Where: Pilton, Somerset, UK
When: 22nd-26th June
Who: Muse, Adele, Coldplay, Beck, Disclosure, Foals, Tame Impala
Price: £230 (including camping)
Glastonbury is the greatest festival in the world, always has been, always will be. I’m still not falling for this whole money-driven fashion parade that is Coachella, or the one-dimensional all love-emulating Tomorrowland, even arguably Britain’s next-biggest festival Reading/Leeds is simply four or five stages plonked around kebab vans. What separates Glastonbury from the competition is difficult to put a stamp on, impossible to define, and much much more than words on a website. This year it was no different, with even the festival’s ‘worst ever mud’ not enough to put a damper on the weekend. Here, I’ll try my best to put into words how good it was.
Friday was the start of an incredible weekend, with arguably some of the best acts booked in to play. And it all kicked off with a disappointing performance from Skepta, disappointing because I only managed to catch his last song, of which he performed with the usual British passion, all-supporting BBK clan, and the expected undeniable conviction. The next big thing in grime, the 19-year-old Novelist was who followed, leading angered ‘Fuck David Cameron’s following his resignation, through potent political lyricism and a venomous flow.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra played a heavily rained on afternoon set, but despite the weather and a few mic issues, the New Zealand-based psyche rock group oozed class and looked as though they should belong on a much bigger stage. Vince Staples was also an accomplished performer, despite standing at no higher than 5ft9, Vince was well and truly in charge of his hour set at one of the festival’s biggest stages. Blue Suede went off. And despite a fairly mediocre album, Jack Garratt gave easily one of the weekend’s best performances with a jaw-dropping and utterly intoxicating Friday afternoon set.
Fred V & Grafix and North Base kicked things up a notch with some stellar drum and bass sets, which brought me to my first predicament of the weekend- techno legends Underworld, Icelandic mourners Sigur Ros, or the [I thought] always-reliable Disclosure. I decided to watch the first fifteen minutes of the former, and the rest of the latter, and it’s probably one of the worst decisions I’ve made. Underworld brought their renowned techno brilliance to an as-excellent veteran crowd, while Disclosure played nothing but a flat uninspiring bore. Credit for their visuals and the attempt at emulating The Chemical Brothers’ stadium status, but the entire set lacked punch, any guest vocalists worth talking about (Sam Smith, Eliza Doolittle, Gregory Porter) and the setlist was also particularly disappointing. The house duo traded fan favourites such as Grab Her!, Help Me Lose My Mind and Voices, for tired fillers from their sophomore– Nocturnal, Moving Mountains, Magnets. Legends of their respective genres Carl Cox (house), and Shy FX (jungle) brought the first day of Glastonbury to a close with unquestionable class.
New wave five-piece Squeeze kicked off Saturday through teases of sunshine, and while certainly coming to the end of their glittering career, still brought a whole lot of joy. The massively underrated Washington DC rapper Oddisee brought along his band Good Company for an impressive lunchtime set, while Jagwar Ma serenaded the other side of the festival with psychedelic electronic vibes.
More predicaments came my way with the difficult choice of ska legends Madness, or the ever-growing Snakehips. I opted for the latter, who unfortunately didn’t impress as much as they did at Cardiff’s X Fest, a warm reception to All My Friends is always moving, but I would have preferred some more of their own material, as apposed to easy crowd-pleasers such as Soulja Boy’s Crank Dat or Drake & Future’s Jumpman.
I was forced into more decisions with the clash of Tame Impala (of which I’d already seen), Geoff Barrow of Portishead’s side-project Beak>, and a rare live set from Floating Points. Tame Impala got the nod, and while set-opener Let It Happen blew me away, the rest of the performance failed to live up to the start. The visuals didn’t work at all against the bright sunny evening, and the psychedelic vibes were lost in the vast space that Glastonbury’s primary Pyramid Stage brings.
Shortly after, Scottish synth-pop trio CHVRCHES restored some of vibes lost at Tame Impala with Lauren Mayberry progressing immensely as a performer since the last time I saw her two years ago. Gone was the shy timid young girl who looked out of depth, and in her place was a confident, unmistakable pop power who absolutely dominated The Other Stage, Glastonbury’s second-best stage, which is actually bigger than the Pyramid.
The talking point of the weekend, Saturday night headliner Adele, proved why she is one of the [if not the] biggest artists in the world with a touching, yet completely grounded and hilarious hour and a half set filled with anecdotes, hi-jinks and emotional singalongs.
Sunday began with a massively frustrating performance from one of the music industry’s biggest posers- Jeff Lynne who performed all of his ELO hits. Bizarrely playing the Sunday afternoon ‘legends’ slot, a slot that’s previously been blessed with actual legends such as Lionel Richie, Dolly Parton, Tony Bennet and Dame Shirley Bassey. Glastonbury and Lynne must have some kind of deal going on behind the scenes, because in no way shape or form he is in the same bracket as the above, although he does have a recently-announced tour in full swing, convenient that. Lynne strode out onto the Pyramid Stage like the cock of the north, as if he had done this ol’ thing a million times, rocking a posey leather jacket, and deep dark sunglasses despite the heavy rainclouds gathered. Not a shred of respect, dignity, humbleness, not even an anecdote or any more than a ‘thank you’ following the end of each song.
Maribou State were disappointing also, arriving twenty minutes late, and playing one of the most timid and quietest sets of the weekend, trading in funky house synths and sun-kissed vibes for measured and uninspiring baselines. However, garage hero Craig David impressed a huge crowd with his hybrid of singing, rapping and DJing, with girls swooning and boys nodding approvingly to one of Britain’s musical treasures.
Deciding not to spend the last night of Glastonbury by myself like I was forced to do back in 2013 (opting to see Tyler, The Creatorand Sub Focus over Mumford & Sons) I went along with my troupe to one of my least favourite bands- Coldplay. I felt that Earth, Wind & Fire were more deserved of my attendance, but that’s one of Glastonbury’s downsides- there’s so much going on that you’re guaranteed not to see everyone you want.
But in fairness to Coldplay, they know how to put on a show. While there were of course the achingly cheesy and typically Chris Martin moments, it was still a good thing to go along and watch, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it. While everything Coldplay turns my skin from a musical perspective, the light up wristbands, the touching sentiment to the recently deceased Voila Beach, the humble and completely appreciative attitude towards the crowd, the Barry Gibb guest spot, and the Michael Eavis-assisted finale, were all absolute triumphs. While it’s not the sort of thing I would ever pay to go and see, I really can’t fault Coldplay for their stellar finale to the greatest festival in the world.