Seemingly festival attendees like to arrive earlier and earlier each year with thousands now battering down the proverbial door to enter the site as soon as 'doors open'. I'm not one of them, I like to arrive the day before and slowly get myself ready for three days worth of standing on my feet all day watching music - I know it's not everything about a festival, but it is the reason I am at Glastonbury Festival after-all. Anyone who tells you festivals are not bloody hard work is doing it wrong, plus I'm too old to handle the alcohol involved and I'm not interested in drugs (that and vast numbers of people tend to piss me off!).
My arrival on-site just after Thursday afternoon is perfectly timed, just as the rain starts. I'm one of the thousands of lucky ones though to be here and one of the slightly less number of luckier people who have a 'hospitality ticket' (in my case thanks to helping to judge to Emerging Talent Contest) so I head to our campsite in good spirits, my tent is of the lazy/easy pop-up variety and I'm soon ready.
The first evening is spent walking around, re-adjusting to the lay-out of the festival and sitting around the Stone Circle. The only act I saw was Gibson Bull at The Rabbit Hole, at around midnight we head to the hospitality bar and end up staying, 'dancing' and drinking for a little longer than planned. Under foot conditions were still fine at this point.
I have a great nights sleep thanks to the beer of the night before and awake past ten am, a mild headache aside I'm set for day one of the festival, the headache is taken care of by a coffee but my desire to head to the Other Stage is dampened when I hear "I Predict A Riot" blaring out from afar. A secret Kaiser Chiefs
set is one thing I can do without first thing on a Friday morning. Instead I take safety in the press tent, a surprisingly intimate marquee tent with rows of tables aligned and power points everywhere. I pay a visit here a handful of times throughout the weekend and it is always a hub of feverish activity. Papers' need to write their critical reviews from somewhere!
A short walk later (there is a handy short-cut from the Pyramid to see the first band of the day, Blondie
. Like a lot of people I spent some of my teenage years listening to this band but I've not heard them at all for probably ten years and I'm surprised how easy the words come back to me.
Blondie are good and straight from the off I realise that guitar solo's are back. I'm assuming the younger looking chap on lead guitar was not part of the original line-up(!) but he's accomplished in front of the big crowd and takes over numerous time amongst Debbie Harry's arm movements and feet shuffles (armed with a rather terrible looking sandal / white sock combo!). Time has perhaps taken a little bit of a toll her mobility and range but certainly not her presence, oozing infinite cool and charm still armed with a voice that was compelling and strong.
They started with "One Way or Another", a song guaranteed to have the huge crowd singing along from the get-go, new songs were politely received and sounded pretty decent but lets face it, we were all here for the hits and boy did we get them, "Call Me", "Atomic" and finally "Heart of Glass" were all received with huge cheers even with the weather in typically indecisive mood, one minute sunny, the next rain, rinse repeat for an hour, this was the place to kick start the weekend.
After some food and a slow walk (still no mud at this stage) to William's Green I'm early for Summer Camp
so head towards the front to get a decent slot - it's weird as a new music fan who normally spends his time seeing bands play tiny, intimate rooms to suddenly be thrust in front of thousands upon thousands of people and hundreds of feet distance between the stage.
Pretty much bang on time (schedules are pretty much kept to throughout) the band arrive and the set is great, slick and fun. Elizabeth and Jeremy have great voices and the musicianship between themselves and their equally accomplished band-mates is perfect, new tracks blend in with old with a sound slightly heavier live than I remember and by the last time comes around, the utterly superb "Two Chords" I'm almost bouncing up and down on the spot. A group behind me have taken that further and dance around with enjoyment written across their faces. It was most definitely worth missing the days sunshine for.
Afterwards it is the long walk back to the Other Stage for Haim
, another huge crowd awaits and I'm not quite able to shake of the knowledge that just over two years ago I saw them play at Audio in Brighton with 150 people there and I was on the barrier, here I'm about half a mile way... Credit to the band for pulling it off without losing what they are, a jam band, combining pop hooks, harmony and rocking guitar sections. Haim have come so far in so little time and they deserve a lot credit for it. I might feel slightly disconnected standing at the back but lots of apparent newbies certainly do not.
