Tony Hardy (TH): The first rule of Glastonbury is that only you can create your own snapshot. Your experience could be totally different to the next person and the next and so forth. Whatever kind of music you are into, you’ll find it here. You can party like it’s 1999, 1970 or any year you want to choose. Or chill, take your time, breath in, bliss out.
Scott C. Moore (SM): Get there early, though. The scale of this mother of all festivals is nearly incomprehensible, so arriving on Wednesday or Thursday will help to accomplish the impossible task of taking it all in. While many of the main stages will still be under construction, food vendors and bars across the site are fully operational and everyone in attendance is in a celebratory mood. Don’t see any big names scheduled for Wednesday or Thursday? Don’t worry about it. Allow the feel of the place to lead you, and you won’t be disappointed.
TH: The size and scale of the festival site is still daunting but once you get over the sight that greets you as you gaze across the valley, it starts to fit into place. Glastonbury is arranged like a series of small, interconnected villages each with a stage or more.
Photo by Mariel Wood
SM: You can find yourself in the center of the market area listening to Irish folk music emanating from a quaint gazebo. Or you could drift over to a field in the English countryside for a throbbing underground night club in Block 9. It’s great.
TH: The signs that point the way are now taking on an antique quality, but they work. And despite a few necessary updates, the otherwise marvelous pocket guide produced by The Guardian does its job. I’m still trying to get over the absence of Robyn Hitchcock and the Spirit of ’71 stage and don’t want to be reminded where it was used to stand every time I open the map. And where, oh where is William’s Green!
SM: My advice? Walk around the site, yes, the whole site. You didn’t come to Glastonbury to get shit faced in front of your tent (if you did, you’ve overpaid for the privilege), so explore the grounds and figure out what it’s going to take to get from the Pyramid to West Holts when you need to rush between two can’t miss shows later in the weekend.
Photo by Adam Gasson
TH: Good advice, Scott. As you know, this year marked the festival’s 44th year, and host Michael Eavis has already announced he’ll be stepping down when it turns 50, handing both reins to daughter, Emily. He will leave a huge legacy. Why? Because more than any other music festival, Glastonbury is a cultural extravaganza the likes of which you won’t find anywhere else on Earth.
What’s more, the organization is amazing, and the festival’s a tribute to everyone who works there, whatever role they have. From guides to guards, each staff member handles whatever weather and humans can collectively throw at them with grace and humor. (Let’s be sure not to forget the two tragedies that took place over the weekend.)
Though, I do have one grouse, festival goers: take your stuff home. I did. All of it, muddy or not. After all, the by-line of Glastonbury is “Love the farm – leave no trace,” but thousands don’t. Clearly.
Photo by Adam Gasson
SM: Two ubiquitous campaigns on Worthy Farm are “Leave No Trace” and “Don’t Pee on the Land”. I’m not sure what is was like before those campaigns started, but there are dudes pissing EVERYWHERE and there is garbage all over the place. Volunteers do a remarkable job of keeping up with the garbage but they aren’t getting a ton of help from the attendees.
TH: Whatever else hasn’t already been written about Glastonbury is possibly best left unsaid. Instead, enjoy our 30 favorite moments of the weekend and maybe push yourself to go next year. It ain’t easy, but what ever is?
The Breakfast of Champions
Jonny Greenwood and the London Sinfonietta
Friday, West Holts – 11:10 a.m.
Before noon on the West Holts stage on Friday, Jonny Greenwood opened on solo guitar and layered recorded loops to create a rich, sonic atmosphere. After 15 minutes of intricate strumming, the ever humble Radiohead star sheepishly thanked the crowd before leaving the stage. Greenwood was quickly replaced by the London Sinfonietta delivering Steve Reich’s “Music for 18 Musicians”. The piece dips and swells from quiet reflection to frenetic intensity, allowing a showcase for each instrument. It evokes the contemplation of humankind’s continuous struggle to understand the meaning of our existence and place in the universe. Just kidding. I have no idea what it means, but it was absolutely fucking beautiful and a perfect start to the day. –Scott C. Moore
The War on Blondie
Blondie/The War on Drugs
Photo by Jason Bryant
Friday, Other Stage – 12:15 p.m.; Pyramid Stage – 12:30 p.m.
