GREEN MAN FESTIVAL 2016 REVIEW

Green Man proclaims itself ‘the friendliest festival on planet earth’ but it must also be in the running for prettiest festival setting, with the site nestled in amongst the Brecon Beacons; the gloomy weather this year, which could at best be described as uncertain, made the Welsh hills look even more impressive. Unfortunately it also meant that everything and everyone was pretty soggy all weekend, but that didn’t stop the show from being a success.

Green Man features a wide mix of music spanning multiple decades and genres on at five different stages, which means that it attracts a varied crowd ranging from groups of tight-jeaned teenagers through families with ickle children and on to pairs of 60-something balding rockers.

The focal point this time around was Belle and Sebastian playing the festival for the first time in their 20th year. Unfortunately for any readers who are big fans of the Glaswegians, your (un)esteemed correspondent went to see Grandaddy at the second stage, the Far Out tent, instead. Fortunately for this article, the veteran Americans – who formed even longer ago than Belle and Sebastian – were excellent, a tightly-honed, experienced live act. Their start was a bit delayed but they pulled out the big songs – one man near me looked like he was experiencing the rapture when A.M. 180 came on – and pulled it off.

There’s three full days of music, comedy, film and art at Green Man, as well as a few bands thrown in to get things started on Thursday. Wild Beasts were the headliners on the Thursday night and they were ace, a talented band who seem to be comfortable in their own skin and are really finding their own space. James Blake headlining on the Friday started off well but the miserable weather and a bit of a dip in the middle led to lots of people near me chuntering away, which didn’t help. It ended well but maybe 90 minutes was a tad too long for the crowd.

On Saturday night we plumped for the combo of Jagwar Ma and Battles at the Far Out tent over Laura Marling on the main stage. I barely have two left feet, no sense of rhythm and am pretty much incompatible with dancing, but Jagwar Ma can make even me wobble around. Their set went down a storm and they could easily have headlined the tent.

If the Australians are one of the best live acts around right now then the festival programme described Battles, who followed them, as one of the best live acts of all time. Theirs was a set that had as its centrepiece some ridiculous, drum-destroying perspiration-powered percussion like I’d never seen before; it was perhaps a little gratuitous but a great show.

Fat White Family were Saturday’s post-headliner headliner and they delivered a brilliantly bewildering set befitting their reputation. It’s hard to tell what’s going on a lot of the time but it works. For some people at least.

If Fat White Family are the crappily-dressed, punch-you-in-the-face-and-piss-on-your-shoes divisive live act du jour then Happy Meal Ltd may well be the flamboyantly-dressed, punch-you-in-the-face-and-piss-on-your-shoes divisive live act of tomorrow. The Londoners’ set at the Walled Garden stage was certainly an experience, a bizarre glam rock fuelled mayhemical mess. Catch them now before everyone else cottons on.

As well as Happy Meal Ltd there were plenty of other new acts to get excited about. The festival features the Rising Stage for emerging artists, and other cherry-picked acts were scattered around on the other stages – including some Tipping Point favourites.

I should caveat this next bit by saying that I’d been loving Her’s, who we tipped back in April, in the run up to the festival, but their performance on the Rising Stage was really something special. A wonderfully, joyously unpretentious performance, it featured a photo of Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond taped to the drum machine (no idea on that one), the singer turning the bassist’s guitar off and calls for an encore that were met with ‘we have no more songs’. It was two mates having a great time and if they can keep that vibe going then they’ll be a live circuit favourite before too long.

Another Tipping Point alumnus from earlier this year on the Rising Stage was Bryde, whose delicate, delightful songs went down well despite the noise coming from the nearby main stage. Fans of bands like Daughter might be interested in hearing more from her; she’s on tour in November. Matt Maltese, who we tipped last year, also made an appearance on the stage armed with only a keyboard and a worse for wear fan club. If your thing is wry, modern ballads then check him out as this was an impressive performance.

In a weekend of experimental, synth-smashing sets it was quite refreshing to come across Sea Pinks who were wielding just a drum kit, guitar and bass. The indie-rockers from Belfast appeared on these pages nearly three years ago now but only released their debut album in January. There was quite a sizeable crowd underneath the Far Out big top for them – some spectators might have been there to avoid the rain but at the end of their set I heard a number of people around me remark how much they’d enjoyed them.

The sun came out long enough to make it over to the Walled Garden to see Ardyn, Gloucestershire twins who we profiled at the end of the last year. Their pretty, brooding songs were very promising and singer Katy Pearson had one of the best voices on show at the festival. Don’t be surprised to see them on a bigger stage next time around.

Another gem to be found at the Walled Garden was Throws. A project formed by members of Tunng – although they don’t really sound much like the folky Londoners – their set was melodic, mesmeric and very intriguing. They haven’t been on the go for very long but already have a Reykjavik-recorded album out and it will be interesting to see what more comes from them.

On the Sunday Gengahr, who we knew were cool years before Pokemon Go was cool, played on the Mountain Stage. We’re big fans of the Londoners and, although the rain put a bit of a dampener on things, they came across well and tested out some exciting new material ahead of a second album next year.

Later on on the Sunday Unknown Mortal Orchestra reminded you why you love live music with a brilliant, technically accomplished performance – if you get chance to see them in person go do it – before Warpaint warpainted their way through the penultimate set on the main stage. Which brings us, rather conveniently, to final act Grandaddy, who made for a lovely end to a lovely festival.

Words by Tom Worley

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