If you go north toward Winterfell then take the second left at Hobbiton you will eventually come across a sleepy Welsh town called Crickhillow, on the outskirts of which is a large natural mountainous basin surrounded by lush verdant trees and grasses, with a topping of seemingly permanent hill mist.
Every year in August many tribes of music loving humanoids converge upon this site for four days. It is called Greenman and this year marks its 14th year since inception. It is here that the assembled thousands gather to listen to various music, laugh, sing, drink beer and generally go bonkers whilst dressed in the traditional garb of silver glitter, green face paint and horse masks.
This year you could revel in the subversive sleek synth pop of the Wild Beasts, luxuriate in the glow of Laura Marling’s beautiful songs or even get down to some council estate rock with the Fat White Family. The Greenman is always eclectic, this year even more so.
We adopt the let’s just have a wander and see what transpires approach. First band of note were The Miracle Legion, American underground REM types from back in the day. Lead singer Mark Mulcahy, despite looking like an extra from The Revanant, proved to be a focal point. They provided a bouyant set of likable rock-lite.
The always ridiculously rammed Chai Wallah tent played host, as always, to some of the most diverse music of the weekend. On the Friday we enjoyed Sam Green and the midnight heist, who blew everyone away and at one point dropped a version of Cream’s Crossroads, which was stunning.
Ex-Drive By Truckers guitarist Jason Isbell gave us some Neil Young-esque guitar soloing and Floating Points were superb in the Far Out tent with a set of clinical beats and effective use of lighting.
Jazz sensation Kamasi Washington, despite an overlong soundcheck, played more notes in his first number than everyone else all weekend. This was an intense sax improv overload that left people stunned. Early 1990s indie royalty Lush brought us back to reality with some lovely dark pop, and yes of course they did Ladykillers. Miki still gorgeous alert.
You know you wonder sometime about Sound and Vision? Well, tonight you shouldn’t because we had a hugely popular midnight Bowie disco. We danced the blues under the moonlight, the serious Welsh moonlight.
Not to be outdone, down the hill local hero Charlotte Church was shaking her booty with her band and ripping up the walled garden with a set of covers. The home crowd loved it. Almost catatonic now I curse myself for missing Vessels.
Saturday roars in like a sexy dragon and proves to be a day of wonders. First and foremost a new band called Fews were awesome, so full of energy with their dynamic in-your-face guitar abuse. They were emotionally taken aback by the crowd’s love.
In an effort to chill out, an hour in the presence of Ryley Walker was called for. Walker seems to channel those west coast vibes, as previously witnessed here last year by Jonathon Wilson, but he has his demons. You sense them just below the surface of his lovely music, his voice reminiscent at times of Tim Buckley and even a little of the late John Martyn. Breathtakingly emotional songs each hung drawn and quartered. He was astonishing.
Jagwar Ma on the other hand just want to take you higher, in their case with a set of uplifting, delerious dance music. If floating points are the ying of disco, Jagwar Ma are the yang.
Michael Rother was a real coup for Greenman. This man and his late friend, Klaus Dinger, were a German duo who under the moniker Neu ! radically changed the course of recorded music. Their early recordings were primitive, thrilling experiments in relentless rhythm and textured sound that slowly drip fed through into the mainstream, influencing Kraftwerk, Bowie, Eno, and probably half the bands here this weekend. He was adored by a crowd whose jaws were were in dropped mode for the entire set.
From the sublime to the slightly ramshackle with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Their set was wonderful, especially their version of John Lennon’s Instant Karma, and their most well known tune, Home.
Sheffield’s finest top light entertainer, the ever dependable John Shuttleworth provided Saturday’s chuckle quotient. His track, I Can’t Go Back To Savory Now, will live long in the memory (unfortunately!)
Sunday and the weather calms down to a mere gale but the party continues apace. It is not all music at Greenman so a visit to Einstein’s garden is a must. A whole field of fun science for kids of all ages. I am now an expert in Neolithic burial rites.
Margaret Glaspy is my new favourite singer-songwriter, with nothing more than a broken heart, a well struck guitar and a sweet voice, she wowed those present. Her new album Emotion and Math was covered most beautifully and the encore of Somebody To Anybody sent chills down the spine.
Chills down the spine would also cover sets from a virtuoso performance from Unknown Mortal Orchestra and a joyful, crazy Songhoy Blues.
Swedish musician and all round cool looking dude Daniel Norgren, with his back catalogue of gentle Americana didn’t prepare us for the guitar solos. We were expecting laid back but got Stevie Ray Vaughan and we were definitely not complaining.
The Chai Wallah tent provided Sunday’s highlight, a set from Gypsies of Bohemia, a sickeningly talented band who do the most outrageous cover versions you’ll ever hear. We we went nuts for 7 Nation Army, William It Was Really Nothing and the icing on the cake was the most fantastic version of House of Pain’s Jump Around, which put the crowd in the throes of delerium.
Sadly with the heart rending chorus of Shuttleworth’s Can’t Go Back to Savory now echoing around our frazzled brains we head back to life, back to reality already looking forward to next year by which time it might have stopped raining.
Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes