This year’s Glastonbury Festival began precariously enough. At 6am, we were halfway through our ten-hour journey from Yorkshire, and we only had five miles left to go. Twitter was full of people complaining that they had been stuck in traffic since the previous afternoon. The fields were being drained to ease up a week of downpour. On paper, at the very least, it didn’t look as promising as we’d thought.
Nevertheless, as we stewed in a car six days away from our next shower, the stereo blasted our mixtape of LCD Soundsystem, New Order, Kamasi Washington, and countless other artists we knew were going to melt our faces over the coming week. Indeed, all of those acts massively transcended our expectations, as did Tame Impala, Sigur Rós, Car Seat Headrest, Mac Demarco, and Beck. That less barnstorming acts such as Bat for Lashes, Kurt Vile, and Vince Staples played sets that would have been the high points of most other festivals speaks volumes to the standard of sheer talent on display.
But arriving on the Wednesday – and with this being the first Glasto I’d managed to snag tickets for – we had two full days before the music to experience what the festival is really about: the little man. There were hundreds of craft stalls and quirky independent shops dotted around the various areas, and they probably took up as much space as the hundred-plus stages themselves. It’s staggering how enormous and varied the whole thing is; if we fancied an oil massage, we could head to the Healing Fields; if we wanted another mind-blowing crêpe, West Holts. Axe throwing, plate carving, needle felting; basically, anything you ever wanted, plus everything you didn’t know you wanted before encountering it at Glastonbury.In context, none of it is as weird as it sounds. Everyone’s a freak at Glasto, and everyone is ecstatically resigned to this fact. It’s essentially an oversized commune dedicated to exploring and celebrating creativity, and everyone’s into it. Positivity is the one thing that unites this colourful, eco-friendly smorgasbord of endlessly entertaining strangeness.
Never once was there a lack of options: growing tired of Róisín Murphy’s set, we wandered over to watch Joy Orbison demolish the Beat Hotel venue (where some guy was raving with an enormous tennis racket, something I don’t even think he could explain). Similarly, we abandoned Wolf Alice three songs in and found a riotous flamenco group called Duncan Disorderly & The Scallywags, who ended up providing one of the most entertaining sets of the weekend.
One of the bigger surprises of the festival was the French group Christine & The Queens. It’d been months since I’d heard their debut, Chaleur Humaine, and I could only really recall the slower tracks, so I wasn’t expecting dynamite. But dynamite is what we got: Christine is an awkward nutcase, and I mean that in the best way possible. The Queens reformed their glossy studio recordings into sheer disco (without losing any integrity); their dance troupe was beyond phenomenal, and they ended their songs with exuberant covers of Chaka Khan, Technotronic, and, of all things, Tame Impala. Christine described herself as a “hashtag angry little French thing”, but she was an absolute blast to spend time with.From there, we wandered into another ‘80s-infused act: the Lauren Laverne-championed Ekkah. They’re a UK-based disco-pop duo that sounds like they discovered Thelma Houston and Vanity 6 one day and thought “Yes!” But alongside transposing those influences into their own voices, they’re one of a tiny selection of acts making music that is equal parts exuberant and ineffably cool. And it comes across in their set: Ekkah’s show is an absolute party from start to finish, delivered by two girls who want to make you fall in love with disco the way they clearly have.
The other surprise of the weekend was Oddisee & Good Company, a jazz-rap outfit from Washington D.C., whose tightness as a band was rivalled only by Kamasi Washington. Oddisee’s mic prowess ranged from trap to Roots-esque funk as dextrously as any rapper I’ve seen, doubling and tripling his rhythm without sweat, and delivering his lines with startling urgency. Hopefully, Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper’s recent endeavours will create a bigger audience for this sort of stuff, and Oddisee & Good Company will find the crowd they deserve.
In terms of the bigger acts: I don’t need to explain how LCD Soundsystem delivered the greatest gig I’ve ever seen, or that Mac DeMarco was uproariously funny, or that Beck halted ‘Where It’s At’ for a bizarre ten-minute stage rant. That’s all on iPlayer. But one important memory from the LCD set does resound during the onset of post-Glasto blues: sometimes, it’s hugely reassuring just to be able to say, “I was there”.