Festival Frolics: Glastonbury Friday, Welcome To The World Of A Dusty Haven.

Beneath the fluorescent tarpaulin of the BBC Introducing Stage, Yr Ods are alive and kicking, tapping into the same sonic gene pool as fellow Cymru psychedelic incendiaries Super Furry Animals, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and relatively more contemporarily, Race Horses, as their quasi-stadium grandeur collides with sumptuous harmonies. City’s Heart Is Burning is the best thing to emerge from Bangor since (Sasha/ the university, DELETE AS APPROPRIATE), concisely capturing the quintessence of that explicitly inherent Welsh sense of melody and whilst Cerdded doesn’t contain a single discernable word, their perhaps a little prosaic aesthetic sinks into a kaleidoscopic whirr of irrelevance. What was once the Jazz World Stage is now known only as West Holts, and equipped with the greatest compère this side of Stewart Lee who appears to still believe to be on the shores of Kingston (-upon-Thames/ Jamaica), resurrected visceral punks The Bronx bring their mariachi rejuvenation Mariachi El Bronx to Glastonbury as castanets and cooing matadors congregate before them. Cell Mates is delightful in the hazy Central American climes of Friday afternoon, even if Matt Caughthran looks a little asphyxiated wrapped up in his folkloric paraphernalia.

Set against the vastness of the Pyramid Stage, folk legend Willie Nelson’s following has quite evidently waned, ambling on before a hugely appreciative, if rather modest gathering, the Texan stoner’s as shambolically calculated as an Iggy Pop stage invasion, as battered and bruised as his worn and torn acoustic, “Trigger”. Nearing 80, he bumbles through nigh on thirty hushed hillbilly classics, Hank Williams and Elvis covers. Rolf Harris is side of stage, papping Willie as a rambling Whiskey River flows from his whiskers, whilst Always On My Mind is as acutely arresting as a smoke with Snoop whose vaguely supposed guest spot’s woefully absent. Whilst one of the Men in Black may be long gone, Willie Nelson’s more than holding his end of the bargain, instilling the spirit of the Deep South on the farm in as righteously ramshackled a show as one could hope for outside of a lock-up in the Jack Daniels distillery with Keith Richards, Keith Moon and the Allman Brothers.

Revered pervasively for their B-list connections occasionally in place of their records, Gallic charmers Phoenix deliver a rambunctious set rammed with amorous Francophonic discothèque as Thomas Mars flicks his fringe about with gay abandon, endearingly hitting more bum notes than Vanilla Ice in the Cocktails & Dreams karaoke saloon. Lisztomania is a spirited concoction fuelled by a heavy dose of hi-hat on the rocks, swirling about in an abyss of electronique romanticisms and Jean Michel Jarre suavity, Lasso a whirring full frontal six-string assault and Rome the most achingly earnest serenade the Other Stage speakers blare all weekend. Cult followings and red carpet formalities aside, the saccharine nectar gargled in the heart of Phoenix merits the dispatch of a Glastonbury postcard homewards. Far less affectionate is Snoop Dogg over on the Pyramid Stage, playing to an exponentially expanding throng comparable, if not stronger than that which greeted Jay-Z in 2008. The lothario finally granted permission to get onto our British Isles caters, like Carter 24 months previously, ideally to the predominantly white, middle-class Glastonbury revellers clawing desperately onto off-kilter culture acknowledgement, one minute tucking wallets and iPhones into socks anywhere and everywhere from Brixton to Bristol, the next putting diamonds in the sky, feeling the vibe to Cordozar Calvin Broadus’ “Snoop Doggy dog shit”. His set of pseudo-hip hop karaoke, taking in everything form Tupac medleys to clichéd nods to House Of Pain and a Tinie Tempah hijack for an utterly superfluous Pass Out seemingly gets at least half of this year’s 177,500 capacity wobbling at the knees to Snoop’s feigned Sensual Seduction, despite pertaining to little, if any sensuality whatsoever. By the time Who Am I (What’s My Name)? lumbers into earshot, tether boundaries are bound to be surpassed if Broadus so much as mentions that bloody moniker once more.

Concurrently, over on t’Other Stage La Roux are rounding off 12 months which has seen the duo, or at least that ginger quiff presumably protected by Polydor dotted lines, eclipse British pop music whilst simultaneously outshining and outstaying the majority of last year’s fleeting female phenomena. That said, with Elly Jackson proclaiming the duo “don’t do covers”, here and now they reproduce not one but two, dutifully reworking the Rolling Stones’ Under My Thumb and latterly, Heaven 17’s Temptation, wheeling out Glenn Gregory for three minutes of overtly melodramatic, tinny electro. Not only that but Jackson, having become more robotic onstage than Schwarzenegger clunking about in Nissan factories, whilst now on the final straight of the pair’s victory lap, almost every chart-wrecking hit under her Tom Ford belt flails limply, swamped by sounds sailing on the gentle breezes that wisp around Glastonbury’s rolling hills as if they themselves formed part of another act’s discography, In For The Kill and Bulletproof sounding like distant recollections of lost 80s electro B-sides to file beside A Flock Of Seagulls, Hall & Oates and Cutting Crew. With no reinvention of the wheel and about as much momentum as England’s World Cup campaign, La Roux may have to look into melting down that lavish gold backdrop...

