain Stage, with Crug Hywel (Table Mountain) off in the background

The Guardian and Telegraph have already given the festival 5/5 stars, which we’d agree with – read on for our comprehensive romp around one of the best blinking festivals we’ve ever been to!

The fact that Green Man sells out – year after year – should tell you something about what happens to people that come to this festival. This year was my eighth Green Man, and as far as I’m concerned, the best yet.

Even when not adorned with miles of bunting, walkabout performers and stages large and small offering up musical wonderments, the Glanusk Estate is a beautiful environment. The Mountain Stage sits at the bottom of a grassy amphitheatre, with stepped ledges allowing for maximum relaxing while you’re listening to music waft up the hill, while Crug Hywel (the Table Mountain for which the Table Top area is named) dominates the backdrop.

Add in 20,000 glittering, tie-dyed people of all ages, the option of a full week of activities through the Settlement camping beforehand, and a whole beer festival within the actual festival – and you’re getting closer to the spirit of Green Man. There’s no corporate sponsorship anywhere – no Carlsberg tent, or Volvo spa area. Pints of beer and cider – all independently produced – are reasonably priced. Considering some day festivals in London charge £80 a ticket and £6.50 for a can of Red Stripe, and you’re starting to wonder why people would bother when you can come here instead.

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Revellers in the glow of the Mountain Stage
The ‘man’. This year, the Green Man sported a very natty pair of horns, and is covered in written wishes that all go up in flames on the Sunday – delivering them to the universe!

General camping opens to the public on Thursday morning at 10am, and so after a hearty Wetherspoons breakfast en route (don’t judge) we rolled into the campsite. As there were a few of us this year all squeezed into my tiny car, we opted for a pre-erected tent rather than hiring a bigger vehicle to hold all our tents. And I must say, if there’s a few of you, or if wrangling tents just isn’t your thing, the Tangerine Fields campsite is brilliantly located at Green Man – directly behind the Mountain Stage, meaning you still feel totally embedded in the action even when you’ve just popped back to get a jumper.

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Once our minimalist camp was set up, most of Thursday was spent doing a lap of the site, and trying to find somewhere open early enough for us to get our first cider on. The ever-reliable Chai Wallahs opened earliest, with the Diplomats of Sound DJs serving funky beats and the bar serving whiskey coffees (a recommended mid-day pick me up). The rest of the day was spent puzzling over the popularity of Jimothy Lacoste (an old editor of mine once said if you’ve got nothing good to say about an artist, don’t say anything at all. So it’s best I say silent on this one, but I can at least convey some facts: 1 – he mimes, 2 – the kids seem to love it); enjoying a quick trip to the Cinedrome tent (which can provide a welcome respite from the weather and noise outside) for a screening of Anorac, Huw Stephens’ documentary film about the Welsh language music scene across the country (well worth catching if you can).

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“I would like to think that our nationalism, our Welshness, is defined by something bigger than just historical oppression”

We then headed up to the Far Out stage for Thursday night’s closers. We enjoyed bouncy Scot The Pictish Trail, then ended the night with a rousing and spine-tingling Public Service Broadcasting show. Their last album Every Valley took listeners on a journey down the mineshafts of the South Wales valleys, and although the purpose of the record is to shine a light on the “disenfranchised working class in this age of turmoil”, there was something particularly haunting about hearing the music just a few miles from the heartlands of the Welsh coal mining industry. Also, they brought the Beaufort Male Voice choir onto the stage. No, you’re crying. Blep.

On Friday we were up early and back up to Table Top to catch the “official” druid opening of the festival. This year Archdruid of Glastonbury Rollo Maughfling performed the opening solo (some other Stonehenge druids were on their way but had got lost …). We wished for peace throughout the whole world, chanted a bit, and then having blessed the festival, gave a large round of applause and went about our day.

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Archdruid of Glastonbury Rollo Maughfling blesses the festival
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Finding critters
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Nature activities for big and small kids

We lazed in the sunshine and enjoy the shiny pop of Amber Arcades followed by the spacious ditties of Eleanor Friedberger, before deciding to explore the festival a little more.

The Nature Nurture area is where to head to if you’re looking for something for your body, your mind, or a bit of both, with the area offering every massage you can imagine, nutrition from a vegan cafe, or even shamanic journeys or gong baths, if you’re so inclined. After wandering the area for a while, I decided on some inversion – being strapped to a board and hung upside down for ten minutes, which is supposed to reduce pressure on your back and neck, allowing it to stretch out and recover from all that sitting on hard ground and lying on lumpy camp beds. (I enjoyed it so much I went and did it again on Sunday).

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Having a good stretch

For the rest of Friday, we enjoyed the psychedelic noodlings of Beak>, aka Geoff Barrow of Portishead, the weird rnb/indie pop of Dirty Projectors, and then it was back up to the Far Out Stage, where the programming was a bit skew-whiff. Firstly it was Floating Points live, which felt like a very Berlin style minimal set you’d expect at 4am in a weird dive bar down some hole in Alexanderplatz, followed by one of my festival highlights, Mount Kimbie. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen them – the last time was a very different kind of ‘live’ gig at Cardiff Arts Institute in 2010, which you can listen to here: Mount Kimbie Live at Cardiff Arts Institute 2010). This was full live band, with pounding intensity and great upbeat tunes. And then, what we were waiting for – the main event for After Dark – John Talabot. What we were expecting was techno – but what we got was some weird cheesey rnb disco. It wasn’t until some time later after we’d all left Far Out, somewhat confused, that someone in Chai Wallahs told us John Talabot had pulled out due to illness, and it was in fact a Floating Points DJ set.

I was very drunk and belligerent by this point (apparently all I said for an hour was “where’s the f***ing techno” until my second brandy chai, where I lost the ability to speak completely). We headed for the ferris wheel, which often has the most banging tunes of any venue on site – no jokes, you get on there and get whizzed up and down, and then see if you’re not screaming with glee while they play Whitney Houston’s ‘I wanna dance with somebody’ followed by DJ Zinc’s ‘Wile out’.

Luckily, the Walled Garden is on the way home from the top end of the site, meaning we got to stumble into the brilliant Heavenly Jukebox, where I’m pretty sure we stayed for about an hour, although the only song I can definitely remember was something by Lionel Ritchie? Anyway, big up to Jeff, Diva and the crew who mercifully I didn’t go and talk to, because I was beyond speech and no one except my nearest and dearest should ever had to deal with me in that state.

After such a heavy Friday night, I think it’s fair to say everyone in the tent cursed me at least five times when I woke them all up at 8.30am with the bright and breezy news that ‘WE’VE GOT A HOT TUB AT TEN AM GUYS!’. Bathing Under The Sky have been bringing their wood-fired hot tubs to Green Man since 2015, and although it might not seem like it, there’s nothing better for sorting out that hangover than slowly boiling in hot water, then submerging yourself in a freezing cold plunge pool, and repeating for two hours.

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Saturday morning hot tub

It’s a luxury that’s worth investing in, although one member of our party was so hungover all he managed was five minutes in the hot tub (he did also vom in one of the bins right in front of the Mountain Stage on the way back – yep, the bit where all the kids play – just as Sweet Baboo struck his first chords to open the stage on the Saturday). “GREEN MAN! YEAH!”

After depositing our worse-for-wear tent mate, we headed back out into the festival, feeling fully refreshed, where Westerman was playing in the Walled Garden, and we picked up our first cider of the day (my drink of choice throughout the whole festival was a nice half of the Mortimer’s Orchard English Berry cider. Mmmm).

