Imag­ine all the ele­ments that make Green Man fes­ti­val so spe­cial, mul­ti­ply that sev­er­al times over and you’ll get the gen­er­al idea of the sheer plea­sure and excite­ment of this year‘s extrav­a­gan­za in the Bre­con Beacons. 

The Green Man team did every­thing they could in order to go ahead this year and it was all very touch and go till about four weeks before it happened. 

The line­up pre­dictably fea­tured far more UK-based artists, free­ing up more space for young and emerg­ing artists to play. The usu­al broad mix of music includ­ed more jazz this year – maybe a reflec­tion of the cur­rent promi­nence of the genre. As always there were plen­ty of Welsh artists: it was a plea­sure to see Welsh harpist Catrin Finch with Seck­ou Kei­ta on kora, a col­lab­o­ra­tion that pro­duces utter­ly beau­ti­ful and emo­tion­al music. 

Plugged into the zeit­geist, the Far Out tent open­ing act was Wet Leg who proved there was much more to their tal­ents than the catchy sin­gle Chaise Longue (plus its enter­tain­ing Amish inspired video). Although it has to be said the recep­tion from the music-hun­gry audi­ence to the song was off the scale and the duo’s chanteuse Rhi­an Teas­dale could at times bare­ly sing for laugh­ing so much. 

Lynks pro­vid­ed an enter­tain­ing spec­ta­cle on the Walled Gar­den stage with some slight­ly risque dis­co; I’d be inter­est­ed to see them do a late-night gig some­where for no doubt a fuller expe­ri­ence. Katy J Pear­son per­formed a high­light set, open­ing with her hit Turn Back the Radio. We loved her take on Wil­low’s Song from The Wick­er Man, a ramped up ver­sion which worked real­ly well. Fri­day head­lin­ers Cari­bou hit the spot with with their euphor­ic set that made the most of the dra­mat­ic main stage. The sound was good too, after prob­lems had affect­ed sev­er­al sets up till this point. 

Young West York­shire quar­tet The Lounge Soci­ety are mak­ing a name for them­selves with their feisty brand of post-punk; they aired a raft of new mate­r­i­al which was as strong as their first four releas­es includ­ing Gen­er­a­tion Game and Burn the Heather. Oth­er mem­o­rable sets came from nu-soul artist Green­tea Peng – her vocals effort­less­ly and utter­ly com­mand the stage. Plus Cana­di­an septet Crack Cloud who played a com­pelling set of tight, jumpy tracks, the lead vocal­ist on drums tak­ing cen­tre stage.

It’s always a thrill when some­one you’ve want­ed to see sud­den­ly pops up as a late addi­tion to a fes­ti­val line­up. And so it was with Ghost­po­et: this was a mes­meris­ing and pow­er­ful per­for­mance in the Far Out tent. Like so many of the per­form­ers over the week­end he made ref­er­ence to his relief and grat­i­tude of being able to be out there at last, per­form­ing again.

Music aside, as ever, the Green Man crowd made this fes­ti­val such a mag­i­cal expe­ri­ence. After a dev­as­tat­ing year and a half spent behind masks, this was a time to cel­e­brate, dance and inter­act with oth­ers – it felt very com­fort­ing and life-affirm­ing. There were plen­ty of con­ver­sa­tions about new artists just dis­cov­ered, and a degree of moan­ing about the new, rather unpleas­ant com­post toilets. 

Bab­bling Tongues tent pre­sent­ed the usu­al mix of speak­ers polit­i­cal, musi­cal and poet­ic. Nadine Shah was her usu­al out­spo­ken, charm­ing and warm self, inter­viewed ahead of her main-stage appear­ance. Pete Paphides talked about his recent mem­oir Bro­ken Greek, with his wife Caitlin Moran step­ping in last-minute as inter­view­er. She said she’d inter­view him as if she had mere­ly done a Google search of his name. The time went too quick­ly; he only light­ly touched on issues in the book, such as his years of remain­ing silent, which I would have loved him to elab­o­rate on. 

Simon Armitage packed out the tent for a poet­ry read­ing; his wry­ly amus­ing com­men­tary was just as enter­tain­ing as his verse. Simon’s appear­ance clashed with a pop-up appear­ance in the record tent by The Orielles, who are always devel­op­ing in new unex­pect­ed direc­tions, such as their lat­est film sound­track. I attend­ed both, aware that this strat­e­gy can back­fire and you can end up not real­ly expe­ri­enc­ing either properly.

Fontaines DC were Sun­day’s head­lin­ers, and they did just what they say on the tin: this was a blis­ter­ing and huge­ly enjoy­able attack of a per­for­mance. Just a bunch of excel­lent young musi­cians with a slight­ly too-short set to fin­ish the fes­ti­val. Apart, that is, from a last dance or two at the Walled Gar­den with the Dept­ford North­ern Soul Club, in order to pro­long the fes­ti­val expe­ri­ence for as long as possible. 

Green Man Fes­ti­val 2021

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