This year was the 15th anniver­sary of Green Man, the bucol­ic fes­ti­val set in the Bre­con Bea­cons. It is – since the demise of Big Chill – my favourite fes­ti­val venue, with its lush moun­tain­ous set­ting and main stage framed dra­mat­i­cal­ly by the Black Moun­tains. For those short of stature (like myself), you’ll always have a good view of main-stage acts due to the steep rake of the amphithe­atre, a per­fect spot to laze about dur­ing those occa­sion­al sun­ny moments before the next rain show­er drifts along.

The Moun­tain Stage may be Green Man’s focal point but, like last year, we found our­selves at the Far Out tent and the Walled Gar­den for much of the time. Thurs­day opened with a pow­er­ful, punchy set by BBC 6 Music favourites Bad Bad Not Good. Much-antic­i­pat­ed Ride fol­lowed. Their new release Weath­er Diaries con­tains some beau­ti­ful num­bers such as the haunt­ing Cali. The band played an impec­ca­ble set but they refrain from engag­ing with the crowd. While I don’t expect artists to go over­board with the ban­ter, some acknowl­edge­ment would­n’t have gone amiss, espe­cial­ly with their first head­line act status.

Krautrock-inspired W H Lung, who I was impressed by recent­ly at Blue­dot fes­ti­val, opened pro­ceed­ings at the Far Out tent on Fri­day – the Man­ches­ter project have kept a low pro­file but their strong mate­r­i­al and dis­tinc­tive sound mean they are get­ting noticed.

W H Lung
W H Lung

Next up was a blis­ter­ing per­for­mance by Warm Dig­its, a clever, dancey set with impact­ful visu­als. Lat­er I wan­dered over to The Walled Gar­den, the per­fect envi­ron­ment to enjoy a col­lec­tion of insight­ful and thought­ful songs by trou­ba­dour Gill Landry, ex mem­ber of Old Crow Med­i­cine Show. 

Gill Landry at Green Man festival

British Sea Pow­er defied the driz­zle and brought the bears along for a hit-filled and very uplift­ing per­for­mance. Despite threat­en­ing to sing Sechs Fre­unde, BSP closed their set with a beau­ti­ful ren­di­tion of The Great Skua

The Far Out tent was filled to capac­i­ty for Kate Tem­pest. She pow­ered through her album Let Them Eat Chaos, to a crowd utter­ly trans­fixed by her, her mate­r­i­al and her message. 

Young Hal­i­fax-based garage band The Orielles have devel­oped their sound over the past cou­ple of years; their Walled Gar­den Sun­day appear­ance was their best yet; the trio closed their set with the prog­gy 8‑minute-long num­ber Sug­ar Tastes like Salt, bring­ing their set to a rous­ing conclusion.

The Orielles

There have been crit­i­cisms of cer­tain fes­ti­vals for a lack of female artists, some­thing you could­n’t accuse Green Man of, with head­lin­er PJ Har­vey and sev­er­al girl bands in evi­dence. Aldous Hard­ing played a mes­meris­ing set, like­wise Julia Jack­lin, who I reviewed after her Bris­tol appear­ance.

I would nev­er have thought you could fill the Moun­tain Stage area to capac­i­ty but it did feel that way for Michael Kiwanu­ka. I remem­ber his 2012 appear­ance at Green Man just before Van Mor­ri­son head­lined. His per­for­mance in the ear­ly evening was all the more dra­mat­ic for its sim­plic­i­ty and honesty.

On Sun­day we loved the Allah-Las with their upbeat, sun­ny, jan­g­ly indie. I’m entranced by Wolf Peo­ple and saw them twice last year, their prog-folk psy­che­delia harks back to the late 70s but they’ve moved on from their ear­ly more clas­sic folk to a more mus­cu­lar style, infused with dra­ma, such as on Night Witch from lat­est album Ruins. 

Food Green Man excels at offer­ing imag­i­na­tive and very var­ied food with plen­ty of veg­gie and veg­an options (for meat eaters, there are veni­son, lamb and duck spe­cial­i­ty stalls too). A pop­u­lar stop for us on the way back to our tent at night was the crum­pet stall for giant square crum­pets doused with melt­ing but­ter (the crispy pancetta choice looked espe­cial­ly deli­cious but I’ll have to wait for that next year). Veg­an Junk Food served yum­my fried cau­li­flower chunks in a rich tamari style sauce, topped with chilli. I’d go back to Green Man for the food alone. 

Show­ers this year the camp­site had excel­lent free show­ers with end­less hot water, manned by friend­ly staff. The toi­lets were the clean­est I’ve seen too. 

Activ­i­ties There’s a work­shop area where sev­er­al years ago I spent a bliss­ful Sun­day morn­ing mak­ing organ­ic hand cream; the activ­i­ties this year seemed (sor­ry if this is sound­ing a bit sex­ist) to be of the more mas­cu­line per­sua­sion – wood whit­tling and arrow mak­ing, where men were get­ting in touch with their inner warrior.

bow making at Green Man

Haiku car­a­van:  For those of poet­ic bent, there was the chance to write a haiku – and then either pin it up out­side or blast it to all and sundry, by mega­phone. I devel­oped writer’s block despite the delight­ful­ly encour­ag­ing team – it is yet to be completed.

Haiku caravan at Green MBritish Sea Power Green Man 2017 at Festival 2017

Are there any down­sides to Green Man you may won­der? Well, for those of us with­out fam­i­lies in tow, the fes­ti­val did seem a tad over­run by small chil­dren at times, espe­cial­ly in the Far Out tent, but as this is billed as a fam­i­ly fes­ti­val, we could hard­ly com­plain. It also did seem more crowd­ed than pre­vi­ous years.

For every act you saw at Green Man, you were not see­ing some­one else, FOMO in the extreme. I man­aged to miss Richard Daw­son, Melt Your­self Down and Lift to Expe­ri­ence for starters.  But as always, Green Man was an enjoy­able few days in an espe­cial­ly beau­ti­ful part of the coun­try. You return home hav­ing seen a few favourite acts and added a col­lec­tion of new ones, artists to add to your gig ros­ter, adding a note of cheer to the dark­en­ing days of autumn.

Green Man festival

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