This year, everybody was just really, really happy to be at Glastonbury. Plenty has been said about how 2016’s event was made more emotionally fraught by mud and Brexit (and arguably Coldplay). But this year was a more strong and stable affair. From newcomers completely bowled over by how friendly and joyful everybody was, to acts that couldn't believe the reaction they were getting. Even the police horses went to the effort of accessorising with flower crowns. Everybody was bang up for Glastonbury at this year’s Glastonbury. One guy burst into tears during Rag ‘n’ Bone Man’s set, later explaining that there was nothing specifically about the set that had made him cry, he was just really happy about the festival generally.
Last year DiS brought you the Worthy Awards, a Glastonbury review that has without question passed into history as something our editors allowed to be published. Given that there’s not exactly any danger of us rehashing the format again next year, we thought we’d give it another go. Here, DiS writers Mark Muldoon, Dom Gourlay and Elizabeth Aubrey, present 15 Worthy Awards to those they thought most deserving of your attention over the course of the weekend.
Here are those awards in full...
Band That Refuse To Play The Hits: Radiohead
Most of us were getting pretty excited about the possibility of a two hours and 15 minutes greatest hits set. That’s what seeing Radiohead last summer resembled, but if the setlist Glastonbury gets doesn’t represent a drop in song quality, it certainly represents a drop in accessibility.
It’s a pretty magical experience to witness music as challenging as 'Ful Stop' and 'Myxomatosis' at the top of a Pyramid Stage bill that nowadays increasingly caters to mainstream tastes (this isn’t something we particularly object to by the way – it’s not as if those craving the cutting-edge of music will struggle to find it elsewhere on site).
We end watching from a slight ditch in front of the mixing desks and so this 5”11” writer doesn’t actually see a member of the band all evening – a situation not exactly helped by the band’s uncooperative approach to visuals, which prioritise artsy flair over letting people watch what is actually happening on stage. Radiohead were keen to celebrate (/promote the reissue of) that album which was released 20 years ago. Of all the seven OK Computer tracks played, the look on the face of DiS’s own David Edwards when – after seeing the band live 26 times – he finally witnessed them play that album’s 'Let Down' was one we’ll treasure at least until the 2019 festival.
The rougher edges of the performance are likely enough to ensure the set won’t pass into the festival’s history as one of the most treasured headline slots – everybody knows by now that you win Glastonbury by dropping your high-minded aspirations and playing out exactly what the field wants to hear. But it’s nice to see the band willing to headline the Pyramid Stage again, seemingly generally more relaxed about their popularity nowadays, and keen to re-assert their position in the public consciousness as A Big Important Music Thing. This set continuously proves that they’re still determined to keep doing it on their own terms. (MM)
Best Pop Performance: Katy Perry
American pop mega star Katy Perry took to the Pyramid Stage on Saturday afternoon, receiving one of the biggest crowds of the weekend. In a perfectly judged set mixing old and new, Perry’s performance was confident and bold, despite her somewhat uncertain and self-depreciating conversation with the audience. 'I don’t ever really feel cool,' Perry told the audience. 'Am I cool yet? What is cool? Who cares – there’s so many people here! I didn’t know if you even liked me.'
"Liked" is probably an understatement as one hundred thousand people go nothing short of bonkers during her classic hits ‘Teenage Dream’, ‘Firework’, and ‘California Gurls.’ It’s a testament to Perry, however, that the singles from her latest studio album, Witness, receive just as favourable a response as the older classics. ‘Hey Hey Hey’, ‘Chained to the Rhythm’, and ‘Swish Swish’ receive some of the best singalongs of the set, proving that her fifth studio album, released just three weeks ago, can stand up well against earlier classics such as One Of The Boys. Perry’s breakthrough song ‘I Kissed a Girl’ is carefree, exuberant pop at its finest and probably the most accomplished song of the set.
