Glastonbury 2008: John Peel Stage

Doing it for the 'Kids'

Glastonbury 2008: John Peel Stage

Photographer: Peter Corkhill02 July 2008

2008 sees the set up of this stage has change drastically.  The tent itself has doubled in size, a video screen added outside and it’s not strictly new bands any longer.  Would John Peel approve of the changes and line up this year, we wonder?

Friday, and by 1pm the tent is full to capacity for ethereal rockers, Glasvegas, remaining so for the rest of the day.  Lightspeed Champion (and former Test Icicle), Dev Hynes receives a similar reception two hours later as he's joined on stage by Emma-Lee Moss (Emmy The Great) for a duet on ‘Let The Bitches Die’.  This set is followed quickly by the quintessentially English Young Knives who are adored by the crowd.

The Kills prove they’re worth the hype Friday evening with their dark, dirty garage rock mixed with beats. The hype, of course, is not about their music and all about Jamie Hince’s relationship with Kate Moss, who watches attentively from the side of the stage – and so she should be, as the sexual chemistry between former lovers Hince and singer Alison Mosshart is electric.

Speaking of hype, hotly tipped young New Yorker’s MGMT live up to it and provide the best set of the day on this stage.  Their mix of prog rock and electro beats is a triumph with this festival crowd, who continue to sing a rousing chorus of ‘Kids’ long after the band have left the stage.

The sun makes a welcome return to Glastonbury Saturday morning while Emmy The Great proves she is the indie starlet you should keep your eye on. Displaying her heart on her sleeve through witty thought-provoking lyrics without pretension, has given her the title ‘anti-folk heroine’ among the music taste makers.

British Sea Power’s afternoon set features a Bulgarian choir and ends with a crowd sing-a-long while regular climber and guitarist, Nobel, takes to the stage rigging for his latest adventure. Look out for their own soon-to-be-announced festival in the UK's highest pub. 

Speaking of crowd sing-a-long’s, every song of The Courteeners set features one, while singer/guitarist Liam Fray announces, ‘This is the best day of my life’ - since he was 19 anyway. Inevitably their signature tune gets the biggest sweat sharing session of the day. 

Indie darlings Vampire Weekend perform their second successful set of the weekend, following a rainy Friday afternoon slot on the Other Stage. Their upbeat guitar pop is most certainly made for a sunny afternoon like today.  “This is music to dance in your squishy boots to”, says endearing lead singer, Ezra Koenig, despite the fact that most have ditched their ‘squishy boots’ (ie wellies) for trainers.  That doesn’t stop anyone dancing.

Band Of Horses mesmerise the crowd at their early evening set with indie-alt country tunes that prove the perfect start to brilliant night. It kicks off with The Futureheads affirming what an essential festival band they are, now with three albums worth of tunes to ensure a solid set. Inevitably, they playing much of the new album which goes down a storm, 'Beginning Of The Twist' sending the crowd into fits.

Saturday night headliners Biffy Clyro, of course, have an incredible amount of competition from other stages, namely the controversial Jay-Z on the Pyramid Stage, whose set is already underway. 

The video screens at the John Peel Stage show live feeds from the Pyramid Stage which are met with boo’s and chants of ‘BIFFY…BIFFY…BIFFY…’ At last, the tent goes dark and Biffly Clyro walk on the stage to Jay-Z’s ’99 Problems’ playing in the back ground.  Proving the Scotsmen’s sense of humour doesn’t end there; all three band members are bare-chested and dressed in skinny white jeans.  A dig, it would appear, at Razorlight singer, Johnny Borrell? 

Biffy Clyro open with ‘Saturday Superhouse’ which whips the crowd into a frenzy.  They play the most outstanding set on the John Peel Stage all weekend, note and timing perfect, as every word of every song is sung back to them in sheer admiration.  Quite simply, spectacular.

Sunday’s big line up change is the cancellation of The Long Blondes.  Following the serious illness of guitarist, Dorian Cox, they're replaced by the Brighton garage rock duo, Blood Red Shoes, who dedicate their afternoon set to him. Drummer, Steve Ansell does the cliché “Hello Glastonbury” comment two songs in, which of course gets a big cheer. “[Laura-Mary] asked me not to do that, sorry, but it was my teenage ambition to play Glastonbury and I couldn’t resist.”

Much hyped Canadians, Crystal Castles, are halfway through a great set when it’s abruptly cut short by the stage organisers.  Alice Glass’ tendency to jump into the crowd appears to be the problem.  First she decides to climb the stage rigging, then decides getting closer to the fans is the way forward and sings two songs walking along the barrier as fans grab her at every opportunity.  She pushed her luck and lost sadly.

Jason Pierce is on fine form as Spiritualized perform a mellow yet enthralling set of their trademark space rock to the now festival weary crowd. But it's left to Brooklyn based alternative rockers, The National, close out the day, and festival, on this stage with singer, Matt Bereninger’s distinctive baritone the perfect sound for winding down the evening.

After three thrilling days on the John Peel Stage, the question looming is would the man himself have approved? As cliché as Blood Red Shoes Steve Ansell’s comment is, you’ll find most musicians have the same teenage ambition to play Glastonbury. 

We all know John Peel’s favourite song was The Undertones ‘Teenage Kicks’ and he wanted his epitaph to read ‘Are teenage kicks so hard to beat…’  Well, yes, they are hard to beat so what better way is there to fulfil this ambition of playing Glastonbury then playing the John Peel Stage.  A living tribute, if but once a year down on Worthy Farm, to the greatest champion of new, old and good music our generation has known.

We’ll never know the answer to the question, but we can imagine that it would probably be yes.

by Alison Kerry

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