Today’s midday jaunt to the Park Stage reaps rewards in the form of Irish Domino signing Villagers and precocious young Californians Avi Buffalo for a pair of sparkling sets from two of this year’s brightest new acts. Our slovenly blissed-out state under the sun is matched by some relaxed new music; it was just bloody lovely.
In a weekend full of clashes, surely the toss-up between Canadian Dan Mangan and Toy Story 3 is the most painful. We decide on the former thanks to the proximity of the John Peel tent. The man can certainly perform, his quirky, folky songs charming a weary crowd practically regressing from the combination of sleep deprivation and awaking to see half your body weight condensed on the canvas above. Mangan even has us relearning simple words by the end, a much-extended Robots seeing him take his guitar into the crowd, coaxing us back to sentience like a magical roaming bard.
The extent to which the John Peel Tent has strayed from its original remit – it is, of course, the former new bands stage – is evidenced in the very presence of Broken Social Scene on its lineup. The 11-year-old Toronto collective’s appearance on a stage otherwise resounding with new upstarts is largely drawn from their recent fourth album, and whilst these songs all get a warm reception it’s their back catalogue that elicits the cheers, sterling renditions of Cause = Time and KC Accidental chief amongst them. But it’s new album highlight All To All that steals the set, Lisa Lobsinger’s striking vocals complementing the minimal instrumentation and scattered beats perfectly.
Sunday afternoons at Glastonbury tend towards terminal lethargy, so thank God for East London’s Chew Lips who refuse any concessions to the heat and sleep deprivation. Their BBC Introducing Stage set is short but intense, a familiar but passionately-delivered marriage of beats and synths given an edge by Alicia Huertas’ vocals. Early single Solo steals the set for much of the crowd, although it’s closer Gold Key that fires the synapses.
For those who do want something less challenging the prospect of an acoustic gig by chart-battering mid-tempo drug fiends Keane on the tiny folk-centred Avalon Stage turns out to be a good option. It was clearly never going to accommodate the volume of attendees and the number turning up would have filled the tent 10 times over. However they put in an afternoon-stealing session of recognisable hits and a tribute to the missing U2 with a sweet cover version of With Or Without You. Lethargic they might be, but if that’s what you want from a Glastonbury Sunday, they prove a perfect fit.
Later on we find ourselves trapped in a scene from Skins as we wait for Crystal Castles to come on at the Dance East tent; blatantly underage teens falling to the floor all around whilst impossibly well-groomed couples engage in soapish spats solved through necking pills. And there’s something of the Skins party to the Toronto band’s performance, too, singer Alice Glass spending at least part of every song flailing across the crowd, her voice a fractured, hellish shriek backed by warzone beats and liquid synths. Pity the stage technicians ceaselessly fixing the microphones and live drums, or the front rows who spend the entirety of the set engulfed within dry ice, lest we gain a clear glimpse of producer Ethan Kath. It’s a thrillingly anarchic, messy show, the sound – like the crowd – all over the place, and all the better for it.
So, on Friday night the Dirty Projectors played to a packed Barbican, critical plaudits abounding like manna. On Sunday evening they played Glastonbury. To around 40 people. So they’d attracted a few more bodies by the close of their set, and to be fair the Park Stage is a trek worthy of sponsorship to get to, but still – 40 people? Not that this seemed to affect them – although they did sneak some crafty photos of the ‘crowd’ – the six-piece delivering a near-perfect set of off-kilter, twisted indie, song-structures confounding even as the technical delivery awes. The female vocalists’ harmonizing is impossible to describe with mere keyboard presses, but pity all those who missed their unbelievable vocal arpeggios on Remade Horizon, whilst Stillness Is The Move is essentially an R&B track done properly. Stunning stuff.
In a Queen’s Head tent largely filled with refugees from Stevie Wonder‘s Pyramid show, Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip might be feeling some pressure. Not that they show it: the pair amble on stage with a swaggering indifference, the opening to The Beat That My Heart Skipped uniting the crowd in a flurry of movement. It’s no exaggeration to say that – utterly unexpectedly – this was genuinely one of the best performances of the festival, the combination of driving beats and Scroobius Pip’s witty self-deprecation invigorating and entertaining in equal measure. Songs about suicide might seem an odd theme for a party high but hey, they work here, Pip’s half-hearted costume changes during Angles a rival for any stage show Muse could put on.
No one with an interest in current music trends could reasonably complain about this year’s line up. It included virtually every act you could hope for. However a lot of them were touring anyway. What it lacked were the one-offs, those special gigs that would be talked about for years to come. It lacked legends. It lacked uniqueness. That is until the last set of the weekend on the Pyramid Stage.
Stevie Wonder’s career was in its infancy when Glastonbury started 40 years ago. The early ’70s brought his classic period – his Talking Book, his Innervisions and his Songs In The Key Of Life. Tonight’s closing set celebrated so many of the highlights of a career that has spanned the same time line as the festival that no other could have been more appropriate. There’s hardly a singer that can command as much respect as Wonder and tonight he proves why. His musicianship and vocals are still supreme with his songs ensuring adoration. Moreover he provides the weekend’s defining moment as Mr Glastonbury himself Michael Eavis arrives on stage in time for them to sing Happy Birthday in surely the most mismatched duet since music began.
Stevie Wonder made the world a more wonderful place tonight. A privilege to see him do what he does best, minds started to imagine the experiences of having others like Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye still around. Those of us that saw him tonight were reminded of how lucky we were to get the opportunity. The final box was ticked on this incredible weekend. A showcase of a true legend’s greatest material, and the ultimate vindication for buying a ticket for Glastonbury 2010.