Westerman in the Walled Garden
Walled Garden in full swing
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The black hole for all my cash on site, the Rough Trade stand

After that, the afternoon was a haze of sax-lead jazz from Nubya Garcia and crunchy guitars and huge trousers from Bo Ningen.

Bo Ningen

After that, we waited around Far Our for another one of the other acts I’d been really excited about seeing – north Walian nu techno kween Kelly Lee Owens. Instead, some gal with a guitar took to the stage … again, with no announcement about the line up change, but we did find out from a steward she also had pulled out due to illness (techno flu must be going around). I wasn’t drunk enough to be livid this time, but did bemoan the lack of screen outside Far Out notifying people of line-up changes. The night still ended on a high as I had a spiritual experience to the magnificent John Grant (who is 50! Can you believe he’s 50??), followed by Simian Mobile Disco with the Deep Throat Choir playing their latest album, Murmurations.

Although I didn’t spend any time at the Green Man Rising Stage this year, the fact that Deep Throat Choir were headlining the Far Out stage is a testament to the stepping stone that Rising plays in the careers of so many acts – I first saw them on the Rising Stage in 2014. But there’s so much to do every year … it’s impossible to get around to doing everything …

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Bubbles

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So when Sunday rolled around, and I realised it was our last day (last day!), we rolled the picnic blanket out in front of Xylouris White and enjoyed some wonderful jazz by way of Crete and Australia, before I decided to go and hang myself upside down in the Nature Nurture field one last time, and then topped up the wellbeing with a half hour massage. Well worth the investment, you could have poured me out of that field back into the festival.

Another area of the festival I’ve not mentioned yet is the Back of Beyond – the performance area, with an aerial rig for trapeze, hoop and rope performances (right next to a flying trapeze you can have a go at if you’re feeling brave!). This year the hosts of the afternoon entertainment were the usually NSFW Mr and Mrs Clark, who brought much merriment and shenanigans to the stage.

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Mr and Mrs Clark

And here’s Mrs Clark, leading the crowd in some festival yoga.

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Mrs Clark
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The Kitsch n Sync ladies…

Other highlights of Sunday were the totally demented Nine-Inch-Nails-psych of Follakzoid, smooth r’n’b stylings of Curtis Harding, the huge lung capacity of Anna Calvi, and then the Mountain Stage finale – epic rock-n-roll from The War on Drugs, who I was expecting little from, but really enjoyed. It’s familiar and huge-sounding – much more engaging and demanding than the band are on record.

Once the headliners had finished we ambled up the hill to watch them burn the Green Man from the safety of the large safety perimeter fence. A lot of people use the burn as their festival watershed, but I felt revived after hanging upside down and getting pummelled earlier in the day, so wandered over to Far Out, where High Contrast challenged everyone to bring their best bass face and smashed out some incredibly dark drum and bass to finish the weekend off.

Stumbling around the site, I decided to do what I always do at the end of the festival, and do one final victory lap. The Deptford Northern Soul Club were still going strong in the walled garden, full of an energetic audience filled with plenty of cross-dressing (did anyone else notice that as a thing this year?), tie dye, and plenty of biodegradable glitter.

It’s impossible to round it up in a sentence, other than to say the bands were wonderful, the food was great, the weather held out – and it’s still, by a long way, one of my favourite festivals. The lack of corporate sponsorship and the beautiful setting makes for a special experience – where you really do feel like you’re immersed in a completely different, magical world. Long live Green Man – mark out the 15-18 August 2019 in your calendar, and make sure you follow Green Man on all their channels for early bird tickets.

Waiting for a go on the Ferris Wheel
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More bubbles
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Waiting for liquid refreshments
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Some downtime with the Guardian crossword
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Far Out!

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To see our full round up of Green Man photographs and see all the We Are Green Man festival portraits from this year, head to the We Are Green Man Facebook page!

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Green Man 2018 – final line up announcement! Got your tickets yet?

Our favourite Brecon Beacons based arts extravaganza Green Man Festival is looking REAL FINE this year, with a line up that includes plenty of Cardiff talent (boom) and headliners from ACROSS THE GLOBE. Tickets usually sell out early summer, so make sure you get yours in soon!

New music line up additions today (we’ve highlighted our We Are Cardiff fav picks in bold – in particular we can’t wait to see Bristol gig legend Big Jeff making his Green Man DJ debut …!)

Teenage Fanclub | Whyte Horses | Follakzoid | The Lovely Eggs | Insecure Men | Frankie Cosmos | Eleanor Friedberger | Ari Roar | J. Bernardt | Horsey | Celebrating Bert Jansch | Black Midi | The Cosmic Array | Squid

DJs – High Contrast | Huw Stephens | Tom Ravenscroft | Alfresco Disco | Heavenly Jukebox | Lycra | Dutty Disco | Big Jeff | Fever Club

Chai Wallahs Stage – Afla Sackey & Afrik Bawantu | Agbeko | Amy True | Animal Noise | Animanz | Ben Catley | Berget Lewis | Edd Keene | Friendly Fire | Gringo Ska | Groovelator | Holly Holden y Su Banda | Joncan Kavlakoglu | Kiriki Club | Lazy Habits | Lost Tuesday Society | Monster Ceilidh Band | Samsara | Snazzback | Solana | Soul Grenades | Sounds of the Siren | The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble | Tropical Tea Party feat DJ Hiphoppapotamus | Will Varley | Wrongtom

And in case you need more convincing, have a look at our Green Man video from last year …

Previously confirmed music line up:

The War On Drugs | Fleet Foxes | King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard |

John Grant | Grizzly Bear | Dirty Projectors | The Brian Jonestown Massacre | Public Service Broadcasting | Anna Calvi | Cate Le Bon | Mount Kimbie | Floating Points (live) | The Black Angels | John Maus | The Lemon Twigs | Joan As Police Woman | Teleman | Kevin Morby | Baxter Dury | Curtis Harding | Tamikrest | Courtney Marie Andrews | Susanne Sundfor | John Talabot | Simian Mobile Disco (live) featuring Deep Throat Choir | Wye Oak | Jane Weaver | Alex Cameron | Phoebe Bridgers | Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever | Kelly Lee Owens | Bo Ningen | Beak> | Chastity Belt | HMLTD | Sweet Baboo | A Hawk and a Hacksaw | Xylouris White | Lost Horizons | Shannon Lay | Pictish Trail | Marlon Williams | Lucy Dacus | The KVB | Omni | Goat Girl | Duds | Snapped Ankles | Jade Bird | Boy Azooga | Snail Mail | Nubya Garcia | Charles Watson | Ider | Ed Dowie | Haley Heynderickx | Bas Jan | Seamus Fogarty | Juanita Stein | Sacred Paws | The Murlocs | Jim Ghedi | Sorry | Stella Donnelly | Spinning Coin | Group Listening | Haze | Fenne Lily | Adwaith | Accu | Sock | Aadae | Teenage Fanclub | Whyte Horses | Follakzoid | The Lovely Eggs | Insecure Men |

ERMEGERD right?? All of this in addition to the amazing Talking Shop and Last Laugh announcements made earlier this year … Get your tickets and join the annual decamp to the beautiful Brecon Beacons!

Buy Green Man tickets now

Green Man website

Images from last year’s birthday bash!

More We Are Cardiff – Green Man coverage:

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Green Man Festival 2017 – 15th birthday bash review!

