Glastonbury is about what you make it. There is the potential for every persons experience to be different, even unique. Firstly, its not simply a music festival. Glastonbury is like a series of interconnected villages, boasting spaces that reveal a wealth of creative gems, as much as hosting arenas pulling in vast crowds. So you are as likely to encounter men dressed as women astride giant shopping trolleys as a theatre group staging a reenactment of La Tomatina. En route to some stages, youll find louder-than-life circus performers clogging up the walkways, not to mention a troupe of lap-dancing nuns. OK, we made up the lap dancing bit, but there were nuns, and we can only guess about their short habits. Not for nothing then is the UKs flagship show tagged the “Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts.”
The Glastonbury demographic is ever broadening. There are parents who once came as teenagers and now bring their own children, and thirtysomethings who came as teenagers now with parents in tow. Young people post-exams escaping the shackles of home life (some for the first time) equally made up a goodly proportion of the audience. People come for the culture as much as the music; some just for the experience of being here, and many come back again and again.
Photo by Adam Gasson // threesongsnoflash.net
For those for whom live music is the key, there was a refreshing difference about Glastonbury 2013: mud, or rather the lack of it. Despite copious rain on Thursday, by Friday lunchtime the site was pretty dry. From then on it was cloud cover interrupted by plenty of sun, and suddenly you could move from stage to stage in half the time it took you in 2011.
With over 2,000 acts appearing on 58 stages across Glastonburys 500-acre site, the dry terrain meant that music fans could see even more of them, limited only by the laws of physics. Consequence of Sound writers Tony Hardy and Jamie Boyd were among them and bring you their personal Glastonbury highlights.
Let’s hear it for Jim — and Deap Vally
Photo by Adam Gasson // threesongsnoflash.net
Deap Valleys Sunday set on the John Peel was preceded by a birthday presentation to its stage curator, Jim Fox. With a white beard almost as long as his flowing locks, Jim resembles Slartibartfast, a character from Douglas Adams The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. After a homely sing-along tribute to Jim and Glastonbury, it was time for a different vibe. Raw and raucous, the Californian blues rock duo duly modelled a nice line in hot pants while delivering angry riffs on dirty fuzz guitar, pounding drums, and vocals from the Robert Plant school of intonation. This was real R&B, an education for anyone who believes it cant be unless the artist has the abbreviation ft. in their name credits. If anyone disagrees with that, play them Baby I Can Call Hell. One would think that John Peel would deeply approve of Deap Valley, and Im sure Jim does, too. –Tony Hardy
Alex Turner’s best Elvis impression
Prior to their Friday night performance, Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner was outspoken about the bands desire to make amends for what they perceived as unfinished business in terms of their first Glastonbury headlining appearance back in 2007. That past version of the Monkeys is perceived as a pale comparison to the bands now highly seasoned arena-worthy live demeanor, a far cry from the confused and uncomfortable aura of early years where pressure was thrust upon them to be the finished article. Turner has now evolved his image to match an increasingly Josh Homme, Californian desert-influenced mystique sound, with combed back hair and leather jacket aligning with a casual assurance throughout.
The band certainly redeemed themselves for the most part this time around, with a healthy mixture of classics such as Fake Tales of San Francisco and I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor receiving the most enthusiasm. The trouble is that a festival crowd doesnt react well to lulls in tempo, with Turner at one stage forcefully repeating the phrase “do you want to hear an old Arctic Monkeys tune we dont get out very often?” after it was met with muted response. This segued into steadily building Do Me a Favour, a welcome outing for a hardened fan, but met with cries of “play something good mate” from someone in the crowd who likely doesnt own a Monkeys record beyond their debut. These awkward moments were thankfully rare, and despite their stage show not quite matching up to the bombast seen in the Stones set for such non-committal attendees to sink their teeth into, the band made the most of the now greater wealth of material available to call on for a set list most fans would be pleased with.
A set highlight included an orchestral version of “Mardy Bum” during the encore, adding an intriguingly rounded sound to a well-known crowd favorite. More experimentation and perhaps a further glimpse at tracks from their forthcoming fifth studio album would have pushed the performance into a true standout from the weekend, although overall this was an accomplished display that blew away past Glastonbury demons. –Jamie Boyd
How Nick Cave connected where cell phones fail
Photo by Tony Hardy
If you ever needed proof of the power of a live rock performance to amaze, move and even scare the shit out of people, consider Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. The dark lord was on top form vocally and dramatically, while pulling emotional strings during a stint on the piano for the tenderly disturbing People Aint No Good. The Bad Seeds beat the shit out of their instruments while looking like candidates on death row before encountering the barber. The pivotal moment came when Cave took to the security fence to connect with fans while intoning the jet-black verses of his adaptation of the folk tale Stagger Lee.
