Festival Review: Glastonbury Festival 2011 – Part Three: Friday (24.06.11)

Friday started off well enough, though grey clouds hung ominously above the Somerset farm. Even without the rain, navigating the festival grounds was becoming more and more of a challenge as the mud began to slowly take over the site.

I started the day at the Park Stage, the furthest away of the main stages. Opening the stage were American up-and-comers Grouplove who played a great upbeat set to an impressively sized crowd for so early in the day. It was a great way to start the main festival weekend, and the luscious harmonies coupled with the faintest amounts of sunlight gave for a slight summery feel. The band were energetic and enthusiastic on stage, quickly getting the crowd on their side, not without the help of balloons replete with drawn on faces though. “Colours” was the stand out song of the set for me and sounded great live, though the new material they played sounds promising enough. With a release date of September, that’ll be an album to look out for in the not to distant future.

Following on to the Park Stage after Grouplove was Singer-Songwriter Dylan LeBlanc whose brand of Americana came across well, despite the apparent shyness of its creator. Whilst LeBlanc wasn’t massively talkative on stage, he didn’t seem too out of place. Rather, it added more to the lowkey folky vibe that was building. There were a few new songs rubbing shoulders with other tracks of his debut album. Of those older songs, “If the Creek Don’t Rise” came across exceptionally well and really was the highlight of the set. Though a particularly rocking cover of The Band came close as LeBlanc finished out the set.

By this point the weather was looking like it could turn damp at any moment, so after a quick pit stop at the tent to change into warmer and more waterproof clothes, it was off to the West Holts stage for Gonjasufi. Or rather it would have been, but unfortunately for reasons still unknown he had to pull out. Instead, an up and coming British rapper by the name of Ghostpoet had been drafted into fill his slot. Overall it wasn’t too bad a performance, the instrumentation was great with some good solid drumming and some great guitar work. Unfortunately for me, however, the rapping let it down. From where I was I couldn’t always quite make out the vocal in the mix. The crowd however certainly seemed to enjoy it, with the band getting quite vocal support from certain members of the audience. I just wish I could have heard the vocals better, especially when for a set like this, they should form the main focus of the act.

It was then across to the Pyramid Stage for a true living legend, BB King (pictured), who was predictably amazing. After some great opening jams from his band, the man himself strolled aided onto the stage, watched from the side by a real assortment of onlookers, including festival founder and Worthy Farm owner Michael Eavis. King then proceeded to give the crowd a masterclass in guitar playing, with some truly breathtaking moments. Not bad for an 85 year old.

He also managed to get a good bit of participation from the sprawling crowd after a bit of provocation. “Everyday I Have The Blues” and “Why I Sing The Blues” were highlights, though really the whole set was of the same high calibre. An extremely charismatic performer, I for one would like to see BB King’s request to play another Glastonbury granted. Though I must admit that I would love to see him on a smaller more intimate stage, just because I think the atmosphere would be even more powerful.

It was then a case of battling through the mud and the crowd to get across the Other Stage, which saw Bright Eyes taking to the stage. He launched the set with a trio of alternative, and somewhat folky, treats. Dressed in some sort of Elven like cape, Oberst really was the embodiment of a great front-man, putting on a charismatic and quirky performance and engaging well with the audience. Great mixture of tracks and as a whole the band sounded fantastic, though I loved the addition of some slide guitar and horns. All in all it was a great performance from Connor Oberst and co.

Keeping with the Other Stage, next on was Seattle natives Fleet Foxes. One of the standout sets of the weekend for me, they really made you forget that you were standing in the middle of a muddy field in the middle of Somerset getting gradually damper by the moment. They mixed it up well between the two albums. “Sim Sala Bim” was an obvious favourite, but “Mykonos” sounded fantastic and was probably my favourite from the set (not an easy choice, for a set of such a high standard).

They really are a band for these sorts of conditions though, maybe not necessarily the persistent drizzle, but it almost feels weird to consider seeing them in blaring sunshine. A fantastic set from a band who are really looking at home on these big stages.

Following Fleet Foxes were British folk darlings and worldwide favourites Mumford and Sons, back for their fourth Glastonbury. The band played a stellar set, one of my festival favourites, and one so full of crowd pleasers and glorious new material that it was impossible not to be captivated by it.

The massive crowd meant massive singalongs, which create such a wonderful atmosphere. I would say that around a quarter of the set was new material, which all sounded fantastic. An early favourite for me was “Lover of Light” which already has the potential for some great moments of crowd interaction. As with last year, they were joined by a horn section, but this year there was a further addition in the form a fiddle player from America, which added just an extra little something to their performance as a whole. With this set, the band have set the standard for the festival and it’ll be a tough job to top it.

By this point the weather had deteriorated further so it was across to the shelter of Bourbon Street for the rest of the evening to see another Irishman ply his trade. Simon McBride drew a reasonable audience, not huge, but then U2 was still on stage at this point. It was a good upbeat set from McBride, featuring some nice heavy bluesy rock, with some really impressive guitar work from McBride and some equally great playing from his bassist. A charismatic and engaging performer, McBride certainly had the crowd on his side, despite the odd technical difficulty, which come to think of it was the first I had heard on the Bourbon Street stage.

Following McBride onto the Bourbon Street stage was American outlaw country band The Orbitsuns, a band founded by Sponge member Vinnie Dombroski. They’re quite the band to watch, hilariously irreverent. You’re not quite sure if they are completely serious half the time.

The band sounded great, and they really put on a great performance. It was one of those sets you just couldn’t tear yourself away from, should you miss what might come next. At one point there was a number of female audience members brought up on stage to “shake it”. There were some great tracks played, most of them with names like “I Like Girls Who Swear” and “Shittier Day Than Me”. All songs were incredibly catchy to the point you’d find yourself humming or singing along quite easily.

Elsewhere at Glastonbury:

The Master Musicians of Joujouka opened the Pyramid Stage and kick started the main festival weekend. Also on the Pyramid Stage Wu-Tang Clan began their comeback and Morrissey warmed up the crowd for the headliners who have divided opinion for years, U2. rimal Scream headlined the Other Stage whilst Cee-Lo Green closed out the days proceedings on the West Holts Stage. Also in keeping with the tradition of high profile surprise guests taking to the Park Stage, Radiohead played a secret evening set to mixed reviews.


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Simon Clark

Books Editor. An admirer of songs and reader of books. Simon has a PhD in English and Comparative Literature. All errant apostrophes are his own.