Perry’s visuals and backing dancers are bubblegum pop silliness in all their glory, changing their increasingly outlandish head gear as the set progresses, all the while completing Perry’s energetic routines. Final hit ‘Roar’ undoubtedly receives the biggest singalong of the gig as does Perry’s brave stage dive into the Pyramid crowd at the end of the set. Whilst the security guards wet themselves with fear, Perry seems to enjoy every single moment of the dive – as do the excited front row fans. (EA)
Most Spontaneous Interaction: Confidence Man
This time last year Brisbane four-piece Confidence Man were relatively unknown outside their shared house in Queensland's busiest city, having only just formed as a band. Fast forward 12 months and the latest signings to Heavenly Recordings' flawless roster are the hottest new name on everyone's lips at Worthy Farm.
Despite their live show count still having only just reached double figures, the three sets they play here are events that bring about the most ardent bouts of audience participation this year's festival witnesses. Whether it be midday, mid-evening, or during the early hours of Sunday morning as their respective sets on the Williams Green, Crow's Nest, and Rabbithole stages evidently prove.
Their songs suggest a hedonistic amalgam where LCD Soundsystem, The B-52s, Tom Tom Club, Dee Lite, and Right Said Fred all join forces in a world where image – rhythm section Clarence McGuffie and Reggie Goodchild's faces are mysteriously disguised under black veils – and synchronised dance routines collide. Both Janet Planet and Sugar Bones take turns on lead vocals as songs like 'Bubblegum', 'Fascination' and closer 'Boyfriend (Repeat)' with its "GET DOWN!" refrain encouraging several hundred revellers at each performance to take those words literally, taking to the floor in the song's final third before its finale causes the entire tent to erupt in one cataclysmic burst.
While often averse to using the word "fun" to describe a particular type of music or artist, I challenge anyone to witness a Confidence Man show and not spend the next hour grinning inanely from ear to ear. (DG).
Best Stage Dive: Justice
The French are better than us at, well, everything. We might as well just accept it now. Wine, football, culture, food, elections…it’s a long list. They now also trump us at stage dives, as Xavier de Rosnay proved at the end of Justice's Sunday night headline slot on the West Holts stage. He dived into the crowd before asking the fans to hold him up straight, leg first, in total 'we’re much cooler than you' style. He then lit a cigarette whilst being lifted along, feet first, by the delighted crowd all the while retaining perfect balance. Not only did he manage to smoke his cigarette, he also managed to chat away to fans mid-air. He also rocked a Raiders jacket. As stage dives go, this is one of the coolest we’ve ever seen. (EA)
Easiest Job: Bez
Fair play to Bez - percussionist, author, dancer, media personality, and comedian (Source: Wikipedia) - who sadly gets to properly exercise just one of those skills (okay arguably two) during Hacienda Classical on Saturday morning. His entire role is just to come on stage for a couple of songs and 'dance' (and we’re using the term fairly lightly) about a bit. He doesn’t even get trusted with a microphone, although he does get to twerk with the lead vocalist, so that’s nice for him. (MM)
Bravest Performance: Killer Mike from Run The Jewels
Appearing shortly after Jeremy Corbyn, American rap duo Run The Jewels open with hit ‘Talk To Me’, a track they dedicate to victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster. Never a band to shy from the political, their set chimes well with a crowd who have just witnessed Corbyn’s powerful socially charged speech – a speech in which he scathes the Conservatives for their lack of help with social housing for the poor. His theme of 'for the many, not the few' feels like a sentiment echoed on the band’s rendition of ‘Lie, Cheat, Steal’ as the band lay into those who favour power above equality. The band are assisted throughout the set by DJ Shadow and include a cutting cover of his hit ‘Nobody Speak.’
As we’ve come to expect from the duo, their performances are always energetic, enthusiastic and emotive. Yet today, we definitely have more of the emotive – especially when Killer Mike tells the crowd he is dedicating closing song ‘Down’ to his mother who died only a few days earlier. Taking the brave decision to perform in spite of this, earlier in the day Killer Mike posted a picture of his mother on Instagram with the comment 'I’m doing this show today for U girl. You’re voice and those words never ever leave me. I am haunted in the best way by your drive not to be a sucker for anyone. I love u girl. I miss u. I adore u.'
