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Right in the middle of his Saturday night headline set at Deer Shed Festival 2013, Darwin Deez brought his band to the front of the stage, and all four men lined up in silence. Then a metronomic electro beat kicked in, and they began to move. Initially, just an arm would go up in response to a recorded note. Then each dancer took on a musical motif as his own, limbs locked in time with the music, until they were a blur of moving body parts, aligned in rhythm but diverse in motion, as if the internal workings of a wristwatch. It spiralled from there: in pairs, each couple chiding the other – using nothing but the power of dance – to even higher levels of highly-skilled yet light-hearted boogie-banter. It was a moment that summed up the entire ethos of Deer Shed Festival: do something fun; do it well; do it with the unselfconscious devotion of a child. And if it involves putting a cardboard box on one’s head and pretending to be a robot, so much the better.
Rewind a day or so, and the famously clement Deer Shed weather made putting up a tent both a pleasure and a chore – baking hot sunshine is perfect when the work of tent-erection is over, cold beer in hand, but slightly less enjoyable whilst in the process of whacking tent pegs into baked-hard ground. Still, it beats rain in any form, and Deer Shed still has a 100% record for no significant rain at any of the four events so far, a record which leaves many festivals blushing with envy. The site itself was significantly rearranged this year, cleverly making use of Baldersby Park’s natural bowl-shaped amphitheatre, although this sadly leaves the eponymous Shed outside the arena, looking very much unloved and forlorn. Perhaps it could be brought into use for… ooh, I don’t know… housing deer for the weekend?
No sooner was the tent upstanding then it was time for music. First up was Gaz Coombes, late of Supergrass, and what a superb opening gambit he turned out to be. His recent work, as chronicled in long-player ‘Here Comes the Bombs’, was very much in evidence, as expected, as was heartbreaking recent single ‘One Of These Days’. Songs such as the sub-3-minute stomper ‘Whore’, and the more circumspect, spacey almost-prog of ‘Universal Cinema’, were rapturously received by a crowd who appeared initially not to know quite what to expect.
What they got was a spectacular performance from a well-drilled and vastly experienced practitioner of alternative guitar-pop. A lady or two might have swooned at the sight of his impressively-sideburned visage. Imagine the delight of the crowd when treated to an acoustic interlude of a couple of Supergrass numbers, including the divine ‘Moving’, which excels when given a stripped back treatment. Then imagine that delight transforming into headbanging ecstasy when the very last song turns out to be the storming ‘Richard III’ from Supergrass’ sophomore release. Not a brow was left unsweaty. (5/5)
By chance, a member of our entourage is acquainted with a good friend of Edwyn Collins, and from him has learned how devastating the double cerebral haemorrhage and subsequent complications Collins suffered in 2005 actually were. Thusly, we’re under no illusions about how impressive it is that he’s here at all. Which makes reviewing his performance a little tricky. Collins himself isn’t overly mobile, his right side clearly considerably weakened. He sits on an amplifier throughout and plays no instrument. He has an odd way of speaking – in short, sharp facts rather than conversational sentences. His speech is slurred. Yet here he is, confidently headlining. It cannot be overestimated how significant an achievement that is, and a tribute to Collins’ efforts of rehabilitation. Such sentiment is largely irrelevant, however, in the context of musical criticism. And whilst on the surface this could be a difficult listen – a bald reading of some relatively obscure songs from a man who slurs his words and is liberal in his approach to perfect pitch – anyone with even a casual familiarity with his work will appreciate the resonance of this performance as a whole.
