Glastonbury Festival 2009 @ Worthy Farm, Pilton

July 4, 2009 by  

Glastonbury

Nine hours, yes nine hours, in a National Express coach is enough to dampen even the most excited of spirits. Yet when our stuffy old coach rumbled past Worthy Farm there was a reassuring cheer from the half-cut punters in the back rows. After the arduous nine hour journey comes the krypton Factor-esque challenge of pitching a tent in a 1msq space, in near total darkness, with a can of cider in one hand. Finally, after another hour jostling with tent poles, we’d managed to get set up, and all that was left to do was to sit back get wasted and look forward to four days of live music.

Last year’s festival was surrounded by controversy, and this year was being powered by the hype machine. The Eavis’s had been out in force trying to convince punters that Springsteen’s performance would only be rivalled in history by Jesus’ second coming, and all of these recently reformed bands on day release from the old peoples home, were as good, if not better than before. For fans it was a mixed response. Those of the under 30 variety were appalled by the inclusion of the likes of Status Quo on the main stage and the ageing headliners, yet the majority remained quietly optimistic, despite the threat of a monsoon.

Thankfully, as usual, the weatherman got it completely wrong. Apart from the midnight thunderstorms, we were all treated to glorious sunshine, something of which does not mix with hangovers and pale English skin. Despite the heat, and fan’s reservations, each of the headliners managed to fill the Pyramid Stage arena. Neil Young, was spellbinding as he rattled his way through his greatest hits, including a face shredding rendition of ‘Hey Hey, My My’ at the start the set. His dishevelled look and psychedelic light show truly made him look a wizard as he jumped around the stage like man no older than 25, swapping instruments throughout.

Springsteen, gave the longest set in Glastonbury’s history. At over two and half hours long it required a strong stomach to survive all of it. For the problem with the ‘Boss’ is at times he can be one of the most heartfelt and passionate of artists, as shown by his opening cover of Joe Strummer’s ‘Coma Girl’, and yet on the next song he can be so gut wrenchingly cheesy it makes you want to puke. I’m referring to the likes of ‘Dancing In The Dark’ which are good songs, but when heard now they just sound so dated. He played with his usual fierce energy, but it was a set only the die-hards and those looking for a sing along could enjoy fully.

Sunday night’s headliners Blur, were also touted as being some kind of second coming, due to Glastonbury apparently being their spiritual home. And to be fair they duly delivered. Most of the crowd were so awed to see the original line-up it took them a few songs to get into the set, but by the time Phil Daniels joined them for ‘Parklife’ the whole crowd was jumping around like it was the first night of the festival. With only a fistful of album tracks being played, the crowd were treated to hit after hit, and reciprocated with calls for two encores.

As for the rest of the festival, most of the highlights were to be found away from the Pyramid Stage, although a special mention does have to be given to Spinal Tap’s hilarious performance on Saturday, and Fleet Foxes celestial set which blended effortlessly with the glorious sunshine and rolling hills. On the Park Stage there was the usual secret performances, including one from Jack White’s new outfit The Dead Weather and The Horrors playing in fancy dress was a sight to behold.

The Whip brought Manchester acid house to Worthy Farm at just 12pm on friday and got everyone in a dancing mood, before The Rakes come along and ruined it all with a lacklustre set and cheap snipe at Michael Jackson’s death. On Sunday Karen O’s outfit, and performance has to be one of the most bizarre and engrossing moments of the festival, and completely lit up a set which focused too much on the band’s new lacklustre material. Glastonbury’s in house drunk, Pete Doherty, was surprisingly on form for his set on the Other Stage. He thankfully dropped his junky band-mates and instead played with a support cast of musicians who could actually play their instruments. The singer was lucid throughout and as engaging as when he was in his Libertines pomp.

As anyone whose been to Glastonbury before will know, the fun doesn’t begin until the lights go down. This year was no exception. The combination of the bizarre world of Trash City, Shangri La and the dystopian wasteland of Arcadia, made for some interesting sights. As drug addled punters staggered around giant monsters and through disused subways, it was clear that most of them felt they was in a completely different world. The only retreat available was to the Stone Circle, where a second didn’t go by without someone next to you blowing up another balloon of laughing gas.

Best Glastonbury ever? Well, maybe, but who really cares? Glastonbury will always be the best festival, and will hopefully continue to keep growing in both size and weirdness.

By Chris Cummins

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