At one point in the gig, the two acknowledge the sheer size of the crowd, the largest the two have played, and give each other a clap and a nod. Warm and extremely likeable, the duo pay tribute to their fans and everyone who supported them up to this point in their career. Yet it’s Killer Mike who steals the show with his bravery; he doesn’t just go through the motions, he gives one of the finest and bravest performance of his career. (EA)
Embracing Metal And Punk: The Shangri-La Team
Two years ago, Emily Eavis booked Metallica as Saturday night's Pyramid Stage headliners, making them the first metal act of note to have a prominent place on Glastonbury's bill. While not necessarily to everyone's taste, it proved to be a resounding success, thereby heralding the introduction of a genre often sidelined by the mainstream.
However, the team at Shangri-La didn't just go one better this year. They pretty much created Glastonbury Festival history in the process. Having completely redeveloped the area, out went the Heaven and Hell stages and in came a theme dominated by truth and taking back control. Structures such as the Giant Trash Tower were constructed entirely out of recycled waste such as empty cans and plastic bottles. Disused textiles also adorn makeshift shelters where rubbish acts as a refuge. It's a dystopian vision of consumerism and the alarming effects it can place on society, something which Shangri-La communicates through its grandiose statement of intent over the course of the weekend.
Creative director Kaye Dunnings tells us Shangri-La's aim in 2017 is to simply tell the truth. That too many lies spread by the media and those who control it dominate our lives. Activists and parodies of television and the media are screened on the site's new SHITV channel, while various new stages such as The Greenhouse, Trash Disko, Clash and The Gas Tower with its sensational 360 degree visual facility give the space a brand new outlook.
Nevertheless its the Earache Express, a recycled tube carriage built to house approximately 145 people that stands out like a proverbial sore thumb, designed and appropriated to coincide with Shangri-La's collaboration with Earache Records and ultimately the first time punk and metal has been truly embraced by the festival. Renowned DJ and overall Director of Shangri-La Chris Tofu - recently awarded an MBE for his outstanding services to music and festivals - tells DiS his intention is for Glastonbury to host a regular stage purely devoted to punk and metal, and judging by this year's response he has a valid point.
While Napalm Death's explosive Thursday night set saw the first ever circle pit we've seen at Worthy Farm, not to mention numerous outbreaks of crowd surfing and slam diving, legendary Californian four-piece Dead Kennedys proved to be the weekend's real headliners, literally bringing the house down with a set jam packed with punk rock classics such as 'Too Drunk To Fuck', 'Kill The Poor', 'California Uber Alles', and 'Holiday In Cambodia'. Elsewhere, Extreme Noise Terror's two sets along with Ho99o9's blistering fusion of aggro punk and thrash hip hop ensured the Earache Express became a heaving mass of contorted semi-naked and sweaty bodies throughout their visceral performances. (DG)
Both Ho99o9 and Heck are playing inside the Earache Express, the disused London Underground train on the fringes of the Shangri-la district. They also both like taking full advantage of the venue, between them indulging in stage diving, moshing in the crowd, creating a beat by banging the microphone on the top of the venue, swearing at photographers, and at one point during Heck’s set, playing on the roof of the venue. They’re both obviously a brutal, joyful carnage. It would be a crime for Earache Records not to bring this venue back in 2019. (MM)
Worst Kept Secret: The Killers 'Secret' Set
One thing that's always in overdrive without fail is the annual Glastonbury rumour mill and this year proved to be no different. From the moment DiS arrives on site, we're informed several of the special surprise guests will be 'off the scale', with the likes of Arcade Fire, The Maccabees, and even the reformation of Oasis all being mentioned.
