Glastonbury Festival 2010
It was whilst sat in the Park area of Glastonbury’s vast site that we realised no amount of posh kids could fully sap the festival’s life force, or discredit its good intentions. That’s Glasto’s cancer, y’see – horsey toothed girls slumming it in last season’s Miu Miu wellies and sneering at greebos with nameless macks and elaborate piercings you could pass a sausage through while Henry calls his dealer who takes cards and give receipts. That and a lineup that seems to be growing less alternative by the year, which in turn acts like a bit of a wanker magnet.
Before our epiphany in The Park, we’ve seen a teenager apply fake tan on the train station platform, Stato’s Stag Fest party (easily spotted by their England football shirts) and the bendy one from T4. And then, in the far corner of the festival’s site, a little west of The Stone Circle, we noticed that the bunting was made from children’s clothes (in a non creepy way), and that the poles hoisting them up were hand painted with flowers and stripes and stars. And that the wind chimes nearly matched. And other things. In short, we noticed – as one does while waiting for Henry’s dealer every year – the bespoke details that still reach every corner of Glastonbury despite it now being 900 acres wide and open to 180,000 people.
So we stopped moping because we’d seen too much boxed wine already, forgot that even Bono had turned his back on Glastonbury and once again set about exploring what will be the greatest festival in the world for as long as the bunting is made out of children’s clothes and expressive, sloppy paint jobs are encouraged on just as many static objects as moving ones from the home counties.
1. Thom Yorke & Johnny Greenwood – The Park – 8.25pm
There are two ‘official’ secret sets at Glastonbury these days, both at the picturesque, modestly sized Park stage as the sun sets on the Friday and Saturday of the festival. What with Glastonbury being a place for spreading rumours like muck in a Portaloo, there’s much speculation as to who it might be this year, with plenty of false leads that eventually disappoint Strokes and Coldplay fans. Anyone who doesn’t settle for a Thom Yorke set of solo highlights, followed by a handful of Johnny Greenwood-enhanced Radiohead hits might as well go home now, though.
With this being Glastonbury’s 40th, there is a certain sense that anything could happen, and then, as we huddle around the stage and pray that it’s not Pete Doherty, it does. Michael Eavis pops up in shorts so short that we really must be in his house, soaks up the “Eeeaaavis!” chants for a second, looks embarrassed and says, “I’m not going to name them but please welcome two complete legends of music.” Thom Yorke then jogs on in Royal Tenenbaums garb (well, a sweatband, at least) to cheers of relief and smug points of ‘I told you!’. He plays everything we wanted to hear from his ‘Eraser’ album, perfectly and poignantly, before Johnny Greenwood shows up to play on ‘Weird Fishes/Arpeggi’, ‘Pyramid Song’, ‘Idioteque’, a rendition of ‘Karma Police’ that makes people cry and ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’. Tomorrow night it’s Biffy Clyro – poor buggers.
2. Shakira – The Pyramid Stage – 6.45pm – Saturday 26th
If some women use sex as a weapon, Shakira is packing enough naughty semtex and saucy explosive charges to wipe out the Universe, which is fine by everyone in front of The Pyramid Stage, just as long as she finishes her set of south American carnival pop bangers first. For all the outrageous gyrating, the needless tossing of water on her chest, the speaker humping and simulated striptease every now and then, the Columbian too famous to go home for fear of being kidnapped is also brilliantly dramatic in song, courageously proud in her choice to sing five numbers in Spanish and wholly endearing as she cutely interacts with the crowd. She may be fit and know it, but she’s also charming and wide-eyed enough to keep everyone on side. And she’s armed with ‘Whenever, Wherever’, which is let loose second in the hour-long set, the beastly disco throb of ‘She Wolf’ that has us howling as one and ‘Hips Don’t Lie’ – the best pop song since ‘Toxic’ that rightly ends this passionate pop party before the lot of us go blind.
The show is a credit to Glastonbury and it’s goers. If this had been Reading, Shakira would have been bottled by a crowd too afraid of having a good time in their HIM hoodies. Here she’s given the chance she deserverse and if this is the way Glastonbury is heading – with good-time world pop stars on the Pyramid instead of dreary indie bands who aren’t ‘indie’ in the slightest – it’s nothing but a good thing.
3. Gorillaz – The Pyramid Stage – 10.00pm – Friday 25th
Some (well, most, from the sound of the grumbles around us on Friday night) will have you believe that Gorillaz’ headline set would have been more thrilling if U2 had in fact shown up to only play ‘The Sweetest Thing’ twenty times over… instrumentally… at half speed. That doesn’t bare thinking about, and those people are idiots.
