Another day, another new weekly column here at Ye Olde FADER. This one, which we’ve cleverly titled Dollars to Pounds, comes all the way from the UK, where our frequent contributor Sam Richards will be scampering about bringing you firsthand accounts of Doherty sightings and grime closets. For his first entry, Sam hit legendary festival Glastonbury which you can read about after the jump, and check back next Wednesday for his report from the London clubs and pubs. Cheers and stuff!
Foreign observers now probably look on the Glastonbury Festival quagmire as some kind of quaint British tradition. I can assure you that no-one actually welcomes the mud – apart from sadistic festival organiser Michael Eavis who claims he was glad it rained so he could test out his new and ultimately useless £700,000 drainage system – they’ve just become used to coping with it. In the sun, Glastonbury is the world’s greatest festival: countless stages hosting everything from international headliners to Javan nose-flute players, theatre, circus, comedy, politics, potent cider and hippie idealism in a country vale the size of a small city. In the rain, it’s an army training camp with stronger drugs.
Under these circumstances, the festival tended to be kinder to veterans like Iggy & The Stooges and Super Furry Animals, who played buoyant greatest hits sets to grateful crowds (impressively, Iggy incited a stage invasion for ‘No Fun’ and was then unable to get back on stage himself for ten minutes). Of the Glasto debutants, The Hold Steady were the most excited to be here, Craig Finn skipped and clapped like a kid at Christmas while his band briefly turned the John Peel Stage into the Cheers bar. Cajun Dance Party revelled in one of the weekend’s brief sunbursts at the village-like Park stage before the entire sight slid back down the hill to accompany The Arcade Fire on mass vocals. Björk was majestic as expected, but Hot Chip vanquished the first day with a relentless, raved-up set that boded extremely well for their new album, due in the autumn.
Further rain on Friday night meant getting around the site on Saturday was like jogging through glue. Sadly, the Pyramid Stage only offered prize-winning irritants such as Paolo Nutini (covering Moby and The Jungle Book, erk). Eventually we trekked to The Glade, a verdant canopy of a stage, to see !!! turn in an intense, shamanic set. The day’s other highlight was a rather refreshed Shy Child playing in a Wild West saloon bar at 1am. Quality late night entertainment was sparse thanks to harshly-enforced curfews and the fact that whereas fifteen years ago Glasto-goers were mostly indie kids, crusties and ravers, these days they’re more middle-aged and middle-class. So instead of impromptu all-night techno fractal parties at the blanket stand, we got the retro campness of the Lost Vagueness field.
Sunday appeared to be brass day as we awoke to a youth orchestra playing Dvorak’s ‘New World Symphony’, caught the rambunctious soul blast of The Rumble Strips and saw a dazed Zach Condon lead his Beirut troupe through a series of lush, woozy Balkan waltzes. Avoiding Pyramid Stage novelty turns Shirley Bassey and The Who, the festival was closed by The Chemical Brothers, barely visible behind a mind-bending neon onslaught. Their pounding, psychedelic set was transcendent, but as soon as their last note was played, everyone’s energy levels crumpled instantly. More constant rain, and we were forced to take down the tents in a downpour, trudge across a devastated landscape that makes 28 Days Later look like Tellytubbyland and push our car up muddy sloping field to get out. The phrase “never again” is uttered. But we say that every year.