Glastonbury 2009: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
After our first timer gets over the shock of the sheer size of Glastonbury, and the entire festival digests the news of Michael Jackson’s death, our correspondents get down to business. Our Glasto virgin continues his discoveries; scroll down for individual set reviews…
Morning arrives, eventually. I poke my head out of the tent – unleashing a soaking from water pooled above me – and emerge into the mud. And strangely, it’s not so bad. You see pictures of people covered in mud at festivals and think “how can they seem so happy?” but suddenly I understand.
Clouds clearing and smiles broadening, things kick off, and I turn to Fleet Foxes at the Pyramid Stage. Bathed in sun and music bouncing across the stage’s surrounding fields, the experience is intense, audio taking on a richness that you only experience at this sort of event; it’s as though sound is turned into light, technicolour beams of music sweeping across the crowds. People stand overcome by the music, breathing in its messages of love, loss and friendship; no one here has any doubt about what Glastonbury means now.
I move on to the new Park Stage which, hidden in the greener northern hills of the site, is a perfect blend of intimacy and seclusion paired with the draw of big-name acts. Tonight it’s Animal Collective, who hypnotise the crowd with an unexpectedly adept transference of the futurism and experimentalism of Merriweather Post Pavilion to an outdoor stage. A dazzling sensory attack of synchronised light and sound mesmerises me, and the night closes in as a thousand minds drift in the outer space sounds surrounding us.A few notable music happenings on Friday
Regina Spektor, Main Stage, 13:40
Frontloading a festival set with new tracks can be a risky gameplan – luckily, when you’re New York queen of cool Regina Spektor and you’ve got a new record as good as Far, there’s little to worry about. While many of the early Friday crowd were a little non-plussed by the vocal gymnastics on display, Spektor captured the hearts of a huge crowd with a display of boundless enthusiasm, using a stool as percussion to old hit Poor Little Rich Boy and blowing away the early rainstorms with a spine-tingling solo version of Samson.
The Maccabees, Other Stage, 14:30
Whether by accident or design (it was an open secret that N*E*R*D were the ‘special guests’ on the main stage at the time) comeback kids The Maccabees drew a vast crowd for their afternoon set. Showcasing the majority of brilliant new record Wall Of Arms, the band seemed obviously overjoyed to be there and the performance reflected this. Graceful, heartfelt and epic, this was a moment to savour for a band who have too often been accused of being simply another rubbish bag on the indie landfill. Typically, Love You Better was a set highlight, but one of many – a high spot of the weekend.
Supergrass, Park Stage, 16:00
The rumours of who these special guests might be had circulated for weeks – Muse? Radiohead? Oasis? The excitement had died down by the time the time had come for the act to be revealed as… Supergrass. Playing covers. A purgatorial atmosphere decended over the Park Stage. We left.
Lamb, Jazz World Stage, 17:30
Another band leaping aboard the reunion juggernaut is ersatz trip-hop act Lamb. An early evening set on the Jazz Stage marked their first gig on a comeback trail, a reward for 13 years knocking about in the industry, and while there were technical glitches the band sounded… well, like Lamb used to. Boomy. Dreamy. Samey. While there are obviously devotees out there (a sizeable crowd turned out for this), Lou Rhodes’ group seemed content to plough a furrow that seemed a little out of place years ago.
Lily Allen, Main Stage, 18:20
After confirming her status as soon-to-be Queen of pop on this stage in 2007, Allen treated this as a coronation, with as much pomp and circumstance as she could muster. Dressed in a split-down-the-middle curtain and a purple wig Allen was on fine form, regaling the crowd and her entire extended family to tales of blowjobs and shagging, lurching around the stage with a fag and a drink and causing untold mayhem to any BBC live coverage. Churning out the entirety of her not unspectacular back catalogue, she seemed to be having more fun than most of the audience, which was saying something.
The Specials, Main Stage, 20:00
One band we can forgive for reuniting for profit is The Specials. As politically and socially relevant as they ever were, and still looking sharp in their natty grey suits, Terry Hall’s impeccably-drilled group rolled back the years with a set that will live long in the memory. Incredibly their first ever Glastonbury performance, the crowd were treated to 19 (yes, 19) tracks that spanned the group’s career, from early track Do The Dog to set closer Ghost Town. While obvious highlight Too Much Too Young was rapturously received, it was surpassed by anti-racist anthem A Message To You Rudy – introduced by Hall as “A song called Fuck The BNP”. With the BNP gaining traction around the country, we need more bands like The Specials – this was one of the most moving, heartfelt and enjoyable concerts in Glastonbury’s recent history.
The Streets, Jazz World Stage, 21:00
Most bands over the weekend decided to pay tribute to Michael Jackson as some point during their set – some successfully, some not so. Probably the best we saw was Mike Skinner’s cover of Billie Jean, a rollicking performance by the philosophic geezer worthy of the king of pop himself. Other than that, a clearly intoxicated Skinner made the most of his appearance, throwing out hit after audience pleasing hit, and encouraging the obliging crowd to perform increasingly silly dance moves with him. A couple of new tracks sounded average at best, with some more work needed before they join the roll-call of favourites like Fit But You Know It and Dry Your Eyes.
Neil Young, Main Stage, 22:00
Apparently the one act that Michael Eavis has been trying to get since the festival’s inception, Young finally brought his amplified set to Worthy Farm, closing the Friday night with a salvo of hits from his four decades in the industry. Opening with a chugging Hey Hey, My My, anyone worried that Ol’ Shakey was going to churn out an obscure acoustic set was placated with a ferocious barrage of noise that put many bands a third of his age to shame. While there was a slight mid-set lull where the acoustic guitar was broken out, Young could still call on songs with the quality of Heart Of Gold and The Needle And The Damage Done – more than enough to convince as a true Glastonbury great.
Doves, John Peel Stage, 23:00
Even the most established bands can become overawed by the sheer scale of playing Glastonbury, and Doves were not immune to this, appearing at times nervous playing to a rammed, and rapturous, John Peel Stage. Once the band had hit their stride, however, they proved that there are few better acts to close out a day spent ingesting beer and chemicals – a quintet of superbly anthemic songs, starting with Caught By The River and ending with the rave anthem Spaceface sent the crowd grinning into the night, and the otherworldly pleasures of Shangri La.