The Pilton Festival (as Glastonbury was originally known) took place on 19th September, 1970. Tickets were £1 each (including free milk) and 1500 people turned up to watch headliners Tyrannosaurus Rex. At Glastonbury 2015 dinosaurs still rule the land, as evidenced by the huge audiences that turn out for Burt Bacharach, Lionel Richie and The Who. Admission these days is £225 (no free milk), and while that’s value for money in terms of what’s on offer, when you factor in additional costs like food, drink and transport, you have an event restricted to those who can afford to spend more than what the average UK worker earns per week on a music festival. Would a concession rate be too much to ask?
Writing a comprehensive review of Glastonbury is an impossible task, but here are some of the highs and lows from this year’s festival…
Mary J. Blige
The Queen of Hip Hop Soul™ marked her debut with aplomb despite the downpour, and played a career-spanning set of classic tracks, including ‘I’m the One’, ‘Real Love’, ‘Family Affair’ and a cover of U2’s ‘One’. Keeping a crowd happy and entertained in torrential rain at Glastonbury is no small feat, and by the end of the set Blige was moved to tears by the rapturous ovation she received.
A rare dose of realism in a weekend that was removed from reality. Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn are the proverbial Marmite, but for those who get the band’s ethos and relate to the words and music, this was a triumphant set; 40 minutes of rage and fury which spoke volumes about the state of decay that exists beyond the ley lines of Worthy Farm. Vicious, visceral and vitriolic, Sleaford Mods’ set at Glastonbury was a fitting riposte to anyone who doubts their intent and purpose.
The Radio 1 playlist gimps chose to ignore the singles from La Roux’s brilliant second album, Trouble in Paradise last year. On Saturday night, Elly Jackson and her band made this decision seem injudicious, if not imbecilic in the extreme. ‘Uptight Downtown’, ‘Kiss and Not Tell’ and ‘Sexotheque’ are perfect summer pop songs, and sounded immense in a packed John Peel tent.
Shangri-La / Block 9
Thousands of ravers off their faces listening to nosebleed electro amongst alleyways and buildings that appear to have sprung from some Ballardian dystopian fantasy might not be everyone’s idea of fun, but this after hours enclave in the south east corner of Glastonbury is the closest the festival comes to replicating the spirit of early 90s rave. Worth the queuing and kettling (just).
The standout artist of Glastonbury 2015, Smith’s set pulsated with drive, purpose and vigour. ‘Redondo Beach’ from seminal album Horses was an early highlight, but the defining moment arrives midway through when the singer gets the crowd to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to the Dalai Lama before bringing His Holiness on stage to address the crowd. During an incendiary cover of The Who’s ‘My Generation’, Smith loses her footing and slips over, but her comeback is priceless: “I fell on my ass at Glastonbury, but I don’t care ’cause I’m a fucking animal!”
As soon as he was announced as the headline act for Saturday, the man with an ego bigger than a small moon divided the Glastonbury faithful. It’s laughable that Kanye should be deemed either worthy or unworthy to play a music festival; how many of the 135,000 keyboard warriors who signed the petition calling for his appearance to be cancelled even bought tickets? In the end, West’s performance felt joyless and went down like a knackered lift, as the rapper’s hubris prevented him from establishing any meaningful rapport with the crowd.
Jive Bunny for Generation Z.
The so-called ‘Legends’ slot on Sunday afternoon is a Glastonbury staple, but would the money spent on booking these nostalgia acts be better spent on decent sanitation and improving the infrastructure? (see below)
An obvious gripe and we’ll spare you the graphic details, but given that the paying punters are the ones who make the festival possible, you’d expect the standard of bogs they use to match the comfort and hygiene of the compost toilets and ‘luxury loos’ in the backstage and hospitality areas.
“I say build some more fucking bypasses over this shithole.” So said Nicky Wire from Manic Street Preachers during their set on the Other Stage in 1994. He may have had a point. With many having to wait hours in their vehicles to leave the festival on the Monday afternoon, surely it’s time to the organisers came up with a new plan to prevent this gridlock.
(Photo by Tom Widd)