A week at Glastonbury 2017
Very few things are worth waking up at half five in the morning for. Glastonbury Festival, however, is one of them.
After a couple of years attending the world’s biggest and most famous music festival, the grey-stoned walls that fringe the A367 become the most relaxing announcement that the monster farm is near. As signs for red gate, blue gate, purple gate, and so on, start popping up all over the place, it’s almost impossible to contain the excitement that is bound to be a-bubbling. Once you’re through the queues, the wristbanding gates, and once you’ve got your tent set up, the world of Worthy Farm truly is your oyster.
Me and some pals I met off Twitter on Wednesday night at Stone Circle
The music doesn’t technically start until Friday, but this is Glastonbury. On Wednesday morning, as soon as gates open there are mountains of psychedelic, funkadelic, and danceadelic tents and arenas to satiate just about anyone’s tastes. Wednesday night this year happened to fall on the summer solstice, and there really was no other place to be than Worthy Farm’s very own Stonehenge, aptly titled Stone Circle. The field was packed, tall orange candles dotted around the site like fire ants shaking off the 32-degree heat. Tradition has fireworks blossoming over the indigo skies on the Wednesday night. This year’s were breathtaking. Fifteen minutes of colours, sparkles, and explosions echoed the excitement felt by all 175,000 spectators. The only word that comes to mind is mesmerising. I’m still in awe of the entire evening.
Thursday night is famous for its secret sets and Southeast Corner shindigs. This year, tiny William’s Green tent (that later saw energetic sets over the weekend from indie favourites Girl Ray, The Big Moon, and Marika Hackman, who were all incredible), on the Thursday evening, housed Pumarosa, Circa Waves, and Everything Everything. Circa Waves are one of those bands who are so dull that after hearing half of one of their songs, you really have heard them all. But Everything Everything’s brand of odd-pop is something spicy enough to light up a Thursday-night Glasto crowd. After these traditional secret sets, the only place to go is the Southeast corner; the infamous Shangri-La, Block 9, Unfairground, and The Common. The nighttime entertainment the Southeast corner is so famous for it never disappoints. Thursday evening brought energetic DJ sets from all edges of the arenas, a particular highlight being Clash stage’s Mungo’s Hi-Fi--a mixture of reggae, ska, and dub, that kept me so entertained I stayed until the act left the stage, which is a rarity for me.
Shangri-La on Thursday evening
On Friday morning, festival-goers’ energy is still high. But maybe everyone is just still high from the previous night, haha. Friday afternoon saw Brighton noisemakers Black Honey and Emerging Talent 2015 winner Declan McKenna own the John Peel Stage, South London punks Shame bring their brand of political rock to Leftfield. Meanwhile, The xx shone on the Pyramid, introducing Radiohead. Radiohead are a band known for being quite hit and miss live, and unfortunately, this was a huge miss. Why headline Glastonbury Festival and withhold a terribly high number of hits from the audience? There’s a time and a place to play OK Computer (one of my favourite albums, I’ll have you know) almost in full, and Glastonbury Festival headline slot is not the time. As cliche as it sounds, Thom Yorke and co. needed to play a lot more than just Creep and Karma Police. Yes, they also played Paranoid Android and 15 Step and Street Spirit and Fake Plastic Trees, but… the energy, the charisma, the thing that makes a headliner… just wasn’t there. Maybe I’m just bitter because ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ was one of the biggest disappointments of 2016. Maybe I just expected more from alternative’s most beloved band. Maybe I’m just a buzzkill.
This weekend, Saturday was the day that brought rain. But also midday brought Chicago-based indie trumpet-tinged act Whitney to the Other Stage, the band’s humbling mixture of folk, psychedelia, pop, and alternative shining through the rain. William’s Green was honoured to feature The Big Moon, who absolutely owned it, as always. Katy Perry’s 6pm Pyramid slot brought the chart hits from 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011.... and so on. 12-year-old Erin was loving it, just as 19-year-old Erin was. At half past 8, Stormzy had the Other Stage crowd on their knees, grime formidably established as the genre Britain needs. And headline slot from Foo Fighters was worth the 2-year wait, with Dave Grohl’s witty, charismatic performance easily the most entertaining 2 ½ hours of the day. But Saturday’s highlight wasn’t music, it was Jeremy Corbyn. Never before have I seen a Glastonbury crowd so unified, so happy, so proud. He spoke of peace, of positivity, of passion. And oh man, did the crowd lap it up. Rightfully so. Glastonbury is described as a hippie paradise, a left-wing festival, but is there anything hippie or left wing about hope and compassion? Not particularly. But that’s what Jeremy Corbyn spoke about, that’s what emanated through the behemoth crowd on Saturday afternoon. The BBC’s coverage didn’t do it justice.
Ed Sheeran's crowd on Sunday, or all that my phone could manage to get into shot
Moving back onto music, Sunday’s headline act was, infamously, Suffolk singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran. Now, I have to admit freely, Ed Sheeran really, really, really isn’t my cup of tea. I’m all for natural acoustic talent but it just isn’t my thing. Even so, his 90-minute Pyramid stage set was, objectively, enjoyable, surprisingly. In other news, Haim’s half 5 set on the Other Stage was probably one of the most satisfying moments of the festival. I elected to miss the Killer’s secret-but-not-so-secret set to watch my favourite trio of sisters whip out hit after hit, bassist Este starting a dance party, and just enjoy some intrinsically good indie poprock. Sunday hosted sets from Emerging Talent winner She Drew the Gun, funk legends Chic, a Legend Slot performance from Barry Gibb, and last but not least, phenomenal headline performance from Boy Better Know (BBK) on the Other Stage. An all-round fun-filled energetic closer to the festival, a day stuffed with incredible performances. As always.
And... that was Glastonbury 2017. There’s really no combination of words and letters anyone can dream of writing that does this festival justice. I’ve tried so many times to describe the elation, the unity, the happiness that is in the air on Worthy Farm. You truly can’t empathise with it until you’ve been. In the words of a random tweet I saw on Monday evening, Glasto was a blasto. Until 2019, Worthy Farm. And to Michael and Emily Eavis, thank you for opening your home to us year after year and giving us the best 5 days anyone could ask for. My favourite place on Earth.