Green Man festival – home-town heroes and hot tubs steal the weekend

Glanusk Park, Brecon Beacons

Super Furry Animals take Saturday with a gloriously long set, while a dazzling St Vincent proves that Green Man just gets better with age

From the hot tub, you can look out over the entirety of Green Man: the bright clusters of tents, the queues for food stalls, the long cloud that hangs over the mountain, keeping a pale and heavy-eyed watch over the festival. And from up here you can watch Matthew E White as he plays songs from Big Inner for the soggy but happy crowd below.

Each year Green Man, now in its 13th, brings new delights. This time round, it is hot tubs and gin bars and silversmithing workshops. What keeps it one of summer’s greatest festival gems is the sense of devotion at its heart; evident in its organisers, attendees and performers, who seem delighted that such a festival even exists.

You feel it right from the opening night, on Thursday, as Leftfield stand before a rapturous crowd, the band near-speechless at the reception to their set. And you sense it as the final notes of Dancing in the Dark play to revellers still dancing in the Round the Twist bar, somewhere in that foggy place between Sunday night and Monday morning.

Natasha Khan of Sexwitch at Green Man.
Mesmerising … Natasha Khan of Sexwitch at Green Man. Photograph: Chris Lever/Rex Shutterstock

In the three days between, there is a near embarrassment of musical riches: stars such as Hot Chip, Father John Misty and a dazzling St Vincent, who is perhaps the only artist to discuss Greggs steak slices while wearing a spectacular open-weave catsuit. There are also outstanding performances from this year’s critical darlings Natalie Prass and Jane Weaver, as well as newer talents Meilyr Jones and Kiran Leonard. And there are appearances from a smattering of surprise guests, including Sexwitch – the new project from Natasha Khan of Bat for Lashes and the band Toy – who play a visceral, mesmerising set in the tent at the Far Out field on Saturday evening.

The weekend is dedicated to the Saturday-night headliners, Super Furry Animals, home-town heroes of a sort who recently reunited for the 20th anniversary of their Welsh-language album Mwng. Singer Gruff Rhys’s film American Interior plays in the cinema tent, there is a retrospective in the Talking Tent and they even present, among the 108 beers in the Courtyard beer festival, their own ale. On stage, the warmth between band and audience is tangible, and the set spills long over its designated end-time.

But the finest festival moments are often the unexpected ones, and for me Green Man’s is a staggering performance by Richard Dawson in the Walled Garden. With a voice that is sour, strange and belly deep, he sings songs of death and darkness and poor horses. It makes for a set so forceful and wonderful, the air seems to stand still.


Laura Barton

The GuardianTramp

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