31
Jul 03

Glastonbury Review 2003

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Tom Ewing’s Bit

THE RAPTURE
Almost everybody else I was with hated the Rapture. I loved them. I know the songs on the much-leaked album quite well, but that wasn’t why. The thing was, by Sunday afternoon I was sick of Glastonbury, I just didn’t know it. I was sick of the sunshine, the good feelings, the optimism, the chirpy cynicism of those cunting Q handouts, the remorselessly chugging music – I may even have been sick of indie girls in bikini tops. The Rapture, a band who have released no actual records in Britain and whose most famous song was known to maybe one-thousandth of the Festival, were put on the second-biggest stage at six in the evening. Did they win the crowd over? Did they bollocks – they played the spikiest, trebliest, scrappiest set of the whole weekend. Camp falsetto, ear-basting guitars, baking-soda disco rhythms – it was fucking horrible and I adored every second. Finally Bez came on to reward us and remind the Rapture about ‘fun’. They played ‘House Of Jealous Lovers’ and we freaky-danced like the good little masochists we were.

THE DARKNESS
My theory: much great pop music eventually turns out to be ridiculous, and more ridiculous music turns out to be great. Adam Ant’s axiom: ridicule is nothing to be scared of. If you love ridiculous music, as The Darkness might but probably wouldn’t tell you, make it more so. They gaze into the powdered face of schlock-metal and do not blink. Justin Hawkins has flames on his belly and a nice line in the splits. He also has two or three thunderously fine tunes – just as well, otherwise The Darkness would be pastiche, a metal Barron Knights, not the weekend’s most winning band.

CANDLE-POWERED BOATS
The apex of hippie craftsmanship.

JOHN CALE
Cale headlined to a half-empty new bands tent on the Saturday night, most of his crowd I’d guess lured away by Radiohead. I’d take one of Cale’s frozen-over ballads over any Radiohead song (even the very good ones!), and sorry to sound like a snob but Music For A New Society templates the Thom Yorke stance and pushes it into places that I suspect are just too stark for a five-piece band to go. It’s such a powerful record that I don’t even like it, but I certainly respect it, and respect is what carried me through most of John Cale’s set. New songs, made with synths and laptops and old session rockers by the sound of it – away from the man’s aura I suspect that they were rubbish, and there was much relief among the Dads when ‘Venus In Furs’ started up. Highlight for me was a gleeful ‘Paris 1919’ – directly afterwards Cale, with a horrid glint in his eye, played a gut-churning V/Vm style glitch-grind racket. After two disgusting minutes he started singing and we realized this was a version of ‘Fear’. The man next to me had been shouting for it all night.

2 MANY DJS
The not-so-secret of 2 Many DJs is out: their set, give or take a Benny Benassi, is an indie disco. We twigged this when they played ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ – the looks of delighted recognition among Steve, me, Alan et al were I fear a piteous sight. ‘Cannonball’ we knew about from the album of course (their set had a dispiriting ‘hits’/’new stuff’ dynamic to it, its only flaw really), but when they started on ‘Fool’s Gold’ we could only laugh. ‘They’re just taking the piss now,’ said Steve. Next stop Kennedy.

THE LONDON LLOYD WEBBER ORCHESTRA
If by any chance you’re reading this, and you were camping by the new bands tent this year, and on the Sunday night your Moby-induced chill was disturbed by a bunch of fuckwits playing Performance: The Greatest Hits Of Andrew Lloyd Webber on the world’s cheapest cassette recorder, and singing along, and holding the player above their heads, and trying to do a comedy falsetto to ‘Memories’, and then putting on some dancehall which sampled ‘Eye Of The Tiger’…we’re very sorry, very sorry indeed.

Andrew Farrell’s Bit

I probably said half a dozen times over the weekend that festival bands are to bands what airline movies are to movies (or internet downloads to singles): if it looks like it might be a good idea, there’s no reason not to try it. You’re hanging around anyway, right?

So people go to stuff, and wander into to stuff, and experience things they hadn’t intended to (cause that’s the point, maaaan). So there’s probably no reason to imagine that everyone at the Vice Party on friday night (in what used to be the Rizla Tent) was there to listen to Erol Alkan, or the Audio Bullys or because it was a great time last year, or even because it was open after midnight. It might’ve been some or more or less of these, but they were there to dance.

And Erol slapped on the chart hits, and at some point a serious bassline was heard, and whooping started. Everyone liked the hell out of this, whatever it was, and it was going to start. And it was White Stripes’s Seven Nation Army, and everyone went on loving it. And singing. And dancing. And dancing.

And then it was Saturday Night, and 2manyDJs, and the continued search for that moment again. And they play Seven Nation Army to an equally loud reception, and then a few minutes later, the guitars play a song I’ve known for ten years, and me and my friends are rocking out to The Cult’s She Sells Sanctuary, and so’s everyone. DJ Swamp had the slot before and was rubbish, playing a trick-heavy set that included murdering Smells Like Teen Spirit. As luck would have it, 2manyDJs are packing Lithium, and they show how to do it.

And then it was Tuesday back in Dublin, and I’m dropping by a computer game store on the way into work, and they’re playing a bootleg of Bootylicious over Smells Like Teen Spirit, which I’ve heard before, and thought it was pretty clever, and I realise that it isn’t just clever, it’s great. I used to love one, and now I love the other as well, and I’m not alone. Both the songs have ascended to the same heaven, and they’re still not the same song. It’s girls versus boys and both sides win.

(Ironically, Erol’s proper set in the Dance Tent was pretty much identical to the Vice one)

Steve Hewitt’s Bit

RECOLLECTIONS OF THURSDAY CANCELLED DUE TO PERRY
Friday, and, before the rain, The Darkness. Now, I was quite pro The Darkness before this and it was my enthusiasm that got several people off their behinds and over to the pyramid at the unreasonable time of half past ten. And it was so worth it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a band win over an audience quite so spectacularly. Where to start? Costume changes, Justin playing guitar behind his head, that cover of street spirit? Don’t give me that blah, blah, they must be ironic and knowing bollocks, this is PROPER ROCK with screechy high-pitched vocals and everything, but more importantly, an ability to write damn good pop tunes and share the fantastic time you are having with the audience. To use a phrase not often heard since the Gay Dad debacle, The Darkness are The Best New Band In Britain.

Saturday, and after wandering back from the cabaret tent via dancing to The Smiths outside the herbal high tent and the tastiest chips ever (well that’s what they tasted like at the time, I was possibly not entirely sober), I walked past the dance tent, silent and deserted, the ground inside strewn with thousands of empty beer cups and water bottles. Four pure white scans roved over detritus, making their patterns for their own amusement seemingly. I stood and watched for a couple of minutes until the lighting guy moved onto his next pre-set for the following day.

Sunday afternoon, and after feeling a bit tired and low in the morning, I met up with the gang once more in time for the Sugababes. Looking around at the sunburnt smiling mob I felt yet another (non-chemically enhanced, I assure you) rush of love for this four days of madness. Oh and the Sugababes were alright too, but it’s not really about the music.

Then to top it off I spotted the ace of trumps in indie t-shirt bingo (if that’s not too mixed a metaphor), a Sultans Of Ping FC WHERE’S ME JUMPER t-shirt. The girl wearing it seemed somewhat bemused when I told her she’d won, pity we didn’t have an actual prize to give her…

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