Damon Albarn always had his work cut out, not just stepping into Bono’s Fair Trade loafers but also following his Blur top spot of 2009. Then, everyone knew every word; tonight Glastonbury knows a bit of ‘DARE’, but soon gets bored of that, despite the nonchalant, caned cool of Sean Ryder’s appearance in Primark sunglasses, looking as unimpressed with the crowd as they do with him. He’s one of a million very special guests, and the truth is that anyone who has any interest in inventive new music played passionately and bravely to the last bongo tap (a stubborn ten-minute interlude of gentle Africa beats and strings sees the largest exodus of the evening) can appreciate just how brilliant and cosmically ‘Glastonbury’ Gorillaz are.
The crowd seem angry that they don’t know any of the words, as if it’s the band’s fault, and even an appearance from Lou Reed (!) can’t change the cynical mood. “He was a bit flat,” people moan as he leaves the stage. Similarly criticised for having his words written down, Mark E Smith is under appreciated despite a.) being Mark E Smith, and b.) ranting like a twenty something dressed as a used car salesman, with more angst than anyone else on the entire bill. Snoop Dogg blags his way through a closing ‘Clint Eastwood’ by putting ‘izzle’ on the end of real words (surprise, surprise) and that too is loose but unquestionable fun and surely in the spirit of the festival. It’s just a shame the crowd don’t realise it, because Gorillaz, from where we’re standing, are the surprise hit of Glastonbury.
4. Snoop Dogg – The Pyramid Stage – 5.00pm – Friday 25th
Cordozar Calvin Broadus pulls off two very impressive feats at Glastonbury – he draws the biggest crowd we’ve ever seen EVER, and then makes everyone (not just the staple front ten, squished rows) go fucking mental. And, while the day up until now has been full of “you’ve gotta go and see Snoop” pearls of wisdom, once in front of the Pyramid, it doesn’t feel like anyone is here out of irony. Or if they were, the opening ‘Still Dre’ sobers that feeling up – still the best West Coast gangsta track to ever make a Cadillac bounce.
With cartoonish pimp leans, everyone tries to look as black as possible, failing miserably on the whole, mumbling along and shouting the few words they remember. But, for half an hour, at least, it’s far more impressive than anyone could have expected. Snoop’s bands are tighter than his Baby Gap vest, wearing ‘Dogg Pound’ tees to promote the merch onsite, like the rapper’s hoes, if you will. When not singing 50 Cents’ ‘P.I.M.P.’, or a Justin-less ‘Signs’, or that song about fucking all the ladies, Snoop prevents the sun-baked crowd from going flat by shouting “Make some mutha fuckin’ noise!!!” or “hell, mutha fuckin’ yeah”, or any other sentence with mutha fukin’ implanted in it.
After half an hour, sure, we’re less high on Snoop’s tricks and we’ve heard ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’. But still, before it was silly it was fun, not funny, and it turns out that “you gotta see Snoop” is the most sensible advice we get all weekend.
5. The Pet Shop Boys – The Other Stage – 10.15pm – Saturday 26th
A month ago we saw The Pet Shop Boys headline Primavera Sound with an identical set to that we are watching now. But you’d see England win two consecutive football matches by a measly goal if you could, and this show is infinitely more dramatic, camp and sensory than that would ever be.
Arriving through the middle of two walls of cardboard boxes (each acting as a projection screen for graphics so kitsch it’s hard to tell if they’re totally shit or utterly brilliant), Chris Lowe and Neil Tennant step forward to perform ‘Heart’ with coloured cubes on their heads. He’s not, but Tennant sounds as though he could easily be miming, now and throughout the show. Four dancers come and go throughout what is a few tracks shy of a greatest hits set. There’s no ‘Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)’, ‘Shopping’ or ‘Domino Dancing’, save for a few bars that are worked into the outro of ‘What Have I Done To Deserve This?’ and a needless cover of Coldplay’s ‘Viva La Vida’ – through which Tennant swans about in a robe and crown. But there is ‘Se A Vida E’, ‘Suburbia’ and ‘It’s A Sin’ and ‘West End Girls’ that end the main set and encore, respectively, all of which take our minds off of ‘Go West’.
Halfway through ‘Building A Wall’, the temporary projection screens tumble to the ground, their bricks moved around the stage for the remainder of the evening to create podiums and steps for the dancers to largely boxercise and step aerobics atop. It’s as cabaret as it sounds, and yet ‘very Pet Shop Boys’; dated and yet modern, simple disco and yet inventively captivating and completely euphoric.
By Stuart Stubbs & Philippa Burt
Originally published in issue 19 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. July 2010