I have described in detail the days’ activities below but if you don’t want to read the day by day and band by band reviews I have tried to summarise the weekend as follows.
Following the same plan as last year it’s a quick coach trip from Bath to site where we undergo the trudge through what is soggy footing although not quite full wellington weather to our camp just outside the Glastonbury site.
I have described before the sheer scale of the site. A rainbow of thousands of brightly coloured tents line our whole walk and the site extends to pretty much as far as the eye can see. Hidden areas appears around every corner and performers surprise you at every turn with makeshift stages popping up and impromptu music strikes up although stages are not always required as we bump into the roving pink brass band on several occasions over the weekend.
Glastonbury is a feel good festival with no edge. Tolerance is key and despite the gloomy weather and the ever worsening conditions underfoot over the weekend the mood is always light, warm and friendly. There’s always a helping hand to any mud stranded individual coupled with a little good humoured laughter whenever there’s a near prat fall into the sludge.
Whilst the weather during each of the days was not too bad and even hot at times the damage of a wet June meant a sodden base for the festival to start. And they quickly deteriorated. Conditions underfoot meant a compromised experience as the sheer effort to get around easily took its toll. In a week when were are commemorating the Somme I now know what they went through albeit without someone trying to kill me. There was little meandering and exploring but a definite plan of getting from A to B. Still new areas such as Strummerville and the Woods were seen and nothing could dampen the live music experience.
A very different experience to last year, still with the same high standards of musical entertainment but not so much of the other delights that Glastonbury offers.
After the hike across the whole width of the site from coach drop off to our humble abode for the weekend it’s a couple of quick beers to recover and plan the day. The best plan was not plan and so we wandered off back on site for a general mooch around. Music doesn’t start proper till tomorrow but there is plenty going on. We took in the odd band performing on outside areas and stopped for anything that looked interesting. Weather is kind and while the site is by no means dry, wellies are not yet required and its T shirt and shorts all day.
We end up in the usual late night slot at the Avalon Café to see Loyd Grossman, yes that Loyd Grossman, and the New Forbidden. Arriving on-stage to the chants of ‘We love your pasta sauce’ it’s a fun filled hour with singalongs, more chants and general good humour. The biggest surprise is that he’s actually an accomplished guitarist. In the interests of pacing, as we have an early start, we retire around 1.30 to our luxurious accommodation, i.e. tent, for the night.
Conditions underfoot are still OK and walking shoes still do the trick.
Dan Stuart and the Twin Tones
Former Green on Red front man Dan Stuart opens the festival with an 11.00am slot at the John Peel Stage. He is supported by an all Mexican suited backing band the Twin Tones. It’s a mixture of old and new and it’s a solid start to the weekend.
Next it’s a skip across site to the Acoustic Stage to see twin sisters Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas for their spin on British country. A nice mix of old and new stuff, great harmonies and they can certainly hold their own in the really competitive field of female country artistes at the moment.
The Temperance Movement
William’s Green next for British blues rock band The Temperance Movement. They are fronted by a completely manic Glaswegian, Paul Weller lookalike who moves like Jagger with Liam Gallagher’s swagger. He just does not stop moving for the next forty minutes. What he does have is a classic British blues voice in the mould of Paul Rodgers. They rock like the proverbial and I’m exhausted just watching. Excellent stuff. During this set though the good lord thought he would make his feeling known on Brexit by unleashing two torrential downpours. We seek solace back at base camp for a beer or two to regroup change up to wellies that will never leave our feet for the next three days. We also had the interesting experience of being in an inflatable igloo type bar that developed a power problem and started to deflate with us in it. Reminiscent of Indiana Jones the ceiling started to rapidly descend onto us. 50p in the metre and its back up just in time.
Suitably attired we start the first of many treacherous journeys across site to see the mighty ZZ Top on the Pyramid. Good fun, good tunes, good times.
Next it’s off to West Holts for one of my must sees this year, White Denim supporting their excellent new album Stiff. And they don’t disappoint. The sun is back out and it’s a gloriously hot late afternoon although dodgy underfoot. The band have clearly brought their west coast feel sunshine from the new album to Glasto and its great stuff.
This was always going to be an interesting choice for us down at Leftfield and today of all days post referendum I was nervous on how much music we would hear and how much would be rant. I have never seen Billy Bragg before and was certainly looking forward to the musical element.
Bragg was clearly on a mission and thankfully he used all of his frustration at what the country had done and channelled it into a stunning set of classic songs with the right balance of impassioned politicising. You may not agree with his politics or even if you lean to the left not everything he said but it was emotional stuff and you couldn’t help be moved. If only the real politicians showed some of this passion.
From the acoustic to the bombastic as we catch up with Muse. It was tipped to be a great show and it was. I’ve always quite liked Muse and for a three piece they have a massive sound and the light show was just stunning. A real stadium band if there ever was one.
3 Daft Monkeys
Off for the late night show at the Avalon Café and it’s a bit of fun with the Monkeys. Nothing special and probably exactly the same set as last year but a good way to round off the night. Conditions underfoot have been getting steadily worse throughout the day and we retire cautiously to our camp.
The sound of rain on canvass through the night was never a good sign. It’s a bright sunny start to the day but the mud is now widespread, deeper and more dangerous. Getting anywhere is now a challenge and careful planning and replanning is needed. Certain areas of the festival were dismissed as too difficult to get to but a full day was still on the cards
They’ve had their ups and downs the band but at the end of the day they have written some classic pop tunes over the years. It’s a greatest hits collection with a couple from the new album and certainly no one would have left feeling short changed. Cats, Junction, Goodbye Girl, Take me I’m yours they were all there plus my all-time favourite Tempted. A shame Paul Carrack couldn’t have joined them for that as he is also playing today but you can’t have everything.
