Glastonbury 2015 - Worthy Farm - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Glastonbury 2015 - Worthy Farm

by Al Brown Rating:7 Release Date:2011-12-08

Friday

Hinds in the John Peel tent are pretty good. Four Madrid girls who are charmingly nervous and kick out some quite boring stoner-jams but crucially, some much more urgent and catchy stuff too. Their use of reverb is going to really date them in a few years but hopefully by then they’ll have grown into a fully-formed rock monster and no-one will care. For reference, 

’s one you may have heard on the radio already because it’s 100 per cent pop gold.

Having listened to their albums and never quite bought into the level of hype bestowed on Run the Jewels, I was interested to see them in the flesh. Turns out they make a massive amount of sense in a big field: the minimal, sub-bass-heavy beats served up by DJ Trackstar sound great through the mighty West Holts stage soundsystem and El-P & Killer Mike have, at this point, a real chemistry, with each other and the crowd.

They combine intensity and affability like an act that thinks they still have a lot to prove, or maybe just still gives a shit about their audience. Never before have I seen so many hipsters so eager to flash a faintly ludicrous hand-signal just because someone told them to.

Martha are a life-affirming band: full of unselfconscious enthusiasm and beautifully frank about their experiences of growing up queer in small-town County Durham. Behind the sweet indie-pop-punk veneer lie tales that tie up the political with the personal with the existential. A brief chat about the importance of the NHS leads into ‘Dust, Juice, Bones & Hair’, in which JC Cairns explains how he’s coped with his unspecified illness. 

‘Sleeping Beauty’ is about the way gender roles are inflicted on us from an early age, ending with the sweet couplet: “When no grown-ups are around/ You can still be Daphne and I’ll be Fred”. Yep, the sound is poor (the soundman isn’t massively on-the-ball coping with a band with four alternating lead singers, and you can’t really hear the guitars) but Martha are still a band to follow to the ends of the earth.

I did my duty and tried to check out Motörhead, just in case any Soundblab readers are fans. But when I got there the drummer was playing a drum solo, and five minutes later he was doing another one.

Taking it as read that drum solos are shit, ever heard one pumped through multiple line-array speakers into a muddy field? You might as well amplify someone dropping a bag of marbles into a toilet bowl. And that is why your bands aren’t normally allowed to play here, metal fans! Rein that shit in!

Saturday

Courtney Barnett is determinedly monotonic, but she and her band have a surprisingly buoyant stage presence. Hard to exaggerate how quotidian her lyrics are though; I’ve heard the theory she makes great stories out of everyday events, but it always sounds like she’s just dispassionately listing them to me. But then I’ve also read interviews in which she’s expressed surprise at getting so far with her style of songwriting, so maybe it’s a bit petty to harp on about it. And maybe her next record will be a significant progression; recent single ‘Dead Fox’ is at least melodically a bit more interesting than most of her stuff and even gauche enough to have a catchy chorus.

Sinkane, performing as a four-piece, start with an unfortunate psych-funk jam that goes on for about 15 minutes, and things don’t really improve until the guitar widdling stops and main-man Ahmed Gallab breaks out the instrument we’ve all been waiting for: his powerful , expressive falsetto. Recent singles ‘New Name’ and ‘How We Be’ get the crowd engaged and there’s a doo-wop one that I especially like. Sinkane is maybe a bit too all over the place, genre-wise, to be consistently great, but least there’s something for almost everyone to enjoy.

I’m held up by a stampede of George Ezra fans and only catch the last three songs of a short Sleaford Mods set. I get there just in time for frontman Jason Williamson to tell us we’re “all fucking shit” and go into a hilariously OTT description of a middle-class sex party (I think this is an extended coda to ‘6 Horsemen'.) 

Newie ‘Tarantula’ is predictably bleak and brutal, without the humour that makes most of their other stuff a bit more palatable. The crowd, spilling out the sides of the John Peel Tent and hanging on Williamson’s every word, suggest the Mods might even transcend their status as the country’s premier cult band.

A thrillingly visceral set from Kate Tempest, who celebrates with a bottle of sparkling wine the fact that, after seven years of playing anywhere and everywhere on the site, she’s finally made it to a main stage. Any doubts that Tempest could upscale are quickly blown away by a barrage of pumping sub-bass: her four-piece band lend substantial muscle to her rapping throughout, although it’s still great to hear her unaccompanied on a coda to ‘The Truth’. The set is heavy with tracks from last year’s Everybody Down, but they sound more powerful and heartfelt than on record: the band are super-tight and her brand of compassionate left-wing politics, as always, feels genuine and inclusive

From one political firebrand to another: Pharrell (stop sniggering at the back) ends his set with new song ‘Freedom’, an absolute clunker and as vague and anodyne as any ‘political’ song you’ll ever hear. Especially as he cack-handedly tries to appeal to our sense of English nationalism/the idea we should be appreciative about living in our special English democracy (why not just send David Cameron on stage?). Slimy fucking trash.

Anyway, that’s preceded by a parade of crowd-pleasers of various vintages, including some N.E.R.D numbers, a sans-Robin ‘Thick’ Thicke version of ‘Blurred Lines’, and the slightly bizarre spectacle of a man playing recordings of hits he wrote/produced but didn’t perform – presumably to cement his genius in our minds. A real genius would have ended on ‘Happy’.

