Highlights and Lowlights, by Freaky Trigger writers
Everyone has a personal moment at Glastonbury. A moment that is their own. In the past for me it has been hearing Blur play “This Is A Low” as the sun goes down, or skipping ridiculously to the Pet Shop Boys. All those times that personal moment was as part of a crowd. This time I know I heard some of the best music and only about ten others were there too. Osymyso in the Rizla Tent at 8pm on Friday. We danced stupidly, the music was stupidly clever – but the smiles on our faces. That was this year’s moment. The glitchcore version of Three Lions capped off the World Cup for me, just the way he can fold records inside other records. We revisited the tent later, it was full – but they all missed the magic. (PB) They played the real thing before the World Cup coverage and it sounded as threadbare as ever, but this was special. Spun on Friday evening at the end of Osymyso’s set of cut-ups, fuck-ups and mash-ups, the familiar chant – “It’s coming home, it’s coming home…” – was sung by cartoon droids, a terrace full of robots. I thought the mix would pull the tune apart but it stays faithful – well, linear anyway – twerking the voices and adding fashionably fuzzy kling-klang beats but that’s all: a useless beery grin meets nu-electro’s chilly smirk, their lips touch and what do you know, it is an anthem after all! “Nobby dancing” came courtesy of your FT correspondents, who stayed put on a suddenly-emptied dancefloor. It had been a great month; it was going to be a great weekend. (TE)
Mis-Teeq were the best band of the weekend. Why? They had the best voices (R&B glide and London ragga-chat), the best tunes (“One Night Stand”! “All I Want”! “B With Me”!), the best dance routines by a mile (OK, the only dance routines for a square mile), and the best patter. They could have given it attitude, maybe if it was a nightclub PA, if they were a ‘proper’ garage act instead of pop stars, they would have done. But instead they were a little humble, a little nervous, and incredibly excited to be here: if they were faking it, their fake beats your real. They pronounced it “Glastonbuh-REE!”; they apologised for doing a slow one; they kept babbling their thanks and they asked – bizarrely – how many people had brought a tent. It was lovely. And then they started another song and we bounced until our heels were sore. (TE)
THE SHIBUSA-SHIRAZU ORCHESTRA
They played the Jazz/World stage, and are one of those Japanese bands with loads and loads of members. They play big band swing jazz type stuff, apparently mixing in some traditional Japanese tunes played in that style. What really made them the band of the festival was their strong visual element. This came from at least half their number being dancers or non-musical performers of some sort. Dancers add a lot to a band¹s live presence, so the Shibusa-shirazu Orchestra drenched us in them. Nightclub hostesses and air stewardesses were a mundane part of the mix. More striking were the two near naked men painted to look like statues, or the man covered in bandages (with the equally bandaged baby). Or the guy posing in his kecks with a dressing gown. Too few bands remember that live music is a visual as well as auditory experience, but the Shibusa-shirazu Orchestra do not let us forget it. (DV)
I hate Jazz-Funk. I hate Acid-Jazz. Those are just funk workouts which go on forever and perhaps beguile you into the odd dance at the beginning until you realise – The Horror – it’s never going to change, it’s never going to end. A lot of dance acts confronted with playing live try to do the drums live, try to do the samples live and hire a big band who end up chunring out Jazz-Funk. It was this spectre that haunted Groove Armada on Sunday night.
Now I’m not a big GA fan but I’ve always thought a few of their tunes have been okay and I fancied a bit of a dance. After the first fifteen minutes of lurching into Jazz-Funk hell I had not danced a bit and was getting rained on. It was a wholly soulless affair. And then up steps the fella with the trombone. That was the moment that everything changed.
The history of trombones in pop is a pretty short one. Yes they tend to rock up as part of horn sections, and odds are that My Life Story had half a hundred of them. This was the moment that made the trombone rock. “Sorry,” the trombonist says. “I’ve got a stinker of a cold, and if I don’t quite make it can you hum or whistle along?”
