Having shared my own memories of the first three Green Man Festivals in detail, I decided it would be cool to hear the festival from other people’s perspectives. I invited any one who was at Green Man 2006 to send me their memories and photos.
Here, the very talented and lovely man, Welsh musician Gareth Bonello, (AKA the Gentle Good), who played the Green Man Cafe stage on the Friday afternoon, captures his memories of 2006.
The brilliant array of photos at the end are from Rhodri Viney and Stu Laws.
So much to think about when it comes to The Green Man Festival! I’ve tried my best below;
My first Green Man experience was 2005, the last time it was held at Baskerville Hall. I’d heard tales of this mysterious and magical little festival from friends in Cardiff that had been the year before and so a bunch of us took a punt and bought tickets. It was so good I vowed there and then that I would do everything I could to come back and play it in 2006. I’d only just started performing around Cardiff at that point, singing Welsh folk songs at open mic nights and trying to get a gig at Clwb Ifor Bach, my favourite spot for music in the city.
Acoustic music was having a bit of a resurgence at the time thanks to the likes of Devendra Barnhardt, Joanna Newsom and Jose Gonzales. Closer to home, I’d been enthralled and inspired by live sets in Cardiff from Andrew Hockey, Richard James, Alun Tan Lan and Bert Jansch. I was in a Country band called Silver Spurs with Ellie Harwood, Elliot Green and Rhodri Viney (Teflon Monkey/Broken Leaf/Ratatosk) and we would hang out with Green Man Cinema Tent favourite Chris Fowler, sing songs and watch footage Chris had compiled of finger-picking greats such as Davey Graham, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Dave Evans, John Fahey, Glen Campbell, Jerry Reed, Chet Atkins, Elizabeth Cotten and so many more. All those hours I’d spent alone trying to figure out Renbourn made sense, even if my fingers were still too damn slow! All of this was new to me, but it felt like the Green Man were ahead of the curve on all of that, and I felt like I’d found my musical home.
I applied to play the festival, sending a demo CD and a note by post to you and Danny, in Brecon, I think. I didn’t really expect to get a slot but when you called me to offer me one in work the following March I was completely over the moon! Over the next five months, there was a slow build-up of excitement and anticipation to my slot at the Green Man Café. My first impressions of the site were how beautiful Glanusk Park is. Nestled amongst the mountains on the banks of the Usk, the scene took my breath away, even as someone that had spent plenty of time exploring the natural wonders of Wales. The location couldn’t help but put you in a brighter mood and had a soothing effect on the people wandering about. My experience of most festivals prior to this was of crowds and queues for everything, terrible food, shit beer, horrifying toilet and washing facilities and people bumping and barging in the rush to move between stages. In contrast, at Green Man 2006 there was space – acres of it – and as a result there was time to slow down, appreciate your surroundings and the magic of music. The food and drink was excellent, and I’d spend all day planning what meal I was going to have to warm me up in the evening (Pie Minister was always a safe bet!).
The Green Man Café was situated in a gorgeous courtyard, with walls all around creating a natural amphitheatre. My slot was late in the afternoon on the Friday and though it had rained hard all afternoon, it stopped right before I started playing. The crowd slowly emerged from the sheltered bar into the open courtyard and I started tuning my guitar. I was expecting to be extremely nervous, but as soon as I stepped on stage with my friend and accompanist Eoghan ‘Wally’ Walsh I felt uncharacteristically relaxed. We played a lot of brand-new songs, including ‘Waiting for Jane’, which I’d written for a girl I hoped would be there. Sadly, she wasn’t, but a month later I played it at a party we were both at, we went out and we’ve just celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary! I finished with a drinking song I’d written called ‘Fish Out of Water’ about going on the piss with a fish, which went down particularly well. The audience were warm and supportive and the generous reception we’d received left a smile on my face for the entire weekend. I’d hand-made a bunch of CDs to sell, featuring artwork by the brilliant artist Daniel Lazenby and we shifted most of them.
People were coming up to me all weekend to say how much they’d enjoyed the set. As you know, I played the courtyard several times after that in subsequent years and each year it felt like we were building a tradition together. I feel very privileged to have been invited back to play so many times and to have had the chance to get to know you and Danny and the kids a bit too whilst you were living in Cardiff.
One of the things I really admired about the Green Man was that there was respect and appreciation for music in the Welsh language. Music festivals in Wales often chuck all the Welsh language bands in a single location, as if the audience wouldn’t be able to handle hearing music in another tongue and can steer clear. But at the Green Man you gave the audience some credit and Welsh language acts were interspersed throughout the festival on a variety of stages and slots. It was primarily a festival by and for music lovers, perfectly able to appreciate good music in whatever language.
The music in 2006 blew my mind. Here were my heroes John Renbourn, Bert Jansch, Wizz Jones and Meic Stevens performing on the same bill as many of my favourite new artists, like Richard James, John Smith, Voice of the Seven Woods, Andrew Hockey and A Hawk and a Hacksaw. The Cardiff music scene was there too, represented by Vito, Euros Childs, Richard James, Charlotte Grieg and Cymbient (who can forget Pullman’s ‘playful streak’?). Green Man 2006 was a year of new inspirational new discoveries too. I was marvelled at the excellent musicianship of artists like Jack Rose, Alasdair Roberts and Gareth Pearson and the fine songwriting of Marissa Nadler, James Yorkston and Fionn Regan. I can remember stumbling across Fionn playing ‘Be Good or Be Gone’ and the tune stayed with me all weekend and for years afterwards. My Silver Spurs comrades Ellie and Rhodri had turned me onto Calexico and I’ll never forget the sheer joy of their live set complete with Mariachi section.
At the end of it all, after Calexico had finished, the Silver Spurs gathered on the terrace overlooking the main stage to drink and sing until the small hours. I remember Rhodri trying to get me to play duelling banjos and scolding me because I didn’t know my scales well enough (I still don’t!). We were joined by passers-by all through the night who stopped to sing or just to listen. It was the perfect way to wind up a glorious weekend of music and I felt proud to have played my part in it, small though it was. As I’ve intimated throughout this piece, Green Man 2006 gave me and other young musicians like me a sense of belonging, a family and dare I say it, a scene that we were a part of. In the years that followed the goal for me and many of the musicians I knew in Cardiff was to write music good enough to earn the much coveted invite to play at The Green Man Festival.
I was profoundly grateful to you and Danny for giving me the chance to play that year, and I’ll remain so forever. I never thought I would find such a welcoming audience for my nerdy Welsh language guitar thing, but you and Danny put me on that stage and there they were. I can never thank you enough, but here’s one more anyway. Diolch o galon!
p.s. I can’t find any photos of us on stage although I know some exist! If I track any down I’ll let you know.
More photos from 2006, this time from Stu Laws.
Thanks so much to you all for sending me these fabulous memories! X