Glastonbury Emerging Talent Contest 2016 - My Three Selections

I was delighted to be asked to take part in the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition for the fourth year in a row (I think)... I assist in the initial phase of the judging which sees a panel of 40 music bloggers/writers from across the UK listen to the thousands of entries to the competition and then select three personal favourites from an individual long list of around 150-200 artists.

This forms the published long list of 120 artists who are then subject to a further round of judging by a different panel, including the festival organisers. From this 120 long list, 8 acts are chosen to compete in a live final, the winning act getting a slot on a main stage at the festival and a prize of£5,000 from PRS (as well as two runners-up prizes of £2,500). In previous years a vast majority of the acts who've made the live final have found themselves on the Glastonbury line-up in some way or another.

You can read more about the competition and listen to the entire long list via the Glastonbury Website.

My three selections are included below, I wish them all the best for the remainder of the competition!

Peaness - Facebook
“Pure, clear-cut fun, delivered at a frantic pace and laden with a healthy dose of bittersweet angst, catchy hooks and effortless harmonies”

Penelope Isles - Facebook
“Meandering, lo-fi psyche-pop filled with swirling, abstaract melodies that create surreal, hazy daydreams”

Keto - Facebook
“Haunting slow burners that reveal themselves to be clear, vivid and disarmingly intimate”

Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competiton 2015 - My Longlist

Glastonbury Festival Website

I was honoured and happy to be asked to form part of the 40 strong panel of bloggers who help with the judging of the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition (head to the official Glastonbury website to read more about the contest). The 2015 edition of which saw more than seven thousand fledgling UK/Ire based acts enter the competition with the aim of winning a main stage slot at the festival (and with an added bonus of a monetary prize for three acts thanks to the PRS for Music Foundation Talent Development).

All entries are shared equally amongst the initial judging panel with the aim of compiling a longlist of 120 acts. The longlist will then be whittled down to a shortlist of 8 artists by judges including Glastonbury organisers Michael and Emily Eavis, before the live finals at Pilton Working Men’s Club in April to decide the winning act. 

Of my entire judging list not a single act had been previously covered here. A singular statement that goes to highlight the breadth of talent in the UK - Glastonbury ETC is UK/Ire based acts only - and whilst naturally the list is a bit of a mixed bag in terms on my own particular taste there were a great number of exciting acts to discover. 

I managed to whittle my longlist down to twenty quite easily but reducing it to ten was more difficult and then from ten to my final three almost impossible (there were a couple of entries I really wanted to but through but could not) - each blogger gets three selections to form the overall longlist.

On this post I'm going to let you in on my final ten from which my three selections will be published (I won't be telling you which yet, the ten are listen in alphabetical order below). The final longlist and individual top threes (this is just my own judging list remember, so don't worry if you aren't including, there are 39 other judges) will be published on the Glastonbury website in early March.

Good luck to all acts involved:

My Longlist:

Cattle & Cane - Facebook

Cattle & Cane are a North East quintet whom immediately stopped me in my tracks with "Skies", it sees immaculately crafted, deftly shaped sibling harmonies and exquisite instrumentation entwine seamlessly. Imagine this rich, dynamic melody and vocals full of emotion and fragility and you'll come close, guaranteed to leave you with a lump in your throat. "Then You Came Along" is an absolute gem too, bring tissues.

Chris Keight - Twitter

Gentle finger plucked acoustic and softening vocals guide a beautifully intimate track that slowly builds to an urgent, soaring outpouring of emotion in its finale, a track that deserves to be heard by audiences old and new.

Plastic Mermaids - Facebook

Meandering soft psyche pop with a swirling, abstract melody, guaranteed to create some weird, hazy daydreams.

Almost perfect for hearing in a field at a festival then.

Pockets - Facebook

A Galway based quartet who deal in beautifully spacious, slow-motion ambient rock that simmers with brooding intent around intricate instrumentation and a gorgeously controlled, versatile vocal. Both "They Will" and "Alone" enrapture with darkly emotive, immersive soundscapes.

