Green Man 2019 saw the festival open its line-up to acts beyond its usual folk and guitar-led world.
This deep into the festival season, Green Man is a welcome break from the week-long hedonism that surrounds many of its peers. A reflective and family-friendly festival, its vibe is serene and welcoming. Yet far from being a kid’s playground Green Man’s consistency across programming, aesthetic and attention to detail leaves it sold out year on year with a wide selection of seasoned festival-goers in attendance. 2019 had some wonderful moments.
Big Thief’s set in the sun on Saturday was a mesmerising ode to how folk music can be transformed into something transgressive, beautiful and contemporary. The Brooklyn four-piece operate in some otherworldly realm where fragility is mixed with intrigue and wonder. Their set leant heavily on recent LP U.F.O.F and left a glow that was unmatched over the weekend with lead singer Adrienne Lenker on particularly touching form.
A perhaps slightly overlooked Ninja Tune release from 2017, James Heather’s album of solo piano work acts as the perfect Sunday morning tonic. Intricate melodies were interspersed with narrative from Heather who expanded on certain pieces with honest personal accounts. The result? A very homely, yet intense atmosphere for those laid out to watch his superb instrumental work.
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Raw power from Newcastle won the day on Friday in the extremely consistent Far Out tent. Taking refuge from the elements that bombarded the site, Pigsx7 gathered a large crowd that were subsequently regaled with 45 minutes of retro energy and a frontman in Matt Baty who embraced metal cliche rather than eschewing its cheesier tropes. Tops off, sweating and, when clothed, dressed in a glitzy jacket, Baty even found time for a Twisted Sister cover. Superbly funny and full on.
Axe throwing workshops? Sure. Gong baths, jacuzzis, mid-afternoon pottery class anyone? Green Man had a real touch of the Glastos when it came to the extra-curricular festival activities beyond watching music in a field. There are loads of alternative lifestyle elements crammed into the site that act as a welcome distraction from the bustle of the festival’s main stages.
Stereolab’s welcome return was masterful, dynamic, funny, experimental and a whole load of other explorative adjectives wrapped in one. Theirs was a classy and confident performance with their live reincarnation coinciding with five reissues recently released on Warp. Under the sunset and with the superb neon Mountain stage design in full working order, their set was a series of reminders of what a wonderfully unique act they are; the meeting point between krautrock, post-punk and French electronic music. Performed with confidence and swagger, their career-spanning presentation pleased fans and first-timers alike.
Scalping are one of the most exciting live acts in the UK and their set on the Rising stage was merely more evidence of that fact. The group pushed the soundsystem to breaking point with their live blend of techno-indebted electronics, metronomic builds and doom-inspired guitar. An act worthy of keeping a firm eye on, their live show showcases an energy that cannot be ignored, with 2018 release Satan II sounding particularly mesmerising on stage. 2020 is their year.
The Green Man
The central point of the whole event before it’s burned to smithereens on Sunday is a typically bohemian incarnation that takes inspiration from local paganism and local folklore. This year as a wishing tree, its position at the centre of the festival is a beautiful piece of sculpture that acts as a reminder of the local roots.
A somewhat surprising choice of headliner, booking Four Tet showcased Green Man’s ambition to move away from its reputation as a folk and guitar-indebted festival. Literally lighting up the main stage, Kieran Hebden’s live set of his own productions was a much-needed dose of danceable material for those wanting to temporarily ditch the guitars. It’s Hebden’s expansive productions that made him one of the only one-person electronic acts that can truly fill this space. From the gnarliness of pirate radio-indebted Kool FM to recent Nelly Furtado-sampling banger Only Human, Saturday night was given a boost by his presence and showcased a more diverse future direction from the festival.