Glastonbury 2016 will always be remembered as quite a weird festival.
Leading up to the annual celebration at Worthy Farm, photos and videos emerged showing the festival-goers what was in store for them. The footage showed waterlogged fields, mud streams, and even the news that someone had sadly died before the gates had even opened.
Tuesday travelers soon reported back, via Twitter, that one of the festival’s main car parks – Orange, located next to Gate D – was closed, and there was no clear indication if they would open it over the weekend. Less than 24-hours later the festival advised people not to travel up on Wednesday, due to delays; some coach ticket holders, who left at 9 am, took nearly 12-hours to arrive at the festival.
It wasn’t just the attendees that were behind schedule, but so was the Other Stage and some food stalls. Come Wednesday night, the general sense of stress polluted the air and thousands of people sat by the Glastonbury sign watching the sun go down in relief, rather than celebration. Only moments later the traditional firework display and burning of the phoenix, at the top of the Stone Circle, gave the illusion that we’d suffered the worst of it.
It didn’t take long before the glum clouds covered the fields and poured rain upon the tents while people read the news about the EU Referendum. After trailing heavy luggage through the thick mud, this news sent the festival to a new low. The atmosphere filled with disbelief and uncertainty – something that seemed so alien to this renownedly known as a place of positivity. The Glastonbury Free Press printed and posted messages around the festival that summed up everyone’s situation. From this, the tins of cider cracked and the beers soon flowed. The attitude shifted from “we’re fucked” to “let’s get fucked.”
People were soon distracted by their disappointment once the music started. We adventured over to The Stonebridge Bar to see Snooker legend Steve Davis take to the decks with Kavus Torabi – yes, you read this right, Steve Davis! The tent was packed – we mean so packed that at least 500 people gathered around the outside just to hear Steve play through his “cue” of tunes – sorry couldn’t resist the pun. After a glimpse of the snooker pro, the novelty soon wore off. Over on the BBC Introducing Stage, Monki delivered a consistent set that warmed up Annie Mac’s live BBC Radio 1 show, which got the party started for the weekend.
However, this leads to the next problem – the weekend’s line up. The title might suggest we thought the artists were standard, not at all. The weekend’s line-up just lacked any bold or unique acts; something the line-up is usually full of. The majority or this year’s line-up could be seen on any party island throughout the summer. It was too much of a “crowd pleaser” or an attempt to say sorry for Foo Fighters previously pulling out and the controversy around Kanye West last year. It seemed very, “safe”.
Saying that, it didn’t mean we didn’t catch any fantastic performances. With the interest in Grime music at this year’s festival, we thought it was only right to support Skepta, and the majority of BBK, on the Pyramid Stage as he performed a selection of new and old material while other personalities were riding BMX’s on stage. Then battling through the mud, we did a long stint to watch Section Boyz, Lady Leshurr and Stormzy back to back at Sonic, in Silver Hayes. Although it was amazing to see the grime scene has been given creditability and the respect to dominate a stage, it was more impressive to see the genre’s movement as a whole rather than the same performance from the same artists. Simultaneously across the other stages, you had the same problem; great performances, but from the same artists we’ve all seen before; such as Bastille, Jess Glynne, and Foals on the Pyramid and Other Stage.
Besides Skepta, three other artists and bands stood out from the crowd on Friday – Muse, Disclosure, and the unexpected appearance of American rapper Vince Staples. The performances from the three different acts gave something unique. Muse’s performance was by far one of the darkest and most epic of the weekend, Disclosure’s bright lasers sent the crowd into a trance with a whole host of special guests appearing to perform their hits, and finally, Vince Staples – a surprising, and bold choice to have in the line-up – gave a raw performance that made you, reluctantly, pull a screw face. With a reputation the size of Glastonbury, these types of artists are what the festival needs more of. Being brave and bold with the line-up selection results in unique performances that you won’t see at other festivals this year.
Saturday followed suit with another very standard line-up. The Other Stage was blocked in with your regular festival artists; Tom Odell, The 1975, and CHVRCHES while over at The Park Stage Lady Leshurr performed, again! However, the Pyramid stage gave us something different with the likes of Madness’ nostalgic sing-a-longs, The Last Shadow Puppets’ cool, slick rock, and Tame Impala’s modern alternative sounds. Come the evening, Glastonbury saw a sonic crash; New Order, James Blake, and Adele all clashed – which sucks as a neutral, but it’s great to see so many different talents at the festival. As James Blake performed his unique atmospheric style with a few special guests – including Vince Staples – New Order brought the nostalgia to the Other Stage while Adele gave one the biggest performances ever on the Pyramid Stage. Adele was again another bold and unique choice that paid off tremendously.
Come Sunday, and with reality lingering on the horizon, it became essential to squeeze in as much music in as possible. The likes of Grimes, Mac Demarco, Of Monsters and Men, Beck, Craig David and Raleigh Ritchie were a few of the many that fitted the cooling off period perfectly. By nightfall LCD Soundsystem and Earth, Wind & Fire flirted with people, but it was inevitable that festival would pack out for the Pyramid Headliner, Coldplay.
Before the festival, Coldplay looked like a safe bet, and quite unimaginative – it still stands that way. However, love them or hate them, you can’t deny they know how to put on a fantastic show. By mixing technology – the crowd’s flashing wristbands – into their relentless and impressive production, the band created a wave of uplifting positivity and aced the headline slot, again.
Although the weekend of music wasn’t as mind-blowing as we’ve come to expect from Glastonbury, the festival itself is what makes this place stand out from the rest. You’ve probably heard before, but Glastonbury is a special place. We’re sure that you know someone who went and won’t stop telling you that it’s the best in the world. If you’ve done other festivals, typically where the camping and the arena are separated, you’re probably not going to understand why Glastonbury is so good. From the moment you walk through the gates you step into paradise. The fenced community thrives off diversity and the artistic flare that everyone brings. From opening your consciousness to the damages of our environment while dropping down a rocket ship designed death slide in the Greenfields, to raving underneath the fire breathing stage of Arcadia, there’s never a dull moment. The South East Corner that hosts The Temple, Block 9 and many other venues, are breathtaking no matter how many times you visit them. And the festival’s secrets like the Underground Piano Bar, The Rabbit Hole, the Dragon Field, and not forgetting Glastonbury’s worst kept secret, Shangri-La – where this year’s theme played on the mass media controlling and dumbing down of the masses – make Glastonbury the festival that it is and leaves you amazed every year.
Like we said at the beginning of this article, this year was weird. The weather and the politics surrounding the festival gave it a negative feel, and the line-up may not have been the best, but the festival’s overall unity, as always, made it another amazing year.