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!

Green Man Festival 2017

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.

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

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.

Green Man Festival 2017

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.

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

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).

Green Man Festival 2017

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.

Green Man Festival 2017

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.

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

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’.

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

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.

Green Man Festival 2017

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).

Green Man Festival 2017

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.

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

Green Man Festival 2017

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!

GREEN MAN 2018 EARLY BIRD TICKETS ARE OUT SOON! Make sure you’re following:

DON’T FORGET TO CHECK OUT OUR NEWEST SERIES OF WE ARE GREEN MAN FESTIVAL GOER PORTRAITS! OVER AT WE ARE GREEN MAN

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Green Man’s 15th birthday bash – our highlights video!

Well, it was one to remember! Possibly the strongest line up of any Green Man so far … plus more art, performance, fun times and pints of Growler than any Green Man before!

We’re prepping our We Are Green Man festival goer portraits, but for the time being, hopefully this will tide you over …

Early bird tickets for next year are out soon – make sure you do the thing and follow the lovely Green Man Festival in all the usual places …

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Green Man headliners announced! PJ Harvey, Ryan Adams and Future Islands bring the party!

Great news, party people – the Green Man headliners have been announced for the 15th birthday, and they are looking GOOD!

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This year we celebrate Green Man on 17 – 20 August, and check out the headliners – and these are three acts you can ONLY SEE at Green Man this year – they aren’t playing any other UK festivals!

PJ Harvey will be playing the Mountain Stage, ten years since she last played in Wales. Bring the noise!

Ryan Adams brings moody, devilish journeys through country music and Americana to the Black Mountains.

Future Islands – the crazy silky groovemasters bring their madness to Wales for the first time ever!

BUY TICKETS FOR GREEN MAN NOW

 

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Other news: two time Mercury nominated soulmaster Michael Kiwanuka returns to GM for the third time to transfix with his panoramic, soul-stirring exaltations from last year’s number one record. Following 2016’s triumphant return with new album ‘Flotus’, we welcome the magisterial melancholy of the legendary Lambchop. Also Conor Oberst– the man behind the much-loved Bright Eyes – will be getting your stirring up misty-eyed moments and Angel Olsen returns following a clean sweep of critical adulation for 2016’s ‘MY WOMAN’.

With a whole load more eye-catching propositions – like 6Music’s album of the year from jazz wizards BadBadNotGood, a DJ set from long time GM pal Jon Hopkins, the ever excellent Field Music, Julia Jacklin and much, much more added to the bill, our birthday bash is shaping up to be a real corker already.

We’ve still got a Thursday night headliner tucked away up our sleeve, plus plenty more amazing acts (including a party-starting programme of After Dark DJs) to be announced.

Stay tuned for more news!

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Green Man 2017 takes place in the beautiful Brecon Beacons from Thursday 17th to Sunday 20th August, putting glorious musical performers in the most magical of settings. With 10 unique areas, there are whole worlds to explore – from late night, frisky goings-on in the Far Out field, to the best in Comedy and Literature in Babbling Tongues, over one hundred beers and ciders in The Courtyard to beaker-fizzing experiments inEinstein’s Garden, and loads, loads more besides, there’s no better place to dive in and see where you end up.

Line-up in full:

PJ Harvey, Ryan Adams, Future Islands, Michael Kiwanuka, Lambchop, Conor Oberst, Angel Olsen,BadBadNotGood, Jon Hopkins (DJ), Field Music, This is the Kit, Julia Jacklin, Fionn Regan, The Big Moon, Richard Dawson, Melt Yourself Down, Hurray For The Riff Raff, Laura Gibson, Sunflower Bean,Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band, Jessica Pratt, Karl Blau, Grumbling Fur, LVL UP, Shame, Wolf People, Big Thief, Gill Landry, Michael Chapman, Doomsquad, Deep Throat Choir, Girl Ray, Gaelynn Lea, Warhaus, The Orielles,

We’re big fans of Green Man: find out more from before

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Green Man 2016 festival in review – Saturday and Sunday

SATURDAY

Given the late Friday night, we woke up feeling extremely pleased we had booked ourselves two hours in a hot tub. Bathing Under the Sky do wood-fired hot tubs in wooden tubs (with some VIP tubs on the upper deck of a bus), and for the past few years have been situated on the edge of the Nature Nurture health and spirituality area in Green Man (it’s a lovely tranquil space where you go to do yoga or get pummelled by a masseuse).

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And while slowly boiling in hot water might not sound like a great way to spend a couple of hours at a festival, it was worth every penny. You get to have a nice hot shower before We lucked out by joining a lovely couple from London in the tub (I stupidly only wrote down her name and forgot his – so hello Jess, if you’re reading this!), and felt pretty smug about the intermittent downpours while we were happily sipping gin and tonics and listening to the Deep Throat Choir, who had just started on the main stage.

The afternoon was then mostly spent in Einstein’s Garden, where we learned the following: how viruses could spread with the Llama Control centre; how the weather works (they also provided a live weather update on a blackboard for festival goers to plan waterproof outfits); and how propulsion works.

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Speaking of the weather … you can’t avoid talking about it, can you? Especially not at a festival. For much of Saturday, there were announcements on all stages for people to make sure their tents were tied down, as gale force winds threatened to blow through the site. Dear god, we prayed, as we downed our fourth (or fifth? We stopped counting after the first) Growler (the Official Festival Beer) … please don’t let our tent be blown away before we’ve seen the man burn tomorrow night!

On Saturday night, we were excited for headliner Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, but they seemed to lack something without Jade in the band. Bored halfway through, we wandered up to Far Out to have our heads blown off by Jagwar Ma’s next level live show. I’m not really sure how to describe it, but think electronic techno strobe light vibes.

We then headed back to Chai Wallahs to see the crazy energetic They Say Jump, followed by Parker & Moneyshot’s fast-paced ADHD cut and paste hip-pop disco.

After this it was back to Round The Twist, where the Alfresco Disco were pumping out some current house bangers with the odd classic thrown in (we very much enjoyed Alan Braxxe, Layo & Bushwacka and Leftfield), and then down to the Walled Garden, where someone literally had to peel me off the floor when Pete Fowler played Prince’s Controversy. Awesome Tapes from Africa played a suitably tribal set that induced much rump shaking. We were left somewhere after midnight, many Growlers in, to stumble back down the hill and fall into our tent.

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The torrential rain and gale force winds never materialised, although there were (of course) occasional downpours. Sunday morning was surprisingly sunny, and so, in optimistic mood, we packed waterproofs in our rucksacks, grabbed some delicious coffee from the Table Top Coffee stall (which had expanded into a Green Man franchise this year, a second location appearing next to the Rough Trade shop), and then continued to watch the National Dance Company of Wales and their performance at the Back of Beyond, a new stage designed to showcase the best in performing arts. Unfortunately, the stage had no roof and so a couple of the performances over the weekend were rained off, but thankfully we managed to catch NDCW on Sunday with their beautiful dance piece – their first ever festival performance (we must also give mentions to Flossy and Boo, Citrus Arts & Circomedia and Kitsch n Sync – all of whom entertained greatly).

We also wandered over to Salon Mirela, where a long line of festival people were waiting patiently to be bejewelled and a-glittered. We managed to catch a couple of roaming performances from Kitsch N Sync (to Eddie Murphy’s Party All the Time) and Sparkles Hoop Troop (to Sarah Brightman’s I Lost My Heart to A Starship Trooper).

