Sunday Special: Glastonbury Set Review

Glastonbury was about a month ago now, meaning I have had time to pare through some of the footage of sets from the six main stages. I do this not just because I am interested in the live shows of some of the performers, but because Glastonbury as a festival has been built up to such epic proportions that success here as a live act can really define a bands trajectory over the coming months. The ‘Glastonbury effect’ led to Lionel Richie topping the charts in the week following is performance in the Sunday ‘legends slot’. Don’t get me wrong, I think Lionel Richie topping the charts in this day in age is beyond fantastic, but I so think the overwhelming importance attached to Glastonbury as a festival that trumps all others is a bit much. I’ve been to Glastonbury. I had a really great time. But it wasn’t the absolute life changing experience musically that other gigs have been, and I do think that the constant repetition of Glastonbury being super-duper special gets a bit much after a while.

However, the merits of its musical importance notwithstanding, the fact remains that checking over the sets at Glastonbury gives a really good idea of who is going to be big news in the coming year, especially on the up and comers, and I like to look smarter than I am by predicting the new good stuff before everyone else. Now, obviously, I can’t watch all the sets, and I’m not going to bother reviewing some of the more prominent stuff like Kanye or Rudimental, because everyone knows what they’re about. (Haven’t watched Kanye’s set yet, but apparently its pretty meh).

The Pop Group: Not particularly familiar with their back catalogue, but I know they’ve got a bit of a cult following and I was quite excited to see them. Got much better as it went on, really enjoyed the later songs and performance. I would describe as screamo-funk, which I do feel is an underutilised genre niche. They give it some welly, which always gets points from me. Crowd looked a bit confused by it all at points, just proving that not everyone at Glastonbury wakes up at lunchtime and then drops an acid tab for breakfast.

FFS: For me, this was a contender for set of the show. If you’re not familiar with this band, it is amalgamation of the previously also pretty good bands Sparks and Franz Ferdinand, (although Franz Ferdinand’s album Tonight is a fantastic piece of work when taken on its own) who wanted to get together and make a prog I think basically just to amuse themselves. It turns out that when combined, however, these bands immediately graduate into the ‘amazing’ category, which is utterly bizarre. Their new album is great, and their live set was just superb good fun, combining both bands solid back catalogues and top tier stage presence into something that was both a joy to watch and listen to. The combination just works. Also, my face when they did ‘This town ain’t big enough’. Ah. Mah. Zing. Crowd loved it, because if you don’t love that you don’t like music.

Death Cab For Cutie: DCFC were formed in 1997, and this was apparently their first Glastonbury. Both of those facts are astonishing to me. It’s music that actually really works live, which kinda surprised me; it’s a Seattle band, and the music is very much rooted in that sound, but they are a really tidy live act (not that surprising given they’re been doing this for nearly 20 years), and the set was a really pleasant listen, just nice guitar music, with some keys thrown in, done very well. Big take from this set was that their new album sounds really great live, which is pretty impressive: Black Sun was my personal favourite of the songs they did, and the crowd were getting right into it, which was neat. It’s nice for a band when the new stuff gets eaten up as much as the hits. I get the feeling that if I’d have been there I would be raving about it. Man, this and FFS would have been a great, (if trippy) night.

Django Django: Not sure why they were so far down the bill, really. They started with a crowd who all looked like they’d had a bit too much of like at half four on the Sunday, and managed to drag them out of their stupor and get them singing and jumping along by the third or fourth song, which was a solid effort. Better live band than I was expecting, wasn’t sure how well their brand of sort of math pop would translate, but they were really tight and presented themselves well. Another band who’s new stuff sounds great live, good sign. I’m pretty hype about listening to the new album now.

Everything Everything: Liked their outfits, but was slightly underwhelmed by their set. I absolutely love their most recent album, and would have loved to hear more songs from it. Also, voices sounded like the festival had taken a bit of toll on them. They were by no means bad, and the songs are still great, they just weren’t absolutely amazing for me.

The Libertines: Surprise appearance! As far as I can tell, The Libertines seem to be a bit of a polarising band. I quite like them! Carl Barat’s new band is pretty sweet as well. Glastonbury seemed to like them as well on the day, which is the important thing. Maybe they’re a bit past it now, but they’re making it work for them, and it kind of suits the music as well. Plus ‘The Good Old Days’ is a great song and they did a pretty solid version of it. All in, reasonable beery Friday afternoon set.

La Roux: Remember La Roux? pop sensation from a couple of years back? Made one album, couple of catchy pop numbers, then sort of vanished for a bit, dropped of the radar. Trouble in Paradise, her album from last year, got virtually no attention which is ridiculous because it’s miles better than her first one. Enjoyed her set as well, have only listened to it so far, but she did a lot of the proggy-electro newer stuff that I like and it sounded great. I’ll watch this at some point as she seems like a lady with a lot of stage presence, and I’m expecting exciting things.

Todd Terje & the Olsens: Not the Olsen twins! I was upset as well, although I’m being told that there isn’t a ginger Olsen twin anymore so their appearance would have been frankly pointless. Instead, Todd Terje got a band together including some family members, a lot of percussion and a man playing AN ELECTRIC ACCORDION to recreate his outstanding debut pop-funk-disco-latin-jazz-i-don’t-even-know album It’s Album Time. If that wasn’t amazing enough, he then got a small army of Drag Queens to take over the stage and get down during the finale. It was pure spectacle and I loved every second of it. The entire set was like the work of some mad genius, and my goodness did the band look like they were enjoying the fruits of their labour (rightly so). If you appreciate really good electronic music produced fantastically live, watch the highlight reel from this set, and seriously, if you haven’t already, check out the album.

