After an uneventful easy drive down we are welcomed by beautiful weather that continued across the whole weekend. Wellies stayed firmly in the car and it was shorts and t-shirt weather throughout except for the chilly evenings. (I know poor little lambs but you have to keep these ancient bones warm for fear of failure). The bright side of this weather is the ease of actually getting around this 900 acre site. The step count was over 82000 with approximately 31 miles covered over the four days.
Thursday always seems busier as there is no music on the main stages so the 200,000 people are all just orienteering the site, filling the bars and taking it all in. On top of the musical highlights it was a real pleasure for me to take my first time friends up to the top of the Park by the Glastonbury letters and then turn them around to take in the sheer scale of the site. It’s a real child’s Christmas day moment and whilst the view always delivers no matter how many times you see it the first time is special.
I’m not usually one for deep social commentary but some wings of the media and other ‘Glasto haters’ really seem to have got their bees firmly stuck in their bonnets this year. With no traditional ‘mud bath’ stories to report on the focus shifted between, poor line-up ( you can’t please everyone and I defy you not to find enough new and interesting music or events to keep you occupied over the weekend), long queues for water (never saw this apart from say at the nearest water point to a mainstage when a band had just finished but with over 800 water points the longest I queued must have been 3 or 4 minutes), why is the festival not vegan ( it’s held on a working dairy farm you idiots), selling out corporately (well apart from a Coop and the BBC the only ‘brands’ you are aware of are Oxfam, Water Aid and Greenpeace, it is a charity event after all) and finally thousands of abandoned tents (not true with 99.3% of tents taken home and the usage of old pictures is sloppy journalism at best or dare I say it ‘fake news’)
Haters are always gonna hate. If you didn’t get a ticket I’m sorry but it’s a lottery but stop whingeing about it. If you don’t like it then don’t watch it then there’s plenty of other options in this big wide world without just criticising something you probably haven’t experienced, wouldn’t have enjoyed but you ultimately feel the absolute need to comment and social media gives you this anonymous platform for a rant. Where is the love man?
So this year’s summary was 22 full sets with 17 of these from bands that I had never seen before including catching two very different sets from Vampire Weekend. With the sheer volumes of acts and sets there are always going to be slight disappointments but every band I saw offered their own moments and some absolutely nailed it. The way to enjoy Glastonbury is to embrace the four day bubble that you are living in. suspend the FOMO (fear of missing out) malaise that young people seem to live with constantly, put your phone down you don’t need to be continually checking it and to be fair I saw very little of that including very limited photo and especially video taking during sets and take it all in. The outside ‘norm’ goes out of the window and everyone here is just out to enjoy whatever the days throw at them.
So another great festival with old and new friends just doing their own thing with no judgements enjoying some great music and most importantly …life itself. With the 50th anniversary next year we will all F5ing in October for who knows what adventure.
Below is a brief review of all the bands I saw over the weekend for those remotely interested. Keep on festival rockin y’all.
Thursday 27th June
After a quick dash down the 303 we decamp at the tent crack open a couple of brews and head out to the festival proper.
Joining Andy to see his nephew’s band, three local boys from Bristol it’s a family affair with most of the Birbeck clan here to see one of their own. After some tech difficulties and a late start they rock through thirty minutes of solid guitar based tunes. It’s a nice start to the weekend’s activities.
We wandered up to Strummerville to meet the rest of the gang and enjoyed a beer or three while sort of listening to the worst kept secret show of the weekend from Frank Turner. Turner seemed to be going for some kind of record on how many shows he could perform over the weekend including a short set in our tent and on the layby going away from the site on Monday being joined by the seemingly ever present Chris Martin on backing kazoo.
Pigeon holes and labels are an interesting thing but tonight we witness an Elvis fronted Nirvana tribute band. Its sounds crazy and it is but somehow it works. The segue from ‘A Little less conversation’ into ‘Smells like Teenage Spirit’ needs to be seen to be believed. Great fun in a packed Williams Green tent.
