Hello! I’ve been at home tinkering with one of the new tracks (and starting a new one) for the last couple of days, having had a nice break last weekend at Glastonbury. As a way of avoiding having to write keyboard parts, I thought I’d give you a little report on my weekend. Please forgive the quality of the photos – they were taken on my phone, normally whilst trying to stay upright in a sea of sludge.
I got down to Pilton at about lunchtime on Friday. By the time I’d got organised and into the thick of things, I’d missed the band I was most looking forward to seeing – The Vaccines (favourite record of the year so far) – and so took comfort by attending to my favourite Glastonbury ritual: eating those lovely local lamb burgers you get down by the West Holts stage. Then I had a wander round the Green Fields and sat by the Stone Circle for a bit in the rain.
Bumped into Tom and we agreed to meet on a hill to watch the extremely un-secret secret Radiohead gig on the Park Stage. I got there in good time, but then got chatting to Tom Rowlands…and by the time we’d finished yakking the Park was completely rammed.
Having realised that I couldn’t get near enough to hear any of Radiohead apart from the bass drum I went in search of a beer. On the way out I joined the small crowd wondering at the gorgeous sand sculpture of a foetus. It was interesting to hear people’s reaction to this….slightly disturbing to hear people describing it a "disgusting"! It’s too easy to forget we’re just animals I suppose.
Next up I watched Mumford and Sons for about the 47th time in the last year or so. They were brilliant as always. New songs sounding great too. Then through the backstage corridor of liquid mud…
…to find a spot to watch U2, armed with a very delicious pie.
The U2 thing was obviously quite controversial – though I’m not sure why music snobs consider them to be any more mainstream than Coldplay, Beyoncé, etc….I’d have said they were less so, if anything. Anyway I thought U2 were excellent. They opened with a barrage of songs from Achtung Baby, which is a sure way to my heart. I hadn’t heard some of them since my first ever gig in 1993, so that was pretty exciting. I admit it was hard to find the songs really emotionally engaging, but I think that’s partly the size of the Pyramid arena and partly because some of those songs deal with emotions and ideas that are not that easy to digest, and certainly not easy to translate into mass entertainment. I’ll always admire them for having those aspirations though.
The next day I started with a bit of Jessie J, who sounded great and was impressively confident given how new she is; followed by the very different prospect of Anna Calvi on the John Peel stage. She was fantastic, very compelling and some really great songs. She seems like a really intriguing artist.
Then caught a few songs of Tinie Tempah. He was brilliant – very accessible and energised and really worked to make a connection with the massive crowd he’d drawn. Only disappointment was ‘Pass Out’, which seemed a bit anaemic for some reason. The rest was amazing though.
Then I trekked all the way back to the John Peel tent, past the henge of muddy boots….
……for Noah and the Whale, with my Mt Desolation bandmate Tom Hobden rocking the fiddle of course. Their second and third albums are both wonderful records I think, and I must admit ‘Life Is Life’ brought a little tear to my eye as I sang along. Charlie Fink is a really charismatic front man in a kind of smouldering understated way. Really enjoyed it.
Then bumped into another legendary Mt D veteran, Pete Roe, backstage along with Laura Marling and Keane’s long-suffering tour manager Colin, before running off to watch a bit of Elbow. Left that a bit prematurely to meet a gang of my neighbours from home to go and watch The Chemical Brothers, who headlined the Other Stage with a truly stunning live show. I’ve never heard live sound that was both so loud and so crystal clear, and the visuals in the background were in a different league to anything I’ve ever seen. Utterly amazing. Seeing the control they had over the massive crowd was a reminder of how many great songs they have released, and how they really stand alone in blending great dance music with a fat-free pop music mentality. Definitely a highlight of Glastonbury 2011 for me.
Sunday was a fairly gentle day for me, but a really enjoyable one…not least because the sun was out at last. I had a look around the Healing Fields – and charged my phone using solar power! – and then went off to watch Clare Maguire. Clare sounded great, and you could sense there was a lot of goodwill coming from the crowd despite the fact that we were all burning up in the midday sun. ‘Ain’t Nobody’ was a highlight of her set for me.
I fancied a bit of shade by that point so watched Laura Marling from the side of the stage. It was quite weird to see her playing in bright sunshine before the massive expanse of the Pyramid arena, but she played a really magical gig and people were really loving it. The band (specially expanded for the occasion) were brilliant and the songs varied beautifully between simmering intensity and pounding rhythmic energy. Another big highlight of the weekend for me.
Just when it seemed like things couldn’t get any better, Laura was followed by my all-time hero Paul Simon on the same stage (so I got to watch him from the stage too – hurrah!). Despite a dodgy throat, he was truly brilliant from start to finish. I found it deeply emotional to hear songs like Slip Slidin’ Away, which I used to listen to in my Mum and Dad’s car on family holidays. Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘The Concert In Central Park’ probably being THE album that made me fall in love with rock and roll music. Quite a few songs from Graceland, as well the masterpiece of ‘Hearts And Bones’. ‘Rewrite’ from the new album was especially good too. And the band were just phenomenal – a level of ease and skill that is awe-inspiring to a bluffer like me. I slightly spoiled it (for myself) by introducing myself to him backstage and gushing like a maniac….but, hey, if you love someone’s music that much I don’t think it hurts to say so!
I concluded that the weekend couldn’t get any better at that point, and so decided to head home. A Flake, some Ribena and a packet of crisps for a roadside dinner, and then fell into the loving arms of a hot shower.
One thing I love about festivals, and gigs generally, is that I go home with so many new ideas and feel reinvigorated about trying to make my own songwriting better, and hopefully contribute to making Keane’s music better. Saw Paul Simon again on Wednesday in London, and then Arcade Fire/Mumfords/Beirut/Vaccines on Thurs (spotted a couple of boardies in the front row…!) so all in all I’m feeling very energised and can’t wait to turn that into more new music.
See you soon I hope!