So much for the usual glorious sunshine and baking heat of 2010′s summer festivals so far. It’s Friday afternoon, and as the winding, increasingly tiny Welsh B-roads lead closer to Glanusk Park, the monsoon rain grows heavier, bucketing down in sheets that threaten to wash the huddled sheep clean off the hillsides.
How well will Green Man cope? Weather conditions, and more importantly their management, can make or break a festival, turning a blissful weekend of sunbathing in front of dreamy chillwave into a nightmare mud-fest of sodden wellies and leaking tents. It takes a special mix of headliners with crowd-pleasing charisma, plus a decent supply of sawdust and reinforced plastic walkways to keep the crowds smiling, singing along, and risking their iPhones in the rain. It’s going to be a tough call.
In better conditions, Green Man would be located in one of most beautiful festival sites in the UK. Nestled in a valley between perfect hill-walking routes, with a natural amphitheatre in which to place the main stage, it could be heaven. Unfortunately, conditions are anything but, and the festival should perhaps be a little more adept at managing the mud bath the site is turning into. A few metal walkways, or hay bales to soak up the worst, might have made it easier to struggle through the ankle-deep mud that lines the route from the car parks to the camping areas. Pity the poor fools who’ve taken advantage of the holiday camping tickets to arrive here earlier in the week.
Despite this, there’s a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. The stewards are young, smiley and look like they want to be friends. It’s a nice change these days, and really does make a much appreciated difference.
Once through the picturesque castle-like gate house that stands at the entrance to the site, past the Victorian Gothic stables and walled gardens, it’s a bit of trek – albeit a pretty one – to the camping areas. Once there, tent pitched, there’s the eternal wet festival dilemma: stay under canvas regardless of who’s playing or venture out into the wet to see the bigger bands. Luckily, there’s a decent enough choice at Green Man to make either option viable: from literature, cinema, or Fuck Buttons indoors to Fionn Regan, Erland and the Carnival, and Beirut in the damper open air.
It’s the Far Out stage that proves to be the jewel in the crown of the festival’s opening day. Not only is it (mercifully) inside, it also has Steve Mason, formerly of The Beta Band performing solo. He starts off nervously, a little unsure of the crowd (are they really interested in him, or just the roof?), but his confidence grows as the set progresses, raising the audience up with him as he performs songs that are delicate, pared down and ethereal – a perfect antidote to the harsh elements outside.
As the evening drizzles on, into the rain we go, where Doves‘ headlining set falls a bit flat; the audience seems unenthusiastic and less than impressed. By halfway though, the largely indifferent crowd have mostly dispersed – presumably to check out DJ Yoda in the Far Out tent. Or just back to their own tents to listen to the raindrops beating above their heads, and hope against hope that tomorrow will bring the sun.