Think of Glastonbury and the first thing that pops to mind is probably welly boots and rain. Not since 1992 has there been an entirely dry Glastonbury weekend. This year, Glastonbury turned 40 and that all changed with temperatures soaring across each of the 4 day festival well into the late 20s. Started way back in 1970 the day after Jimi Hendrix died tickets cost £1 and the 1500 strong crowd were treated to free milk and a set from Marc Bolan. In 2010 that figure was closer to 170000 with a hugely diverse lineup across not one but 45 stages. Glastonbury has grown into something bigger than a music festival, a sprawling tented town packed tight like Manhattan a fusion of cultures from across the world. Alongside music the festival attracts performers from theatre, film, the arts and even boasts its own circus. Like every forward thinking modern town you can eat some of the healthiest food on the planet, drink wonderfully tasty spicy chai at 4am or get a massage to relax in the healing field. That’s the beauty of this place, not only can you party all night long but you can recover in style and have an experience to wash away all the stresses of the modern world. The atmosphere at Glastonbury is unbelievably friendly with music fans from newborn babies (2 onsite births this year) to folks in their 80’s all united by the common factor of a love of music arts and having fun.
Arriving on site everyone is gifted a Glastonbury canvas bag part of the festivals drive to lower the human footprint left on site and a neat way to encourage people to stop using plastic bags post festival. With a big effort on recycling and the recent installation of solar panels on the roof of organiser Michael Eavis cow shed (Mootel) it’s clear being kind to the environment is at the forefront of the organisers minds. A mechanical bin that spits out rubbish at passers by is a thought provoking art work that landed its creator two free tickets.
After some tea and scones in a tented tearoom it’s time to catch the first live music of the weekend, Beardyman. If you’ve ever waited round the edges of Bryant Park in NYC to watch one of their free summer movies then you know the chaos that ensued when they eventually opened the tent for Beardyman’s Thursday afternoon set. From empty to beyond capacity in seconds many were left to sit outside and soak up the glorious sunshine. For those inside Beardymans Stevie Wonder number went down especially well.
The second treat of the day involves a band from California and a rammed out Queens Head Stage. Local Natives are creating lots of buzz and the packed out tent know it. Every word of every song echoes round the circus like tent, the uplifting harmonies of songs like ‘World News‘, ‘Airplanes’, ‘Sun Hands’ and ‘Warning Sign’ let everyone know the weekend has arrived! The set even produces the first celebraty spot of the weekend, none other than Emma Watson form Harry Potter jumping around backstage.
Glasgow legends Optimo round off the energetic part of the night in the Stonebridge Bar. If all the dancing and load music gets too much then theirs the peaceful Stone Circle, perched on the hill above the vast site. This magical area is perfect for building fires and meeting lifelong friends to watch the sunrise emerge form the lantern lit night sky. It doenst get more surreal than this especially while listening to birds singing over balloons whistling to the sound of half the hill inhaling nitrous oxide! With so much diverse entertainment on offer the only problem with Glastonbury 2010 is remembering to go to get some sleep!
Friday kicks off the festival proper with 80 year old Rolf Harris opening in front of a packed Pyramid audiance. Their is much affection for the painter entertainer and many are dressed as Rolf or sporting Kangaroos on their heads. Some festivals have to bribe the crowd with a chance of free tickets to dress up, at Glastonbury it somehow comes naturally. Some of the strangest outfits include 5 full size penguins, a frog, some rather sinister stilted angels and a Victorian gentleman being pushed towards the stone circle perched on a rather large piano.
