A traditionally folky affair, Green Man festival is historically known for being one of the most ethically-minded music events that takes place over summer. Priding itself on being fiercely independent, it’s a refreshing alternative to the corporate hives of pop and crowds so many festivals have unfortunately become. Now, in it’s eleventh year running, thankfully, it still maintains it’s original vision.
Starting as a one day event back in 2003, just 300 people trickled into the stunning valley at the foot of the Black Mountains. Now, it’s grown into one of the biggest and best loved festivals of the summer. Hundreds of hippies, fanatical music-lovers, bearded gents and oodles of families poured into beautiful Brecon, ready for good music and good vibes.
Green Man has an atmosphere rarely found at many festivals. The people that come here arrive with an interest in listening to some great bands, discovering new music and sampling a few specialist ales. I’m confident you won’t find anyone peeing on your tent or starting fights here. Plus the number of young children around really helps curb any potentially hostile behaviour. It really is something special.
It’s also accessibly one of the best and well thought out spaces in which to host a festival I've ever had the pleasure of walking around. The effort taken to maintain sanitary conditions and ensure wheelchair access throughout the field is phenomenal and when the sun goes down at night the whole arena is framed by fairylights, making it look truly magical.
Taking place over four days, guests were spoilt for choice this year with ten entertainment areas boasting 14 stages with more than 1500 performers running from dawn until dusk.
Seriously every taste was catered for. Green Man organisers had put masses of effort in to ensure no-one was left out. Right down to the adorably named ‘Little Folk’ tent – a magical enclosure for under twelve’s.
After arriving Friday morning and hearing about Patti Smith’s electric performance the night before, I was eager to catch up, musically speaking, so pitched up at the Mountain Stage ready and waiting for Phosphorescent. Matthew Houck’s distinctive voice sounded truly overwhelming. His warm and woody vocals would’ve been heat enough had it not been gloriously sunny.
Midlake and headliners Kings of Convenience were equally as impressive, both providing a dose of bluesy-infused folk-pop. Tim Smith of Midlake enchanted the audience with his almost floaty voice making We Gathered in Spring sound elusive yet powerful.
Lo-fi, Indie-folk duo, Kings of Convenience was an interesting choice of headliner. The lads from Norway have such delicate and calming voices at times it felt like I was being transported into an almost trance-like state. However, the duo was both engaging and sweet and peppered their performance with greetings and suchlike to the audience.
Erland Oye, one half of the band, had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand when he told us we’d, “picked the best festival to come to,” and as the music and weekend continued, I knew he was right.
Almost like the antithesis to the glorious weather the day before, on Saturday the odd rain shower was dodged by ducking into the Babbling Tongues tent.
Here, Welsh native and ex- Velvet Underground member, John Cale took part in a Q & A with Jude Rogers. Honest, fascinating and a real treat to have stumbled upon. I’m almost glad it rained.
As the afternoon drew-on, the rain dried up, the sun put her hat on. Shortly after, a rainbow appeared and framed the Mountain Stage creating an almost ethereal atmosphere.
You could almost feel the anticipation in the air, Band of Horses was performing soon and I had a feeling it was going to be good.
Better than I could’ve predicted, the set was nothing short of impressive. Knocking out hit after hit, the worthy headliners drew in an impressive crowd, easily the biggest of the weekend.
Soaring voices and stomping Americana, the festival had reached an outstanding crescendo with an excellently delivered set. Their ability to ensnare an entire audience was striking and they had everyone on their feet dancing.
Finishing with Funeral, it was a very fitting end to what was easily the best performance of the day.
Bringing the pace back down and wrapping up a wonderful weekend of music, Ben Howard was given the accolade to close the festival.
His fandom has grown massively over the past year or so and it’s clear to see why.
He exhibits such raw emotion when he sings, it really is difficult not to find his performances utterly moving. Incredible to watch, he bought the festival to a close beautifully, encapsulating the ethos of Green Man. Chilled out, good times.
Performances across the weekend were as fresh as the air that was to be found in this lush Welsh valley, with an eclectic blend of indie, psych, garage and of course folk, enjoyed by an equally diverse crowd.
Uniquely wonderful, Green Man still remains devoted to being independent, diverse and family-orientated. It is definitely worth a visit. And I’m sure you’ll find yourself returning year after year, if not for the incredible music, then for the barrels of real ale.
Photos by Tom Proudfoot