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Pass The Baton: Five Seminal Festival Moments

Thursday, 30 May 2019 Written by Huw Baines

Every festival season brings with it the same hopes and fears. Most of them are toilet-related, naturally, but the optimists among us are always chasing that era-defining high. A great set in perfect surroundings with the correct lubricants (or none at all) can be transcendental, fuelling years of pub reminiscing and I-was-there-whens. 

As our recent festival guide demonstrated, this year’s line ups provide plenty to be excited about. As we continue to count down the days, here we’ve taken a look back at a few notable moments from the past that will filter through to 2019’s runners and riders—from moshpits to surprise headliners and back again.

One more thing before you dive in: please remember to bring an inflatable mattress with you if you’re planning on camping anywhere. That’s just good sense.

New Order fall into Glastonbury

The synth-pop legends were still in short trousers when they pitched up at Worthy Farm in 1981. Behind the scenes, meanwhile, Michael Eavis was at the helm for a festival that benefited the Mid-Somerset Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and featured a permanent Pyramid Stage for the first time (it became a cowshed and animal food store during winter).

This was a major show for New Order, who were still a few months away from releasing their debut, ‘Movement’. Bernard Sumner celebrated by getting shitfaced and falling over, but when he was upright the fledgling band pointedly tossed a handful of jagged post-punk classics into the face of a crowd waiting to get their space-rock on with Hawkwind. Their headline set at Bluedot this summer will likely be more sedate, but the tunes will still bang.

Beastie Boys get Intergalactic at T in the Park

TRNSMT stepped into the breach when T in the Park disappeared into the ether back in 2017, leaving behind a legacy as a wild time dotted with a number of classic sets. In 1998, a matter of days before releasing ‘Hello Nasty’, Beastie Boys managed to combine both.

Hitting the stage as sub-headliners dressed in blue boiler suits, Mike D, Ad-Rock and the late MCA rattled through the hits with bug-eyed cool and the audience responded in kind. Intergalactic, the lead single from their new LP and a top five hit in the UK, sent a shockwave through the packed crowd, who attempted to pogo their way through the atmosphere. In 2019, Stormzy will fancy his chances at generating a similar reaction when he headlines TRNSMT.

Pulp play supersub at Glastonbury

Life in the Stone Roses camp was not a whole lot of fun in the summer of 1995. Roadblock after roadblock confronted the band, who were on tour following the long-delayed release of ‘Second Coming’, and things came to a screeching halt in June when guitarist John Squire broke his collarbone in a cycling accident. Their headline set at Glastonbury was among a number of dates scratched from the itinerary as a result, which really wasn’t ideal. Up stepped newly-minted indie royalty in Pulp, who were riding the Common People wave, to fill the gap.

Months before the release of ‘Different Class’, this set put the Sheffield band over the top. Jarvis Cocker strutted and peacocked, and the crowd got into the spirit of things by roaring back hits old and new. The closing singalong, to Common People of course, was one for the ages and helped Pulp to accept that their success was a real, tangible thing. Cocker is back in action this summer and will bring new solo material to End of the Road.

The Strokes secure promotion

When the Strokes pitched up at Reading and Leeds in 2001, the hype was real. The band’s debut LP ‘Is This It’ was poised to emerge immediately after their sets at the festivals, and people were out to ensure they got a slice of the New Yorkers’ punchy indie first hand. Their planned slots, in the Evening Session tent, were shifted to mid-afternoon on the main stage, and when they walked out into the sunshine in Reading the crowd went back for miles.

At this point, the Strokes were a bare bones, hyper-cool proposition and they had a stack of immediate, exciting songs that fans in the UK were baying to hear. By moving them to the main stage organisers deprived some punters the chance to see them in cramped, sweaty surroundings, but they also avoided the mayhem that greeted Foo Fighters’ 1995 tent set in similar circumstances. Of course, it’s main stages all round for the Strokes this summer, including headlining Electric Picnic in Ireland.

Korn call up some ringers at Download

Corey Taylor has had plenty of fun at Download over the years, both with Slipknot and Stone Sour. But in 2006 he was one of a number of vocalists to take on an extracurricular assignment when Korn frontman Jonathan Davis was taken ill shortly before their set. The show must go on, as they say, and it did. Taylor fronted the band for a handful of songs, with Avenged Sevenfold’s M. Shadows, Devildriver’s Dez Fafara, Trivium’s Matt Heafy, Benji Webbe of Skindred and 10 Years’ Jesse Hasek also stepping in.

While everyone did a fine job, Taylor stood out for taking on Freak on a Leash and its scat-metal bridge. His joy at the task, and triumphant ‘GO!’ to lead in the breakdown, epitomised good will that welled up following Davis’s hospitalisation. Taylor returns to Donington this summer to headline the Download main stage with his masked mates, and they have a new record on the way. Expect a few more additions to their highlights reel.

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