Over a breakfast of hot granola suffocated with milk rumours are starting to circulate concerning the special guest on The Park Stage. Contenders include Arctic Monkeys, Arcade Fire, Jay Z and even Radiohead. I decided to take a walk up and get the scoop. The Park Stage is way up on the hill close to the Stone Circle and is overlooked by a vast tower with streamers that flutter in the wind and twinkle at night. For anyone prepared to line up for at least 10 minutes the tower gives some breathtaking panoramic views of the enormous festival. The Park Stage is curated by none other than Emily Eavis and for anyone interested in new music has arguably the best line up of any stage on the festival. The walk turns out to be more than worth the trip, it may be early but backstage I spot Thom Yorke, Emily and Michael Eavis in conversation with a reporter and photographer from The Guardian. So its confirmed Radiohead, or at the very least Thom Yorke will be the special guest on the Park Stage. Unable to contain my excitement I rush down to catch Frank Turner in a rammed Queens Head Stage. Before his set Frank confesses his favourite dressing room in the world can be found in the Oran Mor in Glasgow, he also lets slip he’ll be playing a secret acoustic slot at the Strummervill Stage late into the night.
‘I’ love coming to Glastonbury , I’ve been loads of times and usually get completely fucked up, but this year I’m going to stay sober and for the first time might even get a proper shower at my friends house’
Reports from Strummerville Stage suggests Frank was being overly optimistic on the staying sober front! Frank has tent bulging and a crowd who seem infatuated by the solo set, ‘The Road’ going down particularly well.
Pheonix at the Other Stage excite before its time to run over to watch Snoop Dog at the Pyramid Stage. With no neds at Glastonbury Snoops bouncers turn out to be the scariest part of the weekend, dressed in suits looking like they’ve been plucked straight from an LA nightclub their intimating aura is certainly huge contrast to the chilled vibe of the rest of the festival! Snoop is followed on the Pyramid by the preppy sounds of Vampire Weekend who look slightly out of place on such a big stage, nevertheless with tunes like ‘A Punk’, ‘Run’ and ‘California English’ they just about carry it off.
Before Mumford and Sons at John Peel Stage there’s time to catch rising Scottish band Meursault over at the BBC Introducing Stage. Always a man in the know for many things but especially new music, Chris Cain from We Are Scientists said ‘I just got their new album and I really love it’. They opened with their epic ‘Crank Resolutions’ from said album All Creatures Will Make Merry. Further on in the chat with Chris he lets slip he is looking forward to seeing Frightened Rabbit,
‘Gary from Snow Patrol took us to Nice N Sleazys in Glasgow a few years back to see this band he was raving about, that was Frightened Rabbit and I been a fan ever since!’.
Safe in the knowlage that the Park stage special guest will not be Will Young (who is thankfully ligging not playing) it’s an easy choice to forgo Dizzie Rascal and the Gorillaz. As rumours circle that it might actually be Radiohead there’s no need to think and the half hour hike to the Park Stage begins. The Park is rammed and the anticipation of something really special is building. Thom Yorke emerges on stage to ‘The Eraser’ before the crowd is treated to several solo tracks. It than gets really exciting as Johnny Greenwood comes on for Idioteque.
‘Karma Police’ follows and the crowd refuse to let it finish as a mass singalong of ‘I Lost Myself’ stretches for several minutes before Thom Yorke joins back in! With the Glastonbury 40 sign above and views of the whole sight beyond the stage this really is something of a treat. The element of surprise make this the highlight of the entire weekend, closing with ‘Street Spirit’ the crowd really cant believe their luck in witnessing such an intimate Radiohead performance. At Michael Eavis traditional Sunday morning press conference he hinted almost in the same breath when asked about U2 headlining in 2011 that Radiohead made a great headliner this year. The full set is below:
Street Spirit (Fade Out)
Theres not many festival where you’d see Thom Yorke strolling round in a straw hat with his top off but throught the weekend thats exactly the sight on several occasions as he patrolled the area around the Park stage, maybe he was taking in the atmosphere in preparation to headline the Pyramid in 2011!