Polar Maps - Facebook

A trio from the Isle of Wight who create easy on the ears guitar pop, complete with nifty arrangements and sing-along chorus you feel like you've been transferred back to your favourite school bands of the mid 90's.

Rachel Clark - Facebook

Rachel Clark is a sixteen year old singer-songwriter whom instantly grabbed my attention with her earworm vocal and the brooding intensity of "Invasion", slowly building from circling guitar patterns with the most rewarding of conclusions.

A name to be heard in the future for sure.

Stina - Facebook

The first thing that you notice with London's Stina is her beautifully rich vocal, melting hearts around gradually swelling instrumentation on the lovely "Call The Guard", a track guaranteed to warm even the coldest of days.

Sula Mae - Facebook

The Google search translation of Mellifluous" is '(of a sound) pleasingly smooth and musical to hear'. I couldn't think of a better way to describe the song of the same name by Sula Mae, a deliciously soft vocal that you wish you could bottle and a beautiful, floating melody, the result is glorious daydreams.

Tekla - Facebook

"The Brightest Lights" sounds like a haunting music box, a lulling, soft beauty that pulls you in to an alternate, serene world.  There's an EP of similarly stark, naked folk portraits that remind me of Serafina Steer's quirky, enticing wonderfulness, Manchester's Telka is quite the discovery.

Tyrants - Facebook

Tyrants are a trio from the Capital who yield an unrepentant combination of old and new rock that brims with tension and drama, creating a raw, unnerving sound that is delivered with screeching riffs and viciously confident vocals. 

Glastonbury Festival 2014 Review - Sunday

I'm awake early on Sunday and the decision has already been made with the friend that I am travelling with that we'll leave later on Sunday and get home in the early hours on Monday morning (I won't go into the details of what actually happened en-route home here).

I spend time packing up my tent, gear and taking it all back to our vehicle. It's really busy on foot today, especially at the main entrance where streams on Sunday day tickets (given/sold to local residents) are coming into the festival - some chronically under prepared for the mud around the site.

The day starts at midday with a trip to the BBC Introducing stage to see Furs. I'm really impressed. They are a band I've mentioned here a few times before but this is the first time I've caught them live and their set is fun and catchy, full of nostalgic vibes and tight melody throughout with heavier guitars than I perhaps anticipated set off by Elle's glorious vocals.

Next with a couple of hours free (I find Sunday's line-up to be the least inspiring of the three for my tastes) I take a trip around the festivals night-time hive of activity Shangri La, it feels like a really bad hangover in both decoration and the odd punter you see aimlessly walking around lost to the night before. It's not changed too much from the last time I was here in 2011 (I've never been here late, late at night, I don't think I'd want to)... It's a creepy carnival probably best not shown to your young kids!

I find Strummerville in a slightly different position than I remember it being and take the weight off my feet for a good twenty minutes. Sunday was the warmest, nicest day of the weekend so sitting on a comfortable sofa next to an open fire in early afternoon heat is not perhaps the cleverest idea of my life.

A few years back I can remember some late night live music around the campfire, I can see no sign of a repeat this year, if so, I hope I didn't miss anyone good.

After a brief trip to the circus fields it is back to the BBC Introducing tent for Lapsley. Glastonbury is most certainly not a Great Escape, that is new music really does not flourish here so I'm surprised that the audience is actually quite numerous, including fellow bloggers Breaking More Waves and Faded Glamour. I guess that makes Lapsley the equivalent of a buzz band!

Her set is littered with sound problems and I'm not the biggest fan of the pitch-shifted vocal. A (purposely) monstrous mutation of her natural, gorgeous vocals. The set is pretty good though, she is visibly nervous but her charm and smiles make that acceptable. It will be interesting to see if she can follow "Station" and make playing to crowds like this a normal part of her routine.

