Ha! Obviously my plans to preview everything I was hoping to see at Glastonbury went horribly awry, and my plans to review it in a timely fashion have gone the same way.
I was going to wax on about how the past eight years have left me older, wiser and grumpier and with a hugely reduced tolerance for unfriendly crowds, crap dubstep and dull booming tech house (all of which were in much greater supply than last time I visited Worthy Farm), but aside from occasional moments of wanting to run back to the tent, punch someone in the face or shoot the DJ and change the record, I once again had the time of my life.
When I go to put Glastonbury 2013 down on paper, or in words at least, the sum seems so much less impressive than the whole of its parts. Always hard to capture the magic, at least without risking eye-glazing by those who weren’t there, and this particularly uninspired list format certainly isn’t casting any spells. But then only three of you read this thing, so sue me.
- Goat (twice) – Fela Kuti meets Can meets Miriam Makeba succubus styles via some heavy 60s psychedelia. Oh, and Sweden. Have to be seen to be believed. Here’s their full West Holts set on Friday and a snippet of their even more insane Hell Stage set later that evening.
- Alice Russell – won our hearts on the West Holts stage on a grey Friday afternoon. Took the lady a few songs to hit her stride but when she did, BOOM. I danced my legs down to the knees and my little heart fell in love with her adorable b’tween-song banter. Reach for the Big Shiny Lasers.
- The Bombay Royale – perfect festival fodder from Bollywood via Tarantino to Melbourne, once again on good old West Holts. (If you look closely you can see a young Jen and chap dancing the go-go, the frug, the watusi and busting out some ill-advised Bollywood moves in the crowd throughout.)
- Primal Scream – only caught half the set after abandoning a disappointing Rodriguez on The Park stage. Fourth time I’ve seen them now and they were as good as ever, and in slightly better humour than 2005. (And I still want to bear Bobby Gillespie’s children.) Now with added Haim.
- The Stones – who provide a perfect example of my theory of why Glastonbury still matters: because it’s an event of such import that musicians bring their A game. Of course history shows that not everyone does (sometimes they don’t even bother to perform – right, Wiley? – and the weather and conditions also have a lot to answer for when it comes to how sets go down), but for many, Glastonbury isn’t just another stop on a long summer tour but the pinnacle of musical performance. Last time I saw the Stones at Western Springs in 2006, they phoned in their performance (although Auckland will do that to a person); on Saturday night on the Pyramid Stage they threw all they had at it – not just a giant fire-blazing phoenix and confetti cannons but genuine heart and soul. It was amazing – and it sounded 1,000 times better than the terrible sound mix on the BBC would have you believe.
- Steve Mason – a transcendent set by the marvellous Mr Mason on the Sunday night Park stage (which again sounded less than glorious on the BBC coverage – no fair, TV sound mix guy). Buy his album. See him live. Get up and fight them back.
- Bobby Womack – who closed the West Holts stage on Sunday with an extraordinarily special gig for performer and audience alike: the love in that field was palpable. Kicking off with a short set of material from last year’s album The Bravest Man In The Universe with Damon Albarn, he looked frail, sitting down and reading off an autocue (he’s rumoured to be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, which is just about the greatest tragedy there is), but delivered the goods, albeit somewhat falteringly at times, culminating with an uplifting rendition of Love Is Gonna Lift Us Up. When he returned after a 20-minute break with his own band, however, a transformation had taken place – I commented to the chap that I wanted some of what he’d had. (Which Damon Albarn, now a spectator, might have helped himself to as well – or not, but there’s a fair bit of lip-licking going on in the TV coverage.) He SLAYED it – and he wanted to go on slaying it too, if he hadn’t been ordered to stop. Please do everything you can to watch the BBC iPlayer highlights. It’s that good. (Or if you’re not of these isles, email me for the file.)
- Charles Bradley & his Extraordinaires – if Bobby Womack broke my heart, Charles Bradley restored my faith in humanity. Incredibly moving stuff from a 70-year-old soul singer who almost never got his break. Tears rolled down his face, and down ours too.
- Also: The Congos, I Am Kloot, Matthew E White, Fleetmac Wood, Ondatropica, just about everything in the Circus Field, the Invisible Circus at the Temple (Mayan tribesmen meet vacuum cleaner), Ben Dorling‘s delectable 70s disco that saw me podium-dance in wellies for hours at NYC Downlow, Pardon My French dropping I Would Die 4 U in the Downlow Radio room at 3 o’clock on Friday morning, Craig Charles busting out a trunk of funk on the Hell Stage, getting an ace shiatsu massage in the Healing Fields, the guy hula-hooping while doing Labyrinth-style crystal ball-manipulating (“Yeah, I dropped some acid at 9am which has really helped my coordination)”, the composting toilets and the refreshing breeze they brought to your bum, the lovely old geezer who sold me a £10 sweatshirt and gave me a much needed 10am Jagermeister, the nameless band in Pennard’s Hill rocking out I Will Survive at 3 o’clock Monday morning, accosting poor Don Letts and his wedge of cash at the bar…
- Tom Tom Club – biggest disappointment of the festival, this. Sounded weak and – I hate to say this because there’s no one on this planet who I have a greater girl-crush on than Tina Weymouth – felt uncool. Kick-started a disappointing evening as we toured the site trying to find a replacement – Dinosaur Jr just sounded loud on the Park Stage, Alt-J sounded dull and having not bought NME since 2005, we weren’t going near The Vaccines. Which eventually brought us back to…
- Seasick Steve – who seemed to bust out a near-replica of his 2010 set, instantly confining him to one-trick-festival-novelty-pony. The smart move now would have been to go back to the Park stage to see Django Django but instead we just milled about until I realised it was time to go see Goat on the Hell Stage by way of the Invisible Circus – and damn fine they both were too.
- Rodriguez – as above. Such high hopes too. The ramshackle nature of his set might have been cute if you were in the front row; standing at the back of the field it was just frustrating.
- Dub Colossus – Lamest. Dub Band. Ever. I was actually praying for Fat Freddy’s to come along and show them how it was done. And I say this as someone with a morbid fear of Welli-dub.
- Also: not knowing about the Crow’s Nest and all its secret gigs (including what looks to be a riotously wicked Steve Mason set, damn his eyes) until a week after the event, missing Nick Cave and THIS amazing performance due to being at Bobby Womack (which admittedly I wouldn’t have missed for a million pounds), missing PIL, going to see Chic a fortnight earlier at the Forum in London and being vaguely disappointed meaning we chose not to see what has been roundly acclaimed as a festival highlight, the overly-contrived Shangri-La area and their stupid VIP queues: THIS IS NOT GLASTONBURY.
- DJ Yoda & the Transiberian March Band – promised much, delivered not that much.
- Smashing Pumpkins – Homer Simpson, smiling politely. Did not translate well to a windy Sunday on the Other Stage.
- Dinosaur Jr and Alt-J – as above
- The Beat Hotel – great breakfast on Thursday (orange! disco!), failed to live up to expectations thereafter…
And so it ends for another year. And not before time.