Words by Bridget Batchelor
You don’t need to tell me that Glastonbury is a special kind of festival. The naysayers trot out the same old criticism each year (usually following the headliner announcement), but you know what? Don’t believe a word of it.
You may not be a fan of Muse, Adele, or Coldplay (or Jay-Z, Beyoncé, or Lionel Ritchie) but I guarantee you one thing: there is something at Glastonbury for you.
It might be filthy electro swing beats at Shangri-Hell (thanks, Correspondents), old-time folk at the Lizard Stage, a legendary dub DJ (Don Letts) at Glade or an Eighties pop act on the Acoustic Stage (Cyndi Lauper). Or a guy who dances like a lobster (Lekiddo) at the Avalon Café… yes, really; possibly the most fun you can have sheltering from the rain with a veggie samosa.
And here’s another thing, you can go to this festival and not see a single act, and still have the best five days of your life (although, to be honest, that would be a bit of a waste).
This year, inevitably, there was an unsettled and somewhat shell-shocked feeling in the air following the result of the EU referendum; two hundred thousand party people woke with a fuzzy head and a touch of tinnitus (thanks, Arcadia, with your dirty drum and bass, lunatic acrobats and thirty-foot flames) to the news of a vote for Brexit.
And as the first act took to the Pyramid Stage on Thursday morning, the statements of unity and rallying hope began. Blur’s Damon Albarn, with the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians, echoed the sentiments of many as he sang Out of Time, particularly poignant as an EU flag fluttered in the audience.
Many of those we saw over the weekend reiterated the message; Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott’s Heatongrad and many of Muse’s dystopian lyrics seeming particularly appropriate. But it wasn’t all EU doom and gloom, there were more fun times and touching moments than you could shake a muddy wellie at.
Adele swearing like a docker before inviting a young fan on stage and quite possibly making her whole year; a Lycra-legginged man giving his suit tails to his bearded Manga schoolgirl boyfriend; Chris Martin forgoing Coldplay’s traditional Heroes cover for a tribute to tragic indie act Viola Beach, a video of the four-piece performing Boys That Sing playing out over the big screens (who didn’t have a lump in their throat?) to give them their what-could-have-been Glastonbury moment; Jack Garratt’s genuinely humble overwhelm as he packed out the John Peel stage and kicked the hell out of his set (seriously, that man is a multi-instrumentalist genius, and what about that Craig David/Justin Timberlake Seven Days/Senorita mash-up?); gorgeous Izzy Bizou lighting up the Park Stage with her perky pop loveliness.
I’ll hold my hands up here, I did go a bit mainstream this year. I caught all three of the Pyramid headliners, Muse killing it with some classics like Plug in Baby (of course), Stockholm Syndrome and Knights of Cydonia, and newer material from Drones proving they’re still one of the tightest bands on the line-up. Adele was, well, Adele; I admit I’m not much of a fan, but her big heart, gobsmacking voice, and potty mouth won me over and I was bawling out the heartache with the best of them.
Coldplay delivered as predicted, with cameos from Barry Gibb (never thought I’d be doing the Saturday Night Fever dance ankle-deep in mud) and Michael Eavis, who cracked out My Way to universal delight.
Those LED wristbands were an inspired choice, cutting a striking sight among a crowd of a hundred thousand arm-waving festival-goers; a myriad of tiny lights dispersing across the sight like fireflies after the spine-tingling sing-along of Coldplay’s Up & Up finale.
The Last Shadow Puppets with swelling strings and Alex Turner’s yuppie-vibe swagger proved a total joy, and Bear’s Den on the Other Stage were banjo-beautiful and a shattered Sunday pick-me-up. X Ambassadors overcame their technical hitch disappointment at the John Peel Stage, with Sam Harris at least knocking out an acoustic rendition of Renegades; big-voiced, blue-haired Elle King belted out her feisty country rock adorned with what can only be described as glitter contouring; and we danced in the rain like no one was watching to the indie sounds of Two Door Cinema Club.
It wasn’t all the big stuff, however – a quick mention of some of the smaller but no less majestic performances; being a Devon girl I took a little tour of the acts from back home, with folk trio Wildwood Kin at Toad Hall – layers of percussion under crystal harmonies from sisters Beth and Emilie Key, and cousin Meghann Loney, with keys, drums and bouzouki – we loved their cover of Dolly Parton’s Jolene. Jacob and Drinkwater at the Bimble Inn delivered cheeky charm, intricate guitar and swooping double bass, Tobias Ben Jacob’s enveloping vocals a lazy Saturday afternoon delight. And folk veterans Show of Hands from my very own home town served up a hearty helping of dance-along folk at Avalon, with Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed hitting home with a punch.
I could go on and on; so many acts and so little space to do them justice, as always with Glastonbury you can only just scratch the surface (and learn to live with the FOMO). You’ll just have to get along next year and find out for yourself.