30th June, 2010

Glastonbury Festival 2010

I’m back from my fourth trip to the Glastonbury Festival, where I celebrated its 40th anniversary in sweltering heat with 180,000 other lunatics.

I last went in 2004 (full report). My first time was back in 1995, for the 25th anniversary, when it was equally as hot, and I had hippy hair.

Simon Collison with long hair in 1995

Figure 1: A long-haired me at Glastonbury, 1995.

The unique thing about Glastonbury is that the festival itself is the centre of attention, not necessarily the bands, the entertainment, the performers. It’s the size of a city, spanning much of the Vale of Avalon, and until you go, you can have no idea of the scale of it, nor it’s magical, erm… vibes. Surely no festival anywhere in the world can match it.

My musical highlights

So, like I say, it isn’t just about the bands, and it pays not to be too determined to try and see everything. The site is so vast, there is no way one can run around between stages trying to catch everything. This year I really chilled out and went with the flow, especially due to lack of sleep, lots of alcohol, and my inability to cope with three solid days frying in rare English sunshine.

So, here’s a sketchy top eight of my own personal musical highlights, in no particular order:

The Flaming Lips

What’s not to love about The Flaming Lips? Epic show, a stage full of costumed dancing oddballs, balloons, confetti cannons, and Wayne treading the crowd in a giant ball. Add lasers, weird naked dancing girl backdrops, some massive songs, and typically hippyish between-song banter about leylines and peace, and you have the perfect Glastonbury band. I smiled throughout, literally beaming during a rousing Do You Realize.

The Cribs

The biggest surprise, I think. Three albums in, they’ve perfectly honed the noisy indie anthems thing. I didn’t own any Cribs albums until yesterday, buying them all on the strength of this performance. Best track is probably We Share The Same Skies, which features utterly perfect Smiths-esque Johnny Marr guitar goodness. Quite fucking overwhelmed to watch Johnny Marr playing, to be honest.

The National

I was really looking forward to this, and wasn’t disappointed. They’re more angst and noisy live, and tracks from High Violet and Boxer were performed with real vitriol at times. Highlight may have been England; utterly beautiful, yet rounded off with some top quality grunting.

Field Music

I love the album Measures by these Sunderland monkeys, but was really impressed seeing them live. Lots of interchanging of vocals, guitars and drums and technically incredible songs. A bit 80s at times, but sort of better for it, and often nice angular guitar stuff a bit like their pals The Futureheads.

Laura Marling

Now, I love Laura Marling, but even more so after trekking up to the Park Stage just before sunset to watch this brilliant performance, with loads of tracks from Alas I Cannot Swim and I Speak Because I Can. She’s only 20, but sings with so much experience of life and shit that it blows my mind.

Muse

I’m not especially into Muse, but I can’t deny they have some massive songs and put on one hell of a show. I watched from right at the back, with maybe 90,000 people in front of me. The lights and lasers were special, but man, the noise they make is earth-splitting. So much more powerful than you can get from the TV. The Edge came on and did Where The Streets Have No Name. Even that was bloody amazing, and I hate U2.

Cymbals Eat Guitars

Noisy yet melodic Staten Islanders with a singer called Joseph Ferocious. Greg recommended their Why There Are Mountains album and I haven’t looked back.

Bombay Bicycle Club

I really like this band, and live they seemed to cut the mustard, although somebody should kill the sound man as it was too fucking quiet! Anyway, despite that, they were ace and I still play I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose weekly.

Also of note

I also saw a bit or all of sets from The xx, MGMT, Editors, Tegan & Sarah, The Bees, Broken Social Scene, Two Door Cinema Club, The Orb, Reef, Wild Beasts, We Are Scientists. All good in their own way, but not enough to get their own blurb on this post.

As you’ll see, I pretty much avoided the Pyramid Stage, as it was all a bit “safe” this year, and I prefer noisy tents and the Other Stage. That said, part of me wanted to go and watch Shakira, but not for entirely musical reasons.

Glastonbury flagsFigure 2: Flags and dry, dusty ground near The Other Stage.

Biggest regrets

My biggest stupid decision was to go with 70,000 others to watch the England football team lose spectacularly to the Germans, when I could have been watching the sublime Grizzly Bear. I watched their performance on the BBC Glastonbury coverage, and am now even more upset. Bloody stupid England team.

I also missed a surprise performance from Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood on the Friday, although after being awake for 35 hours, driving 200 miles, drinking seven or eight pints and being baked alive, a sleep was preferable, trust me. I also had to leave earlier on the Sunday night, so I missed the headline performance from Mr. Stevie Wonder. Never mind.

Until next year…

So, after a lengthy hiatus, I now feel like I’ve got Glastonbury back in my veins, and intend to make the effort again next year. I expect biblical rains, seas of mud, and plagues of locusts, but I don’t really give a shit. Glastonbury is incredible, whatever the weather throws at it.

Glastonbury aerialFigure 3: Glastonbury from the air (image from the BBC website).

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