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I hadn’t intended on watching any music in the afternoon, but wandered into watch probably my most stand-out band of the festival: The Moonlandingz. We had no idea who they were when they started, and my companion commented “they look like they’re from about four different bands”. Consulting the programme quickly, we realised that they are: The Moonlandingz is a ‘fictional’ band led by Sean Lennon, and at Green Man featured members of Fat White Family, Electronic Research Council and Rebecca Taylor from Slow Club (who had to peg it off 15 minutes before the end as Slow Club were about to perform on the Mountain Stage).

The Moonlandingz may be a fictional band, but they’re absolutely amazing on stage. Sean hollered, strutted and pouted his way through the set, supported by some hardcore shrieking from Rebecca and also by a bottle of red wine he swigged from every so often. The music ranged from psych to glam rock to almost metal, with my highlights being the stompy Glory Hole and nuclear-powered Sweet Saturn Mine.

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I was a bit overwhelmed by how good they had been, so we recovered with a giant plate of nachos (get them in the Mexican place opposite the Mountain Stage people – you get a lot of nacho for your cash there) and then down to the Talking Shop, where I had made a note to see author Amy Liptrot talk about her book, The Outrun.

Do you ever get occasions where you’ll see something literally everywhere – like a book, or a film? I don’t even mean through advertising – just through seeing it in shops, or Around The Internet. Anyway, over the past couple of months, that thing for me has been Amy Liptrot’s book. And so it was very frustrating to get down there and see the timings of the day had been moved around – I had missed her!

She was the only literary type person I had pencilled in to see, so even though James Yorkston was talking probably very eloquently about his book Three Caws, I was bummed, so went to pick up a copy of The Outrun from Rough Trade and then went on a wander up to Chai Wallahs, where we collapsed on the floor, Growlers in hand, while uptempo Irish gypsy folk band The Eskies inspired the raucous crowd to do some energetic dancing (considering it was Sunday afternoon). Highest point of the set was Jesus Don’t Save Me, where lead singer Ian taught the crowd the call and response chorus parts, and then sang the song all the way through with a supporting choir of hundreds of stamping people.

We stayed in Chai Wallahs to watch The Gypsies of Bohema (and very much enjoyed how they started over with a cover gypsy-style cover of Backstreet’s Back by the Backstreet Boys), and then wandered back down to see comedian Alex Horne leading The Horne Section in some musical-based interactive comedy (some impressive, some incredibly impressive – and blindfolded!).

As it started getting dark, we put on our ponchos and headed for the Mountain Stage to bop around to Belle and Sebastian, who brought the perfect mixture of nostalgic pop and catchy tunes to round off the festival. We then headed up to the relocated man, for the symbolic burning. The new location, for the record, is much better than previous years – I was nowhere near the front and could still see way more than in the past!

To round things up, we wandered over to bop around to some of surprise guest DJ Yoda, before finally stumbling home.

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While the line up may have been less ‘late night bangers’ than the last couple of years, this Green Man was every part as lovely. It’s one of the best festival weekends you can spend in this country; with so much to do, it’s almost impossible to get round to doing and seeing everything. The small size of the site means you can get from bed to bopping within minutes, and also that you’re not exhausted from traipsing for miles and miles, day after day. Green Man continues to dominate amongst small-to-medium-sized UK festivals, and we can’t wait to see what they’ve got in store for next year – their 15th anniversary!

Earlybird tickets for Green Man 2017 – the 15th anniversary – go on sale September 29. Don’t miss out!

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Green Man 2016 festival in review – Thursday / Friday

This was the fourteenth Green Man Festival. Can you believe it?? Green Man’s growth has been gradual and organic – from humble beginnings to being one of the most family-friendly jewels in Britain’s summer festival crown.

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This year, the family-friendly aspect is next-level: the festival teeming with kids of all ages: from new borns (I met a three week old whose parents figured they might as well be at a festival and not sleep as be at home and not sleep) to waterproof-onesie-wearing toddlers to barefoot (and very muddy) teenagers. Green Man takes its reputation as a young-person-friendly site very seriously, with the sensory science paradise of Einstein’s Garden providing hands-on entertainment for kids of all ages. There’s also a completely separate kids’ area, and activities specifically for teenagers.

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THURSDAY

So onto the actual festival itself this year: we arrived early Thursday morning, and having treated ourselves to a ready-erected tent in the Tangerine Fields, found that we were unpacked and ready to party considerably earlier than in previous years, when we’d would typically spend two hours with two of us flailing around with an 18 man tent, ending up relying on the kindness of neighbouring campers to rescue us.

Cans at the ready, we headed straight to Chai Wallahs, where uptempo reggae/afrobeat favourites By The Rivers were getting the roof of the tent raised, warming up nicely for the weekend. Over in Far Out, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard moved into psychedelic surf rock territory, warming up for Wild Beasts, as they ran through a mixture of classics alongside brand spanking tunes from new album Boy King.

Afterwards it was back over to Chai Wallahs for some bubbling funk and soul disco numbers, before we decided to call it a night relatively early. It was only Thursday, after all.

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FRIDAY

Given the unsettled weather forecasts, on Friday we headed straight for the comfort of the undercover (and consistently quality) Chai Wallahs, to sit with a cup of brandy chai and enjoy the delicate folk of Kit Hawes and Aaron Catlow while looking at the Guardian crossword (yes, I am aware of how intensely middle class that sentence sounds, but you want the truth, right? That’s the truth). We stayed in Chai Wallahs to see the rabble rousing bluesy-jazz of the Gin Bowlers (who I had seen the week before at Boomtown, and who were every bit as good, if not better), then headed down to the Mountain Stage to watch Meilyr Jones, whose poppy, brass-led indie was a stand-out performance of the festival (despite the rain. But as my mother always says – there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unprepared campers).

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We stayed to watch some Jason Isbell (which was underwhelming, so I won’t dwell on it), and then headed off to see Kamazi Washington. Our excitement at seeing the jazz legend was somewhat tempered by the 30-minute soundcheck that seemed to be focused all around one microphone, although once that was over, the set was a stormer, with plenty of jazz noodling.

The act I was most excited about seeing all weekend was Austin pop-punkers, White Denim. I used to be Reviews Editor for a music magazine called Kruger (RIP) and we’d featured them in Kruger issue 22, back in 2009, and they’d been on my list of ‘bands I super want to see’ since then. I’m not sure the show was really one of their best – given it was late Friday night, the setlist was a more mellow afternoon set, with their best uptempo numbers spaced out in between, the songs sounding like they could have benefited from getting another guitarist up on stage with them.

The crowd started thinning out, and by halfway through headliner James Blake’s set it was only half full, though this could have been to do with the severe weather warnings everyone was checking obsessively on their phones every five minutes. Over in Far Out, Lush’s power-pop was extremely pleasing, although the crowd wasn’t much bigger there either. Nicely lubricated with Growlers aplenty, it was then to a change of pace, with some comedy, where Rob Deering was having issues with his guitar while being a human jukebox for people shouting out requests.

We only managed to catch the encore of Charlotte Church’s Pop Dungeon in the Walled Garden (never thought I’d hear R. Kelly’s Murder She Wrote sung live by an ex-child opera singer in the Brecon Beacons, it must be said), before rounding up the night with some uptempo house and electro with the Alfesco Disco in Round The Twist, before smashing it up with the Asbo Disco back in Chai Wallahs.