Next up in this hectic day of back to back quality bands are the Flaming Lips. Earlier in the day singer Wayne Coyne was stomping round the backstage area with his son. Wayne is responsible for the funniest line of the weekend as I overheard him say to his kid in his OKLAHOMA accent
“look I told you already, you cant smoke pot until your 12!”
what an awesome dude! Sky full of confetti, a choir dressed completely as orange Munchkins and a front man emerging from a pulsating vagina in a huge inflatable balloon. Apparently the feeling of complete happiness all this produces is all par for the course at a Flaming Lips show! Its not easy taking pictures when there are what feel like hundreds of massive balloons emerging form a vagina landing on you! This memorable set confirms why the Flaming Lips are such a draw and are a excellent way to close the Other Stage for the night.
You might expect with such a ridiculously good line up that the evenings bands are all done already. Think again, because up at The Park Stage Label mates to Radiohead and one of the hottest emerging bands of the last year The XX are providing the conclusion to Fridays proceedings (on the big stages at least). Their Glasto debut at The Park Stage show is decidedly low key compared to their Saturday set at the John Peel STage where they were joined by FLorence and The Machine. With a full moon as a backdrop to the sublime beats of tunes such as ‘Heart Skipped a Beat‘, ‘VCR’ and ‘Crystalised‘ their set makes you wonder if all this is a dream, or if a festival really can be this good!?
The XX then head over to the Stonebridge Bar to dj with Micachu and the shapes, Jamie Klaxons (more on him later) and a very wasted Guillaume from the Golden Silvers!
Saturday its back to the Park to catch the perfectly scheduled Beach House, sitting on the hill taking in the atmospheric rhythms of ‘10 Mile STereo’, ‘Norway’, ‘Used to Be’ and of course ‘Walk in The Park’, Beach House are the perfect tonic to many a fuzzy head!
The quiet serenity of the Park though has to be traded for a run down to the Other Stage to catch Brooklyn’s finest The National. The hit packed set includes ‘Anyone’s Ghost’, ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’, ‘I’m Afraid Of Everyone’, ‘Conversation 16‘ and the rather appropriate ‘England‘ from their glorious new album High violet. Classics such as ‘Mistaken For Strangers’ and ‘Abel‘ follow before closing with ‘Fake Empire‘ and the rousing ‘Mr November’. The National are responsible for one of the albums of 2010 and have an equally impressive back catalogue.They are back n the UK for a full tour including Glasgow in November.
Saturday night also has a Secret Special Guest at the Park Stage. Tonight though the secret is not so secret with Biffy Clyro flags everywhere stating they are indeed tonight’s special guest. On arrival at The Park gates the hill already look rammed and shortly after security close the gates as the field is running beyond capacity! In broad daylight this feels strangely like a headline set in front of a crowd peppered with Scottish flags and stretching solid all the way up to the Glastonbury 40 Years sign on top of the hill. To cries of ‘moan the Biff’ (apparently a phrase started by Frank Mcdonald an early supporter and college friend of the band) orange trousered Neil runs round teh stage like a man possessed. Biffy rocked out with
That Golden Rule’
‘Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies’
‘Glitter And Trauma’
‘Who’s Got A Match?’
‘Many Of Horror’
The last time I caught Biffy was at Glasgow’s 13th Note way back in 1999, Neil and Ben were carrying their own gear onstage and selling tickets after for their upcoming King Tuts show, personally seeing them play to so many adoring fans was surreal. They headline 2 Sold Out nights at Glasgow’s SECC later this year.
Slightly stunned from the Biff, it was time to head down to The Pyramid and watch the Scissor Sistors and very special guest Kylie.
Searching for something more intimate the decision is made to go watch fellow New Yorkers the Phenomenal Handclap Band up at the Queens Head Stage. Tunes as good as ‘Dim the Lights’ and ‘15 to 20′ make this a trip well worth the effort.