Finally – humanity, followed by the “If you’re fond of sand-dunes” sample which is their biggest hit. Followed by a remix of it. By the time Superstyling came along the rain no longer mattered. (PB)
BELLE AND SEBASTIAN
The last time I’d seen them they’d seemed at home – too at home – in the Royal Albert Hall, where the whole affair did seem as cloistered and self-satisfied as the Proms. But on a big stage at Glastonbury they would, we thought, be more vulnerable, a little bit lost – and with something (maybe just preconceptions) to overcome they played to their strengths. Of course being Belle And Sebastian they paid attention to detail too, unfurling a Rock Against Racism banner at the start of their set, calling pigtailed audience members up to dance at the end. In between it was almost a greatest hits set: nothing too slow, nothing too new. A band that understands melody and lightness – with Coldplay setting the tone for three days of bombast on the main stages, B & S were a gift. (TE)
BRITISH SEA POWER
I’m sure it all started in a north-west village hall. Somewhere halfway up a hill, slightly sticky wooden floors, rickety tables and youth group meetings. And OWLS hooting outside! And then the ACK ACK ACK of machine guns! No, we’re not in an air-raid shelter with powered egg and spam burgers, but the crazy MIND BRANE of British Sea Power, camouflaged in twigs with psychick protection from herons. Yan “I Went to the Ian Curtis School of Song and Dance” Hamilton twitches and suddenly I can forgive David Byrne for ruining my life with ‘Lazy’ because his younger compadre is getting it RIGHT. The straw haired doctor of low frequencies (wow-ah-wah-ow) hurls his bass about as it were a particularly irritating goblin which had attached himself to his shoulder, and the other guitarist climbs into the rigging. ARR! I take it back, they’re not history obsessed bookists, but PIRATES! An enraptured punter leaning against the front barrier had his little child, about three years old sat on his shoulder, happily staring back at the angular flak-jacket flailings going on in front on him and grins. The past runs slap BANG up against the present! CLASH! They’re stalking us with air-rifles and I want to be on their side. Now, my man, fetch me my gas mask… (SC)
Queen Adreena are Daisy Chainsaw under a new name, and they played the New Bands Tent. If you imagine a skeletal half naked mentalist woman fronting a band who LIVE TO ROCK you get a bit of the idea. The musicians beat out a full on racket, but the real focus was the singer, Katie Jane Garside. She is a mentalist or acts convincingly like one. Certainly, I was struck by the combination of her screeching voice and deranged facial expression, her general state of undress being more disturbing than arousing. Her habit of periodically laying into the band¹s guitarist, while again perhaps staged, made great rock theatre, and to me it was like she was channelling some Dionysian spirit of wild excess. The best comment came from the hairy crusty MC: “That was not the Stereophonics”. (DV)
THE LONDON BOOTLEG ORCHESTRA
Perry is a sweet alcoholic drink made from the fermented juice of the pear. The best Perry in the world – this is something that goes beyond verification, so trust me – is served at the Brothers Bar at Glastonbury, in splendidly green paper pint cups. It is nectar. The Brothers Bar is thus a busy place, particularly on the Thursday night when things are only just getting going: to entertain its swarms of punters it busts out a selection of top contemporary pop hits – Kylie, Bextor, Bushwacka, X-Press 2. Great stuff if you’re a pop fan and a booze fan, and as you may know I’m both. The only problem is that Perry is, frankly, loopy juice. It can make you think you can dance. It can make you think you can pole dance. It can make you think you can sing. It can make explicit the hidden connections between pop’s past and pop’s present. And so was born the London Bootleg Orchestra, aka Pete and I – and many others – improvising over slamming contemporary beats. A hint to future mixologists – “Ticket To Ride” goes with anything. What do you mean Stars on 45 got there first?? (TE)
WHO WAS THAT MASKED BAND?
On Saturday night at about 2.00am on the Invisible Circus Stage I saw an amazing band. The lead singer, who looked like an intense mix of Ian Dury and Keith from the Prodigy, was wearing a kangol pork pie hat and a blue slightly Ted style jacket . There was a strong cockney knees-up element to the music even a bit of Brecht/Weill theatre to their character based songs, all combined with a hefty ska beat. I have noted songs called “It Ain’t Very Funny”, “Screaming Mr Ugly”, “Patricia’s Sister”, “Caroline’s Calories” and “Village Idiot” (which they dedicated to George Bush). In fact I spent much of Sunday annoying my mates by singing “It ain’t very funny, no it ain’t very funny, no it ain’t very funny, no it ain’t very funny, HA HA!”. And inevitably I’ve no idea what they were called. It might have been The Something Folk, or then again it might not, I assumed that ‘cos I could remember the song names I could track them down online but no luck so far. Please help. (MW)
THE BETA BAND
Two drummers, a full-time percussionist and a singer-turned-percussionist too – the Beta Band make rhythm absolutely central to their sound, almost unheard of for a rock band these days. They get tagged as whimsical, languid stoners but there’s a tougher core to their music, a feeling that even if you think they’re noodling, they know precisely what they’re doing. The Betas aren’t crowd-pleasers – no “Dry The Rain” (thank goodness, I’m bored silly with it) and they finish with a drum solo – but they certainly pleased me. Vigour, comedy and a functioning bullshit detector – this, I imagine, is what watching Can was like. (TE)
“Traditional Senegalese music fused with contemporary beats”. Is there anything more frightening than that phrase? Still – we had come down to hear some African music. Malian music to be precise, not Senegalese as it had said in the programme, though at racist Glastonbury all those African countries are the same. More importantly we had a two litre bottle of Perry, a newspaper and the sun. As Dr Pangloss would say, “all was for the best in this best of all possible worlds” – especially as those dreaded contemporary beats never arrived. (PB)
How eager was I to see Rolf Harris? Well. Imagine how much I wanted to see the Stereophonics. Then halve it. For one thing, I had graduated long ago; for another I’d never thought much of Rolf in the first place – not his hits, not his TV shows, not him. But I went, and he was great. Not all great – there were the songs nobody knew, after all. And trying to remember it now I can’t exactly work out why he was great – words like “showman” and “trouper” rise unbidden to my fingertips – and I certainly wouldn’t go and see him again. Oh, definitely not. But…then again…he was enjoying himself so much. And so were we. And a didgeridoo fed through a system that big does make a fucking terrific noise. And…and… (TE)
DOWN VER FRONT
Wandering down on Saturday morning – the music starts at 11 o’clock so despite a nagging sensation that you shouldn’t be out of the tent yet you go for a quick peek in the New Bands tent. From outside it sounded like someone with too many All About Eve singles doing a pastiche of her heroes. Inside the tent had a few disinterested punters sitting down watching the girl on the keyboard in an overstuffed leather jacket and her thirty year old band. Suddenly it hits me I have not been down the front for anything this Glastonbury – no moshpit action, no proximity points.