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In the run up this year, we were informed there would be changes to the site layout, which formed much conversation between our group: one Green Man veteran, then one with three under their belt, and one total newbie to the festival. As you can imagine, the constant ‘oo! that’s moved’, and ‘that wasn’t there before’ got a bit tiring for the newcomer, so we limited all the logistical commentary to the first.

For the record though, here were our thoughts: from the Orange entrance, changes were all positive: moving the box office up the hill made it much easier to get wristbands and then go back to your car to get your stuff (although long queues from the box office spilled across the path down to the festival, making it difficult to negotiate with a wheelbarrow full of camping paraphernalia). The general camping area was extended into this area (previously unused), and also included an extra entrance into the festival, that went straight up to Babbling Tongues and Round the Twist, meaning that you didn’t have to go all the way to the entrance by the Mountain Stage: big thumbs up for this change.

On the site generally, the big field edged by Far Out and Chai Wallahs also had some changes: the line of shops and food stalls that had previously divided this space in half had completely gone, moved to line the route from Far Out over to Round The Twist. The “Man” (as in, the green one) was now fairly central in this field, meaning a much better view for everyone when he was set alight on the Sunday. As a small person who has never managed to get to the front to watch the man burn, this change got another big thumbs up from me.

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Part Two of our review coming soon!

Check the Green Man Festival website. 

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Festival Guide: easy-reach festivals from Cardiff and south Wales

Hear ye for the We Are Cardiff guide to the summer’s festivals! Below is our hand-picked list of the best easy-reach festivals from Cardiff and south Wales. Some of them are in England. Embrace diversity, yeah??

Some of them are also still looking for volunteers, so if you can’t quit afford a ticket, have a hunt around on their websites for information for volunteers.

The sun’s out (sort of), but even if it’s not, isn’t that what fabulously design waterproof ponchos are for??

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Larmer Tree Festival

13 – 17 July, Dorset

ONE month until #LarmerTree16! See you in the Gardens.. #Festival #Countdown #LarmerTree #Summer #LarmerTreeGardens

A photo posted by Larmer Tree Festival (@larmertreefest) on Jun 13, 2016 at 3:18am PDT

 One of the most beautiful festival locations in England: get ready for a family friendly, week long knees up amidst wandering and ca-cawing peacocks. Larmer Tree Gardens are a beautiful setting for a lovely festival: there’s plenty of day-time stuff for those who are more active in sunlight, and for the night owls, plenty of mischief to be had in amongst the deep forests of the Lostwood. There are craft workshops, dance yoga sessions, bubble discos, poetry readings, relaxation therapies, delicious food, and pop-up fun galore.

This year’s line up: Jamie Callum, Caro Emerald, The Stranglers, Calexico, Afro Celt Soundsystem, Quantic Live, Kitty Daisy and Lewis, Lau, Eska, The Wave Pictures.

Distance from Cardiff: 105 miles

BUY TICKETS TO LARMER TREE FESTIVAL

More info:

Larmer Tree Festival website

Twitter @LarmerTreeFestival

 

WOMAD

28 – 31 July, Charlton Park, Wiltshire

The country estate on the outskirts of Malmesbury plays home to this annual celebration of wonderful sounds from around the globe. If you want bounce between Tibetan throat singers and Javanese bells, this is the place to do it. There’s a very relaxed approach to ‘world music’ here, so you can expect to see some mainstream artists peppered into the mix. There’s a Children’s Carnival on Sunday, and it’s a safe place to bring older kids too.

This year’s line up: George Clinton, Baaba Maal, Ibrahim Maalouf, Hot 8 Brass Band, Aziza Brahim, Sidestepper, The Grit Orchestra.

Distance from Cardiff: 65 miles

BUY TICKETS TO WOMAD

More info:

WOMAD Festival website

WOMAD Festival Instagram

WOMAD Facebook

WOMAD Twitter @WOMADFestival

 

Camp Bestival

28 – 31 July, Lulworth, Dorset

From the Isle of Wight Bestival crew comes a proper family festival set in the gorgeous grounds of Lulworth Castle on Dorset’s Jurassic coastline. Camp Bestival is jam-packed with awesome entertainment. The music (handpicked by famous-off-the-radio-Rob-Da-Bank) always features fabulous headliners, and along on the side are cultural delights, sideshow attractions and extra servings of family fun. It’s won Best Family Festival a ton of times and has a truly massive kids’ area. There are kids’ shows and performances on the Castle Stage and in the Big Top, daring antics to be had at the Freesports Park, and fairytale escapism in the Dingly Dell.

This year’s headliners: Fatboy Slim, Tears for Fears, Katy B, Squeeze, Arrested Development, Bananarama, DJ Yoda, Turin Brakes, Brand New Heavies, The Cuban Brothers.

Distance from Cardiff: 120 miles

BUY TICKETS TO CAMP BESTIVAL

More info:

Camp Bestival website

Camp Bestival Instagram

Camp Bestival Facebook

Camp Bestival Twitter @CampBestival

 

TrueFest

5  – 7 August, Baskerville Hall, Hay

2016 is the reboot year for this lovely festival which is one of two to come from the excellent Troyfest. A home-grown affair (and by that, I mean the folks running it are based in Cardiff), TrueFest promises a return to their roots, echoing the personal and intimate experience of those previous house parties, combined with a selection of some of the finest live acts on the festival circuit that they’ve met along the way.

The festival is set in the gorgeous grounds of Baskerville Hall in Hay: a festival party, in a mansion! And it’s a short drive from Cardiff: bonus!

This year’s line up: Broken Brass Ensemble, Solo Banton and the Uppercut Band, Lazy Habits, The Allergies, DJ Cheeba, Ratcatcher, Afro Cluster.

Distance from Cardiff: 60 miles

BUY TICKETS TO TRUEFEST

More info:

TrueFest website

TrueFest Facebook page 

 

Kaya Festival of World Music and Arts

5 – 7 August, Margam Country Park, Neath Port Talbot

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While it’s not quite WOMAD sized, if you like your beats eclectic then Kaya is definitely one to consider: over the years, this celebration of diversity within our culture has grown to playing host to some of the world’s best artists, in the lovely surroundings of Margam Park.

This year’s line up: Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show, Asian Dub Foundation,  Judge Jules, The Selecter, Jerry Dammers (The Specials),  Don Letts, Paul Trouble Anderson, General Levy.

Distance from Cardiff: 30 miles

BUY TICKETS TO KAYA FESTIVAL

More info:

Kaya Festival website 

Kaya Festival Facebook

Kaya Twitter @KayaFest2016

 

Boomtown

11-14 August, Matterley Bowl, Hampshire

Without doubt one of the most beautifully ‘dressed’ festivals in the UK (and by that I mean the amazing attention to detail that goes into all the stages and bars there), Boomtown has gained a reputation for being a seriously party-hard affair. There’s so much diversity in terms of music: from afrobeat to old skool rave to bashment and roots, if you’re into alternative music, you’re sure to find it here. The festival is also hosted by Cardiff music man, Kaptin and features hundreds of Cardiffians running stages, DJing and generally having a lovely time. It’s another of those where you’ll wander around all weekend saying ‘I recognise you …’

This year’s line up: Madness, Damian Marley, Leftfield, Parov Stellar, Asian Dub Foundation, MJ Cole, Nightmares on Wax, Derrick Carter, Shades of Rhythm, Chris Liberator, Calibre, Imelda May.