The set ranges widely over Collins’ long career – the white funk of his Orange Juice period still sounds fresh in ‘What Presence?’, time hasn’t dulled ‘Gorgeous George’’s edge, but it’s the new, post-illness material that’s most impressive. We get a smattering from 2010’s superb Losing Sleep LP, including the Northern Soul-influenced title track and the touchingly romantic ‘In Your Eyes’. But the best bits come from this year’s ‘Understated’. If Collins’ voice is damaged, his ear for a tune is still factory-fresh. There’s a strong autobiographical thread running through his newest songs: ‘31 Years’ and ‘Understated’ are barely-concealed musings on his past, his achievements, and what the future might hold, all bound together with expert songcraft. Bad health may have robbed Collins of his ability to play his cherished guitars, but it has thankfully left his musical brain intact. A performance for connoisseurs, but what it lacked in accessibility it made up for in depth. (4/5)
A particular highlight of last year was Darius Battiwalla’s piano accompaniment to the eerie ‘Nosferatu’. This year, Darius was back with 1925’s ‘The Phantom of the Opera’. ‘Phantom’ tells the story of Erik, a hideously deformed figure who lives deep in the bowels of an opera house, falls in love with a leading lady, and proceeds to terrorise all those who would stand in his way. A disturbing portrait of manic depression, it contains some genuinely chilling scenes, notably the casual way Erik dispenses with his first underground caller.
The production is astonishing even when viewed with a jaded modern eye – the subterranean lair is a romantic gothic masterpiece, and the restrictions of black and white film are used to its advantage when portraying the inky blackness of water, and by the use of tints to reinforce the emotional context of a scene. Battiwalla’s playing is an absolute joy, so expertly reflecting the on-screen action, one could close one’s eyes and imagine how the story was developing. Beautiful melodic vignettes of disparate theme, pitch and tempo flow together to create a seamless soundtrack, all the more impressive for being played without sheet music. Cinema doesn’t get any better than this. (5/5)
Head on over to Martin’s Flickr for high-res versions of his photos taken at this year’s Deer Shed Festival.
Update: as of 26/11/2013, they’re now called The Orielles.
Every so often one comes across a band that so perfectly defies expectation – and, occasionally, reason – that they deserve to be written about just for that. The Oreoh!s are just such an act. Comprising sisters Esme and Sid Hand-Halford on bass and drums, respectively, and Henry Wade on guitar, this Halifax-based three-piece are notable for being the youngest in age I have ever seen on the professional circuit: we’re talking between 15 and 17 years of age here, folks. Not even old enough for a refreshing post-gig lager. Which in itself isn’t a special talent – after all, we were all young once – but what’s more intriguing is that they’re actually a really good band. My thoughts on their appearance at Liverpool Sound City are already out there, but after the buzz of that weekend had died down I had the opportunity to sit down and have a listen to their independently-recorded EP ‘Sunny Daze and Sleepless Nights’. [Our copy was handed to me personally by the band themselves at Brink cafe on the third day of Sound City 2013. Eat your heart out, Lammo, with your Bloc Party demo at the Franz Ferdinand gig outside the toilets at the ICA. - Ed.]
Slightly dodgy puns aside, this recording really shows the depth of ability that these three West Yorkshire youngsters display. ‘Truth Be Told’ (stream above) is the opener – after the riffing builds into a decent garage-band groove, the beautiful crystal-clear voice of Esme is introduced, at once powerful and delicate, with a fine knack for a catchy melody. The lyrics advise, “do it all before you get old”, a surprisingly mature sentiment considering the singer’s tender years. ‘Deduce’ (video at the end of this post) is the standout track, and one that rollicks along at a fine pace, with a massive serving of fizzy guitars, tinny drums, and Esme’s lovely vocal. This could genuinely be an underground garage-rock classic – slightly lo-fi, incredibly catchy chorus that comes round exactly the correct number of times, deceptively basic yet heartfelt musicianship. A real triumph. And just to show they can do downtempo as well as up, ‘Midnight In Paris’ is a delicate ballad based around squeezebox rather than guitar, and again that surprisingly mature sentiment is clear to hear.
The Oreoh!s have been a pleasure to discover. All four songs on this EP are great and show incredible potential. It’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating here – if they’re this good this young, how good will they be in a few years’ time? Let’s hope that they’ve got the staying power to properly realise their potential.