St Paul and the Broken Bones
It’s a sticky trudge round to the Other Stage to see always excellent St Paul and The Broken Bones. It’s a big crowd and they absolutely nail it. They just get better and better with Paul Janeway now really controlling his mighty voice. He puts on a real show on the big stage, writhing on the floor, losing shoes, throwing socks into the crowd. I am sure they have won a load of new fans this weekend.
Retiring to camp for a shower and beer to provide necessary refreshment for what looks like to be further tiring trudges through the swamp.
Back to the Acoustic Stage to see Carrack. A long career behind him it’s amazing to think that How Long was the first song he ever wrote. Not a band start. Well received by his audience its safe music for the oldies.
And safe is not a word used to describe Tame Impala. A big fan from their start I hadn’t seen them live and I thought an interesting choice to be essentially the support act for Adele as I can’t see much audience crossover there. An excellent psychedelic set punctuated by much hilarity as a stream of people getting stuck in a mire next to where we were standing. Lost boots and much falling over prevailed but on a serious note I imagine things would get worse once the sun had gone down and these trenches were invisible.
No Adele for us as I find her voice overbearing starting at level 10 and moving up. I’m sure the 150,000 or so that saw here had a great time but we hit the Avalon Stage to see Turin Brakes who are back together. It’s been 15 years since the Optimist LP and thirteen since we last saw them. It was as if it was yesterday and the years just rolled back. Great harmonies superb songs and the new ones sounded good too and this was one of the highlights of the whole weekend.
Hobo Jones and the Junkyard Dogs
A Glastonbury institution but I confess to being on the wane at this stage. The sheer effort of getting anywhere is taking its toll and a hot bath and king size bed is what’s required. Instead it’s a folding chair in a muddy tent. Foresight had packed a hip flask and the whiskeys warmth had the required restorative effect.
Hobo Jones are a punk skiffle folk rock band or something like that. The Saturday night slot for them is a drunken rowdy sing song, with special guests, a marriage proposal and many laughs. And it always ends with their classic country boy. YouTube it. Great stuff and provides the necessary energy for us to get back.
It’s a busy and ambitious schedule today given the conditions but first stop is the Pyramid Stage to pick up my Coldplay wristband. Not that I’m a fan but thought it would be good souvenir. Graham very reluctantly after a bit of badgering gets one too grumbling about why would he want one but more of that later.
This is the Kit
Mellow start to the day at William’s Green. Kate Stables and her band ease us into Sunday morning perfectly with a blend of quirky songs and the first use of leg bells and foot tambourine of the weekend. Muse missed a tick there I think.
What can I say about this band? One of my favourites. Always great to see them, it’s just good quality North London country. Brilliant and no Rockingbirds set can be complete without ‘Jonathan’.
A quick sprint, ha ha, or mud slide onto the Pyramid for the legends slot on Sunday afternoon. It’s a big crowd and the rain just starts as they come on stage but it didn’t matter. Its feel good pop music and after fifty minutes I didn’t think there were any more hits left but I was wrong. A slick show and the dark skies meant you could appreciate the light show. It even stopped raining briefly for Mr Blue Sky.
Band of Horses
The fine rain persists as we trudge away to the John Peel stage to arguably my favourite contemporary band. Despite the current and last album not being up there with their best they have at least half a dozen stone cold classic tracks. The set draws heavily from the new album and certainly the two or three standout tracks from the album hold their own but it’s ‘Laredo’, ‘the Funeral’,’ The great Salt Lake’, ‘Is there a Ghost’ and the beautiful ‘No one’s gonna love you’ that moves the writer to slightly damp eyes. Stunning.
Contrast back to the Pyramid and Beck is an interesting choice as support for Coldplay. A long-time fan I’m not convinced it worked on the massive outdoor stage. All the hits were there but it was a little flat and I think most of the audience probably only knew one or two songs. I enjoyed it though.
With the rain still raining, my legs still aching and with no intention of seeing Coldplay we ventured as far away as we could for a dry environment, a seat and a beer. And so we found ourselves at the bar outside the Acoustic Tent. The sound is so good in the Acoustic tent you don’t actually need to be inside to hear every note clearly.
Nervous that this could be a shriek fest what we were treated to was the obvious hits but also a fine country set. The screech was reigned in and actually Lauper does possess a fine voice. One of the highlights of the weekend for me.
At around 9 my wristband comes to life alternately glowing and pulsing a rainbow of colours. Along with a lady sat at our table we have our own mini disco for an hour. Graham’s however reflecting his lack of enthusiasm for the thing refuses to even glimmer once.
I suggest we catch the last twenty minutes of Coldplay to see the spectacle of 100,000 wristbands in action. My reluctant friend relents as he laments his least favourite Coldplay song ‘A sky full of stars’. We arrive at the Pyramid to see Barry Gibb on stage jiving it up to Staying Alive which was then followed by you’ve guessed it Sky full of stars. It is at that precise minute that Grahams wristband finally springs to life as if to taunt him.
Whilst I could care less for their music they know how to put on a show and the sea of colour was truly amazing. We could have done without Michael Eavis’ version of My Way but as a spectacle it was unsurpassed.
No late night for us tonight as exhaustion hits us as we make our final traipse up to our tent for a warming nip of whisky or two.
The enthusiasm of last year to talk about doing it all over again is not quite at the same level and talk is little more circumspect. It’s been an exhausting, yet musically fulfilling weekend with around 22 bands seen and over half never seen before.
Monday sees a pain free quick journey home where a shower and bath just begin to lift the grime for my aching body. See you next year….. Maybe.