Festivals

Green Man 2023: Young Fathers, Confidence Man and Jockstrap are among the standouts

17th - 20th August 2023

Quite possibly your favourite artist’s favourite festival.

For four days each year, the historic Glanusk Estate plays host to 25,000 increasingly lucky Green Man attendees. Having a USP that’s essentially its sheer niceness may sound boring, but Green Man manages to walk a seemingly contradictory line: yes, you can do family yoga with your 3-year-old, but you can also stay up past 3:00am dancing to drum’n’bass if your heart desires.

This cross-demographic approach is reflected in its line-up, too, which annually spans folk, rock, alt-pop, jazz, dance, post-punk, shoegaze and more across the site’s seven stages. 2023’s weekend kicks off proper on Friday afternoon with Melin Melyn gracing the Mountain stage, its stately backdrop shrouded in low hanging cloud. The six piece’s idiosyncratic, psych-folk set is a charming tonic to the already relentless rain and having them cut the metaphorical ribbon of the main stage is a booking decision that encapsulates Green Man’s commitment to spotlighting Welsh artists. Come the afternoon of the first full day, and punters are already faced with a series of difficult decisions: Sans Soucis and Gently Tender at the enclosed Walled Garden stage? Butch Kassidy and University at the intimate Rising stage? Or the frankly ridiculous back-to-back of Sorry, Jockstrap, Warmduscher, and Squid under the Far Out stage’s blue canopy?

Those who plump for the latter in the hope of staying dry(ish) are rewarded with an apt rendition of Sorry’s latest: the reworked ‘Screaming In The Rain Again’, which sees a number of umbrellas - some branded with the band’s angel fish logo, some very much not - being held proudly aloft. Despite, strangely, not really acknowledging one another on stage, Jockstrap swiftly convert an initially subdued audience by powering through favourites from their Mercury-shortlisted album, ‘I Love You Jennifer B’. By the end, there’s not a soul in the crowd who won’t be repeating the opening vocalisations of ‘50/50’ at various intervals all weekend.

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Next up are Warmduscher and Squid, whose respective electro post-punk and self-coined ‘anxiety-rock’ act as the perfect aperitif for their stage successors, the shoegaze pioneers Slowdive. In an evocative, reverb-drenched journey of a set, they take us to the ‘90s and back again, making full use of the tent’s blank canvas to dazzle their awed spectators both sonically and visually. Although Friday’s later acts - new wave innovators DEVO, dance giant Daniel Avery, and acid-punks PVA - are perhaps all shortchanged, numbers-wise, by the truly torrential rain, all three make it worthwhile for those intrepid enough to brave the weather; after all, if you’re already soaking, what’s a few more hours outside your tent?

Parting the clouds on Saturday morning, slivers of sunshine begin to peek through. No longer encumbered by waterproofs, Green Man residents embrace the weird and wonderful spectrum of self-expression that this festival is all about: children (and adults) wander around with animal tails; a surprising number brave going barefoot; and there’s a moving Lesbians and Gays support the Miners parade. Later in the day, Anna B Savage takes to the Far Out stage, paying homage to platonic love with her bandmate-dedicated ‘The Orange’. Between her distinctive deep vocals, screams, and invitations to dance, there’s a notable sense of catharsis to the set - by the end, complete strangers can be spotted embracing.

Over on the Mountain stage, booking Obongjayar to play at dusk is a scheduling masterstroke, his soulful, spiritual afrobeat perfectly matching the golden hour glow of the infrastructure’s mirrored panels. Beginning the evening in earnest, the conversation-challengingly named uh bring gorgeously textured electronica to the Rising stage’s alcove, while the Walled Garden hosts Water From Your Eyes - an intriguing, genre-melding duo who sound like little else. Alt-pop powerhouse Self Esteem is Saturday’s main draw, and then all roads lead to Confidence Man. Decked out in light up shoulder pads and a cone bra, and oversized blazers that’d make David Byrne jealous, the pair deliver a performance that’s bouncing, brilliantly camp, and one of the weekend’s standout sets.

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Nobody needs reminding about England’s Sunday morning World Cup woe, but the atmosphere in the rammed Cinedrome tent (once one poor steward manages to fix the glitchy connection) is nevertheless electric: Mary Earps’ penalty save producing a roar worthy of any headliner. One silver lining of the game wrapping before extra time, though, is that punters can nip over to catch last minute line-up additions English Teacher. Treating the crowd to unreleased material - ‘Nearly Daffodils’ is a standout - as well as cuts from 2022 EP ‘Polyawkward’, the Leeds quartet look entirely at home on the tented Far Out stage (a notable step up from last year’s Rising slot). In the wholesome words of one fan: “What a wonderful way to start the day!”

Having recently announced that she’ll stop touring after this summer, off the back of online abuse she received following her Glastonbury performance, Billy Nomates - aka Tor Maries - comes out swinging. Cutting a striking figure as she runs barefoot across stage, her set is hallmarked by stamina, grit, and an extraordinary vocal ability. And what’s even better is the rapturous reception given by the audience, a tangible two fingers up to the trolls. From implied obscenities to very literal ones, Australia’s finest, Amyl and the Sniffers are next on the Mountain stage, delivering a performance that’s equal parts provocative (getting the BSL interpreter to sign swear words), political (just listen to ‘Knifey’) and downright fun. To lean into cliche and save the best for last, Sunday night’s Far Out headliners Young Fathers are nothing short of spectacular. Bolstering their three core members to an onstage six, the group expertly walk the tightrope between feverish energy and unbridled chaos. The only downside? That it’s a show deserving of the open-air amphitheatre of the festival’s biggest stage.

The weekend’s final hurrah is the burning of the eponymous Green Man, a natural sculpture that sits at the centre of the site and gets adorned with notes, prayers, and wishes. As it goes up in flames and fireworks explode overhead, it’s hard not to feel that there’s something a little bit magic about these few days. And this is a sentiment that’s apparently shared not just by music fans or Crickhowell locals, but artists too. Given that they spend their summers bouncing from place to place, you might hazard a guess that the prospect of sleeping in a tent (again) loses its sparkle somewhat. But throughout the weekend, band members and musicians are everywhere, just enjoying themselves - whether they’re on the line-up or not. Glasto aside, it’s quite possibly your favourite artist’s favourite festival; endorsements don’t come much better than that.

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