Ever had a seaweed bath in an Irish bar built into the hillside woods? A seaweed bath is meant to lower stress and beat skin conditions. It’s also a pretty fucking wonderful thing to do when you’ve been walking around off your face for the whole evening and you’re not exactly a picture of health. And having a seaweed bath at Glastonbury Festival of the Contemporary Performing Arts doesn’t feel strange, it feels apt. It feels right.
There was a particular serenity at Glasto this year. The weather was favourable, there were engagements in Crack’s entourage and, for once, there was sleep. As this reviewer traipsed along the railway track among the trees on Saturday in a pair of rather revealing short shorts and a dodgy Hawaiian number, the realisation this is still the best festival experience in the world came rushing in. You can forget, you see. It’s easy to go to other festivals. It’s easy to go the McVities-sponsored Dance Village at some speed fest in fucking Maidstone and pretend you’re having a ball. You’re not. You’re kidding yourself.
There were class performances this year. Humility – showing this means something to you – wins legions at Worthy (a prominent criticism levelled at Mr West’s extremely divisive headline show). No such concerns for Future Islands’ frontman Samuel Herring, who marauded the stage with an intensity that made you feel like he might never perform again. Super Furry Animals’ incredible light show and inclusion of the classic animal suits was the trip many wanted to take again, FKA twigs unleashed what was undoubtedly the greatest performance we’ve ever seen from her, Father John Misty’s guttural, mic-flinging, sweat-ridden closing number at The Park made many hairs stand up, and Mary J Blige’s tears were contagious. Then of course, credit to the organisers for plugging the three-hour Pyramid gap with the Libertines. It fitted the band’s history perfectly and was an inspired choice.
Then the acts you aren’t going to watch unless you’re at Glastonbury, the one-offs, the ones your mum would be super proud of you for checking out. Burt Bacharach and his backing vocalists delivered the kind of hit parade from yesteryear that fits so perfectly in the afternoon sunshine at the Pyramid Stage. Walk On By, What The World Needs Now, Say A Little Prayer and Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head were just a taster of the hits, and the stories and anecdotes were free flowing. Patti Smith united the crowd in a profound moment of warmth and positivity by getting them to sing happy birthday to the Dalai Lama, who looked absolutely delighted to join her onstage. Lionel Richie’s set was reportedly the most well-attended gig of the weekend, with plenty of Lionel masks and Lionel flags to be seen among the estimated 100,000 people who gathered to see him.
Musically, Block 9 was particularly strong this year, with sunrise sets on the Genosys from Four Tet, Erol Alkan and Felix Dickinson being particular standouts. Our annual trip to the NYC Downlow to see Tama Sumo and Lakuti was suitably sweaty and celebratory in the wake of gay marriage being legalised across the whole of the USA. Fat White Family provided even more incentive to head to Shrangri-la by tearing up the Hell Stage alongside all the serious bass weight. With all the intense political discourse in Shangri-la the inclusion of a bar called Shrinel Richie was a comic highlight, as was the return of the metal bar which saw proper mosh pits suck many people in. Late night here proved to be the winner again, with the opportunity to experience all the tiny club creations in their glory.
The aroma of The Stone Circle has barely left our nostrils, as has the sound of the Liverpudlian accents delivered by the four chatty souls that took a shine to us, or the madcap visuals of the most sacred area of the site taken over by the particularly free-spirited, or the taste of homemade elderflower champagne bought at 9am which, we dare say, was particularly refreshing. This spot still remains many people’s Glastonbury zenith.
There were countless other quality live performances we could report, but the key element which the TV highlights is don’t quite capture is the organisers’ sense of passion over profit, an ethos which brings out the best of the crowd and galvanises the acts. And so despite writing this review in the gloomiest depths of post-festival blues, there’s not the slightest doubt in our minds that we’ll be ritually attending Glastonbury for years, and possibly even decades, to come.