Even now, several days after returning from Worthy Farm, I’m struggling to readjust to the reality that the world’s best festival is so far from. For 5 days a year, a pastoral area of land in an otherwise subdued rural tract of the West Country turns into a bustling metropolis with no temporal awareness. It’s a world of it’s own, awash with cheer and invigoration. The days merge into one another. You’d think there’d be gaps throughout the course where you’d be twiddling your thumbs, or times when there’d simply be nothing that’s up your street. You couldn’t be more wrong. With over 100 stages and over 2000 acts performing over the weekend, there’s no time to be tired and no chance to be anything but overwhelmed.
The magnitude of the whole thing is incredible. Over 100,000 staff intertwine with over 135,000 festival-goers who are all too happy to part with £205 for the privilege. You meticulously scrutinise the schedules and the clash-finders, making yourself your own itinerary that will see you flitting through traffic that makes Mumbai’s rush hour look like a Sunday afternoon on the A19. The range of acts you pass on your routes are both aural and visual kaleidoscopes of colour, and it’s only the immense pull of the act you’re dying to see that stops you from stopping off to bask in the euphoria along the way. 2013 was my first Glastonbury, and I won’t be missing another without very good reason.
Even if the headliners aren’t your cup of tea, and by some divine miracle you can’t find any music on a given day that tickles your fancy, you could easily part with the cost of a ticket and still feel you’d got yourself a bargain. You’d still feed off the unadulterated euphoria. The sheer plethora of entertainment on offer and the general vibe of everybody looking after each other is enough to keep you smitten. From a circus to a raw, unheard of band hungry to impress, to a kids field via the Un-fairground, you’ll be mesmerised. Even the food is superb. I was expecting snippets of carpet disguised as burgers, but instead I was spoilt for choice each mealtime with an array of cuisines from across the globe; hundreds of stalls boasting produce much closer to that of a respectable restaurant as opposed to a fairground burger van. Whatever culinary delights you were seeking, you could find a stall that sold it. The farm becomes a world of it’s own.
Anyway, enough of me rambling on about how much the site and the general mood of the festival blew me away. The main reason most people clamber to guarantee themselves a ticket is the fact that Glastonbury is the perfect setting for some of the biggest bands on our planet to feed people straight from the palm of their hands. This year, after a year away to let the farm recuperate, Michael Eavis and Co. produced the marvellous coup of penciling in The Rolling Stones for the Saturday night on The Pyramid Stage. 100,000 people squeezed themselves into the vast arena to watch the legendary swaggers strut their stuff, 50 years after they started. It was their first appearance at Glasto and the anticipation, particularly on the Saturday afternoon, was one of effervescence. Arctic Monkeys laid the gauntlet down for Jagger et al. the night before, whilst folk-rockers Mumford & Sons were left with the task of closing the show without a drum kit.
It’s needless to say that all headliners stole their respective shows. The Monkeys had grown up, but what they’d lost in mischievousness they more than made up for in swagger and cool. Turner must have left his accent in California, but he was totally unperturbed by the whole occasion and revelled in the limelight. It was quite simply, a privilege to be in the audience from the moment the Stones let rip with Jumpin’ Jack Flash, before Mumford & Sons arrived 24 hours later, silencing any doubters with a banjo-laden, fun-filled curtain-closer. But let’s break it down a bit. Must hits and must misses? Who, throughout the weekend, outshone their expectations? Who was a joy to discover? Here’s some highlights for you to reminisce over… Or catch on iPlayer before they’re taken off!
Other Stage, 12.25pm – The Hives
Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist could be a stand-up comedian as well as the frontman of a garage rock band. He had 20,000 people playing games of musical chairs and splitting their sides. Oh, and you forget how many pulverising riffs they have in their arsenal…
BBC Introducing, 3.30pm – Bite The Buffalo
More blues than a Dulux wall chart from the south-west via Zambia. Notable influences include The Black Keys. One of my most satisfying discoveries of the weekend.
Other Stage, 7.30pm – alt-J
I was furious that alt-J clashed with Dinosaur Jr., but was over the moon with the decision I’d made to share a field with the Mercury Prize winners. They were tighter than Pelle Almqvist’s pants, mesmerising and tantalising the Other Stage with incredible textures and minimalist concepts. They also covered Kylie and Dre, in one song, with incredible results.
