Monday, 26 October 2009

dancing in the dark

For Student Direct.


WORTHY FARM’s annual merrymaking needs no description. To virtually every person Glastonbury is acknowledged as the mother of all existing music and arts festivals, one that has prevailing philosophy of ecological respect amidst links with Greenpeace, and the entire country shedding their suits, feigning hippy identities and prancing naked in the mud for four days.

Bank manager meets client

Stepping down onto the spotless pastures of the farm, it’s always refreshing to see what has been done differently each year and whether the real thing lives up to the long held image conjured up in your mind. This year, the irrepressible presence of last year’s newcomers Trash City and Shangri-La was still fully in tact. Glastonbury ’09 was a dramatic affair, bringing warped machinery, The Boss and death; Arcadia, Bruce and Jacko were the words on everyone’s lips.

The days were filled with Jazzworld, Healing Fields and sun cream application – much to our surprise the weather contrasted drastically with the terrific showers of 2007. Naked prancing was given the go-ahead for old and young. Along with the bustle and bravado of stadium-filling headliners and super wacky amateur dramatics to the Healing Fields and Croissant Neuf, the festival’s capability to capture even the unimpressionable is still absolutely there.

But to the point, it is primarily a music affair, so on with the music. The curtains were kept drawn for a little longer this year on our headliners- Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and Blur. Each did not disappoint, as Young chugged on with a string of hits that delighted all generations. I was sandwiched between a 65 year old and a 15 year old who both knew the words to Old Man which made me smile. I still kick myself for missing The Boss who cheekily played a superb three-hour set causing Michael Eavis a hefty fine. And it was Blur who brought the weekend to a climax with one of their rumoured last-ever festival performances, including a Weeping Damon Special where he broke down in sheer joy at the 70, 000 strong crowd’s adulation.

For me though, it was all the smaller things that made for a super duper time; The Dead Weather and their secret set cutting up the Park Stage like a buffalo (Jack’s still got it and Mosshart is hotter than ever); Peaches detonating her sexually-charged electronica upon us; Bon Iver’s magnificent twilight performance playing stuff aspiring singer-songwriters can only dream of creating. Higher up on the hype scale was Florence and her swiftly growing Machine killing the John Peel Stage in an extraordinary way, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds drawing a gargantuan crowd and a daytime trip of hip hop glory from the N.E.R.D boys, albeit awash with Jackson tributes and lashings of divalike attitude from Pharrell Williams. I am told by valuable sources that Lady Gaga’s nearly naked show was equally glorious (she even tried to play the drums) and I was personally glad to have caught one of The Maccabees’ finest sets ever before Gaga filthied the Other Stage’s surface – meant in the nicest way possible.

Next year welcomes Glasto’s 40th anniversary together with rumours of The Strokes and The Rolling Stones; even if this is codswallop, I’d go again just to dance in a mini-monsoon with circus freaks on a fire-blasting machine to acid-reggae. Nowhere else in the world…



WE AMBLED ALONG just as the Zombie ‘I Spit On Your Grave’ Rave, let by King of the Dead Noel Fielding, closed. This was sad news for us but after pitching our 95 year old tent (complete with views of beautiful Eastnor Castle) we bounced out and over to the Zombie Drive-In of sound-system-infested car wreckages and onto the Malvern Hills where Toddla T and Mr Scruff played us into the weekend by twilight…

Highlights were copious but without the smallest glimmer of a doubt, Thursday’s instrumental re-scoring of Man of Aran from British Sea Power set the standard high. It was heavy, intense yet serene – reminiscent of Sigur Ros (who played here last year- BC has subtly struck gold before yet still, pleasingly, does not attract the masses) or Mogwai. Chris Cunningham Live competed for most innovative and cutting edge performance of the festival with his mash up of Sheena is a Parasite, film of a couple viciously beating each other up and the notorious Playstation advert starring a strange-craniumed young girl. As he hovered creepily underneath the explicitly exquisite imagery on the screen behind him, Cunningham’s live music juxtapositional mastery was brutal, uncomfortable and nothing short of brilliant. It’s easy to see why fellow peculiars Bjork and Aphex Twin worked with this man.

