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Glastonbury Festival - Worthy Farm - June 28-30 2013 (Live Review)

Thursday, 04 July 2013 Written by Owen Sheppard

Ah, Glastonbury. It’s never dull, is it? In the months prior to the UK’s flagship festival, critics picked apart its lineup, while others tried to tar it with a soulless, corporate brush. But the fact remains that Glasto has always faced haters, and once it’s all over and time to go home the music world sighs at its passing.

The hallowed fields of Michael and Emily Eavis’s  Worthy Farm were swamped by 150,000 fans for six days at the end of June, its rolling green hills transformed in to a paradise of hedonism and celebration. With over 50 stages dedicated to performing arts and live music, it would require an army of music nerds to cover every performance but nonetheless, here’s our take on Glastonbury 2013. It was quite a weekend. 

Thursday brought rain amid the anticipation, about seven hours of it in fact. The green pastures were quickly awash with wellington boots and mud lakes, but that’s never stopped anyone from having a good time. The music kicked off with a taster of things to come as hip hop veterans the Pharcyde took on dodgy sound mixing to excite the Silver Hayes area’s 3,000 capacity Wow stage.

While many punters poured in to shelter from the rain, the Two Bears and Eats Everything kept a rain-drenched crowd raving and at 1.30am, none other than the legendary Fatboy Slim appeared for an unannounced DJ set before an astounded mob who boogied ‘til 3am.

Friday

Every Glastonbury begins under the weight of secret set rumours, and this year was no different. Atoms for Peace, Queens of the Stone Age and Daft Punk didn’t get the memos, but Liam Gallagher’s Beady Eye strode on to the Other Stage at an unprecedentedly early 11am.  A crowd as big as any seen at the stage all weekend gathered to greet them, yet the reaction was damp. Beady Eye trundled through each song, with Liam’s vocals continually falling short of the mark. They simply lack the tunes for an event like this, and even an outing for the Oasis classic Rock ‘n’ Roll Star was met with only moderate applause.

Was it an ungrateful crowd, or were Beady Eye below par? Next up on the Other Stage, and able to confirm the latter, were the Hives. It’s a decade since the band enjoyed their commercial peak, yet they delivered a set packed to the gills with showmanship. Frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist struts with the swagger of a Quentin Tarantino villain and is utterly hilarious.  Unbelievably, it’s their debut Glasto appearance and despite a setlist low on hits, they have the Other Stage in the palm of their hands. Every command to clap, jump and dance was obeyed. When it finally came to Hate To Say I Told You So and Walk Idiot Walk, there was pandemonium.

Jake Bugg also made his debut Glastonbury appearance, this time on the Pyramid Stage, in only the second year of his professional career. It was perhaps too much too soon though for the 19-year-old and he appeared out of his depth, struggling to fill such a grand arena. Back on the Other Stage, Enter Shikari had the front rows moshing. Even though they seem a tad loose, their energy and frontman Rou Reynolds’ athleticism earns them top marks for effort at a festival where metal is as hard to come by as clean trainers.

The impressively mustachioed Local Natives filled the John Peel tent, which offered some brilliant acoustics and a wonderful atmosphere all weekend. The LA-based quintet delivered sweet vocal harmonies and choruses to complement a regal blue sky, with their Fleet Foxes/Foals hybrid ticking all the boxes for a Glasto crowd who relished tracks from deep into their back catalogue.

The wind gathered speed as Aussie psychedelia merchants Tame Impala took to the Other Stage. The crowd was apathetic when it came to older material from ‘Innerspeaker’, but went ballistic for singles Elephant and Feels Like We Only Go Backwards. The number of arms in the air and raised voices for the choruses to both left their matchstick skinny singer Kevin Parker visibly awestruck. The woozy, reverb-drenched sonics also worked perfectly with an early evening sky looming overhead.

Following shortly after were triumphant sets from Alt-J and Foals, undoubtedly one of the indie big hitters of 2013. Both bands face foreboding open-air challenges this summer with sounds that are similarly intricate and electronic. Foals, in particular, have been labelled even by fans as a band who will struggle to work outside tented stages. Well, the naysayers be damned. Both bands enjoyed impeccable sound quality from the Other Stage’s PA and delivered in style.

With the sun fully set, it was time for the first headliner of the festival. Arctic Monkeys blasted the Pyramid Stage with a career-spanning set that proved a step up from the band’s first headlining appearance back in 2007. Oh, how they’ve grown. Alex Turner, once nervous and at a loss for words at Reading and Leeds, is now a puppet master, working the 70,000 fans strewn on the hills before him as flares going off left, right and centre.  

The band’s set is heavily laden with tunes from their first, and still most celebrated, record. Dancing Shoes, I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor, When The Sun Goes Down and Fake Tales Of San Francisco are titanic and a Guy Garvey-composed string section has Mardy Bum soaring. At the end of it all it’s up to long term besty of the band, Miles Kane, to lead guitars on the eerie and epic 505, while R U Mine and Do I Wanna Know provide tasters of album number five. By now the Arctic Monkeys are national treasures, there’s no denying it.

Saturday

Glorious sun and spotless skies. Hello Saturday! Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara opened the West Holts stage in perfect fashion, while on the Other Stage Brooklyn’s sassiest export,  Azealia Banks, was in session. It’s over a year since NME first bigged her up and she now boasts a collection of singles and mixtapes, but without an official album to her name she struggles in front of a crowd who have only heard 212. A set including BBD (Bad Bitches Do It), Jumanji, Liquorice, 1991 and a Harlem Shake cover is heavy on provocative killer, hold the filler, and the crowd greets the tracks politely. But it’s not till 212 that shit really kicks off. In a nutshell, the girl needs to get a proper record out.