Employing everything from farce to hypnotism, Cave moved from face-painted fans between his legs to reaching out to a beautiful, young girl decked out as a vestal virgin. There was a collective gasp from the crowd as the girl appeared on the big screens, mesmerised by the experience. There was an almost equally audible sigh as people trying to record the extraordinary sequence on their phones remembered the battery had run out. –Tony Hardy
Ben Howards blissful, mud-free, acoustic afternoon
Ben Howards floating harmonies provided the perfect soundtrack for a packed Pyramid Stage during a Glastonbury experiencing an unusually summery weekend, with pleasantly clear skies surely a welcome sight for a mans sound that would seem at odds with the world around him on a rainy day. Seasick Steve was seen nodding along at the bottom of the audience barrier beneath Howard, representing the chilled-out vibe emanating throughout the field.
Unlike many newer acts trying to fill an hour-long main stage set, Howard had little problem given the strength of songs on debut record Every Kingdom, with highlights including Only Love and The Wolves. The set as a whole felt liberating to watch, in touch with a beach surf vibe in the mold of a certain Jack Johnson, becoming impossible not to close your eyes and imagine yourself on a far-flung Hawaiian island, only to be rudely awoken by an airborne drinks cup and realise youre still sat on a Somerset farm. –Jamie Boyd
Stars of Glastonbury Emerging Talent
Photo by Jason Bryant
CoS readers may recall that we followed the Glastonbury Emerging Talent contest in the spring with the winners, Bridie Jackson & The Arbour, and three other finalists securing spots on Glastonbury stages. I caught up with Jackson as she and her band opened the Acoustic Stage on Saturday, entrancing a chilled audience just as it had done at the GET final. The charming bell plate-driven We Talked Again and captivating new single, Prolong, particularly held everyone in thrall. Twenty-four hours later, the honor fell to finalists Port Isla, who blew hangovers away with its tuneful indie-pop and folk crossover. Big futures are predicted for both acts, and it was rewarding to see how both audiences grew as punters from outside the big tent were drawn in. –Tony Hardy
The moment when Daft Punk didnt appear
Firing up Twitter at any point during the early stages of the festival led to many excitable cries and fevered anticipation of a secret set from the seminal French electronic duo. Reports flooded in of odds slashing drastically on them making an appearance, reputed to be on Friday at 2 AM inside the futuristic giant spider DJ booth.
Real-time graphics projected onto the spider emitted a countdown beforehand to further enhance a heart-pounding feeling of anticipation, leading into the impressive feat of engineering as its mechanical arms plucked two bodies into the air. This was it, or so it seemed. After a teasing few minutes, acrobats leapt from the arms and the eventual culmination was a typical DJ set, not the Daft Punk DJ performance of our optimistic dreams.
Instead of a potentially life-affirming Glastonbury moment then, punters instead trudged back to their tents on the back of a huge anticlimax and what felt like a missed opportunity to book the band responsible for the recent million-selling “Get Lucky” single, particularly with guitarist Nile Rodgers already in attendance with Chic. –Jamie Boyd
Daughter’s intimate set highlighted genre-spanning festival diversity
Headlining the BBC introducing stage on Saturday night was the atmospheric folk trio Daughter. Unlike their earlier John Peel performance, this was an altogether more intimate, humble affair, arguably more suited to their reflective blend of songwriting outlining damaged hearts and minds. A handful of lucky attendees crammed into one of the smaller tents on offer, usually designed for discovering more unknown quantities, as the band ran through tracks from debut album If You Leave and earlier EPs. Lead singer Elena Tonra offered up short bursts of polite chatter between songs, her timidity endearing and misleading given the power in her voice and effortless confidence when performing.
There was a significant moment towards the end of the set when Tonra could hear the loud hum of the dance tent opposite sift through the hush of the crowd, smiling almost into laughter at the irony of how such opposing musical styles could coexist simultaneously in the same field. If there was an image over the weekend that epitomised the musical diversity of Glastonbury, providing something for everyone to enjoy, this was it. –Jamie Boyd
Sir Bruce Forsyth – didn’t he do well?
