The kids are all right.
I can’t remember the last time I felt so optimistic about the state of upcoming British music looking at a festival lineup. South Western troubadours Trust Fund open up the Far Out Stage and it is a glorious shambles: seven people dancing around the stage, tapping cymbals, screeching into microphones. This is a landscape of wonderful ditties falling apart at the seams: why are Trust Fund seven when they were a quartet when I last checked on in them? Singer Ellis later tells me “the more people we put in the band, the more free tickets and guests we get”. Focusing on the band’s driving force, Ellis has such an idiosyncratic charisma. After serenading us with the sombre and “deeply socialist” Big Asda song, he apologises for the lack of conversation with the crowd: “I wish I had more to say, but I don’t really know any of you.” His tales from ex-girlfriend’s parents’ houses, supermarkets and working shitty jobs are solidified by a penchant for honesty in his persona. ‘Cut Me Out’ may just be one of the songs of the weekend and it’s all the more endearing when it comes from a band that don’t know it.
It rained so much, that I went to see Towel. The Bristol-based trio are packed onto a diminutive stage on the Cinedrome Tent, backed up by visuals depicting figurines. They’re made up of members of Trust Fund, Joanna Gruesome and, no doubt, other obscure South Western acts. It is a shotgun of screams, dancing, nicely-out-of-time aggressive percussion and quips about qualms with salad like “what’s crawled on that?!” A blunt, slightly naïve worldview being thrown in your face and stabbed into your stomach makes for an unusual and unforgettable experience.
Performance after performance, record after record: Marika Hackman manages to exceed expectations. Having seen Hackman (Marika, not Gene) at the Rough Trade Tent and Walled Garden a couple of years back, there’s a synergistic satisfaction here. There’s a depth in songwriting that you’ll seldom find, and that’s why she’s evolved so quickly. She divulges on her album, sentimentally, managing to build tension and alleviate that intensity with little effort, on the “biggest stage” she’s ever played on. It wouldn’t be unrealistic imagine Marika closing the Mountain Stage in years to come.
There’s so much trepidation surrounding Television from the moment their name is pulled out the hat for Green Man. My friend – who happens to be a huge fan – actually laughed when I said Television were playing. Well, basking in the blue light that Tom Verlaine keeps requesting, one thousand prophecies died tonight: they’re fantastic. They sing “rolling back the years” with ‘Torn Curtain’ and the only thing that looks out of place on Green Man’s Mountain Stage is the traditional left hand drumming style held on the drums. It is the title track and the group’s most renowned piece, ‘Marquee Moon’ that harnesses the crowd and transposes them to a world more three-dimensional and dynamic than any other across the weekend.
Welsh enough for you?
H Hawkline speaks straight-faced to a silent Far Out Tent in Welsh, a man cheers, and he dedicates the set to him. There’s a concern amongst the Green Man natives of the festival about it losing sight of its core. However, in the shadow of the Black Mountains covered in Welsh water, it’s hard to envisage a reality where the poetry of the land doesn’t inform this weekend. Gruff Rhys, intermittently answering questions at a Q and A in Welsh or English, as he sees fits addresses the issue of being protective of the culture in releasing their language record ‘Hywl’: “we just wanted to make a record in the language we speak in, there wasn’t any grander agenda”. However, as the ever-consuming cult-heroes Super Furry Animals later launch into their fourth piece of the album, spinning a cue card with English on one side, Welsh on the other, you can’t help but see the conflict or at least the symbiosis. Whether it’s the tentative and wonderful Meilyr Jones and his compelling artistry, the Welsh language films in the Cinedrome or the phrasebook in the programme, the Cymru presence on Glandusk Estate is stronger than ever. As the crowd sings ‘Juxtapozed With U’ to back to Gruff, it all feels awfully poignant.