A backdrop of the hills and mountains of Wales helps make Green Man the most beautiful of British music festivals, a visual winning card that was matched by a gorgeous programme of folk-influenced performers, surely the largest array of decent ales and ciders outside of the Burton beer festival, and the ritual of burning the eponymous green man, taking with it to the skies the hand-written messages of festival-goers’ hopes and dreams.
Thus follows markontour’s review for the memory banks of Green Man 2019. Nb thanks to James Bessant for the beautiful photo.
The most heavenly performance of all
- Julia Jacklin, Mountain Stage, Friday, 4pm
Jacklin’s ‘Pressure to Party’ is my song of 2019 and driving rain could do nothing to diminish Jacklin’s cleverly crafted stories of love and life, influenced by Billy Bragg & Doris Day, with an album produced by markontour favourite, Courtney Barnett.
Something very special / or very unexpected
- Father John Misty, Mountain Stage, Sunday 10.15pm
A real performance, which a fairly young crowd at the front lapped up, word-for-word singalong style – quite a feat given the poetic nature of Father John’s story songs. The main man appeared to be enjoying top-billing, although slightly bemused by it – “We normally come on, like third on the bill behind The Cure, and their fans don’t always get our beardy, Cowboy schtick”. Green Man did,though.
- Eels, Mountain Stage, Sunday 7.30pm
I love Eels & know they can put on a great show, but still wasn’t expecting something quite as captivating as this. With dry humour Mark Everett entirely captured a big late evening crowd in the manner of Elbow’s Guy Garvey, and produced one of the highlights of the festival with a rocked-up version of ‘I Like Birds’
- The Big Moon, Far Out, Saturday 4.15pm
Spiky, sharp and full of energy I just can’t get enough of this lot. New song ‘It’s Easy’ sounded great, with its “You make it hard” chorus. And markontour has to admit to shedding a tear at the end when the lead singer’s boyfriend appeared on stage to propose (his fist-pumping jig across the stage thereafter suggested the answer was “yes”)
- Jessica Hoop, Walled Garden, Saturday 9.45pm
Resplendent all in white, this was an idiosyncratic performance, but unlike Aldous Harding, one that invited the audience to warm to the artist. Intense and sometimes jarring, but brilliant and really worth the effort. If, like me, you didn’t get Jessica Hoop on first listen, then please try again.
- Villagers, Mountain Stage, Friday 9.15pm
Just beautiful. Villagers gave their poignant ballads the big band treatment without taking anything away from Conor O’Brien’s gorgeous, ethereal voice in the process.
- Felicity Ward, Babbling Tongues, Saturday 8.50pm
Very, very funny taboo-breaking comedy from the Guilty Feminist star, who also had a serious moment of supporting a woman’s right to choose that was all the more forceful as Ward was very heavily pregnant.
- Jarvis Cocker, Babbling Tongues, Saturday 3pm
Sort of talking about his forthcoming book, Jarvis used an idiosyncratic slide-show to argue that everyone can be creative if you pay attention to the details of every day life, illustrated by the stories behind his own lyrics.
I really liked them
- Whitney, Mountain Stage, Friday 5.40pm
The drum kit takes centre stage at a Whitney set, with the drummer/lead singer lending his falsetto to a country-folk vibe that sounds as if it was written somewhere hot, an effect even Welsh rain couldn’t dampen.
- Willie J. Healy, Walled Garden, Saturday 3.45pm
Liam-esque in his confidence and stage presence, Willie J. Healy has troubadour potential. I have since been listening to his debut album on repeat.
- Steve Mason, Far Out, Friday 8.30pm
Former lead singer of the Beta Band, Steve Mason remains a bundle of energy, pacing around the stage in his Ghostbusters outfit. An intense performance that was fully requited by an engaged audience response.
- Pete Brown, Babbling Tongues, Friday 12.30pm
Peter Brown matches beers to the bands, serving up a taster menu of ales and cider, and fairly convincingly explaining why it require a different intensity of hops to sup contentedly along to Neil Young versus Villagers.