The Oreoh!s’ EP ‘Sunny Daze and Sleepless Nights’ is available from the band’s own merch store.
Drenge have been in the news for all the wrong reasons recently.* But opportunistic recommendations from politicians aside, what’s all the fuss about Drenge? With a slender lineup consisting of brothers Eoin and Rory Loveless and nobody else, the Sheffield pair conjure a mighty brick wall of distorted guitars and scarily thrashed drums. If vocal styles could be patented, Nick Cave would be filing a suit against Drenge for his singing on latest single ‘Backwaters’ (video below): the drawled, echoed vocal will be familiar to anyone with a passing knowledge of ’50s rock ‘n’ roll, but the portentous riffing belongs firmly to 2013’s post-punk scene. The lyrics are pretty impenetrable, but the disturbing video evokes the violent energy of disenfranchised youth: all vandalism, alcohol, and casual violence, to the incongruous backdrop of dry stone walled countryside.
There’s to be an eponymous album in August, featuring both singles and their B-sides. Lead-off track ‘People In Love Make Me Feel Yuck’ can be previewed on Soundcloud (play it in the widget below); it’s funkier than either of the singles, and perhaps the closest Drenge have yet come to a love song (although apparently the album will showcase their tender side in a track improbably called ‘Fuckabout’). ‘I Wanna Break You In Half’ is perhaps the most outrageous recording yet, boiling over with bile (“If you had a soul I’d like to eat it”) and monstrous guitars. Drenge do what they do very well – the question is whether their schtick can be extended over the course of an album without becoming repetitive or stale. However, there can be no doubt that this will be spectacular live, and in this, Tom Watson does indeed have a point. Drenge have a headline tour scheduled for late August onwards, and are playing countless summer festivals before then, notably the main stage of Kendal Calling in just a couple of weekends’ time.
‘Drenge’ by Drenge is released on the 19th of August.
*Tom Watson MP, the self-appointed policeman of the country’s free press, was forced to resign his position as general election co-ordinator of Her Majesty’s Opposition over the union seat-fixing scandal, when it was revealed that the union-backed candidate for the allegedly Unite-rigged Falkirk seat was his personal office manager. In his resignation letter, Watson argued wrongly that it should be acceptable for party leaders (and therefore, presumably, prime ministers) to attend Glastonbury, before recommending Drenge as an “awesome band”. He was correct in his recommendation, as he was in his selection of Glastonbury headline band in this article for Noisey. But that doesn’t mitigate the fact that political resignation letters are for resignation, not discussions of popular music. The Drenge reference in this context is one part vanity, and one part attempt to deflect attention from the far more serious hot water that Watson finds himself in, a tactic that has been partly successful in the short term. In that way Drenge have found themselves being “used” for political purposes, something that bands rarely appreciate. No wonder they were so underwhelmed.
One of the great mysteries of popular music is exactly why fate chooses a particular band to become legendary – treated with holy reverence by great swathes of the listening public – when the vast majority either tread the boards for years to an enthusiastic but small fanbase, or disappear completely after a promising start, to the notice of, well, nobody. The example that springs to mind is The Stone Roses – only one-and-a-bit decent albums, a singer that couldn’t really sing, but they are quite justifiably worshipped by those whose lives they entered and changed forever, generating countless spin-off books, photography exhibitions, and finally a feature-length documentary.
It has to do with timing, of course, and geographic location – if you wanted to become a legendary band in the mid-‘80s, Manchester was where you had to be from. The story of The Stone Roses is inextricably intertwined with that of James, The Smiths, New Order, The Hacienda – the Manchester musical family tree can be extended almost without end. So were The Stone Roses great and just happened to be Mancunian, or were they Mancunian and therefore automatically revered as part of that zeitgeist-defining scene? Would they have become the legend they have had they been from Swansea?