Wolf Alice: Yeah, they were all right. It really helps if you’re a live band that do a lot of gigging if you’re egdy and attractive looking, especially if one of your number is a female. Good festival music, catchy enough, and they did well to get the crowd going while it was chucking it down, and the band looked like they were giving it everything. Not really my cup of tea lyrically or vocally, but as ever, different strokes. Seriously brave front first crowd surf from the lead singer, if I was a girl at Glastonbury I don’t think I’d have gone near it with a barge pole.

Caribou: Caribou is great. He just rocks up, does want he wants, is smarter than everyone else, produces some fab tunes. He’ll play the drums, he’ll play the flute, he’ll play what he damn well wants. Want everyone to wear white? No problem. Want to open with a 10 minute jam around the title track of your most recent album? A-OK. Still sounds great. Everyone there was loving it, both the band and the audience. It amazes me, because I really love Caribou’s last three albums, but they don’t feel to me like the sort of albums that lots of people would like. Don’t listen to me: go check out Our Love and if you want something a little more esoteric, Swim. Another fantastic example of intelligent, high quality electronic music being brilliantly reproduced live. Speaking of which…

Hot Chip: Another contender for set of the show. Do you remember when Hot Chip were just five dudes stood behind keyboards? Their live set is an absolute electric spectacular now. They’ve got energy to spare, great tunes, a more than willing crowd, and Sarah Jones playing the drums. If that doesn’t add up to a fantastic time then I don’t know what does. Highlights included the synchronised dancing during ‘Flutes’, Al Doyle being incredibly excited about getting to play all of the instruments, and the sensational Bruce Springsteen/LCD Soundsystem mashup they did as a finale (and got all of Caribou on stage to help out for). If they’d have done ‘Motion Sickness’ it would have gained the not-prestigious-at-all DR top set award but they didn’t so I guess they have to share it with FFS.

Florence and the Machine: I tell you what, I heard more chat about Florence replacing the Foo’s and Kanye being a bit of a pillock in the buildup to Glasto than I did about The bleeding Who, how messed up is that? Anyway, Florences set: for me personally, good, but didn’t knock my socks off. I’ve never been the hugest fan of their music though, so take that with a pinch of salt – they do a good anthem, no doubt, but sometimes I like more than just anthems for my breakfast. However, they fit the hippie vibe of the festival absolutely perfectly, and the crowd were right into all the hits, so definitely a good promotion up the order.

Slaves: Man, these guys were absolutely great! Modern punk is a bit rubbish sometimes. Actually, old punk was a bit rubbish a lot of the time. Anyone remember The Astronauts? The Astronauts were flipping great, and I get that vibe from Slaves a lot. (I might do a retrospective review of One Wave at some point, that would be a laugh). Utter in your face insanity from start to finish, both of them, and that’s no bad thing. It’s aggressive, it’s shouty, and I would of loved to have been there live. Bonus points for being absolute gents with the crowd as well. Outstanding outfits and energy on top.

Leon Bridges: Soul music’s not really my cup of tea, but it’s yours then this guy looks to be on the up and up. Lovely voice, good band, nice sounding songs. Didn’t listen to his whole set yet, but if you like that smooth-voiced pleasant soul action, worth checking out.

The Mothership Returns: There’s not really too much for me to say about this. Look at those names, think about the amount of hit power they provide. I only listened to part of this set, but it sounded like a freaking party, and what would you expect? I love me some Parliament. Think I would have just gone for this instead of La Roux (Tough call), and then completely blown off DeadMau5 and Kanye and gone to see…

Jon Hopkins: I know very little about Jon Hopkins, outside of the fact he’s been mercury nominated a couple of times and worked on Coldplay’s best album. This has been a gross oversight on my part, so I need to catch up on his work badly, and this was a good starting point. I loved how he eased the crowd in gently, and after that, well, the man does great techno. Visually interesting as well. I mean, he looks like a handsome guy, so the ladies probably love him, and I loved the rotating glow stick hula hoops for ‘Insides’ and ‘Two Dancers’ (although probably not great for those of you that suffer from nausea easily). Then they doubled the hula hoopage and things got really out of hand. ‘Light through the veins’ was a highlight for me, but the whole set was lovely, to be honest. Now I have to go listen to all of his albums in one sitting.

James Bay: Singer-Songwriters generally seem like fairly nice people. James Bay fits that description, and is on the up and up, with his debut hit ‘Hold Back the River’ making a bit of noise in charts around the world. It’s pleasant enough music, pretty inoffensive, and it was a solid set which the crowd got fairly into towards the end. I am tentatively excited to see more from him. Luckily, we’ll definitely be seeing more of him in the future, because as far as I can tell he roughly thirteen years old.

Sleaford Mod: It weren’t pretty, but what that’s worthwhile in this world truly is? Angry, sweary, aggressive punk-rap. I actually enjoyed it more than I expected to. Liked the performance of ‘Tiswas’. Some of the lyrical content (which was actually pretty clever in parts) probably hit a little bit home for some of the crowd, but they certainly appreciated the energy being put out. Minimalist, brutal, not for the faint of heart, but kept making me grin. Enjoyed their contender for quote of the festival: I’m not gonna write the first word, but the second two words were “off Glastonbury”

The Chemical Brothers: They’re here every year, so you know what they are about, and their continual innovation and fantastic live shows are almost kind of routine now. Which is sort of tragic. ‘Go’ and ‘Swoon’, were absolutely banging.

Taylor Swift: Wasn’t performing at this festival, sorry.

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