With Muse restricting photographers allowed into the Pyramid pit (to big publications) I decide to kick back and enjoy their set. The same happened last year with Bruce and the clamour to get a shot resulted in a panic attack, this year it would be inappropriate to get stressed at Glastonbury! The huge production of lights was overshadowed by the special atmosphere created from two flares set of during the set. Muse even roll out The Edge for the encore with a cover of ‘Where the Streets have no Name.‘ Apparently after the set the Edge asked Michael Eavis (not clear if he was joking or not) if he was getting paid for this. Eavis replied ‘I honestly don’t know but I thought you were doing it for fun!’. He also hinted in will be at least another 3 years before U2 will headline the festival. Eavis went on to say ‘We finally got a headliner in MUSE’ maybe a reference to the fact many belive Gorillaz slightly bombed on the Friday having being upstaged my a man who continually exposed himself during their set! Muse played:
Supermassive Black Hole
Map of the Problematique
United States Of Eurasia
Time Is Running Out
Where The Streets Have No Name (U2 cover) (with The Edge)
Plug In Baby
Knights of Cydonia
At this point lesser festivals send everyone back to their tent (you know the ones), at Glastonbury though The night is still young. From the Pyramid the next destination is the Rabbit Hole. The Rabbit Hole is an area featuring secret tunnels and requiring a special password to get in. The vibe is very Alice in Wonderland! Such a strange enchanting area is exciting enough but throw in Jarvis Cocker to the mix doing a surprise DJ set and it all starts to feel too good to be true! That’s the magic of Glastonbury, 4 days in a surreal world where anything seems possible.
On route though a random bespectacled man is asking people for their opinion on The Edge ‘did he suck or not!?’ this random bespectacled man turns out to be none other than Chris Cain from We Are Scientists. We decided to stroll together to the Park where him and Keith were heading to party with Keith Allan, Lilly Allen, Alexa Chung, Alex Turner, Jarvis Coker and Jamie from the Klaxons. Jamie was apparently setting the record for longest continuous boozing session without sleep of anyone at the festival - every time over the weekend we stopped by the backstage Park Stage bar Jamie was holding rolly polly competitions with anyone who was game including several members of The Big Pink and Local Natives, although it cant be confirmed if he asked Thom Yorke to join in or not!
In a blink Sunday arrives and Frightened Rabbit kick off the action on the Other Stage. Their first time at Glastonbury draws a large crowd considering the very early slot! Scott Hutchinson announces
“we were lucky to make it hear we broke down in our van in Switzerland on Thursday and it looked touch and go for a while’
he then proceeded to have a chat with a crowd member before launching into to the uplifting ‘Modern Leper’ and tugging the heartstring with the glorious ‘Good Arms Versus Bad’.
Meanwhile Dublin group Villagers were treating the Park Stage to highlights form their debut album Becoming a Jackal. Next on the Other Stage and kicking off the Sunday Brooklyn takeover (Grizzly Bear, We Are Scienetists, MGMT and LCD Soundsystem) were Springsteen esk rockers the Hold Steady. One of the best live bands on the circuit their passion and energy set the crowd up nicely for the England Germany game (we all know how that turned out)!
Back up to the Park stage there was a treat in the upcoming Californian band Avi Buffalo, haling from Long Beach and with tunes as good as ‘Whats it in For?’ and ‘Where’s Your Dirty Mind’, you’ll be seeing more of this lot in the coming years. While Avi Buffalo charm the chilled out crowd there are many strange goings on to explore nearby. You can get a Mother Love tattoo in support of The White Ribbon Alliance or you can make a poster at the arts and crafts tent. If that all sounds a little too energetic you can get some shade drinking home made Chai or even get married. Yes get married, in a caravan above the park stage matchmaking was the order of the day. Pick someone from the crowd and if it all goes well you have a 10 minute relationship and get married at the end. My bride ran the caravan and after signing I realised I might very well now be married! In 2010 Glastonbury also has its very own University on site and a Speakers Forum tent hosting discussions as diverse as the proposed shut down of BBC 6 music to proposed Action on Climate Change.
The party atmosphere that surrounds Glastonbury peaked on Sunday evening with founder Michael Eavis joining legendary performer Stevie Wonder on stage for the most special of ‘Happy Birthday’ send-offs. We can all be very thankful that 40 years ago Eavis decided to start a festival and not pursue singing career!