All of which rumination brings us to The House of Love. By any reading they are contemporaries of The Stone Roses, having formed in 1986 and released their debut album just a year earlier than them in 1988. The Stone Roses even supported them at an early gig. But in comparison with the Roses, their legend has been largely overlooked. Chiefly comprising singer and songwriter Guy Chambers and guitarist Terry Bickers, the story of The House of Love contains all the essential elements for a classic rock ‘n’ roll narrative arc including a promising start with a signing to Creation Records with Alan McGee proclaiming, “One of the great Creation bands… they could have taken on anybody live.”
But then they began to shed peripheral band members like confetti. Heavy drug use was rife, particularly during the mixing of the first album – with everyone high on LSD, band members and friends alike all had a go on the mixing desk, with predictably disastrous (and no doubt expensive) results. The better-than-fiction endgame came with Bickers ranting in the back of the tour bus, setting fire to banknotes (the KLF would later take this incendiary protest to its logical conclusion and burn a million quid). He was unceremoniously dumped at the nearest railway station, and one of the two personalities which made up the marrow of The House of Love was out of the band for the next decade.
The essence of The House of Love’s achievements are crystallised in their first two albums, neither of which has an official title. Both albums are strong in songwriting terms, the debut coming wrapped in a charmingly naive period production style, which is just as well – the effects and recording flaws are part of its charm. ‘Salome’ is an enormous, anthemic thing, with a sneering, supercilious vocal (“I love the way she cries”), ubiquitous driving guitar work and an enormous solo. ‘Love in a Car’ is a mysteriously circular, quiet-loud affair with a whispered, oblique lyric. ‘Man to Child’ proves they were equally as at ease with balladry, delicate acoustic guitar fluttering around a lyric so poignant you can just about taste the tears. And not forgetting ‘Christine’, the song that kicked the whole affair into gear: an anthemic slice of post-punk, proving that the guitar drones of shoegaze could be put to good use in the context of proper songwriting.
A couple of years later came what has become known as The Butterfly Album, featuring a significant bump in production values whilst keeping the trademark effects-heavy guitars, and a more coherent running order with a proper beginning, middle and end. In the opinion of this writer it represents the pinnacle of THoL’s output. From the moment a couple of minutes in when ‘Hannah’ shifts up from being a wash of slow-burning guitars into its keening vocal refrain, it’s clear that the band have progressed in every area since their first record. ‘Shine On’ should live in the pantheon of perfect pop songs forever – the enormous chorus that emerges before the one minute point yet doesn’t outstay its welcome, the lyric manages to reference the band name yet still make sense, the song itself ends just after three minutes but the band stretch it out into a stunning downtempo outro: unforgettable from the very first listen. ‘Beatles and Stones’ is a beautiful major-chord reminisce about the power of heroes to give one’s life meaning and succour, and even dares to evoke a little Beatles-esque nostalgia with a string-laden middle eight. But before the pastoralism gets too much, there’s a trio of upbeat ditties, including ‘Hedonist’, which neatly summarises Oasis’ whole career in its 3 and a half minutes, down to their penchant for mid-tempo riffing, guitar feedback, and even Liam’s vocal sneer. If Noel Gallagher had realised that someone had released a song that had already set out every decent thing that Oasis would achieve, he could have saved himself a lot of bother. Twelve tracks, and not a duffer amongst them.
Two fine albums then, at a time when the world was eager for a decent British guitar band. So why aren’t they revered for their achievements like their contemporaries? Part of the answer is the band’s implosion into drug use, depression, and personality clashes. But something else pertains: they simply didn’t fit the media narrative of Manchester, or, more accurately, “Madchester”. They were perhaps too good, too competent as musicians and songwriters, too focused on what made good music, to realise, or even care, that what the world and its press wanted was the propagation of a particular scene. Without doubt they must take a great deal of the responsibility for their drawn-out downfall upon themselves. But one cannot escape the conclusion that, despite the internal disagreements, The House of Love still deserve greater credit than that which history has deemed theirs to claim. So there we have it. The House of Love – the best pre-Britpop era band not to come from Manchester.
