Nothing is more precious than a once-in-a-lifetime weekend with those that you love. Sharing laughs and pints of Growler, witnessing musical genius and artistic beauty, connecting with one another in a manner that forges the strongest of bonds. The lush green fields in the shadow of Crug Hywel – a flat-topped mountain that overlooks the Green Man festival like a watchful guardian – are the perfect spot for such a weekend.
The fact that it sold out months in advance is testament to the brilliant line-up of bands and artists that were carefully selected to perform this year. It also reflects the dedication shown by loyal customers who return to Green Man year-on-year, with familiar faces popping up and the taking place of many re-united hugs. This is a family affair; everybody knows everybody else, but first-timers will also undoubtedly be welcomed with open arms and warmth.
This warmth is evidently extended to the musicians, writers and comedians, as emotional displays of affection and appreciation were consistently shown by the crowds that gathered at the foot of each stage. It’s thanks to this collective love and appreciation, as well as the wondrous music, that we found ourselves experiencing several mind-blowing moments, the first of which was when Snail Mail took to the beautifully intimate Walled Garden stage on Friday evening.
With her no-fucks-given attitude, Lindsey Jordan (the young genius behind Snail Mail) delivered a haunting performance. Everything about it, from the lyrics to the way that each and every song was slowed down, illustrated that this singer-songwriter and her accompanying band are extremely proficient. And yet despite the laid-back feel, there was no sense of arrogance to the performance – on the contrary, each and every note was delivered with deep meaning, perhaps reflecting a bygone era of excruciating pain. Raw and emotional, Snail Mail was an incredible opener and set the mood perfectly for the weekend.
But the mood was quickly altered as we headed up to the Round the Twist tent for a little dance at Disco Motel. Our good friend Nathan Jones is the man behind this funky club night, and majestically DJed a brilliant set from under a huge self-made disco ball hat. You needed to see it to believe it.
We were back at the Walled Garden in time to catch some of Susanne Sundfør. This was the first of many wonderful surprises over the weekend. Despite trawling through the Green Man playlist on Spotify ahead of the festival, Susanne Sundfør had somehow got buried under other bands, yet catching her live made her stand out. Her voice sliced through the evening air, and each song seemed to have the ability to send the listener deeper into a daze of wonder. She created an amazingly intimate atmosphere, with loved ones all around taking in her performance while clinging on to each other.
I doubt there is another festival out there that will allow you to get completely engulfed by an immensely gorgeous performance of Sussane Sundfør before heading to see Australian psych mammoths King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizzard. Although some time had passed since the band released the earworm that is Rattlesnake, King Gizzard were hyped up before their appearance. They delivered some elongated mega jams, hair flying everywhere during some impressively flexible stage jumps. The big loyal fan group, front and centre, matched the band’s energy, though we were happy to soak up the feeling from the sidelines.
Our wake-up call on Saturday, after mulling around the Mountain Stage for some time, was delivered by Boy Azooga. Going from strength to strength with every show they do, the Cardiff-based funky rock band never fail to disappoint, and they pulled out all the stops at Green Man. Highlights came from the many big-hitters that feature on their recently released debut album 1,2 Kung Fu, such as ‘Loner Boogie’ and ‘Face Behind Her Cigarette’. Lead guitarist, front man and general musical guru Dave Newington bossed the show. During ‘Walking Thompson’s Park’ he took an extended guitar solo that quivered over sparse notes before blowing up. At the end of a superb set, the band brought several friends on stage to perform a memorable cover of ‘Jungle Boogie’, including brass players from the funk/hip-hop act Afrocluster, and Jack Butler – the front man from Monico Blonde.
We were blessed with yet another mind-blowing moment, this time delivered by Ider. The fantastic two-piece demanded complete undivided attention from a huge crowd as they stood at the front of the Walled Garden stage giving it everything. Heartbreaking lyrics combined with intricate vocal melodies, while a thin texture was carefully constructed with minimal electronic drum and piano patterns. It amounts to something truly special. Ider are an absolute must-see, and I can say with confidence that the band will soon bless bigger stages with their incredible music. For now, they are evidently happy with the progress, smiling from ear-to-ear between songs. ‘Body love’ and ‘Pulse’ were brief moments of utter perfection, and the set was drawn to an unforgettable close with ‘GMLAA’.
Confusion stifled the long-awaited experience of Phoebe Bridgers, as on-lookers were left slightly bewildered at the relationship between the emotional songs and the formal choice of dress for the band. But looking beyond appearances, Bridgers eloquently glided through her set list, providing a touch of class that no other is able of doing so. And soon after, we found ourselves immersed in the enormous live show that is Fleet Foxes. Witnessing frontman Robin Pecknold perform ‘White Winter Hymnal’ and ‘Tiger Mountain Peasant Song’ alone with a guitar was breathtaking.
Sunday came too soon, perhaps because we could not wait to see Haley Heynderickx. The Portland-based guitarist made an instant connection with crowd, telling a tail of nearly hitting a sheep on the drive to the Glanusk estate. She also spoke of her love for performing as well as toiling over endless miles of travel between countless shows – a juxtaposition that seems common among many artists that are edging into popularity. Yet Haley flawlessly began to play a brand-new guitar, and instantly captivated the thousands gathered on singing the first lyric. Letting the soothingly haunting ‘Drinking Song’ flow over us was a terrifying and intense experience, though we soon found ourselves dancing to ‘Oom Sha La La’.
Stumbling over the wonderous Fenne Lily was the happiest of accidents. We were so glad to discover this insanely talented Cardiff-based musician, who potentially provided the most mind-blowing moment of the festival during her song ‘For A While’. Each of her songs delivers a sledge hammer to the chest, but somehow invokes a sense of worth and hope. Another truly special performance, and one that will never be forgotten.
The War On Drugs brought the music to a close, with lengthy extended jam sessions going around the same three chords on the Mountain Stage. Admittedly, it has been done before; but somehow not in quite the same way. With the last shreds of guitar solos ringing in our ears, we headed uphill to witness the burning of the Green Man – a yearly ritual that gathers all of the remaining festival-goers to the top field of the site. I originally thought it was just a big bonfire, but like so much at this festival, it turned out to be far more. After flames licked up the Green Man and into the night sky, we were gifted a final surprise – a fireworks display lasting 40 minutes or so.
A sense of desperate longing loomed over our car as we drove back along the M4 to London – a longing to step back in time and re-experience the festival, to fall in love again and to make it all count.