Photo by Adam Gasson // threesongsnoflash.net
The Stones werent the only British National Treasures on view at Glastonbury. Veteran 85-year-old entertainer and TV show host Sir Bruce Forsyth filled the small Avalon stage tent and most of the field of Avalon and beyond. The rustic Avalon Inn must have done record trade as the area was packed well before Forsyth took the stage with his mix of song, dance, audience participation, and corny jokes. (Though, I did like the one about that other knight, Sir Mick: Did you see the Stones? Im glad the boys did well. I mean, theyre just kids…) The audience, young and old, lapped it up and turned a right-on Glastonbury blind eye to any political incorrectness, of which there was a fair amount. As one of Sir Bruces catchphrases goes, “Didnt he do well.” –Tony Hardy
That face-melting performance from Enter Shikari
Enter Shikari is a band worth checking out at any festival, even if they dont seem like your cup of tea initially. Its mid-afternoon set on The Other Stage was a demonstration of how they will shock, surprise, and possibly even make you feel uncomfortable, but this band can never be labelled as boring. The group is incredibly hard to pin down to any genre, even when watching live, spanning anything from hip hop and electro to abrasive, adrenaline rushed – politically motivated in the guise of RATM – post-hardcore vocal shrieks and heavily distorted rhythm guitar, and all that may just comprise one track. Lead singer Rou Reynolds attempted to sum up the unique mixture of feelings when viewing the band live as he states partway through the set: “Some people make music to escape and distract; we make music to confront and attack.” –Jamie Boyd
Revere scaled the heights
Photo by Jayesh Rajdev
Things are looking up for the epic London collective. Firstly, Revere got its picture on the inside front cover of the Festival programme. Secondly, the band delivered a storming set on the Williams Green stage on Saturday afternoon with lead singer Stephen Ellis prefiguring Nick Caves Sunday evening gate climb by scaling the stage perimeter heights. For a band with a stellar back catalogue via selected EPs and its debut album, Hey Selim, Revere boldly chose to showcase material almost exclusively from its forthcoming sophomore release. Accompanied by a dazzling range of back projection lighting, the set built in intensity with guitars and keys battling violin and cello, underpinned by punching bass and heroic drums. It reached a peak with final song Maybe We Should Step Outside, which is fast-rivalling Reveres signature piece The Escape Artist for genuine crowd appeal. –Tony Hardy
Foals coming-of-age, career-defining set
The steady transition from a balmy afternoon into the cool of the evening wasnt the only thing causing goose bumps on Friday night at Worthy Farm. An expectant Other Stage crowd witnessed an hour of unabashed brilliance from the Oxford five-piece, Foals. Their vibrant set fortified notions of a conscious evolution in musical direction from a previously unsteady math-rock enigma into a live beast exuding confident swagger amidst a fresh brand of primal, contemporary rock anthems. Recent Holy Fire album tracks were everything they promised to be live and more, adding a balancing, distortive shift and danceable immediacy to the wealth of previously brooding and hypnotic earlier material tracks such as “Spanish Sahara”.
Mission Impossible-style red-beam lasers offered an appropriately frenetic backdrop to the increasing nervous energy of new track “Providence”, making for a set highlight as lead singer Yannis Philippakis leapt into the crowd for an extended guitar instrumental, the audience clearly feeding off the fact that they were witnessing a display by a band who had unlocked their true potential. This emphasised a set of such decisive intent that it was hard not to walk away convinced of Foals future headliner credentials and keen to track down every song they ever crafted; it was that good. –Jamie Boyd
When HAIM took the Brits to California
Photo by Jason Bryant
I think every cool motherfucker is at the Park Stage right now, exclaimed Este Haim around 10 minutes in after an audience member confessed their love for the bassist. On evidence provided from their Saturday afternoon set on the compact Part Stage, it would be hard to argue with her. New tracks from the impending debut album combine Kings of Leon-style bombast and arpeggiated clean guitar picking with catchy Michael Jackson-esque pop hooks for a fresh-sounding take on a guitar genre crying out for such amalgamated originality.
