It’s hard to describe the scale of Glastonbury. Hundreds of live bands, hippy healing fields (where dance lessons, massages and shisha are amongst the most normal things you will be offered) and of course, the constantly evolving, sensory overloading Shangri-la. Off the beaten track, away from the main stages, you encounter fire jugglers, traditional Mexican pole dancers, and up-and-coming artists. But you just have to accept you can’t do it all. I could write an entire book about the mere tip of my Glastonbury Iceberg; for now, I’ll stick to my music highlights.
The first thing I did upon arriving was to sprint to the Strummerville stage to catch Frank Turner’s secret set for his 1696th show. The intimate stage is the perfect way to experience his lyrically-genius songs, “designed for pubs and bedrooms.” Equipped with just an acoustic guitar and fervent voice, he had the entire crowd dancing and screaming his words back at him. As the sun broke through during ‘Love Ire & Song,’ chasing the last of the weekend’s rain away, I realised it was the best start to a festival I’ve ever had.
My heart broke as surely as Dave Grohl’s leg when Foo Fighters stepped down as Friday’s headliners, but the replacement, Florence and the Machine, put on an incredible show. Florence’s energy was contagious, and you couldn’t help but marvel at her transformation over the last few years. The heart-break did hit me all over again during her cover of ‘Times Like These’- another twist to the emotional rollercoaster. I feel that, because of the controversy surrounding his set, Kanye has to be mentioned. I wanted to enjoy it. I tried. I failed. With the only thing to impress me being the size of his ego, it didn’t take me long to join the flood of people leaving.
My moshing itch was satisfied by two bands on the Saturday; Slaves and Death From Above 1979. I was surprised to enjoy Slaves as much as I did. Their simplistic formula of drums, guitar and shouting feels primitive, and the short, fast songs are perfect for riling up fight or flight instincts, getting adrenaline pumping and people jumping. The two-man format also lends success to the recently reformed DFA 1979; however, the Canadian duo definitely have more structured songs than Slaves, songs that have agonising, tense build-ups before head-splitting drops (compared to the Slaves’ approach of: smash drums, make noise, shout… shout some more). DFA 1979’s lack of stage presence was more than compensated for by the swirling mosh pits, conjured by their pulsating bass rifts and pounding drumming.
I had a real dilemma on the Sunday: choosing between Sunset Sons and Jamie T. But I was left with no doubt that I’d made the right decision after picking the up-and-coming surf rockers; they smashed out song after song (including a cover of ‘Sticks ‘n’ Stones’ since they couldn’t believe anyone had chosen them over Jamie T), in what was probably the most fun gig of the weekend.
The Who were the final headline act of the weekend, showing Glastonbury they were deserving of the rock legend status. I’m sure it was tough choosing a set list from their 220 songs, but they selected well, playing classic after classic. My only criticism was the anti-climactic ending. A mind-blowing guitar solo by Pete Townshend to end ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ signalled the perfect time for the band to depart, but Roger Daltrey addressed the crowd again. We all expected another song, but the band just left, leaving a slightly confused feeling to an otherwise extraordinary set.
The emphasis on the 3 headline acts always amazes me; the 5 hours of headliner acts is a fraction of your festival and stumbling upon small bands on tiny stages can be much more fun. In fact, my favourite band from the entire festival fits into this category. I first encountered Land of The Giants on the Bandstand stage and I was so blown away, I sought them out twice more over the course of the festival (small bands tend to play lots of gigs over the weekend). Their funky music is blasted out with such a raw energy; it’s clear to see why they often close on their incredible cover of ‘Jump Around’. Wherever they played, the powerful trombone, pumping drums and seductive bass pulled crowds faster than Kanye lost them.
As the BBC’s coverage nears its cut off point and I finish this review, I realise Glastonbury is truly over for another year. And it’s not just the music leaving me with nostalgic festival blues – it’s the atmosphere and people. Glastonbury has that village community feel on a city size scale. Everyone looks out for each other – everything and anyone is accepted. There aren’t many places on Earth you’ll find such a diverse collection of people being united by their love of music. This is the reason why Glastonbury is the biggest, and in my opinion, the best music festival in the world, and why I will be sat at my computer October 4th later this year, ready to start it all again.