Sunday is in many ways the best day. We are all embedded, sort of just here, in festimode, tops off, boots on, so many layers of sun block and dust it starts to feel like skin. And this morning we have the leader of the Yeovil Town Brass Band declaring that his part in their performance, first up on the Pyramid, is not just great but the greatest half hour of his life. Some claim but I know how he feels. And he doesnât want it to end. Luckily he decides to stop chatting and leave the stage before the man in black shorts and black baggy t-shirt with the walkie talkie pulls the plug. He is followed by Paloma Faith, whose song about New York (yes, another one) causes the second tingles of the day (first was the Town Bandâs rendition of The Great Escape). She sings tied to two giant balloons, almost floating off her gold-top mules. Then after a slight diversion, the football on a big screen that looks small, engulfed by at least 50,000 faithful, , we leave at half time to witness Grizzly Bear on the Other, who proceed to give us the result and the inevitable sinking feeling via a radio held up to the mic when one of their machines malfunctions. They, unlike our great team, play magnificently, weaving harmonies in and out of those drifting guitar melodies and off beat drums. The Park provides more surprise highlights. Beak, who, they inform us in languidly ironic style, have travelled all the way from Bristol on the motorway and everything, to entertain us with their brand of experimental Krautrock. Frightened Rabbit entertain in acoustic solo mode in the Crowâs Nest, the smallest bar at the top of the hill, near the wall. He asks us first if Jesus exists, then if he is here at the festival. Well, I havenât seen him, but I have seen Dr Who so anything is possible actually. Back down in the valley a mellow MGMT impress with their youthful, beautiful arrogance, but then give in and do a version of Kids, complete with tambourine wielding groupies. But they are no match for LCD Soundsystem who simply rock with their layered build of rock and roll, funk, New York disco and arrogance and fuck-you screaming energy. âItâs not raining,â quips James Murphy, by way of introduction, âbut it still smells of human faeces.â And it does, but it really doesnât matter. It really doesnât.
…And Two Door Cinema Club, first up on the Other Stage, and first band to draw tears to go with the customary goose bumps that come when somebody plays something that feels fabulous. âTo the basement people, to the basement, many surprises await you,â sing the young whippersnappers from Bangor in Northern Ireland. Thatâs the song for me and my boy. thatâs his future and my past, maybe, sort of, all wrapped up in a not particularly clear, but decidedly poetic and beautiful line. Well it all makes sense to me. Two Door Cinema Club are how bands should be – young and beautifully talented and genuinely excited to be playing Glasto; How bands shouldnât be is like Phenomenal Handclap Band, the next stop on the schedule. There is no excuse for crap guitar solos and itâs crazy to do extended, sloppy âversionsâ of your best songs (Baby for example) before most people have even heard the original. Oh it doesnât matter, I was hopeful, but live they are just not very good. Unlike Strange Boys, an unexpected treat at the Park, coming on like the ghostly essence of Velvet Underground having a jam with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Needless to say, after the show, I buy their CD from a man sporting khaki shorts, a straggly beard, a red nose and a huge grin. And so, via stops for curry goat and some local wine from Pennard Hill vineyard, it goes on. Dead Weather on the Pyramid are too heavy for me. Alison Mosshartâs smouldering sex kitten act with The Kills transforms into full predatory panther with the Dead Weather. If she simmers with the Kills, here she is the milk boiling over and spoiling all your freshly cleaned surfaces. White is an enigma. Undeniably brilliant but not generally exactly to my taste. Unlike Foals who totally smash it on the John Peel, transformed from the studious math rockers I encountered early one afternoon on the Other two years ago, into proper crowd surfing party dudes. (To prove it lead singer loses his top while crowd surfing) Unlike the XX who are so beautifully laid back and atmospheric it almost hurts. But they do go pop for a moment when they are joined by Florence (of the Machine) for their rendition of their remix of her cover of the inevitable âYou Got The Loveâ. OK, so sheâs probably just doing it because itâs on telly, but these sort of surprise magic moments are what make Glastonbury so special. We finish the day with the Pet Shop Boysâ quintessentially English, oh so London, arch, knowing, clever, lovely, vulnerable, beautiful, brilliant show that is more disco and modern dance and cabaret than rock and roll but is none the worse for that. So much greatness and beauty in one place, itâs hard to take it all in. All that and the burning sun making it almost as hard to move and think straight as the more customary mud.
So today (Friday) it is wonderful to be left speechless by Damon Albarnâs Gorillaz, by the stellar cast list (Lou Reed, Mark E Smith, Mick Jones, Snoop Dogg) and the range of musical styles (from hip hop to Indian traditional) all held together by those melancholy, insular, soul searching songs that Albarn does so well. It is simply stupendous to bounce to Vampire Weekend and their recycled African rhythms, the perfect sound for a sweltering, sun burnt afternoon in a field in the south west of England. To marvel again at thousands of souls singing along: âWhy would you lie about how much coal you have; why would you lie about something dumb like that…â, like some kind of massed chorus of Jeremy Paxmans. Now thereâs one idea that Damon didnât fit into his show.
You can do Glasto straight, despite the entreaties from Snoop to smoke some weed, there is no need. Because here, for me at least, it really is, to use the hoary old clichÃ©, all about the music (man). Itâs music that drives this annual apparition, this illusion of a city, this future fantasy in field more used the rain and the occasional chomp from a cow. So, itâs forty years since it all started, back in the mists of legend either as some channelling of energy and spirits of the Vale of Avalon through that great pyramid and out into the world or as a way for Michael Eavis to pay off his mortgage, depending on which account you read. The first story is more likely in the hazy confusion of hippy 1970. Now, of course, itâs mostly a big machine to make money, like everything thatâs still going in 2010, but at the heart of this middle aged beast there is still the music, without the music and the peopleâs love of music and the artistsâ desire to make a new variation on the theme there would be just cows in fields here to feel the pulse of those ancient vibe-lines.
The longest day, not endless now I am older, but still long enough. That deep blue fade, still present after the pubs have closed. And the ride to and from some small moments of musical beauty, in a basement, while the vuvuzelas scream overhead, for Greece and Argentina. Down below we watch as some souls get internal, with greater or lesser success. For queen and country? Hardly. No, this one’s for me, it’s about a love I found and lost and found, it’s about how I fell out of love with a whole town. It’s about something personal but also universal. It’s about Blue Rose Code singing Whitechapel, a song about my city that touches me; it’s about the spindly intensity of Beth Hirsch singing the songs she wrote with Air, the songs that haunt her, the songs she will never transcend, the songs she loves and hates, the songs that made her, the songs she is so much better than. And upstairs the match bundles to it’s conclusion and the salarymen sink more pints than they oughta on a Tuesday night, the wife won’t like it but the hangover will help them haze through the midweek gloom. And after all that, the ride home, the azure glow still there, shining over the scrapers, the moon between the towers of the power station, the river in full flow, the traffic streaming past the peace camp at Westminster, the lights on Chelsea bridge, all to the resonating echo of those lovely songs. Always the songs. So many songs.