I’m going to admit at this point that I’ve lost the second itinerary that I wrote out for this exercise. I lost the one that I made for the festival so wrote out another by mapping the time stamps on the videos and some of the photos I took. Although one of my cameras had reset to January 2010 or thereabouts which wasn’t helpful. I’m now concerned that I may get the order of events the wrong way around but I don’t think it matters much, if that’s something that will upset you you should stop reading now – in fact, how did you ever get here? This place is riddled with errors, I’ve just realised that Sunday was the day I saw Xylouris White, not Saturday – but there are, we’ll just have to pretend it had already happened.
But if you are still reading, I am glad – it’s a lot of work for me to selflessly attend a gruelling festival alone and unprotected and then to have to come home and remember what I did and write it down in a way that’s exciting and accurate… I should have just become a doctor like mother wished for, but noooo… I had to follow in the family tradition of ‘holistic journalist’ and now look at us!
But we shall march on with the words and images and you’ll bloody well like it!
Sunday morning I woke up in a much better way comparably to Saturday, no hangover, no requirement to clutch a carrier bag and go back to bed – all was well! I was excited to continue with the very successful mission of ‘see the bands on the list’ but there was a small level of sadness brewing in my coccyx partially because it was in agony from all of the moving around but also because it was the last day of Green Man (sob) – I had only just acclimatised to my ridiculously small tent, my insufficient sleeping bag, the fact that I had forgotten to bring as many clothes as I really needed. I was now well adjusted, I could talk to strangers I knew where everything was and I had no desire to return to the damp corridors of The Shonk Towers anytime soon – but I knew I had to – regardless I wasn’t going to let that get to me, there was still a lot to see and one more night to make my own so let’s get too it!
Graham was nowhere in sight so I put the kettle on and played guitar for a while whilst the campsite bustled with people taking down their tents in anticipation of leaving in the evening. The neighbourhood was already lower in tent numbers than the night before which was a saddening prospect, it also made navigating to the toilets slightly more difficult because my points of reference kept vanishing.
Graham turned up and announced that he had been for breakfast at our neighbour ‘Rob’s’ tent. He wasted no time in making friends and now he was reaping the delicious benefits. He told me of his morning eating real food as I chomped on a soggy brioche and drank tepid, sugarless tea complete with bits of grass.
Temporal error! The pair of us then went off to see Xylouris White! Who, if you’ve been paying attention I have already written about thinking that we saw them on Saturday. Honestly I knew I’d cock up a write-up of this size but given that I’ve referring to the Green Man ‘line up by day’ over and over you’d think I’d have got this right. Anyway, you can read about our time watching them in Part 2 if you haven’t read it already. Apologies to the band if they happen upon this and get confused!
So the first performance to write about was that of Jane Weaver’s as recommended by The Arbiter.
Jane Weaver and accompanying band provided a delectable carpet of ambient yet rolling electronica with nuances of analogue sounds and wavy-whobbly overtones as her ethereal yet assertive voice was woven into it like silk ribbon. The entire experience was mesmerising for a mid-Sunday (or indeed anytime) with a psychedelic tunnel of visuals enhanced by the aural soundscape that wrapped around us all. Despite its dream-like qualities and overall relaxingness the overall tempo was upbeat and easily absorbed and converted into a loose dance, were it not for that it would have to be something best experienced whilst lying on big comfy pillows.
I think Graham and I parted ways again at this point because I made my way down to The Mountain stage to see Anna Calvi and I remember being on my own for it. You bet that Anna Calvi is another artist sent my way by the Great Shoracle – she is a source of ultimate power and accuracy.