Pyramid Stage, 10.15pm – Arctic Monkeys
As above. Swagger. Breakneck cool. Turner and Co. were unfazed by the whole occasion, their setlist was sublime, and it truly was a coming of age for the best British band of the century thus far.
William’s Green, 12.30pm – Drenge
A drums/guitar duo that are too loud to come to terms with. Look out for these two over the next few months. With hints of Nirvana and an injection of punk, they also received a seal of approval from MP Tom Watson via his resignation letter!
The Park Stage, 1.30pm – Melody’s Echo Chamber
French-female-fronted psychedelica, coupled with a good, honest beer, was the perfect tonic for a sunny Saturday afternoon.
The Other Stage, 6pm – Alabama Shakes
You have to hear (and watch) Brittany Howard to understand just how good her voice is.
John Peel Stage, 6.15pm – Johnny Marr
He played Bigmouth Strikes Again, How Soon Is Now? and There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. He sounded like Morrissey, was incredibly tight, and had the whole tent up in the most satisfactory of arms. Maybe one day we’ll see Morrissey singing them again.
The Pyramid Stage, 9.30pm – The Rolling Stones
Goes without saying. Did you know there were 19 ambulances on standby backstage throughout their set?
John Peel Stage, 1.20pm – Suuns
Dark, minimalist electro-indie from Canada. The four-piece brought whirring, motorized basslines, toxic guitar licks and a terrifying pair of eyes courtesy of the frontman. Suuns will give you an infectious sense of foreboding.
John Peel Stage, 2.20pm – Deap Vally
Two girls from California that look like a Father’s nightmare. They met at a knitting class, believe it or not, but they don’t half make a big sound. Unabashed blues and soaring vocals. Lindsey Troy even got a bit of crowd-surfing in!
The Other Stage, 8.20pm – Smashing Pumpkins
Billy Corgan is doing his absolute best to destroy the Pumpkins’ legacy, but even though he only unleashes a select few of their era-defining tracks, hearing Bullet With Butterfly Wings, Tonight, Tonight and Today was worth the hour in itself.
John Peel Stage, 3pm – Peace
I was quite excited about this lot, but their live show had no panache and lacked substance.
The Other Stage, 6.05pm – Tame Impala
One of the best bands to be unearthed in the last couple of years; they sound like The Beatles fed through a haze of some very good drugs. The occasion however was too big for them. The music was spellbinding, and the effect would have been fascinating on a smaller stage… Perhaps The Park?
The Park Stage, 2.45pm – Ed Harcourt
The talented singer-songwriter failed to use the summery vibe to his advantage, producing a monotonous set that never really got anyone going.
John Peel Stage, 7.45pm – Savages
The stage had emptied after Mr. Marr had laid down his axe, and the post-punkers had little more than a handful of crowd to work with. Really, you had to feel for them. It’s worth noting that this was the only place and the only time a given area wasn’t teeming with bodies over the whole weekend!
William’s Green, 1pm – The View
That wave of British indie music that was the in-thing about 5 or 6 years ago is long dead in the water. The lead singer of The Pigeon Detectives is now a bartender in Leeds, and The View didn’t even bother to show up for this one. Like literally. Poor show.
The Other Stage, 8.20pm – The Smashing Pumpkins
Yes, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. They’re just as worthy of a place in the ‘Must Miss’ section as in the ‘Must Hit’. There’s arrogance and swagger on stage, which can work… But being a self-indulged, obnoxious bloke who sneers at the people who want to hear their classics? Definitely a poor show.
Michael Eavis made a very brave claim in the aftermath of this year’s festival. He stated that 2013’s effort is the “best Glastonbury yet”. As a man who merely lost his Glasto virginity this year, I can’t comment. I just know that, for me, it surpassed every last expectation possible. The days blurred into one. It never seemed to get dark, and there was no hostility what so ever… Unless you count the mass disapproval when Chase and Status were announced as the guest act at Arcadia on the Saturday; the whole site had flocked there expecting to ‘Get Lucky’…
Rumours of Daft Punk, and even Atoms For Peace, proved futile throughout the weekend, but no one really cared that much. There was always an alternative. For the naïve who thought the site went to sleep after the Pyramid encores had finished, they were in for a surprise. The south-east corner offers nightlife like no other place in the world. The weird and the wonderful. The quirky to the majestic, and in the case of Shangri-La, the heaven to the hell. Oh, and the weather was glorious. Too perfect? Let’s compare it to next year. For now, back to reality.