Somerset, UK – What a difference the weather makes. After last year’s quagmire, it was a whole different ball game when Glastonbury Festival gates opened on Wednesday. Early comers were treated to a day of baking sun and unusually hard ground to hammer in tent pegs. We arrived on Thursday to find it still warm but with plenty of cloud cover to keep temperatures bearable. The dry ground promised to make navigating the huge site from stage to stage considerably easier, traditionally a schedule-killer when it’s muddy. Dust is the new mud and not without its own downside, as in it blows around, man.
The main stages kick in on Friday so today was a chance for some of the smaller stages to have their hour in the sun; a long one too as it didn’t set till well after 8pm. Inaugurated in 2009, William’s Green is an area named after Festival host Michael Eavis’ grandfather, the first to plant crops at Worthy Farm. Tonight the William’s Green Stage was home to the first two of Glastonbury’s secret sets – marked TBA in the festival listings. The Liverpool, UK four-piece Circa Waves, already billed to appear on Friday on the Other Stage, took the first slot followed by established festival favourites, Everything Everything. Opening with “Wake Up” from the band’s second album Different Creatures, Circa Waves went on to deliver a blistering 11-song set in true indie rock tradition, ending with the aptly titled “T-Shirt Weather”. The closer was previewed by a daring climb up the lighting rig and leap down onto an amplifier by the band’s drummer. Indie boys will be indie boys.
Over in the gentler climes of the Green Futures area, Australia’s permaculture kings, Formidable Vegetable Sound System, was already playing its third show of a busy Glasto schedule. With songs from “Yield” to “Dad’s Dunny”, an ode to a composting toilet, the three-piece delivers its eco messages with humour and abundant energy.
Next came a short trip to the Stone Circle, or should that be stoned circle, especially with reference to those sitting by a large open log fire. Add wood smoke to dust hazard, plus of course all the secondary smoke. Passing out of the green fields, it was reassuring to find that déjà vu is alive and well here, as a mass singalong to The Killers’ “Mr Brightside” was underway at the Stonebridge Bar, home to DJs and drinks. Another attraction though seemed the bigger draw in the shape of Cineramageddon, a Glastonbury innovation involving a field of mutilated vintage cars, funfair rides and a Lear Jet, a giant cinema screen and a visitation from Johnny Depp no less.
Depp was here to introduce a screening of his film The Libertine. Referencing Donald Trump and the shooting of Abraham Lincoln, he quipped “When was the last time an actor assassinated a president?” – a remark he later apologised for, though I am sure the large crowd, myself included, took it as Depp’s typically dark humour.
The acting over, there was just enough time to catch some live music: two stars of this year’s Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition, Silences and the winner, Josh Barry on the Rabbit Hole Stage. Indie-rockers Silences, a five-piece from Armagh, Northern Ireland, turned in a passionate, melodic set full of distinctive melodies and dynamic pauses, and tight ensemble playing. Singer and songwriter Conchur White led the band from the front with his strong vocal range. The band’s ETC entry “There’s A Wolf” and new song “Red Dress” stood out as ones audiences will be singing back before long.
Dreadlocked London singer Josh Barry followed, getting a great reaction from the full tent as his classy, old soul vocal style was given full rein. With a polished band and great backing singers, Barry was the full packet – emotive, smooth yet with a raw edge when he needed it. The songs that won ETC for him, “Spirit Road”, which came with the word classic stamped over it, and “Higher Than The Top”, were soul sensations.
Photos by Maja Smiejkowska – http://majasmiejkowska.co.uk/ – for Best New Bands.
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Tony’s great passion in life is music and nothing gives him more pleasure than unearthing good, original new music and championing independent musicians. His association with Best New Bands brings great opportunities for this. He also writes for Consequence of Sound and is a judge for Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent Competition.
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