Next comes the days big event. The one everyone is talking about. The one hundreds of people are dressed in drag for. Dolly Parton. By now you've read hundreds of article about 'was she or wasn't she' miming. As one of the people in the crowd on this occasion I can genuinely say I don't care (although it does seem just a little too crisp). The show (for it was a show) was incredible, fun, amusing and the perfect highlight of the day (and arguably the festival).

Dolly, 68, bouncing around like she'd been on coca-cola all morning (or taken something somewhat harder) entertaining the biggest crowd of the weekend with her sparking personality, stories and songs. Sure most people only know "Jolene", "9-5", "I Will Always Love You" and "Islands in the Stream" but when you chuck in a song about Glastonbury mud, a rather long Bon Jovi cover and witty anecdotes throughout you cannot help but be enthralled. Just brilliant. Whoever booked her for the 'legend' slot deserves a medal.

It takes a while to get away from the Pyramid because of the vast crowds and I head to the more tranquil settings of the Avalon Cafe to see Only Girl. Early 90's R&B melody and modern soft-pop sensibilities combine for a stunning set of sparse electronic beats, keys and pure vocal, the new songs at the end of the set sound as good as the two I knew "Mountain" and "Bittersweet" and confirm Ellen as an artist we'll be hearing considerably more from shortly.

It's a beeline back to the Park next for what turns out to be my final act of the weekend St Vincent (I was originally thinking about seeing Alison Moyet but deciding it was getting late to to hit the road - I had work on Monday) .

I've seen Annie perform the St Vincent album a couple of times already so I knew what to expect, a marriage of the David Byrne horn influence and her own art-rock guitar shredding. It is exhilarating to watch, especially in the second half ("Huey Newton", "Bring Me Your Loves", "Your Lips Are Read" the closing trio of songs) when the rockier influences come out and amongst the theatrical feet movements and coordinated dance-moves, it's as she lets completely loose of the choreograph that you get to realise just how incredible Annie and her band are. The Guardian (five star) review calls her a "electro-funk Cleopatra". I'm happy with that.

We head out via the dystopia of Arcadia. After what we'd just witnessed, it's the perfect summation. Thank you Glastonbury.

Glastonbury Festival 2014 Review - Saturday

Saturday starts with an hour reading in my tent before a trip to the facilities and coffee. As I'm heading towards William's Green to see Dark Bells the heavens open. Really, really open. I take shelter in the nearby Yeo Valley yogurt stand and have one with some muesli, it tastes good and serves as an unexpected but good diversion. A brief rest-bite in the rainfall gives me chance to make the rest of the journey to see the trio mid-set. I see three and a half tracks of throbbing bass lines and intoxicating psyche rhythms which play to a sizable early audience (no doubt partly with thanks to the continuing rain).

Afterward it's not too far to the Acoustic Stage, trying my best to dodge the increasingly sludgy conditions underfoot and Hero Fisher is playing as I arrive, there's not an acoustic in sight however with the quartet louder and rockier than I anticipated, Hero has a superb voice, bluesy, vibrant and the set is a perfect combination of energy and emotion.

It's midday and I've already seen two bands. I read, thanks to Twitter (mobile reception was great throughout the festival site), that Little Dragon are doing a 'secret' show in the BBC introducing tent so I hop-foot it across from one end of the festival to the other. The tent is a new one to me, bigger and in a slightly different location than I remember it.

Introduced by Lauren Laverne the band play a quartet of songs that are simultaneously broadcast on BBC Six Music, there's a large crowd of people who were seemingly in the know too. It's enjoyable with skittering percussion and a dancey electronic heartbeat propelling the attention holding lead vocal. However, it doesn't quite lift me off my feet.

Afterwards there is time to pop out and get a top-up of the water bottle and some lunch (it seems that Mexican is the choice of the weekend, seemingly every other stall has burrito's) before heading back to the same tent for Annie Eve.

