There is much that’s unique about green man. for starters it’s location, a suitably verdant park nestled in the heart of Wales’ Brecon Beacons mountains. Then there’s it’s independence—a 20,000 capacity festival with zero corporate sponsorship is no mean feat, yet it offers an element of freedom and escape from everyday life that can only ever add to the festival experience—there's no romance to a ‘Heineken stage’, despite some festivals’ best efforts.There is, however, an undeniable romance to the Mountain stage, Green Man’s main stage, with its natural amphitheatre offering the perfect vista of the peaks behind it.
Initially conceived as a folk festival, in recent years Green Man’s programme has adapted to its growing audience to include alternative and independent music of all genres, as well as a strong offering of poetry, comedy and film. Like many events in 2021, Green Man’s final lineup was not the same as that they initially planned. International acts like Mac DeMarco, Sudan Archives, and Tropical F**k Storm weren’t carried over from the 2020 lineup, and even Little Dragon, who were scheduled to be playing until just two weeks before, ended up cancelling. But while the lack of international bands was definitely noteable, the remaining lineup of Wales’ first post-pandemic festival showcased the very best in homegrown talent.
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The Green Man rising stage offers a view of things to come, with highlights from the spellbinding Modern Woman and Caroline bookending the weekend, as well as raucous slots from Lazarus Kane and Faux Real. Meanwhile plenty of GM Rising alumni made triumphant returns to much larger audiences, including Matt Maltese, PVA, Goat Girl, and Black Midi, whose Saturday night slot at the Far Out tent included mime artists and a cover of Kate Nash’s ‘Foundations’.
That wasn’t the only surprise of the weekend - the on-site record store saw impromptu gigs from Wet Leg, whose song ‘Chaise Longue’ was heard in chants throughout the weekend, and previous headliner Laura Marling, who was on site to perform with LUMP, but treated fans to a quick acoustic set.
Folk is still dear to Green Man’s heart, and the Mountain Stage hosted many old favourites like Richard Dawson, and The Staves. Elsewhere in the picturesque Walled Garden, newcomers like Katy J Pearson, Shovel Dance Collective, and supergroup Broadside Hacks (featuring, in this iteration, members of Goat Girl, Sorry, Black Midi, Caroline, Modern Woman and more) hinted at a revival of the genre.
However idyllic and family friendly Green Man is—and it really is, with plenty of kids given free reign to somersault and hula hoop around the fields—there’s plenty to do after dark too. The music keeps going til 4am, with DJs including Charlotte Church (who knew) and Deptford Northern Soul Club spinning plenty of crowd pleasers, while the Far Out stage hosted more experimental and electronic sounds from the likes of Kelly Lee Owens, Giant Swan, Ross From Friends and Overmono.
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The real highlights though, as is only right, were the headliners. Caribou on Friday night was a truly euphoric moment, with the Canadian artist playing his first set in three years to a joyous audience, many having their first ‘proper’ dance since the lockdown. Saturday night saw the Beacons provide a suitably epic backdrop to Mogwai’s meditative, all encompassing post rock. On Sunday, Fontaines DC played their first festival headline slot, and proved more than capable of the task, with frontman Grian Chatten channeling Liam Gallagher in an Adidas two-piece as he charged back and forth across the stage, and keeping his cool even as the huge crowd echoed his every word.
After their set, it was time for the eponymous man to burn. It’s an annual tradition for the festival, and one that has become more elaborate year on year. This year, festival goers had written wishes on the man beforehand, and as it went up in flames (and fireworks), it was a time for contemplation and appreciation. Green Man has always been a festival worth treasuring, but after a year of going without, it seemed more magical than ever.
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Words: Jess Wrigglesworth
Photography: Kirsty Maclachlan