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Review: Mountains, monsoons and lots of music – Green Man with children

You have to hand it to the Welsh weather. Whatever the forecast might suggest you can bank on it rigidly obeying the meteorological dictates of that Crowded House song – Four Seasons In One Day.

A morning that started by applying suncream finished with us frantically Googling the word trenchfoot.

Taking children to a music festival has become a commonplace endeavour. An erstwhile middle class pursuit it would appear, with festivals lining up to cater for this newly-evolved and increasingly popular demographic.

Shiver me timbers! It's a Welsh mermaid!

Open-air gatherings such as Lunar, Somersault and Camp Bestival have all seen the value of catering for adults still in the midst of middle youth; their offspring being hothoused in mummy and daddy’s musical tastes.

Green Man,1 however, stands as the pinnacle of catering for families. The site opens a week before the festival begins as part of The Settlement – an area which allows families to pitch their tents for an extended stay four days before the festival actually begins.

RELATED: Not at Green Man?

Recreated the festival at home with this playlist2

The organisers describe Green Man as a living city for those days when the fest shifts into fifth gear – performing the neat trick of catering for all ages as the amorphous mass ebbs and flows around the site.

Having brought my then five year old to Green Man last year, she had such fun in the dedicated children’s area – Little Folk - she was determined to return for yet more adventures.

Elinor's fairy festival fashion

The problem with taking children to festivals, of course, is that you are inevitably at their beck and call like brow-beaten servants at the behest of these tiny overlords, fending off constant requests for ice cream by pretending you’re deaf.

They’re shrewd operators though those Green Man3 organisers, realising that after three hours in the Little Folk area being used as a portly climbing frame and getting enough glitter on his to face to resemble a fat Marc Bolan, dad is going to need a drink – or three.

Luckily, and you’re not telling me it’s a coincidence, the 100 plus brews on offer at the Green Man Beer Festival ably did the trick, even if people were pointing, laughing and requesting you perform Get It On and 20th Century Boy.

RELATED: Stereophonics v Calvin Harris at V Festival4

The same goes for mums, of course. If necking craft beers while being surrounded by innumerable blokes with beards is not quite their thing, having their inner chakra reset in the Zen climes of the Nature and Nuture field, most probably is.

Having earned our respective pit stops we headed to the beautifully carved Green Man, for photo opportunities, and a lovely touch this year – an opportunity to write out a wish on wooden blocks that were draped around this monument to nature.

Elin's princess wish

My daughter wished that she was a princess. Although given the amount of money I’ve spent in the Disney store on dresses I’m surprised she’s not living in a castle with Prince Charming by now.

As ever at Green Man there was a diverse line-up of attractions, circus classes for the little ones were hugely popular, while the Helter Skelter and Big Dipper were doing brisk business.

I had to think twice about taking the little one to pay homage to The Fall’s uber Grinch Mark E Smith in the Babbling Tongues tent, figuring she already had an irascible old man for a father.

Looks like dad made the same wish as Elin - that or he's secretly a U2 fan

We settled on H Hawkline on the Far Out stage to provide the first musical interlude of the day, throwing some not exactly textbook shapes to the Welshman’s delightfully skewed sound.

A traipse around the site and the first rain clouds of the day after the mid-20s temperatures which greeted our arrival saw us pitch up at Babbling Tongues to witness Welsh electro queen Gwenno interviewing Super Furry Animals’ Gruff and Guto.

I figured this was the best history lesson a six-year-old could experience being schooled in such culturally important subjects as the ‘90s Welsh pop uprising and the Welsh legend’s Mwng album.

Rumours were rife about who the special guest was on the Far Out stage at 7pm - from the plausible, Cate Le Bon, to the fanciful Taylor Swift . The smart money however was on Bats For Lashes, aka Natalie Khan. And those tipsters were spot on, the singer taking to the stage under auspices of the positively saucy Sexwitch.

Luckily there wasn’t a basque or broom in sight, just very loud psychedelic exotica from her forthcoming new album.

As the rain clouds cleared we pitched up on the brow of the Mountain Stage’s natural amphitheatre, ready for the evening to roll in and Charles Bradley to take to the stage – the first of the undercard in support of tonight’s headliners, Super Furry Animals.

Bradley was a revelation. A throwback to another era when Stax and Motown ruled the musical landscape, and James Brown was the coolest cat in a sequined cape. The New Yorker wrung every last drop of an emotion out of a set that was part soul revue, part tear-jerking confessional.

I swear the sun even peeked its head around a cloud to take a look, the crowd dancing with joy at a special performance from a special performer.

Elin's favourite film is The Wicker Man, and Frozen of course

From the same city but a million miles apart in sound, style and content, Big Apple New Wavers Television ran through their wiry and serrated 1977 album Marquee Moon with ruthless efficiency.

There was little chat, little attempt to connect and there were no big screens in operation at the side of the stage for Tom Verlaine and co - ironic for a band called Television.

By the time Super Furry Animals took to the stage at 11.15pm, my little girl was attempting her own game of trying to keep her eyes open while way past her bedtime.

If what was expected was a space out stage show that resembled Close Encounters Of The Third Kind what we actually witnessed was Singing In The Rain.

The heavens opened and the rain that had been forecast all evening finally took hold with a vengeance.

Of course, this didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the huge crowd that had gathered in front of The Mountain Stage.

The Furries ably demonstrated why never compromising but remaining ceaselessly creative ensures your place in popular music culture will forever be enshrined.

Dave found another Super Furry Animal hiding from the rain

The Super Furry Animals we may have resembled by the end of SFA’s post-apocalyptic set were drowned rats, however everyone headed home happy, even if we did trudge off site while frantically Googling the words ‘ark’ and ‘trenchfoot’.

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