So it’s Friday, the official start day of the Glastonbury Festival.
Overnight and all through the morning the final punters arrive, bringing the total on site population to around 177,500 people, making the festival site the third largest city in the South West. So with all those people it can be a little overwhelming and understandably difficult to get the front row of every set, especially those on the pyramid stage.
As amazing and unbelievable as it might sound, the sun was out, and there was not even the slightest hint of rainfall to be had – could this be the Glastonbury that beats the stereotype? With the promise of a weekend of warm sunny weather the scene was set for a truly memorable weekend and a perfect 40th Birthday for the festival.
Who better to kick off the proceedings than Rolf Harris back for his sixth stint at Glastonbury? Yes I mean the same Rolf Harris, didgeridoo playing, wobble board shaking, TV presenter come artist. You would be forgiven for being a little surprised; especially as in the UK he has become more and more recognised for his television work, as opposed to his music. But then in keeping with the 40 year theme they were inviting people who had hits when the festival first started; as mentioned earlier, he is a bit of a regular.
Rolf was actually pretty good – he was certainly a pro at working the audience, and “hits” like ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport’, ‘Court of King Caractacus’ and ‘Two Little Boys’ went down a treat with the audience. The first official set of the festival also offered up some surreal moments, not least was Rolf Harris being introduced by a rap artist, with the ‘I Say Rolf! You Say Harris’ calling routine with the audience. It got a little weirder later when said rap artist, who I think went by the name BB, came back on to beat box with Rolf.
Next up on my list of people to see was Seth Lakeman, who some of you will have noticed I have gone on about in my last two 7 tracks (that is if anyone reads it). It was a pretty amazing performance, which really recaptured the intimacy and intensity of his performances earlier in his career.
The tent that he was playing in wasn’t the biggest and probably by no means the smallest. But it was certainly packed, barely any room to move and increasingly sweltering conditions. But he played a great set with a stripped down band (no brother or double bassist), featuring former percussionist Cormac Byrne on the Bodhran and Benji Kirkpatrick on the guitar.
They played a pretty diverse set, pulling tracks from Lakeman’s 2nd Album Kitty Jay, 2006’s Freedom Fields and 2008’s Poor Man’s Heaven as well as a couple of new tracks from his a yet unreleased album Hearts and Minds. Despite the fact that only really one of the new tracks played had been released, they were well received by the audience who were extremely enthusiastic given the heat. At times the stewards had to resort to fanning and spraying the audience with water in a bid to keep people from overheating too much, even Cormac had to be fanned down at times.
You realise how large the festival site is when you are trying to get to somewhere in a hurry. In my case it was a somewhat misguided attempt to get halfway across the site, to the most remote stage (The Park Stage) to catch the tail end of the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble’s set. I managed to get there just before the end, but just in time to hear my favourite track from their latest self titled release. ‘War’ translated amazingly well live and from the sizeable crowd the rest of the set seemed to be of just a good quality. I was quite impressed by the size crowd they managed to draw, given that I was under the impression they were largely unknown in the UK other than an appearance on Jools Holland and appearing on the new Gorillaz album.
I decided at this point to take a bit of a break; frankly the heat was beginning to take its toll. So decided to go and regroup for the evenings musical offerings. The first being Mumford & Sons who were making a homecoming of sorts, this being their third appearance at the festival. Though their billing on the John Peel Stage was a marked step up from last year’s Greenpeace field, where they played to 300 people.
Given the sudden eruption of popularity for Sigh No More, they were understandably playing to a much larger crowd, but judging from their expressions they weren’t expecting to be playing to quite as many as they were. What followed was a truly sublime forty minutes of music. Right from the outset there were mass singalongs from an audience that were well and truly into it. We were treated to the big songs from the debut album, with ‘Sigh No More’ and ‘Little Lion Man’ being obvious highlights. We were also treated to a couple of new tracks, and if they are anything to go by the new album when released will be just as good as the first, if not better. The popularity of the band was never in doubt, with chants of ‘Mumford! Mumford!’ ringing out following ‘Little Lion Man’. The band looked visibly touched by the reception they received. Keyboardist Ben Lovett announced that this was by far the biggest gig they had ever played. Yet they tackled it with such force and skill that it’s clear that it’s only upwards for the band in the future.
Rather than go and see the Gorillaz headline set (even with its promise of numerous guest stars) I decided to head to The Other Stage for The Flaming Lips, a band who I had heard so many good things about from friends, but who I had yet to see live. From what I heard the next day about the Gorillaz set, I think I made the right choice.
The Flaming Lips are renowned for putting on a spectacle with their live shows; but even then I wasn’t expecting lead singer Wayne Coyne to start the set by zorbing out into the crowd. Once safely back on stage wondrous chaos ensued with confetti and balloons blasted into the audience, and a whole myriad of costumed dancers taking to the stage, including two in Orang-utan suits. What followed was a eclectic set, with tracks pulled from a number of different albums, including At War With the Mystics. The highlight of the set was probably ‘The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song’, which the band transformed from a song against George W Bush to a song of hope with Obama in office. Other highlights were the mass sing along of ‘Yoshimi Battles Pink Robots’ and the set closer ‘Do You Realise’. I could not think of a more perfect way of topping of a day of great music.
Elsewhere at Glastonbury
Fresh from playing her own set with her own band Florence and the Machine joined Dizzee Rascal on stage on the Pyramid Stage for their collaborative single ‘You Got The Dirtee Love’. Vampire Weekend also proved to be a hit on the Pyramid Stage pulling a fairly large crowd, with songs perfect for the Summer weather. And only at Glastonbury can you have country legend Willie Nelson followed by the ever controversial Snoop Dogg.
On the Other Stage The Sranglers made their Glastonbury debut. On the West Holts stage, there was a switch of set times, with Mos Def having to cancel at the last minute, earlier in the day former metal band Mariachi El Bronx impressed. Elsewhere, at the Queens Head Stage, punters were treated to sets from Frank Turner, Detroit Social Club, Mystery Jets, The Bees and The Magic Numbers. Finally, Gorillaz headlined the Pyramid Stage and featured cameos from Lou Reed, Mark E Smith, Bobby Womack, Snoop Dogg and De La Soul. Playing a set largely dominated by tracks of their latest album, reports are that the set failed to have the same impact as Damon Albarn’s last stint as a Glastonbury headliner (last year with Blur).
Stay tuned for Saturday coverage!
The Beautiful Header Photo was taken at Glastonbury 2010 by Andrew Allcock
See more photos at: http://www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk/news/thursday-pictures