The immediately striking thing with Green Man – aside from its stunning backdrop of the Black Mountains – is the intimacy. You can meet the DJ who puts on the David Bowie disco on the Friday and get some insight into his game plan. You can catch Big Jeff, Bristol’s biggest live music fan, hanging around by the fire in the arena after dark. If you’re lucky, this is also true in the case of the artists themselves – Connan Mockasin might just pose for a photo for you on stage during his soundcheck.
The size of the festival also means that even when camping as far away as possible from the arena, you’re still only committing yourself to a five-minute walk to your tent. It’s easy, then, to try and see as much stuff as possible: and you’d be stupid not to. Green Man’s line up is certainly of a folky disposition on the whole, but, as with every festival, there is still variety. Its organisers certainly know exactly when and where to deploy the acts they have at their disposal.
Catching Tindersticks on the main stage, for example, was a calm, seated affair, and it was all cider cups and sun hats for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Warpaint, on the other hand, were definitely an anomaly on the main stage, with gloomy tracks like Love Is To Die and Keep It Healthy sticking out like a sore thumb next to what was on offer earlier on Sunday. At the Far Out tent, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard played a turn-everything-up-to-eleven kind of set which slowed down only when the seven-piece band had to swap over instruments, whilst Jagwar Ma filled the entire place up with their Madchester-infused dance.
Almost everything was worth catching, but there were definite highlights. James Blake sounded exactly like he does in the studio – so refined and smooth it was honestly surprising when he announced afterwards that everything was performed completely without backing tracks – and demonstrated that he knew how to adapt and to step it up a gear for live performances. Ageing psych veterans and younger fans alike were able to bond at Swedish psych outfit Dungen, marveling over their extended jams as well as their drummer’s seemingly unlimited repertoire of almost random prog drum fills.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Ruban Nielson may intend his music to be “funk to depress people,” but the crowd were certainly having a good time singing along to his every word, as well as watching his drunken scale to the very top of the tent supports. A trip down to the Rising stage to see Welsh band Hippies Vs Ghosts, hailing from the tiny village of Cwm Y Glo, was rewarded with a performance so sweaty and raw it was tempting to try and cool down in the river flowing just next to the stage – definitely worth a check out on Bandcamp.
There was also certainly a lot more to this beautiful festival than just the artists. As well as the archetypal comedy tent and Cinedrome, you could pop along to catch some outstanding speakers sharing their stories and anecdotes at Talking Shop, or, if that way inclined, revel in Green Man’s longstanding commitment to creative scientific engagement at Einstein’s Garden.
Apt, then, for a festival which was just as much about the atmosphere as the music, that it culminated with Sunday’s headliners Belle and Sebastian inviting a massive stage invasion, as well as everyone gathering around in the centre to watch the ritual burning of the literal Green Man and the following firework display. Intimate, friendly and fun with a few unique twists, this festival is worth a yearly visit.