While both the former and latter grew in circulation as the weekend progressed - the latter one largely due to both Gallaghers and former Oasis bass player Andy Bell all being onsite at various points - all seemed unlikely. Mainly due to the 'TBA' billings, but also when taking into context that Arcade Fire only headlined the Pyramid Stage two years ago, that both Liam and Noel Gallagher had forthcoming solo albums to concentrate on, and that Bell is currently in the middle of a widescale promotional exercise with Ride's critically acclaimed comeback record Weather Diaries.
Nevertheless, it still came as a bit of an anti-climax when shows by Elbow, Blossoms, Craig David, and Slaves were finally announced among the secret sets, particularly as three of the four were already billed to play the festival.
However, one guest slot that had been mooted (and more or less confirmed to DiS by an employee from their record label as early as Thursday) was that of The Killers. With a new album to promote it and anglophiles to a man, it seemed quite logical for them to make an appearance on the farm and by 5:30pm on Sunday evening the festival's worst kept secret was finally unveiled. (DG)
"They say you play the John Peel stage twice in your career. Once on the way up, once on the way down. It’s good to be back”."
It’s a fun way to open a set from a band that left the festival ten years ago with unfinished business: the crowd during that headline set were justifiably chanting 'turn it up' in between each song. Nothing is left to chance this time: The Killers are amongst the great creators of pop singles of their era, and they deliver hit after hit after hit. The crowd couldn’t possibly be happier. (MM)
Best Political Moment: Jeremy Corbyn's Speech
On Friday night whilst waiting for Thom Yorke and co to appear after the snorefest that was the XX, a sea of chants started to echo through the Pyramid Stage area on Worthy Farm. “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn!” The chant rings loud to the tune of the White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’ and continues well into Radiohead’s set. Dozens of anti-Conservative flags wave in the breeze and Corbyn t-shirts are worn with pride. Even during these early stages of Glastonbury, it’s clear something significant is happening politically. Thom Yorke later tells leader of the Conservative Party Teresa May to 'close the door' on her way out before bemoaning 'fucking politicians'; the young crowd agree with every word. Chants for Corbyn go on well into Radiohead’s headline slot.
The recent general election saw the highest number of young voter turnout for 25 years, with 60% of 18-24 year olds and the under-45s coming out in force for Labour. Together with Labour policies that favoured the young, music played an integral part in that – especially Grime artists such as Stormzy who urged the young to vote. It’s perhaps apt then, that on Saturday afternoon, Jeremy Corbyn appears just before Run The Jewels – a band who last year supported Bernie Sanders in the US – often seen as Corbyn’s American counterpart.
Jeremy Corbyn is introduced to the Pyramid Stage by Micheal Eavis to an extraordinary and deafening roar. Forget Sheeran, Corbyn draws the biggest crowd of the weekend and from the moment he begins to speak, 100,000 young people are entirely captivated by every word that Corbyn, or “the hero of the hour” as Eavis terms him, utters.
'Politics is actually about everyday life,' Corbyn tells the enthralled crowd. 'It’s about all of us: what we dream, what we want, what we achieve and what we want for everybody else.' Corbyn called for social unity, help for the poor and vulnerable, and an end to the discrimination of others – be it on class, gender, race or sexual orientation.
'I want to see a world where there is real opportunity for everybody in our society,' Corbyn said on the Pyramid Stage. 'That means sharing the wealth out in every part of our country, and looking to global policies that actually share the wealth, not glory in the levels of justice and inequality where the rich seem to get inexorably richer and the vast majority continually lose out. The desperately poor live on the margins of society…surely we can, as intelligent human beings, do things differently and do thing’s better. And when we’re here today in Glastonbury, we’re doing things differently, we’re doing things better and we’re seeing that inspiration.'
Corbyn ended his passionate speech with a battle cry to the young, quoting poet Percy Byssche Shelley. “Rise like lions after slumber, in unvanquishable number, shake your chains to earth like dew, which in sleep had fallen on you – ye are many, they are few.” The cheers go on long after Corbyn leaves the stage. (EA)
Most Gracious Legend: Barry Gibb
The coveted Sunday 4pm 'legends' slot on the Pyramid Stage has seen people like Lionel Richie, Dolly Parton, and Kenny Rogers wow large crowds with a cavalcade of hits in recent years.