This is more my 'thing', dripping with a similar, shimmering folk-noir sound to Daughter both beautiful and desolate, full of emotional weight and stunning vocals. The luscious layers of instrumentation added by her band make for a rich, enchanting half hour and the swelling audience size the perfect indication of how well it was received.

It is clash o'clock next, a toss-up between a band I've seen numerous times before in Warpaint and Kelis, I head outside and to the Pyramid for Kelis whom I'd never seen before, it was the right decision. I'm treated to what was arguably my highlight of the day.

"Milkshake" aside I cannot pretend to have known too much about Kelis or her music before this set but I can remember stepping into a shop in Brighton during the Great Escape and being impressed by a song that turned out to be from the latest Kelis record and this hour is similar to the memories from that.

Oozing with pure Motown vibes with Kelis' truly exquisite voice backed by glorious horns and harmonies. It's "Milkshake" that gets the crowd the most animated of course and there is another track I recall on hearing it live, "Millionaire" but these versions are not their pop originals, they are drenched in soul and the version of "Feeling Good" that book-ends the set is a complete knock out. The sun is out in force which also helps of course.

It's a long wait next at the same stage as a huge crowd descends to see Lana Del Rey, I'm interested to hear her, the first show since the release of album two. Somewhat surprisingly the set leans almost entirely from the debut (and The Paradise Edition) with the title-track "Ultraviolence" and "West Coast" the only tracks I recall from the new album. The screaming kids aside I remember enjoying the theatre of Lana's performance at Hammersmith Apollo last year but I don't think she handles the crowd well this time. The show is unfortunately nothing more than flat.

The allure and the atmosphere of that earlier performance seems lost on such a big stage and it ends up being somebody singing good songs well into a microphone with seemingly half interest in being there (despite Lana's repeated claim to be happy to be here). The crowd feel it too and only become involved with "Born to Die" about a half dozen songs in, they return to their slumber until "Video Games" near the end, thankfully "National Anthem" ends the show on a high point but it is an ultimate disappointment set to visuals that seem completely at odds with the ethos of the festival.

The dark clouds that form towards the end of the set give a better appraisal than I and by the time I am back at William's Green for Smoke Fairies any hope that the mud slurry would be baked in Summer sun is lost, there is torrential rain for a good half hour. Thankfully I'm in a tent and happy again.

Smoke Fairies are an altogether different animal these days, their earlier days of gorgeous harmonies and intricate guitar patterns are still apparent deep down but their sound is darker and more expressive with an electronic heart to tracks taken from their recent self-titled album. The odd sound gremlin aside, this set is as polished as any all weekend, dressed it bright white entirely inappropriate for the conditions it is a rocking version of "Hotel Room" that ends the set on its highest moment. I would have easily lapped up twice the set-length.

Back on the Other Stage next for Manic Street Preachers. I fall into the same criteria as much of the crowd, this is armed with an infinite knowledge of early Manic's material but next to none of their output of the last ten years.

Kicking off with "Motorcycle Emptiness" is the perfect way to vanquish any fears of listening to unknown tracks for an hour, The Holy Bible, 20 this year, forms the backbone of the set and resonates deep. Classics like "Your Love Alone Is Not Enough", "If You Tolerate This..." and the final sing-along of "A Design For Life" are amongst the highlights but the tracks from new album Futurology are received well and are full of promise.

I'm surprised we don't get to see Nina Persson who played the festival earlier in the day but perhaps it is because the band are joined by another Nina, Voss for a rather strange Kraftwerk-esque pro Euro-anthem. It's strangely enjoyable. It certainly raises a few smiles.

Clashes mean I'm late at the Park and Anna Calvi has already played half of her set. It's also strangely quiet (from the four times I went there this year, it seems the Park is the overlooked area).

Looking straight at the stage you wouldn't guess, Anna plays with aplomb and it is enthralling. Her virtuoso guitar playing and powerful vocal acrobatics have been longed talked about but I wasn't expecting so much rhythm and percussion. There's a girl playing all sorts of instruments I couldn't possibly name and I am compelled to stare at what she is doing. I wish I was here sooner.

