Chris Eustace steps back into his soggy wellies in an attempt to wistfully reminisce about festivals in June. Umbrellas recommended.
June 2011 saw Sepp Blatter re-elected unopposed as FIFA president amidall kinds of claims and counterclaims. We said goodbye to the E-Street Band’s Clarence Clemons and Ryan Dunn of Jackass fame, while same-sexmarriage was legalised in New York and the UK had a day of strikes inprotest at the cuts. Oh, and there were a few festivals.
With our rosy weather predictions for the month beginning to turn soggy, Coldplay and System Of A Down gave us a preview of their UK headline sets at Rock Am Ring and Rock Im Park in Germany, while family favourite Wychwood gave us The Bluetones, The Waterboys, and, with the second 10/10 review of the year after Sufjan Stevens – er, Mr. Tumble?!
Two new festivals emerged, with Communion’s Bushstock in West London impressing even after the “Mumford Secret Gig” rumours had been quashed (they were in Arkansas) with Michael Kiwanuka, Marques Toliver, Lucy Rose and a sweatily memorable headline set from Guillemots. Bristol’s We The People didn’t go down quite so well with Jamie Skey, but Dub Mafia, Beardyman and The Streets all got the thumbs up at least.
The second week of June was one of the busiest of the year for festivals, and unfortunately, also one of the wettest. While the Isle Of Wight Festival 2011 got a 9/10 from Neil Stone, with Kings Of Leon, Foo Fighters and Kasabian’s headline sets all going down well, and the added intrigue of Beady Eye’s UK festival debut and Pulp’s reunion reaching our shores at last, there was also “weather that could drown a duck.”
Anna Hyams and Ali Ryland got “burnt and soaked in one weekend” at Download, but Alice Cooper, Skindred, Bowling For Soup and Saturday headliners System Of A Down helped make it “one for the books.”
Daniel Pratley went along to “the most beautiful festival site in the UK” at RockNess to see Magnetic Man confirm dubstep as a new festival force.
With all the band comebacks, it was time for a festival one, as Glade bounced back from last year’s cancellation. Some new “ingenious ideas” such as the Nanosystems – “tiny tents housing huge sound systems representing the best of UK underground dance music” – plus highly rated sets by Adam Bayer, OTT and Junkyard Scientists earned it an 8/10 review from Joe Taylor.
Two Door Cinema Club and Chase & Status took in some Parklife in Manchester, while Razorlight took a slightly different tack, going to Clapham Common to Get Loaded In The Park.
There were big outdoor shows from Arctic Monkeys (ever the contrarians, theirs was actually in a huge tent), Deadmau5, Kings Of Leon and Arcade Fire, while those wanting more beats headed to Barcelona for “three days of electronic music and heavy partying” at Sonar, where Trentemoller, Eskmo and Aphex Twin were among the picks.
Tinie Tempah raved with the freshers (and the other students) down at Beach Break Live in South Wales, with his first-ever festival headline slot going down a storm, as Example, Katy B and Ed Sheeran also drew huge crowds.
The spirit of the Fleadh was evoked with the new London Feis in Finsbury Park with Bob Dylan and Van Morrison, while Hyde Park gave us The Killers, Bon Jovi and Rod Stewart the following weekend, with Hard Rock Calling us once again.
Then it was time for the Daddy of them all – the national obsession that is Glastonbury. With the identity of the two Park Stage “special guests” still not known as revellers made their way to the site, we knew it wasn’t likely to be Liam Gallagher or, despite Michael Eavis’ best efforts, a Hop Farm-bound Prince. Jarvis was still tweeting mischieviously though…
There were other questions still to be answered – were U2 really bringing their own stage? Would their set get derailed by tax protests? Would Jay-Z join Beyonce for ‘Crazy In Love’? Would it ever stop raining?
As ever, the mud didn’t deter the Worthy Farm faithful, with Wu-Tang Clan one of the early favourites on Friday, when a disgruntled Example tweeted that Arctic Monkeys had arrived, nicking his parking space in the process. Could they be one of the secret guests? Well, they weren’t Friday’s, as Radiohead gave “The King Of Limbs” its live bow instead.
Mumford & Sons treated the Other Stage to some new songs, before doing a secret spot of their own in the Strummerville field the day after. While those still wide-eyed enough to enjoy Rastamouse’s festival debut headed to the Kidz Field, the more world-weary and cynical found solace in a David Cameron-baiting Morrissey.
With protests quickly deflated, U2 only had some jibes from Primal Scream on the Other Stage to dodge, as they finally made it to the Pyramid Stage. Defying the driving rain to wheel out the hits, they even tried to steal Coldplay’s thunder by covering ‘Yellow’.
We woke on Saturday to more secret guest rumours – was that Kings Of Leon’s roadcrew spotted backstage? Was that Arctic Monkeys’ tour bus pulling up? In the end, Jarvis’ hints came to pass, as it was confirmed that Pulp would be returning to Worthy Farm, and a memorable, crowded Greatest Hits set ensued.
Elbow, celebrating their twentieth anniversary, and James Blake soundtracked the Saturday sunset, before Coldplay held court on the Pyramid Stage, pointedly opening with ‘Yellow’ (take that, Bono!), showing off new songs and slipping in a version of ‘What A Wonderful World’ amid a spectacular lightshow.
Sadly, Sunday was marred by the death of Tory aide Christopher Shale at the festival, and, despite Michael Eavis’ misgivings, The Wombles played, while Don McClean beat Paul Simon in the Battle Of The Oldies (at least according to VF’s John Bownas) and The Streets made it better late than never again as they bid farewell to Glastonbury.
Closing things out, Queens Of The Stone Age’s fan-assisted performance gave them “A night we’ll remember for a long, long time”, with Beyonce proving equally memorable on the Pyramid, bringing enough fireworks for 75,000 Guy Fawkes nights and daring to actually open with ‘Crazy In Love’. We never got to find out who Steve was, though.