GREEN MANBrecon Beacons
After an almost eight-hour coach journey consisting of bleak, monotonous roads and homogenised service-station food, nothing is more refreshing than GREEN MAN’s stunning location. Like a baptismal ceremony, the donning of the wristband and the bathing in the wealth of the mountainous fresh air that surrounds us seems to cleanse us of the sights and smells found inside the toilets of Birmingham coach station.
It only takes seconds to kickstart our senses as they are bombarded by a flurry of glitter, spices and some of the finest music around. Green Man may technically be a boutique festival still, having resisted the huge draw of the mainstream, but it’s fast-becoming a Mecca for those music lovers who aren’t willing to forego style or substance on their festival experience.
What better way to celebrate the new lease of life Green Man has granted us than with Aussie force of nature KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD. The tent they’re playing in is packed to capacity and sprawling out onto the field behind. With the band’s fortunes having snowballed within the last few years, it’s no question that they are perhaps the most anticipated of the day. So, as the totalitarian shouts and electric hums of Robot Stop are hurled at the audience, they seem to catch fire. With the crowd electric, the group set about bombarding us with a set that fails to disappoint. They fly through almost the entire new album, relentlessly ploughing through, only stopping for a much-needed breath and the occasional classic tune for the long-time listeners. With a performance like this, the hell of getting here is easily forgotten.
Waking not entirely fresh-faced but content, we set about the second day exploring the vast festival site, peering into a mobile bookshop with a crime section entirely composed of Tony Blair’s My Story. Dipping in and out of tents to shelter from the changeable weather, we catch the joyful exuberance of MEILYR JONES, the sexual riffs of CONNAN MOCKASIN, the hypnotic, trance-like psych of SUUNS and the hometown, homemade psych of TOM LOW. However, the highlight of the day comes in the form of Welsh-language shoegazers YSGOL SUL. Despite playing the relatively modest Rising Stage, Ysgol Sul have the tent bursting at the seams with a loyal fray of Welsh-speaking youngsters as merry as it comes. Mixing melodic guitar with their cryptic (well, to us at least) Welsh drawl , the band’s rather downbeat recordings turn into anthems when they unspool live. The tunes are slurred out by the adoring fans, who are acknowledged by the occasional smile from the home-country heroes. The atmosphere is not one that will be easily beaten, and proves the importance and significance of keeping the Welsh language alive.
Awaking the next morning to a soaked tent we set about our search for our first band of the day: FEWS. Having released their first album this year, the Transatlantic, trans-European group have been causing quite the storm in Britain’s back rooms, inciting riots with a tornado of moody, psych-infused rock. So it seems quite fitting to have gale-force warnings prior to their arrival. With turbulence and ferocity much like the wind outside, the band slay through whirring, distortion-fed riffs. With the tent crammed, the band stop between each song to state their disbelief at the size of the crowd they’ve drawn before kicking back into another song. They finish with Ill before slinking off backstage while the crowd applaud viciously.
Having spent the day dowsed in a series of rare treats including JAGWAR MA, MICHAEL ROTHER and BATTLES as well as a man playing sitar to a falcon … it is soon that time again to revel in the glorious debauchery of FAT WHITE FAMILY, who are perhaps the best live band of the past five years. Love them or hate them, they really do know how to put on a show. Whether that be smearing themselves in excrement or barrelling into their adoring crowd, there is always an uncertainty in seeing the debaucherous sons of South London that never fails to get the adrenaline pumping. Despite the absence of founding member Saul Adamczewski, the band arrive to cheers of adoration from the usual array of the degenerates plus the fluffy-eyed newcomers not entirely sure what to expect. It takes little more than 30 seconds for lead singer Lias Saoudi to have shed his shirt as he gazes into the distance. What follows in the next 45 minutes is a sporadic sweat- and beer-soaked onslaught of madness with violent screams and Fat White Family’s fear-inducing rockabilly and krautrock leaving the audience content.
The morning after this depravity is justifiably more subdued, as we settle into the day with MAGERET GLASPY’s beautiful ballads before catching the androgynous antics of HAPPY MEAL LTD and EZRA FURMAN. With the weekend coming to a close, we head to catch WHITNEY. Having met the group earlier in the day when it seemed that they were on their first ecstasy comedown, their actual live set proves they’re not going to let this stop them. Fuelled with Red Bull and a couple of whiskys, the group play their melancholic indie lullabies to perfection. For a band that pens songs about death, drugs and lost relationships, it’s ironic that the sun comes out on them, breaking the relentless downpour of the previous two days.
With the symbolic burning of the Green Man heralding the festival’s end, it hits us how exhausting and satisfying the whole experience has been. And, despite having taken full advantage of the weekend, we could have done it again completely differently and still had a great festival. Now that’s a sign that it doesn’t take an expert in pagan worship to work out.