“I hate Glastonbury so much, I really do.” Now, as festival gambits go, this is a feisty (if not downright wreckless) one. However, 10 minutes into a Worthy Farm debut marred by sound problems, tetchy stewards and an unresponsive crowd, Slow Club perhaps have the right to be a little miffed. Fortunately, as the set develops, Rebecca’s spikiness serves to cajole the initially apathetic Guardian Lounge crowd to life and lends the songs a feverous energy which, coupled with the pair’s increasing confidence on stage, gets people on their feet. Such is the group’s enthusiasm, that by the time Giving Up On Love has rollocked its way to glorious conclusion even the floating voters have no choice but to get up and boogie. The world is going love Slow Club, or Rebecca is going to have words…
Fleet Foxes are an impressive bunch, no doubt about it. Not a note out of place, no harmony falters, and when their glorious harmonies and pastoral, folked out loveliness are married to songs as strong as White Winter Hymnal and Your Protector, the Pyramid Stage crowd take a collective swoon of summer joy. However, without the anchor of truly memorable melody, the vocal work is often impressive rather than enjoyable, leaving large portions of the set to drift into the open air. Of course, this is a band with only one album under their belt, and to be so high up the bill is certainly a feat, but there is nagging feeling that this is a case of too much too soon.
The Park Stage, far off the beaten track and ignored by many, offers a Friday night double-header for those willing to make the trek. The Horrors are a band on form, having gone a public opinion about-face following the release of Primary Colours, and their every move reeks of assurance and restrained confidence. Where once he scaled any available rafter in a manic bid for spectacle, Farris Rotter now offers a menacing stillness front of stage, against which the band’s towering gothic oddities provide a suitably epic backdrop. Animal Collective follow and bring an increasingly lubricated crowd to various stages of loose-limbed rapture with Fireworks and , latterly, Summertime Clothes. As on record, the band succeed in using a genuinely original blend of folky electronica to create their own world, drawing you in and making it so that you never want to leave.
A disappointing lack of fancy dress greets Spinal Tap on Saturday afternoon, but for the initiated their set still constitutes a major highlight. It’s all a joke, of course, but the fact remains that the songs, indeed the entire concept, would not work if they were not so lovingly well observed and, let’s be honest, well written. In- jokes and guest slots abound, but the highlight is a fleshed-out version of David St. Hubbins’ showtune Saucy Jack. As Jarvis joins them for the finale of Big Bottom, the feeling remains that there are more than a few bands on this bill who could learn a thing or two from Tap.
On a bill reflecting the current fad for all things girl-n-synth, it is Bat For Lashes’ diversity and willingness to genre-hop that stands her head and shoulders above the competition. While Daniel and What’s a Girl to Do? show that Natasha Khan can bring the dance, it is the more varied, pared-down and melancholy moments in which she really connects with an increasingly frazzled, third day of a festival crowd in need of soothing and sympathy. Just what was needed at this hour.
Bon Iver plays two sets and, as might be expected, works better in the intimacy of the Park compared to the wide open emptiness of the Other Stage. Indeed, there are times when Justin Vernon risks being drowned out by the throb of Roots Manuva way over on the Jazz Stage. However, such is the power and quality behind his hushed vulnerability that the crowd is mesmerised and, by the time Wolves has reached its crescendo, we are all converts.
Some fine festival moments, then, but Glastonbury 2009 can only really belong to Blur. Damon Albarn emphasises the “positivity” surrounding their recent reunion, and with this in mind they clearly pick tonight’s set based on which songs are the most enjoyable to play. Hence we hear the hits, but lesser-known numbers such as Oily Water also make an (equally welcome and well-received) appearance. What really strikes is the energy of the band, ripping through their catalogue with the kind of punky fire that characterised their early days. The crowd love it, the band love it, and it’s a fitting conclusion to what has been an amazing festival.
Words: Rich Furlong