Published On: Thu, Aug 24th, 2017

Green Man Festival 2017: PJ Harvey, Michael Kiwanuka and Ryan Adams take centre stage

PJ Harvey, Michael Kiwanuka and Ryan AdamsGETTY

Green Man Festival 2017: PJ Harvey, Michael Kiwanuka and Ryan Adams took centre stage

Nestled in the beautiful landscape of the Welsh Black Mountains, their looming peaks watching over you, young festival-goers, seasoned music fans and swathes of families rubbed shoulders for a stellar line-up of indie and folk bands performing over four days.

US band Future Islands kicked off proceedings with their exuberant brand of synth-pop followed by turns from prize-winning poet Kate Tempest and her magnificent spoken word/hip-hop live act, the night ending with a banging late-night special from Bristol drum ‘n’ bass king Roni Size.

Saturday’s offerings were no less impressive with veteran English folk legend Shirley Collins showing how it’s done aged 82. Sitting onstage with her band, her performance was a musical tour de force featuring dark folk songs and traditional arrangements with a merry Morris dancer on stage.

The crowd is friendly, mixing young and old with metropolitan types from London and beyond

American singer-song writer Ryan Adams brought proceedings to an end on Saturday night with a strong showing but not before Michael Kiwanuka stole the show with his mesmerising, honey-coated voice and acoustic soul-influenced set, full of spine-tingling, feelgood moments that warmed the hearts of the crowd who sang along in unison.

On the Sunday, highlights included Welsh psychedelic post-punk legend Julian Cope bantering with the audience, telling tales of drinking adventures, playing new material and old Teardrop Explodes favourites alike. Electronic punk duo Sleaford Mods, Nottingham’s answer to The Fall and The Streets, blew everyone away with a blistering set, telling tales of northern working-class life through a mesmerising performance from vocalist Jason Williamson. 

Future IslandsGETTY

Future Islands kicked off proceedings with their exuberant brand of synth-pop

But the standout act was without a doubt PJ Harvey on the final night, cementing her status as a living musical legend. On her only UK live date this year, the audience was treated to a hypnotic show as the singer emerged onstage like a high priestess in purple couture and long black gloves. Her show was part-performance art, part-funereal marching band, and she delivered a blinding set of her recent Mercury Music Prize-winning songs and a few old favourites, to the crowd’s enormous delight. 

Although the festival was sold out, there were no vast crowds here. Instead you get a chilled-out festival experience where it’s easy to wander between stages, check out top-notch food stalls and even sample 50 varieties of local Welsh beer and cider in a historic courtyard.

Shirley CollinsGETTY

Veteran English folk legend Shirley Collins showed how it’s done aged 82

In addition to scores of established acts and up-and-coming bands, Green Man offered an impressive roster of interviews, chat and comedy from the likes of Scottish literary sensation Irvine Welsh, Charlotte Church on home turf, Brendan Cox, husband of the late MP Jo Cox, and comic Josie Long.

The crowd is friendly, mixing young and old with metropolitan types from London and beyond, and locals who make it their business to come year in year out. You start spotting familiar faces after only a couple of days and you’re never far from kids playing on the grass, picking blackberries or pond dipping as their parents watch bands play, come rain or shine. 


PJ Harvey was without a doubt the standout act

Billed as one of the UK’s most family friendly festivals, the Little Folk field had more than enough to entertain youngsters for a weekend (or longer, for those camping for the full week). You can choose from children’s comedy, theatre and make-your-own more-or-less anything, set against a backdrop of happy kids with increasingly matted hair and muddy faces. Families were by no means confined to one area and the festival had a relaxed feel throughout the weekend, never taking on the messy, clubby feel of some of the bigger festivals. Children slumbering in wagons felt entirely appropriate long after the sun had set.

Given this is Wales in mid-August, the predicable downside was rain but this only slightly dampened spirits. You also get the impression that the disposable mac stalls here don’t make the killing here they might at other festivals. This is a crowd who come prepared so the heavy duty raingear comes out and it’s on with business as usual.

The stellar performances were a fitting build up to the final ritual of the festival, the burning of the Green Man sculpture on the hill, with the crack, bang and dazzle of fireworks to mark the end of a memorable weekend.

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