- The Big Thief, Mountain Stage, Saturday 7.30pm
Best on the quieter, folkier numbers, this is definitely a band I want to go back and listen to properly.
- Lamb, Walled Garden, Saturday 11.30pm
Generally I ‘m not a big fan of electronica, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Lamb and their dreamy yet danceable set was perfect for a late-night Walled Garden slot.
- Aldous Harding, Mountain Stage, Sunday 4.45pm
It is getting to the point where Harding’s ‘Zoo Eyes’ is almost banned in our house due to my repetitive playing and singing, so I was massively looking forward to seeing her live for the first time. The songs themselves were just as wonderful as on record, but Harding’s performing persona is of a bewildered artist who has been injected with something strong and pushed out on to the stage, bug- eyed and bewildered. She makes absolutely no attempt to connect with the audience and at one point sat in front of the keyboard apparently stupefied, until a band member showed her where to put her fingers. All an act, presumably, but a confounding one, although I suppose I am now writing more about her set than anyone elses..
- Deptford Northern Soul Club, Walled Garden, Sunday midnight
I am a latecomer to Northern Soul, but it is definitely now my dance-floor music of choice and, like a Rod Stewart Greatest Hits album, it’s surprising how many of the songs you know.
- Diplomats of Sound DJs, Chai Wallahs, Saturday 1.30am
We were searching for something to both dance and sing along to and Diplomats of Sound provided it, confirming markontour’s view that Chai Wallah’s is the place to end the night at Green Man.
- Boogaloo String Band, Chai Wallahs, Sunday 3.20pm
This lot were great! Drawing a big audience of that kind that keeps growing as passersby sense the exhilaration of the crowd, in this case enjoying a bit of Bristolian bluegrass.
- Chappaqua Wrestling, Rising, Sunday 5.45pm
Young indie rockers who might turn out to be very, very good. Their instrumental song ‘Football’ was a cracker, although they wisely changed the title to ‘Rugby’ for this Welsh audience.
- Durand Jones & The Indications, Mountain Stage, Friday 2.30pm
Happy, soulful vibes in the rain, including a great cover of The Beatles’ ‘Don’t Let Me Down’, and some Gill Scott Heron.
- Richard King, Babbling Tongues, Sunday noon
In his fascinating latest book, ‘The Lark Ascending’, which I finished reading at Green Man, King examines the relationship between British music and our landscape, from the Vaughn Williams’ orchestration of the title, to the peace songs of Greenham Common and the early nineties rave scene. Great way to start the festival day.
- Bin Bag Wisdom, Chai Wallahs, Friday
The band describes its own music as “anarcho jazz hop”, but I had them down as having something of a Rage Against the Machine sound, which can quickly move to funk. Great covers of the Fugees.
- Mapache, Mountain Stage, Saturday 1.30pm
Everly Brothers-esque blissful harmonies, including a song in Spanish which sounded beautiful but could have been about anything
Other stuff for the record
- Yo La Tengo, Mountain Stage, Friday 11.15pm
I like this band, but the tiny crowd for a headliner was testament to long drawn out periods of guitar distortion. It was a shame because the so few of us got to hear two beautiful ballads as an encore, including ‘Autumn Sweater’
- Ex:Re, Walled Garden, Friday 11.30pm
Every bit as accomplished as you would expect from a lead member of Daughter, but it was too slow and dreamy for the late night slot when we wanted to dance.
- Joe Fleming Band, Chai Wallahs, Saturday 12.30pm
There was no band, only Joe, but his happy reggae was enough to get everyone in the mood.
- Avi Buffalo, Walled Garden, Saturday 6.45pm
A beautiful cover of Wichita Lineman (although not quite in the league of The Villagers) was all we caught.
- Sharon Von Etten, Mountain Stage, Sunday 8.15pm
Leather-clad rock with the amps turned up for a stadium four times the size, but strangely minimal lighting, which made the performers seem lost on stage.
Here’s what you could’ve won
How did I manage to miss Gwenno?! Or the film about Trojan Records? Too much happening at once, that’s why.