Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Glastonbury post #1: Music

I've just got back from Glastonbury, have hosed the layers of mud off myself and everything I own and am now settling back into the relative normality that is my life. What an incredible week it's been, full of friends, music and other incredible entertainment and a whole lot of food and booze. Having just put a ton of photos up on Facebook, it was great to be reminded of the broad spectrum of cool stuff we did and saw and I really hope we get to do it all over again next year.

We arrived on the Tuesday night, to beat the traffic and queues. We excitedly took the selfie below when we arrived, after parking up and opening the first of many, many cans of cider. It was great to discover the following day that our selfie was featured in an article on the Metro website, which you can view here. Although we got up a little later than planned, after a predictably uncomfortable sleep in the car [a Mini, no less], it was definitely a good idea getting there the night before, to beat the worst of the traffic. 

Glastonbury car park selfie, featured on the Metro website

After trudging through the site with our camping gear and bags of booze [which seemed manageable when getting out the car, but oh so heavy after walking some distance], we found ourselves a great spot to camp, just a stones-throw from the Other Stage. We made sure we camped somewhere where not too many people would cut through and make it noisy and muddy. It was a great spot, with the only downside being that one of the tractors selling soft drinks parked up very close to us each morning, so were woken nice and early each day, to the sounds of "milky milky, MILKY MILKY" and "when I say MILK, you say MOO" and other dairy selling 'banter'.

We camped a stones-throw from the Other Stage

The wonderful Thrill Collins unofficially opened the festival on the Thursday, being the first band to play, entertaining a big crowd at The Bandstand. We know them well, as they're also from Cheltenham and always go down fantastically well wherever they play. Their repertoire consists of 80s, 90s and naughties pop covers, reworked into skiffle masterpieces, with a guitar, double bass, cajon and vocals. You can expect amazing skiffle covers of songs by Backstreet Boys, Dolly Parton and Journey at a Thrill Collins show and if they play their infamous Rap Odyssey if you go and see them, you're in for a treat!

The mighty Thrill Collins unofficially opening Glastonbury

Kaiser Chiefs opened the Other Stage on Friday morning, with a [very badly kept] secret set, followed by Blondie. Both bands were brilliant and it was great to see Debbie Harry still sounding wonderful and putting on a great show. The programming of these bands seems very ill-thought-out however, as there was a fairly small band [The War On Drugs] playing on the Pyramid Stage at the same time. The draw of that band was too small and the crowd for Kaiser Chiefs and Blondie was huge, which led to a dangerously busy crowd in the Other Stage field, with the crowd not able to move after these performances. It's never nice to be packed in tight to a crowd, whilst trying to move and simply not being able to due to the volume of people.

After escaping the madness in the Other Stage field, we headed to a much more relaxed Pyramid Stage, where we watched the insane guitar skills of Rodrigo y Gabriela. I'd heard that they're impressive to watch and they certainly didn't disappoint. They had cameras on the end of their guitars, so you had close up views on the screens of their epicly fast and intricate guitar skills, including using the body of their guitars as percussion. They don't sing very often, as it's mostly instrumental, but we were treated to an incredible cover of Creep by Radiohead.

The sky had been looking a rather ominous dark shade of grey and black all day. We headed to the Acoustic Stage mid-afternoon, nice and early before the Fishermen's Friends, so we could shelter from what looked like an imminent storm! The Fishermen's Friends were only two shanties in to their set before an announcement was made that the performance would be suspended and the power cut, due to the thunder and lightning storm that had started outside. Overcautiously I'm sure, but also a bit worryingly, an announcement was also made to stay well away from anything metal within the tent. I've never seen rain like it, bucketing down outside and what looked like a waterfall washing down the sides of the tent. Amazingly the Fishermen's Friends weren't going to let a storm ruin their performance. They moved around the tent to sing their sea shanties, so that everyone could have a chance to hear them sing acapella. They stopped right next to us at one point, which was really exciting. Apparently several other bands on other stages did something similar, although sadly this wasn't possible for Rudimental on the Pyramid Stage due to the size of the crowd and the nature of their electronic music!

Port Isaac's Fishermen's Friends singing acapella in the Acoustic tent

I've recently bought Paolo Nutini's new album Caustic Love, which is fantastic, so I was excited to see him live on the Friday night. He was wonderful live, with impressive visuals lighting up the stage. My favourite track from his new album is Iron Sky, which features the voice of Charlie Chaplin, from his speech that goes viral every now and again, called The Greatest Speech ever made, which you can listen to here. This song was so powerful when performed live and I'd love to go and see Paolo Nutini again after this cracking set. The only disappointment for me was his live reworking of Pencil Full Of Lead, which is usually cheery and great to dance to. His live version was wonderfully performed, but slower and with a serious edge to it.

We spent a lot of Saturday wondering around the amazing Theatre and Circus areas, which I'll write another blog post about later this week. We saw bits of a few bands, including the last couple of tracks of Lana Del Rey's set, before meeting back up with my sister Sarah and her fiance Max to see Smoke Fairies, who they're really big fans of. It was a small crowd, which seemed a shame as they were a great band. They had a few sound problems, but still put on a good show. Max was delighted to get one of their set lists at the end - his third Smoke Fairies set list to add to his list of bands set lists at home!