The evening ends with a debriefing session at the Avalon Inn where the first memories are shared and thoughts turn to the first day proper.
Friday 28th June
Today’s tentative schedule seems to centre on the Park area of the site which is my favourite part of the festival. A natural bowl down to the stage offers a perfect view wherever you are. Coupled with the Bimble Inn and Crow’s Nest it offers something for everyone
But before the Park a bit of a Glasto tradition going to see the opening act of the whole festival, the first act on the Other Stage at 11.30. I have their first album but to be honest haven got anything since but they delivered a superb power pop rock set that surprised us all with how many of the songs you actually know. A big crowd for this opener that whetted our musical taste buds for the rest of the day
Trevor Moss and Hannah Lou
Relaxing on the floor, bean bags and camp beds to the lovely folk tunes of these two talented musicians who I had never seen before. But I will certainly check out when they are next in London.
Dr Alice Roberts/ Chris Difford
A short walk up the hill to the Crow’s Nest for two ‘in conversation’ sessions that both draw a good crowd. I think the summary from Dr Roberts is we are all fish and Mr Difford regaled us with funny stories from his interesting musical career.
Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real
Fresh from being Neil Young’s backing band for the past few years, Lukas (Willie’s son) and his band are here in their own right. They deliver a joyous sixty minute country rock set full of great songs, guitar solos climaxing in a barnstorming version of ‘Rockin in the free world’. That certainly blew any remaining cobwebs out
Seeking solace from the strong sun and heat we head back to the Bimble Inn where after catching the end of some Turkish Goth band up walks Tensheds. You certainly can’t judge a book by its cover as this guy dressed in black with mostly shaved head but with long shoulder length hair on top sits behind a piano and deliver what can only be described as a cross between Tom Waits, Dr John and Jools Holland with some great boogie woogie keys but delivered with a raspy gravelly voice. A surprising find indeed.
It’s back to the park for the rest of the night and first up are local punk rockers Idles. I think it’s a strange choice of stage and time (7.30pm) for them. I think the Peel stage would be more suited for their relentless aural bombardment. It’s a massive crowd but we have a good view from a respectable distance so these two fifty somethings don’t get too moshed. It’s an emotional affair for the band and a sort of homecoming as they rattle though their songs delivering social commentary on the state of the nation. It’s tiring just watching them as half of the band end up in the crowd at one point or another. Breathless tuff.
After the noise fest of Idles we take the tone down a notch or three for the sweet soul of Michael Kiwanuka. He’s no one trick pony though and the band are hot tonight delivering elongated musical jams with special props to his lead guitarist.
Taking it down even further its Cat Power for the late night closing set. Sadly, it’s an uneven set that lacks atmosphere, engagement and continuity. She was clearly being hit by on stage sound issues as she spent the first fifty minutes of her hour set complaining about the sound. The constant gesticulating was distracting but I watched most of this back on the BBC and it came across a lot better on screen
Back to regroup once again to the Avalon area we are ‘treated’ to the final number of yet another Frank Turner set.
Saturday 29th June
It’s back to the Park for a secret last minute early morning set from Vampire Weekend. After a couple of set songs the floor is opened up to the fans for requests. Random album tracks and rarities are requested and played faultlessly. Ezra and his band are having a blast and there’s a real connection with the fans. He expresses his love for the Park as his favourite stage and their jangly guitar tunes are the perfect mid-morning sound and this band bookend end the next two days.
I drag most of our Glasto gang to the Other Stage to see this talented young blues guy and his band. It’s a sparse crowd for this relatively unknown but I think an hour later there are a lot of conversions to his Prince like blues.
The Dead South
Making our way across the whole width of the site to the Avalon Stage for Canadian Bluegrassers, The Dead South. Despite a broken hand Nate Hilts leads this vagabond troupe of guitarists, mandolin and banjo plays through their synchronised routines in this packed tent. Another great feel good show of traditional music.
Rising young starlet of the poppy folky Americana scene if there is one and fresh off supporting Isbell in the states delivers a fine forty minute set of witty tunes. She is almost giddy with excitement and I’m sure she is only about fourteen but her talent clearly belies her young years.
