Wide-eyed, lost and slightly terrified, I was not at my most clear-headed as I wandered across Worthy Farm’s hallowed mud in 2002. Through ganja clouds, bongo drummers, junglist sound systems, naked campaigners and harrowing long drop stenches, I stumbled into the Jazz World field to witness a joyous, crazed, life affirming, Japanese acid trip of an act called the Shibusashirazu Orchestra. Acrobats hung from the roof of the stage, a free-form psychedelic big band roused a cacophony, drummers pounded in unison, schoolgirls and nurses performed yoga moves and a man in red underpants led the field in an ancient chant. I pretty quickly fell in love with the place.
Over the years the festival has introduced me to an albino Muslim rapper (Brother Ali), a group of paraplegic, Congolese street musicians (Staff Benda Bilili), nomadic Saharan rebels (Tinariwen), the English National Opera and a gang of Portuguese punks who stripped naked, tore down a speaker stack and were unceremoniously escorted off The Other Stage in a hail of feedback (The Parkinsons). It’s this un-prejudiced celebration of life’s great kooks, cranks and eccentrics that is part of why Glastonbury so unique. This year’s line-up looks typically diverse with Kanye and Motorhead sharing the Pyramid stage with local Somerset brass troupe Birtle Silver Band, but here are a few other oddities to keep an eye out for…
The Cambodian Space Project – West Holts, Friday, 11.30am
Rock and roll first reached Cambodia through American forces radio in the 60s and 70s, and sparked a surge of local bands trying to put their own take on the classic pop records of the time. Most of the groups were wiped out by Pol Pot’s brutal regime, but the music lived on and Srey Thy grew up in rural rice fields dreaming of being a singer. Sent to the capital Phnom Penh as a teenager to earn money for her family, Thy ended up singing in karaoke bars where she was spotted performing Peggy Lee songs by Australian producer Julien Poulson in 2009. Together they formed The Cambodian Space Project and sought to revive the lost sounds from the Golden Age of Khmer Rock and forge their own brand of Cambodian garage surf music. Counting Nick Cave and MC5’s Wayne Kramer as fans, they have recorded latest album Whisky Cambodia in Detroit with a group of original Motown session musicians are now set open the biggest music festival in the world. Sounds like a fine way to start your Friday morning.
Juck Juck Grunzie – La Pussy Parlure, Thursday, 12.40am and Gully, Friday, 3pm
The Seoul female four-piece broke down in floods of tears when their promoter told them they had been chosen to play at Glastonbury. They might not be quite so emotional when they realise they’re not performing to thousands on the Pyramid Stage, but we’re sure they’ll have a good time over in the The Gully anyway. Quite what the crowds will make of it all is anyone’s guess though. Slow-grinding, South Korean, psychedelic grunge might not be top of everybody’s summer playlist, but Juck Juck Grunzie kick out an unforgettable alien assault on the senses that will be well worth catching. Led by Ah-reum Lee, their swampy, surreal, post-rock sprawl winds into explosive crescendos like an ear-bleeding mix of Bo Ningen, King Crimson and Nirvana. Listen out too for their mighty cover of Dead Kennedy’s track Too Drunk To Fuck – it’s a belter.
Yiddish Twist Orchestra – Avalon Stage, Saturday, 6.45pm
Anthemic rock bands, beat-pounding EDM DJs, newbie indie starlets, swaggering hip hop stars and a few World Music acts are all par for the course at big music festivals these days, but you don’t see too many old-time swing orchestras. Back in the 1950s, big band leader Willy Bergman was a wild, hard-drinking rogue who fused together the sounds of London’s poor Jewish, West Indian and Latin communities into a new, vibrant form of jive music. Legend has it that he was doing ‘the twist’ well before Chubby Checker got in on the act, but he suddenly disappeared without trace and never got the credit he deserved. Now guitarist Ben Mandelson and Ska Cubano vocalist Natty Bo are keeping alive the memory of ‘the lost legend of British Rock and Roll’ with their infectious take on his tunes. Bring your dancing shoes to the Avalon Stage early on Saturday evening.
