Glastonbury 2004

By melissa

This was my fourth Glastonbury, and my third in the not-as-swish-as-you'd-expect-it-to-be backstage area. I was working the entire weekend, but I did manage to see a fair few bands, as you'll see below. This was my first "muddy" year, but it'd didn't really spoil anything apart from my hiking boots. If it started to rain while a band was on, everyone just put their hoods up. If it REALLY started to rain, then everyone rushed into the tents, which actually helped quite a few bands that would've otherwise been overlooked (namely, Buck 65).

This year I also took things a step further and brought my new digital camera along, rather than just slum it with a disposable. As a result, I took a lot more photos, and the ones I took turned out better since I could actually see if someone's head was in the way of the stage when I raised it above my head! I also managed to get a photo pass for a few of the bands in the New Bands Tent, so if you're looking to see what The Concretes, Gisli, Carina Round, or The Killers look like, I'm your girl.

Scenes of mud, bands, drunkenness, and tents, are available at my Photo Gallery


South - I only caught the last two songs of their set, but I was pleasantly surprised. The newest album didn't make much of an impression when I played it on the stereo, but I was glad to catch 'Paint The Silence', which is one of my favourites off their debut. They were looking good, but sadly on very early in the afternoon and in front of not that many people...

The Walkmen - Ok, I came to see them purely because of the hype, I admit. I didn't think they sounded much like Jonathan Fire*eater, but I couldn't quite put my finger on who they DID sound like. Very good impression, though, and I'd be interested to see them again after I hear some more of their recorded material. And it's not just because Hamilton, the singer, is a right looker.

The Concretes The Concretes - I was so excited to see this band that I actually missed Elbow's performance to see them. Yes, THAT excited. If you're not familiar with them, they're a nine piece from Sweden with a singer like Mazzy Star and a sound not far from My Bloody Valentine, but with added horns, strings, and a hint of twee. They played through most of the material on their self-titled album, and it was all a bit nice, but ultimately it all rested on Victoria's voice. Simply amazing, and she knows just what to do with it.

PJ Harvey - And the second of my "she chooses women over boys with guitars" selection saw me over on the main stage for PJ Harvey while Franz Ferdinand played elsewhere. I'd not seen her live before and wasn't quite sure what to expect... What I got was a range of "the hits" with bits of Uh Huh Her thrown in between, which was just what I wanted. She looked fabulous, too, in her dress made from old Spice Girls teeshirts, which had the effect of Sporty Spice peering over her guitar for all the solos! Music icon, and now style icon as well...

Goldfrapp - Oh my god, the horse tail! I've said in the past that Alison Goldfrapp is my style icon, but I don't think I'd be caught dead wearing a horse's tail that matched my hair colour (not that SHE didn't look great in it, but still!). The past two Glastonburys I've seen her play in the New Tent, so it was a bit of a change to see her on the bigger Other Stage, and a second-from-the-top spot, just under the Chemical Brothers, gave her a decidedly, err, "rave" audience, to put it kindly. Still, the Black Cherry songs went down extremely well, leaving only the slower Felt Mountain material out of place for a crowd and atmosphere ready to dance for the rest of the night...


Taima - I had a terrible night's sleep, so since I was awake that early in the morning, I figured I might as well go see who The Observer dubbed "the new Bjork". While that may have been a bit over the top, Elisapie's voice is indeed a wonder, but I couldn't help but feel that the weak acoustic accompaniment didn't do her any favours. In fact, I can really only judge Taima's performance on pure aesthetics since she sang almost exclusively in French and Inuit, which I think marks a first in live performances, even for me.

Carina Round Gisli - I really came to see Gisli on curiosity alone, having only heard the single 'How About That?', and frankly, not knowing whether it was just one man (it's a whole band), and whether they only did hiphop (nope, they did indie, hiphop, country, rock, and everything in between). They're originally from Iceland, which makes their tongue-in-cheek wordplay even more amazing. Where else could you possibly hear the line "I'm like lesbian sex without the strap-on"?

Scissor Sisters - It took me months of fence-riding to ultimately determine that yes, I did like their album. But I wasn't completely won over to the side of shrieking fandom until I saw them play at the Homelands Festival a month earlier. By god, do they put on a show, and playing on the massive Pyramid Stage didn't hamper their performance one bit. Jake and Ana played off each other almost to the point of being panto, and the only dampener was Ana's slightly too-long ramblings in the mic between songs. The rain and hail came down while they played, but I didn't see a single person leave for cover.

Carina Round - Carina's got balls, she's got tunes, and she's got one HELL of a voice. Being continually bombarded by catcalls might have made other girls lose their nerve, but she just cooly answered back "Meet me backstage after the show, boys. Bring drugs" without a second thought. She worked through most of the material off the sublime 'The Disconnection' album, but opted to end on a new song, mixed in with The Pixies' 'I've Been Tired', which completely silenced and awed the crowd, male admirers included.

British Sea Power - British Sea Power are one of those bands that must be seen live to be really understood. They decked out The Other Stage with their usual tree branches, stuffed owls, and even an egret for that homey touch. Hamilton and Noble press on through 'Remember Me', 'Carrion', and 'Something Wicked', but there was just something missing in seeing them on a huge open-air stage where their normal crowd interaction was minimised. I hate to be one of those people, but British Sea Power really are ones of those bands best experienced live, and in small venues.

