Green Man is ideal for music fans daunted by the sheer scale of Glastonbury. Combining nourishing family fun with a dynamic nightlife, it remains one of the most inclusive festivals around. There’s no hierarchy between artist and audience, so bands inevitably end up in the crowds themselves, cheering on their own favourite acts. After 20 years, organisers also know how to make use of the compact location, at the Glanusk Estate nestled among the Black Mountains in south Wales. Strong offerings of music, comedy and arts across at least eight different stages can be found within minutes of each other. Conveniently close camping sites also allow festivalgoers to dart back to their tents between sets, meaning the mood-swinging Welsh weather is no bother.
There’s a palpable sense of calm here. Walkways bordered by fiery orange montbretia and lilac verbena lead the way to green ponds, where gurgling babies paddle with their parents at the water’s edge. Seasoned hippies nod their glitter-coated heads to festival first-timers. Grandmas and grandads snooze under their hats in the sun, against a backdrop of sun-capped hills, with an array of bloody mary bars and stalls hawking veggie sausage sandwiches within strolling distance. An impressive set of headliners, including singer-songwriter Michael Kiwanuka and electronic-pop stalwarts Metronomy, ensure the natural amphitheatre that forms the main stage remains packed until midnight.
South London rock band Dry Cleaning kick things off with their bristling sprechgesang on the Far Out stage. At a makeshift record shop, fans of The Umlauts beep and bop along to the band’s brand of industrial techno punk. And there’s a huge crowd for Seventies Zamrock band Witch, whose rock and roll – resplendent with its rolling drum rhythms and vintage guitars – sends ripples through the animated audience.
Folk/Americana singer Katy J Pearson is a highlight. Piercing the golden-hour sky with her raspy yet fierce vocals, she embodies the festival’s uplifting ethos. Later, Alex G’s bright yet solemn sound – spanning country, folk and electronica – warms the cockles ahead of Bicep’s sweaty set, which includes a haunting and intricate rendition of 2017’s “Glue”. On the Rising Stage, Irish feminist punks M(h)aol are led by vocalist Róisín Nic Ghearailt, who tackles issues including gender, sexuality and the nationalisation of Welsh railways with humour and compassion. Amid a cacophony of squealing guitars, she observes: “It’s wonderful to do something political and have the space for it.” Sunday night’s headliner Kiwanuka echoes this sentiment, with a unifying performance compounded by his timeless voice.
Green Man’s appeal lies in its humanity, in the good-natured crowds who revel in this chance to take in such a beautiful rural setting and a distinctly left-field line-up. Despite the inevitable lack of sleep, this festival is that rare thing: one that leaves you more replenished and energised than when you arrived.