Distance from Cardiff: 124 miles

BUY TICKETS TO BOOMTOWN

More info:

Boomtown website 

Boomtown Facebook

Boomtown Twitter

 

Green Man

18- 21 August, Glanusk Estate, Crickhowell

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Yes son! One of Wales’ best-loved festivals, now in its 14th year (!!!). Also known as the weekend where the whole of Cardiff decamps in Glanusk, Green Man brings a delightful mish-mash of music, comedy, performance arts, healing vibes and science together and serves it up like some insane cultural smorgasbord you just can’t stop chomping down on. The site is small enough that you’re never a ridiculous distance from your tent (handy if you need to pop back for food, booze, or just to top up your glitter), but big enough to hold delightful treats that can keep you amused all day, and all of the night. We love Einstein’s Garden – teaching kids (and adults!) with interactive science throughout the weekend.

We Are Cardiff tip: make a proper week of it and get Settlers tickets. Also, indulge yourself some pamper time in the Nature Nurture field: we booked a Green Man hot tub last year and it was THE BEST DECISION WE EVER MADE. You get to shower before hand, then hang out with your friends in a wood-heated hot tub drinking Prosecco.

This year’s line-up: Belle and Sebastian, James Blake, Wild Beasts, Laura Marling, Grandaddy, Lush, White Denim, Battles.

Distance from Cardiff: 45 miles

BUY TICKETS FOR GREEN MAN

More info:

Green Man website

Green Man Facebook

Green Man on Twitter

 

ArcTanGent

20-22 August, Bristol

If rock of varying varieties (eg post / math / noise / alt, and so on) is your gig, then ArcTanGent is a must. The world’s ultimate music festival for connoisseurs of RAWK, it’s a lovely intimate festival with a capacity of just 5,000. Three nights of camping, over 70 bands across four stages, a silent disco, plus some tasty treats provided for those who can’t deal with festival cooking!

This year’s line-up: GY!BE, American Football, Mono, Toe, Gallops, Three Trapped Tigers, Errors, Hexvessel, Falls, Samoans

Distance from Cardiff: 40 miles

BUY TICKETS FOR ARCTANGENT

More info:

ArcTanGent website

ArcTanGent Facebook

ArcTanGent Twitter

 

End of the Road

2 – 4 September, Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset

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#England in #September #festival #eotr2015

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Back in the grounds of the beautiful Larmer Tree Gardens (see Larmer Tree Festival above), End of the Road focuses on alternative music of the folk, indie and alt-country variety. There’s also stonking literary and comedy line ups, featuring Bridget Christie, Josie Long, Stewart Lee, Darren Hayman and Cathi Unsworth. The food offerings are delicious, as is the surroundings.

This year’s line-up: Joanna Newsom, The Shins, Bat For Lashes, Animal Collective, Bat For Lashes, Cat Power, Devendra Barnhart, Goat, Savages, Thee Oh Sees, Teenage Fanclub.

Distance from Cardiff: 105 miles

BUY TICKETS FOR END OF THE ROAD

More info:

End of the Road website 

End of the Road Facebook

End of the Road Twitter

 

Festival Number 6

1 – 4 September, Portmeirion

Undoubtedly the most ornate festival location of all the ones we’ve listed … Festival Number 6 is situated in the beautiful Italianate village of Portmeirion, in the stunningly AMAZING north Wales. Seriously. I can’t over-egg this pudding: it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. You’ve probably heard all about getting lost in its magical forests, eating silver service pop-up banquets and dancing on the white sand of the estuary, massages and spa treatments, so I won’t go on about that too much: I’ll just say that if you’ve made the effort to go all the way to Portmeirion for the festival, do yourself a favour and take a few extra days off to go exploring Snowdonia. It’s one of the jewels in the Welsh landscape crown. Maybe even our diamond!

This year’s line-up: Noel Gallagher, Hot Chip, Bastille, Super Furry Animals, Cassius, Roisin Murphy, Roots Manuva, Andy Votel, Crazy P, Gold Panda, Hot Chip, Joy Orbison, The Two Bears.

Distance from Cardiff: 150 miles

BUY TICKETS TO FESTIVAL NUMBER 6

More info:

Festival Number 6 website

Festival Number 6 Facebook

Festival Number 6 Twitter 

 

 

The Good Life Festival

16 – 18 September, Hawarden Estate, Flintshire

A relative rookie when compared to some of the more long-standing festivals in this list, nevertheless The Good Life has possibly our favourite line up. Its tagline is “Culture, food, and the great outdoors” – how can you argue with that? Great things about The Good Life: the ticket price is very reasonable, and once you get in, all activities are free. This includes family axe throwing workshops, hay bale fights, tree climbing, and all sorts of amazing fun activities for small kids (and big kids). Oh – and it was founded and curated by Welsh lady, Cerys Matthews. Do you listen to her 6Music radio show? Then you’ll know you’re in good hands for a weekend of entertainment.

This year’s line up: Mercury Rev DJ set, Gilles Peterson, John Cooper Clarke, Cerys Matthews

Distance from Cardiff: 153 miles

BUY TICKETS TO THE GOOD LIFE EXPERIENCE

More info:

The Good Life Experience website

The Good Life Experience Facebook

The Good Life Experience Twitter

 

Porthcawl Elvis Festival

23 – 26 September, Porthcawl

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If you were going to pick a wild card from the festivals on offer in this post, it would be this one. An entire weekend – JUST devoted to Elvis impersonators? Widely recognised as the biggest Elvis festival in the world, the tiny seaside town of Porthcawl becomes transformed by lycra, huge flares and Vegas glasses. You might not be the world’s biggest Elvis fan – but spending a weekend surrounded by them is a transformative experience.

This year’s line-up: do you really need to ask?

Distance from Cardiff: 30 miles

More info:

Porthcawl Elvis Festival website

Porthcawl Elvis Festival Facebook

Porthcawl Elvis Festival Twitter

 

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And that’s it for this summer’s festival guide. Have we missed anything out? Let us know in the comments and we’ll update the post!

Green Man 2014 – festival review

A couple of weeks ago, I packed my bags and headed to the Brecon Beacons for Green Man Festival. Having won Best Medium Sized Festival in 2010 and Best Grassroots Festival in 2012, Green Man has slowly etched itself onto the bedpost of the must-go-to UK summer festivals for its family-friendly vibe, support for up-and-coming alternative music and also general all round attention to awesome fun things you can do around the headline acts.

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This was my fourth Green Man, but every time I’ve been to the festival I’ve had a completely different experience. And I’ll give it to you straight: this one was my favourite so far. The day-time line up was great, the late-night stuff consisted entirely of acts I’d have made an effort to go and watch at gigs, the food and drink were awesome, the education and entertainment around the music were all really well thought out, and it didn’t rain! (Much).

Also as part of my festival duties this year, I was taking a load of portrait photographs of people around the festival site for a side project called We Are Green Man, so I ended up talking to a lot more random people than I normally do at festivals.

Every one of the above factors led me to having my favourite Green Man experience to date. Want to get to the meat of it? Of course you do, unless you’re a vegetarian. Don’t worry, there are also meat-free options on offer. Read on!

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I’ve also condensed my Green Man experience into a playlist, which you can listen to while you read this. Just to make you feel like you’re really there. Not all these artists played there, of course, but were snippets of things we heard going from place to place.

 

Thursday

Green Man 2014

With its modest punter count of 16,000, the Green Man site is the perfect size for a festival. Just big enough to fill a couple of big stages and fields, but small enough that you can still pop back to the tent for a nap or to grab a jumper for when it gets nippy in the evenings.

