There are certain very rare experiences, across many fields of human endeavour and recreation, where you feel things are going your way and are about to get better no matter what happens - that fate cannot stand in the way of the inevitable upsurge of a great time. Such was the feeling that hummed around the Far Out Stage of the Green Man on Thursday night, when the remarkable twisted sound experiments of Meatraffle drifted out into the still sunny surroundings.
Middleton's set edged it in terms of the Walled Garden's many highlights, but there were many close challengers. The gentle reflections of Steven James Adams offered poignancy, honesty and genuine warmth. Happy Meal Ltd produced an astonishing set on the Sunday, taking glam rock sensibilities, rubbing them howling into brashly displayed torsos and delivering an irreverent, musical Bronx cheer into the bargain. Throws were bewitching, yanking the founding members of Tunng back somewhere close to their magical roots. Bill Baird and band crashed through a ramshackle set of gloriously melodic tunes, a kind of slacker-embossed wonky pop that's been so good for so long and it was great to see it performed here.
The Mountain Foot offered its own delights. Belle and Sebastian's closing set on the last night was magical, a fully rounded romp through one of the finest back catalogues of modern times. Yorkston/Thorne/Khan produced a lovingly crafted live run-through of what has been one of 2016's best albums so far. Tindersticks were slickly enigmatic, with disguised musical punches popping up all over the place - everything you want them to be. And people keep telling me they don't understand why I like The Unthanks so much: whatever it is, I grabbed the opportunity to see them for a second time here and wasn't disappointed.
In any other year, that final Belle & Sebastian set would have been the undisputed highlight of the weekend. However, nine years ago Battles played a set here that I regarded - and still do - as one of the best gigs I've ever been to and it seemed too much to expect they'd get anywhere near it on this much-anticipated return. They duly smashed it. A full ten minutes before they came on the Far Out marquee was humming with expectation. Then they arrived to deliver a phenomenal set that included, among other delights, a revised version of 'Atlas' that managed to do everything the old one did, and add, incredibly, still more.
The same might be said of Green Man. I really didn't think there could be such an improvement on the many hours of exhilaration I've enjoyed at Glanusk Park in the past. I was wrong. The one cranked it up another notch, one I didn't know existed. Highlight of the year - indeed, of any year.
Green Man 2016 - A personal top ten
1. Battles (Far Out, Saturday)
2. Belle and Sebastian (Mountain Foot, Sunday)
3. Meatraffle (Far Out, Thursday)
4. BEAK> (Far Out, Saturday)
5. Malcolm Middleton (Walled Garden, Sunday)
6. Suuns (Far Out, Friday)
7. Bill Baird (Walled Garden, Sunday)
8. Yorkston/Thorne/Khan (Mountain Foot, Saturday)
9. Happy Meal Ltd (Walled Garden, Sunday)
10. Steven James Adams (Walled Garden, Friday)