Festival Preview: Glastonbury 2009

01 June 2009

No festival attracts quite as much comment about its line-up more than Glastonbury. Whoever the Eavis family book to turn Worthy Farm to mud, somebody will sling some of the brown stuff about.

In 2008 Noel Gallagher was far from enthusiastic about Jay-Z’s headline slot. Will he be pleased with this year’s talents? Well, Glastonbury’s 2009 line-up reflects what might well be termed a leap year for music in general thus far.

Vaunted stalwarts and returning heroes dominate the Pyramid Stage. Neil Young on Friday. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band on Saturday. It’s a shame Bob Dylan isn’t there for the full house. But Blur, who play their first major event for years and close the festival on Sunday night, aren’t exactly spring chickens either.
In support of the main headliners and strewn across the festival’s many stages and tents is a supporting bill of bands that reads more like the tracklisting of a painful Father’s Day CD compilation: Fairport Convention, Ray Davies, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Spinal Tap, Tom Jones, Tony Christie, Hugh Cornwell, Status Quo, Madness, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and Rolf Harris. Phew. Looks like it might be a busy one for the St John Ambulance crew.

So, without a great sense of irony, 2009 has been referred to as the Glastonbury for the older generation, though this is only half truth. Worthy Farm will reward those who really know their stuff and those who are willing to explore a little. Having braved many an infuriating MySpace page, we can announce that alternative music’s underground is replete with a brilliantly diverse array of emerging talent yet to have its day in the sun. So here’s our slightly pithy, headliner-free walkthrough guide to this year’s festivities.


Maximo Park open proceedings at the Queens Head Stage with a set chosen entirely by the Facebook community. So that’ll be the first album played twice, then. Then, laugh hysterically at East 17. Following this initial burst of excitement, it might be best to rehydrate and avoid over-exerting yourself on the first day within the first few hours. That is never going to look good.

The chilled out melodic folk-pop of Stornoway and the blissfully peaceful sound of Charlene Soraia should do the trick, nicely. Step across to The Bandstand for interesting new indie prospects from Canada, The Mandibles, and the funky folk of Syd Arthur. Finish the night off shuffling your feet like a monkey with a miniature… sorry, just dance stupidly to Greco-Roman Soundsystem feat. Joe Hot Chip & Totally Enormous (breathe here) at the Stonebridge Bar.


Didn’t sleep much? Deathly hangover? Poor chicken. What you need is some jazz! Pop over to the Jazz/World Stage and check out London’s The Perceptions. With sinuses cleared, it’s time to haul ass over to the Queen’s Head and shake it (with a few introductory beverages) to The Slips – one of the sharpest sounding of the current slew of electro acts. Can’t take all this morning inebriation? The soothing sounds of respective troubadours Ash Mandrake and Little Musgraves at The Bandstand and Bryony Fry and Evi Vine over at The Rabbit Hole will surely help. Pop-pickers out there will want to catch the sexy chart-busting sounds of Gabriella Cilmi at the Pyramid Stage, while everyone should hang around for New Yorker Regina Spektor‘s beautiful and unique take on torch balladry at the same place. From one interesting female vocalist to another; zoom over to The Park Stage and catch the Bjork/PJ Harvey-inspired Emiliana Torrini.

A tough choice now awaits. The made-for-Glastonbury (and a beautiful sunset would help, please) Fleet Foxes at Pyramid Stage or the addictive homespun beats of Metronomy at John Peel? If you stick around the John Peel Stage you might as well also catch bright, young hope Little Boots; the uber festival-friendly sounds of Jack Penate; and the cheeky chappy who also happens to be a young Bob Dylan, Jamie T. Then two of 2009’s best albums go head to head. Chalk fans will stick around for Mancunian heroes, Doves; cheese types will head to the Park Stage for the inimitable Animal Collective.


Trying to forget about the person you just spent the night with in oh-so-close-it’s-really-quite-unpleasant one-man tent proximity can be tricky. Best to have a quiet start to the day to think about what just happened. Head over to the Queen’s Head Stage and let the delicate charm of Blue Roses cleanse your filthy mind. Dash to the Pyramid Stage and allow the truly magnificent Tinariwen to induce involuntary hip movements with their unique brand of desert blues and hair metal. Bring things down a few notches with The Low Anthem‘s serene harmonies at the Park Stage. The same stage hosts the young and talented campus-indie stars of tomorrow, Bombay Bicycle Club. It’s time to move to the John Peel Stage for two more exciting new acts, poptronica oddball Esser and mind-altering sound landscapers, The Big Pink.

OK, that was a bit deep. Time for a singalong with Badly Drawn Boy at the Avalon Stage. Tootle along to The Bandstand for some pretty folk, courtesy of Urusen and Carmina. Pick things up and head to a heaving East Dance tent. It’s an impressive triple salvo of orange quiff electro sensation La Roux, he ain’t ever wrong he’s Pete Tong and the DJ that thinks he’s a mouse, Deadmau5. If there’s time, make time for master beatboxer, Shlomo And Friends at the Park Stage. Cram into the John Peel Stage for three of the best new acts around: American electro outfit, Passion Pit; our very own Kate Bush for 2009, Florence And The Machine; and the morbid-yet-perversely-uplifting indie-rockers, White Lies. Finish the night, and just try holding back the tears, by taking in the wonderful Bon Iver.


Everyone else wants to go home too. Come on, not long to go now. Start things off as you mean to go on with the uplifting reggae and Radiohead covers of Easy Star All-Stars at the Pyramid Stage, and follow this with the truly bonkers Micachu And The Shapes at the Park Stage. Things are getting heavy at the Other Stage, but dip into the intensity of UK post-punk outfit, The Boxer Rebellion. It’s now time to unwind a little. The dulcet tones of LA singer-songwriter Priscilla Ahn are just what is needed. The Acoustic Stage will definitely come into its own today. The country folk of Lucy Wainwright Roche, Martin Harley Band‘s blues rhythms and the sweet strummed melodies of Kate Walsh will remove the heaviest of headaches. The quiet stuff continues with the anti-folk of Emmy The Great at the John Peel Stage.

The Malian grooves of Amadou & Mariam at the Pyramid Stage is simply unmissable as is the return of Yeah Yeah Yeah’s at the Other Stage. Straight after the New Yorkers will be Britain’s well-plumed musical innovator, Bat For Lashes. Quickly hop (or skip or both) over to the John Peel Stage and hopefully catch as much of hip indie newcomers, The Soft Pack, as possible. Hang onto to that prime piece of muddy grass real estate and enjoy Ladyhawke‘s pop ditties. Choose to dance around a rucksack to either soulful Noisettes at John Peel or the soulful VV Brown at East Dance, then recharge with the folk Americana of Alela Diane at the Park Stage or the alternative folk of Robyn Hitchcock at the Queen’s Head Stage. To finish? Dance like a nutter to Calvin Harris at East Dance or get nostalgic with Echo And The Bunnymen at the John Peel Stage. Job’s a goodun.

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