This year's slot saw Barry Gibb, the last surviving member of Mancunian legends The Bee Gees play an hour-and-a-quarter's worth of instantly recognisable classics to tens of thousands of revellers on a sunny Sunday afternoon. There's no let up throughout his 15-song-set as each one results in a mass singalong from those congregated out front.
Perhaps best known for the film Saturday Night Fever which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, the Pyramid Stage becomes Studio 54 as shapes of all varying degrees and descriptions are thrown out front during flawless renditions of 'Stayin' Alive', 'You Should Be Dancing' and a medley of 'Night Fever' and 'More Than A Woman'. Even Chic's Nile Rodgers can be seen losing his shit on the side of the stage as Gibb looks on clearly humbled by the overwhelming response from all around him. At one point removing his shades to wipe away genuine tears, dedicating 'Words' to his wife Linda before introducing guitarist son Steve to the audience.
Closing on an exultant rendition of 'Tragedy', the Bee Gees' multi-million selling chart topper from 1979 before a backdrop adorning all four Gibb brothers - the late Maurice, Robin, Andy and himself - his performance will undoubtedly go down as one of the most emotional, not to mention gracious, legends slots Glastonbury has ever witnessed. (DG)
Most Wasted Opportunity: The National
Two things are simultaneously true of The National’s Pyramid Stage set on Saturday evening: 1) all four unheard songs they play sound brilliant, and 2) the fact they play so many of them in a set this short is a near disgrace.
Attracting a crowd much smaller than usual for the coveted ‘sunset’ slot (most of the festival appears to have opted to see Stormzy on the smaller Other Stage instead), this should have been the show that helped make the band into household names and propelled them towards the big league of festival headliners.
Always a band that have tended to overly-focus on performing recent material live, we get some favourites (certainly any fewer would have risked inducing the unlikely sight of National fans rioting) and they sound exactly as you’d hope, but this was the band not respecting the opportunity they’d been given. Just think how good it also would have been to have heard 'Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks' in this set. Or 'Apartment Story'. Or 'Abel'.
Fair-minded readers might at this point be wondering why we’re giving The National a much harder time than Radiohead for refusing to play what their audience wants to hear. And that would perhaps be a reasonable point. We’d attempt to make the case that playing less-commercial material is different to playing material nobody has heard before, but also, The National had more to prove in their slot – if Radiohead were approaching huge sets like this throughout the mid-Nineties you somewhat doubt they’d have been invited to headline in 1997.
Anybody taking a passive interest in the set didn’t feel at all encouraged to investigate further. In an NME interview over the course of the weekend Matt Berninger said that he feels like the performance was also the band auditioning for eventually headlining this festival. Well congratulations lads: you failed the audition. (MM)
The Ooh Missus! Award: The Tipi Field
It's not every day at any old festival where a casual walk through a field of teepees is brought to a sudden halt by the sight of naked bodies bouncing on trampolines.
Welcome to the Tipi Field, which prides itself on being a tribal village steeped in old school ideologies. While it's the naked trampolining that brings DiS curiously into its realm, we're enraptured by the many delights contained within such as Pachamama, a solar powered music venue and chai cafe which houses live music and poetry while encouaging open mic and improvised jam performances throughout the weekend. Also the Lost Horizons Sauna, which at £40 a head allows participants to sweat in peace then relax in hammocks while more live acts perform on its solar garden stage.
Elsewhere, Ancient Futures provides the unique Candlelight Cinema while screening the likes of 'Awake - A Dream From Standing Rock' and 'How To Change The World - The Story Of Greenpeace' along with various Q&As with directors, producers and actors. There's also another cinema showcasing the archived work of film maker Chris Waite, himself an original Tipi Village inhabitant who sadly passed away last year. Selling homemade moonshine at £2 a shot as well as cakes and popcorn, it's well worth a visit.
