It’s 12pm on Wednesday, the Wax team has been up since 3am and your editor has just had to run 2 miles in twenty minutes to catch up with the rest of them in the car. If there was one thing to take from the utter mental queueing to get into Glastonbury festival this year is that you do not, we repeat, DO NOT, need to get out of the car for a piss in the hedge.
So began a weekend of pivotal events and as such unforgettable moments. We celebrated the lives of fallen icons, came together at the sound of best-yet sets and were left dismayed over an uncertain future. Most important was the feeling of togetherness, as 180,000 trekked through the worst mud since ’97 to be a part of the most special of festivals.
~ FRIDAY ~
The first momentous set of the weekend sets the tone for Grime Friday at Glastonbury, as the genre’s leading voice Skepta takes the Pyramid Stage to an intense and utterly exciting level. While flanked by several members of Boy Better Know throughout the set and watched on by a sizeable crowd for so early in the day, the stage is Joseph Adenoma’s and his alone – his commanding flow and infectious, mainstream-breaking singles in ‘Shutdown‘ and ‘That’s Not Me‘ delivering on a weekend full of notable highlights.
The genre is celebrated throughout the day – Novelist hits the Sonic Stage immediately after joining Skepta – yet with less success due to sound complaints, while Kano‘s late night set is a well deserved celebration of early favourites mixed with latest album ‘Made In The Manor‘ cuts to deliver a fast paced and energetic set.
The genre’s importance within the festival is cemented with the arrival of it’s most exciting protagonist. Stormzy arrives to a Sonic Stage tent so packed in you can’t get in it, and for good reason – his sets this summer have already become word of mouth buzz, and this appearance is perhaps the culmination of him proving his unquestionable drive to succeed, in which he does with flying, beat-ridden colours.
In a year full of diverse bookings, Bring Me The Horizon stepped foot on Worthy Farm as perhaps the most intriguing to some and the most questionable to others. Following their Other Stage set on Friday evening, they simply proved they were fit to play wherever they like, as loud as they fucking want. Opening with ‘Spirit‘, the encompassing emotion to which Oli Sykes and co deliver their set is laudable – proving any manner of group can play at the world’s biggest party as long as they have the strength to fill it.
Bastille returned to Glastonbury with a new album to preview, and did so with aplomb. The new tracks are sounding mightily invigorating – dancing brass mixed with the familiar reaching scale of Dan Smith’s melodic vocals – matching the fan favourite tracks for sheer infectiousness. Where many bands struggle to match the success of their debuts, they’ve proved before it’s even released that they have their hands on an album that may even surpass their first. Alunageorge, while on a smaller stage, enjoyed the same response upon their return – new single ‘Control‘ already a growing hit, live their sex with sass delivery is emphatic.
As Friday came to a close, Muse delivered a disappointingly average set of new album fillers from ‘Drones‘ that would pale in comparison to the two headline sets that would follow on the festival’s biggest stage – all the while Disclosure would see off second album ‘Caracal‘ in style. Putting together a visually entrancing performance, the group have previously been put down for their live approach due to the lack of pulling in the mega-stars that appear on their records – none such the problem here, in fact, it worked even better without. The subtle appearances from Kwabs and Brendan Reilly are excellent feet- movers, yet when the duo are alone their work as an electronic group really comes to the fore.
~ SATURDAY ~
It’s midday when Shura takes to the Other Stage, giggling and excitable throughout as she plays tracks from upcoming first album ‘Nothing’s Real‘. She has every right to be happy – she pulls off one of the best sets of the weekend. Her electronic pop about break-ups really hits home on both scales, it’s upsettingly relatable yet uplifting dance that with a full band easily finds its place. Shura is set for big things, and we’ll look back on this set as the true marker.
Over at William’s Green The Big Moon bring their bouncing grungy pop, adding an endearing fragility when live and displaying their undeniably exuberant personalities to the afternoon crowd. Their show today lines them up to follow in the footsteps of Wolf Alice, who mark their defining year with a set on the Pyramid stage. The band have grown, early single ‘Bros‘ to latest ‘Lisbon‘ sound huge even on the biggest stage. What’s nicest to see is their humble nature – you can tell how big an event this is for the four-piece, and they handle it with style.