What can be said about Kanye that hasn’t already been said by a cabal of pseud cunts? Tonight, Kanye brings the hits, but systematically ruins several of them just as the crowd are starting to feel it, letting them fizzle out or straight cutting them off to suit his whims. The stage goes completely dark for what feels like minutes at several between-song intervals, presumably so that Kanye can do something AMAZING (in fairness, his cherry-picker ride was fun, though as always, he was enjoying it the most.)

There are elements of a good performance: He’s intense and has an incredible lighting rig; but then so much is just shoddy. Not that any of this is noticed by Kanye: towards the end he interrupts (he is the king of interruptions, I’ll give him that) the intro to ‘Gold Digger’, so that he can start it again, this time with him screaming: “I am the world’s greatest living rock star!” over the top. Fans will, I assume, lap all this up, but on the hill that looks down on the main stage, big spaces have appeared where punters willing to give the guy a chance have clearly lost patience.

Sunday

Patti Smith apologises that she’s losing her voice, but isn’t it great that of the ‘vintage’ acts still touring, she still sounds like she did back then: it’s a wonderful voice, even when half-lost. The set is broken up by the Dalai Lama appearing on stage, and Patti and us singing Happy Birthday to him (it’s his 80th). She’s is clearly thrilled to be here and thrilled to see the big DL, who she greets like an old friend.

The set ends with a totally glorious ‘Horses’, which segues into ‘Gloria’. Then the band bust into the Who’s ‘My Generation’, with Patti screaming out the words and taking great glee in ripping the strings off an electric guitar.

Alvvays suffer a bit from some indistinct sound in the John Peel tent, but it sort of separates the wheat from the chaff as far as the tracks on their debut album go: ‘Ones Who Love You’, and especially the peerless ‘Marry Me, Archie’ and closer ‘Adult Diversion’ are great. Some of the others lose the battle with a PA system that, intentionally or otherwise, has been overdoing it on the reverb all festival.

As an antidote to watching a bunch of clean-cut Canadians, Fat White Family, the famously addled London squat-dwellers, take some beating. I’m not going to pretend I loved every second of their lurching, feral set: there’s a level of nihilistic repetition that grates after a while. You could call it hypnotic: the vaguely Gregorian feel of Frontman Lias and guitarist Saul’s dual-vocal assault, the ever-plodding rhythm section. You could also call it a bit uninspiring (of course some subtlety is lost compared to their recorded sound).

Lias is, at least, a committed frontman, tugging at his jeans distractedly for the first few songs before whipping his cock out; and always willing to dive over the barrier and get to know the crowd a bit better. Maybe they just have all these droney numbers to make ‘Is It Raining in Your Mouth’ sound like an even-more inspired, The Clean-via-The Cramps banger.

Perfume Genius, the next act on the Park Stage, is a completely different propostion. With three albums to choose from now (the intensely quiet, personal debut Learning, it’s similar successor, Put Your Back N 2 It, and the sonically much more adventurous Too Bright), the set is an interesting juxtaposition of where Mike Hadreas, the man behind the Perfume Genius moniker, is now and where he was then.

The newer, more stark, electronic songs (there’s a strong Suicide influence) actually sit well with the older stuff, and are perhaps a better vehicle for the darker side of Hadreas’ personality. He’s also a more compelling stage presence than expected; during the newer material he sways and gyrates, dressed in a black shift dress, fishnets and lipstick, but looking boyish as ever. For me, though, the older songs, at which he sits and plays piano, are still the most powerful: ‘Dark Parts’, ‘Look Out, Look Out’, ‘Learning’, and ‘Mr Peterson’ are all absolutely beautiful and heartbreaking.

Belle & Sebastian, once mocked by the music press for their terrible gigs, have quietly become a tight, engaging live act. Having

’ was appreciated, and it’s always nice to hear ‘Another Sunny Day’, even if Stuart Murdoch now ends on a (new?) inferior final verse.

Anyway, Stuart dances, runs down to meet the crowd, and eventually invites about 20 people on stage for a very polite, but joyful stage invasion. Their new stuff perhaps doesn’t quite have the depth of ‘classic’ B&S, but it’s catchy and danceable so a success on its own terms.

FFS are a supergroup formed by Franz Ferdinand and Sparks, two bands who seem to have a permanent eyebrow raised, so it’s no surprise that the result is playful and uber-arch. ‘Collaborations Don’t Work’ is perhaps a meta-step too far, but there’s plenty to enjoy: the 80s-tinged funk-pop of ‘Call Girl’, the wonderfully irritated ‘Piss Off’.

There are some slightly odd aesthetic decisions, like singers Alex Kapranos and Russell Mael singing in unison almost all the time, even on their respective bands’ songs (‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us’ and ‘The Number One Song in Heaven’ by Sparks; ‘Michael’ and a rapturously received ‘Take Me Out’ by Franz). It’d be generous to describe FFS as more than the sum of their parts, but they are entertaining, and much of the fun comes from the humour inherent in Sparks’ songwriting, but also from Kapranos and Mael constantly trying to out-vamp each other. 

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