A visual Glastonbury recipe, for those in America:
Stuff both Coachella weekends inside a fucked up Disneyland, substitute the pretty hipsters with crazy Welsh people, and add water. Decorate the top with flags that portray national symbols or pop culture characters or demands to hear Radiohead songs or promises of an orgy. Let those wave in the air while you stare out at the rolling landscape of a dairy farm being camped on by 200,000 people.
Besides the 14 primary stages featuring bands, there are dozens of smaller pop-up venues showcasing a wide variety of weird stuff for you stumble upon, and we stumbled upon many. It would be impossible for me to recount each one, so I’ll just review a few highlights, all things that I liked, in chronological order.
Lloyd Grossman and The New Forbidden, Thursday night, Avalon Cafe
We hadn’t even checked the program. Festival Buddy and I were out for a stroll and passed a tent playing something that sounded kinda heavy, so we walked inside. A melodic, 80s style, mid-tempo punk band was ripping it up. His voice was great, the lyrics were fun, and it was a perfect way to start the festival. They play in London quite a bit so I’ll definitely check them out again.
Jungle, Friday 1pm, John Peel Tent
Electronic modern soul music. Beautiful vocals. Super atmospheric but without being “background music.” Really fun to dance to, and a very diverse demographic in the audience. It would be great music to play at a party. Here’s a clip: http://www.bbc.co.uk/events/errnc8/acts/ahf4wh#p021j4t1
Vintage Trouble, Friday 5:30pm, West Holts Stage
Ok, this was a mini-set so here’s a mini-review: I was super excited to see this band from California, my friend Kristen and I were both blown away by them at Coachella 2013. They played two good numbers, and a fairly large crowd had gathered (and they knew the songs!) Then an electrical storm forced the stage to shut down the show. Boo! Then the rain came. John and I frowned at the edge of the stage, drinking our rainy ciders. Finally, the band came out and greeted fans, then sang one more song acapella, the crowd demanding it. But that’s all we got. Very disappointing, but they made the most of it. Here’s a cute video someone grabbed of the band singing while the electricity was still out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsTrdJgsyGc
The Selecter, Friday 11:30pm, Avalon Tent
If I go to a music festival in the UK and I don’t hear some old skool British ska, I’ll have felt like a failure. The English appreciate ska better than anyone, and dancing around with a bunch of drunk old dudes who you can tell have never stopped listening to this stuff was really fun. The band sounded fantastic, and Pauline Black, the lead singer, looked beautiful.
Warpaint, Saturday 3pm, The Other Stage
Oh my god. An ex-boyfriend had sent me some videos of this all-girl rock group about a year ago. I liked it, they seemed super talented, but it didn’t blow my hair back. For a moment on Saturday I wondered if I still had hair, and if I did that I must die it bass-player pink. This wasn’t a drug-induced paranoia. I just loved these chicks. I don’t know how to describe it… sort of a Fleetwood Mac meets Radiohead. Really layered but really rock-y. A guy in our camping group saw the band twice on Saturday because they did a secret show at another tent and he’s obsessed with them.
Skinny Lister, Saturday 5:15pm, Avalon Tent
We ran into the Avalon tent for cover when the afternoon rain began to pour. This time it was Biblical. But there are worse places one could end up during a rain storm than listening to a stompy English folk band with a carnivalesque appeal. Very traditional. Fiddles and accordions and even a jug. Next time I hear them I hope to be dancing on a bar table rather than sinking into the mud.
Jack White, Saturday 7:30pm, Pyramid Stage
I adore him. Festival buddy and I were unanimous in our vote between his set or The Manic Street Preachers. He did a mix of Stripes and Raconteurs songs, most of them rearranged. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m so attached to the first way that I heard these tunes or if they really are better served in their original formats, but I didn’t like it as much as I liked those early White Stripes performances. What made the sound so impressive early on was that it was just Jack and Meg filling the room with a huge sound. Now he’s got a full band and, sure, they sound great. It’s just not as special. That said, he’s hard to walk away from. Festival Buddy and I started to split so we could grab a good spot for the next show, but just as we were about to exit, we looked at each other and smiled. He was like “Ok just a few more songs” and I’m like “yeah let’s hear a few more.” And of course they were great. Jack White’s never going to be bad. I just prefer him more stripped down.
Pixies, Saturday 9pm, The Other Stage
They are one of my top 5 favorite bands ever. I was feeling pretty sad about Kim being replaced, but there’s no way I’m not going to see them. They were fantastic, like always. The new Kim isn’t Kim, but she plays the licks and sings the tunes just fine. Frank Black and David Lovering were on top form. I got a little weepy during “La La Love You.” Then the entire audience sang along to “Where Is My Mind” with the same amount of sarcasm. That is what the Brits do best.
Mogwai, Saturday 11pm, The Park
Festival Buddy and I were having a hard time feeling our feet at this point. Before the band started we sat on a bench and drank a tea. I even put sugar in it, I was so out of sorts. A very civilized way to spend a Saturday evening. I had never heard Mogwai before but Festival Buddy insisted I’d love it and that it was a better choice over MGMT. After regaining our strength, we went up right in front of the speakers, because John said you have to hear them loud. He was right, about everything. Soooo gooood. Crunchy instrumental rock that you thrash and dance to. Funniest musical moment of the fest was during a soft, slow part of the song, Festival Buddy and I turned to each other to embrace. Just as my heart started to swell, the guitar BLARED out a loud note, almost knocking us over. So romantic. Then the old man tripping balls in front of us showcased some of the greatest dance moves I’ve ever seen. Will extract video soon.
Dolly Parton, Sunday 4:20pm, Pyramid Stage
Duh. Of course this was the best part of the festival. The rhinestone-studded corniness wove beautifully into the fabric of Glastonbury as everyone sang along to the array of hits she belted out. She was cute, she sounded great, her guitar playing was excellent, her jokes were silly but everyone loved them. I know there’s been some controversy about her maybe lip-synching, but the vocals sounded authentic to me. Plenty of waver in the voice, seemed very real.
Anti-Flag, Sunday 9pm, Left Field Tent
All I have to say about this is “FUCK YEAH!” Ah man, it’s so difficult to see authentic punk rock live these days. I honestly can’t remember the last mosh pit I was in. And it ain’t because I’m old! I’ll run around the circle pit in my wheelchair in 40 years from now if I have to! We are just in a musical phase where my favorite genre seems to be out of fashion. Festival Buddy and I learned that we’re both on the same page here as we ran around, dancing in our silly wigs. BRAG ALERT: I may have found my musical soul-mate. The band’s sound is very first-wave and raw. They lay on the politics without being heavy-handed. The set ended with some Clash tunes. That you can walk about a quarter of a mile on a farm and go from hearing traditional country music to hard-core punk rock and both sets are amazing is the true testament of Glastonbury.
Other fun moments included: The Wailers, a dance party at Arcadia that included a brass-band cover of “Sexual Healing”, and a 3 foot tall midget in the Heaven tent pretending to be Jesus.
See ya next year, Glastonbury. I probably won’t wear shorts next time.