Smoke Fairies on the Williams Green Stage

Emily and I watched some of the Manic Street Preachers and it was awesome to hear Design for Life played live, which was their finale. We then headed over to meet up with our friends at the Pyramid Stage to catch the end of Jack White and to see Metallica. Jack White is a fantastic performer, but about as weird as they come! We didn't see much of his set, but did arrive in time to see him spectacularly fall over his drummer and land in a messy heap on the floor looking very confused! As a huge fan of Lego, I was excited to see an animated Lego advert for the British Red Cross on the screens, while waiting for Metallica to come on stage.

As you probably know, there was some controversy surrounding Metallica playing Glastonbury, due to lead singer James Hetfield's passion for bear hunting, which isn't really in-keeping with the festival's ethos. Despite being a vegetarian and lover of animals, I decided I'd be happy to go and see Metallica despite many people saying they would boycott the performance. There are plenty of other bands with bad personal lifestyle choices who I would go and see. 

Sadly I realised I made a bad choice and left the performance after a couple of songs, mainly due to their creepy and obnoxious opening video, played on the large stage screens. This depicted a fox hunting scene, following by bears shooting the hunters off their horses, before pulling off their bear heads to reveal the Metallica band members. The band were effectively sticking up their middle fingers to everyone who had made a fuss about them playing and it definitely felt weird and wrong that this was playing on the Glastonbury Pyramid Stage. Whether it was because a lot of people boycotted the performance, or because Metallica and heavy metal in general don't really fit in with Glastonbury, the crowd was not particularly busy compared to what you would expect from a Saturday night headline slot.

I'd heard that whoever Glastonbury had planned to headline the Saturday night had fallen through, so Metallica where a fairly late booking. Hopefully some lessons were learnt by the powers that be at the festival, as Metallica were definitely musically and ethically out of place. We headed back to our tent, where we were able to sit comfortably in our chairs with a great view of Jake Bugg, with great sound quality too from so far back.

 Lego British Red Cross advert on the Pyramid Stage screens

We headed over to the Pyramid Stage nice and early on Sunday morning to see the English National Ballet. Emily and I both really enjoyed this and thought it was a great opportunity to see it, despite both of us not being interested enough to pay to go and see a full show. 

The main name on everyones lips was Dolly Parton, who was playing the popular Sunday afternoon slot, which is reserved for seasoned legends such as herself. A reported 100,000 festivalgoers watched Dolly on the Pyramid Stage and she was a wonderful performer. We were quite far back and to the side, so we weren't in the best place to soak up the atmosphere, but we still loved it. We're going to find the show online to watch it again, as we feel like we'll appreciate it more this way. Hearing that many people singing 9 to 5 was pretty cool, it has to be said and it was funny to see Dolly play the Benny Hill theme tune on a tiny saxophone! I'd heard someone earlier in the weekend joke that Dolly also wasn't very in-keeping with the festival's ethos, as her face isn't biodegradable!

We stuck around after Dolly's performance to see flame-haired Ed Sheeran play a great set and a few tracks off his new album too. I had bought his new album a few days earlier and it has some lovely tracks on it, including Thinking Out Loud and Sing. There's a great mixture of slower and more uptempo songs on the album. Ed's live performance was very good and it was cool to see him doing clever looping of songs live. The only negative thing I have to say about the performance was that he was too keen to do lots of crowd-participation, which may have worked in the middle of the crowd, but was certainly lost to those of us stood a bit further back. It did feel a little bit like a pantomime at times!

We headed over to the Field of Avalon to see Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit later in the evening, who I last saw nearly three years ago at Lounge on the Farm Festival in Canterbury. This was definitely one of the highlights of the weekend for me, as he sounded better than ever and had his biggest backing band to date performing with him, including his sister singing and playing various instruments. We sat outside for the last song, as our feet were getting pretty achey. Out of nowhere appeared Michael Eavis and his wife, so we sprang to our feet, thanked him for his wonderful work and got this snap with him. It was truly an honour to meet him. I've met a lot of amazing and famous people through my job, but this was by far the most starstruck I've ever been!

Emily and I with Michael Eavis

After calming ourselves down, we headed towards the Silver Hayes dance area, catching the last few Ellie Goulding songs on the way. She has such an incredible voice, but she is so mousey and timid when she talks between songs! When we got to the Sonic stage in the Silver Hayes area, we saw the end of the Parov Stelar band, who play some very lively and funky tunes, which I'm going to check out online now I've stumbled across them. It was lovely to bump into our friend Jemma too, who had been working at the festival on a live interactive feature in the Block9 area, with the Roundhouse crew. I'll be writing about this interactive feature later in the week as it was weird and wonderful!

To close our Glastonbury music experience, Emily and I were really excited to see Above & Beyond, an uplifting trance act who I've really liked for a long time. They write messages to the crowd on the screens during their performance and they just seem like such lovely and genuine guys. I've seen a bit of their show before at Creamfields and even met them backstage, but I was particularly excited to see them at Glastonbury as it was such an unusual place for them to perform. Last time I saw them they were playing in an 8000-capacity tent. Due to the huge range of other stuff going on, plus clashing with Disclosure and Massive Attack, we got to dance to Above & Beyond playing to around 500 people in a fairly small tent! It was an incredible experience and I'm really pleased I managed to get this snap of the stage during Thing Called Love

Above & Beyond on the Sonic Stage on Sunday night

Check back soon as I'll be writing another couple of posts about other aspects of Glastonbury. Thanks for reading!

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