Glastonbury. Those four syllables encompassed the collective dreams and hopes of hundreds of thousands who pray for a ticket each year. For those of us chosen by the Eavis gods to attend this artistic mecca, there are a number of superlatives to describe it.
This year’s Glastonbury for many seemed like the conventional, safe festival. A festival headlined by Muse, Adele and Coldplay, seemed like a solid, but rather bland, attempt to move away from the slightly controversial Kanye set of the previous year. Having seen Kanye’s set, it not only proved his capacity for showmanship, but was also typical of him: powerful yet flawed.
She [Adele] brought wit and a deft touch to the thousands of festival-goers who felt disillusioned in the wake of Brexit, that for the majority, seemed a calamitous step backwards for Britain
These flaws however have their advantages as they add a more human element to a man who believes he is a God. This human element was fortunately carried over to this year’s festival. Adele proved that all of her critics have spent too long obsessing over Adele, the pop star, instead of Adele, the person. She brought wit and a deft touch to the thousands of festival-goers who felt disillusioned in the wake of Brexit that for the majority seemed a calamitous step backwards for Britain.
On separate stages, bands such as James and The 1975 paused their indie nostalgia tours to remind us of the ‘true’ message of Glastonbury: not to give in to hate and fear.
Matt Healy, the suited and booted front-man of The 1975 succinctly surmised the overarching theme and voice of this years festival: “Glastonbury stands for fucking everything that our generation fucking wants. Compassion, social responsibility, unity, community, everything like that. Fucking loving people”.
Indeed, this sentiment seemed to ripple throughout the various sets spread across Worthy Farm throughout the weekend. Alessia Cara topped a peppy rendition of Here to echo Healy’s sentiments as did the more jaded Kurt Vile in his laconic drawl. However, Glastonbury is principally about the music and despite a line-up which seemed slightly more conservative than recent years, this was not reflected in the quality of acts on show.
Earth, Wind & Fire reinforced their mesmeric capacity to wow audiences some 40 years since their inception with classics such as Shining Star and Boogie Wonderland. Similarly, LCD Soundsystem capitulated on their popular turn at Coachella with another reminded of the millennial generation of their scathing yet simultaneously anthemic Electro-Indie vibes.
Other standout acts included Skepta who truly shutdown any lingering doubts over the renaissance of Grime. His rhythmic lyrics and braggadocio create a set imbued with edge and menace, unsettling an audience whom lap up every bar and withering putdown. Here is a man in control. Who will not take any prisoners as witnessed in his climactic That’s Not Me, a track released in 2014, which has helped defined an entire urban and student social landscape. Roadman he may be but this is an artist firmly in the driving seat.
Additionally, accolades must once more be heaped upon Bastille whose radio friendly high altitude pop galvanised a bedraggled ‘Other Stage’ into choruses that would not be replicated until Adele on the pyramid.
The sheer scale of the festival denotes a myriad of hidden bars, stages and sets. To explore is to discover
Dan Smith, the quiff sporting and charisma laden lead singer, leads the crowd by the hand through tracks such as Icarus and Good Grief, the latter of which is perhaps the perfect example of good pop-writing.
Moreover, the sheer scale of the festival denotes a myriad of hidden bars, stages and sets. To explore is to discover. And it is a fact that the festival is adept at never disappointing.
Over the course of the weekend you might find impromptu Electro Swing at the ‘Lizard Stage’, Alabama 3 performing a secret set at ‘The Glade’ or Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip at his spiritual homage to Prince at ‘Genosys’ in Bloc 9. Special mentions must also be made to NYC Downlow, a club reminscent of the 1970s and 80s New York Gay scene, with its slaughterhouse interior design and hanging racks of beef amongst gyrating leather and gas-mask clad dancers. This was perhaps one the most genuine and vibrant and recent additions to the festival’s line-up.
The fulcrum of Coldplay’s appeal is their capacity to combine indie anthems with optimism on a colossal scale
Nonetheless, the greatest accolade of the weekend goes to the quintessential Glastonbury headliners. Having made history with their 4th headline set atop the pyramid, Chris Martin’s Coldplay reminded the crowd, nay the country of why everyone has a favourite Coldplay song. Simply put the fulcrum of Coldplay’s appeal is their capacity to combine indie anthems with optimism on a colossal scale. Opening with the eponymous track from their new album A Head Full of Dreams, segueing neatly into Yellow before transitioning into Every Teardrop is a Waterfall.
Now those opening three tracks would be enough to satisfy any would-be critics due to their capacity to make 100,000 people to sing-along in perfect harmony. Yet, on tracks such as Fix You and Viva la Vida, Coldplay sends a piercing shot straight to the heart, their technical brilliance combined with Martin’s galvanic energy means when the streams of confetti, the fireworks and xylobands light up the pyramid stage, they announce Coldplay’s status as perhaps the greatest band of the twenty-first century.
Whatever your opinion on their blatant emotional button pushing, the triple threat of inviting Barry Gibb onstage to perform Staying Alive, along with Up & Up to close their set, cements the bands status in the canons of musical greats.
Even U2 in 2011, in which Coldplay also headlined, cannot provoke the same level of love and adoration that Coldplay can provide on the big stage. Martin’s band do not only share a camaraderie and friendship; they respect each others craft.
They know Martin is the main stage presence and like orbiting satellites they are pulled, like us, into his gravity yet rather than be sucked in, they settle and contain his exuberance, sharply focusing and polishing a live set which is perhaps one of the greatest on the Pyramid.
Ultimately, Glastonbury Festival 2016 was a chance for the festival to prove itself as a bastion of all the values we millennials have come to associate it with. As this was my third Glastonbury I knew that even now I would still discover some new sight, sense or stage which would beguile me into a fourth visit.
Despite heavy mud, incumbent traffic and a tent which resembled an oasis in a sea of water by the end, this Glastonbury was different. In previous years such as 2015 the experience had been distinct, the vibes of a different tempo and rhythm and the people, as usual, as friendly and welcoming as ever.
Yet 2016 bore with it a political subtext and emotional frequency which resonated in the subconscious like Chris Martin’s falsetto. This was a Glastonbury crowd which was tired and muddy, we looked for hope in the music and with the likes of Coldplay to Adele, Chvrches to Mac Demarco and The 1975 to Bowie, and we found it.