Green Man Festival – Friday review (18th August 2017)

A compact and undulating site at Glanusk Park in the Brecon Beacons hosts the 15th Green Man Festival. Frequent downpours on Friday fail to dampen festival goers’ spirits. Local goddess Charlotte Church sadly isn’t performing her Pop Dungeon, but does give a talk in the Babbling Tongues tent, revealing that she’s looking forward to headliners PJ Harvey and Future Islands as well as Liars. “I come here every year,” she says, “It’s the best festival. I just love it.

After GIGsoup gets its bearings, sorts out the camping logistics and finds the wonderful Backstage Bar, it’s time to join the fray. Three-piece Chris Forsyth & the Solar Motel Band purvey driving psych rock with few words in the Far Out marquee as supper approaches. At the same time, fellow Americans Hurray for the Riff Raff, led by Alynda Segarra, are delivering a politically charged set on the main Mountain Stage, against the dramatic backdrop of the Black Mountains.

Far Out fills up with an eager audience for London four-piece The Big Moon. “Wow! So many people!” says lead singer/guitarist Juliette Jackson before her band ploughs into a 12-song set. “It’s proper karaoke,” admits bassist Cynthia Archer of their crowd-pleasing cover of Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’.

The stage is so big,Archer exclaims ahead of ‘Happy New Year’s wall of sound. But stage-filling choreography for a guitar duel between Jackson and Soph Nathan during ‘The Road’ doesn’t go to plan, as Nathan falls on her big moon (aka bum). “Did you fall over? I thought you were shredding,” says Archer when they’re finished. Fern Ford’s drums crack with energy for the ’60s girl group melodies that open the album’s title track.

Younger festival goers push keenly towards the barrier during ‘Bonfire’ — an especially apt song given the traditional burning of the Green Man that’s to come as the clock strikes twelve on Sunday night. The Secret Post Office gang in their blue/red uniforms and eco-friendly face glitter move from the crowd to the stage for set finale ‘Sucker’ in a perfectly orchestrated bit of chaotic fun that sums up the festivity of The Big Moon

There’s time to sample one of the scores of beers or dozens of ciders on offer before the Far Out tent once again welcomes a big crowd — this time for Madrid’s peerless Hinds. Their perky vocal and guitar duelling is undercut with hints of sadness and regret, like a cheerful summer’s day threatened by rain. Ade Martin starts and finishes the rousing ‘Garden’ with a fine bass line. Joint lead guitarist/singer Ana Perrote asks, “Is it still raining outside?” Her partner in garage lo-fi musical mischief, Carlotta Cosials, squeaks her way through a set of old favourites. “It’s been a long time since we play a festival,” they say.

“Woooh,” shouts the crowd as the inimitable ‘Bamboo’ starts up. “Amber,” shout the three other Hinds at drummer Amber Grimbergen during a breakneck speed version of the deathly deceptive ‘San Diego’. They machine gun the crowd with their guitars during ‘Granero’ and whip the pit into a frenzied “Gabba gabba hey” as they end with ‘Davey Crockett’.

Over on the Mountain Stage, Lift To Experience are a slice of pure Texas — the term Americana isn’t specific enough. As if a huge lone star backdrop was not enough, there’s another one on the bass amp stack and the drum kit is painted in the state’s colours too. The band sport a 10-gallon hat, a baseball cap/pony tail combination, and a grizzly bear beard. “I can’t really hear myself in front of these Marshall stacks, but they look badass don’t they,” says singer/guitarist Josh T Pearson. “In the US, we play in front of 20-25 people so we’re a little nervous.” 

Friday night’s surprise package are Dead Pretties on the Rising stage, curated by So Young magazine. ‘Social Experiment’ ignites the most intense mosh of the festival so far, while older festival goers look on admiringly from the top of the hill. Jacob Slater’s tight band launch into a final track promising to “play some jazz” as thudding bass takes an experimental line through a Romeo and Juliet vocal riff to a ’60’s underground slice of Doors and Stooges, asking “how do you feel” with potency and a serious dose of feedback.

Friday’s late night highlight is Kate Tempest, who performs her Mercury-nominated second album, ‘Let Them Eat Chaos’, in full and without pause at Far Out. It’s an intense experience, the crowd breaking into cheers and applause at each pointed political reference as the words pour out. Those privileged enough to see this outstanding performance — rich in texture and nuance — have to miss Future Islands, whose antics draw a huge crowd over at the Mountain Stage.