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I turned up to claim some camping space at Thursday lunchtime. We camped fairly near the West Gate entrance to minimise the trip distance to and from the car, and our initial campsite antics consisted mostly of pegging out a huge area for our people to deposit themselves in using wellies and plastic bags full of bags of crisps, putting up everyone’s tents in a mad rush trying to avoid the rain showers, and then realising we’d put up our goliath structure, a 15-man tent, inside out (“Strange – maybe you peg down the ropes inside? Oh wait….”).

I’d arrived early with my friend Leanne (Green Man was her first festival ever), and like proper nerds, we both had waterproof coats, trousers and umbrellas, so we could stand smugly watching optimistic festival goers (most of them under the age of 25) struggle past wearing only flip flops, denim shorts and vest tops (and that was just the boys, etc) under torrential downpours of rain. We were smug, but I was a bit disheartened. Festivals are a bit crap when it’s freezing, you’re sleeping outside and you can’t sit down anywhere.

The last Green Man I went to (2012), it had been raining solidly up to the festival so the ground was sodden, but the actual weekend was roasting, so you were sliding around in the mud in the mid 20 degree heat sweltering in your wellies, unable to sit down anywhere. This time, despite the rain that had been battering most of Wales in the weeks leading up to the festival, when we arrived on site it was surprisingly dry underfoot, and the rain helped our weedy hands get tent pegs in to softened ground. Bonus!

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Rainbows! Get lost, rain

As it had taken so long to get the tent set up and then to wait for our other campees to arrive from Cardiff, we ended up missing Jimi Goodwin, who was on at the insanely early time of 5pm (and was the reason a couple of people came on the Thursday … oh well!).

By the time we got in, we went wandering around and ended up in Chai Wallahs for DJ Moneyshot and his reliable blend of party-pop hip-hop, which was a nice party starter, then headed for an early bed time.

 

Friday

Friday morning we had an early start so we could join the opening ceremony for the festival. So, at 11am, we made our way to Table Top, the flat area overlooking the Mountain Stage, to join the Druids of Stonehenge. They were wearing white robes, and by god, they were proper hippies.

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Rollo, head of the druids…

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Sending peace and love

We sent love to everyone at the festival, all over the UK and then all over the world (with a special shout out to Gaza), and then sent peace to the east, then the south, then the west, and then the north. We were told about how festivals were special symbolic gatherings of humans that go back for thousands of years, and how we were just carrying on that tribal tradition there at Green Man, and at all festivals we ever attend.

I had a quick chat with the druids afterwards who told me they were marrying a couple that afternoon at the Green Man, hand-fasting them. Congratulations by the way, Jo and Dave!

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The rest of that day was spent exploring the site, enjoying a couple of the ciders from the Courtyard Bar and getting ready for that night’s festivities. I spent a couple of hours at the Green Man Rising stage, where upcoming talent is given a chance to tickle a festival audience, and we managed to catch Instructions (headed up by Spencer Segelov), who played some uptempo, brightly coloured 1970s tinged pop’n’roll.

After that we headed up the hill to the Far Out tent for Caribou with live band (along with the rest of the festival, who packed themselves in tightly for the set). It was a nice and deep electronic set, with some old and new tunes, although his need for a live band seemed  questionable when half of the electronic stuff that could easily have been played live on a keyboard was still sequenced. Still, it’s always nice to have live drumming.

After Caribou the tent cleared out a lot (the end of the set was probably curfew time for a lot of mums/dads), and there was enough space to move around again and get ready for the Two Bears and their unhinged drag dancers, who sashayed,vogued, clashed with each other, marched on and off the stage (presumably to refuel themselves) cat called at the audience, and burst into impromptu routines every so often. I couldn’t tell you much about the set to be honest, but the dancers were most entertaining.



(photo credit: Credit Dave Lawrie M&C Saatchi for Green Man)

 

Saturday

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DJs Huw Stephens and Adam Walton

 

On Saturday we caught a lot of music at the main stage, including Angel Olsen (who was a little boring for me in all honesty) and Neko Case, who I enjoyed a lot. Some of our camp broke away to go and watch I Break Horses (who I heard were amazing, so quite annoyed I missed that), while I went to the Walled Garden to nerd out to singer songwriter and comic book artist, Jeffrey Lewis and his Jrams.

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One of the many thousands of Spillers Records t-shirts spotted onsite over the weekend

The main attraction for Saturday was Mercury Rev – we got ourselves a viewing patch up on the hill around the stage towards the back for a nice view sat down. There was a lot of talk beforehand about whether playing Deserter’s Songs would make for a good headline slot, but they were great – my particular highlights having a little rumpshake to Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp and the massive expansive sound of The Dark Is Rising, that was so big that the  Mountain Stage might as well have reached out and enveloped the entire universe.

After we had all rolled around on the floor for a bit, consumed by Mercury Rev’s warm fuzziness, we started the long walk up the hill, getting waylaid by toilets and cider and food on the way, towards the Far Out tent for The Field. This show was a particular highlight for me – he was playing solo without a band, and started off on his own on the stage in the dark, playing just one singular note. Then he played another, and added more sounds, a light came up, and slowly light and music increased until there were two huge blocks filled with light bulbs behind him wheeled out and blasted on towards the end of the set for the climax.

For those who had been warmed up enough, Luke Abbott took to the stage to bang out some tasty techno. We were many ciders to the wind by now so stayed for the entire set. It was a bit ‘too techno’ for some people we were with, though you’ll never hear me complaining about anything like that, so I stayed for the whole thing and then rolled with the remaining crowd into Chai Wallahs to drink some gritty and rather revolting, bottom-of-the-pan chai.

I have no idea what happened next, other than Chai Wallahs closed and we then rolled with the remaining people to the Denture Disco, where they were playing some tasty old skool jungle. Then that finished, and unsure of what time it was, we decided we better roll home if we were going to get any sleep at all and see anything on the Sunday. Part of the rolling home did actually take place with rugby tackles down the hill by the Nature Nurture spa … shortly after which I realised my purse had dropped out of my pocket. Despite a quick, very drunken search, I couldn’t find the thing, so had to spend a confusing 20 minutes on the phone to Barclays trying to explain where I was. “It’s a festival! No, it’s not a fairground … or a car park …”. Card cancelled, I rolled into bed just before sunrise.

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Sunday

Sunday’s music was provided mostly by the Mountain Stage, mostly for the reason that we got to the Table Top, found a place to collapse, and then stayed there as half of us had passed out. There was the occasional break for food or a flat white from the Welsh Coffee place. Luckily for us lazy (or exhausted) music lovers, Sunday’s Mountain Stage line up gave us Boy and Bear (who were uptempo and a lot more rocking on stage than their records suggest) and Anna Calvi, whose huge, powerful voice filled the amphitheatre and roused many of the Mountain Stage watchers to their feet (good work for that time on a Sunday).

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A couple of the group wandered off on Sunday to explore Einstein’s Garden, and be taught some science. They wore prism glasses and learned about depth perception and how the brain adapts to that, and learned about nanos. I also briefly joined a flora identification tour, where we wandered around the site and learned the names of different trees, and we blew bubbles with some university students who taught us how surface tension worked.

