(Published on ARTSCLASH)
So it’s over for another year. Time to pack up the tent, scrape the mud out of your hair and give back the cream canisters to people who actually sell cream. But before you revert back to a life where you don’t drift aimlessly from some of the world’s biggest acts to a tiny tent full of balalaika music and that giant fuck-off spider DJ booth, we’ve got a few days of reviews and memories to share with you of a true vintage Glasto year, starting with our favourite artists. (For this, we’re not including the Stones – comparing them to other bands is like comparing a Michelin-starred risotto to a basics-brand rice pudding. Think of this as a list of the mere mortals.)
5. Public Image Limited
Sunday, Other Stage
What made this so good was how bad we thought it would be, expecting a John Lydon with a shot or shit voice, draining all the life out of what was once a radical set of songs. What we got instead was a Lydon delivering in a fascinatingly camp malevolence (although he’s clearly been making the most of that life supply of Country Life…), showing us what it was that was so radical about these songs which after all brought Sex Pistols fans to the point of riot once upon a time, and how influential they really were.
Highlight: Their finale, the Leftfield/Lydon song ‘Open Up’. A dark pantomime right up to its final mad plea to ‘burn down tinsel town’
4. First Aid Kit
Sunday, Pyramid Stage
Admittedly, Sweden is not the first place you think of if you’re on a search for affecting beautiful country music. However, Stockholm sisters have managed to make the most of their country’s knack for excellent pop music (seriously, there’s something in those fjords…) to make stunning music, with their own songs somehow holding their own against some really brave covers – Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘America’ and Dylan’s ‘One More Cup of Coffee’. A perfect start to a rather stunning Sunday (glorified busker headliners excluded…)
Highlight: Both ‘America’ and their paean to country’s geniuses ‘Emmylou’ (‘I’ll be your Emmylou and I’ll be your June if you’ll be my Gram and my Johnny too’) genuinely brought tears to my eyes. Which as a cynical blogsnark bastard is really saying something…)
3. Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra
Friday, Other Stage
Although the press coverage has mostly focused on her accidental boob flash (misogyny in action etc) this was a performance that was much needed in light of recent controversy, with Palmer showing us that no matter what you think of her she knows how to put on a fucking great show. Even with her usual costumes lost in transit she still managed to be perhaps the most compelling presence on any stage, moving effortlessly between Pulp covers, stage dives, ukulele anthems, anecdotes about Liam Gallagher (star of her song ‘Oasis’, about the band’s music making an abortion feel better..hey, no-one said she was Gabrielle Aplin….) and the rocking cabaret of the rousing ‘Leeds United’ and ‘Girl Anachronism’.
Highlight: The closing ‘Ukulele Song’, urging us to cover LCD Soundsystem songs badly on ukes instead of fighting, proving itself to be one of the most bonkers but brilliant peace songs of recent years.
2. Palma Violets
Friday, The Park Stage/Sunday, William’s Green
As much as PiL were trying to dismantle punk, South London’s Palma Violets were trying singlehandedly to keep it alive, presumably with a combination of electric shocks and punches to the face. Although Sunday’s gig highlighted the deceptively simple beauty of their songs, it was Friday’s ramshackle set that was their finest moment, even if you did feel at any moment like they could do anything, which it basically did. The bassist (energy of a young Rotten, eyes of a serial killer) stared down the audience before leaping in mic stand and all, the drummer climbed the stage scaffolding, the keyboardist fell off his stool, the crowd was invited to invade the stage…basically, they were a four-person antidote to Mumford twee.
Highlight: The night bus anthem ’14’, a pissed singalong to rival all pissed singalongs.
For anyone who didn’t succumb to the stadium-bothering indie of the Monkeys or the disco hit medley of the (apparently amazing) Chic set, the real treats were coming from what for some are trip-hop also-rans. Portishead’s set was simply perfection, ranging from beauty to terror through Beth Gibbon’s terrifying tender vocals and often unsettling films featuring skydivers, from an epic freakout in the middle of the usually sedate ‘Glory Box’ to the raw power of the three main members playing together under spotlights for ‘Wandering Star’. Oh, and it also had a VT of David Cameron with lasers coming out of his eyes. Anyone who doesn’t seek this out might be missing the music highlight of the year. Now if only the band could crack out that elusive fourth album….
Highlight: Although the sheer force of my personal favourite ‘Machine Gun’ stands out for biased reasons, this was just a stunning gig.
Check back later for more Glasto coverage, including more reviews, our least favourite bands of the festivals and the songs that made Glasto great. Also check out our Twitter for more thought and discussion on all festival news from the latest skinny indie star to Fatboy Slim @ARTSCLASHdotCOM