Green Man Festival 2017 @ Brecon Beacons, 17-20/08/2017

Green Man FestivalGlorious sunshine welcomes campers to Brecon Beacons as we pitch up at Green Man Festival 2017. Here we are again, in the unpredictable Welsh hills - what must be the most perfect backdrop for a festival. From the babbling brook to Einstein’s Garden, Green Man Festival nestles and folds into the surrounding nature as the ideal microcosmic getaway.

Exploring the festival pre-music time, children gallop from helter skelter to bubble machine in the giant playground that the festival becomes. Families are welcome and encouraged, of course, and witnessing them meander is part of the fun. Befriending some 10 year olds on a hay bale, I can’t help but think that this wouldn't really happen anywhere else.

Badbadnotgood begins the music at the Far Out stage, with a buzzing set. The frantic keys and drums with gorgeous saxophone conjure a strange trio, but one that subverts expectation in a truly exciting way. It gets a little funkier with more jazzy undertones, before slowing right down in a tempo rollercoaster. It’s certainly a fun way to start the festival, as we scooch along to the Chai Wallah tent. Destined for soulful fun and jazzy beats, Kioko deliver funky ska to get the crowd bouncing.

90s shoegazers Ride are Thursday’s headliners. Fresh from the release of their latest album Weather Diaries this year - the first in 21 years - Ride ooze their typical chill. They start with their newer material, which is more of the classic, trademarked sound: the quiet and muted vocals, the rhythmic drum, the impassioned guitar. It’s not wowing or electrifying, but it certainly reflects an influential era. As if to say they know what the crowd are waiting for, they introduce “Vapour Trail” with, “We’re going to play the hit now”. Ending with “Drive Blind”, they extend the outro to rattle ribcages, ending the evening on a vibrant high.

Arising to more sunshine, much to the shock of ourselves and the families camped around us, we catch some new bands at the Rising Stage on Friday morning. Green Man festival is always a great place to scope out new music as well as much-loved bands. Their Rising Stage Award continually brings new talent to the forefront that deserves that centre stage. Hotel Lux are our pick, with The Stranglers-esque synths and drone-y vocals.

 

Friday, however, is women’s day. The Big Moon, Hinds, Angel Olsen and Kate Tempest; all on one stage in one day. And The Big Moon know how to warm up a crowd. Exuding an effortless vibe of friends just having some fun on stage, the band are all smiles and laughs as they dance around. There’s just the right balance of cutesy fun and sass, the guitarist even tripping up at one point. Their summery alt-rock is packed full of solid guitar riffs and catchy pop hooks (so poppy they even cover “Total Eclipse Of The Heart”, much to the delight of the crowd). But The Big Moon should be taken seriously; they are definitely one of the best emerging bands right now. For final track “Sucker”, people dressed as Royal Mail postal workers take to the stage. Why? Who knows. But it’s certainly a fitting end to the carefree attitude of the performance.

Hinds are up next, the indie pop queens of Madrid. Packing punchy guitar riffs, head bangs and hair whips, Hinds even find time to synchronise guitar strums and jumps. We’re treated to a brand new, not-even-named-yet song after we promise not to record it, reciprocating the feeling of trust that Green Man shares. The quartet delivers a riotous performance, shaking off any prior fatigue.

The Mountain Stage is looking beautiful for Friday headliners Future Islands. Samuel T Herring bounds onto the stage with gusto, his unique voice emotional and uncontrollable as he croons and quavers. Supported by expansive electro-pop, the combination is one of intense fervor. "Fight The Wind" gets literal punches as Samuel physically fights the wind; so much so that at one point he rips his 'pants' mid-leap. With hearty and intense aplomb, they prove their worth on the headline slot.

As night draws in, Green Man evolves into an adults-only zone. This year, Green Man festival have pulled out all the stops with their night time bookings. Roni Size and MC Dynamite dominate the Far Out tent whereas Diplomats of Sound are busy working the crowd at Chai Wallahs. Surprisingly, neither are actually filled with the young teens and tweens you’d expect, but a wide range of age ranges and demographics to close the Friday bountifully.

