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Review: Green Man Festival, 2016

(September 01, 2016)

Finders Keepers
Green Man Festival, 2016

Green Man 2016-Highlights


Green Man is a music festival for the musically-adventurous. I can see many bands with whom I'm familiar but, equally, I can (and do) discover many bands and artists previously off the edge of my musical radar.

As a family we chose to stay there from the Monday (Green Man actually kicks off on the Thursday night) with a 'Settlers Pass'. This gave us an opportunity to pitch camp and then enjoy day trips off-site to take in all the good things the wider region has to offer (mainly clothes shopping in Hay by the missus, but I digress...). Green Man Festival 2016 logoEach evening, on the Settlers camping area, Green Man had arranged bands, children's entertainment and great food (even a pub quiz!). To be a Green Man Settler is, essentially, to have a Golden Ticket to a mini-pre-Green-Man-family-Festival in its own right. A hummus and olive starter to the medieval banquet that is to come (as it were).

Green Man proper always begins on the Thursday night with, usually, one major act. Previous years have seen Tim Minchin, Adam Buxton, Patti Smith and The Waterboys getting the weekend off to a banging start. This year's opening evening line up comprised several bands: Wild Beasts; King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard; Cigarettes after Sex; Flamingods; and Meatraffle. All were new to me, so I was happy to have already begun to find new music...

Green Man has many areas where you can find entertainment of all sorts, but the main performances take place at stages called: Far Out (a more 'indie-fied' stage); Walled Garden (second only to the main stage in terms of quality of bands, in my opinion); Rising (for new, up-and-coming bands); Chai Wallahs (reggae and dub-filled and veeeery chilled...); Babbling Tongues (the stage for the spoken word); and Mountain (the main stage, with the most picturesque backdrop ever).




Phil Cook and the Guitarheels brought their North Carolina, Little Feat-inspired Americana to the Mountain Stage. Gospel harmonies and Lowell George-esque slide solos rang out along the valley. I've played in many bands over the past 25 years (as a drummer) and this was THE band of Green Man I most wanted to play with.

Meilyr Jones played two sets, one on Mountain Stage and a 2:00 am one in The Walled Garden. I went to both. Simply stunning. What a talented songwriter, musician and performer! Ex Radio Luxembourg/Race Horses/Neon Neon, Meilyr's mellifluous voice belies his acerbic lyrics, shining a light on, variously, the vagaries of fame and the perils of TV. His band were a multi-talented bunch too! They provided Meilyr with an orchestral feel to the gig. This is a man to watch...

Meilyr Jones - image credit: Sophie A Hall
Meilyr Jones - "a man to watch"
image credit: Sophie A Hall

I was annoyed to miss Tom Low (with whom my current band, Shop Girls, shared a stage a few months back) but I did catch HMS Morris. A new Welsh three-piece making waves. Their keyboard player/bassist has a ridiculously wide vocal range and full access to a looping pedal...

Ex Drive-By Truckers' Jason Isbell was a find. Effortlessly slick alternative country lifting the spirits in a slightly damp festival.

As the night was closing in, we witnessed a great set from White Denim, a prog/experimental rock/garage band from Austin, Texas. The energy they provided came to a head with the final strum of the lead guitarist theatrically breaking all his strings. Not an easy task!

Friday's headliner on the Mountain Stage was James Blake. I saw him at Green Man a few years back and it was good to see how he had matured. The Mercury Award winner enthralled the crowd with his electronic post-dub compositions which were a little too mellow for me, but enjoyable nonetheless.



The weather was beginning to play with our minds. Will it rain? Won't it rain? When are the gales coming? We put that to one side and got stuck into the music again, beginning with Northumbria's The Unthanks. Wow! The sun was so impressed that it came out to have a look too. Beautiful folk music harmonies swirling around Crug Hywel.

Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes brought back memories of Father John Misty's set from last year. Lead singer, Alex Ebert, (fuelled by red wine and cigarettes) held the audience in the palm of his hand throughout.

Laura Marling brought the Mountain Stage to a close on Saturday. Rather like James Blake, I enjoyed her beautiful music but it left me wanting more of a lift than she supplied. I think the choice of these two as headliners on successive nights was a little odd.

At this point I ditched the family and went looking for some late night musical energy. I caught The Battles' last song at the Far Out stage and immediately regretted not leaving Laura Marling earlier. What came next was a revelation...

Fat White Family. I had heard of them but knew nothing of their music. I was in for a shock. The lights dimmed in anticipation of their arrival. Only the lead singer emerged and he stood behind his mic and bared his teeth like the extra-terrestrial protagonist in Alien. He grimaced and drooled as the background music blared, daring the crowd to react (they loved it). Then his band kicked in. 'Kicked' being the appropriate word. Their music was pre-, during, and post-punk, all at the same time. It hit me in the stomach. Hard. The energy level was off the scale and I thought the singer (as bare-chested as Iggy Pop) was going to explode as he screamed and strutted across the stage. The crowd loved it. I did too but I'm emerging from my angry phase, so I only lasted three songs before I heeded the siren call of my memory foam mattress topper. And so to bed.


Green Man Festival - Dom Moore Green Man Festival - Dom Moore
Away from the stage at the Green Man Festival


A lazy start to my last day. Saw Black Peaches in the Walled Garden (fronted by a member of Hot Chip and Scritti Politti). Who'd have thought jazz-rock would get an outing at Green Man? Superb!

Then two stand-out sets for Green Man 2016. Songhoy Blues, on Mountain Stage, and Gypsies of Bohemia in Chai Wallahs.

Songhoy Blues are a four-piece from Timbuktu who had to leave their home due to civil unrest and the imposition of Sharia Law. They played Green Man 2015 but I missed them. I wasn't going to make the same mistake twice! Their 'desert blues' music had a huge crowd bouncing and swaying along with their energetic frontman. A real treat. And once again, the sun shone!

Gypsies of Bohemia are a jazz band that play covers of heavy metal, gangsta rap, rock and many other genres. They do it VERY well and the crowd loved it. Hugely talented guys, who are hugely entertaining. Check them out if you get a chance.

Green Man 2016-HighlightsFarewell from Green Man Festival 2016

Following a fruitful trip to the Goan Fish Curry stall, we headed into the final acts of Green Man by watching Unknown Mortal Orchestra. My son recommended them and I have to thank him for his taste in psychedelic rock from New Zealand. Another great find!

Green Man 2016 - burning the Green Man
Burning the Green Man:
the traditional end to the festival

Sunday night, and Green Man Festival itself, came to a traditional end with the burning of the Green Man (a large sculptural bonfire). As the sparks flew, swirling, into the cooling Brecon Beacons air I couldn't help but reflect on all the new music I had found and the new CDs I had bought. The next week's holiday, of travelling around south west Co. Cork, was soundtracked by Phil Cooke and the Guitarheels, Meilyr Jones, Songhoy Blues and Black Peaches. They are all keepers. Bring on 2017...

Essex Havard, September 2016

Essex Havard is on Twitter and blogs on Wordpress

cylchgrawn Cymru Culture magazine
Published by/Cyhoeddwyd gan:
Caregos Cyf., 2016

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