I'm straight up the hill for Australian singer-songwriter / alt-folk should-soon-be star Courtney Barnett at the Crows Nest. It's a solo set that enraptures those in attendance, amusing anecdotes and repeated conversations with the crowd break up the music but no one cares, the audience is all having too much of a good time.

The songs are lyrically brilliant, if not of your usual subject matters, full of satire about buying houses and poor transport systems and those who arrive on the off chance will be making a note of an artist to check out once they return home.

I wasn't quite decided where to go next, I certainly wasn't heading off to Metallica. I decided (and correctly as it turns out) to give Bryan Ferry a chance, I've a soft spot for a handful of his tracks and some Roxy Music material too.

I begin by propping up the Brothers Bar and watch as Ferry (69 but looking almost twenty years younger than) swoon his way through a brilliantly smooth blues version of "Slave to Love". The set remains suave and sophisticated throughout, "Avalon" sees Ferry on top form crooning around his beautifully polished and tight band, the drums stand-out amongst the paired backing dancers whose moves (aided by the second Brothers cider) I stark to mimic. By the time he's gone through "Virginia Plain", "More Than This" and "Love is the Drug" the audience are putty in his hands.

Afterwards, a short side-step at the bar aside it's an early night and before I know it, the end of the weekend is almost with us.

Glastonbury Festival 2014 Review - Friday

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.

Ten Acts You Should See at Glastonbury 2014

Glastonbury, the greatest music festival on Earth. It's an undeniable fact. I'm excited to be making my return after a three year absence (one fallow year, one year I couldn't get the time off work and one year I decided to head elsewhere - fool that I am).

It's less than a week until the gates open and I cannot wait. On this extended blog post I'll give a few tips, some musical and a few general ones about how I think you can get the best out of your weekend. I'm not claiming to be a Glasto expert, I've been five times, others I know have been countless more...

The first and most important thing to tell any newbies is to pack properly, take wet and dry, warm and cold clothes and wellies, definitely take wellies. Definitely. No matter what the forecast is. If you don't use them, it's better than not having them and needing them. A little bit of rain and the ground turns to slush. The other essential thing to mention is respect, and although it's something that perhaps shouldn't need mentioning, photographs of the aftermath show that it does. Respect those you are camping around, everyone you are walking past and respect the festival. As tempting as it may be (for some) if the weather is especially bad, leaving your rubbish littered all over the farm and your tent erected gives someone a huge clean-up task after you've gone home. It take each of us ten minutes to ensure we leave the ground we pitch in as we found it, show some consideration.

If you are anything like me, you've not actually looked too much into the line-up yet, I think it pays to leave your daily plan not too rigid, at Glastonbury things are never quite simple. Packing in a dozen acts over the day is easily possible but if you plan on seeing one act at the John Peel and then another five minutes later at The Park and then the same again at The Acoustic Stage, think again. It's not going to happen. The festival is spread out through miles of land and getting from one stage to another, especially in packed crowds and even more so in mud, is a timely and energy sapping experience. My advice is to pick a handful of must see acts and then to enjoy yourself in-between, soak up some of the festival's unrivaled atmosphere, head to the Circus/Cabaret area or take a trip to the Green Fields and then perhaps stumble on something you've not even looked up in the programme. I say this about every festival too; take pen and paper, it never runs out, unlike the battery on your phone...

One of my 2010 highlights Mountain Man happened exactly that way, at an area I whole-heartedly recommend you to check out, The Crow's Nest. It's located at the very top of The Park, to the left of the big Glastonbury sign as you look at it, up the big hill, a haven of tranquility and fantastic secret sets awaits. I've seen the aforementioned Mountain Man play there, alongside Oh Land, Caitlin Rose, The Guillemots, Summer Camp and more. It's worth checking daily to see who is playing, I'm not sure some of the acts will be announced in advance (that is of course if there is live music this year, I hope so!).