On my way down (because we had orbited to Round The Twist which was Graham’s new home) I stopped in to watch a little of Rolling Coastal Blackout Fever because near enough every band from Australia is amazing. I didn’t see all of their set but I thoroughly enjoyed what I heard, it was definitely in the indie domain but harnessed some of my favourite elements of 80s indie like jangly guitar (foreshadowing), bouncy playful bass lines, simple but effective rhythm guitar and melancholy lyrics that are cheerily delivered. They were a head-bopping delight that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Anna Calvi plays her guitar like she’s trying to get government secrets out of it, her voice and overall presence commands attention and makes you sustain it for the entire show. The power she conjures is akin to an electric storm, rolling out from the stage and over the audience who dance in the rain, reaching out at the sparks. The overall soundscape travels across the plains of rock and post-rock, skimming the meadows of ballads but curving back to the rich well of punk-passion. Her voice pierces through your core and draws out the emotions it wants from you, you feel it, it’s real and it’s happening right there – I kept leaning back, closing my eyes and thinking ‘I don’t deserve this performance’ as my horrendous layers of mental protection were slowly but surely demolished by the purity of what I was hearing.
And then Anna Calvi covered Ghost Rider by Suicide and I thought I was going to die. If anyone could do it it was her and she did and it was incredible. You always think of it as a track that doesn’t need to be done again but honestly it was the icing on a very delicious and emotional cake.
I then had to double time it back to The Far Out tent because I finally had the chance to see one of Britain’s greatest bands. An institution in the indie world, setting the world record for guitar janglyness (probably) and all round favourite of so many here at Shonk Towers, it was The Wedding Present.
They had been booked in sort of last minute in place of another band that I can’t remember the name of which pleased me greatly and over the course of Sunday morning I was spotting a lot of people in Wedding Present T-shirts so the news of their show obviously had a lot of people geared up. On the subject of T-shirts I had been playing a number of T-shirt spotting games over the course of the festival – one was to say ‘Well Done’ to anyone wearing an Idles Tee and the other was to approach and congratulate anyone wearing a Cardiacs tee, I even had a wordless conversation composed entirely of hand gestures with a fellow pondie outside Far Out which was rather interesting…y’know, to me at least.
But I digress, I was now in the Far Out tent about to watch an epic band, Jeni Hell had already made me promise to take a photo of David Gedge for her and The Shoracle who is a veteran of Wedding Present shows over the last 30 years reminded me of what a must see they were. Neither of them were wrong and I never expected them to be as the band came out and burst into ‘Everyone Thinks He looks Daft’ which is one of my favourites.
Sure enough even after all their years of performing and putting out albums David Gedge possesses the world’s floppiest and simultaneously controllable wrist in all of guitar history. It was a blur unseeable to the human eye, they played with as much passion as they must have had in the first year that they had started, it was incredible.
I was glad that I went to see them, not that I ever doubted that I wouldn’t – I’ve always been annoyed with myself that I haven’t made the effort to see them before and it was a relief to be able to tick them off the ‘must see’ list.
Speaking of must see, the next band I had to catch was Grizzly Bear, a band I discovered years ago through that Freeview advert that was on telly for a bit. For the last couple of years they had been a band I wouldn’t listen to for ages and then I’d go back and gorge on their discography. Last year I listened to them for the entire drive up to London to see LCD Soundsystem (perhaps the greatest day in all of my music-seeing history) and since then I’ve associated them with that exciting journey.
Their music plays into my love of the unconventional, it sits just off to the side of ‘normal music’ if that makes any kind of sense. I identify an undercurrent of carnival-esque sounds, a sort of dark playfulness to everything they create, it’s charming, soothing but also unsettling so you can’t quite relax. There are sudden twists and turns that take you off into a new direction of cathartic discover, each time something invited yet potentially perilous.
They could easily have been the ultimate headline act for me but there was more to come in the style of roaming, psych-infused Americana from The War On Drugs. Yes! Another band introduced to me through The Shoracle, bloody hell I get it I don’t do any of my own work in finding sounds, I rely solely on a sorceress, but who doesn’t?
I found a reasonable vantage point on the hillside amongst the rapidly growing mini-encampments of excited band-seers. For a lot of people there this final performance on The Mountain stage was a big deal, once it was over it was time to navigate the hill, find the car and drive back to who knows where they live… that being said I had heard T.W.O.D being mentioned a lot as people discussed who they wanted to see and who to look out for, being a fan it doesn’t surprise me at all, they’re immense.
