There was a dreamlike quality to this year’s Green Man. Outwardly everything looked the same; the same crowd of wispy indie 20-30-somethings and middle-class families trooping through the gates, the same stages and stalls, the same place we always put our tents, the same eternal two black mountains looming over the festival site, grazing the clouds…
It all lent to a spectacular feeling of déjà vu. This was my fifth Green Man, but it might have been the second or the fourth. We were standing in blinking agony, queuing for 30 minutes for coffee at 11am. At 5, we were emerging from Far Out, loudly praising the band and making sure we would all let our absent friends know what they missed. We were eating paella in the mud, and then at 3am, two or three of us were in Chai Wallahs, still daubed in raincoats and boots, drenched to the skin in sweat and rubbing shoulders with complete strangers to dancehall and drum’n’bass, speaking in their ears, shaking their hands.
It was right then in that tent, clutching an empty pina colada, that it hit me that I never thought I’d be here again. Here were fleshy, pathogen-friendly people; sitting with us at our tents, laughing at our jokes, drinking our rum. We went out together to bands, lost each other, found each other in the morning. After 18 months of misery, it didn’t feel real. This was the pristine Green Man experience preserved, unwrapped, presented.
Wet Leg led the charge with a fairly packed set in the big Far Out tent on the opening Thursday – pretty impressive for a band with one single, and you can thank the mighty reach of 6Music for that one. The band made a hell of an impression out the gate, set the tone for the weekend and an unofficial warcry for the campsite in just an hour. “On the chaise longue, on the chaise longue, on the chaise longue, all day long, on the chaise longue…”
Events are Back!
If you have an upcoming event, why not list it on our FREE all Wales What’s On guide.
Working Men’s Club marked that vibe change Green Man gets as the night rolls in with a raucous and flashy set of throwback postpunk, which then went straight into the far more mellow and sombre Tirzah. Music-wise at Green Man, the Far Out tent consistently steals the show, and marks the home of the festival’s darker side once the lights come up.
How have I missed Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard? They sound like the inside of a pub jukebox from 1973, and they’re from Cardiff. It was like finding out Exile On Main Street had been cut in the flat upstairs- and speaking of the Stones, it’s startling how much singer Tom Rees’ Jaggeresque hip flicks lift a performance, especially at an indie festival where most of the singers are too shy to even look up. We were taken there by the rabid word of mouth of our new campsite friends and by the end of the set we were down the front like we’d come in with the band tee.
I had almost been over my déjà vu by the Saturday night, but then Caribou emerged and I was instantly swallowed up by the light show, transported back to when I was 17 at my first Green Man. Back then too, they had sat across from each other like they were at the dinner table or concocting some witches’ brew, pouring out solid blasting walls of viscous psychedelic rhythm. I’ve been to hundreds of raves, but it’s only when I’ve seen Caribou that I’ve just been stunned dumb and spirited away like an alien abductee.
By 8am the next day, half of my lot had abandoned their tents to the biggest downpour since the spring, fishing clothes and Bluetooth speakers out of huge pools of water and making plea deals with the rest of us for somewhere dry to sleep that night. Fun fact: Melin Melyn were the last gig I went to back in March 2020 when they opened for Islet, just before the world went topsy-turvy, and I knew that they were the right sort of morning pick-me-up for that day, like if CBeebies made programmes for the whole family. On the way out, we stumbled pleasantly upon Yazmin Lacey and the good vibes continued, Yazmin’s soulful voice and her smoky lounge style playing on the steam rising off the main stage as the sun finally emerged.
Drawn back to Far Out sometime after midnight like a moth out for trouble, I managed to see almost all of Giant Swan’s set without realising who they were. A blistering little live techno piece that was more reminiscent of two punk gremlins working over an anvil, the set was full of noisy edge and anger that made me miss small gigs in Bristol.
Panic Shack were rough, earnest, fun and my highlight of the festival. Ten minutes into the set at Rising all I could think was “Fuck, this band have better songwriting chops than 90% of the headliners”. There’s really nowhere to hide when you go punk, you either smash it or become that band that never gets signed; if Bikini Kill had opened their shows with I Don’t Really Like It it’d have been one of the biggest punk tracks of the era. Cardiff bands have been on it this year.
It’s the big one, for me at least. I hadn’t stopped talking about seeing Thundercat for weeks before, and I’m not stopping now. Massive kudos, even though he’s polishing Grammys and hitting streams ceilings he hasn’t left his jazz-fusion session roots: every single and B-side alike was preceded and followed by an outstanding virtuoso improv, and the middle of the set was a tribute to jazz legend Chick Corea. He’s also a lot more eccentric than I’d have thought; he gushed extensively about his friendship with drummer Louis Cole (not present), but that only made him more endearing. Easily my favourite year of the festival so far.
Glanusk Park, nr Crickhowell, Thurs 19-Sun 22 Aug
words JASON MACHLAB photos ERIC AYDIN BARBERINI / KIRSTY MCLACHLAN / NICI EBERL
APPLICATIONS for autumn term are now closed: If you’re 18-30 years old, you live in Wales, and you want to get ahead in the creative and cultural industries, register your interest for winter term.