Green Man 2014

Some kind of SD card glitch seems to have robbed me of my Green Man photographs. I don’t mind too much, although there were some good images, they felt a little staged, like I could see them being blogged and judged even as I was taking them. Soulless. We still have our imagination.

Heavy grey clouds, clapping with the aftertwerks of Hurricane Bertha, prove merciful and quickly leave us alone. The sun breaks through and the kids strip down to skinny dungarees and vintage Caterpillars. Wales feels inherently ‘indie’, all bobble hats and little rain jackets, scrappy black bobs and pointer noses, watching Amelia Fletcher (former Chief Economist and Senior Director of Mergers at the Office of Fair Trading) emote sensitively in a vintage mobile library. It doesn’t get more indie than that. Yet the taxi driver said that 90% of the attendees are from London and the rest from Bristol. You hear two Welsh accents all weekend.

Music is medicine, someone says. But we don’t have to be sick, I say. There is a lot of sensitivity here. Music can be insurrection, provocation, play, satire. You ask the mountains if you are getting old. Melancholy rubbed-down folk seems everywhere. Enchantment. Even ‘atmosphere’ and ‘soul’. It’s as if 1981 never happened. You could do whatever you wanted, post-punk, so long as it wasn’t ‘laid back’. To me many of the bands were performing the ‘repeat to fade’ section of a song, without the song, and without the fade. The Doors repeat-to-fade, the Cocteaus. Neat and discrete, abrupt end, gone nowhere. Perhaps these kids are describing their lives. Writing a song wouldn’t kill them. Someone tells me that War on Drugs are up there with Dire Straits.

Sour twot, what do you like? The mountains’ empty language. Children playing in a minor river. Sunburn, banter. Vanilla funk and yachtpop on “Too Slow To Disco”. “Many people are unaware that Abergavenny invented the periwig.” The pulled-muscle melody of All We Are and Highasakite. Frank Fairfield reeling “Git Along Little Doggie” into a condenser mic for ten minutes. The crowd erupting and Frank walking into a tent wall. Pythonesque improv thanks to the ‘Travelling Communist Gameshow’. Gavin Osborn’s comic song about a competitive pub quiz (there is a funny, very English satirical novel to be written about the pub quiz). Middle-aged grouch and chain smoker Stanley Brinks being rude and dismissive to me. My twenty two year-old colleague Joshua turning starstruck when Elena Tonra drops shyly onto the grass beside him. Jeffrey Lewis telling beat tales of Williamsburg. Finding a double-ender dildo in a bush.

I find what looks like a lesbian sex toy in a bush. Rubbery, ribbed and a glossy punk jade. I wonder if I should complain. To whom? Health and Safety? I am certainly not walking into Lost Property with that lolling in my hand. Bags may be searched coming in. Perhaps they’ll be searched going out. I decide to throw it into the nearest pond but it is full of children looking for nymphs and water boatmen. A bad aim could conk one of them out. Why am I concerned? It’s funny. A funny anecdote. Along with the accompanying evidence emerging from my bag, it would make a great ice-breaker with strangers. Then I decide that it is the type of ice-breaker that could go really, really wrong. As the sun disappears and the night grows cold my only option is to find a celebrity and slip in into their (surely never-searched) bag or guitar case.

There is a women-only tent in the forest. They stare at me when I approach, ‘man’ and ‘rapist’ being synonyms. I’m too bored to even care. I just wonder why someone sited the female safe zone is the darkest, scariest place. Or perhaps it is a genius place to put it. The tent is often empty and it is gone by Sunday lunchtime. Pack my pitch up. There is a second ‘goddess’ space in the healing area, in case the raw misogyny of the reiki tent gets too much, I suppose. These places aren’t about ‘women’ but a certain personality type. The obsession with safety also implies that heterosexual sex culture is too intense, turned up too high, when it is barely audible at all.

In the Brecon Beacons I am spoiled for music, food, craft ale and craft people, but I want to sit alone in the forest and commune with the mountains. Let them talk to me, talk through me. Bored of voice, bored of song. Bored of London, bored of ‘back to nature’. A positive sign, perhaps a painful portent of change. What does the next level look like? It employs the full intelligence, unashamedly. It can’t be bound to a ‘book’ or a ‘song’ or a ‘job’ or any form of strategy. It is too source to pack into an unzipped hippy humanity. Fine art beyond educative flattery for mere beings. Therefore it probably won’t look like ‘good’ creativity at all, it’ll be unrateable. What would be the point of it then? Exactly.

The high woven boughs of the Green Man effigy take flame and burn, as they must, on the Sunday, round midnight. He dies ritualistically, for being a man who pretends to the authority of a mountain. Topographical intensities won’t be personified by a wicker thing full of wishes. A pyrotech work of graphic art putts and whizzes moonward. Yet I am spoiled and bored, I fear.

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