The wonder of a festival as big and beautiful as Glastonbury is that it caters to so many different tastes. With a tiny bit of planing (and a lot of walking), if you want to skank to ska all weekend or get deep in dubstep, you can.
So, when I wasn’t doing my volunteer shift for WaterAid, I tried to catch a few folky acts all over the festival, kicking off with the very first major performance of the festival from up-and-coming Oxford boys Stornoway. The lads play in the chilled Avalon Cafe to a decent crowd (which doubles in size when the first rain of the weekend arrives) and are on fine form. The intro to debut single ‘Zorbing’ provides the first spine-tingling moment of the festival. Incredibly, despite all the music that follows, this turns out to be my musical moment of the entire weekend.
On Friday, Regina Spektor does her quirky piano thing on the Pyramid stage and is great fun, although it’s all a bit fluffy (however gorgeous she may be on that big screen). After an awful set from N*E*R*D, Fleet Foxes shuffle timidly on; no wonder they seem a little shy. But all those reviews that say they were a flop got it wrong. As they ease into their set, the confidence builds, and in the Friday afternoon sunshine, they are the perfect festival band. ‘Blue Ridge Mountains’ and ‘Oliver James’ envelope Worthy Farm in their bucolic harmonies like a warm blanket.
Later in the evening, a revved-up Noah and the Whale deliver a stunning set to a joyful Park Stage crowd. Their slightly twee and fragile sound of old has been ramped up and at times they lapse into washes of feedback and reverb worthy of the band that follows next, The Horrors. Fantastic stuff.
Come Saturday, and it’s time for my annual Emmy the Great at Glastonbury experience. Playing in the weirdly post-industrial Queen’s Head tent, although her mid-afternoon set has all the right ingredients, including a rousing version of ‘First Love’, things don’t quite connect emotionally and there’s not a huge response from the crowd. Final song ‘Bad Things Coming, We Are Safe’ is still fantastic though.
By Sunday, the effects of too little sleep and too many pear ciders have begun to take their toll. Nothing like a little bit of Poppy and Friends, playing on the super-cute bandstand stage, to ease you into the day then, and so it proves. They’re so damn happy all the time – Mike is surely the happiest drummer alive and Zac the liveliest double bass player you’ve ever seen – you wonder what legal highs they’ve uncovered down on the farm, and whether they have any spare. ‘Did It’ is the perfect tonic for the morning after the night before. Woo hoo, go Poppy!
Later, I witness The Rockingbirds at the Park Stage, playing to a tiny but devoted crowd of 30-something men, celebrating the return of their fave mid-90s cult country-rockers. Hearing ‘Jonathan’ again after all these years is great, it’s just a shame there weren’t more people around to witness it.
Of course, there’s a heap of other stuff I wanted to see but didn’t – Alele Diane, Bon Iver, Liz Green, Fairport Convention – but that’s also the problem with a festival the size of Glastonbury. Mustn’t grumble though; it’s been a fantastic weekend!
Words: Joe Downie