Assuredly upbeat live versions of hits such as Dont Save Me and the pulsating bassline-infused Falling acted as reminders of why the LA sisters have been propelled so quickly into the mainstream limelight. It certainly felt cool to have been part of what is likely to be the dawning of one of 2013s more successful breakthrough acts as they gear up to release their much-touted first record within weeks of the festival. –Jamie Boyd
Robyn Hitchcock’s Favorite Shirt
With his wonderfully absurd sense of humor and penchant for ’60s paisley shirts, Robyn Hitchcock is a natural fit for the spacious Spirit of 71 stage, aptly located betwixt Arcadia and Avalon. The psychedelic setting is given further impetus by old-school projections on adjacent screens, assigning the trademark shirt the kaleidoscope treatment. The ex-Soft Boy was joined by his Venus 3 band mates, though with Peter Buck AWOL and Love from London producer Paul Noble an able deputy on guitar. Hitchcocks set majored on his solo work and Venus 3 material with the odd Soft Boys track thrown in (Only the Stones Remain was an apt opener!). While it was very much an ensemble set, Hitchcocks guitar solo on Airscape was a pure afternoon delight. Closing with “Ole! Tarantula”, Hitchcocks farewell message was impressively droll: “We haven’t got any shows lined up, and you can’t buy any records. Indeed, you’ll probably never see us again.” Well, not till Glasto 2014. –Tony Hardy
Kodaline pumped up the volume
Photo by Neale Whelehan
Just two weeks after Kodalines debut album hit the top 3 of the UK album charts, the young Irish four-piece had a memorable Glastonbury baptism. Time and again, the bands name came up as people I asked listed their standout festival sets. Yet it didnt get off to a great start. As you can see here, the John Peel stage was rammed for the bands early Friday PM slot. But the PA system faltered during its first number. Bassist Jason Boland took up the story: We were called offstage. The crowd were shouting, Up (as in turn the sound up), but to us it sounded like ‘Off!’ We freaked out thinking we did something wrong and the crowd hated us. The PA was fixed pretty quickly, and the crowd got behind us when we went back on. We didn’t expect the reaction we got; the tent was packed out, and everyone was singing back to us.” They certainly were, never more so than on the closing anthem All I Want, a mighty song that signalled Kodalines arrival as major players. –Tony Hardy
How The Hives staged a sit-down
Booking The Hives for an early afternoon slot as one of the festivals early performers was a stroke of genius from organiser Michael Eavis. Frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist was his typical charismatic self, becoming a comedic performance away from the electrically charged garage rock to rival any of the acts seen in the circus and cabaret fields. The articulated monologues were an unusually welcomed distraction between songs, not because they played badly, but because Almqvist was just downright hilarious.
Seemingly more eccentric politician than lead singer in a Swedish rock band, the audience by the end was in the palm of his hand to the point where he commanded a sit-down in which the audience duly obeyed, acting as a mass-crowd version of Simon Says. Almqvist also found time to express his arguably feigned incredulity at The Hives only being amongst the first bands on the bill, donning an embellished rock star diva persona in exclaiming, “When you think of a storyline, you dont put the climax at the start.” –Jamie Boyd
How Vampire Weekend were prettier than even the wallpaper
Photo by Jason Bryant
I was enjoying Of Monsters and Men on the Other Stage but sacrificed catching the madly likeable Little Talks live to sample Vampire Weekend on the Pyramid early Sunday evening. It was a wise move as the preppy New Yorkers turned in, for me, the finest set of the festival. The floral wallpaper background and antique mirror drew the eye, but the real candy was for the ears. Intricate and technically brilliant with barely a blip, Vampire Weekend focused on its newer material while nodding to the past with the likes of A-Punk and Oxford Comma. Front man Ezra Koenig might have been light on chat, but the music spoke eloquently, with the spiraling rhythms of Ya Hey and the subtle reimagining of a JS Bach melody in Step just two jewels in an illustrious set. –Tony Hardy
When The Last Shadow Puppets reunion became a British music history lesson
This performance felt like a pivotal Glastonbury moment in several ways. Firstly, it was an acid test for Miles Kanes second solo album, Dont Forget Who You Are, a record designed with live settings such as Glastonbury in mind. Secondly, it was also a fitting environment in which to channel the past four decades of British rock ‘n’ roll with songs comprising well-arranged, football-style chorus chants the many devoted fans in the John Peel Tent lapped up with eager, beer-strewn joviality. Donning a mod culture British flag jacket in homage to past icons such as The Jams Paul Weller, Kane was a picture of the no-nonsense, self-assuredness allied with the scene, with fervent vocals and unrelenting energy seeing him as an increasingly alluring presence as a front man.
