Glastonbury Part 4: Sunday
Simon Jay Catling: Well, well, well…christ I'm knackered. Revelling in the sun is Hard Work. Your heart bleeds I’m sure. Anyway, the last proper morning with Team Hospitality becomes eminently more comfortable when most of them decide to pack up and piss off early - not big Stevie Wonder fans evidently (though let’s be fair, I don't end up there either.) “Why are you heading off mate?” I cheerily ask my next neighbour “just can’t be arsed really” comes the reply. Lord. Though, the good thing about waking up in such an atmosphere is that you sure get away from it quickly and get exploring. There’s not much time for that today though, The Joy Formidable are opening The Other Stage whilst eyes are still bleary.
Never less than a treat live, the Welsh trio don’t seem out of place one iota on such a large stage, and before long they’ve made it their own. Lead singer Ritzy stares out into the crowd with large inviting eyes and bassist Rhydian shows little fatigue from wearing black on another searingly hot morning, lurching all over the stage. Their sound is huge in these grand surroundings, ‘The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade’ dismissing the notion that any thick heads in attendance might get a gentle wake up. The band are loving it, so much so that they decide to play over time even if it means being cut off, transforming ‘Whirring’ into a ten minute maelstrom of distortion swell. They’ll be back in the future, and higher up the bill. But now, cannily for me, most of who I want to see this afternoon are playing in the shady John Peel Stage, so it’s a trek through an eerily quiet Dance Village…
Sean Thomas: They're unlikely to be anyone's favourite band of all time, but it's hard not to welcome the gentle sound of The Bees wafting through the haze first thing Sunday after a little too much excess in that weird and somewhat overcrowded Shangri-La the evening before. Indeed, I imagine a fair few are still on their way back from sunrise such are the scenes of carnage and desolate waste laid out in front of the West Holts stage. The band mix old and new, with predictable crowd pleasers such as 'Chicken Payback' going down equally as well as the nearby Goan Fish Curry stall, whereas several of the newer numbers suggest that the upcoming record might be a wholly decent listen too.
SJC: With the atmosphere of the John Peel Stage much the same as it was yesterday afternoon (I don’t think some of these people have even moved,) it's a tough lunch facing oddball indie-poppers Everything Everything. To their credit they respond well, playing a slick half hour set of lilting harmonies, schizophrenic structures and melodic charm. Highlight for the group probably comes when suggesting hopefully that "some of you might know this" before 'Photoshop Handsome,' gratuitously finding out that, yes, some of us do!
These New Puritans' doom-laden percussion-driven concoctions however are really at odds with the bright weather. Jack Barnett creeps and crawls round the stage, a viper rounding on his prey; the trouble is his prey are too busy fanning themselves and catching up on sleep to really notice their would be attacker. It's a shame, and Barnett seems to lose heart towards the end, allowing the two woodwind musicians on stage to bring his group's set to a somewhat anti-climatic end. It's down to Holy Fuck to get people stirring; an unassuming bunch who don't let the fact that they've been proudly announced as "The John Peel Stage's house band" stop them from setting up their own gear. They manage to whip a sizeable pre-Drums crowd into, if not quite a frenzy, then certainly a moderately excited mob- pleasing to see after an apparently problematic set at the Queen's Head the previous day. As I emerge from into the open air it's quiet, heart sinkingly so, and there’s an obvious reason why. In Part 3 I spoke of Glastonbury's noble aim to cater for all its attendees; on Sunday this stretches to the England v Germany World Cup match and so a good number of punters are watching the game on two specially erected big screens outside the site. Of course, if the organisers hadn't done this there'd have been an outcry, but it's a shame that a festival - which thrives upon being a world away from reality - has to bow and let reality in, even if just for ninety minutes. It's a shame too for Grizzly Bear, making their Glastonbury debut to what should be a packed crowd on the Other Stage; instead it's a couple of thousand souls paying curious witness to the Brooklyn four-piece’s still spellbinding fifty minutes. Even the group can't ignore the match though, and as a technical fault brings a temporary halt to proceedings, bassist Chris Taylor amplifies the football commentary to the crowd via radio. The distraction sullies what would otherwise have been a highlight of the weekend.
ST: For those 60,000 of us that did endure the sight of the national pub team getting raped for 93 minutes, the next few hours are a bit hard to initially get excited about. A trip to see The London Community Gospel Choir sure helps though, what with it being the day of God (if not country.) A medley of traditional slave songs is a nice, sobering way to remember that witnessing the failure of a bunch of overpaid celebrities isn't really the be all and end all that the national press will have us believe it is for the coming seven months. Lovers of white household goods best steer clear of Gang of Four; they're angry men and want to introduce their baseball bats to your kitchen appliances. Still, if they could get such a wonderfully hollow, crunching metallic sound out of my microwave then I'd invite them around to dinner in a heartbeat. If they played such a great version of 'Damaged Goods' as well, I'd even let them lodge for a bit. Undoubtedly the best 'rock' band this reviewer sees all weekend, and probably one of the more successful reformations of recent years.