We speak to one of the Tipi Field's organisers Gareth, who also runs a bar at the site's entrance. He's been to every single Glastonbury since the very first event and while embracing change in the name of progress, declares the Tipi Field as being one of the few remaining areas committed to keeping the festival's true spirit alive. Who are we to argue? (DG)
Best Glastonbury Debut: Dutch Uncles
After a patient wait, Manchester band Dutch Uncles finally made their Glastonbury debut on Thursday evening at the Crow’s Nest. Typically energetic, songs from their fifth album, Big Balloon go down a storm with fans old and new, especially the fiercely addictive ‘Oh Yeah.’ Performing on the Saturday at Williams Green, both gigs have large numbers in attendance, all following lead singer Duncan Wallis’ dancing lead. It’s a genuine joy to watch the enjoyment of the crowds at both gigs. With Marr-like jangly guitars, fierce synths, ace xylophonic percussion and upbeat rhythms, Dutch Uncles instrumentation is gloriously complex – packing all the instruments into the tight space of the Crow’s Nest deserves an award in itself – but their complex, layered sound is the band’s standout feature. Dutch Uncles work bloody hard to create the sounds they do – their live gigs are always tight and well-structured and their Glastonbury performances are no exception to this. The layered complexity of the sounds is the real beauty of Dutch Uncles' music.
Big Balloon was an album inspired by Kate Bush’sThe Red Shoes and David Bowie’s Low; heard live, the album is a triumph of art-pop and the influences that made it. It’s also an album perfectly suited for this much more political Glastonbury; dealing with issues of austerity, the album chimes well with the young, politically charged audience of Glastonbury 2017. Dutch Uncles are a triumph, and they need more opportunities to play stages like this. (EA)
Most Appreciated Run Of Hits: Foo Fighters
We had a bit of a plan for Saturday evening: see the first five songs of Foo Fighters, then hot foot it over to the Other Stage to watch the whole of Alt-J’s performance (a set we had fairly low expectations for, but it turns out it was the perfect slot for them). Given that four of those first five Foos songs were 'Times Like These', 'All My Life', 'Learn To Fly' and 'The Pretender', we were quite pleased with how the strategy planned out. Thanks Dave! (MM)
Most Emotional Set: Loyle Carner
“We’re two songs in and you lot are about to make me cry. Don’t make me fucking cry I’ve got a lot of fucking friends in”
Before we get these tears from UK rapper Loyle Carner we’re treated to bone-shaking bass - something the John Peel tent has long been adept at delivering when the music requires it. Carner’s Nineties-influenced hip hop sounds incredible, and pretty much from the off the crowd are responding with more wildly enthusiastic cheering than you’d usually get either elsewhere on site or at a regular Loyle Carner gig. This makes Carner display some of the more heartfelt displays of gratitude expressed over the course of the weekend, which in turn only makes the audience cheer longer and more intensively.
He ends with the already-moving-on-record ‘Son Of Jean’, and beforehand he tells his life story: how his father died, and how he had always promised Carner to one day take him on tour as his support act. This never happened, but two years ago Carner’s mum found an album he’d made before he died that nobody knew about. Carner sampled the record all over his album and there you go: they’re sharing a stage every night. He dedicates the song to his mother and brings her out on stage at the end.
In the end, it’s not just Carner crying. Everybody is welling up. (MM)
Best Indie Disco: The Bimble Inn
As well as having the cheapest cocktails (well hello, £3 Mojitos!), The Bimble Inn also had one of the best indie discos of the festival. Despite your DiS writer being well inebriated after consuming several of the aforementioned Mojitos, they can remember most of the songs which contributed to one of the finest indie disco slots of the weekend. In a Thursday evening set that included No Doubt’s ‘Don’t Speak’, The Cure’s ‘Friday I’m in Love’ and Madonna’s ‘Like a Prayer’, what more can you want to take you into the early hours at the greatest festival in the world? A £3 Cosmopolitan sound-tracked by House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’ perhaps? They had that too. (EA)
All photos by Mike Burnell