I slumped down on the bank a little saddened that my phone wasn’t working and that I couldn’t track anyone down that I knew so that we could watch ‘the big show’ together, nevertheless I was going to enjoy it and I did.
It all feels a little like a dream because I spent near enough the entirety of the performance lying down, my eyes closed, nodding gently to the driving beat and the channelling bass that was rising up into my body through the bank. Everything about their sound makes me think of Douglas firs and wide roads and Twin Peaksy type places. Their tracks are long, winding journeys that you can easily create films to in your head. American pop culture is a very useful image bank to draw from as you listen to them – there’s a sense of vastness and freedom in their music, it’s very liberating and when you’re lying on a hill reasonably stoned, eyes closed listening to an amazing band through an amazing sound system in a basin valley below a welsh mountain you can’t help but think ‘this is heaven, this is literally heaven right now’ – it was utterly sublime and at the time I thought it was a perfect way to end a festival…
…but it didn’t end there! After my little dream-state experience of T.W.O.D I managed to get myself upright and off the ground because I was feeling frozen and sore, I ascended the hill and got myself a coffee before the show ended and the crowds began their great move to the top of the hill. Whilst in the queue I asked one of the marshalls how the weekend had gone for them, he explained that it had been really good and overall hitchless – all that was left was the burning of the Green Man. That’s where everyone would soon be going so it would be a good idea to get a good spot before they did.
I thanked him for this advice and made my way up towards the bonfire, still with the vast soundtrack of the band playing all around me. I stopped at the bonfire for a short while to warm my bones before heading up to Chai Wallas to catch some party time just before the Green Man was set aflame. The music stopped and the compere ordered us all out to watch the ceremonial event, I went out with the crowd to watch the momentous occasion.
What an absolutely amazing way to end a festival, stood with 20,000 people of whom you’ve just spent the better part of a week as part of a combined consciousness, taking in musical after musical creation from exceptionally talented people who came to play for us all. All organised and arranged by thousands of people, people turning dials, people turning cameras, people running cables, people flipping burgers, people explaining what halloumi is, people serving drinks, people providing aid… we were all part of something huge, a buzzing colony of those with a love for anything creative, be it poetry, music, film, food, literature or face-paint, it was the common denominator that linked us all. And now on the final night it was time to burn something down! How’s that for plot twist.
After the crowd began to separate and head off in various directions I had to make a decision, did I go to bed and call it a night or did I stay out? I decided to go back to camp kick-ass to see if anyone was there and to put on some more appropriate nightwear because it was a bit nippy. There was no one at the camp and decided that I couldn’t end it there, I had to make the most of it so off I went.
I did a circuit of the top field in the hope of bumping into someone with no luck, so I headed towards the Babbling Tongues tent which was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. On stage were two human men, one in a t-shirt and trousers stood behind a Casio keyboard and another in his vest and pants sporting an impressive porno moustache and a golden codpiece. It was Hedluv & Passman, Cornwall’s more innocuous and energetic GLC – providing up-beat Casio drum-loops and playful analogue melodies of which they rapped and hip-hopped over. There was a powerful ballad about nature, a dance-move encouraging tune about satnavs that had the audience up off their seats like one of those mental american churches throwing themselves around.
Passman (in the vest) was running loops around the crowd, sending them into a crazed frenzy, performing microphone tricks and talking at an accelerated rate that had everyone in stitches. Their track Made in Cornwall has been my daily anthem since I got back from Green Man, it’s funny, smart and beautiful.
Their final number was a cover of Creep by Radiohead to a bossa Nova beat – I had to have a last boogie to this, as I threw my limbs around I thought ‘I wish Graham was here, he’s from Cornwall’ and then I glanced around to see he had been there for the whole time! We boogied towards one another ‘Doing it Dreckly’ as instructed by the band. They wrapped up the show and despite our attempts were unable to provide an encore because it was very late and the sound man had buggered off.
Now that was the way to end a festival.
