So I’m back from Glastonbury 2010 (the 40th anniversary!). It was hot, sticky (TMI?), busy, noisy, smelly, but above all… bloody marvellous. I’ve been twice before (2003 and 2004) and despite being underwhelmed by the headliners this year there was plenty to draw me to the ‘other’ stages. Highlights for me were Mumford & Sons and The Black Keys at John Peel on Friday, Laura Marling and Midlake at The Park on Saturday, and (of course) Orbital on the Other Stage on Sunday.
This was my festival…
I arrived on Friday morning at 11 ish and headed straight for the Park area to find a campsite. I was aiming for Park Hill or even the Dairy Ground as I knew Pennard Hill would be packed. I lucked out when I saw a couple of people moving pitch and grabbed it - just off the path to the south of the Dance field opposite the Other Stage. Away from the hedge, slightly in shade, and flat. Perfect.
First up was Seth Lakeman at Crossiant Neuf which was very busy and I didn’t have a great view. He sounded on top form though. After a bite to eat, I wandered back past the Tipis to The Park for the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble then back up through the packed markets to get my first proper view of the Pyramid. Snoop Dog was on, effing and blinding and doing this thing so I made for my destination for the evening, John Peel, via the Dance Village.
Two bottles of water and a slice of pizza later I arrived just in time to see the end of Ellie Goulding (in very fetching hot pants and flailing blond hair) and snaked my way under the canopy (John Peel is the only big stage that is covered by an enormous ceiling which turns to whole thing into a sweaty greenhouse). Mumford & Sons were fantastic and even though I wasn’t a massive fan before, I am now. Surprisingly quite a few people left after and during their sound check, I got further forward for The Black Keys. Another amazing set, with most songs just the two of them and Patrick drumming his heart out. There was what seemed like a huge wait for the headliners Groove Armada. I had never seen these guys live and they are Glastonbury veterans and (from what I had seen, and heard) always put on a good show. I was not disappointed as they mixed new stuff with old with a very energetic new front woman Saint Saviour on vocal duties. A mesmerising laser show was a visual highlight.
I got up surprisingly early on Saturday morning and headed straight for the Green Fields and stone circle. Lots of people about, not all of them conscious. I got a couple of bacon bagels and an energy drink smoothie (I didn’t ask what was in it but it did the job) and went for a sit down in the sun.
First band of the day was Coheed & Cambria, back at the Other Stage, who made a glorious racket. A huge crowd for early in the day and lots of talk of Kate Nash later. I had a tough decision to make and one that I had still not made. Do I stay at the Other Stage for The National or head for the even busier Pyramid for Seasick Steve and then The Dead Weather? Over some lovely Mexican chicken, rice and beans and lime iced tea I mentally flipped a coin and made for the Pyramid. One of the reasons was The National (who were bound to start late) clashed with Thea Gilmore at Leftfield and no matter how hard you try, the irony of actually being at Glastonbury is that you can’t see all the bands. Seasick was great and a real crowd pleaser (he got a girl out of the audience for Walkin’ Man) but most of the hangers on didn’t really get White and Mosshart in what was more of a dark downbeat set. They would have been better on a smaller stage later in the day. Some odd song choices too, especially from the new album Sea of Cowards. Apparently The National were superb but not really a ‘festival’ band - something contradicted by the guys I was chatting to on the train on the way home.
So I did manage to get to Leftfield for most of Thea Gilmore’s set. Again it was packed but very respectful and Thea was resplendent in a gold and white sleeveless t-shirt. The guitar-free Icarus Wind was incredible. I wanted to meet Thea but thought that she would think I was a creepy stalker or something. And she seemed to vanish after the set. So from one superb female to another - Laura Marling at the Park. I had heard that she was on stage at 7:30 which made little sense as she was on second from last. Turns out it was 9.30. So when I got there some band (I assume it was the surprise set from Biffy Clyro) were just finishing and then it was Candi Staton. I had a wander around The Park, got a horrible hotdog and a beer (first of the weekend) and headed back for what was another brilliant night. Staton showed Florence Welch exactly how to sing You Got The Love and Marling was with her band which worked better on The Park stage and I’m sure a couple of new songs (maybe older ones) slipped by. The headliners were the majestic Midlake, again full of emotion and energy with the songs from latest album The Courage Of Others. Even the news of The Edge joining Muse on the Pyramid didn’t drag me away from this one.
Wanting to make the most of the festival (and still buzzing from Marling/Midlake) I had a quick trip over to Shangri La, Block 9 (this place is weird) and Avalon (I resisted the urge to venture too far into the Cabaret areas). There is always plenty going on ‘after dark’ including strange puppet shows, fire throwers/eaters, and circus acts. There was a huge crowd singing round a campfire (turned out this was Bombay Bicycle Club). I thought about seeing Oli Brown at Bourbon Street but a) he was due on at 1am, b) I couldn’t find the place, and c) I was knackered. So I called it a night.
Woke early on Sunday but didn’t leave the tent until 10 - and only because it was just too hot. Got a late breakfast, juice and coffee and went to the Other Stage for Frightened Rabbit. The Joy Formidable were finishing up in front of a sparse crowd as I found a decent spot. Taking full advantage of a big venue, Frightened Rabbit were excellent mainly thanks to material from the brilliant Winter of Mixed Drinks album. Then it was Norah Jones at the Pyramid. Got some water and fruit and sat down on the grass with a good view of the central big screen. A really mellow set from an artist I had fallen out of love with in the last few years. Discarding piano for guitar (maybe because she was ‘opening for Slash’), the Johnny Cash cover Cry, Cry, Cry was great.
Then was the small matter of the World Cup. The festival opened a field especially to show it and thousands of people made their way across the grounds. Including me. I wish I hadn’t. I was hot and tired. I didn’t need to be annoyed too.
Back to the music, and with slightly deflated spirits, I always try to see a new band (new to me anyway) at Glastonbury and this year was no exception. And I hadn’t been to the Queen’s Head yet so Field Music followed by I Am Kloot was a tempting prospect. I got an early snack and wandered over. Not sure about Field Music but Kloot were great - again I’m not a huge fan but recognised many of the songs. And it wasn’t that busy.
For the final stint I had another choice. This could be (and I would be surprised if it wasn’t) my only chance to see Stevie Wonder live. But getting anywhere close to the guy was impossible. Likewise this could be LCD Soundsystem’s last big gig and I would never see them. And given that I had discarded Orbital for Muse before, and the mighty Hartnoll brothers were headlining, I gave up Faithless and Wonder and spent an exhilarating night at the Other Stage. I don’t think James Murphy was expecting a crowd at all, let alone one as big and full of energy as LCD Soundsystem got. The set was a bizarre mix of reworked hits (a very funky Daft Punk Playing at my House) and more straight-forward new stuff from This Is Happening. As you would expect most people were actually there for Orbital and after another long wait, the finale to the weekend kicked off. Opening with the blazing Satan, a cornea shattering light show complimented what amounted to a supreme DJ set of continuous brilliance, all topped off with a surreal appearance from Matt Smith (the new Doctor) and a rousing rendition of the Doctor Who theme. Even Smith seemed to wearing the classic ‘head torch’ glasses as he helped on the decks.
So 17 artists in three days and the site bathed in sunshine. I didn’t get to see Stevie but apparently he was everything his genius would suggest. Even with the finale duet of Happy Birthday with ‘flat’ Michael Eavis.
Happy Birthday Glastonbury. Thank you.