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.

public service broadcasting

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.

Viv Albertine

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.

Lost Horizons at Green Man
Lost Hori­zons

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

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