The House of Love’s latest album ‘She Paints Words In Red’ is available now on Cherry Red Records. The only place to see the band live this summer is at Deer Shed Festival this weekend in North Yorkshire, for which a handful of tickets are still available. The House of Love performs on Saturday.
What do you need to know about Kendal Calling? It’s taking place this year 26 to 28 July and it’s situated in a beautiful part of the Lake District, easily accessible from Scotland, northern England, and even somewhere like Coventry is less than 3 hours away. The entertainment lineup is superb this year, possibly one of the best ever, and the festival has already been dubbed “The Glastonbury of the North”. This may be so, but its sensible size means there’s still a pleasant local feel to the event. The great news for TGTF readers is that at the time of writing there’s still a handful of tickets left for Kendal Calling this year, so let me tempt you with some tasty morsels of what’s in store…
There’s two excellent places to watch bands – the Main Stage with its big names, and the equally promising Calling Stage with up-and-coming and alternative acts. The big headliners appear to come in pairs each night, and Friday sees Chuck D, Flava Flav and DJ Lord taking a brief holiday in rural Cumbria – yes, it’s Public Enemy, fresh from a triumphant Somerset set, looking just as angry as ever, and ready to rip your ears off with their politically-charged flow. And who better to get the first evening’s party started than Basement Jaxx, the perennial pop-dance outfit with a string of hits longer than a wet weekend in Barrow-in-Furness.
For those of a less party persuasion, the Calling Stage has some real gems on the first day. Concrete Knives were twice superb at Liverpool Sound City, and they’re back across the channel for a rare UK apperance with their funk-laden musique raffinée. Foy Vance and his incredible voice will surely deliver a soulful, acoustic interlude, Waylayers add an early afternoon dance vibe with their summery, Balearic-influenced tracks, and TGTF favourites The Heartbreaks (who editor Mary just interviewed in London a couple weeks ago at the Scala) will supply their stylish, upbeat, typically British guitar-pop sound as the sun goes down.
And for night owls, there’s any number of DJ sets, the biggest of which take place in the Glow Dance Tent, where your late-night shenanigans are enhanced by the no doubt head-scrambling presence of LEDs, lasers and enough UV light to bring on cataracts ten years early. Friday will see Oneman, remixer of The xx and TLC and purveyor of minimalist yet grimily atmospheric techno, young Brightonian Dismantle who specialises in “sort of dubstep”, young Lancastrian duo Bondax and their intimate, blissed-out electronica, before climaxing with Artwork, who, as one-third of Magnetic Man, released one of dance music’s biggest albums in 2010.
And then it all happens again on the Saturday! Highlights from the Calling Stage include Welsh art-pop from Sweet Baboo, delicate folk stylings from Fossil Collective, and an opportunity to see what all the fuss is about London Grammar – are they just an xx rip-off or is there something more there? Unmissable on the Main Stage are Mike Skinner and Rob Harvey’s intriguing project The D.O.T.; there’s an opportunity for people of a certain age to rock out like it’s 1996 with Ash, and I Am Kloot bring their delicate songwriting and ensemble melodiousness to life just before Saturday’s headliners The Charlatans (pictured at top) reveal whether or not they’re any good any more.
Sunday is surely the strongest Main Stage lineup – having had to suffer the ignominy of being Tom Watson’s favourite band, hopefully Drenge will play with even more venom and spirit today; and I don’t really need to explain anything about what is effectively a triple-headline bill: Johnny Marr, Seasick Steve and Primal Scream bring the whole affair to a resounding climax. As if that’s not enough, there’s a distinct drum ‘n’ bass flavour to the Glow Tent on Sunday, with Grooverider warming up for none other than Sir Roni of Size. World-class stuff.