After a Friday Pyramid Stage triumph, the three Haim sisters arrive for set number two on the Park Stage. With the weather still beautiful, they storm through their set in front of a massive crowd. They look both fearsome and graceful, their riffs are huge and their three part harmonies evoke memories of Fleetwood Mac as much as Kate Bush. Believe the hype, Haim are the real deal.

Alunageorge were bang on the money over at the Sonic Stage, but through no fault of their own, were let down by the crummy and bizarre layout of the tent, which took the shape of a crescent moon. Those in the centre had a perfect view and heard every note, but two thirds of the crowd heard and saw little. Nevertheless, Attracting Flies, You Know You Like It and reworked version of their Disclosure collab, White Noise, gave the few thousand gathered plenty to sing and dance to.

Hot on their heels were Rudimental, the drum ‘n’ bass, soul fusion group who’ve rocketed to mainstream popularity in recent months with singles Waiting All Night and Feel the Love. It becomes quickly apparent, though, they have been booked on the wrong stage. More than 50 yards from the Sonic Tent there are swarms of eager ravers without a hope of hearing anything above the raw bass bleeding from under the tent canopy. Without exaggeration, Rudimental deserved to be headlining this tent.

As most of the festival heads for the Pyramid Stage to stake their spot for the Rolling Stones, the Sonic Stage is still at bursting point for Nas. The sound quality is still irritatingly poor, but he receives nothing short of a hero’s welcome. Perhaps realising that it would only be a short time before the Stones took the stage, he kicked off the first half an hour with If I Ruled the World, The World Is Yours, NY State of Mind, Life’s a Bitch and Daughters. It’ll do, but it’s tough to think that had his moment not been overshadowed, had he been playing any other stage at any other time, this could have been a momentous occasion.

By the time the Rolling Stones take the stage, it’s a wonder the West Country isn’t sinking into the Bristol channel. Some 100,000 people massed in front of the Pyramid Stage for one of the most eagerly-anticipated headline sets in the festival’s history. Safe to say, they didn’t disappoint. Jumpin' Jack Flash, It's Only Rock 'N' Roll, Paint It Black and Gimme Shelter poured forth, with Mick, Ronnie, Charlie and Keith sounding fresh and looking fit as fiddles.

“They finally got around to booking us, thanks Eavis,” quips Jagger before the crowd is bowled over by Sympathy for the Devil, Honky Tonk Woman and an devastatingly emotional encore of Satisfaction and You Can’t Always Get What You Want. Grown men, young women and all in between are crying. Long live the Rolling Stones.

Sunday

It’s a miracle. On Sunday morning, the sun is still shining. On this final day of celebration there’s a noticeably lazier vibe across the fields - despite another secret show from Fatboy Slim - and punters appear tired. Many are basking in the sweltering sun and lying on camping chairs. The queues for water taps and toilets are bigger than ever.

They’re 16 and 19 years old but the Bots - who have an early start - have already toured with the likes of Blur and Gallows. They work up an exhilarating blast of distortion, fuzzy guitars and haywire drum fills and they’re charmingly polite, utterly endearing, and astonishingly capable.

A long and arduous walk up to the Park then brings us to three lovely scouse ladies, Stealing Sheep, who join a tidal wave of promising folk talents at the festival this year. Down the hill, and in stark contrast, post-punk pioneer John Lydon’s Public Image Limited have an impressive gathering of old and young spellbound at the Other Stage. Surrounded by a lineup of artists half their age, PiL outdo themselves to leave their unique mark on the festival’s memory banks.

Not to complain, but the sun is oppressive by this point and a shaded tent is just what the young audience of Jesse Ware is after. Aside from crowd pleasers Sweet Talk, Running, 110% and Devotion, there are tributes to friend/collaborator/producer Julio Bahmore in the form of a cover of his house banger Battle For Middle You. Jesse’s voice reaches soaring heights and delicate lows but she always seems down to earth. She makes winning over her first Glasto crowd look like a walk in the fiel…park.

James Blake needs a word with whoever is working his sound desk. The bass is making rib cages feel like sponge and eroding much of the detail of his fabulous production work. Songs from his 2013 sophmore effort ‘Overgrown’ go down a treat, as do singles Wilhelm’s Screen and Limit To Your Love. Blake’s voice is deeply tender and on the flip side he also premieres dancier numbers which have a once pensive audience bopping away beneath walls of strobes.

The penultimate, and sadly most disappointing, set of the weekend comes from Tyler the Creator, who battles on without Earl Sweatshirt, who is currently fighting pneumonia. Odd Future’s shows are renowned for their punk-like intensity, with brutal moshing and frequent stage diving. To put it plainly, without Earl, it’s a massive anti-climax. Equally though, the crowd must share the blame. Jam after jam is offered to baseball cap-clad scensters who look clueless as to what’s going on. Tyler is short on patience at the best of times, and he has every right to be taken aback by this crowd of know-nothings.

As the festival winds down, Mumford and Sons take to the Pyramid Stage while over on the Other Stage, the XX bring their doomy, romantic, delicate and beautiful sonics to the party. Their on-stage personas and sound owe a debt to Portishead, who played the same spot on Friday, and their crowd is equally hypnotized by the melodrama of thunderous bass clashes, reverberating chords and theatrical vocal tradeoffs between Oli and Romy.

Twelve hours later, in standstill traffic for the journey home, both Radio 1 DJs, as well as bands and Emily Eavis are praising it as one of the best Glastos there has ever been. In a few days, the great city of Glastonbury will once again be packed up, leaving only a skeletal shell of the Pyramid Stage. Until next year, everyone.

 

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