The Killers The Killers - The Killers were one of my "must see" bands for the weekend, and judging by the overflowing New Tent, they were for a lot of other people, too. The songs were incredible, the performance was incredible, and the audience adoration level was incredible. They were one of the best bands I saw all weekend, and the only thing keeping me from sobbing when they left the stage was the knowledge that I'd be seeing them again on their own in less than a fortnight.

Paul McCartney - I really wanted to see Basement Jaxx (who were playing on The Other Stage at the same time), but I just couldn't pass up seeing Paul McCartney and the possibility that he'd play a few Beatles songs. I was wrong - he played nearly all Beatles songs, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand', 'Drive My Car', 'Yesterday', 'Hey Jude', 'Back in the USSR', 'Yellow Submarine', 'Seargent Pepper's', 'Eleanor Rigby' - they were all there, and sung by the man himself. Hell, even the Wings songs sounded good, and blowing half the Middle East's yearly oil production in pyrotechnics during 'Live And Let Die' certainly didn't hurt matters. His onstage banter was dated and reeked of Old Fogey, but with songs like that, I was simply beyond caring. Suddenly "Na na na na-na-na-naaaaaah Hey Jude!" became the anthem of the weekend, sung all the way back to the campsites.


English National Opera - By Sunday morning the mud had taken its toll on all our wardrobes, but a few cultured souls turned up to see the opera in their full finery - floor-length ballgowns, tuxes, tiaras, long cigarette filters, and pitcher of Pimms. How very civilized, and actually moreso than the action on stage. The English National Opera made the wise decision to "hip up" The Ride of The Valkyries for the festival audience, so we were treated to a bunch of goth sisters riding muddied Vietnam-era soldiers for a full hour. They sang in English and acted out the opera as best they could with no props or scenery, and it acually held up incredibly well with the full orchestra in support. I'd love to see them come back every year, and not just because it'd mean we'd never have to endure another Sunday morning with Jools Holland ever again.

The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster - Their 'Royal Society' album wasn't even released yet, and already the new songs sounded legendary. Guy was on form as usual, screaming, thrashing, and jumping into the frenzied crowd, letting the rest of the guys (with a small g) do all the work on stage. The smoke machines did a pathetic job against the wind, and eventually the heavens opened as it was time for me to reluctantly leave to head up the hill to The New Bands Tent...

Buck 65 Buck 65 - ...and I wasn't the only one! One of the heaviest downpours all weekend forced the unprepared hordes under cover and into the clutches of Buck 65. He started off the proceedings with a bunch of solo rapping and scratching, lovingly referring to the crowd as "all you fuckers". The real fun started when he brought out his backing band (for the first time in the UK) and treated us all to a second, fuller performance of 'Wicked & Weird' and snippets from his 'Square' album. When I first entered the tent I was surrounded with murmurs of "Who the hell is this, anyway?", but as I was leaving all I could hear was "Whoa, you don't have anything of his? You've got to get the new album!". Buck 65 and the rain were a match made in Glastonbury heaven.

Belle & Sebastian - I love Belle & Sebastian and I thought I loved the new album, but during their whole performance I kept wishing they'd play the older material. We got to hear 'Jusy & The Dream Of Horses' early in the set and 'Sleep the Clock Around' and 'The Boy With the Arab Strap' later on, but for the most part it was all newer material that just didn't stand up despite all of Stuart Murdoch's efforts. At their performance on this very stage in 2002 they brought out Monica Queen for 'Lazy Line Painter Jane', capping off a dream performance, but nothing in 2004 came even close to this moment. Despite the appearance of a rainbow during their set, I found little hope for the future of Belle & Sebastian this year.

Morrissey - I'd been saying all weekend "If he only plays the whole of the new album, from start to finish, I couldn't be happier". Obviously that wasn't going to happen, but I did get to hear a fair few from 'You Are The Quarry', as well as the legendary 'Suedehead' before my ride left the festival (damn the carpark curfew). I had to tear myself away, but I couldn't help thinking Morrissey is much more enjoyable on record when you don't have to listen to his onstage mutterings.

Muddy feet


So those were the bands, and now is the time for my annual roundup of arbitrary awards!

Best food - On sheer comedy value alone, the buffalo lasagna wins. Yes, buffalo, as in "the big, lumbering landbeast, not in any way native to Italy or Italian cooking." My customary sheep's milk ice cream must therefore settle for an honourable mention.

Best rock & roll moment - Erol Alkan, perfecting his *ahem* "hands-free" DJing in the Lock Tavern Tent. I'm implying what you think I'm implying.

Famous people I saw - All of Elbow (camped together two tents over from me), Johnny Vegas, Jason Pierce, British Sea Power. Sadly I missed June Bown (Dot Cotton on EastEnders. It's not fair!).

Best performance - I've been in torture trying to decide on this all week, but I *think* I'm going to have to say Paul McCartney.

And that's all for another year! *sniffle*