And of course there’s stacks more going on around the site. There’s an entire jazz strand called Riot Jazz. Chai Wallahs have their own acoustic and chill out stage. The Houseparty is apparently someone’s front room transported to the middle of a field with loads of random stuff going on: world-class DJs, punk bands, and perhaps a bit of karaoke – and don’t forget Leeds’ Wind-Up Birds – the underground tip for set of the weekend. There’s the Woodlands stage (maybe that’s in, um, a wood?), where all the acts with the best names are playing; the Soap Box, a lighthearted variety show which has previously hosted Howard Marks and John Cooper Clarke; and a tea shack run by Tim Burgess himself! Not forgetting the little ones: there’s the Ladybird area with different fancy dress each day, and crafts and workshops galore.
With so much going on, and the festival capacity limited to just 13,000 people, Kendal Calling is surely every decent festival rolled into one – the music is top-class, but with just a fraction of the crowds which you could expect at a bigger event. As we go to press there’s just a handful of tickets left (go here for more information), so you’ll need to be quick if you want to be there!
Header photo of the Rolling Stones at Glastonbury 2013 from Rolling Stone (that’s weird…)
Everyone knows Glastonbury Festival is the biggest and most important musical festival in the world. Don’t they? Certainly the BBC and The Guardian appear to think so given their blanket coverage. But observing the broadcasts of this year’s event, one could be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss is about. Certainly if one wishes to spend 4 days in the company of career crusties, minor celebrity poseurs, home counties yahs, London investment bankers and industry liggers in varying states of intoxication, Glastonbury is just the ticket. But if one actually wants to see and hear some decent music, is it the correct choice for the discerning music fan? Let’s break things down a bit to find out.
Too big, too expensive, too overcrowded
The event has a capacity larger than the city of Oxford. It costs over £200 for a ticket. It takes ages to transit between stages. Over 100,000 people turned out to see the Rolling Stones (of whom more later), more than the field could comfortably hold. The chances of actually seeing the acts on the Pyramid Stage are slim to none, except if one turns up very early in the morning to bag a spot near the front, and is prepared to forgo dignified toilet arrangements throughout the day. Even hearing them might be a bit of a struggle if you turn up late and end up near the back. The smaller stages offer a better view, but then again…
The raison d’etre of Glastonbury is the Pyramid Stage and big headliners. Many of the undercard bands can be seen at any number of alternative events, for far less cash and inconvenience. So the success of Glastonbury stands or falls on its big acts. And in recent years there have been several rum choices of headliner, with 2013 really taking the biscuit. Of which more later.
There’s no easy way to say this – people at Glastonbury with frightening regularity display a particularly irritating combination of smugness, vacuosity and infantilism rarely found anywhere else. Need evidence?
The phenomenon is difficult to explain but may have something to do with the lottery-style nature of the ticket-buying process. By simple virtue of successfully negotiating the rigours of purchasing a ticket, one can be drawn into a false sense of superiority; that one has been specially chosen by the Gods of festivaldom to pass through the sacred gates of Worthy. This is, of course, an illusion – even with a Glastonbury ticket, you are not more attractive, and after several hot ciders, your wit, like everyone else’s, has descended to protoplasmic level.
The Irritants – Flags, Fancy Dress, Poi
Even if one is lucky enough to bag a spot at the Pyramid Stage from which one can identify the performers without the aid of a telescope, there are the bloody flags to content with, which will conspire to block your view at every critical moment. Multiplying in number every year, these pointless appendages are surely nothing more than vanity poles. (“You won’t see me in the crowd on TV mum, but you might see my flag, complete with inane scribble!”) If flags at festivals have any point, it’s to identify the location of one’s tent. Which is where they should be left. If you need to find your mates, use a phone. (David Quantick summed it up best here with the Tweet “The giant flags you see at Glastonbury are intended as an easy way to identify a wanker with a giant flag.”) Fancy dress (men in tutus, gorilla suits, that sort of thing, not just a bit of face glitter) means you’re there for further attention seeking. Practitioners of poi, listen up: if bimbling around twirling a Swingball is the summit of your ambition, have a lifestyle rethink. Learn an instrument, maybe. And not the ukulele.