Okay, enough rambling. Ten acts I've got highlighted to see over the weekend. I'm not going to write too much for a change...

Arcade Fire
The Pyramid Stage - Friday - 22.00 - 23.45

Let me start with the most obvious of all, Arcade Fire, who headline the main stage on the first evening and will mark the first time I've actually seen a headliner on the Pyramid Stage since 2007. This band will be worth the crowds. They are a phenomenal live band, their set is going to be an extraordinary release of shiver-inducing emotion full of sing-along anthems and euphoric energy. I'm somewhere in the crowd of the video I've included below, seven years ago... wow!

Lykke Li
John Peel Stage - Friday - 21.15 - 22.15

Thankfully Lykke Li is playing at one of the closest stage's to the Pyramid, the worst partial clash of the weekend see's her play just before Arcade Fire, I'll probably only stay for half her set. I saw her a couple of months back and as I just said, AF is unmissable but Lykke Li has produced one of my favourite releases of the year so for with I Never Learn and her live performance is a thunderbolt of perhaps unexpected joyous energy and propulsive rhythm. Expect to be dancing.

Courtney Barnett
The Park - Friday - 15.30 - 16.30
John Peel Stage - Saturday - 17.00 - 17.40

I think Courtney Barnett played about fifty sets at The Great Escape yet I managed to miss them all, thankfully she is playing two more at Glastonbury and I promise not to make the same mistake again, her set promising to be an intoxicating blend of intimate beauty and an expansive live sound that her studio recordings seldom hint at. It comes highly recommend and an afternoon slot at The Park should be the perfect setting.

Lana Del Rey
The Pyramid Stage - Saturday - 16.00 - 17.00

The last time I saw Lana Del Rey at the Hammersmith Apollo I felt like I was in the half-way house between a youth club and couples dinner. The noise the kids made was deafening throughout, they can't possibly have been enjoying the music, though perhaps the experience whilst at the back it was couples making out to "Video Games". Hopefully the audience at Glastonbury will be there to enjoy the entire set and not one track, after initially leaving myself out of the LDR argument Born to Die became my most-listened to and favourite album of 2012, the recently released Ultraviolence delivers darker, starker moods and beauty. It's going to be interesting to see how it is delivered live.

Smoke Fairies
Williams's Green - Saturday - 18.00 - 18.40

I'm anticipating me spending quite some time in William's Green next weekend, it's line-up is perhaps the most 'alternative' of all the stages, full of the smaller sort of bands who fill these pages, one such is Smoke Fairies who are a band with the perfect fit for a Glastonbury crowd and I'm expecting their set to deliver.

Manic Street Preachers
Other Stage - Saturday - 19.30 - 20.30

I have a great memory of seeing The Manics at Glasto, it was basically an hour long sing-along. I'm hoping it will be again - although I'm sure some die-hard fans are not - who doesn't want to be transported back to the nostalgia of Everything Must Go. Nina Persson is playing on Saturday as well - can we expect a reunion once again?

Dolly Parton
Pyramid Stage - Sunday - 16.20 - 17.30

I think my Dad would kill me if I didn't go and see Dolly Parton, I think you have to in any case. When else are you going to get the chance to see her? Expect tens of thousand of people swooning and even more singing along to "Jolene". It promises to be one of the 'I was there' moments of the entire weekend.

Only Girl
Avalon Cafe - Sunday - 18.30 - 19.30

It's good to see all the bands that made the Glastonbury Emerging Talent contest final find their way onto the final line-up in some form, I'll definitely be checking out a couple of them but the one I am most looking forward to is Only Girl, I'm perhaps a little biased after selecting her as one of my picks but what a vocal delivery on "Bittersweet".

St. Vincent
The Park Stage - Sunday - 19.30 - 20.30

Another somewhat predictable pick from me but seeing Annie Clark is essential. I'm loving the St Vincent album and how it transfers live too, a set that combines the rhythms and horns of the side-project with David Byrne with Annie's rockier guitar-wielding side. It's a match made in heaven.

