Worthy Farm, Somerset

How will Glastonbury 2023 be remembered? Soaring temperatures? Surprise-but-not-really-surprise appearances? Heartbreaking curfews? Cate Blanchett cameos? Surely it won’t be the Succession flags?

Cast your minds back to March of this year and this year’s festival pre-emptive takeaway looked, for all intents and purposes, to be a divisive triplet of all-male Pyramid stage headliners. A discussion that, while absolutely valid, seemed redundant the minute you were on the ground at Worthy Farm. Indeed, this year of all years reaffirmed the creaky truism that Glastonbury is so much more than the sum of the bold-type marquee acts, and that the real magic lies in beating your own desire path through its countless stages, hidden areas, onsite nightclubs, immersive art installations and discussion hubs (shout out to Silver Hayes’ new addition, The Information).  

Often, the moments that gave the festival meaning and shape were fleeting and personal: Batu dropping an edit of Sparks’ Beat the Clock on Thursday night at Block9’s impressive IICON; Central Cee and Dave performing their summer smash Sprinter to an adoring crowd, accompanied by the infant star of the song’s video; Danielle and Shanti Celeste opening – and filling – new stage The Levels in less than a blink of an eye.

What follows, then, is team Crack Magazine’s highlight reel. There was a lot of ground – literally, and figuratively – to cover, as is the Glastonbury (and the Crack) way, but consider this a whistle-stop tour through moments that captured our hearts and ears. Your experiences may well differ, in fact, we hope they do. Until next year.

Fever Ray, The Park, Friday

How do you follow a life-affirming set by a much-loved band who also happened to bring out Cate Blanchett? By unleashing a psychosexual cabaret that took cues from Fassbinder’s Querelle, Kander and Ebb and Glastonbury’s Healing Fields, of course. Dressed in a baggy suit and pasted-down combover that would give RonMael pause, Fever Ray made those storied oddballs Sparks look positively square by comparison as they glided, lizard-like and desirous, around the stage. Maybe it was the humid evening, but those carnal, throbbing synths and pitch-shifted vocals felt as if they took on a new physical dimension, especially during the slow-churn opener Do You Hear What They Call Us or the crowd favourite When I Grow Up. This was a set that closed the gap between music performance and theatre in a way that felt truly new: yes, there were gong baths, there was a zodiac-themed bodystocking, there was even choreography. But most of all, this being Fever Ray, there was a striving towards a thrilling, abject, outrageous queerness that refused to be contained and so broke out into the pure expression of unbridled rave.

Sudan Archives, West Holts, Saturday

In the sweltering Saturday sunshine, Sudan Archives’ searing performance only amped up the heat. Exuding a raw, vivacious, sensuous energy, Brittney Parks effortlessly switches between virtuosic violin, swaggering bars, velveteen vocals and dynamic choreography, strutting across the West Holts stage in striking red PVC cowboy boots (we’ll be bookmarking those for our own festival wardrobe). OMG BRITT provides a fittingly charismatic showcase of Parks’ magnetic dynamism, howling the titular chorus as she crawls across the stage before getting the crowd into a call and response for NBPQ (Topless). Following this, Parks asks for the Irish contingent in the crowd; “well that’s the reason I play violin” she says, before launching into an Irish jig. A quite literally dizzying finale – as she spins in a circle whilst bowing, an incredibly impressive feat – into the tender Homesick (Sweet and Arrogant) brings the set to a close. Nothing short of iconic.

Grove, Truth, Thursday

One of the many things that makes Glastonbury so unique is its wealth of unexpected collaborative moments. Grove teaming up with Flowdan and fellow Bristol-based outfit Snazzback for a closing show at Shangri-La’s Truth Stage on the Thursday night was one such treat. Atop Snazzback’s lilting, soaring and swirling instrumentals the pair shared MC duties, the set carrying a free-flowing synergy. Here, what particularly shines through – with honourable mentions to Grove’s afternoon performance at Greenpeace earlier the same day and Friday night blast at The Common’s Temple stage – is the versatility of their vocals and dynamic artistry; commanding the crowd with unparalleled charisma whether delivering bars over Snazzback’s soulful electronica and avant-garde jazz or shelling a drum’n’bass twist on Girls Aloud’s Sound of the Underground.

Underground Resistance, IICON, Sunday

The sceptre of the IICON is a complete logistical necessity to the night-time madness of the South East corner and, more specifically, the rest of Block9, which was once again very busy. Luckily, IICON is the best-looking construction at the whole festival, its colossal 65-foot human head complete with visor is a dystopian subtext for passivity in the age of mass information. This year, the booking was hugely on-point, with the standout being Detroit legends Underground Resistance who were represented by long-term luminary Mark Flash. His hour-and-a-half set on Sunday was a fantastic exploration of all the sounds that make UR exciting, from jazz-indebted cuts and rolling, bass-driven numbers to the cutting edge of soulful house. For those still partying Sunday, this was the visual and sonic shot in the arm needed to see out the weekend. Exactly what we’ve come to expect from Block9.

@crackmagazine IICONIC settings at #Glastonbury #Festival #Glastonbury2023 ♬ original sound – Crack Magazine

Silver Hayes, all weekend long 

Who can remember when Silver Hayes, or the Dance Village as it was called back then, was two tents – Dance East and Dance West? Undoubtedly no other area of Glastonbury has undergone such a comprehensive makeover in the last ten years. Currently the brainchild of Bristol’s Team Love, Silver Hayes has garnered the devotion of Glastonbury’s army of dance music devotees who don’t stop, and these fans were rewarded with a selection of stages that were expertly programmed. The newly designed Levels stage was the standout, an open-air club space rich in angles, slick strip lighting and architectural drama. Arguably, the video of the weekend was filmed during its opening on Thursday, when crowds filled the space in less than a minute as Danielle and Shanti Celeste stepped up to the controls. Weekend highlights included Nia Archives and Jyoty’s respective takeover, and Earl Sweatshirt and Helena Hauff, which in terms of musical diversity, showcases how far this area has come.

@crackmagazine A whistle-stop tour of #Glastonbury area #SilverHayes with #TeamLove boss, Dave Harvey ❤️ #Festival #Glastonbury2023 #Glasto #Glasto2023 #HouseMusic #Techno ♬ original sound – Crack Magazine

Elton John, Pyramid, Sunday

It was an odd year for headliners at Glastonbury, as the discussions around the line-up continued well into the festival. Friday and Saturday Pyramid shows from Arctic Monkeys and Guns N’ Roses were divisive, to say the least, and Lana Dey Rey’s Other Stage headline slot (her first UK show for some years) will certainly be remembered for more than just her sublime songs. Over to Elton John, then, who delivered what was arguably the biggest show of the weekend. You may assume that most of Glastonbury’s under-40s aren’t massive day-to-day Elton fans, but there’s something about the blockbuster Glastonbury headliner, the ‘must-be-there’ moment that draws the intrigue and, ultimately, the crowds. And wow, this was a crowd. Never before has Glastonbury witnessed such a bona fide victory lap and two-way reverence. Even if Elton isn’t your thing, this was an occasion. However, if Elton John is your thing, you were rewarded with every big hit, special guests that showcased a commitment to supporting new artists, fireworks and even a bit of history. In a sunny year that perhaps lacked the political or musical definition of previous editions, this was a sign-off for the ages.