Glastonbury – the festival for people who don’t like music
This is a controversial one, but bear with me. As previously discussed, headliners play a significant part in Glastonbury’s success. And by definition, headliners are big artists, with broad, often mainstream appeal. The charge is that one can have a CD collection that fits into a small corner of the living room (and most of those are Coldplay’s back catalogue), and still feel the desperate urge to drive down to Glastonbury and check out the headline acts. There’s no need to have any depth to one’s musical ambition, any desire to experience challenging performances, any need to wander away from the safety of the top of the charts, to enjoy Glastonbury. And there’s no doubt a great swathe of a certain type of Londoner who would rather stay at home than go to a festival that wasn’t ‘Glasto’ – if it’s not swarming with TV cameras and minor celebs, then what’s the point? And somewhere between those lines of thinking is the fatal flaw in its character.
The Rolling Stones
Check out the comments to Alex Petridis’ fawning excusefest and Dorian Lynskey’s sycophantic five-star review of the Rolling Stones’ Saturday headline set to fully understand two things: firstly, the extent to which otherwise well-respected music journalists are prepared to bend reality in order to remain the “media partner” of choice of Glastonbury (did anyone mention payola?), and secondly to understand the actual public ridicule that the ageing rockers garnered for their piss-weak performance. It’s all been said before, but for posterity, let’s restate things – Jagger was a tuneless pub singer (guess the song: “uh ca uh wa gi wa uwow”), Richards present in body but certainly not in mind or spirit, and the stage looked enormous, shrinking their already slight figures to feeble automata, a husky caricature of a band that was last decent a few decades ago. Nothing sums up the celebration of reputation over substance, of promise over delivery, of shallow posturing over actual hard graft that Glastonbury at its worst represents, so much as the ridiculous hype preceding the Stones’ limp, limping appearance, and the ass-kissing mainstream reviews that have followed. The yawning gap between rhetoric and reality at the heart of the event calls into question Glastonbury’s very credibility.
Mumford and Sons
It couldn’t have been scripted any better. As Marcus Mumford unleashed his porcine gaze upon the Worthy multitudes, the final nail in the Glastonbury coffin could just be heard being driven in over the clang of a piezoelectric pickup. For the man himself is a pale imitation of a musician, who doesn’t sing so much as strain at stool; and as his shill, shrill partners in music crime made a vain attempt to appear to be a credible choice for a 90-minute set at the closing of an event which is supposedly the epitome of live music, there was nothing but a stark light shining on a gaping posterior of a stage which should have been full of the best musicians the planet can offer. (Hint: Prince, Beck, Bjork.)
Any good bits?
Of course with over fifty stages running, one couldn’t fail to make some good choices here and there. Chic, Portishead, Smashing Pumpkins, amongst many others, made some fine music. And the peripheral paraphernalia of Glastonbury never fails to remind one of the essential extrovert eccentricity of the British middle classes.
Where now from here?
Glastonbury needs to rid itself of fawning media coverage, where everything is “superb”, “iconic”, or simply “absolutely brilliant”. Streaming each stage certainly is the future, just lose the sycophantic punditry. The headliners need to be proper world-class musicians in their prime, not sell-out oldtimers or fly-by-night populist counterfeiters. And finally, the public need to wean themselves off Glastonbury as the only festival going. It’s ridiculously crowded and pretentious, and smaller events can offer just as much listening pleasure (there’s only so many hours in the day, after all). Take a look at Beat-Herder, Kendal Calling, Standon Calling, Deer Shed, Beacons, Festival No. 6, End Of The Road, and it’s pretty clear that all the fun can be had for half the cost elsewhere, and in some considerably more pleasant locales. Was Glastonbury 2013 the worst Glasto ever? Arguments can be made one way or another. But it certainly marked the point where the legend overtook reality, and that’s never a healthy state for any entity to exist within. So if you get a ticket for next year’s festival, kindly pass it to me to dispose of.