Something was definitely missing from Green Man festival 2018 – that wet stuff falling from the sky which churns the Brecon Beacons mud to a smelly mush.
Instead, this year’s festival was blessed by sun and wafting clouds; so it was off with the cagoules and on with the fancy dress… and the fine weather meant there were endless opportunities to laze about on the grass by the glorious main stage with a Green Man cup full of beer.
Thursday’s lineup brought Green Man stalwarts Pictish Trail to the Far Out tent for a rousing, warmhearted set. This was followed by headliners, Public Service Broadcasting. Having seen them recently at Bluedot festival where they quite adequately filled the main stage, making the most of their visuals on large side screens, it was a shame to see the band shoehorned into the Far Out tent where many people couldn’t see either them or the screens. With such a large percentage of the Green Man crowd arriving for a Thursday start, maybe the organisers need to review their policy of waiting to open the main stage on Friday.
Notable acts on Friday were The Lovely Eggs and US band Omni who are very much influenced by Talking Heads – nervy, staccato numbers which don’t follow the path you’d expect them to. Not the easiest first-listen but rewarding. Fomo struck a little later as The Lemon Twigs and Beak were on at the same time: to compound the dilemma, Beak opened the set asking why we weren’t all watching The Lemon Twigs.
Saturday’s highlights included moody duo KVB, doing justice to the Far Out Tent’s enveloping sound system with a set of swirling, dense electronica. Courtney Marie Andrews brought a touch of American country to the Mountain Stage and later, the brilliantly sardonic Baxter Dury charmed and amused the early evening crowd, although my camping neighbours (with small children) weren’t too impressed with his excessive swearing, easily audible from the campsite. One of the biggest pleasures of Green Man festival is the Chai Wallahs tent, a joyous jumble of jazz, reggae, folk and assorted global sounds. The tent has a very inviting and special vibe that makes it one of the most magnetic places to be at night. Saturday’s Solomon Ob, Sound of the Sirens and Friendly Fire were just three acts to get dancing to.
Viv Albertine gave an interview post publishing her new book To Throw Away Unopened – those were the words scribbled by her mother on a box of her private papers, knowing full well that Viv would not be able to leave them untouched. The book charts, with searing honesty, Viv’s difficult relationship with her mother and family. Viv confronts her life and its problems head on and she makes for a fascinating interviewee, at once angry, world-weary but with a sharp sense of humour and insight that has carried her through life.
On Sunday I caught a set at the Rising stage with Sock (Big Jeff was present, looking on approvingly). Over on the main stage, the first act could have performed as a headlining set – Lost Horizons is the project from Bella Union Boss and former Cocteau Twin, Simon Raymonde. Evocative soundscapes tethered by expressive, soaring vocals – this was a majestic set to open the final day of the festival. Following on were Xylouris White, with a Hellenic jazz mashup.
Anna Calvi delivered an impressive and dramatic performance, unveiling her new material from her new album which is out at the end of the month – she was far more refreshingly rock chick than I was anticipating and this was one of the most enjoyable sets of the festival. It was also a positive step to see so many female performers at Green Man: Cate Le Bon, Jane Weaver and the female-fronted Amber Arcades (immigration lawyer Annelotte de Graaf) – that’s Amber Arcades pictured, top.
As usual, there was plenty of other stuff going on around the festival site, from the dramatic acrobatic troupe I witnessed on Saturday who performed behind a wall of fire; one friend was immersed in the Cinedrome tent for much of the time – enjoyable but as expected with quite a lot of sound bleed. There was as usual plenty for kids at Einstein’s Garden as well.
The festival was well-run as usual, from clean toilets to the bars which at several points had staff looking for people to serve. Our quiet camping area was well and truly silent – not something we were used to – and the hot, free showers were wonderful.
Things could get a little crowded in the arena though, and I did wonder if the numbers had been increased again as by Saturday, the site was uncomfortably packed – especially the Far Out tent which felt claustrophobic.
Chatting at the barrier for The War on Drugs, I was not surprised to find out many had come to the festival just to see this band. Adam Granduciel and co played a set which was everything we had hoped, the lush, long drawn-out numbers with Granduciel’s Dylanesque vocals soaring over the rippling guitars. Mid-way I moved to the back of the auditorium, halfway up the hill, to the point where the sound coalesces, the band appear framed inside the stage with the Black Mountains forming a backdrop which never loses its breathtaking beauty. So long Green Man, and see you next year.
Green Man festival, 2018