A guiding principle of Glastonbury is that at any time during the day, there are at least two bands you really want to see at the same time. Without access to the inter-stage area, which turns the miry walk between the two main stages into a comparatively short hop, the following would not be possible. Thanks to an early surprise set by Kaiser Chiefs, Blondie opened to a huge crowd with a supercharged rendition of “One Way or Another”. (Just to correct the girl to my right: no, this wasn’t a One Direction cover). Age may have taken some edge off Debbie Harry’s formidable pipes but the trio of opening songs were predictably slick, fast, and dynamic, as gaunt guitarist Chris Stein matched Harry for silver-grey chic.
Photo by Nathan Dainty
Meanwhile, over on the Pyramid stage, Philadelphia’s The War on Drugs worked through some sound issues, specifically an uncomfortable bass boom that spasmodically dulled their ringing guitars. Regardless, Adam Granduciel’s six-piece entertained a gathering throng to some classic guitar rock, chiefly culled from their recent Top Rated album, Lost in the Dream. The atmospheric, drawn-out “Under the Pressure” and emotional bruiser “Red Eyes” especially hit the spot with 2011 breakthrough song “Come to the City” providing a pinnacle closer. All through the set, Granduciel’s Dylanish drawl worked through heartache yet the music always lifted spirits. The war was won. –Tony Hardy
Artist Least Prepared (For the Weather)
Friday, West Holts – 2:30 p.m.
The Deltron 3030 ensemble included a horn section, backup singers, strings, a live rhythm section, a conductor/hype man, and DJ Kid Koala working three turntables and a host of electronic gadgets. Whether a testament to Del the Funky Homosapien’s delivery, the excellent West Holts sound, or both, the show was delightfully devoid of “the muddle” that plagues so much live hip-hop. Deltron 3030 dropped mind-bending rhymes backed by soaring orchestral arrangements for a genre-defying performance that had the crowd bouncing. Throw in a guest appearance from Jamie Cullum and closing the set with Gorillaz’ “Clint Eastwood”, and it can’t get much better. Oh, and Del called out Mars Volta’s bass player for picking up a pair of wellies onsite while he just had to deal with his shoes being all fucked up. I guess nobody told him. –Scott C. Moore
Accessorizing with Mud
Friday, William’s Green Stage – 3:00 p.m.
If you’re going to turn up amid a sea of mud in a brilliant white trouser suit, then playing an indoor stage seems a wise move. Summer Camp’s brand of breezy, intelligent dance music meant the youthful audience packing the William’s Green stage was far too occupied with having a good time to practice mud-slinging, and so their outfits stayed pristine throughout. (Mind you, I was tempted briefly to target the girl with the feathered headdress obscuring my view.) Husband and wife Jeremy Warmsley and Elizabeth Sankey, respectively, impressed with as much confidence on stage as they did with their fashion sense. And despite that booming bass once again, the two came out on top, specifically with a singalong of “Ghost Train” and a raucous closer in “Two Chords”, the latter ending in a barrage of feedback, rather than mud, of course. –Tony Hardy
Ready to Give Up The Day Job
Andrew Maxwell Morris
Photo by Nathan Dainty
Friday, Bimble Inn – 4:00 p.m.
The path towards The Bimble Inn provides a welcome pint of real ale or cider and invariably a goodly selection of acoustic-based live music. It’s a kind of pagan heaven, decked out with knotted drapes and fairy-lighted foliage, and even camp beds for the weary festival goer. Andrew Maxwell Morris is something of a regular at the festival, though he’s usually on his own with a guitar. On Friday, he was flanked by an adroit four-piece band and two backing singers, who offered much more than simply eye candy. Criminal lawyer by day, Morris held a relaxed, if not fully captive, afternoon audience with Americana-drenched songs off his new album, Well Tread Roads, and some older favorites. An earnest, flowing “In a Heartache”, Knopfler-quality soloing from the lead guitarist on “Low Light”, and a storming “January Rain” were just three stand-outs. Given the crowd he nabbed, it might be high time to close the briefcase and go for the bigger stages. –Tony Hardy