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Emily Hartless went to Green Man to report for CCQ. She took our faithful festival photographer, Eric Aydin Barberini, and between them they delivered.

On a rainy Friday at the seventeenth anniversary of Greenan Festival, a question was proposed to Irvine Welsh, one of the defining voices of twentieth century literature and the author of Trainspotting to choose; “punk or rave?” Debating between the two cultural movements, which Welsh had been directly involved, he favoured rave as the realisation of the ideals that the anarchic spirit of punk champions; the people were better looking, the drugs were stronger, the nights were longer and the arrests more frequent.

However, the best of Green Man 2017, were the acts who ricocheted between elements of both punk and rave, marrying in sound and performance components of the two. The disco punk of Liars, who despite initial technical issues, roared through a boisterous set, Angus Andrew slowly unveiling himself from a wedding dress as the energy built. The pulsating, churning physicality of Sleaford Mods’ synth-infused rants raged slick with humour and, of course, Theresa May references. Kate Tempest’s burning performance of Let Them Eat Chaos’ full narrative, demonstrated seamlessly the power of words to produce and immerse an audience in whole worlds, destabilising what we know and building it anew. Tempest's smoky picture of fellow Londoners, breathed and lived in the idyll of the starry Brecon Beacon’s night. These acts defined the strongest of this year’s Green Man, as a fusion of the electronic with the performance tactics and vocal presentation of punk-rock.

There were other highlights too; thoughtfully programmed choices, which demonstrated the best of Welsh-based talent. Boy Azooga and H Hawkline consecutively stormed the Far Out stage on Thursday.  A myriad of bands intertwined pitch-perfect visuals and noise in Casey & Ewan’s Crystal Massage, collapsing the boundaries between performance, sound and video art. And, most excitingly, a multitude of female identifying artists were represented. By programming the familiar voices of PJ Harvey and the return of Shirley Collins, alongside the upcoming star of Aldous Harding and fabulous female fronted bands, Green Man attempted greater diversity through powerful manifestation.

Harding, a breakout New Zealand star whose voice emotively contorts her folkloric wording, offered one of the subtlest and intimate moments of the festival while performing in the Walled Garden. Crowds filled the smaller, open air space to see the artist accompanied by the Invisible Familiars deliver a startling performance of her new album, Party.

Likewise, the intricate compositions of Anna Meredith were a highlight of the festival, holding the crowd in rapture through beautifully crafted cello and tuba solos; together these artists created a statement that any festival which is not representing the best of female talent is severely undermining its own events’ potential.

Could it be argued that the state of politics seemed to be the narrative of Green Man 2017?  A pedal-powered sign limply evoking the audience to 'RESIST' flickered on and off by the Rising stage. Wherever possible someone mentioned Brexit. Yet, the enlightening lyricism of the artists was somewhat mellowed by the scope of the sheep’s-milk-ice-cream eating and vegan junk food chomping attendees. These delicious past times I participated in and thoroughly enjoyed. But, as one comedian aptly joked in the damp décor of the Babbling Tongues tent, those who are at Green Man, are the lower middle, upper middle or just middle sections of the class system. As a result, the attempts to politicise the discussions seemed well-intended, but disjointed and lost in delivery.

This identity crisis between the good life seeking audience and Green Man’s eco-friendly and independent mission statement was best epitomised by Charlotte Church, who clad in a dramatic headband tried to decode in a somewhat befuddled manner the “death of the capitalism”, through trailing Harry Potter metaphors about Tory Death-eaters and Lefty Dumbledore’s Army. 

The general confusion about the art and culture’s current role within our political and social climate was reflected in Green Man’s own struggle, that of its organisers, artists and audience, to figure out how to utilise the festival’s magnified and public stage. Ultimately however, whether you favour electronic or rock, county or house, it was through the pounding of the music, the yelling of musicians, the movement of bodies, that Green Man's core ideals became apparent, an experience and knowledge shared only by being there.

 

Words: Emily Hartless

Photos: Eric Aydin Barberini, from top: crowds watching Michael Kiwanuka, on Mountain Stage; Sleaford Mods, at Far Out; Honeyfeet at Chai Wallahs; Michael Kiwanuka on Mountain Stage; Hinds on Far Out.

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