In the UK, Kane was initially best known for his collaborative efforts alongside Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner in The Last Shadow Puppets; however, this set was a firm testament of how his star has continued to shine in its own right as a solo artist in recent years. Though, there was still room for a truly special Glastonbury moment that was cherished by any nostalgic Puppets fan present: Alex Turner appeared for a rendition of The Beatles-aping track “Standing Next to Me”, transcending an already solid performance from Kane into a bona fide Glastonbury 2013 highlight. –Jamie Boyd
When The Rolling Stones finally headlined Glastonbury
Photo by Jason Bryant
With the band going back further than the festivals own 43-year stint, its still puzzling why it took so long for Michael Eavis and family to, as Mick Jagger put it to the crowd, “finally get around to asking us.” Or, listening to the Eavis line, for The Stones to agree to play! The time lapse to coax the blues rock gods to the Pyramid Stage certainly added to the anticipation, though; could The Stones still cut it as Glastonbury headliners despite approaching the bands 50th year? From the opening bursts of Jumping Jack Flash, all such unreasonable cynicism was dispelled, as Jagger strutted and shook those famous hips like a man a third his age.
Photo by Jason Bryant
A 20-song set was bound to have the odd trough among its peaks, and at times (Paint It Black, Honky Tonk Woman, and the dull swamp rock of Doom and Gloom, for example) it all sounded a bit safe and pedestrian. Yet the high points were plentiful: from the soulful twang of Wild Horses to the eloquent guitar solos from the returning Mick Taylor, especially on Cant You Hear Me Knocking, to the sheer energy and verve of Brown Sugar, with both Keith Richards’ solo and Ronnie Woods slide guitar shining.
Photo by Jason Bryant
The defining moment came when the mysterious bird structure, perched at the top of the Pyramid prior to the festival, finally spread its wings as a fire-breathing Phoenix. This provided a stunning prop for The Stones classic Sympathy for the Devil, followed by the instantly recognisable chord chimes of Start Me Up. Ending with the inevitable (I Cant Get No) Satisfaction, it certainly felt like something special had taken place as the huge crowd dispersed. This was the gig youll tell your grandkids you were at. They may never get the chance to see The Stones live, unless the band continues to swig its eternal youth potion. Either way, it was an epic two hours that will go down in Glastonbury folklore as the time The Rolling Stones conquered its one remaining challenge in a globetrotting musical career of rock ‘n’ roll excess and obscene talent that may never be matched. –Jamie Boyd and Tony Hardy
Glastonbury’s rousing final moments with Mumford and Sons
It seemed over too fast. Had it really been five days since the gates opened on Glastonbury 2013? Mumford and Sons were perhaps controversial headliners when initially announced alongside more experienced company in Arctic Monkeys and The Rolling Stones. Now was the time to prove the band was worthy of such a golden opportunity to command the biggest stage. The show took on an added significance with the first appearance of bassist Ted Dwayne following life-saving brain surgery.
Yet this band is no stranger to Glastonbury despite its recent stellar rise, having been a fixture here for the last five festivals, although two studio albums seemed a little thin on the ground to fill a headlining slot. Despite a mid-set drop in pace and crowd concentration, this was offset by a near-possessed sea of jiving in the crowd for the quicker moments, highlighting the bands uncanny ability to switch rhythms at the drop of a hat. Grown men were sent into fits of euphoria during anthems like Little Lion Man and The Cave, leaving you to wonder whether they should have had an extra trip to the toilet pre-set.
A Mumfords gig is something that has to be experienced to be understood; its a visible reinforcement of just how well these songs work live, particularly at a festival, and this is undoubtedly why Michael Eavis had confidence in Mumfords to close proceedings. A truly fitting moment concluded the set as The Vaccines, The Staves, and Vampire Weekend filled out the stage for the Beatles With a Little Help from My Friends to close another Glastonbury Festival. –Jamie Boyd and Tony Hardy
They came close
Photo by Jason Bryant
Theres a problem with numbers. 20 is neat. 22 or 23 sounds ill-considered. So, in choosing 20 highlights of the amazing experience that is Glastonbury, by definition you leave people out. So, for numero 20, might I make an honorable mention for Dry the River, the polite, honored, and humbled champions of the Other Stage on Saturday afternoon? Big sound, bold harmonies, and a set brimming with passion and attack. Johnny Marr a legend on the John Peel stage. His guitar playing is as lyrical as it gets, and his new songs stood up well in comparison to his illustrious past.
Then theres Rita Ora. Shes not usually my cup of Lapsang Souchong, but from what I saw, she worked the crowd and added some much-needed glam to Friday afternoon’s proceedings. The Staves (fantastic harmonies and came on at the end with Mumfords et al) and Daisy Chapmans glorious cover of Umbrella on the bandstand were two of my best random encounters while traversing stages. Finally, the Glastonbury Press Tent, Andyloos, and The Red Lion. They arent bands, but I’m now brand loyal to them all. –Tony Hardy
Photographer(s): Jason Bryant, Adam Gasson