Green ManBrecon Beacons
In many ways 2017 hasn’t been the best year for festivals. There was the Lord Of The Flies-with-worse-food scenario courtesy of Ja Rule’s Fyre Fest, Y Not Festival found itself ill-equipped to cope with the challenges thrown down by the Great British Summertime, and the bizarre Regress Fest that wasn’t, Hope And Glory, is still feeling the ire of festival goers and critics alike. It is with this in mind, and weather forecast in palm, that we go to the Brecon Beacons for the 15th edition of GREEN MAN.
The queue into the festival is minimal and the light spattering of rain doesn’t dampen the excitement. The efficient shuttle bus service from Abergavenny following a quick pint at the only pub in the town all serve to keep the mood positive.
To whet the appetites of the first intake of campers Thursday night has an excellent line-up in the Far Out stage which features two acts which have piqued attention with superb festival performances this year. ANNA MEREDITH’s set up of synths, percussion, cello and shredding guitar adds bombast to her already dramatic sound and it’s a captivating set complete with cello solos and a stadium rock-style power solo (in this context, much better than it sounds). BADBADNOTGOOD take up the jazz thread and deliver rousing renditions of tracks from their four studio albums with drummer Alexander Sowinski leading proceedings with ethereal patter and fluctuating tempos.
Standing like a statue with sunglasses and an extraordinarily shaped hat it’s the poetic lyricism of Irish troubadour FIONN REGAN which captivates the Mountain Stage early on Friday afternoon. Regan made a welcome return this year with a new album – the newer material accompanied by organ shows an evolution in his sound – while classics from 2007’s Mercury-nominated The End Of History predictably draw the biggest response from the crowd. While their roots are very much in Wales, GINTIS are part of a small contingent of Merseyside-based bands at the festival. Their set on the tucked away Rising stage is a genuine highlight with The Waltzer Song drawing a crowd that stretches back into the woods and new songs Dennis and Oh My Little Malcontent signalling the band’s intent. ANGEL OLSEN’s heady position on the bill shows how much the Missourian’s stock has risen since the release of My Woman last year. The epic tracks from that album prove she has earned her place early on, while the second half of her set suffers a little from too many middle of the road folk numbers.
The second quasi-Mersey-based band of the weekend also impress despite the early hour over in the Walled Garden. THE ORIELLES have to be the hardest working band of the summer with barely a festival line-up around which doesn’t feature their name. This will doubtless work in their favour as more and more people will be exposed to their effortless blend of surf rock and Haçienda-indebted acid groove. That first album can’t come soon enough. The trio of the acts on the Far Out stage early on Saturday evening would have any festival organiser foaming with envy. Cali surf doyens ALLAH-LAS prove they will always be the coolest dudes in any room with a perfect set of Byrds-via-Beach Boys Americana. Proceedings take a decidedly dark turn when LIARS’ Angus Andrews lurches onto the stage wearing a wedding dress with his face obscured by a veil. New album Coins In My Caged Fist / The Grand Delusional looks to follow the successful formula perfected on 2014’s MESS with horror punk set to pulsating synth crescendos. One of the finest live acts around. THEE OH SEES also fall into this category and they don’t let Green Man down, with a furious set of garage psych gems which has the audience on board throughout.
Back in the Far Out stage on Sunday and the mercurial RICHARD DAWSON is pure entertainment. From bellowed a cappella folk tales to full band ballads, it’s a set that could go on and on and there’d be no complaints. There are complaints on the Mountain Stage from Bright Eyes messiah CONOR OBERST, but ironic moans about being in a touring band. This risky banter is probably not winning over a lot of the soaking wet crowd as they battle against the worst of the weekends weather but a trio of songs from his old band warm the cockles. Backed by the excellent Felice Brothers and delivering a sturdy set of country-tinged folk numbers, it’s testament to Green Man that such an iconic figure is nestled amongst the second wrung of their listings.
With some of the aforementioned festivals dealing in the worst types of drama, PJ HARVEY knows how to provide the right kind. Silence precedes her Sunday night closing set and is broken by the singer’s entrance flanked by marching band. Niceties are dispensed with, in keeping with the theatrics, as a set mostly made up of tunes from her last two albums delight the damp gathering. How Harvey deals with politics, both personal and geo, is stylish and classy – there are bangers from her early days in the shape of 50ft Queenie and To Bring You My Love – it’s everything a festival closer should be. And as we gather round the burning Green Man effigy and the refrain from Down By The Water is still being bellowed by the appreciative hordes, you’re glad that Green Man is representing well-run, quality festivals everywhere.