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After all that learning it was back onto the cider and then up to the Mountain Stage for Simian Mobile Disco who were playing Whorl live, and bringing with them all the new technologies they’d built to make new sounds – sounds that had never been made before! I’m not sure whether I recognised any of the sounds as anything particularly new but I did enjoy their set. My favourite part of Whorl though was making friends with the guy behind us, and his two young daughters. The older one was at that age where everything Dad did was embarrassing (especially his dancing), while the younger one just wanted to run around. They asked us where we had got our faces painted – I had a box of neon face crayons in my bag. And lo! The friendship was sealed. Dad got to listen to the whole of SMD playing Whorl, while his kids (Alex and Anna) got to paint each other (and us – though dad wasn’t mad keen on any painting himself).

Other musicals highlights of the Sunday were Kurt Vile (his big guitar sound was perfect for the Far Out stage), Real Estate and, finally, the Miserable Disco in the Walled Garden (which was a little bit like someone had moved weekends at Dempseys into a field in the Brecon Beacons). The best bit of that was when they played Kate Bush and the field turned into a mass of amateur prancing ballerinas.

The symbolic ending of the festival was the Green Man burning, but we got there a little late and being a tiny human, I couldn’t see anything. I just about saw the top of his head explode, which was pretty good, but he’s too small to have really seen anything. Next time stewards, get everyone to sit down, especially if it’s dry – then everybody gets to see!)

 

In conclusion then…

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It will tell you, probably, all you need to know about the kind of people who go to Green Man when you hear that when I returned back to Cardiff after the festival, I was messaged on Facebook on Wednesday by a kindly lass who had found my wallet, seen my address on my driving license was in Cardiff, and brought the wallet back to Cardiff (where she also lived) to drop it off to me (thank you, Katy!!). I received it with all cards and cash still intact. And that is Green Man people in a nutshell.

Although this year I wasn’t camping with anyone who had brought their kids, we met up with some friends live in Crickhowell, who had brought their little boy for the first time this weekend. My friend Caz said their festival was pretty much the same – lots of frolics and silly antics, blowing bubbles, messing around – just a slightly earlier bed time.

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If you’ve never been to it before, on first glance Green Man probably seems a bit like a giant creche. There’s an entire field dedicated to children (the Kidz Field), a garden dedicated to educational science mostly to do with nature and the universe (Einstein’s Garden) and even a section that’s for teenagers only (that’s right mum, why don’t you go listen to Simian Mobile Disco, you’re so lame). There are scores of teenagers roaming around, covered in facepaint and doing circus workshops with NoFit State Circus, while younger kids stick around mum and dad and learn about nanos and wear prism glasses to see how light affects your depth perception.

In case I haven’t spelled it out enough, Green Man is a very, very child-friendly festival, which makes it a family-friendly festival, which makes for a lovely atmosphere for other festival goers. After all, whether you’re related to them or not, you turn up with a bunch of people, share food and shelter with them for a weekend, help them out and have them help you out when you need it. That’s pretty symbolic of idealistic family life, isn’t it?

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Editor’s note: food and drink at Green Man

There wasn’t really any easy way to get this into the review, so I felt like it needed its own section. Out of the nine people I came to the festival with, none of them had ever been to Green Man before. Between them, they’d done a load of other festivals, but agreed unanimously that the food and drink available at Green Man was the best.

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The only negative thing any of them had to say was about the Courtyard Bar, which sold all the amazing ales and ciders – and that was only that whatever time you turned up there, they never seemed to have enough bar staff – the queues were pretty and it took ages to get served. But it was so very worth it. I met a couple of people who said they’d challenged themselves to try and work through every cider or ale on the list (bear in mind there were over 70 of each!), but all failed – they found one they liked, then didn’t bother with any of the others.

As a group, our favourite meals came unanimously from the Grazing Shed, for their burger with gorgonzola cheese. The Grazing Shed was also where my friend Bedwyr had his festival highlight – he saw the lady in front of him in the queue was having trouble getting ketchup on her fries. He offered to help her, and then realised she was festival regular (and his long time heroine) Caitlin Moran. He got a kiss on the cheek for his troubles, and was hopping around like the happiest man in the world for the rest of the  weekend.

My only regret? I waited until Sunday night to queue up for that Goan Fish Curry everyone said was so good … only to get to the place at 10pm and find it closed. NOOOOOOOOO!!!!

I also have to give some festival love to the Welsh Coffee Company, who were providing the coffee at the Table Top Bar, overlooking the Mountain Stage. I had a flat white there on Thursday when we arrived at the site, and then queued up religiously every day for another. Seriously, their coffee is addictive. Also they were a really lovely bunch of people. On the Sunday night after the man burned, the Walled Garden closed and we were kicked out of Chai Wallahs (because frankly 4am on Monday morning is probably time for you to be getting back to your tents, hippies) we found them roaming around the festival site having their staff party, which we gatecrashed, and ended up sitting with them on the grass sharing my cucumber gin (which they christened a ‘courgette smoothie’. Also they have a member of staff who can say thank you in 22 different languages, which is a pretty good party trick. So thank you Welsh Coffee Company for making coffee like crack, and turning us all into addicts for life.

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I can’t wait for next year. I’m going to get one of those damned Goan fish curries, if it’s the last thing I do!

Review by Helia Phoenix

Early bird tickets for 2015 are already sold out. Boo hoo! Keep your eyes on the Green Man Tickets page for when general release tickets go on sale.

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Green Man website

Have a look at the We Are Green Man festival portraits project: website / Facebook

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the author, on a mushroom, of course …

 

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We Are Green Man!

we are green man

Bit of an exciting side project for us this weekend – we’re running away from Cardiff to decamp in the beautiful Glanusk countryside for GREEN MAN! We are going to be running a mini ‘We Are…’ project at Green Man Festival, doing some portrait photos of festival goers, gathering your festival tips and making a wee film of the event.

If you see us, come and say hi! We’ll be wearing We Are Cardiff t-shirts. Or, if it’s raining, possibly Pac Man ghost ponchos.

WE ARE GREEN MAN WEBSITE

WE ARE GREEN MAN FACEBOOK

 

About Green Man:

Located in the truly lovely Black Mountains (near Crickhowell in the Brecon Beacons), this intimate festival is in the most beautiful festival site in the UK, with a 10 year tradition of championing great music, good times and good causes..

With ten entertainment areas in lush Welsh Wilderness, 1500 performers, 24 hour entertainments, comedy, poetry, literature, art and science, fun for 12 and unders and a separate area just for teens, spas, therapies, hot piping showers, luxury camping areas, local ale and cider sipping, all night bonfires, gorgeous selection of locally sourced food over 4 days of festival fun, the award winning Green Man really has got it all.

Experience iconic headline performances at the Mountain’s Foot, go Far Out After Dark with the UK’s only 24-hour festival licence, and get down and dirty with some truly devilish DJs and dance acts. Soak up the best in stand-up comedy and spoken word at Babbling Tongues, witness science and nature collide in the mind-boggling Einstein’s Garden, or stray far from the ever-madding crowd in the blissful idyll of Fountain Falls.

In the beating heart of the breathtaking Black Mountains, where mystical leylines converge amid ancient oak trees, something truly magical is stirring. Mischief and misrule will reign supreme in a four-day festival experience unlike any other … It wouldn’t be the same without you…

The Green Man line up is one of the best in years, so says me – see the full Green Man line up

Green Man festival website

Please note: this year’s event is SOLD OUT. Make sure you get your tickets early next year to avoid disappointment!

Green Man - photo by Green Man festival

 

We’ll be back next week. Whatever you’re doing, remember – there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.

Helia

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