Jul 03

Glastonbury Review 2003

FT/Post a comment • 856 views

Tom Ewing’s Bit

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.

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.

The apex of hippie craftsmanship.

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.

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.

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

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…

Jul 03

John Otway At Glastonbury – Beyond The Fringe

FT/1 comment • 1,369 views

John Otway plays every year at Glastonbury in the Cabaret tent, but no one ever goes to see him. He had a novelty hit single called ‘Cor Baby That’s Really Free’ in the late ’70s and has reputedly been living off that in a rather sad manner ever since. This makes him a somewhat unappealing prospect.

However, in the interests of science I decided this year that John Otway must be seen. So on a sunny Saturday afternoon I joined those taking shelter inside and caught most of his act. It turned out that he was surprisingly entertaining. The music is not so good, but he has a very engaging stage manner and for someone who has enjoyed so little success he is very good at working the audience.

His act is essentially a comedic one, albeit based around musical performance. He was accompanied by another guy on guitar, who looked like an escapee from A.R.E. Weapons, but he played guitar himself on most tracks, and used on a variety of gimmicks to keep us amused. One of these was his trick of folding a coathanger so that it became a hands-free microphone holder. More striking was when he wheeled on a theremin and strapped some kind of beatbox onto himself, so that he was able to dance and make music simultanaeously. Truly this man is a genius. He also had a great comedy roadie who had to keep running onstage to re-connect mikes and stuff, especially when Otway was using the coathanger microphone. The roadie was so funny to watch that I am still wondering whether he was part of the act and his interventions scripted.

The actual music was less important. I’m not sure if I caught the Hit, and a lot of the tunes performed were covers – e.g. ‘Delilah’ and ‘Two Little Boys’. Apparently the former of these was released as a single in the relatively recent past, and charted (albeit peaking at number 192), so Otway is now entitled to release a greatest hitS compilation. I always find ‘Two Little Boys’ strangely affecting – I mean, I know it is a mawkishly sentimental song for small children, but a lot of its themes touch my heart. When listening to it I always imagine some poor fuck on a battlefield somewhere waiting to die beside his dead horse, and then he is saved by his childhood friend. Hurrah. Also, the whole thing of sticking close to your childhood friends (something none of us ever do) is a great source of regret and guilty nostalgia.

Otway finished with ‘Cheryl’ – wasn’t this the song he released after ‘Cor Baby’, the track that no one bought, thereby dooming him to a career as a figure of fun rather than a proper musical artist? I found myself thinking that it is actually quite a good tune. Perhaps in an alternate universe John Otway is primarily famous as a songwriter and not as that surprisingly funny guy who always plays the Cabaret Tent at Glastonbury.

The Dirty Vicar

Jul 02


FT/Post a comment • 1,791 views

Highlights and Lowlights, by Freaky Trigger writers


THR33 L10N5

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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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.


Come in Telepopmuzik your time is up.


Tom Ewing, Pete Baran, The Dirty Vicar, Sarah C, Mark Winkelmann, July 2002