The whim takes me, I run – well jog – lightly past a couple rolling a joint and a girl eating a bacon sandwich and touch the barrier. The security girl looks on unimpressed – but I was down ver front for Baby Genius.
After twenty seconds embarrassment kicks in. I slope off back to the tent to bitch about them. (PB)
They weren’t there, but they cast a long and terrible shadow. To be exact, The Bends did. It was during one of Elbow’s endless, formless, protean nothing-ballads that I looked at Steve and said “This sort of thing would have been totally unacceptable ten years ago, right?” Right: but from out of the murk came little reminders of why it’s de rigeur now – that high pained voice, those guitars – so plangent! so pertly plucked! Radiohead aren’t to blame, of course, except that had they been playing this year at least a few of their imitators might have been shamed into staying home. AIRIt’s raining, it’s pouring, the audience is snoring. Well, it wasn’t pouring exactly, but the audience certainly needed a lie down. The organic ganja biscuit sellers had all gone, and maybe if they hadn’t things might have been different, but as it was Air were missing all the textures and subtleties that made their albums interesting. You got the feeling 10,000 Hz Legend had always been meant for this kind of stage, this kind of audience – but now it had arrived it was just a Jean-Michel Jarre show, without even the bloody lasers.
They weren’t there, but they cast a long and terrible etc. etc. So too the Stone Roses, particularly Second Coming. Attitude plus big tunes equals superstardom, man! Not in the New Bands tent at 12 noon it doesn’t, mate. Yes, yes, we were camped up the hill so there was no escape, but even so The Maker (two years too late on the free publicity front, lads!) were feeble. Every indie band in Britain since time began has played this set: this single-fast one-slow one-slow one-next single-fast one-long one with feedback, add boasting to taste. “See you on the Pyramid Stage next year!” Yeah, as security. As for The Music, they were interesting because they demonstrated why Second Coming wasn’t a one-off act of famous hubris but is a recurring probability for new bands. Rhythm section who love James Brown plus guitarist who loves heavy rock plus singer who loves himself – none of them enough to sink a band on their own, but a horrible mess when you mix them all up.
Or rather, the shameful treatment of Blak Twang. Glastonbury is not a very hip-hop friendly festival. In fact, if you factor out the Jazz/World stage, Glastonbury is not very big on any kind of black performers. That’s not a huge deal – the organisers know their public and they know what kind of music their public want: rock with a slight alternative tinge, basically. But if a big soul name is available – Isaac Hayes, this year – he will be booked.
The problem is when there’s only one hip-hop act on the entire bill, when he’s got an audience shouting the place down, when he’s just brought on his guest star to perform his new single, and an old longhair takes the mic and tells him he’s got to go because Cornelius needs to set his A/V gear up and there’s a ‘curfew’. So a bunch of rock bands overran with impunity (it’s those long ones with feedback, you know, you can’t cut short the vibe) and Blak Twang got the boot after three and a half tunes. He took it in good grace and we gave him a big cheer before wandering off to find something to dance to. Later on we learned that Cornelius had been allowed to overrun by an hour, curfew be damned. Like I said, not a hip-hop friendly festival.
‘JAZZY’ TRIP-HOP SINGERS SENDING OTHERWISE REASONABLE POP ACTS STRAIGHT DOWN THE DUMPER WITH THEIR MANNERED AD-READY MEWLINGS – GO AWAY NO THANKS SAVE IT FOR THE NINETIES REVIVAL WILL YOU
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