So, somehow Fiona and the team pulled off the impossible with a few weeks to go and pulled out a blinder. Considering everything, it may go down as the best. According to the programme TBA seemed to be the hardest working group of the weekend, but it showed how much work the organisers were still doing in the short lead up to the event.
Luckily we’d won Settlers tickets a couple of years ago and finally got to use them. How great was it to be back - we’d missed it so much, as evidently had everyone, including the performers, stewards and crew?! As ever, I loved the random encounters with strangers and overheard snippets of conversations as people wander past. All were unanimously positive (toilet conversations excepted) and so appreciative.
We arrived on the Monday, planning to spend the night back home on Wednesday to regroup, and take advantage of the facilities. This proved to be impossible in the end, so we had a full week of festival fun. It also meant my brother could come for the first time who was unsurprisingly blown away and is planning to come back with his whole family next time. Amazingly, despite lasting until the very end of each day and nearly drinking Brecon Brewery dry, I felt surprisingly ok on the next Monday (albeit very tired)
I hit the Settlers bar in the afternoon and worked my way through the three offerings from Brecon Brewery. Growlers’ (Pale and IPA) were lovely as ever but highlight was the new Last Mango. Can we get this added to the selections in the main bar/s please?
I basked in the luxury of not having to work and spent most of the days chilling, drinking and reading. Food choices were limited but very good - pizzas were lovely, Indian Street Food fab and the bacon rolls and lamb samosas etc from the shop, sublime
Music selection was great, curated by Libertino Records. Highlights include Graft Union, Jim Ghedi and Toby Hay, Amelyi, Eve Goodman, Nfamady Kouyate, Bandicoot and Taf Rapids. Most fun was the drag act by Ade HD who had the crowd wrapped around her finger at 1am and included a mass pint downing from everyone. She also did storytelling for kids in the daytime which was brilliant. If you’re a teacher, book her immediately! Nfamady Kouyate played at least 4 times over the week as far as I can tell, so must have been exhausted by the end.
Comedy was fun, as was the quiz. Tried the Stargazing which was fascinating but missed out on Silent Disco - looked like the crowd were having a blast though.
The main event kicked off to lovely sunshine on Thursday. The weather was truly amazing, considering the forecasts. Apart from an overnight deluge we only had a couple of hours of rain on Saturday which led to some serendipitous discoveries we wouldn’t have made otherwise, so all good.
I recall Thursday music starting teatime-ish previously, so it was nice to have an afternoon programme as well this year. That said, we missed Wet Leg and Shovel Collective, but did catch a bonkers set from Lynks, dressed in a sequin onesey with horns, who were great. FO opened the sides up (due to Covid I’d imagine) which I preferred but did cause sound bleed issues occasionally listening to quieter stuff in WG. Tried a weird non-alcoholic cocktail (Sentia) that promised to mimic the effects of real booze via GABA - the jury is still out TBH. The evening was spent wandering (Horseman did a solid reggae set in CW), so didn’t catch much in the the evening either, but still had a fab time.
Friday kicked off with the customary Bloody Mary and Kedgeree and we settled in the Walled Garden for Fenne Lily,Home Counties and Katy J Pearson. Fenne lacked a little stage presence but was still enjoyable and the other two were great. Headed back to pick up wine, then more WG - Vanishing Twin & GreenTea Peng (both fab). My wife was at front of GTP but rejoined us as at the back as she was getting too high from the amount of weed being consumed. Then over to FO for Shame who were magnificent (with an orchestra!), Caribou, Nfamady, Charlotte Church and Ross from Friends. I’d seen RfF at Farmfest a few weeks ago but this set was even better. Looking down into the Mountain Stage for Caribou it looked like the biggest audience I’d ever seen there. Was very emotional to see so many people back together once more. Ended up at CW until 4 then back to van. Great DJing as ever from DoS and a perfect way to see out the night. Top treat: Goat Curry from Caribbean Shack plus Ginga Ninja’s from CWs
Bleary eyed, we headed out on Saturday into a deluge, Unfortunately, Gwenifer Raymond (who was a must see) lost out and we took our BMs into CWs and caught a highlight of the weekend, Ayanna Witter-Johnson on cello who was sublime. Wolfed down one of the American Hamburgers from nearby, which was amazing (even more so as I’d mistakingly ordered the double!) and then Sound of the Sirens followed who were fun. Finally the rain had stopped so we left to see Richard Dawson in the sunshine on the Mountain Stage who was astonishing as ever. Over to FO for BC Camplight, then This is the Kit, Gruff Rhys and Mogwai on MS. It was nice to see Sweet Baboo playing at GM again (with Gruff) but wished he did a solo set as well. I believe he played with a few other groups according to GM Radio, but am unsure who they were? Kit and Gruff were great, but Mogwai left us cold, so over to Walled Garden for Hen Ogledd (another highlight). In between, at some point, we caught Pictish Trail who are firm favourite and were brill. Watched DJ Rap tear the roof off FO, and finished up at CW for DJs until 4. Top treat: Jerk Chicken from Caribbean Shack
Sadly, Sunday came too quickly but we took our BM and bacon roll from the Smokery and camped at Mountain Stage. Musically the curation here (and the WG) was perfect for the end of the festival vibe (in glorious sunshine as well). Billie Martin was amazing, as was Matt Maltese. I’d bumped into his Canadian parents just before, who were lovely and so proud. Saw the end of Broadside Hacks (phenomenal), a bit of Phoebe Green, and then Erland Cooper who was stunning. Staves have gone all Fleetwood but still some of the best harmonies out there, Thundercat was, well Thundercat, but Fontaines blew the roof off. Last live act of the festival was Will and the People who were exceptional and blew the crowd away. We finished off with a bit of Northern Soul in WG, some more DJs from CWs and the last film (BlackBear) which was suitably nuts. Top treat: Rum BBQ Chicken from Caribbean Shack (sense a theme here….?) plus Usain Bolts from CWs.
Top 5 (cheating coz no.1 is actually 2 but they were both amazing)
Shame - mesmerising, loved the orchestra addition too
Ayanna Witter-Johnson - never heard of her, but amazing stage presence and musicality
Hen Ogledd / Richard Dawson - astonishes me every time
Fontaines - ferocious end to the night
Will and the People - most fun with your clothes on (that said the took off most of theirs)
Just missed out
Erland Cooper - haunting and spellbinding
GreenTea Peng - woozy, dreamy beats, captivated the crowd
Home Counties - witty, driving motorik post punk
Katy J Pearson - folky, electronic beats, entrancing
Vanishing Twin - dreamy, electronic beats, entrancing
Pictish Trail - only artist to play every GM, always excellent
Billie Martin - lovely way to start the last day
Broadside Hacks - great folk collective
DJ Rap - old skool beats, blew the sides off the tent
BC Camplight - dreamy, sunshiny beats, entrancing
This is the Kit - played with Rozi, always beautiful
Gruff Rhys - lovely to see Sweet Baboo again, Gruff smashed it
Gutted to have missed:
Run Come Down