BSP: One of many Big Chill highlights
BSP: One of many Big Chill highlights

It was a pleasure as always to see Friendly Fires take their Jagger-esque hips to the stage and complete a finely perfected set of pop tunes with a harem of Brazilian Samba dancers with a calypso crescendo of Jump in the Pool. More showy pop ensued with Marina and the Diamonds’ performance, whilst Basement Jaxx got everyone dancing in their fiery and celebratory display. Celebrating the satisfaction of extra large glimmering gold lame tracksuits perhaps? They blinded me (in a fun way.)

Saturday welcomed the dreamy delights of Spiritualized and Orbital who sound tracked the perfect end to the hottest day of the year, whilst the flip flop forest and car boot art fair added to the eclectic beauty of the festival’s charm for daytime wandering. Chrome Hoof played an alarming yet enjoyable set of noise glamour rock and The Invisible duly showed their worth of a Mercury Music Prize nomination. Other contenders for best new material were Noah and the Whale who showcased their second album The First Days of Spring to a wide and impressed audience.

Sunday swelled with heat and Max Romeo played out the last of the sun with his original of Prodigy’s Out of Space. The Rizla tent’s DJ-off, featuring Micachu, entertained us sufficiently until we headed to Sitek-produced Telepathe’s superb tribal-electronica set at the Castle stage. David Byrne closed things up with a string of hits including of course, Once in a Lifetime complete with wacky dancing.

No queues. No large swaying crowds. Friendly as f**k strangers. It was all we could do not to burst into tears at the thought of leaving this metropolis of zombies, castles, lakes and forests. Absolutely an agoraphobic’s wet dream.. .




FLAGRANTLY LACKING a promise to be magical, mythical or pleasant, the Leeds Festival brings with it a very youth-aware crowd of lairy, ket-infested Skins fans, blinding fluoro fashion and, gulp, LADS ON TOUR peeing wherever they are standing. Despite this, the line up of the Reading and Leeds bank holiday shindig forever guarantees a special and varied line up – 2009’s being no exception. Containing my excitement for Thom Yorke and friends’ headline slot on Saturday evening was impractical- so I spent the lead up dashing about catching the very best in this year’s artists (and getting caught in a mass domino effect during Arctic Monkeys.)

The Festival Republic Stage housed some of the finest examples of ‘contemporary’ music to compete with names such as Radiohead and Placebo topping the bill over at the Main Stage. The XX blitzed the tiny tent with brooding, still dark romantic dynamism and are surely destined to get uber popular this year; Black Lips played charmingly wicked rock and roll to please girls and boys alike, and The Temper Trap posed as yet another band to play at least a whole album’s worth of decent songs, amongst them a string of hits – we’ve all seen that summer festival advert; the crowd went crazy for Sweet Disposition, it was quite cute. I later grabbed a chat with Passion Pit who told me their new found success was strangely impact-less as yet, in contrast to the shocking news of which they informed me; the Oasis split. A number of artists seemed saddened by the news, Brooklyn band Bear Hands excepted as they wandered in bewilderment over to me to ask if I’d managed to see their ‘American-looking friends’ around. The band played to a small crowd at the unfortunate time of midday Saturday but exhibited a groovy, tribal set with smooth confidence. Later, Radiohead exuded the same cool confidence with their hit-filled demonstration of professionalism. Whether you like them or not, it highlighted to me the ultimate of live music furore in the most peaceful of manners.

Sunday: I was deeply disappointed when my much-coveted interview with Placebo was cancelled due to Brian Molko’s exhaustion and slightly bewildered at his punchy, energetic performance later in the day. Due to this I abandoned their otherwise tremendous set halfway through to catch cuties Bombay Bicycle Club. The day will come where they are no longer referred to as youngsters, and that day they do deserve as their sound has been honed to near indie-pop flawlessness since they blasted onto the underage scene in 2007.
After Kings of Leon’s shocking behaviour at Reading two days earlier, I was nervous at what mouthful Caleb would hand his northern audience. Not to be proved predictable, the Followills were cheerier than I’ve ever witnessed them… gurning almost. They hurled out classics aplenty and cleverly kept the newer dribble that had caused such Reading fury to a minimum (it was documented that the crowd only knew Sex on Fire). ‘You have already blown Reading to hell,’ Caleb gushed. ‘We love you Leeds.’ Yay for the North. And welcome, freshers.



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