July 16, 2009

Glastonbury 2009 (belated) report

Like all my greatest music festival reports, it's late ;)

The trouble is, where do you begin with Glastonbury....? The huge international guests? The breaking bands playing in every nook ad cranny? The sheer size and scale of one of the UK’s largest music events?

From the off, the atmosphere was electric. We arrived a day before the acts officially began to settle in, and every hour or so a wave of cheering soared across the campsite. I never realised that people enjoyed pitching tents so much. That certainly set the pace, and the exploration begun. The first official band was Massimo Park, and they kicked off the proceedings with a combination of their hits to get everyone in the mood. Moving on, the Greenpeace Airport made me feel slightly guilty about my June/July schedule (ORD - LHR - ORD - SNA - SFO - ORD), but I soon (kinda) forgot when I realised there was entertainment (and cider) available there. The Little Tremors had a great intimate crowd with them, and their lively music aided a summery afternoon perfectly. Heading over to The Park we found an explosive Zane Lowe vs Mike Skinner set that even an impossible to enter tent and the first drizzle of rain failed to dampen. Kings of Leon’s ‘Sex is on Fire’ and Switch’s ‘A Bit Patchy’ being two major highlights. We then went to catch a friend-of-a-friend recommendation, The Gentleman's Dub Club, who served up tight grooves, big bass and a party atmosphere with great crowd control, completing a fantastic opening day of music.

Friday kicked off with breakfast at The Whip, although I felt they failed to recreate the energy of their dance-rock-hybrid hits as a live act. Heading over to meet Deepgroove and Paul Woolford, the audience was a bit sparse in the various dance tents (it was still only 1pm), and so an early lunch and a walk over to the Pyramid Stage ensured we had a great spot for N*E*R*D. This is where the unbiased report wavers, as I’ve been a huge N*E*R*D fan since their first album, and consider their songs inspiring for some of my own projects. In other words, they were one of my highlights. The whole band was tight, people were up on stage busting out their best MTV moves (apart from one guy who thought the music was perfect to can-can along to, hugging with Pharrell). A short (wet and muddy) walk to peek in at Skream and Benga totally destroying a now packed Dance Tent was swiftly followed by a memorable performance by Crazy P in the Guardian Lounge.

The class acts are so diverse and in such quick succession, it left a great impression on me as Glastonbury being a very complete festival. I somehow managed to get a great spot as Jason Mraz in the Acoustic Tent, in amongst the screaming 13 year-old girls, and along with very talented supporting musicians, he moved the crowd along very well. A short stroll via the Glade Tent to check out the live electronic dance grooves of the Bays (this time without Jimpster, but with the added vocal magic of Beardyman), and I was ready for my Friday night highlight. Q-Tip. Being 20ft from the front was a great help, and the latest album never leaving my playlist meant that I had a fantastic end to a hectic day. Inspiration overload was complete.

VV Brown and Watermelons. Not her new band, but an unexpectedly satisfying start to my Saturday morning, my hunger filled (for both new music and breakfast respectively). It’s not that I was expecting little of VV, simply that I had only discovered a track of hers accidentally about two weeks prior, and I didn’t know what to expect from a new, young act, and was pleasantly surprised. Failing to get anywhere near the Rolf Harris tent(!), we went back to see Dizzee Rascal at the Pyramid Stage. Having been around for a while now (we were discussing if he was past his best. Your thoughts?), there were many a shout-along lines we could join in with. Another venture to The Park on a friend's recommendation brought me to the sounds of the Beatbox Orchestra, doing battle with DJ Yoda, supplying backing for Jarvis Cocker, and a whole number of crazy things I never thought I'd hear!

I decided to get some rest, before a sunset show with Bon Iver, surrounded by campfires and enjoying every second of their acoustic folk-rock soundtrack. Refreshed, fed and watered, I headed over to explore Shangri-La, the after-hours crazy dace village of Glastonbury. Small streets and stalls fought for my attention, and provided all kinds of weird and wonderful Glasto moments, whilst meeting new friends and failing to find old ones (James! Buckers!) in the Mad Max mirage.

Sunday I wanted to explore more of the site, and may have missed the wonders of Status Quo in doing so, but I wanted to see more of the Glastonbury spirit, so I wolfed down a veggie breakfast from a Juke Joint with people passed out in the stall next to me, and headed over to the Green Fields. Free fruit, A Wishing Tree, pedal-powered music machines, and a general explosion of creativity was on offer to keep us entertained. The sun even came out to grace my shoulders with a (still visible) tan-line. A short walk through the Circus area, full of (psuedo)naked art classes and 1920s boxing matches, and we were ready for our next music fix, that being The Destroyers. I don't know if you've ever seen a 15-strong group of musicians charging around to gypsy-folk-fused-with-samba, but I strongly suggest you do. Mr Scruff over in the dance tent helped things get moving along nicely into the evening.

Our final night was yet another memorable one. The anticipation of the big finale was so huge, that we got to the main Pyramid Stage for Blur very early, leaving me with enough time to try and finish all my whisky so as to not have to carry it home (I succeeded). I had missed out on seeing Blur in my high school years, and having only recently re-united, this was a great opportunity that I didn't want to miss. Much singing along to Girls and Boys ensued, followed by much jumping along to Parklife, and an emotional Damon Albarn taking charge of the crowd, tens of thousands strong, and leading them into a non-stop A capella of Tender, prompting two deserved and appreciated encores.

To sum up, my first Glastonbury was a real eye-opener, and I'll make sure that it won't be my last.

Lee Jarvis.

(Cross posted at UK Music Jobs - the UK's premier website for networking with music professionals and jobs in the music industry)

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