Onto Saturday and the second day of the festival, with a great number of acts lined up throughout the day, bringing incredibly eclectic and varied performances to the enthusiastic crowd. The only constant for all the bands playing was the quality of the performances they delivered. It was a rather low key start to the day for me, with a slight trek across to the Park Stage, just in time for I Blame Coco, a band headed by Sting’s daughter. Their set seemed far shorter than anyone else’s so far this weekend, but they managed to impress with a set made up largely inoffensive indie-tinged pop. Not a bad way to start the day.
Up next were Brooklyn band Here We Go Magic, who will be touring Australia later this month. They put on a great performance considering the lack of a great crowd, and the fact that by his own admission Luke Temple thought he might have missed the gig after waking up nearby. I was impressed with how the tracks translated live, and to some extent have made me reconsider my impressions of their most recent album. It was good to see the full band out in force as well. Based on that performance I would definitely go and see them again, if only for them to play a longer set to a more appreciative audience (though those who made it there for the early bands of the day seemed to enjoy it).
After a little bit of wandering and deciding whether it was worth trying to get into the Acoustic tent (seemingly commandeered by those seeking shade) to see Gandalf Murphy (I wish I had to be honest, if only because they had best band name on the bill – Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams). However I decided that I would go down the traditional Glastonbury route and try and catch some of the set by a local band The Wurzels. I am not too sure how aware the Australian music listening public is of The Wurzels, but they were quite well known in the UK since getting their first #1 single back in the ’70s – the single incidentally was “The Combine Harvester”, which I would argue tells you all you need to know about the band. In terms of music they play in a similar style to Hayseed Dixie, in so much that they have a very countrified folk sound – though they are very grounded in the West Country, in delivery and songwriting, so expect songs about farming and cider. They managed to draw a impressive crowd (20,000 or thereabouts), not only packing out the Avalon tent, but packing out the surrounding field as well. Not only that, the crowd were remarkably enthusiastic, and jigging along to songs like “I’m a Cider Drinker” and a Wurzefied version of the Kaiser Chiefs’ “Ruby”. Not bad for a band who apparently have the oldest drummer in the land at an age of 78.
Up next on the Avalon Stage were The Avett Brothers, who put on a truly sublime set which is one of my Glastonbury highlights. They played a varied set, with songs from their latest album, as well as songs from their earlier, less well-known records. The crowd was definitely behind them, and bar a few called-out song suggestions (and remarks on the silkiness of Seth Avett’s hair) they were enthusiastic in all the right places. The band clearly drew a lot of their energy from that and put on one hell of a show, which balanced the slower songs with the faster and more raucous. Their ability to sustain such magnificent harmonies even during and after faster numbers is amazing. They are a band I definitely want to see again, and here’s hoping they don’t leave it too long to come back to Australia.
Up next were British folk ensemble The Unthanks, a group well known in the folk circles for playing a lot of the traditional songs from the north east region of the UK. They main focus are group are the two sisters on vocals, but who are backed a whole row of violinists, viola players amongst other things, along with two guitarists (one of whom doubles up as a drummer) as well as another man on the grand piano. With that many musicians on stage, the setting up and soundchecking process was a nightmare and ended up causing delays, the first technical hitch of the festival so far. The set was made up of traditional numbers, with the vocals being the main shining point. Not only were the two sisters on singing duties, they also were adding to the percussion on a few tracks through clog dancing or heel tapping. Despite the wait it was a strong set and pleasant way to start the evening off.
To be honest, I could not come to the festival and not see Frank Turner, having missed him on the Friday at the Queens Head, I made the short journey to the Leftfield Stage (renowned for mixing politics and popular music, and this year curated by Billy Bragg). As expected he put on a highly energetic and impressive set, during which we were treated to a new song, “I Still Believe”, a rousing song for the cause of remedial features of rock and roll. The new song is likely to be a popular one when released, and features a rather excellent chorus for audience participation, which of course at any Frank Turner gig is compulsory. Turner played a much more varied set, trying to avoid playing tracks he had played the day before; as such we got a few rarities including his great cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road”, which in my opinion is probably second only to the original. We were also treated a bit of pre-fame Frank, as his manager and general go-to guy joined him on stage to play a song about bacon sandwiches they penned together back when they first wanted to make music. Based on the times I have couple of times I have seen Turner now I think we can expect much much more from him; but it’s about time that festival organisers realise what a talent he is and put him on a bigger stage.
I could not go to Glastonbury and not see Billy Bragg. He is one of those artists have become a regular feature on the bill. Fresh from vanquishing the BNP in the last election, the set was highly political, in part due to the fact that it was the Leftfield and in part due to the fact that the Conservatives have returned to power. He played a varied set, pulling from a number of his older albums, with “I Have Faith” being one of the only tracks played from his most recent album. The crowd were enthusiastic on the both the music and politics fronts, and everyone seemed pleased that the BNP were unsuccessful in their bid to get parliamentary seats. Bragg put on a strong set throughout, his unmistakable and unique vocals never faltering. The main highlight of the set for me however was “A New England”, which formed the main part of the encore – a song which is of as much relevance today as it was when it was written and first recorded.
The wonderful thing about a festival the size of Glastonbury is that if you aren’t that fussed about any headliners there are still plenty of things to see and do. I did try and catch some of George Clinton’s set, but by the time I got there it was too busy, and I couldn’t see anything from where I was; and what I could see looked chaotic at best. I was too far away to fully appreciate it, and it didn’t seem quite as good as other similar artists I have seen. So rather than return to the tent I decided to go to the Cabaret tent, which that night was being hosted by one of my favourite comedians, the ever funny and slightly crazed Craig Campbell from Canada, who whilst warming the audience up demonstrated his singing prowess on the Geoff Mack song “I’ve Been Everywhere”. I won’t lie some of the acts on weren’t great, some downright terrible. The main highlight was comedian Ed Byrne, who had the audience eating out of his palm.
Elsewhere at Glastonbury
Tinchy Stryder started off the proceedings on Pyramid Stage, where later in the day Seasick Steve impressed, and showed his appreciation for audience by jumping down to meet the crowd before even playing a note. Elsewhere, Kate Nash failed to ignite the crowd on the Other Stage in the afternoon. Kylie Minogue joined Scissor Sisters on stage, having been wheeled to the side of the stage in a trolley to avoid being seen by the audience (that’s showbusiness for you). This marked her Pyramid Stage debut, having had to pull out a few years previous due to her illness. Headliners Muse drew a massive crowd and were described by Eavis as being the perfect headliner, they were joined on stage by The Edge from U2, who were forced to pull out as headliners at the last minute due to Bono’s back injury.
Header Photo taken by Andrew Allcock: