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Green Man: We All Had A Lovely Time (Again)

Friday, 24 August 2018 Written by Helen Payne

According to the weather forecast, we’re getting lows of 12 degrees and frequent showers, which isn’t what anyone wants to hear in the days running up to a festival. Particularly as we’ve just sweated through the hottest summer since 1976. Mac and wellies at the ready (with the suncream left at home in protest), stepping through the door was an exercise in mentally preparing for a long weekend of feeling soaked to the bone. But Green Man doesn’t allow for moping.

It’s easy to see past the weather when there are four days of amazing music ahead of you and, with the stunning Black Mountains reigning magnificently in the background wherever you look, the festival is truly one of a kind. In the words of Portland-based singer-songwriter Haley Heynderickx, during her spellbinding nature-fuelled set, Green Man is all about “party hats, sparkles and bubbles”.

Glanusk Estate is a magical place so far removed from the real world that, for just a few days, getting lost and having a great time is all that matters. Alongside the music, festival-goers were treated to spaces for fun bits and bobs like science, comedy, and an area dedicated to nurturing the soul.

I saw a vagina museum. I saw a chicken cuddling workshop. I saw heaps of street food trucks promising delicacies from around the world, and tasted as many as my belly could physically handle. I wrote a wish on the huge Green Man himself, which proved a tricky task when feeling that content. The magic prevailed and my wish came true: it didn’t rain.

As a whole, the weekend was a win for the women on the bill. Heynderickx’s performance was one of innumerable impressive sets from female artists, with adorable songs about gardens, bees, fish soup and her parents’ love story delivered over a 12 string guitar. She followed the ever-smiling, witty and captivating Australian indie-rocker Stella Donnelly and together they made the Sunday afternoon haze complete perfection. They even brought the sunshine with them.

Snail Mail also won over new fans, albeit while being a little grumpy with the sound engineer and displaying some wobbly vocals. Phoebe Bridgers, as always, was a celestial goddess of the melancholy and Lucy Dacus gave a humble and perfect performance of songs from ‘Historian’, an album that is still bulletproof after countless listens. With acclaimed records under their belts, all three seemed cosmically entwined as strong sets slipped into sunset at the same time each day.

According to Public Service Broadcasting’s J Willgoose Esq, Adam Granduciel of the War on Drugs, Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste and Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold, musicians “love playing Green Man”. And if you came for the headliners, you didn’t leave disappointed. Public Service Broadcasting opened the festival in the Far Out tent with a male voice choir-shaped bang on Thursday night, playing songs from their latest album ‘Every Valley’, which was inspired by the history of mining in Wales.

A stone’s throw from the heart of that industry, as ever their performance combined old public information film samples with synths, a horn section, and even an astronaut leaping on stage. Friday, meanwhile, was the turn of Australia’s psych rock royalty King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, who thrashed around with aggressive guitar riffs and had us singing Rattlesnake across the campsite for the rest of the weekend.

Fleet Foxes brought back the peace, with charming folk-infused harmonies and the delightful classics that everyone wants to hear: Mykonos and White Winter Hymnal. To close, the War on Drugs returned to the Mountain Stage, having performed here back in 2014. The spacey, twinkling guitars of the indie-rock triumph ‘A Deeper Understanding’ echoed through the mountains as an idyllic transition to the bonfire ceremony.

The men may have dominated the headline slots, then, but the women were certainly the stars of the festival. Music lovers left with stand-out memories of intimate and heartfelt moments in the Walled Garden, not the agitated squirming of King Gizzard or the High Contrast rave in the Far Out tent.

With the gender balance of acts reaching an acceptable level, there was only one thing about Green Man that didn’t sit quite right. When looking out across the audience at the Mountain Stage, a sea of primarily white faces greeted you. And out of the 30 bands or so I saw on stage across the weekend, the story was largely the same. Curtis Harding played his signature groovy soul-pop hit I Need Your Love, and jazz star Nubya Garcia won over families with her astonishing saxophone powers, but next year the festival would be improved further by a more diverse lineup.

Then, nothing could stop Green Man. The people are friendly, no one goes around burning your tent, and the stewards work tirelessly throughout to ensure everything stays green. Veterans return every year, newcomers decide it’s their new favourite festival, and even Big Jeff is a regular. To quote Mike Lindsay of Tunng, who helped to bring things to a close before we had one last boogie to the beats in Chai Wallahs: “We all had a lovely time.”

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