Upon looking at the major festival line ups this year, something rather worrying struck me (and many others): the lack of women featured. Looking at the line up of Reading and Leeds, for example, with the male acts edited out, the poster is practically empty; a pretty sad state of affairs when there are so many wonderful female artists in the world of music today.
So, the Green Man line up instantly grabbed me with its abundance of both established and upcoming female artists; it was going to be a woman-filled weekend, and I was extremely grateful for that.
That’s not to say there weren’t plenty of upcoming artists of the male variety too – Green Man seems to pride itself on championing all kinds of new acts. SLUG, for instance, absolutely blow me away with their incredible, energy-fuelled tunes at the Far Out Tent on Friday – donning sailors’ outfits, the North-Eastern collective deliver one of the most compelling sets I’ve seen for a long time.
And Kiran Leonard – in the dimly lit Walled Garden on a misty Friday evening – is just stupendous. Opening with a fifteen minute-long blast of angst driven musical bliss, Leonard instantly wows the crowd with his dream-like, emotion-strewn cacophony of sound, reminiscent of underrated ’90s grunge outfit, Slint; a set that matches the magical, eerie beauty of its location perfectly.
But back to the Wo in (Wo)Man (Woah Man!). Sunday’s headliner, the one and only St Vincent, is truly awe-inspiring. Delivering an unforgettable end to the weekend, she exudes a magnificent stage presence; from syncronised dancing with the keyboardist and gracefully ‘falling’ down a flight of stairs, to sharing with us her favourite item on the Greggs menu (a steak bake), she proves herself an utterly phenomenal performer. St Vincent brings a radiant joy to the Beacons with her rock-infused theatrical pop and, dedicating the set to “all the freaks out there…”, her eccentric amazingness is a privilege to behold.
Along with St Vincent, Green Man pays host to many awesome female artists. The haunting beauty of (Tom Ravenscroft’s festival highlight) Marika Hackman accompanies a rare dose of sunshine at the Mountain Stage on Saturday afternoon, and the angelic folky charm and sugar-sweet harmonies of my favourite Watford sisters, The Staves, add their own rays of sunshine to an already (surprisingly) blazing Sunday evening.
A host of newer, upcoming female artists such as Rozi Plain, Aurora, Emmy The Great and the raw, emotive beauty of Waxahatchee grace our ears throughout the weekend.
And it doesn’t end there: another 23 (sorry if I’ve got the number wrong) women prove to be one of my stand-out highlights of the weekend. I was lucky enough to catch Deep Throat Choir at the Women Of The World festival a few months back, but seeing them for a second time here, on the Green Man Rising stage as the rain rages outside the tent, is even more wonderful than the first time. Simply women, their voices, and a drum kit, Deep Throat Choir succeed in creating sweeping, euphoric sounds, drawing in a huge crowd equipped with umbrellas and pairs of very grateful ears. So perfect and intense are the harmonies created, that these women make the arrangements of the well known songs (including classics by Amy Winehouse and Bjork) they perform their own, with the unique power of each of their own individual voices. The power they are able to create is truly exceptional: Girl Power in the most literal sense of the word!
Amongst all these wonderful women making Green Man stand out from the mass of male-dominated line ups this year, is the incredible, rip-roaring grunge-rock of the mega awesome Courtney Barnett. As you may have gathered, I’m a bit of a fan, but her set in the Far Out Tent on Sunday night is something else. My highlight of the weekend. Having wowed me at Glastonbury last year, Barnett seems to have upped her game and utterly blows my (muddy) socks off.
Racing through tracks from her fantastic album Pedestrian At Best, this Melbourne rocker exudes an unmatched passion and vigour as she delivers her riotous riffs and grunge-fuelled energy – all the while head-banging, sprawling across the floor, and generally being the most awesome dude ever. A wonderful poet, and an incredible performer, Courtney Barnett’s a sheer force of nature. And she ends the set by hugging (some very lucky) people in the crowd. Did I mention she’s awesome?
A wonderful weekend in a magical setting. Despite the rain (and the wasps), I have no complaints to make to Green (Wo)Man. With its perfectly sized site, friendly, chilled out atmosphere, idyllic location, range of craft beers and – of course – the immense selection of fantastic music from people of all genders, I’ll definitely be heading to the Beacons again next year.
Photo Credit: Paul Dawes