"We're Mogwai from Glasgow, Scotland." You only need hear Stuart Braithwaite say those words in his distinctive lilt, the way he always introduces the band, to know that for however long they play, everything will be all right. While the BBC were raving away about how heavy metal was taking over the Pyramid stage, agog at just how noisy and uninhibited the tossers who sued Napster were, away at the Park stage a group that know the quiet parts are just as important as the loud ones were in their element. They might not have played Like Herod, the version they recorded for John Peel putting anything by Metallica to shame in terms of sheer aural punishment, but Mogwai Fear Satan more than made up for it. Their thank you at the end of the set was both heartfelt and pointed, a barely veiled nod to the comments beforehand about the "shite" they were billed against.
Glastonbury was without a doubt better this year than last, in my obviously irrelevant view formed from sitting in front of a computer at home. At least it was so long as you ignored the main stage entirely, which is increasingly the best policy. Arcade Fire undoubtedly tried their best, but they're never festival headliners in a million years, however much I like them. It also might have meant something if Metallica had been on the Pyramid on Saturday night over 20 years ago; in 2014 it's frankly embarrassing. As for Kasabian, comparing them to Spinal Tap suggests a sense of humour they conspicuously lack. I understand Elbow's appeal (I bought the new album despite being deeply underwhelmed by Build a Rocket Boys!), it just increasingly leaves me cold, One Day Like This destined to become a song so overplayed any meaning it may have once had left as sterile as a hospital ward, while Jack White's histrionics were wearying rather than seductive. If nothing else, Lily Allen's performance conjured up a new vision of my own personal hell: forever condemned to relive a false experience of being trapped in the middle of the crowd for her set, surrounded by hipsters, trustafarians and tens of thousands of white people.
Which is something that has to be discussed: the whole weekend I saw more non-white faces among the security and on stage than I did in the crowd itself. You can't tell me the range of music on offer doesn't appeal across the demographics, so clearly there's something else at work. Whether it be the price, the way the tickets are sold or other factors, it ought to be something to worry the organisers and sponsors. If those on high are going to deliver lectures about culture and values to communities that supposedly want no part of modern Britain, we can't ignore how monopolised the events regarded as the biggest of the year are by the (white) middle classes.
Following on from last year, the live streaming of all the main stages, if not the dance tents as would help complete the picture of what the festival as a whole is like, meant you could dispense with the BBC's main coverage entirely. Not that this was wholly successful: at least my end the stream couldn't make up its mind the quality my connection could handle, constantly switching and so interrupting playback to the point of distraction (and much swearing). Thankfully, and as should be the case, the full sets for almost every act are now available to be replayed to your heart's content, at least for a month.
You can then watch the latest great white hype (surely hope?) for British indie, Royal Blood, delight an easily pleased John Peel tent. They're not bad, it's just I remember them from ten years ago when they were called Death from Above 1979 and they were better. Coincidentally (or not), the actual DFA 1979 have a new album coming out in September after reforming a couple of years back. More impressive were Wolf Alice, but you still can't see them making the breakthrough.
A further reminder of how far ahead the Americans have been of us Brits in the indie rock stakes in recent years came from Parquet Courts, whose spiky, idiosyncratic assault on the Park stage must have won them plenty of new admirers. The Park stage in general was the place to stick around for most of the weekend: apart from Interpol, the Manics and the Horrors, all of whom were reliable on the Other stage, with the latter surprising everyone with a gorgeous rendition of Jamie Principle's Your Love, not much came close to Four Tet's Friday night mix as the sun set. Kieran Hebden had more people dancing outside of the area dedicated to DJs than the rest of the acts combined.
The real highlight of the weekend though had to be St. Vincent. On before James Blake, who despite starting with CMYK failed to translate his stripped back sound in the same way as the xx did last year, Annie Clark stunned in absolutely every sense. Whatever drugs she was on, and she was so high she could barely stay on the ground, I could really do with some. As fantastic as Strange Mercy was, to see her perform the same guitar heroics live was to be reminded of how exciting rock can be when sonic experimentation meets great song writing. It ought to be a rebuff to conservatism in music in general at the moment, whether it be from the garage-house revivalists or the Kodalines of this world. Sadly, what sells matters more than ever.
Labels: Glastonbury, miscellany, music, non-politics