Photos: Lee Ramsey
Green Man Festival advertises family level friendliness, so I took my dad along. Coaxed to his first music festival by one hundred Welsh beers and welcomed on Thursday evening by one hundred Welsh voices, the backdrop to Public Service Broadcasting’s J. Willgoose spoke of humble heartfelt affection for the Brecon people and the hill opposite, where they recorded some of their studio album Every Valley, and gave us an hour of hope, anger and elation with layered social history, guitar, synth and a healthy dose of brass.
Friday brought sun to the reportedly first ‘dry’ Green Man since 2014, as dry as a Welsh summer anyway, and the mood reflected the special weather. The Lovely Eggs kicked off Saturday for the kids in the Far Out stage, ear defenders for the under tens, or not, Fuck It scarves held aloft. A wall of Lancashire loveliness and truth communicated in a hail of distortion. Beak> made the afternoon with their intricate lead rhythmic bass rising and falling and lassoing the audience from a laid back seated position. My Dad got caught at the front for headliners King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard on the Mountain stage, full pace for an hour with barely a falsetto breath before he made it out alive to watch them wind it down with some Australian sensitivity. A recovery Tiny Rebel Stay Puft (Marshmallow Porter, 5.2% of awesomeness) later and we were kept entertained by HMLTD sound checking, preparing and then theatrically blowing up with a pace fit for the easily bored to an eager crowd. The six of them could hardly cram their glam egos, dancing and entourage on to the Walled Garden stage, but somehow its kept together by the supreme leader of a frontman. Someone give them money for props and a bigger stage.
Sweet Baboo played a sweet Saturday morning set of Welsh mist pop with his tour band. He says, in a beautiful welsh deadpan, that he is economising on band size, the drummer is the bassist. A butterfly flew across the stage during ‘Swallows’, before a more minimal drums and double bass accompanied Nubya Garcia, speaking solely through her sax to command the sunny hill of the Mountain Stage. Jade Bird only stopped speaking to sing, and had us pinned against the Walled Garden stage with it when she did, smashing Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ amongst her own songs of men soon to be feeling sorry for themselves. She is great solo, but her voice could maybe own a much bigger band. A band with the camaraderie of Goat Girl, who it was great to see growing into gigging, or a band of Icelandic proportions fronted by the huge John Grant. A dry and self-deprecating showman who speaks love brutally, and then just as we started to lose focus from his meandering vocal and piano ballads, he gave an electrifying wake up call with ‘Pale Green Ghosts’.
Fleet Foxes headlined, but we were up on the hill heading to Chai Wallah tent for some warm up dancing with Dele Sosimi Afrobeat before Simian Mobile Disco with The Deep Throat Choir took us to dancing heaven in the Far Out tent; Dad had taken leave by this point. I’m not sure Simian Mobile Disco plus choir is a massive improvement on the already heady heights of Simian Mobile Disco live, but it was a spectacle, and the choir might have been slightly hampered by some hardware issues.
Sunday started with Sock on the Rising stage as we were like privileged guests in their Cardiff rehearsal room, backs turned as they faced the drums to build their sound. Then Stella Donnelly builds on her songs to say what matters in her disarmingly friendly and frank descriptions of sexual assault, and the racist who comes for Christmas. Our weekend ended with another Australian, a drummer accompanied in avant-garde free jazz by a grecian lute, Xylouris White lived up to their genre-hype and we left at a happy hobble in the sunshine.
I have a feeling Dad might be back next year.