A short trek over to the outer reaches of Glastonbury’s 1000-acre stronghold and The Park stage bustles like a swarm of vuvuzelas, electrified by technologically enhanced rumour mills, spurting out natterings revolving about the occupation of tonight’s illustrious ‘Special guests’ spot, all the usual suspects batted about like Wimbledon’s gleaming fluorescent balls. Paul McCartney, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys all in the running yet there’s one name that’s been alluded to insistently and incessantly every year since The Park’s inauguration in 2007. That name is Radiohead. So ritualistic has become the spanking into submission of said name down on Worthy Farm that the plausibility of the Oxford troupe filling the blank seems less probable than a reformation of The Darkness complete with Sophie Ellis-Bextor on backing vocals as they recreate Clor’s one and only record. Which is a crying shame for The Big Pink, as they play out their disco biscuit-devouring indie rave anthems more noughties than Klaxons romping with Peaches Geldof in the lift of the Mayfair on their newly pink paint-licked gear. The altered chorus key change of Tonight sounds colossal enough to crush Kelis’ ego whole. Pedal boards twelve times the size of most Glastonbury meals are then carted out, along with an upright piano, that antenna thing last seen at Reading & Leeds last August that looks as though it’s used to tap into extraterrestrial frequencies and a Fender Starcaster. It seems as though that refusal to negate Thom Yorke sooner or later stumbling up to The Park finally came good, as Michael Eavis trundles onstage to announce the impending arrival of “a couple of superstars”. Said superstars, whilst not representing Radiohead in its entirety, form the brains of the band, if not the brawn as Yorke bounds out in disguise, dressed in the best John McEnroe-gone-Glastonbury getup seen in many a year, later to be joined by band mate and fellow guitar wielder, Johnny Greenwood. Opening with a subdued, ebbing take on title track from Yorke’s solo LP The Eraser, the mood turns sombre, The Park filled with disbelief and dumbstruck wonderment in equal measure. Turning to face a field of dropped jaws and aloft iPhones, Yorke straps on a couple of bass strings to whip up that infamous slapped Harrowdown Hill intro, before taking to keys and delivering as pulsating a chord progression as any contained within latest long player from his “first band”, In Rainbows yet there’s an inescapable sense that any initial ecstasy’s waning, as Black Swan glides quite suavely as the sun sets behind burnt necks. Cymbal Rush does little to quell the baying mass’ thirst for a Radiohead sing-song amidst the hysteria of the “biggest surprise of the weekend”. That finally washes up on baying ear drums in the form of a spectacularly sentimental take on Weird Fishes/ Arpeggi, Yorke and Greenwood exchanging and intertwining beautifully mellow guitar twangs, followed by Pyramid Song, Idioteque, a raucous rendition of Karma Police complete with campfire backing vox and Street Spirit (Fade Out) all unleashed with conveyor belt concision. A truly special surprise, ta Eavises and one that’ll doubtlessly cement The Park as Glastonbury’s emerging focus point for the future.

A frantic dart across what feels like tens of Saharan miles and the history books are opened, quills inked at the ready for Britain’s best songwriter and spearhead of a generation fuelled by disingenuous youth, crates of Carlsberg and concealed romanticisms, Damon Albarn to scale the Pyramid Stage’s rundown for a second consecutive year. With two almost entirely separate acts. Last year was the triumphant turn of a reformed Blur, Graham Coxon and Albarn almost seeming to tolerate, if not enjoy one another’s company under the glaring headlights of Glastonbury’s iconic centrifugal force. This year it’s the reincarnation of once-cartoon capers Gorillaz. A crowd approximately a third of that which gazed longingly upon Albarn’s original starting block last year stands in subdued silence under the luminescence of artificial lighting that ignites the dusk, before a few syringes of vitality are sucked unapologetically from the initial stages of the troupe’s set, including the false start to chart-ravaging latest effort Plastic Beach’s Orchestral Intro, and the absence of Snoop for Welcome To The World Of The Plastic Beach despite his stage strutting on the very same boards a mere matter of hours previously. Tinie Tempah turned up for his show...
Albarn, often a rather emotionally secluded individual, upon opening his heart for unashamed album highlight and forthcoming single On Melancholy Hill, is greeted with a nonchalant disaffection, a restlessness that can only be sated by the extensive stream of guests promised to gush from the wings, despite Demon Days cuts O Green World, Kids With Guns and Last Living Souls injecting a visceral genre-blurring audacity into proceedings. Turning to guest spots, what with Glastonbury’s 40th anniversary being filled to the brim with a blinding spectrum of brief collaborations, absent are Mos Def due to a death in the family and Gruff Rhys, for reasons unknown. The door’s then left ajar for the likes of hip hop behemoths De La Soul, Mark E. Smith, Bobby Womack, Bootie Brown, Kano, Bashy, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, several members of the Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music, Snoop and last but conclusively far from least, Lou Reed to schnook onstage for a cameo, highlights born from Reed’s deadpan delivery on Some Kind Of Nature and additional industrialised opening guitar solo, and Mark E. Smith’s inability to elect a working mic and accompanying reliance on scribbled lyrics to splutter his half a dozen slurs of Glitter Freeze. Closing proceedings in atypically wham-bang, thank you ma’am Stylo, the distressingly affecting Cloud Of Unknowing, celebratory singalong of Pirate Jet and Fire Coming Out Of The Monkey’s Head, a touching tribute to the late Dennis Hopper reminiscent of Albarn’s Ibrahim Ferrer appreciation in Manchester way back in November 2005 almost ameliorate the distinct lack of visual feast served up to masticate on. Whilst Albarn may not quite be steadied for the heady heights of the headliner under the guise of Gorillaz, his intricate orchestrations are infinitely more ingenuous than Dizzee, Muse and U2 Sellotaped together in a big bundle of stadium-crumbling tedium. Joe Strummer never managed to lure Paul Simonon down to Worthy Farm. Damon got him there in one piece, setting him free to maraud stealthily, a menacing glint in his eyes as the dub bass thuds of Clint Eastwood are drooled over by Snoop Dogg. Job done, Damon.