Convertibles sell better in Britain than in much of the Mediterranean. That might make it sound like the inhabitants of this damp island are stupid. A kinder explanation is that they just enjoy the sunshine when it comes – an impression that will have struck anyone who’s attended a pop festival in the UK with the force of a stage diver. The tales of the rains that swallowed tents at Glastonbury in 2005 and turned 2008’s Bestival into a treacherous mudbath rapidly acquired legendary proportions. When the sun shines and the right band are onstage, people tell fewer stories, but the smiles are as broad as they come. And Green Man, which has had its share of blissful warmth and endless drizzle, is the pick of the festive crop.
Sat between Abergavenny and the Brecon Beacons, its estate location feels classically picturesque, but hills including the iconic Sugar Loaf rear around the site, giving that touch of the wilderness. Its capacity (10,000 at last count) is big enough to bestow a sense of occasion but small enough to mean you might manage to find your tent and friends, which will prove a relief to anyone who’s spent hours trekking Glastonbury’s acres. There’s no big branding here, and the staff spend more time helping you out than telling you what you can’t do – even the toilets are decidedly bearable. Green Man also manages the neat trick of being family- and hedonist-friendly – the DJ tent booms through the witching hours, but kids will enjoy the stalls, gardens and children’s parades.
Indeed, while many festivals that try to be all things to all people end up tying themselves in knots, Green Man pulls out some crackers. There aren’t many stadium headliners here, but the intriguing assortment of folk veterans, psychedelic hipsters and bluesy rockers have been picked by organisers who care deeply about their music. They’ve seen Animal Collective get the crowd frugging to swelling math-rock, Richard Thompson play nimble songs of love and loss, Bon Iver bring his Vermont laments to a sunny Saturday and Spiritualized rock out in the downpour. Worth the risk of rain? You bet.
Green Man takes place every year, generally in late August. See www.greenman.net for more details.