Sunday, 27 July 2014

Glastonbury 2014 Highlights

It goes without saying that a weekend at Glastonbury was an incredible experience. Heavy rain only added to the festival package, and despite discovering that anoraks and wellies are only waterproof up to a certain extent, the music made up for the soaking I received. 

A true music blogger, I had a list filled with bands to see - sadly, as with any good festival, too many clashes meant I had to choose selectively. John Grant was the true highlight of the weekend. Singing songs from his most recent album, Pale Green Ghosts, and his previous album, Queen of Denmark, Grant had the perfect mix of songs throughout his set. His gentleness as a frontman also came across, matching the beautiful serenity of his voice. Lykke Li was also highly anticipated, and she didn't disappoint. Effortlessly cool, she was at ease on stage singing old favourites like 'Little Bit' and 'I Follow Rivers'; however, it was the rousing chorus of 'No Rest For The Wicked' that was the biggest crowd-pleaser of the set. Foster The People's set encountered difficulties when it was postponed for an hour due to an electrical storm over the festival site, but when they finally took to the Other Stage, it was a slick performance. With their songs being used for numerous adverts over the past few years, the audience knew all the words, perfect for a festival where crowd camaraderie is all part of the fun. 

On the Sunday afternoon, Dolly Parton attracted Glastonbury's largest ever audience for a show-stopping set. Old classics like 'Jolene' and 'Here You Come Again' were blended with newer material, pleasing everyone. Despite later hearing allegations of miming, for me the set was one of the highlights of the weekend. With over 50 years' experience behind her, Parton has perfected her role as a performer; happy to poke fun at herself, she is easy to warm to. 

Of course, Glastonbury isn't only famous for the big names it pulls for headline slots. The amount of exposure and support offered to lesser known bands is impressive. The BBC Introducing Stage is one of the ways in which the festival achieves this, with BBC DJs from around the country recommending some of the best up-and-coming bands of the moment. Aquilo, a duo from the Lake District, brought dreamy electronic pop and soulful vocals to Worthy Farm. They've had a number of festival dates over the summer, and are definitely ones to watch over the coming months; a sound as beautiful and expansive as theirs is unlikely to remain little known for long. Flights of Helios were another highlight from the BBC Introducing Stage. Their sound is almost a dark psychedelia, with 'Factory' having a grungy quality that provides an exhilarating listen. Amongst the famous acts at Glastonbury, it's inspiring to see so many bands at the beginning of their careers play at the world's most famous music festival - surely a dream for any musician. 

With over 60 stages, it was easy to stumble across bands I'd previously not heard of. In fact, as I had no expectations, these turned out to be some of the best sets of the weekend. The Woohoo Revue are an Australian band who play Balkan inspired music which wouldn't sound out of place in a 1920s speakeasy. Their energetic and vibrant music was enormous fun, and had audience members dancing enthusiastically. Peatbog Faeries, described by the introducer as playing 'electric céleidh music' were the last band I saw play at Glastonbury, and ended the weekend on an incredible high. I've always enjoyed traditional Scottish folk music, but the addition of electric guitars and basses was truly like nothing I've ever heard before. 

From Balkan music to Scottish folk and then onto Malian father and son duo Toumani & Sidiki Diabaté, all the bases of world music were covered. Playing purely instrumental music on koras, their set was a chance to take a step back from the intensity of the weekend, and their music was perfectly suited to the Sunday afternoon slot they had on the Pyramid Stage. Europop was also represented at the festival. French and Belgian fans were out in force for Belgian singer Stromae's set on the Sonic Stage. Huge on the continent, and yet not so famous over here, it was nice to see that English fans comprised about half of the audience. A quick poll by Stromae quickly established that about a third of the crowd spoke no French at all; a testament to the zesty and upbeat sounds of his songs, all of which are sung in French. 

The beauty of Glastonbury is the eclectic mix of genres throughout the weekend; the diversity opens up ones eyes to new bands and discoveries that they never would have considered listening to. From Dolly Parton to a DJ set by Disclosure to John Grant, the range of music I listened to and saw at Glastonbury ensured the weekend was an unforgettable one. When rain dampens spirits, music can always pick them up again.

Information about buying tickets for Glastonbury 2015 will be released later this year

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