Later than intended due to family bereavement and time spent in Birmingham, here's the Keep Pop Loud Glastonbury round-up!
Although the festival was not due to start officially until the Friday, dotted around the site on Thursday (the second day of our stay, after arriving and pitching on Wednesday) were a select few low-key performances and events. Heading towards the Queen's Head stage for some bands in the afternoon the intention was to catch the triple-whammy of Two Door Cinema Club, Egyptian Hip-Hop and Chapel Club. The crowd for Two Door proved too much however, and one girlfriend fainting later, said band had to be abandoned and the entirety of Egyptian Hip-Hop's set was spent in the medical tent. By all accounts we didn't miss much, but were suitably convinced by what we could hear of TDCC to catch them the next time we could. Lucky for us then that they were due to open the Other Stage on the Saturday.
We arrived back at the Queen's Head as Chapel Club were about to launch into their second song, single 'Five Trees'. With razor sharp post-punk basslines, scratchy distorted guitars and a croon pitched somewhere between Morrissey and Editors' Tom Smith, the band played with passion and heaps of charisma. If they're not much higher up the bill next year after a huge selling album then I'll be very much surprised. Further plans were again thwarted for the Thursday by unbelievable queues for the cinema tent's showing of comedy film Four Lions. Luckily the sunset from the hill in The Park proved a stunning way to end the day.
Not being the raving type it was a comparatively early night and a Friday morning heading to the Pyramid Stage for it's opening act of the festival. Said act was a certain Rolf Harris, who although a complete novelty entertained thoroughly with his wobble-board and Aussie anthems. 'Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport' was aired twice (once in an 'English version') and 'Two Little Boys' was clearly anticipated by the crowd. A cover of Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway To Heaven' didn't mistreat us either and with the unfathomably hot weather (seriously, it was baking hot all weekend) the group and I decided to stay put for Femi Kuti's Africana which was on next.
Suitably later on and at a relaxed pace we headed towards the Other Stage for punk legends The Stranglers. Unfortunately the band failed to connect with me, despite getting the rest of the crowd going and playing a set of classic songs. Wanting to fill up my water bottles and catch something on the West Holts stage I left as the band kicked from 'Peaches' to 'Golden Brown'. It was nearly enough to get me to stay. But not quite. The girlfriend and I were off to Mariachi El Bronx.
An early highlight came from this reformed punk-to-Mariachi band whose acoustic guitars and trumpets reflected perfectly the scorching heatwave. Matt Caughthran's voice, considering his hardcore punk background, proved to be utterly sublime on songs such as 'Slave Labour' and 'Litigation'. The band's self titled album is certainly riding high on the To Buy List right now and it was immensely pleasing to have caught the entire set.
As this was my first music festival at this point I had yet to get the hang of chopping and changing around stages in order to maximise the amount of acts that I could catch. Eager to see Parisians Phoenix I made my way back to the Other Stage soon after the Mariachi El Bronx set had concluded... only to catch the tail end of The Courteeners. The Courteeners are a band that I've disliked since the early days, but in catching 'You Overdid It, Doll', 'Not Nineteen Forever' and 'What Took You So Long?' I've had to have a rethink. Unlike The Stranglers, who I do like on record, The Courteeners managed to actually connect, sending the early afternoon crowd into a frenzy. It's this type of sing-along anthems that got me into guitar music all those years ago and caused me to contemplate weather Liam Fray (yes, the guy is a pillock - “Great song, that” he said after 'You Overdid It, Doll') and co got caught up in a backlash by myself against indie landfill and the NME's championing (see also Foals).
Putting that to the back of my mind for a time however, it was time for Phoenix who provided a really early benchmark for the festival that few other bands of the weekend met. Drawing mainly on last year's Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix they opened with 'Lisztomania' and closed with '1901', finding time in-between to give us 'Long Distance Call' and a PHENOMENAL 'Lasso'
This should give you a rough idea.
Post-Phoenix we caught the D O double G. Yep, Snoop Dogg! Now whilst his music does repulse me for the most part it's impossible to deny the man's charm, plus he was on directly before Vampire Weekend and gave us 'Drop It Like It's Hot' within the last couple of songs (which to be fair is all we caught). It was a surprise to see that he'd drawn as big a crowd as he did, but then I expect that many people were there for the LOLZ. But that's OK, because straight afterwards Vampire Weekend gave us a fantastic hits set, playing great song after great song. They may only be two albums into their career but they've got one hell of a catalogue behind them already. 'A-Punk', 'Oxford Comma', 'Giving Up The Gun', 'Holiday', 'M79', 'Cousins', 'I Stand Corrected', 'Walcott' and a better-than-on-record 'One (Blake's Got A New Face)' all shimmered on the Pyramid stage.
To stay around for Dizzee Rascal or to explore a bit? Well, Mumford & Sons were on the John Peel Stage, so it was over to there for the first time. Sadly the tent was rammed beyond all comprehension, and hearing the band over the people next to us smoking and loudly talking about how they play Mumford & Sons album at dinner parties proved an impossibility. The band impressed enough to make their way to the To Buy List however, but we opted to leave and take a punt on the Special Guests at The Park.
Prompted in no small part by the fact that the merchandise stalls were selling Biffy Clyro t-shirts, we were hoping that said guests would be the Scottish three piece. Unfortunately introduced by the legendary Michael Evis the slot was filled by Thom Yorke. He played some slap bass (yeurgh!) and whined a bit to some of his solo material before we left and he was joined by Johnny Greenwood for some Radiohead songs. As blasphemous as I'm sure it is on the blogsphere, I preferred The Courteeners.
There was only one band that I could go and see to headline on Friday and that was Gorillaz. Now, you may have read some negative reviews of this set but I can tell you now, that these reviews are bullshit. The crowd in the Pyramid wanted hit after hit after hit. For some reason they went to see Gorillaz, who only have a handful of these songs. Anyone wiling to have put some work in and engaged their brain rather than their mouth would have realised that Gorillaz played the best set of the weekend. Each track sounding more brilliant that the last we were hit with a run in the middle of the set that bought out the big guns of special guests. Kano and Bashy on 'White Flag', De la Soul on 'Superfast Jellyfish', Shaun Ryder on 'DARE', Mark E. Smith on 'Glitter Freeze' and Lou Reed on 'Some Kind of Nature'. How Damon pulled all of these out of the bag I do not know, but in seeing Lou, Damon and The Clash's Mick Jones (Gorillaz permanent guitarist) all singing at the same time, I nearly wet myself with excitement. This is something U2 couldn't have provided, not matter what the broadsheets are saying.
Mos Def couldn't make 'Stylo' due to a bereavement, but it was still ruddy ace.
Seeing as Snoop failed to appear for Gorillaz near-opener 'Welcome To The World Of The Plastic Beach' it was a surprise to see the man enter for the encore, filling in Del tha Funkee Homosapien's shoes on a triumphant 'Clint Eastwood'. It's fair to say that a lot of the crowd were waiting for this moment anyway, and as a signing off it was utterly perfect. When the Glastonbury crowd became as picky as that as V Festival's I'll never know, but from this set onwards my opinion of the average Glasto punter was somewhat lower.