Sharon Van Etten
A change a tone and venue as we walk again completely across the site to the John Peel stage for a masterclass in atmospheric dark rock. Visually it’s stunning and this is matched by the deep heavy grooves of the band. A real highlight of the festival so far.
The Chemical Brothers
With no real stand out headliner tonight for me I opted for The Chemical Brothers. Review of their shows are always raved about and so this was my chance to experience this first hand. Visually it was stunning with an array of clever graphics accompanying the relentless dance beat. Sadly, this music leaves me cold and this was matched by a massive drop in the temperature too that I lasted an hour before suggesting that we head back to The Avalon for our late night debrief. I guess that you need to be right down the front to let the beats completely envelop you but as a committed song person it just wasn’t for me.
Hobo Jones and the Junkyard dogs
It’s the traditional late Saturday night of shambolic folk music with Hobo Jones. With a never ending cast of guests on stage they are running so late that there is no time for their classic track ‘Country Boy’. Check it on youtube.
We ended the night at the Avalon Inn where we witnessed I’m not sure what. Blackberry Wood were a rag tag band of ‘musicians’ with a talented female saxophonist, a lead singer guitarist who couldn’t really sing or play guitar. A drummer with a single strapped on bass drum who couldn’t keep time, a cymbal player who could actually hold a tune but was rarely allowed to and then some strange woman who pranced around and then jumped down to the floor with a merch case before stripping off and dancing about the place. A truly memorable sight but not necessarily for the right reasons.
Sunday 30th June
It’s a Sunday morning gospel soul session on the Pyramid with octogenarian Mavis Staples. Resplendent in matching Glasto t-shirts after their bags were lost by the airline Staples delivers a faultless lesson in soul.
Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra
It’s an early afternoon Jazz fest with Hollywood legend Jeff Goldblum. Wandering on stage early for his sound check, his view is that the show has started as he engages directly with the crowd with his witty shtick. This completely confuses the TV people who ask him will he let them know when he will start. ‘I have’ he responds. He is joined on stage through the set with super talented Annie Ellicott who delivered the right balance of sass and swing to proceedings. There’s also time for a guest spot from Sharon Van Etten who shows her versatility after the previous nights rock show.
First trip this weekend to the Acoustic Stage for one of my favourite blues guys who I have never seen, the great Keb Mo’. He delivers a faultless relaxed and all too short blues set. A unique voice in the blues coupled with some great picking and slide too.
The Bootleg Beatles
Decanted to the adjacent Cockmill bar we can hear every note of the Bootlegs set. They do exactly as they say on the tin in a rammed tent. It drifts over you and you all have a sing along to those well-worn tunes. A pleasant way to waste an hour.
Back to the Pyramid Stage for my second helping of the Vampires for what will be a very different set to the secret show the day before. Its more hits heavy with a sprinkling of new stuff. The band don’t seem as engaged and the first interaction with the crowd is after about a half an hour. The songs are still great though but the Saturday morning set stands out as one of my highlights of the weekend.
Closing the West Holts stage this weekend is Atlanta’s Janelle Monae. For those who don’t know her, think Prince meets Madonna meets Michael and Janet Jackson. She has the funk, the sass, the licks, the moves and the tunes. It’s a fantastic production with an elaborate set, choreographed routines and funky outfits. After dazzling us with the glitz the set ends with Monae stripping to her leotard and climbing into the crowd and making her way to the centre of the field dropping to the floor and cleansing herself in the Glasto dirt.
It’s a spectacular show from start to finish, perfectly paced moving through the gears to ten and staying there for the whole show.
We make our weary limbs one last time to the Avalon Inn to meet the rest of the troops who are equally effusive about the Cure, Christine and Queens and others. A consensus is had that it’s been an amazing weekend and we make our usual pledge to do it all over again next year. Fingers crossed in October. We missed you last year but welcome back old friend. See you next year, hopefully.