This Is The Kit get a warm welcome the following morning. Adding to the gloriousness of the weather are their splendid acoustic guitar melodies and Kate Stables’ liquid gold voice. Indie folk finds a home at Green Man, and there’s nothing quite like a Saturday morning filled with acoustic tones and soft vocals amongst the Black Mountains. Kate fittingly comments on the community feel of Green Man as she looks out at the open bowl shape of the main stage area, perfectly crafted for an inclusive view.

Allah-Las draw a substantial crowd at the Far Out tent, opening their set with instrumental track “Ferus Gallery” and setting the precedent for their relaxed performance. The garage rock vibes are interspersed with jangly guitar riffs and twangy vocals in a dreamy Californian escape. The chaos of Melt Yourself Down, in contrast at the Walled Garden, is what makes them such an exciting band. Clashing instruments seem completely out of kilter with each other, in a melting pot of jazz, funk and African beats. But there’s method in the madness as they create such an impulsive and attractive fusion, the crowd can’t help but bounce along.

 

Tonight’s after dark acts are Jon Hopkins and Daniel Avery; big names on the techno front. Jon Hopkins initially delivers soothing ambience and beautiful soundscapes before delving into heavier, transcendent techno. Dipping in and out of ambience, techno, and drum and bass delights, Hopkins doesn’t disappoint.

Feeling pretty bleary-eyed on the final day of the festival, Shame kicks off the day at the Far Out tent. The post-punk band from South London explode on the stage with raucous angst and dissonance. Politically charged vocals are drowned out by the intense drumbeat and heavy guitar riffs, while frontman Charlie Steen spits water out of the crowd in a show of arrogance. As if a metaphorical ‘fuck you’ was written across his forehead, he then smokes a fag as he rattles around the stage. The closest thing that Green Man festival could ever have to a mosh pit forms for the final track as Charlie stands on the barrier, impassioned and violent. We’re certainly awake now.

Shimmery guitar softens the crowd next, with Sunflower Bean’s indie pop set. Lead singer Julia Cumming’s high-pitched vocals are a beautiful brightener to a dreary day, offset by Nick Kivlen's dulcet tones. The NYC trio tests the waters with new material, teasing a release of a new album with soothing melodies and cooled-down tempos. The Shins follow up, the musical personification of happy-go-lucky vibes and positive thoughts. Their plethora of crowd-pleasers and American charm adds some light to the dark and rainy evening.

Methyl Ethel close the Walled Garden stage tonight, a beautiful area only beaten by the main Mountain Stage itself. Psych-pop at its best, Methyl Ethel combine shimmery guitar riffs with bubbling melodies. When lead singer Jake Webb isn't playing his guitar, there's a glimpse into an introvert, with quirky movements and tension. But the quirks the band share embroider the trippy textures and add to the heightened sense of excitement. Methyl Ethel bring the festival to a close with just the right amount of sparkle.

Promptly after the last guitar strum, people make haste to the green man himself, on the top of the hill. Ritually, Green Man festival always ends with the burning of the wooden man which has had wishes and hopes tied to it throughout the festival weekend. Accompanied by a Welsh dragon this year, the man burning adds a poignant end to the festival; a glowing ‘15’ emblazes in the fire to commemorate 15 years of Green Man.

We spend the early hours of Monday morning sat by the fire, with the Black Mountains before us, reminded of the community roots that the festival shares. Everyone's at home at Green Man; sharing the inclusive feel is part of the fun. Exuding calm, Green Man strips away the hedonism of typical festivals, leaving behind the pure and simple notion of like-minded people listening to music in a field with a drink. But there's also the jam-packed line up that makes this festival one worth coming to year after year. Here’s to 15 more years of Green Man festival.

 
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