Festival Review: Glastonbury 2010

on Friday, July 09, 2010
Words: Kieran Toms

Festival: Glastonbury (23rd-27th June 2010)

Man vs Piano vs Tricycle
Memories of Glastonbury 2010 - the unusual and extraordinary always seeming correct, appropriate. I remember walking around and seeing a man riding a piano-cycle sideways, playing an old-fashioned tune and people glancing for second or two and after a moment’s wonderment thinking - this is normal for Glastonbury.

It was hot. This wins you little sympathy. It was Glastonbury after all. It was very hot though. Very, very hot. And waking at half eight or 9 due to a sweltering tent, and spending a whole day under the unforgiving sun makes you tired and somewhat drained. So perhaps I didn’t see as many bands as I might have, as late afternoon naps moved from luxury to near-necessity. But I did see a hell of a lot of good things.

I saw an orchestra of kazoo players playing kazoo versions of popular hits. They handed out kazoos to children. I wanted a kazoo myself. But I’m not a child any more. I visited the circus instead of seeing any headliners one night. It was brilliant. But most of all, amidst all the Glastonbury magic, I saw a massive amount of very good performances. I saw Laura Marling on the Park Stage before going to the circus. I didn’t think anyone could be much more than an anti-climax after her, so rather than a musical anti-climax, chose a change of spectacle.

I saw Radiohead. Or at least Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood. The gamble on the "Special Guests" was very much worth it. The sun was going down behind the Park. Everyone sang 'Karma Police'. It was unbelievably good. Could scarcely believe that it was really happening, despite onstage affirmations confirming it.

Tune-Yards impressed me a great deal, despite knowing nothing of them/her before being persuaded to traipse through the lunchtime sunshine. Looping vocals and simple drum beats never sounded so good. Loop pedals for her, just as Radiohead had used one, and Beardyman used one on Thursday night to a crowd that spilled miles out of the tent.

Maybe this Glastonbury did loop round a bit. I seemed to keep coming back to the Park Stage. Tucked away up by a hill slightly, it’s a fantastically intimate place to see bands, particularly considering the scale of Glastonbury. The XX were phenomenal there on Friday, all smoke and mood lighting and brooding atmosphere. I had slipped away from a slightly underwhelming Gorillaz, who impressed with their musical ambition and quality of guests, as on record, but perhaps weren’t triumphant enough for a headlining slot.

How to fit it all in? I think (one) beauty of Glastonbury is the depth of the line-up: you are almost guaranteed to be able to see lots of the bands you really really like. So my weekend was full of performances warranting superlatives – Wild Beasts, Field Music, The National all springing to mind. I list them rather briefly, but they were all wonderful performances by bands raising their already high standards to new levels in the excitement of such an esteemed festival.

I always try to see people I wouldn’t normally go and see. Femi Kuti followed Rolf Harris on the Pyramid stage, and despite being vastly different, both were exceedingly enjoyable. I left England’s capitulation early to catch Staff Benda Bilili. Suddenly I didn’t care about those overpaid excuse-mongers fucking up six thousand miles away, so joyous was the atmosphere at West Holts, with not a soul still as a Conga line snaked through the dancing throng.

Snoop Dogg put on a great show. Definitely amongst the biggest superstar of the weekend, you feared his ego might not be up for something like Glastonbury, but he produced one of the performances of the weekend. He spent 5 minutes leading the Pyramid Stage crowd in a chant of “Ole Ole Ole”, which I presumed was a prelude to some sort of song, but no, he just looked extremely content with having the crowd in the palm of his hands, and let everyone chant it over and over whilst he conducted, before eventually abandoning the endeavour and blasting out one of his many hits.

I watched Dirty Projectors on the last night, at the Park stage once again. The quantity of audience was severely hit by the start of Stevie Wonder. But the quality was high at least, Grizzly Bear standing just behind me, Four Tet further back. One of the best performances of the weekend, unbelievable harmonies, with songs that might seem vaguely inaccessible on record taking on new life and vigour in a live setting.

But I headed to the Pyramid stage as soon as they finished, and caught about half of Stevie Wonder’s set. After a dazzling array of his innumerable hits, he celebrated Glastonbury’s birthday in glorious fashion. Michael Eavis was summoned to stage to take the crowd’s plaudits, and lead one of the stage’s largest ever crowds in a mass rendition of 'Happy Birthday'. I guess maybe it might have looked slightly overwrought or even melodramatic on TV, but being there in that field, gazing over the fruit of 40 years’ labour, it was impossible not to feel slightly overcome with the magnificence of it all.

I always feel like it is quite difficult to describe Glastonbury to someone who hasn’t been there, and it’s easy to slip into platitudes about it, and I probably have. But everyone always seems to be in an especially good mood, not just the punters, but the bands too, leading to especially good sets, and there’s so much good stuff going on besides the bands and.....well, it’s just really bloody good all round.

Register for Glastonbury 2011 here.

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