Glastonbury festival 2016 review

Henry Lewis reports back from Michael Eavis' muddy metropolis of music.

Ben Smith

Last updated: 30th Jun 2016

Image: Glastonbury Festival

The cultural importance of this year's Glastonbury festival is something that need not be overlooked as the country argues amongst itself and laments the downfall of its football team's indescribably awful performance at Euro 2016. 

It remains in these dark times a shining, care free beacon of hope that celebrates our differences, instead of pointing an ugly, ignorant finger at them. It's a place where people trudge through mud for five days, not giving a shit that it's basically impossible to walk because, and simply because, they're at Glastonbury. 

It's hard to portray quite how much there is to do when you're there, music plays from every corner and crevice, even before the festival properly begins on the friday. 

A host of world famous DJs kicked off proceedings on the Thursday with the likes of Maribou State and Seth Troxler dropping by at Lovebullets in Shangri la and The Beat Hotel respectively. Though it wasn't especially easy to get down in a pair of wellies it was made possible by everyone in attendance. 

As campers awoke to stifling heat and horrible hangovers on Friday, the news of Britain's exit from the EU caused an eerie feeling of uncertainty. As the rain began to fall and James' stage time of 11am came and went, unsatisfactory murmurings buzzed around the Other Stage. The perma-bare legged Michael Eavis explained that there was mud that still needed to be cleared from the front pit hence the delay and not before too long Tim Booth and his band took to the stage. 

James delivered some of their best loved hits whilst also giving a healthy airing of their new record.

Over at the Pyramid stage, Skepta delivered one of the performances of the entire weekend. As well as the hits, Skeppy also made album tracks like 'Corn On The Curb' and 'Crime Riddim' sound massive with the help of the BBK crew who rocked up on BMX's, obviously.

As the rain began to fall heavily following the grime don's masterclass, the safest place of refuge was inside La Pussy Parlour Nouveau  where Ekkah brought glittery pop vibes and a whole load of sequins. The two Rebbeca's seemed genuinely astounded and honoured as the tent filled up and grooved to the sound of the 80's revived.

As the sunshine returned, spirits were rekindled, although it was now even harder to scale the enormous festival site through knee deep mud and an ever present crowd of people who all wanted to see the same thing.

In a far corner at the West Holts Stage, White Denim delivered expertly their jazz inspired blues rock with a show stopping performance where tunes like 'At Night In Dreams' absolutely came alive. After missing Unknown Mortal Orchestra for the aforementioned Ekkah, they well and truly filled the gritty guitar band shaped hole in the day's proceedings. 

A return to the Pyramid saw Yanis Philipakkis bring Foals firmly to the fore with a massive performance that spanned their entire career. With some of the mammoth tunes on What Went Down in their arsenal, the five-piece were nothing short of explosive as the sun began to set over the site.

A brief visit to Sonic saw Stormzy kitted out in all grey, beaming with delight through his set. On a day where grime dominated at Glasto, the MC delivered in front of an audience that spilled way outside of the arena's perimeters. 

Over at the Pyramid Stage, Muse brought down the curtain on day one with rock operatics and orwelian nightmares whilst Underworld topped the bill at The West Holts Stage.

Elsewhere, Disclosure took to the other stage and made the step up from their West Holts headline slot two years ago with an incredible display of sound and vision. Special guests AlunaGeorge and Brendan Reilly made appearances throughout and as 'Latch' rounded things off spirits were soaring going into the night.

Saturday saw a guitar band heavy pyramid line up of Wolf Alice, Last Shadow Puppets and Tame Impala punctuated by the rock-steady beat of Madness.

Previous to this quartet, Izzy Bizzu sparkled in the sunshine at the Park and with the absolutely undeniable 'White Tiger' in her locker, she had the audience dancing at her command. 

Ellie Rowsell's outfit, Wolf Alice, lived up to their name as one of the finest live acts in the country. They led a riotous performance that was made sweeter when she revealed that they had been rejected by the festivals emerging talent competition five years earlier.

Following that, Last Shadow puppets led the tributes to David Bowie with a cover of 'Moonage Daydream' that saw Miles thrust his sax appeal whilst Alex preened oh so perfectly. 

The duo were later spotted stage side as the Tame Impala dazzled with arguably the set of the day. After opening with 'Nangs', as is now customary for the band, Kevin Parker uttered the words "here we go" in his delightful twang and 'Let It Happen' sky rocketed Tame Impala into the stratosphere. 

Whilst Adele charmed Glastonbury by swearing incessantly, New Order oversaw proceedings at the Other Stage and married the past and present excellently. From 2015's Music Complete, 'Tutti Frutti' slotted perfectly alongside the likes of 'True Faith' and 'Bizarre Love Triangle' and the Manchester legends pulled in a huge crowd as Saturday drew to a close.

The final day of music was joyous. Hinds handled the nerves as well as their drink and smashed their set at the Park stage. A genuine authenticity exuded from the Madrid four piece and their slacker sound began proceedings nicely in the early afternoon. The unmissable legends slot of Jeff Lynne's ELO left thousands drenched, but there was a magical feeling of unity in celebrating the irony of singing Mr Blue Sky in the pissing rain.

The whirlwind career of Catfish and the Bottlemen continued over at the Other Stage as they delivered their second set of the weekend. They'd already played a secret acoustic gig at the BBC Introducing stage, the place where everything started to go right for the band.

The release of The Ride only a few weeks ago bolstered the set they delivered in the pouring rain last year and a responsive crowd let off smoke bombs in reply to Van McCanns rallying choruses. It seems now that the next logical step for the Llandudno four piece is the top spot on the Pyramid. 

Over at the John Peel Stage, Mac Demarco worked his charm effortlessly in a pair of waders and not much else. His eccentricities fitted in perfectly at Glastonbury as did his music with 2014's Salad Days getting a rousing response.

An unbelievable cover of Steely Dan's 'Reeling in The Years' saw Mac and the band perform with guitars behind their heads whilst indulging in some meandering solos. This was before Kirin J Callinan and Jay Watson (Tame Impala) came onstage for 'Freaking out The Neighbourhood' and stayed until the close. 

The long walk over to West Holts for Earth, Wind & Fire was sound-tracked by the LCD Soundsystem smash 'Daft Punk Is Playing In My House' as they held court on the Other stage. Once the pilgrimage to the south east corner was complete, funk filled the air. The Chicago group lamented the death of founder member Maurice White by reeling back the years and delivering a set packed with floor fillers. This rounded off proceedings in the most celebratory manner.

The festivities went on long into the night and as the sun rose on Monday the harsh reality hit home that things had come to an end. It meant a return to normality, a return to political confusion and a return to watching a shit football team. 

Glastonbury gets knocked year upon year, be it the headliners, the weather or the walking but what it represents is liberty, equality and diversity. 

There was a time where these values were the pillars of our society and if the powers that be were to take a leaf out of Mr Eavis' book they might be able to bring his miraculous micro-environment to a nation that desperately needs it. 

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