Green Man Review

Are you a cow? Probably not, but if you’ve been to one of the bigger musicGreen Man Festival festivals, like Reading or Leeds or V, chances are you’ve been treated like one. Schiller once said that man is only truly a man when he plays. If that’s the case, then what does Britain’s current taste for enormous, dehumanising summer debauchery events say about us as a culture? That we are all masochists, to gather in rural areas and be probed by burly men who want to make sure we aren’t hiding cans of lager in amongst our downstairs parts? That we are beasts, to be left to roll in a field of muck with ninety-thousand of our own species, and then squeezed out of it at 11pm like toothpaste from a tube? Pulp are good, but they aren’t worth the combined kick of two hundred pounds and enforced bestial role-play. Sorry, Jarvis. If I want to secrete beverages in my nether regions and frolic in mud, I will do so in the privacy of my own back garden, with the radio on.

But there is an alternative! There is a place, in the druid-infested Brecon Beacons, where freedom is not paid for with dignity (or even that much money). It’s called Green Man. Bushy beards, thick smells and dense mysticism. Think Diet-Glastonbury, without the pesky TV cameras buzzing around trying to make a permanent record of the weekend you spent covered in blue paint and howling at the moon. The eponymous green man turns out to be a huge, leafy effigy of a mythical figure symbolising rebirth which is burned on the last day in a grand show of either the beauty and fleetingness of life and our inescapable oneness with the universe, or a celebration of man’s utter dominance over nature and the glory we feel in its defeat by immolation. I don’t know which, I was distracted by the fireworks.

Anyway, despite the charming pagan vibe of the whole thing, you don’t have to be King Arthur Pendragon to enjoy it. Yes, there’s folk music, and some of the biggest names about, thank you very much. Laura Marling and Fleet Foxes were magnificent this year; one singing with a burning passion and vulnerability which can switch in an instant into icy detachment and scathing damnation, the other with existential rumination wrapped up in harmonies slicker than the Beach Boys’. But fans of music with a bit more wallop are catered for admirably as well. James Blake supplied a hefty bit of wobbly bass, which probably baffled the gaggle of children playing football to the side of the main stage. After hours at the Far Out stage, you were treated to the likes of Two Bears, Joe Goddard of Hot Chip’s funtronica project, accompanied by a Silvio Berlusconi cartoon inviting you to ‘Bunga Bunga’. Most did. Exhausting. Thankfully, you could recover the next day with some paella and a back rub, or even a dip in a hot spa. You don’t get that at V.


Georges Almond