Long Shen Dao – Gully, Sunday, 5.45pm.
Chinese reggae may sound about as tantalising as visit to the long drops, but once immersed in the Glastonbury experience these things seem to make a bit more sense. Long Shen Dao’s use of traditional Oriental instruments with dub and rock atmospherics makes for a unique sound and they’re not averse to turning up the tempo and bouncing about to jumpy ska tunes too. Let’s face it, you’re at Glastonbury. You’re gonna be faced with crusty, white blokes with dreadlocks and Bob Marley t-shirts at some point in the weekend. You might as well make it these chaps.
My Skin Against Your Skin – La Pussy Parlure, Friday, 3pm
Billed as Taiwan’s answer to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, My Skin Against Your Skin deal in bombastic storms of glitterball indie pop. Front girl Andrea Huang is a natural, charismatic star bursting with sass and swagger and the three-piece kick out ravey, raucous, big-hearted rock tunes that sound like Royal Blood madeover by Charli XCX. Over in Asia they’d probably be filling giant arenas, but here they’ll have to make do with the more intimate Pussy Parlure tent – a new roof might just be needed if they really hit their stride.
Goat – The Park, Sunday, 9pm
Forget The Rolling Stones and Arctic Monkeys, the real star performance of Glastonbury 2013 was over on the West Holts stage where masked Swedish psych-rock oddballs Goat cooked up mad, trippy grooves and plundering freak-rock jams. Claiming to be descended from voodoo practising witch doctors, they turn spacey, afrobeat tunes into funky, Hendrix meltdowns whilst two girls in tribal robes and headdresses leap around the stage shrieking and yelping. Catch them over at The Park stage this year.
Too Many Zooz – La Pussy Parlure, Sunday, 2.15pm
More used to busking on the streets and subway of New York than performing to boozy festival goers, Too Many Zooz bring their vibrant brass jams to the Pussy Parlure tent on Sunday afternoon. It may just be a sax player, a trumpeter and a drummer, but their collision of Latin, hip hop, house and soul sounds makes for surprisingly lively and upbeat performances.
Raghu Dixit – Avalon Stage, Friday, 3.45pm
Turning traditional Indian sounds into soaring, emotional, soul ballads, Raghu Dixit is one of the stars of the emerging independent scene in Mumbai and a man capable of sending audiences into a weeping mess with the power of his voice. The former micro-biologist also composes soundtracks for Bollywood movies and first played at the festival in 2011 before later finding himself alongside Robert Plant, Adele and Arcade Fire on Later With Jools Holland. Singing in English and multiple Indian languages, his set should be a warm, soothing, powerful moment of serenity amongst all the noisy chaos.
47Soul – Gully, Sunday, 1.15pm
A group of Palestinian artists that originally formed in Amman in Jordan, 47Soul call themselves ‘an electro-mijwez, shamstep, choubi band’. I prefer acoustic-mijwez, shamstep choubi, myself! We haven’t the foggiest idea what any of that means, but their collision of Arabic street music with electro beats and hip hop rhythms promises to be one of the most startling sounds at the festival and they’re known for creating a big, dancey carnival feel at their shows.
Songhoy Blues – Sunday, 12pm, Pyramid Stage
Forced to flee from a small town in Northern Mali in 2012 after armed jihadists took control, Garbe Tore first formed Songhoy Blues with fellow refugee musicians as a way of lifting their morale. Quickly picked up to play on Damon Albarn’s Africa Express project, they now find themselves on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury and the talk of the World Music scene thanks to their brilliant debut album Music in Exile (produced by Yeah Yeah Yeahs man Nick Zinner). Melding traditional African sounds with a love of Jimi Hendrix, BB King and John Lee Hooker records, their electric desert blues should blow away a few cobwebs come Sunday morning.