Green Man review – from fusion to folk in the misty mountains

Glanusk Park, Brecon Beacons
There’s a five-star welcome in the hillside as Belle and Sebastian bring a weekend of wonders to a rock’n’roll climax

Pedalling a static bike to recharge your phone as motivational David Bowie blasts from big speakers. Charlotte Church smashing pop songs with her monster soprano at late-night live karaoke. A restorative hot tub in the drizzly open air. Any of the above in isolation would be things to tell colleagues about whenever you wander back in to work post festival, still bleary-eyed. Package all of them up together with warm, witty Welsh hospitality, serene scenery and great food, a craft-brewed growler in hand at any given point (save for in the hot tub where they serve champagne), and you’re talking a strange, funny, indulgent, nigh on utopian weekender that’s almost too much to describe.

You could spend a whole week at Green Man – and some do, with a settler’s pass – and still fail to absorb all of its multi-sensory pleasures. Its ongoing success lies in a solidly discerning and richly varied booking policy favouring folk, electronic, psychedelic and global sounds, and subtle refinements to their offering each year sufficient to prove that they never take their generations-spanning audience for granted. Reusable pint cups, for instance, which at a stroke make this one of the tidiest festival sites you’ve ever trudged (mud notwithstanding). All that and one of the most picturesquely placed and designed main stages in all of festivaldom, nestled in a natural ampitheatre with verdant hills and tall trees as a backdrop.

Saturday-night headliner Laura Marling.
Saturday-night headliner Laura Marling. Photograph: Paschal/Rex/Shutterstock

James Blake, Laura Marling and Belle and Sebastian headline consecutively from Friday through Sunday, though much of the best stuff occurs away from Green Man’s Instagram-perfect centre up in the Far Out tent, where Friday ends with thumping acid techno from Factory Floor. As the sun fights a valiant and mostly losing tussle with the rain each day – the pair occasionally shaking hands on a rainbow – memorable moments range from Yorkston/Thorne/Khan’s cosmopolitan droning fusion songs to the Unthanks getting the crowd singing in three-part harmony then stomping the stage in a triumphant clog dance and Songhoy Blues’ party-starting Malian desert blues.

Suuns, Beak and Battles each present entrancing variations on involved krautrock-inspired jams, but one of the godfathers delivers the masterclass. In the weekend’s soaraway highlight on Saturday evening, Michael Rother – a Neu! sticker proudly stuck on the lid of his laptop – scatters transcendent buzzsaw fuzz guitar and starbright synth instrumentals as silver-haired drummer Hans Lampe holds down rhythms so clinically steady you can picture him beating his eggs with the same motorik intensity. Karusselland Flammende Herzen suddenly lift tired souls out of their festival halfway point upwards past the place where the mist hangs on the Black Mountains. Truly magical.

Belle and Sebastian’s closing set restores primacy to the main stage, as the Glaswegians embellish their life-affirming chamber pop with a touch of rock-star flourish. Singer Stuart Murdoch clambers on to his piano and mounts the crash barrier. A stage invasion by invitation to the skipping Boy With the Arab Strap threatens to descend into chaos as hundreds of bodies flood past security and envelope the band, one girl grabbing Murdoch’s mic to shout: “Fuck Brexit!”

The customary ritual burning of the Green Man and accompanying fireworks show that follow feel like an almost unnecessarily beautiful adjunct to a festival that had already offered so much.


Malcolm Jack

The GuardianTramp

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