Every year now, I embark on what’s become something of a pilgrimage for me. A pilgrimage back to Wales, in to the shadows of the Black Mountains, where I enter a blissful three day haze of music, arts, and more ciders than even my beardy Dad could manage over one weekend.
This year was my sixth visit to Green Man Festival, and I think what makes it so easy to return year after year is the festival’s warmth, dynamism and versatility. The lineup keeps getting more impressive – this year boasted the likes of First Aid Kit, Neutral Milk Hotel, Anna Calvi and Beirut among many, many others – but the festival also always succeeds in keeping its sense of heart. There’s a friendliness you won’t find at Reading and Leeds in a setting far easier to navigate than Glastonbury, and so Green Man sits comfortably away from other UK festivals, satisfying the tastes of musos and mainstreamers alike.
In terms of the music, you can’t really get much better than Green Man. There’s something to whet almost everyone’s appetite, and you’re guaranteed to come home having discovered several new artists too. You know you’ve been to a great festival when, several months later, you find yourself smugly sipping a cappuccino saying “oh, I saw them play Green Man months ago…” (Maybe that’s just me, but it definitely has happened). This year, my new finds came in the form of Michael Chapman and Vancouver Sleep Clinic. The former, a Yorkshire-born guitarist, was pretty mesmerising, combining an inimitable mastery of his instrument with smoky vocals and a genuinely endearing stage presence. The latter, an Australian group fronted by 17-year-old Tim Bettison, have already become a firm favourite for me post-festival. Bettison’s falsetto is beautiful, and reminiscent in many ways of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon’s vocals. There’s something quite nostalgic about the group’s sound, which uses synths and keyboards along with some quietly melancholic lyrics to create a perfect autumnal sountrack.
The War on Drugs, Sun Kil Moon, Caribou, H. Hawkline and I Break Horses all performed some excellent and memorable sets, but my favourites by far this year had to be First Aid Kit. Playing a selection of older material along with several belters from their brilliant new album, Stay Gold, the Swedish folk duo owned the stage with cheerful quips and energetic performances. There’s really too much great music to mention in one article, but First Aid Kit were especially standout.
Beyond the musicians across several stages that span the genres, there’s an impressive array of food and drink, comedy, and literary speakers too – we even watched My Neighbour Totoro in the Film tent while nursing our heads on Sunday morning. But more than anything, pretty much everyone you meet at Green Man, including the artists, just come across as genuinely nice, down to earth people. So every year, I keep coming back to Green Man for a dreamy weekend of music and all things cultural with a lovely bunch of people – and you can’t really say much fairer than that.