I had some thoughts while facing off the weather and woeful end-of-summer sadness at Brecon’s precious Green Man festival. Some are welly deep. Some are puddle shallow.
1. Festivals now are mostly about food
And I took loads of dried camp food. Which no-one wanted. And I don’t blame them.
When you have, on the one hand: 16 Babybels, baked beans, dry sausage rolls and cup-a-soups, or on the other: Goan Fish Curry and Rice, Valencian Paella, Mac & Cheese, or a freaking whole Rotisserie Chicken with stuffing, there’s not much comparison.
Also, even the humble can isn’t good enough these days. A tent of over 100 craft beers and ciders put shame to my 18 tinnies of warm Carlsberg, even if the guys serving were pretty grouchy.
Shame that you need a small mortgage to cover the whole lot but I guess that’s my fault for going to such a middle class festival.
2. People are weird about chairs
It’s human nature. When a resource is scarce, it is highly coveted.
I spent a good few hours bumming around in the comedy tent, hiding from the rain and mud, seeing the delightful bumbling Rob Newman, the adorable Elis James (who was kind of upstaged by a 7 year old) and the seat-piddlingly funny Adam Buxton’s dissection of the Middle Premium pudding and what your leftover glass ramekins say about you.
This also happened to be the only place the organisers had agreed they needed chairs. Big mistake. Put a name like Rhod Gilbert on a Welsh festival tent, and you are going to get a scrum. Add a finite number of seating options and people go full on territorial nuts.
I was just sitting patiently for the next act when the couple next to me got up to leave. The next thing I knew I was nearly knocked over on my face by the woman from the row behind me swinging her Hunter wellies in an alarming windmill in her panic to claim these seats for, what I assume were her children, “Darcy and Archie”.
I don’t know if the blatant disregard for her children’s self esteem in their nominal choices made me even more angry, or whether it was the way she stood with Barbour jacket raised like a mace and meerkat-like twitching head looking for further free seats for the next 20 minutes as people queued in the aisles for somewhere to sit, but I felt my inner Grinch grumbling.
3. Carboot Disco Bingo is a thing, and it’s incredible
I’m not even going to attempt explain this, but if you ever see it, do it. There’s a whole new competitive edge to disco dancing that I hadn’t even considered. And you don’t feel embarrassed one bit. Just completely funky-town fabulous.
4. Father John Misty is a roadie’s nightmare
The strutting sex on legs, pseudo truth-spouting alter ego of Fleet Foxes’ Joshua Tilman may be a short-lived phenomenon.
Don’t get me wrong – I was very much part of the hormone-fuelled crowd screaming “SAVE ME WHITE JESUS” and whooping as he stuck his head in the crowd, filming himself licking the camera and purring, “Hi to YouTube”, but longevity? Not sure.
Also, it was distracting watching this guy try and go full rock and roll, with two extremely panicked roadies constantly scampering about unlooping his mic cable from all the obstacles.
If it hadn’t been so typically British, I would have thought it was part of the act.
Who am I kidding?
5. Welsh-language music is fucking awesome
From the dappy hardcore Cardiff nutters Super Furry Animals and their re-release of ‘career-suicide’ album Mwng, to the beret-sporting 73-year-old one-man band Meic (‘Mike’) Stevens cursing his way through a half-forgotten set, I had an earful of Welsh-language rock this weekend and, honestly, I loved it.
Etherial and semi-understood from a Primary school classroom or rugby field sideline, the language was familiar and strange and not at all mud-swallowingly cringeworthy as I’d remembered Welsh rock to be.
I was a little bit young for the whole Cool Cymru 90s revival (or ‘vival’ – not sure if Cymru’s ever been cool…), catching the tail end of Catatonia, SFA, Manics and only coming to Stereophonics after Kelly Jones had finally gone ahead and swallowed that bag of gravel.
But this is far and beyond some fad with a clunky populist moniker – this is a living and musical language and hearing it echoing in a misty bowl of Brecon Beacons was something close to spiritual.
The rain, however, was just minging.
6. You can plan something for months and months and it can turn out completely differently to what you expected
When you’re in a twisted relationship with a ‘talker’, it’s easy to get caught up in madcap plans that, if realised, would be hilarious and memorable. However, when you’re a ‘doer’ your expectations are that everything you agree on doing, you’re actually going to do.
For Green Man, we had made all these plans — dressing up like Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey, dancing to SFA in the rain, cooking steak on a camping stove, setting up a tent under the Welsh sky and singing songs. Yeah I know. Vomit. But I always kind of believed we’d do it.
Short story short: we didn’t. I ended up third-wheeling with an old uni friend and his girlfriend, having been somewhat unceremoniously dumped over FaceTime the day before. Of course, they turned out to be the perfect people to spend the festival with: funny, cool, relaxed, open, willing to drink a lot and not at all weird about me occasionally going quiet or drunkenly weeping. I’ll take them over a talker any day.