Not sure if it was mentioned, but the ultimate UK festival that is Glastonbury took place last weekend for its 49th run of proceedings. Matty Dagger reports…
Attended by over 200,000 people from a widely differing pool of cultural backgrounds, it’s clear that the mass appeal of Glastonbury Festival lies within its catering of many, many interests within music & arts. This being said, quantity does not override quality, and it is done on a ridiculous 9 mile parametric scale.
Looking past the superstar central of the Pyramid & other main stages, there are dance tents around the clock for the pocket mischiefs, acoustic areas for mid-day Pimm’s sippers, punk stages for the signs of the timers, and even off-kilter hidden areas for festival veterans to massage their elitism (this was a minority amongst genuine folk enjoying themselves, but a good quote was overheard from two bores commenting on someone at The Stone Circle; “He looks all very, ‘my first festival’, if you know what I mean?” – Have a day off you frippets.)
The steady rise of British rap phenomena was a central showcase of the weekend, not only by Friday night headliner, Stormzy, who during his set name-drops two major highlights of the weekend; Little Simz & Loyle Carner.
The genuine elation at being there from the respective artists did not go unnoticed, as they both displayed heart-warming insights into the paths that led them to their current platform. Such soft-centredness, however, did not discount the sheer power within Little Simz’ vocal attack, that seamlessly hopscotches in and out of her band’s rhythmic timing, making the loping grooves seem like a simple game that she has already mastered at the age of 25. This is further evident in her cameo on bass guitar for an instrumental jam – a bold move in front of a largely brand new audience.
Loyle Carner swaps playful bravado for a purely honest display in front of the largest crowd that he has ever performed for at The Other Stage. Whilst shouting out to his Mum in the side-lines at least 4 times, he breaks down all the stone cold preconceptions of what it takes to be a hip-hop sensation, and yet still emerges the coolest kid on the block. ‘The Isle of Arran’, arguably his most heartfelt piece, transfixes the crowd as Carner recounts past traumas, and by the time the soul sampled chorus takes place, tears are present. (Not by me, honestly..)
Jazz-Pop prodigy Tom Misch appears to add a buoyant touch before an on stage marriage proposal(!!) takes the emotion to new levels within the set, before ‘NO CD’s infectious bass riff has a sea of hands bouncing to the memorable conclusion of a serious milestone for the 24 year old South London rapper.
The biggest disappointment of the weekend was not an artist, but a stage – The Park Stage, which was the setting for some of the most anticipated sets of the weekend, including Idles’ first ever Glastonbury appearance & Foals’ secret set. The majority of people who had arrived yet failed to get a place in front of the too wide/tall sound desk were left in elbow-to-elbow dismay at the non-existent view and the subpar sound that could’ve been better provided by Air Bed Dave’s portable dock at his stall. To control the overcrowding, shows of this level may have benefited from taking place in The John Peel tent, which was suitably rammed yet enjoyable for Fontaine’s D.C. Apparently, however, The John Peel suffered from similar crowd control issues during The Streets & Gerry Cinnamon, which is disappointing on Glastonbury’s part as organisers on the whole.
It is impossible to just skim over Fontaines DC’s first of four appearances throughout the weekend, which they performed as a step in for Sam Fender – who must’ve been dreadfully ill to cancel such an opportunity. It was just last November that the Dubliners were playing venues the size of Night People, Manchester – yet when they take to the John Peel Stage, the tent becomes a cavernous pit of anticipation; they are already at home within the grandeur, and they are welcomed.
Every song is greeted like an old friend despite debut album ‘Dogrel’ being a matter of months old. There’s a rambunctious drinking spirit in the air, and the crowd happily obliges. Fontaines DC aren’t just about getting plastered though, as the songs hold much deeper-rooted lyricism. Such well-versed intelligence paired with unsettling stage presence provokes a real disturbance, and their lack of facial emotion doesn’t give much away either. Their poker face is broken as the guitarist scales one of the side holdings. They’re enjoying themselves after all, and they don’t half deserve it.
Tame Impala’s Friday night headline on The Other Stage was a glitzed-out affair. The glamour coincided with Kevin Parker’s current phase in his transformation from psych-prog loner to global pop superstar. The laser tricks keep things interesting for most of the way through, but the material felt as if it was plodding along at times, which borderlined on the tedious.
The Chemical Brothers’ Saturday night set had a similar air of tediousness to it that mainly relied on the visuals to stay interesting. The mind-bending displays intended to unnerve the senses, in which they definitely succeeded. But by only teasing the audience with snippets of their biggest hits, a lot of engagement was lost. However, as most people there will tell you, you’re not supposed to go and watch The Chemical Brothers to try and give a clever review on it. Should’ve had more berocca…
Another band making milestones at the festival was The Blinders, who were the next opportunists in replacement of Sam Fender on The Leftfield Stage. With Liam Gallagher belting out Oasis classics for fun just around the corner at The Pyramid, the Manchester based outfit do brilliantly to pull in the crowd, as they entice passers by with their own stamp of psych-punk snarl that’s resonating beyond the tent entrance. It’s clear how much this slot means to them as they rattle off tracks from their album ‘Columbia’ released in 2018, standing them in good stead to return for Glastonbury’s big 50th.
The most fitting of finales comes from Robert Smith & The Cure, who’s set feels like a masterclass on what to do when you have 70,000+ people looking at you. Smith barely bats an eyelid throughout the 2 hours and yet still nails the role of messiah. There are no-frills or gimmicks, with his temporary retreat to behind the drums to “get back into pop-mode” being the closest thing to a costume change.
With a catalogue spanning 41 years, each song provokes cheers of delight from different pockets of the crowd, depending on their preferred era, until household classics such as ‘Friday I’m in Love’ create mass eruption. ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ ends proceedings as the revellers disappear into the night to enjoy their final hours at the festival.
The clean up has already begun as dump trucks get to work, surrounded by festival security so that any owl-eyed punters don’t mistake their flashing lights for a dance tent.
Sunrise comes around sooner than later at The Stone Circle, and reality slowly dawns. Midweek sickies are planned over the final two cigarettes, and conversations shift towards the hope of getting tickets for next year.
It’s yet another successful outing for Michael Eavis and co.