Although delivering hit after hit from their deep back catalogue, Madness are a disappointment. Mellow, droll and lacking the crowd interaction they usually instil, the group seem tired and old – ‘One Step Beyond’ half the speed and enjoyment that it usually is. It’s thankfully up-staged by the especially entrancing Last Shadow Puppets, who deliver a set full of swagger and braggadocio. Turner and Kane have taken eight years to follow up their esteemed first, and in that time the tracks haven’t worn – ‘Meeting Place‘ is met with love-lorn cooing, while ‘Age of The Understatement‘s early airing is a definitive reminder of the group’s ability live, singing to each other and looking like the 70s stadium-stars you always thought they could become.
Matt Healy introduces his band The 1975 onto the Other stage with tongue-in-cheek brilliance – “please welcome everyone’s favourite band The 1975” – before breaking straight into the funk-led majesty of ‘Love Me‘ and ‘UGH‘. They set is filled with atmospheric and emotive creativity, ‘A Change of Heart‘ sounding surprisingly strong in a festival environment, while ‘Girls‘ and ‘The Sound‘ are festival-theme song contenders that don’t overwhelm the rest of their set.
Amongst all of the defining and memorable sets of the weekend, it takes a considered shy trio from Glasgow, Scotland to deliver the best set of the entire festival. Chvrches are the perfect Saturday night at Glastonbury band, a potent mixture of foot-stomping electronics (that couldn’t be heavier), enthralling hooks like ‘Recover‘ and ‘Leave A Trace‘ and in Lauren Mayberry have the complete voice who controls the stage – moving, dynamic and important. Martin Doherty thanked Glastonbury for having them, and said it was an honour to be supporting New Order, “one of the most important electronic bands of all time“. From this performance, Chvrches could be considered in the same light in years to come.
The Saturday night headline set on the Pyramid stage is always considered the most important of the festival, and this year was subject to perhaps one of it’s best. From Jay-Z to Kanye West to The Rolling Stones, none of them could match the sheer enjoyment of 150,000 watching Adele. She laughed (she can add stand-up to her CV) , she swore and she sang with truth and beauty. From the cinematic emotion of ‘Skyfall‘ to the sultry pop-swing of ‘Send My Love‘, Tottenham’s favourite child delivered a set of true excellence, and it was perhaps only herself that she needed to prove she could do it too.
~ SUNDAY ~
Although it was Sunday and the last day of the festival, you wouldn’t of thought it as Years & Years took to the Other Stage on a rainy afternoon. As soon as Olly Alexander took the mic in his multi-coloured coat of Pride, the party was in full swing. The groups set not just cemented Pop’s place at Glastonbury, but its particular enjoyment and importance on this weekend. The group followed Chvrches, The 1975, Adele and Shura in providing one of the funnest sets of the weekend, and proved Pop’s turning point in once again creating intelligent while infectious music.
The only thing that could of made Beck‘s excellent set more enjoyable would of been if it had been in the sunshine. The indie veteran showed the class musicianship that lays across his discography, playing a greatest hits set that not just displayed the absolute brilliance of ‘Devil’s Haircut‘ and the somber ‘Lost Cause‘ but took notice to the immediate catchiness of relatively new single ‘Dreams‘ and how it fits into a set of cult classics.
As the evening began to draw, Mac DeMarco provided a woozy set of numbers that was met by a huge following in the John Peel tent. Having not released a record in a little under a year (a new record for the Canadian), the set felt like the end of a chapter – a look back on the deliriously hasty rise of a young man with little more than a guitar, a pack of cigarettes and a broken heart.
Despite it being their first show back in the UK for five years, LCD Soundsystem had no need for such markers. They provide an hour and a half of wall-to-wall dance anthems, an exceptionally energetic and encompassing feeling that showed there was no need to worry about their return being at all stale when in comparison to when they left us. From the disco-ball worshipping opening of ‘Us v Them‘, through the trance-inducing stomp of ‘Get Innocuous‘ to the passionate reaction that spilled from ‘All My Friends‘, it truly felt like some of our closest had returned home – and it couldn’t be at a better time.
Words: Ross Jones, Simon Blackler, Sam Conway, Daniel Pavey, Chloe Lock, Emily Brooks, Jessica Matthews.
Photography: Benjamin Gordon & Chloe Lock.