Glastonbury: Sigh some more

Having had a chance to mull over last week’s line-up announcement, gives her take on how this year’s Glasto is shaping up

It was a hard act to follow: U2, Coldplay and Beyonce set an incredibly high precedent two years ago. But as the grass began to re-grow across the fields of Glastonbury in a fallow year, thoughts turned to the next year’s headline slots. They’d have to be pretty good and given the last edition’s fascination with modern groups, many wanted a return to the good ol’ days.

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Glastonbury Festival originated as part of the 1970s free festival movement, a weekend when hippies would flock to Somerset, enjoy some incredible music (including The Kinks, David Bowie, The Cure and The Smiths) for no more than £20. This makes this year’s already hefty price tag of £205 all the more painful and you’d rightly expect a pretty phenomenal line-up for your buck.

Overall, it’s pretty impressive. A great mix of festival old hands (Vampire Weekend, Public Image Ltd., Editors, The Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Bragg and Seasick Steve), more recent arrivals (Jessie Ware, Bastille, Haim, Alt-J, Peace and Daughter) and some classics that are sure to leave the crowd feeling torn (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Elvis Costello and Primal Scream).

I imagine ticketholders held their e-ticket a little bit tighter after The Stones were announced

The media are still reeling about that The Rolling Stones make their festival debut at Glastonbury 2013 and their response is entirely legitimate. They’ve released more than 100 singles, produced over two dozen studio albums, have completed at least 40 international tours and have rightly gained a reputation as one of the greatest and most iconic rock-bands in history. It’s due to be an incredible set; I imagine ticketholders held their e-ticket a little bit tighter after that was announced.

Indie-rock legends Arctic Monkeys take the second headline slot and given their strong history of festival performances they sit there comfortably. “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not” remains the fastest selling debut album in British music history and their three follow-ups, including the most recent, “Suck It and See”, are fit to provide a hit filled set list and a great night.

And then we turn to the last of the “Trinity” and that’s where I start to question this year’s line-up.

The Telegraph’s Neil McCormick highlights the semi-religious atmosphere of this festival that is so prized by its attendees: “It is viewed as almost a last bastion of a kind of rock idealism, the spiritual home of a music-loving community” and headlining it is almost a declaration of legendary status. You might not remember the year you went to Glastonbury, but you will remember the three acts that performed on Friday, Saturday and Sunday night.

Banjos and mandolins have never been so polemical

It’d be unfair to continue with an entirely condemning opinion of Mumford & Sons, because in the past I have been a big fan of theirs: “Sigh No More” was uplifting and very enjoyable, and they do perform brilliantly live making them very popular at festivals. They’re also Glastonbury veterans.

When I saw the headliners, however, one looked seriously out of place. With only two albums, the second of which is a direct copy of the first, they notoriously split opinion between those who adore and those who loathe them. Banjos and mandolins have never been so polemical.

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NME published an article elegantly entitled: “Why Do People Hate Mumford and Sons So Much?” Lucy Jones sums it up: “The real target of people’s hate is their inauthenticity. From their very moniker – a punt at an “antiquated family business name” – to ripping off Shakespeare for their lyrics, the boys are trying to be something they’re not. We can be sure that they don’t drive tractors or walk around with hay hanging out of their mouths. This is a case of Amish role-play.” Harsh, perhaps, but in essence I think she’s got it.

This will be the biggest gig for Mumford & Sons so far but, in my opinion, they’re too young as a band to take the Obelisk. They’ll deliver to a very willing crowd but many, I feel, will seek out other options instead.

Glastonbury’s changing quickly from hippie pilgrimage to something not unlike T in the Park or Isle of Wight: a very big festival, with a very big price tag and little else.


  1. Fair. Although Coldplay headlined in 2002 after their 2nd album (Rush of Blood) and they’re practically a Glastonbury institution now. Maybe Eavis is buttering up another loyal customer for the years ahead…

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  2. Not a bad article until the last sentence. Glastonbury has 60 officially listed stages (many more unlisted) and there were in excess of 2,200 performances spread out over 5 days in 2011. To say Glastonbury is quickly turning into little else than T In The Park is a bit inaccurate.

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