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