London Grammar
John Peel Stage - Sunday - 22.15 - 23.15

It's quite incredible that London Grammar are headlining one of the recognised stages at Glastonbury a little more than eighteen months after they started. Their rise has been meteoric but it's hardly surprising once you give the band a listen, soaring, anthemic, beautiful. Expect a transfixed audience and a spectacular conclusion to the weekend.

Glastonbury Emerging Talent Contest 2014

A few hours ago Glastonbury Festival announced the long-list for this years Emerging Talent Contest, the longstanding competition for a band to win a slot on a main-stage at the festival. I was involved last year and was delighted to be asked again this year. The contest sees 40 of the UK's 'finest' blogs (their words, not mine!) each given a long, long list of acts who had previously submitted their details to the festival with the relatively straight-forward (but incredibly difficult) job of whittling that number down to just three acts each.

Each bloggers three acts then form the long-list of 120 acts which you can see now on the Glastonbury website. From these lists, a panel of Glastonbury judges (including Emily & Michael Eavis) will pick eight acts (just eight from many thousands of entrants) who will play at a live final in Pilton in April on which the winner then finds their way onto the Glastonbury line-up alongside Arcade Fire, Dolly Parton and many, many more (to be confirmed, unfortunately I don't have any say in that!!).

Of my entire long-list just one act had been previously covered here. A singular statement that goes to highlight the breadth of talent in the UK - Glastonbury ETC was UK artists only - whilst naturally the list was a bit of a mixed bag in terms on my own particular taste there were a great number of exciting acts to discover.

Last year I posted a list of acts I discovered thanks to my long-list prior to the results coming out and I did intend to again this but time around but time, as ever, has found me out and instead here I am posting in retrospect which means rather than a 'have a look at what you could have won' style post I'm focusing purely on the acts I've put through.

I also formed part of Bloggers Utd to further judge some acts after a couple of bloggers pulled out from the competition so in total I put through five acts to the long-list. Each of which is detailed below.

The Cadbury Sisters - Facebook

"The trio blend their vocals around exquisite fingerplucked acoustic melodies and the result is simply beautiful."

Leisure - Facebook 

"Sexy-smooth electro-pop rhythms which stand out thanks to a super slick melody and a deviliously gorgeous 90's inspired soul vocal"

Georgia and the Dales - Facebook

"I instantly fell in love with "Dark Age",  a beautiful, atmospheric traditional folk number with soft harmonies set amongst rich, quick-paced instrumentation".

Only Girl - Facebook

""Bittersweet" swoons around your heart with sparse, early 90's r&b grooves and a ghostly sweet vocal".

Empress Nights - Facebook

"Otherworldly, haunting soundscapes with passionate vocals against a backdrop of shimmering guitars and soft, restrained piano twinkles, the result is as bold as it is beautiful."

Glastonbury Emerging Talent Contest 2013

Earlier this year I was honoured to be asked to take part in the 2013 Emerging Talent Contest run by Glastonbury Festival. In the past its entrants (for better or worse) have become well known bands, The Subways, Stornoway and 2011's winner Treetop Flyers all come instantly to mind.

The 2013 contest kicked off in early January when new and emerging bands had just a week to enter to win a chance to play on the main stage at the festival (and boy did they enter). Over 8000 entries were received in that time, a record number. That meant 40 of us bloggers (full list) later received a list with approximately 200 acts to listen to, our task was then a relatively simple (but incredibly difficult) job of whittling that number down to just three acts each.

What happens next? Well all the bloggers short-lists (which will be announced in full on Friday March 8th) are sent forward for a panel of judges (including Emily & Michael Eavis) to pick eight (just eight from 8000+) acts who will play at a grand, live final in Pilton in April. The winner of course will play a live pyramid slot at this years Glastonbury but other acts might just find their way onto the bill too. In 2011 I saw Emily & The Woods on the Acoustic Stage after she made the bloggers short-list. All in all, a useful exercise then...

