Column – What we learned from the 2015 Glastonbury Festival

Column – What we learned from the 2015 Glastonbury Festival

glastoviewSo that's the Glastonbury Festival for another year... time to pack up the tents and begin speculating on who will headline in 2016. However with its own university, not to mention an early morning lecture Dalai Lama yesterday (28 June), it's only right that along with the music, hedonism and general good times, that one takes something away a weekend on Worthy Farm. Q's Chris Catchpole did, here's ten things he discovered across weekend...

WEDNESDAY IS THE NEW FRIDAY

Crazy as it sounds, but bar a few diehards who might show up on Thursday to mill around the Stone Circle watching gap year students play bongos there was a time when people used to arrive at Glastonbury on the Friday – as in when the bands actually started playing. Not any more though. Reportedly around 80 per-cent of festival-goers turned up on Wednesday this year. Good news for grunge pop quartet Wolf Alice. Playing the tiny William’s Green stage on Thursday evening when literally nothing else was on meant they drew a crowd a Pyramid Stage headliner would be happy with. Bad news for anyone who rocked up on Friday and faced the prospect of having to pitch their tent next to an over-flowing long drop toilet though.

PEOPLE CAN STILL KEEP A SECRET

After Dave Grohl’s leg/safety barrier interface bumped Florence + The Machine up to Friday night headliner, it left a tantalising ‘TBC’ slot between her and gnarled rockers Motorhead. Given the propensity for rumours to spread round the site like a stomach bug from a dodgy Lebanese chicken stall, the fact that The Libertines’ surprise set managed to be an actual surprise was a small miracle. Among the crowds swamping The Pyramid Stage moments before Pete Doherty and Carl Barat ambled on, people variously thought they were going to be watching Blur, Taylor Swift, Beck, Elbow and – bizarrely – One Direction.

YOU CAN'T STOP THE FLO

Can Florence + The Machine step up to the plate as a headliner? She's one of the UK's most popular acts with a Number One album on both sides of the Atlantic, so really the answer was never in doubt. High levels of Bronte-ian drama, gale force vocals and nuclear levels of boundless enthusiasm and good vibes – it's what the top slot on the Pyramid stage was made for.

SUPER FURRY ANIMALS HAVE GOT MORE HITS THAN YOU REALISE...

The yeti suits, singing through an oversized Power Rangers helmet, turning up to Glastonbury in a tank kitted out to play techno music at ear-splitting volumes… Super Furry Animals’ gonzo valley boy space cadet antics can sometimes overshadow the fact that – alongside Blur – they were one of the ’90s most relentlessly brilliant singles acts. Wearing white boiler suits and barely speaking a word, they rattled through psychedelic pop banger after psychedelic pop banger. Slow Life, Juxtaposed With U, Golden Retriever, (Drawing) Rings Around The World, Do Or Die, a techno-break augmented The Man Don’t Give A Fuck... Despite the fact that they left some of their biggest songs on the bench (no Demons, Fire In My Heart or Something 4 The Weekend) it felt like a greatest hits sets most bands would cut off their songwriting hand to have.

...THOUGH NOT AS MANY AS BURT BACHARACH THOUGH...

Seriously. Do You Know The Way To San Jose, Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, Little Red Book... how many other artists can reel off so many genuine classics? The schmaltzy cabaret style set up with various toothsome session singers taking the role of Dionne Warwick et al did take the shine off slightly. And was unnecessary. On the rare occasions when Bacharach took the vocal himself his husky yet impeccably phrased voice transported you back to a lost Brill Building era of restrained sophistication and meticulously crafted songwriting.

...BUT CERTAINLY NOT AS MANY AS THE BOOTLEG BEATLES!

OK, so they are not technically their hits, but they sound and - if you squint a bit - look exactly like the real thing. Plus they play stuff like All You Need Is Love and Hey Jude which the actual Beatles never did at their shows. A real hidden gem in the Glastonbury line-up.

TAKE THE FAB FOUR'S ADVICE: GET BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM YOUR FRIENDS

Given the sheer volume of acts on site what better way to give your Glastonbury set a bit of extra star wattage than to rope in a few famous friends to join you during your set. It was a trick used by Kanye West (bringing out Bon Iver for Lost In The World and Hold My Liquor), The Maccabees (here’s our mate the "proper" Jamie T) and Mark Ronson (make way for George Clinton, Mary J Blige, Boy George, Grandmaster Flash, Daniel Merriweather and Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker... among others). Though not to be outdone, punk queen Patti Smith stunned audiences on Sunday afternoon by inviting Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on stage during her set.

THE CROW’S NEST REMAINS ONE OF GLASTONBURY'S BEST KEPT SECRETS

Perched high atop the site above The Park Stage, The Crow's Nest is like walking into a particularly eccentric Aunty's sitting room and finding one of your favourite bands playing to a crowd of about twelve people. Manc post punk revivalist LoneLady, Django Django, Toy and an electrics-blowing rave up from Aussie psych freaks King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard... some of the festival's most excitingly intimate experiences were once more to be had up here. Plus there's now a bar next door if you fancy something a bit stronger than the herbal teas they serve in the main tent.

KANYE WEST CAN TOUCH THE SKY

With the help of a massive cherry-picker the self-professed "biggest rock star on the planet" was briefly the highest (no, not in that sense) rock star on the planet as he soared above The Pyramid Stage. Audiences were mixed on the ultimate impact of his set, but that was certainly a Glastonbury moment.

MIX IT UP

Perhaps in a move to discourage people from plonking themselves in front of just one stage for the whole weekend, this year’s scheduling offered up some wonderfully extreme juxtapositions. Quite how many Mary J Blige fans would have been planning to hang around in front of the Pyramid Stage for Motorhead on Friday had they not been booked one after each other we may never know. One notable exception, however, was the booking of an old favourites-leaning set from Paul Weller before The Who closed the festival on Sunday. Given the challenge of keeping oneself relatively smart over four days of mud and carnage in a field the old mod adage ‘clean living under difficult circumstances’ has never felt so apt. Chris Catchpole @ChrisCatchpole

For more head to Glastonburyfestivals.co.uk