Green Man festival review – the discerning indie pagan's nirvana

Neutral Milk Hotel were the standout act on a weekend of rich musical delights that made the valleys of south Wales sing

"They cancelled Jabberwocky tomorrow, so I'm gonna hang out here and try to get laid." Mark Kozelek from Sun Kil Moon makes for an unlikely comic between his misty wails about first loves, elderly mothers and friends lost to the state penitentiary, but his point is good. Transport much of the impressive bill from the ill-fated London Jabberwocky shindig to an idyllic vale in the Brecon Beacons, douse in alternative science and Wicker Man schtick, and you have Green Man, the perfect hang-out zone for the discerning indie pagan.

Compact and smartly programmed, the 12th edition rewards rambling; you're never far from a new favourite band or 10. On Friday alone you're swept along by the synth rock of Teleman (imagine a 3D-printed Alt-J), the canyon bombast of Augustines, and Mac DeMarco closing his set of slack trucker funk pop by falling backwards into the crowd from 20ft up a tent strut. If Mariam the Believer's impression of Yoko Ono undergoing jazz childbirth in the Walled Garden gets too much, simply wander to the Far Out tent, where the enthralling psych rockers Toy are essentially the Horrors if a large cargo crate of tunes marked "ship to: Echo & The Bunnymen" landed on them.

Saturday is a deluge of delights. The War on Drugs masterfully merge the Cars, Dire Straits and Neil Young into a very modern AOR. Hamilton Leithauser, the Walkmen singer, rasps torch songs of purest gravel despite his air of desolation being shattered by swarms of toddlers chasing bubbles through the crowd. Hordes of hypnotised converts stagger from the Far Out tent after witnessing Fat White Family, those notorious flingers of filth, chanting to the ancients and playing soiled rock'n'roll like pervert Buddy Hollys or the B-69s. And Sunday finds Real Estate drenching country and western in thick reverb.

All three main stage headliners prove magical, too. Beirut are a gaggle of suave, brass-parping boffins transforming Glanusk Park into the world's biggest bierhalle with pint-smashing sway-alongs like A Sunday Smile and Elephant Gun. Mercury Rev play their grandiose 1998 classic Deserter's Songs in full, the puckish singer Jonathan Donahue conducting the album's crescendos and firing the most cataclysmic chords from his fingers like a space-rock warlock.

Even among such refined company, the long-lost no-fi folk legends Neutral Milk Hotel stand out, closing Sunday night with a ramshackle, acid-warped party of singing saw, trombone, banjo, accordion, uilleann pipe and Satan's fuzziest acoustic guitar. Holland, 1945, Song Against Sex and Ghost prompt euphoric bouncing worship, and with The King of Carrot Flowers – alt-folk's Bohemian Rhapsody – the valleys sing. When they burn the mystical green man at midnight, a ball of flames finale seems apt – after all, the summer won't get better than this.


Mark Beaumont

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Green Man festival review – cosmic rock and communal wonderment
An eclectic bill of everything from psych rock to alt-folk proved again why Green Man is one of the UK’s most beloved festivals

Malcolm Jack

20, Aug, 2018 @1:00 PM

Article image
Green Man festival – review

Kings of Convenience proved a festival highlight alongside big rock from John Cale and soft-focus songs from Ben Howard, writes Malcolm Jack

Malcolm Jack

19, Aug, 2013 @2:25 PM

Article image
Green Man festival – home-town heroes and hot tubs steal the weekend
Super Furry Animals take Saturday with a gloriously long set, while a dazzling St Vincent proves that Green Man just gets better with age

Laura Barton

24, Aug, 2015 @4:08 PM

Article image
Green Man review – from fusion to folk in the misty mountains
There’s a five-star welcome in the hillside as Belle and Sebastian bring a weekend of wonders to a rock’n’roll climax

Malcolm Jack

22, Aug, 2016 @12:47 PM

Article image
Green Man festival – review

A still-thriving Green Man proved it could do raveup as well as traditional headliners, writes James Smart

James Smart

22, Aug, 2011 @5:15 PM

Article image
End of the Road festival review – the bands love it as much as the crowd
The festival celebrates its 10th birthday with a bill packed full of female artists, and a charming headline show from Sufjan Stevens

Michael Hann

07, Sep, 2015 @12:27 PM

Article image
Green Man festival review – mesmerising and otherworldly
Shaking off its folky roots, artists such as Four Tet, Yo La Tengo and Father John Misty transform the Black mountains into a mega-party

Sophie Williams

19, Aug, 2019 @3:18 PM

Green Man festival

With its hill-circled setting, polite crowd and winning mix of indie and folk, Green Man is arguably the definitive boutique festival, writes James Smart

James Smart

18, Aug, 2008 @11:01 PM

Article image
The Green Man festival | Pop review
Glanusk Park Estate, Brecon Beacons
The heavens opened over the Brecon Beacons, but Flaming Lips, Fuck Buttons and Joanna Newsome all helped staved off despair, writes Jude Rogers

Jude Rogers

23, Aug, 2010 @8:30 PM

Article image
Green Man festival review – magical return for this psychedelic carnival
Mogwai, Nadine Shah, Fontaines DC and more mesmerise in the festival’s overwhelming, glorious comeback

Malcolm Jack

23, Aug, 2021 @2:59 PM