Friday 23rd June.
And so it was finally here, the first official day of Glastonbury 2017. Wednesday and Thursday had slowly drifted by as we explored every meticulously designed nook and cranny of the festival site but it was now that the individually studied and highlighted clashfinders came into play. As we all gradually awoke and crawled out of our tents, it became pretty clear to me that a genuine, unique buzz was drifting across the Somerset air. After a couple of 50p hash browns and a cereal bar washed down with a morning brew, my backpack was filled with the various necessary supplies (sun cream, money, cider and gin) and we head off into the sunshine for our first official day of live, festival music.
10.45 Hacienda Classical – Pyramid Stage
Opening up our weekend was the increasingly popular, and ludicrously talented creation of Hacienda Classical. Reimagining and playing renowned house and rave anthems through the guise of the Manchester Camerata Orchestra, it was the perfect way to open up the day’s proceedings. Much like Showhawk Duo the night before, the ability to get a crowd dancing and singing along to an array of different musical instruments was a seriously impressive feat. Led by popular DJs and original Hacienda stalwarts Mike Pickering and Graeme Park, an array of guest vocalists were put to great use. Complete with a guest appearance by Peter Hook for New Order’s Blue Monday, and an unexpected stage invasion from cult hero Bez; Hacienda Classical put on a stellar set on the Pyramid Stage.
Best Track: Blue Monday
14.10 Dua Lipa – John Peel Stage
One of 2017’s rising pop sensations was next on Friday’s agenda, seeing Dua Lipa completely own the stage in the John Peel tent. Playing tracks from her recent debut record, as well as a welcome airing of Scared To Be Lonely, a collaboration with Martin Garrix, Dua Lipa received a rapturous response from an enthralled audience. Whilst a number of her contemporaries rely on autotune and digital backing tracks, it is crucial for me to mention that her band were highly impressive, and her vocal ability is one of the best I’ve heard from similar artists. Dua Lipa’s set was seriously good fun, and one I’ll be attempting to catch again in the near future.
Best Track: Lost In Your Light
15.00 Circa Waves – Other Stage
Immediately following Dua Lipa was an expedition to weave through the throngs of festival-goers wandering down the dust covered paths and campsites, on our way towards the Other Stage. Once our journey had been successfully negotiated, we reached the stage for the last handful of tracks played by Circa Waves. It was interesting to see the contrast between them on the tiny Williams Green stage the night before, and the grand surroundings of the Other Stage. As someone who was entirely new to the festival this year, it was fascinating to note that whilst not the largest stage at Glastonbury, the Other Stage is still comfortably large enough to be the main stage at any other festivals. Treading upon its boards and playing music towards its audiences is no mean feat. Circa Waves’ material translates well to the larger environment, and the front portion of the crowd seem to lap it up. The band are admittedly not entirely my cup of tea, but its almost inevitable that their name will be further up festival line ups in the coming years.
Best Track: (Did not see enough to disagree with the Thursday performance)
16.20 Glass Animals – Other Stage
Taking to the stage with the widest set of beaming grins found on site on Friday were Oxford’s own Glass Animals. Armed with intriguingly unique stage props such as a shimmering golden pineapple and cactus, they played a great set of material from their two albums. The music they play is eclectic and unique, taking equal inspiration from ‘jumpy’ rock anthems and funky R&B rhythms. All the while though, it is impossible to pinpoint where their exceedingly abnormal lyrical composition comes from – but quite frankly, in my cider induced state I could not have cared less. Frontman Dave Bayley is positively beaming as he takes in the occasion, and their performance is as uplifting and joyous in return.
Best Track: Life Itself
17.45 Royal Blood – Pyramid Stage
Following a clash induced dilemma and a pit stop for edible refuelling, it was time to head in the direction of the Pyramid Stage for the duration of the night. I have now seen Royal Blood live on approximately four separate occasions, all of which have come in the form of festival appearances and support slots. Whilst always being impressed with their musical talent and ability to produce such a beefy sound with only two members, I have often been left somewhat bored by the ‘samey’ nature of their material. This though was an entirely different matter. Their set was a rip-roaring success, drawing upon material both from their breakthrough debut and brand new second album ‘How Did We Get So Dark’. Their sound appears to have developed even further between albums, and the raw energy of Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher is reciprocated by an enthusiastic crowd. New tracks such as Hook, Line and Sinker combine perfectly with their debut releases of Little Monster and Loose Change. The set is heavy, fun and pretty damn great. Pausing halfway through to celebrate their Number One record with a healthy swig of champagne, it is blindingly obvious that Royal Blood’s upward curve is yet to hit the buffers. It would take a brave man to bet against them headlining the likes of Reading Festival, and possibly even Glastonbury within the next 5 years… I am not so brave.
