The second installment of our time at Green Man Festival. Withered Hand, Linton Kwessi Johnson, Van Morrison, Yann Tierson, Tallest Man On Earth, Metronomy.
Breakfast is a delicious apricot and almond slice from a Devonian tea-tent near to Far Out, where we’re going to see Withered Hand. The tent is becoming a bog by this point, and the Edinburgh band’s small and devoted following stand atop a small island in front of the stage, separated from the droppers-in by a moat of muddy water. The link between this blog and Withered Hand comes via Absolutely Kosher Records, Good News being their penultimate release before taking a well earned hiatus. They play slowly-waltzing Providence, and cause several dads to gasp at the line “put my dick inside her” with Cornflake. Withered Hand’s apparently lulling and soothing folk melodies are punctuated by self-deprecating stage chat and witty lyrics that make you double take and listen carefully. After coming on behind schedule, they run out of time to play the song we’ve been building our weekend around: Religious Songs. Instead they close with the more upbeat Heart Heart which would have been an energetic and enticing opener for the more bewildered at the back. There is a strange sense of relief after seeing an act you have been streaming and listening to for so long and this is no exception. Even though our favourite song was omitted that was an important show.
After nosing into Chai Wallahs, we visit the Literature Tent to catch some of Linton Kwesi Johnson. Hearing him read his work really brings it to life, and he intersperses his Creole poetry with bites of personal history. His work spans from the 1970s to the 90s, and gives the average Green Man festival-goer an outsider’s glimpse of life as an afro-Caribbean in London throughout these decades.
Van Morrison is possibly my must-see act of the weekend. He’s been on my musical bucket list since I was a toddler, and although he plays my favourite songs with his current jazz lilt to them I don’t feel remotely disappointed. I find myself shedding quite a few tears at Whenever God Shines His Light even though “God” is lyrically replaced several times with Cliff Richard, who featured on the original single. The evening sun provides a timely backdrop for the performance, and he closes with a fantastic drawn-out rendition of Gloria, disappearing in an aura of signature grumpiness to leave his band to finish and the crowd to continue echoing the song’s eponymous refrain.
We make time to wander around the stalls at Green Man. Thoughtful additions include a Rough Trade tent, where signings and live performances take place. You can also buy material by pretty much everyone on the bill – fantastic, given that in the past I’ve been awestruck by bands I’ve stumbled across at festivals and feel the need to buy their record as soon as is humanly possible. There’s also a man carving mushrooms using some sort of spinning wheel who seems to be awake and barefoot no matter what time we trudge past. Yann Tiersen has soundtracked some of my favourite films (including the afore-referenced Good Bye Lenin!), but we only make it to the end of his set because we get distracted by an alien playing very loose, bizarrely hypnotic electronica out of an intergalactic caravan. A shame, as Yann’s music fits perfectly in the Saturday dusk.
The Tallest Man On Earth has featured on most people’s “to-see list” and the tent duly packs out. We initially discuss the idea of watching from the edges but the soundcheck alone has us jostling further and further forward to the front. The man himself creeps out to the stage bobbing his head with words of thanks. With each song I find myself leaning in to Kathleen and telling her that this one is my favourite as the Swedish enigma becomes more and more fervent and powerful. An army of shadows (all appropriately huge) dance alongside the man as the audience are beguiled and enchanted.
We leave The Tallest Man on Earth’s incredible performance to catch what we can of Metronomy. Their late-night slot has drawn in a younger crowd, and provides an antidote to the mellow closeness of Far Out. Their performance of Corinne was a personal high point of the festival, but they play songs from across their three albums accompanied by a light display and the sounds of seagulls that take me out of the Welsh valley and back to Devon.