Anyway, bringing the competition to the blog, this long post will hopefully bring a bit of exposure to a dozen of my favourite acts discovered through the competition. Of 200 acts on my entry list not a single act had previously featured on this blog. A singular statement that goes to highlight the breadth of talent in the UK - Glastonbury ETC was UK artists only - whilst naturally the list was a bit of a mixed bag in terms on my own particular taste there were a great number of exciting acts to discover.

Of my own particular short-list some are brand, brand new with only a handful of YouTube/Soundcloud plays (by far the most popular source of stream for entrants - although two bands did go 'old school' with MySpace links!) and some acts that already have a number of EP's and albums to their name with hundreds and thousands of plays. Hopefully you'll enjoy them as much as I did during the judging procedure. The acts are ordered alphabetically in order according to the track I've included in the post.

Please note that I cannot and will not say which of these acts are in my final three until the full results are revealed on March 8th, please don't ask.

Lillian Todd Jones - Butter Soul (website)

"Butter Soul" is the striking, captivating debut from Lillian Todd Jones. Raw and passionate throughout it's a rare track that is dark, intriguing and beautiful all in one go.

Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker - Done (website)

A gorgeous blend of traditional folk and masterful instrumentation topped by a vocal radiant and clear. "Done" is sparse yet uniquely captivating.

Little Bear - The Few and Far Between (website)

Although not the typical band to feature here Derry's Little Bear have music steeped in dreamy, swelling instrumentation and joyful beauty, "The Few and Far Between" is well-crafted, shimmering and has simply exquisite harmonies.

Joyce the Librarian - Follow Me, I'm Right Behind You (website)

"Follow Me, I’m Right Behind You" is a laid-back little beauty with a gentle, whimsical melody and precious, delicate harmonies. Pretty much perfect for an early morning, sun-soaked set at a Festival then (yeah, who am I kidding at Glastonbury).

Sally Archer - For Us (website)

"For Us" is taken from Sally Archer's debut EP Fades, an EP which could lay claim to the young London based singer-songwriter being the UK's answer to Regina Spektor, a strong, passionate vocal and sweeping, emotive sounds.

Luke Wylde and The Japes! - Ghost (website)

A super sweet track that you can imagine being played on both Radio Two and BBC Six Music, gorgeous call and response vocals and full of beautiful, catchy pop hooks, very nice indeed.

Couldn't find an embeddable player - listen at their website here.

Lucid Pattern - Hanging Here

I couldn't find any further information about this act at all but the track submitted "Hanging Here" is all smouldering dual vocals and shimmering guitar textures, they may be a college band or something for now but a few more like this and that might not be the case for too long.

Katey Brooks - In Light of You (website)

A jaw-dropping vocal performance around gentle acoustic plucks, "In Light of You" spends two minutes as a genuinely gorgeous melancholic lament before transforming with a breezy, airy melody that will have even the hardest of souls toe-tapping before the end.

Lion The Weak - Midnight (website)

"Midnight" is a slow-burning minimalistic pop beauty, ethereal, moody and mellow, the sort of track that propelled The XX to headline The Park stage a few years ago...

Lowood - The More People (website)

Another artist I failed to find anything on, Lowood, I'm guessing is a solo, bedroom electronic project of London based Cheryl ..., "The More People" with jaunty synths and cool, smooth vocals highlights a sound with infinite potential, definitely one I shall be following in the future.

Maglia Rosa Group - Nighthawks (website)

Swirling with Siouxsie like mysticism "Nighthawks" is a dark, gorgeous beauty that shines through sparse, rhythmic drums and shimmering guitar textures whilst haunting vocal swoops immerse you fully in its atmospheric grace - a wonderful track.

Gerard and the Watchmen - Stables (website)

Gerard and the Watchmen have a sound that is full of rich, restrained melodies and affecting lyrics. "Stables" is heart-warming and truly beautiful.