It's starting to get dark before the end of Haim's set and eyes are averted to a rather ominous raincloud forming behind us, it creeps and creeps closure and bang thunder, rain and one mother of all storms. You've probably read much about it already but it hits the festival hard....
I'm already in the LeftField tent by this stage and thankfully dry and awaiting The Tuts
, the tent soon packs out with people eager to avoid the torrential rain outside and on time the girls begin. It has been a while since I've seen them and they seem to have grown in stature and confidence ten times over (I guess a nationwide tour supporting Kate Nash will do that to you).
Their songs play to the perfect setting and then two songs in, in Billy Bragg jumps on stage telling them (and us) that we have to shut down because the festival cannot operate during a lightening storm. It's extremely unfortunate and for a good while people look around with puzzled, bewildered, amused faces (especially the girls) and a good deal of time passes with the tent entertaining themselves by singing along to some good songs (Queen and The Beatles) and some terrible ones (Kaiser Chiefs?!! - really?!) before the rain stops and sun returns. The girls start up again - to a smaller audience - and give it their all, tight, quick-paced, fun/intelligent pop-punk songs that offer a fleeting dose of fun.
Afterwards I head outside to assess the damage of the rain, at the moment it's mainly huge amounts of surface water waiting for people to come and churn it up into mud before taking a trek towards the top of the festival and the Park are to head to the Crows Nest for the first time over the weekend. A matter of minutes after I arrive All We Are
start, they were due to play sometime earlier but seemingly the venue had suffered worse than others with electrical failure. The trio deliver an enjoyable set of groovy, dreamy soft-pop with shimmering guitars and smouldering dual vocals carrying a sweet, exotic flavour as their falsetto vocals channel the Bee Gees crossed with early 90's R&B. Lush.
Next I'm quickly back down the hill to get to the Avalon stage for Sophie Ellis-Bextor
, they are running perhaps twenty minutes late so I need not have rushed quite so much but I find a good position and await with interest, it would be polite to say the audience here was the most 'mature' I've encountered thus far, perhaps Sophie's time on Strictly was wisely spent. There are multiple references to dancing throughout and the hour set is an absolute joy. Truly. The absolute highlight of the day...
With Ed Harcourt on piano and a full backing band adding rich, warming instrumentation and luscious strings what starts off as a set of sophisticated, timeless pop tracks with sumptuous melody and changing tempo becomes a disco party half-way through (and after a rather shambolic on-stage dress change) with the hits "Groovejet", "Take Me Home" and finally "Murder on the Dancefloor" all getting a show. It was incredible, way and above my pre-gig expectations highlighting Sophie's wonderful voice and charisma. Perhaps what I wasn't expecting was quite how funny/nice she was, coming across as really genuine, appreciative and grateful. It's a rare trait for a musician who has been in the game as long as Sophie to have (she mentioned the last time she was at the festival, 1998 during TheAudience days).
Beaming from ear to ear I head off towards the Pyramid stage (unfortunately timing and location mean seeing Lykke Li proves impossible) and get surprisingly close to the front for Arcade Fire
, their set is wonderful, of course it is. This is a truly special band and the chemistry they give off during their performance is extraordinary. making each and every member of the audience feel connected and paying tribute to each of their four, incredible, albums. They must have felt pretty confident they were going to deliver as fireworks, historically saved for the end of a set here come at the beginning setting the sky alight before "Reflektor".
The new material almost treated on par with the old but of course the biggest cheers and sing-along moment of the day is saved for the end and "Wake Up". Every member of the crowd singing along to its refrain and continuing to do so as we walk away into the night.
I've got the long trek back to the Park next and the Crows Nest for my last act of the day TOY
. They come on stage at 1am and treat the packed tent to a blistering hot and extremely loud (instantly putting my fears that the make-shift venue wouldn't be able to cope with the bands sound) jam set.
After an elongated instrumental the band crack into set that begins with "Kopter" and includes some of the finest moments from their second album Join The Dots
, when I've seen Toy before the one I've never thought is "hmm, think I could with hearing more guitars here" but that is what we get as two more guitars join in on the title track and another jam. A complete triumph and I leave with my ears ringing but completely satisfied. The mud is a little more difficult to navigate as I make my way back to the tent avoiding the noise of Arcadia and the streams and revellers heading down to Shangri-La. I'll too old for that nonsense!
Glastonbury 2014 day one, you were a complete success.