But then we thought ‘fuck it’ so we headed to Round The Twist and danced there for a while to a fusion of disco, northern soul and funk before heading to the Far Out tent to dance out to some trance wompy-womp stuff, we were then pretty spent in the dance department but didn’t want to retire yet so we headed to Chai Wallas where we sat and watched everyone else dance, occasionally moving our top halves or shouting ‘yesssss’ as a banging tune came on – we remained there until the last word of the compere was said and then and only then did we head off to bed, which was heavily delayed by us collecting up any Green Man cups we found to be dropped off at the donation station.
It was around 5am when I burrowed into the tent and about 9:28am when I was awoken by the sound of trolleys zooming past the tent as people were making their way back to their cars.
We weren’t in a rush so took the opportunity to enjoy one last cup of tea and a jam together before we disassembled our legendary camp. Graham, not at all sentimental handed near enough his entire inventory to the refuge guys because the notion of carrying up the hill was far too traumatising for him. And to be fair it was a slog, we couldn’t really push ourselves because we had nothing left – we were running on the solitary cup of tea that we had just had.
After five minutes of slogging through the carpark I realised that I could see the van ‘I have an idea’ I said, dropping my back-pack and everything else… ‘I know what it is, good idea, I’ll wait here’ said Graham as he slomped to the floor. It was a good idea, I beelined it to the van and then took it back over to where Graham was sat – but by the time I got to him we had both realised that none of the traffic was moving, at all.
It had turned out that a water main had burst outside of the festival cutting off two of the three exits, I think they had to re-arrange their internal one way system to divert traffic but also had to wait for the larger vehicles like lorries and catering trucks to leave first… to be honest I wasn’t sure, but it didn’t matter to us. We got the tarp and the camping seat out and continued to jam. I made us up some lattes (CAMP STOVE KING!) and then the sun came out so we caught some rays whilst having a little dance – I had put the rear speakers on the roof and was playing all sorts from Elvis Costello to Wire, Snapped Ankles, Sunflowers and The Mekons. We happily extended our festival whilst others sat in their cars or drove around in an attempt to intercept the queue closer to the exit.
And fair play to the festival people too because they sent up marshall’s in their little wagons with loads of bottles of water which they were offering out to people whilst they waited. It obviously wasn’t their fault and it was just something that had to be addressed before anything else could happen. To us it provided a bonus round of partying before we returned to normality. To others it would have been a real nuisance, but it was dealt with brilliantly.
Eventually the traffic filtered away so we packed up our things, got in the van and set off towards Newport. By the time we got to Abergavenny the fatigue had kicked in and I knew I was done for. I couldn’t wait to get home and have the deepest bubble bath I could physically afford which, was exactly what I did when I got back and it was amazing.
I was so tired that it was two more days before the post-festival depression (or Boomtown blues) kicked in but when it did it hit hard. I had had such an amazing experience from the moment I got there until the moment we left, everyone we had met had been lovely, every band I had seen had been incredible, the setting was beautiful, the food was amazing, it was easy to navigate, family friendly, the camping area was quiet, Big Jeff was there! (oh my god I forgot to mention Big Jeff!) – I can’t recommend it enough and I will definitely be going back next year!
There was a lot that I missed and I would have liked to have spent more time at the smaller stages seeing things I didn’t know but I loved that I had the opportunity to tick so many ‘must sees’ off my list at what turned out to be a memorable and downright exceptional festival.
The three take aways for me though, without any doubt are; Black Midi, Snapped Ankles & Hedluv and Passman.
Big shout-outs to Unicorn Man and the Northampton crew, the Rastas who sorted Graham out, the hippies who led me to the Rising Stage, Rob our neighbour, all the people we borrowed lighters off, the people who tied a lighter to a string and lost it so that we found it! (god-send), the put-put boat crew, the lady who brought me more sugar on the bacon roll stand just before war on drugs, everyone who helped me when I had my cane (so many helpful people), the lady who told me my bag was open, the band who dedicated a song to me in the ‘key of C’, everyone who donated to Help Refugees, the Le Pub gang for organising and operating all of the collections during the festival and manning the stall (where you get your Choose Love T-shirts / hoodies and sick vintage clothing)
Thank you all and see you next year! – That’s it, there’s no part 4! Go read something else or try and complete our solid crossword!