Glastonbury Festival (26-30 June '13, Worthy Farm) // Words: Saam Das
"Welcome back to the world's best festival." It's a thesis statement that regular Glastonbury punters love to deliver, and the stewards were even getting in on the act as Worthy Farm re-opened its gates to fans, following last year's fallow period. Again, I had the pleasure of being invited back as part of the Emerging Talent Competition judging panel, and again, I only turned up on the Friday. But this year I did a bit more exploring so more on that (and the many bands I saw) below.
After a mildly arduous trip from Paddington to the site via train and shuttle bus, I was all settled in for my Glastonbury 2013 by Friday afternoon. Most people turn up well before then - the festival area is so massive that it's probably wise for a first-timer to actually do so, if only to familiarise yourself with where the hell everything is. I didn't really fancy heading down for Wednesday or Thursday because my tolerance of camping only goes so far.
It took the opening bars of 'The Modern Leper', just as I cracked open a can of lager, for the magic of Glastonbury to kind of kick in. The rest of Frightened Rabbit's set didn't disappoint, nor did Alt-J who I hot-footed it over to catch at Other stage. Bastille had drawn such a ridiculously large crowd that by the time I wandered over to the John Peel stage, I was barely within listening distance. So much so that a person next to me remarked: "It's nice but I wish I could hear the band." She proceeded to continue her conversation over the top of their set.
Foals didn't quite play enough songs that I knew to truly enjoy them but thankfully Friday headliners Arctic Monkeys did just the trick - running through hits from three albums, as well as gifting us an (admittedly somewhat choreographed) encore. The true highlight of Friday however was a quite random band (Jupiter & Okwess International, I later discovered) that I stumbled upon after midnight in The Gully, delivering insanely bouncy African rhythms. So much fun.
Friday's weather had proved to be reasonably gloomy (but no problem) but Saturday morning was already gleaming with sunshine, which meant an obligatory wander up to the viewing area by The Park stage. It's really quite spectacular taking in the view by the Glastonbury sign, and Nick Mulvey's folk offerings were a suitable accompaniment. The folk trend continued with The Staves, who seemed surprisingly chuffed about playing the fest. Much like the following act, actually, The 1975 who delighted with a more dance-infused indie vibe.
Aussie outfit Jagwar Ma's appropriation of Madchester vibes appealed but the hotly tipped London Grammar presented a quandary - clearly impressive musicians but lacking in some soul, and Hannah Reid's nervousness/confidence/arrogance proved difficult to stomach. Haim, on the other hand, seemed as down-to-earth as ever, playing a secret BBC Introducing gig. While I was grateful to catch the band almost accidentally, it was a shame that they only played a stripped back set.
Noah And The Whale brought an orchestral vibe along with the sunshine, playing two particularly appropriate songs in 'Blue Skies' and 'Five Years Time'. Gabrielle Aplin continued the chipper mood with another secret Introducing gig, sounding incredibly sincere as she thanked fans for coming to see her - the music wasn't particularly groundbreaking but pleasant enough.
Not to spoil 'Searching For Sugar Man' but Rodriguez was next on the agenda. Not just for me, it quickly transpired as I could barely see the man. Thankfully, I got to hear a heartening rendition of 'I Wonder'. Restricted view was the name of the game as The Rolling Stones made their headline appearance at the Pyramid Stage, who I attempted to see after witnessing another terrific performance from Daughter. Unfortunately from my vantage point, I might as well have been watching some pensioners playing Rock Band in a retirement home.
I disappeared fairly soon after The Rolling Stones had started, opting to see what Hurts had to offer. Another band seeping in confidence/arrogance, they nonetheless enraptured the small crowd that formed in the John Peel stage. In fairness, they brought more of a spectacle than most bands, with live strings and dancers to accompany their electronic anthems. As was now customary, I also swung by The Gully for the now obligatory late night dance-off.
Saturday's highlight though had to be stumbling upon the quite ridiculous Iggy Azalea, the Aussie female rapper, who both fulfilled and subverted all the stereotypes I had about hip hop performances. Honestly, and I hope this doesn't come across as too mysogynistic, but it was quite mesmerising seeing her rap about "pussy" while doing a slutty dance.
Sunday arrived and with it, a special preview screening of the new Disney/Pixar film 'Monsters University', the prequel to the much loved 'Monsters Inc'. While being a solid effort, it didn't quite deliver, unaided by repeated technical difficulties as well as the numerous times I got kicked quite hard in the back by latecomers jostling to get a half decent seat. Elsewhere, I managed to get kicked in the head while standing up. Glastonbury eh?
Matt Corby filled out the Acoustic Tent, a sign of his burgeoning popularity. And with a voice like that, a fully deserved popularity at that. I spent the remainder of my time at the festival off exploring the site, taking in highlights such as Titan the talking robot and a mammoth cardboard box tower built by festival goers. World's best festival? I'm not so sure about that but Glastonbury certainly provides a quite unique experience.
Find more info at glastonburyfestivals.co.uk.