SJC: I should be at Gang Of Four myself, but a combination of pints, vegetarian food and a mellowed out West Holts field leads me to lose track of time. So instead I'm drinking in the sun and listening to the vibrant rhythms of Quantic & His Combo Barbaro, when I remember I've another date with some ‘DiS Favourites.’ Dodging through the returning crowd of gloomy-faced England fans, I arrive - via crudely constructing vodka and cokes - just in time to see Canadian collective Broken Social Scene announced to a small but devoted core of fans at the John Peel Stage. You never know how many of them are going to turn up - there's ten of them this evening - and though there's no Faust, the effortless cool of Lisa Lobsinger more than makes up for that. The sultry vocalist drifts on and off stage whenever takes her fancy, allowing the men around her to frantically set up and dismantling equipment throughout. It's a ramshackle approach that we've become accustomed too, but it still makes for great viewing, and even though most of the cuts are from new album Forgiveness Rock Record, there’s still a real buzz about this band’s return to England. I'm cut short though as, back at the Other Stage, James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem are winding down what's been a tremendous decade for them. Murphy's in his so-uncool-he's-cool element tonight; pointing out pretty accurately the general smell of human faeces about the place (the heat's done nothing for the odour of Glastonbury's drop toilets,) and sloping around the stage in a dazzlingly white suit that wouldn't normally suit a slouched middle-aged posture - except he's been pulling off this look for years now. This is very much a group on their victory lap tonight, a succession of their finest from the past three albums kicking off with 'Us vs. Them,' hardening (this overly emotional) writer's throat during 'All My Friends,' and kissing us off with the scuzzily euphoric finale of 'Yeah' - crass version, it being a festival of course - a crowd adores, and hope that it's not the last of Murphy we see musically.
ST: It pains me to not go and see Orbital tearing it up with the "real life OHMYGODDDDD!!!!!!" Doctor Who elsewhere as they're one of the best festival acts going, but the sense that it'll largely echo their farewell tour of six years back means I - and it would appear 92% of everyone else - opt for Stevie Wonder. It’s a decision which is instantly repaid when he wanders onstage playing a quite wonderfully repetitive keytar solo. Despite being closer to Wales than the stage, the man does his surname total justice and from halfway in hits us with hit after hit. 'Superstition', 'For Once In My Life' and 'Higher Ground' all fail to be tainted by the steady stream of now rather inebriated England fans using my vantage point as a makeshift toilet, and by the time we've been treated to 'Uptight' and 'Signed, Sealed, Delivered' we're in the palm of his hand, stunned by the sheer stream of classic tunes (and not urine) coming our way. Sure, he gets a bit preachy at times but any man who says "If I could see, I would really kick some ass; if you're gonna be a hater, just go drink some Haterade and die" with a straight face merits our unconditional surrender. By the time he's singing 'Happy Birthday,' as he was likely signed up to do all along, Michael Eavis is on stage too "blessing" us all with his dulcet tones. It's a moment that should make the world cringe but, in the flesh at least, it quite amazingly works, such are both men's love for music and indeed this fair planet. As they leave the stage arm in arm, all that's missing is a big group hug and a giant fuck off firework display.
SJC: Though with heavy legs, there's still one last band to see before the weekend's out. They may be tucked away on The Glade sixteen years after they set a record for the largest ever front crowd at the Pyramid Stage, they may be an afterthought in the minds of many these days, but for at least a few hundred people, seeing The Levellers at Glastonbury is still as vital an experience as it ever was. This is the one crowd all weekend who are entirely devoted to watching the group on stage, yet, like the whole festival, they're a diverse bunch - from the likes of myself, to those who tagged onto the group's unlikely success during Britpop, and right back to those who probably saw them in the travellers fields back in the 80s.
Truly, the six-piece echo the wider festival's adaptation in order to survive; they've mellowed in recent years, their lyrics on their newer tracks aren't the divisivally anarchistic tirades of old, they present themselves on stage in a far more laidback light, many of their fans aren't getting any younger. When the six-piece play though, there's still this great invisible cord between band and spectator that acts like an electric current; a strong tie of unity that still, in its roundabout way, exists at Glastonbury. It's the only crowd pit of the weekend that causes a glint of concern in the security staffs’ eyes, a raucous collective jumping to a band they believe in - and away from the politics and the outdated stereotypes of the group and their fans, they're still a terrific live band. Staples like 'One Way' and 'What A Beautiful Day' are executed curtly, casually almost; 'World Freak Show,' from way back on their debut LP, is still relevant over twenty years on. And the best thing about them, like Glastonbury itself, is that you can still see their heart and origins, despite all their changes: the traditional travelling folk of Jon Sevink's violin, the three-chord punk of the late 70s. Glastonbury's changed beyond all recognition since the Levellers played here first, but it still retains its magic. Even if sometimes these days you have to dig a little deeper to find it.