The morning commences with a light spot of rain, a mild grumble that the Guardian’s Guide includes no details of today’s bill (we’re continually a bit vague on what the exact legal status of this is – info about Thursday is remarkably hard to come by, to the extent we wonder if there’s something weird with the license), and a last connection to the internet on phone before monstrous veil of static descends (conspiracy theory #1 – festival sponsors Orange were SABOTAGING O2), which reveals the horrible news that Steven Wells has died. The first of several weird shocks this weekend, though sadly one of the more overlooked ones.
Having arrived at Pilton late Wednesday night, DiS’s loins are thoroughly girded for a day of adventure. And Glastonbury seemingly gives us the glad eye in this respect, with an experiment in putting together a pre-official start line up that would virtually constitute a full day’s bill for a smaller festival.
At 4pm we mooch over to Queen’s Head to see Maximo Park’s much-vaunted festival opening set. So does everybody else at Glastonbury. This does not seem like a great idea – put ‘em on someplace bigger or kick off with a smaller act, say we - the crush was as horrible as it was inevitable. Anyway, the people who managed to get into the tented stage look to be having fun. The people outside get to watch all this from a big screen. With no sound. There is booing. Lots of booing. Short, singles-heavy set just about discernible in the distance - suspicious of whether the fact it's not just songs from A Certain Trigger means the supposed fan selection policy didn't come to pass. Shame.
Then we head to see the mighty East 17. A prime slot is bagged. We wait in frenzied anticipation. And wait. And wait. And wait. The frenzy slowly dulls into a stream of invective directed at the absent Brian Harvey, mostly involving permutation on the infamous car incident. Around 7.30 (over an hour after the Q programme/web suggested the Walthamstow massive were due on) a line up is put up, informing us that the band are now on at 10.20. Screw this.
It was only really the two bands that had serious problems, but given they were the highest profile, a slight feeling of not-yet-readiness is permeating this bonus day. It's a great idea, but could do with a little more care and attention next year. None of this stops us getting frenziedly excited when DiS and best friend bump into Michael Eavis just around the exit to the Dance Field. A throng of devotees (mostly ladeez) are gathered around, and he is beaming like a lord. After some fairly fraught negotiation that kind of sort of involves holding somebody else’s camera to ransom, we get a moment with the great man, jabbering something banal about liking his festival. Man does NOT look like he’s in his 70s.
Eschewing East 17's belated turn (word on the street suggests it was rubbish), The Queen’s Head’s final stint is a much, much better shout. For starters we can get in, and it’s night time, which reveals that the lighting in the venue is genuinely incredible, glowing wires of lights that fill every curve of the tent, a little reminiscent of Radiohead’s show of last year. Catch the end of Ebony Bones who is pretty damn thrilling, a skronking ten or so piece band backing the woman herself (dressed like something out of The Fifth Element, possibly), lashing us with chaotic slews of er... I dunno, what do you call this? DIY funk oddness will probably do me.
However, it’s Kap Bambino who more or less make the night and salve the slightly uneasy taste of the day. The duo’s savage electronic punk has seen them blast many a tiny room with swathes of screaming noise, but here a big, sophisticated sound system and an almighty light show puts them somewhere closer to the edgier limit of stadium dance. Caroline Martial refrains from her usual stage-diving, prowling the stage like a screeching pillar of charisma, while once tinny keyboards and gratuitously caustic beats are now fired out in a glowing avalanche of power and light, the likes of ‘Acid Eyes’ and ‘Batcaves’ possessed of an epic sweep that suggests that with the right producer, their next album could be an absolute monster. Whatever the case, they demolish the Queen’s Head and really, really, really deserve a bigger slot next year.
Metronomy are up next; they’re pleasant and likeable, with fine pop songs and good banter courtesy of Joseph Mount’s knowing stream of allusions to chemical intake, but this is a well-worn set and they feel a little weedy next to the onslaught of Kap Bambino.
We leave about halfway through, partly for the reasons above, partly to find some friends who’ve taken a splash too much acid, mostly because it’s around now that the death of Michael Jackson has more or less permeated the site. Scans of The Guardian and clippings on the wall of the press tent over the weekend would suggest the media were trying to conflate the festival and the King Of Pop’s passing in a fairly shameless way – unless the outside world was completely unmoved (and Jackson’s placing in the weekend charts would suggest otherwise), I doubt Glastonbury was any different from anywhere else, with a surprisingly low number of bands playing direct homage, and the one ‘R.I.P. Wacko’ banner I noticed on site being the one that cropped up in virtually every publication. Certainly this article by The Guardian’s Paul Lewis is more or less unmitigated bollocks.
That said, there wasn’t a person on site not talking about it on Thursday evening and everyone was pretty stunned: for my money, my friends (and perhaps the bulk of Glasto attendees) are in their mid 20s to early 30s, our formative years a time when Michael Jackson seemed like this cool, superhero guy who put out this unassailable music. A lengthy chat in The Park late that night suggested we weren’t so much mourning the passing of an artistically bankrupt lunatic so much as the passing of some element or other of our own childhoods. Maybe. Could’ve just been the chemicals talkin’. Still, a shock that shook the whole festival, if far from derailed it.