Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Glastonbury: which tribe are you?

Glastonbury has definitely got more commercial. Forty years ago you wouldn’t have seen Sony and Orange down there. And you certainly wouldn’t have seen stag and hen dos with those ridiculous matching t-shirts. That said, I’m not completely against commercialisation. I’m quite a fan of the Chill ‘n’ Charge tent, and with the exception of the arrogant drunks, I think a more diverse crowd adds character to the festival.

Take Delphic, for example, who played the John Peel tent on Saturday. They were slick and professional, and full of energy, but for some reason they just didn’t do it for me. I was surprised by my reaction as I always thought, listening to the album, that they would be amazing live. Like Orbital circa 1994. But as I watched the two teenage girls scream and shout in front of me, I wondered whether I was just a bit old for it all. Trying to recapture that moment 15 years ago is a bit futile and best left to the kids.

Over on the Other Stage the National were playing to a much older audience. In fact many of the people there had kids with them. I’m not against people taking kids to festivals – the children’s area and circus arenas are excellent for the little people. However I really don’t think in front of one of the main stages is the right place for them. Not only is it filthy and damaging to their hearing, but most of them looked bored out of their minds, not to mention hot.

Heading over to the Pyramid stage the Scissor Sisters were just finishing their show and introduced to yet another type of Glastonbury fan –the older woman. They were having a wail of a time, with a mass crowd dance routine going on. You couldn’t help get caught up in it. I wouldn’t call myself a massive Scissor Sister’s fan, but I do think they put on a good live show.

As the Scissor Sister’s left, the audience of older women was replaced by large groups of young lads lining up for Muse. I was initially a bit apprehensive about being surrounded by them, but they were actually, with the exception of one or two, good natured. As the Cornish boys entered stage they went wild, and the first few songs were accompanies by bad singing and pogo-ing. Then Muse started playing some slow songs, and stuff from their new album (which let’s face it, is a bit mediocre), and interest started to wane. People began talking amongst themselves, and it seemed Bellamy and the boys had lost the crowd. A couple of favourites, like Starlight, brought people back round again, but the original energy seemed to have been lost.

I also have to voice my disappointment in the special guest appearance of The Edge. Guest appearances can be brilliant, but sometimes they just feel like they are just doing them for the sake of it. I don’t think The Edge was a good match. I’ve talked before about my dislike of the hype around The Edge, and standing there next to Matt Bellamy it just seemed a bit of a joke. Bellamy is a virtuoso guitar player, where as The Edge just uses a lot of effects pedals. Why was I supposed to be impressed that someone with less talent had come on stage to play with this brilliant band? It was all lost on me.

I'm not sure what tribe I fit in exactly, but as far as I'm concerned they're all welcome as long as they, in the words of Wayne Coyne, be nice to each other.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Glastonbury: It's not all sunburn and Stevie Wonder

When the traditional media (bleh) cover Glastonbury it always obsesses about the mud, like it was something new or different. The reality is that it’s neither of those things, nor is it particularly interesting in the grand scheme of things. It’s like standing in front of the Coliseum saying it could do with a lick of paint.

This year the media were deprived of the mud - cue endless discussion about sunburn. Once that had run out of steam, and they actually got round to some reviews, it was the same handful of bands: Gorillaz; Muse; Pet Shop Boys; Scissor Sisters and Stevie Wonder. In protest against the pandering to the masses, I have decided to resurrect my waning blog and give a more alternative view of the festival, celebrating what it does best – diversity of music.

The weekend was kicked off with a very likeable Rolf Harris, doing all the favourites to an excitable crowd. Harris isn’t a great artist, or musician, but he was one hell of an entertainer, and hats off to him for that.

Over on the Other stage The Courteners churned out a range indistinguishable indie tunes. It felt like 2005 all over again and I soon zoned out. Next please…

Sanctuary was found in The Park, one of the best areas of the festival. With its fairground-like viewing tower, and delicious cream teas at the Tree House CafĂ©, The Park has an other worldliness about it. To add to its deliciousness, Steve Mason was performing. However excitement turned to disappointment as a rather dull performance ensued, the blame for which I mainly put on the surly looking session musicians. So obviously we know they’re session musicians, but for 45 minutes we need to believe they are as passionate about the music as we are, not just wondering when they’ll get their pay cheque. It would also have helped if one of them could sing so they didn’t have to resort to a backing track for the vocal harmonies. All in all a bit lack lustre, and not worthy of Mason’s great talent.

Fortunately disappointment was remedied by Mumford & Sons at the John Peel stage. As the crowds spilled out of the sides of the tent the look of awe on the band’s face was priceless. It’s refreshing in this age of cool and ego to see some genuine emotion from a band, and gratitude towards the fans that put them there. And Mumford & Sons repaid their debt with an explosive performance that would lurch from the raw heart breaking emotion of Winter Winds, to a good old fashion hoe-down and sing-along of Sign No More. The pace and energy of their set left barely time to breath, and before we knew it everything was over. But we were left with grins as wide as that of the bands, and a glorious feeling that we had been part of, and helped create, one of the best moments of their life.

As night fell it was off to the Pyramid stage for the Gorillaz. However the crowds were so huge it was impossible to get in so we went back to The Other stage to see the Flaming Lips. And how glad I was that we did! To think I could have missed out on giant bubbles, massive gongs, dancing girls, organ-tans and giant bugs. The spectacle was brought to an end with a beautiful rendition of Do You Realise?. As the first day of this wonderful festival came to a close, Coyne’s lyrics took on a new meaning, and a lump formed in my throat.

It's hard to make the good things last/You realize the sun doesn't go down/It's just an illusion caused by the world spinning round.