Best Track: Out of the Black
19.30 The XX – Pyramid Stage
The surprise package of the day as far as I was concerned was without doubt The XX. Another band for whom I have always respected, yet not necessarily heavily indulged in, their one hour set incorporated musical minimalism and audible beauty alongside dance worthy beats and crowd-stirring anthems. As vocalist and bassist Oliver discusses his connection with the festival (he attended as a punter with a broken leg when Beyonce headlined) it is made abundantly clear that this festival is so important to those that play, as well as those that pay. The XX’s music can only truly be described as other worldly, combining sparse soundscapes, electro beats, heavy (sometimes too heavy) basslines and dual vocals from Romy and Oliver. The highlights come in the form of old hit Angels, new single and upcoming anthem On Hold, and a stirring solo rendition of Performance from Romy Croft. There is even time within their one hour slot for Romy and Oliver to leave the stage for Jamie XX to play his solo hit Loud Places, to a rapturous response from the crowd. The XX display an incomparable ability within a shortened set to leave the crowd mesmerised and emotional one minute, and then furiously dancing the next. It’s an artistic combination that works exceptionally, and one that unexpectedly blew me away.
Best Track: On Hold
21.30 Radiohead – Pyramid Stage
Now when I say I was excited for this set, I would be making the absolute understatement of the century. Anyone who knows me is well aware how high Radiohead feature in my musical catalogue, and how long I have probably bored them ever since October with my unrivalled anticipation for this show. With my expectations so high, it would’ve been easy to have been let down, but Thom Yorke and co made sure I wasn’t. In fact, I would go as far to say that being positioned on the second barrier, with an entirely unobstructed view of the stage for the entire set, and being surrounded by fellow friendly and equally excited (and drunk) Radiohead fans made this one of the best shows that I have ever seen.
From the sparse opening notes of Daydreaming all the way through to the seemingly never-ending refrain of curtain closer Karma Police, I felt in some sort of musically induced daze. The set itself was littered with life affirming highlights, as Thom Yorke offered his recognisably strange mutterings throughout the set, and the band played hit, after hit, after hit. The setlist itself was everything that I hoped it would be and more, and the company around me, as well as a healthy portion of gin made the experience all the more incredible.
To pick out highlights from such an unbelievable experience is almost impossible; like being asked to pick a favourite child. The great strength of Radiohead’s work though is their unwaveringly unique nature, and ability to continually cross musical boundaries. Spine-tingling moments are found in tracks such as Exit Music and Pyramid Song, when the deathly silence of the crowd in between Thom Yorke’s exquisite vocal is incomparable. At the same time, heavier rock numbers such as There There, 2+2=5, Idioteque and Bodysnatchers send portions of the audience into a frenzy, dancing together in complicated unison, as drunken bodies attempt to make sense of the abnormal time signatures. Let Down, Fake Plastic Trees and Street Spirit encourage arm-in-arm singalongs in the crowd, and Yorke’s own political views are lauded – as he declares “See you later Theresa, shut the door on the way out.”
Closing with the classic tear-jerker Karma Police, a two and a half hour set of Radiohead’s very best material is brought to a close, the crowd continuing to sing the chorus refrain long after the band leave the stage. Whilst post-festival reviews have criticised the band’s visual accompaniments for being alienating (they were more artistically focussed than on practicality); the atmosphere towards the front was one that I don’t think I have ever experienced before. I had high expectations for this set, but Radiohead smashed their way through them, and set an entirely new standard.
I wish I could write a more coherent review of their set, but wandering slowly back towards my campsite I felt as if I had been caught in some two and a half hour out-of-body experience. From this point onwards, anything during the rest of the weekend was a bonus.
Best Track: I could realistically pick the entire setlist, and I am incredibly torn. But, for the atmosphere in the crowd, the flawless vocals of Thom Yorke and the communal crowd singalongs, it has to be Fake Plastic Trees, taking its place as the selected track for New Music Every Day.
Video: Feast your eyes and ears on this…
Don’t forget to check out the New Music Every Day playlist that I am keeping up – once my Glasto daily reviews are complete the playlist will continue on a daily basis, enjoy: