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BLOG: Have Glastonbury produced a Worthy 2011 line-up?


United Kingdom United Kingdom | by Alex Fahey | 14 April 2011

YES writes Alex Fahey

As a rule, journalists reserve their apologies for retrospect; after perhaps a nudge from their editor owing to ill-judged comment or maybe seven years later following a high-profile phone hacking scandal but today I wish to offer mine in advance.

Today Glastonbury announced their line-up before the official release and since it went public my heart rate hasn't yet dropped below cardiac arrest. So please accept my apologies for any typos, gushing over-sentiment and lack of reservation but on first inspection those heading to Pilton are in for a stellar year.

The top of the pile of course offers no new surprises. U2 have been a shoe in since Bono's did in his back ahead of their performance last year; Coldplay are set to return to Glastonbury and aren't worth a mention beyond that and of course, Beyonce who will no doubt be the headliner of the summer. My Sunday-night-beer-change is on her stealing the show from her Pyramid peers and washing away any mention of her hubby's 2009 performance.

But as every Glastonbury-goer knows, it's never about the headliners. The depth of the festival is immediate; Morrissey's fall from headliner in 2004 to U2 support demonstrates the Eavis' dedication and hard work, which has renewed Glastonbury in the past few years. Similarly, the recently arena acquainted Elbow have a billing possibly below their post-'Seldom Seen Kid' stature.

The formula of hip-hop on the main stage and the Sunday afternoon legend slot are quickly becoming as much a part of the Glastonbury landscape as the Tor on the hill but seemingly the act ideas are far from exhausted. Wu Tang Clan weren't even in mind before the announcement today but are immediately a must see and for those with a penchant for the pastiche Mr Paul Simon is expertly placed to guide the hoards through a Sunday-sing-along.

It is away from searching for 'Diamonds in the Soles of your Shoes' to discovering the diamonds in the rough where the festival really shines this year with the smaller stages playing host to a fantastic array of acts. Lee 'Scratch' Perry is billed for the Glade. The Glade! Even at a push there won't be room for 50 people, especially for a Saturday skank.

Gonjasufi, Janelle Monáe and Kool And The Gang show that the re-incarnated Jazz World stage is worth a visit at everyday of the weekend and who can overlook Emily Eavis' plaything, The Park?

For a casual observer it mixes the best of the unknown - Balearic Folk Orchestra and Narasirato - with the well-established - Graham Coxon and Gruff Rhys - and two appearances from everybody’s 'get there early, before the cat's out the bag', Special Guests of which past metamorphosis have included Thom Yorke and The Dead Weather.

But, as pre-warned I'm gushing and the doctor beside me has advised that I finish this piece before my heart rate finishes me and to think I didn't even have time to mention DJ Shadow in the John Peel tent or Bright Eyes on the Other Stage...

NO argues Rhian Daly

As a regular Glastonbury attendee, it’s always with heart-stopping levels of excitement I pore over their final line-up announcements, letting out involuntary gasps, squeals and shrieks as my eyes rest on the names of bands I’ve been keeping my fingers and toes crossed for. Today, I did exactly the same but with a difference - fewer joyous exhales, way more sighs and even a few annoyed ‘WHAT?!’s. Truth be told, this is the most disappointing Glastonbury line-up I can remember seeing.

Of course, we already knew the headliners were two thirds Radio 2 stadium anthems, one third touch of class. But, as everyone always says, Glastonbury isn’t about the headliners. Only a fool would write off the Eavises with only the Pyramid closers announced, prone as they are to pulling out thrilling bills earlier in the day and on the smaller stages.

The trouble this year is even those smaller stages seem to be populated by throwaway no-marks and safe, bland choices. Look at the John Peel stage - normally teeming with exciting next-big-things and established indie pleasers. Saturday’s triple threat of Anna Calvi, Warpaint and The Horrors aside, it’s mostly dirge. Kings of Leon wannabes Mona? Gloom-pop vacuities Hurts? Viral video stars OK Go? These are the bands we’re supposed to be adulating over when last year on the same stage we had These New Puritans, The xx and Wild Beasts to enjoy?

Luckily, Wild Beasts make an appearance in 2011 too, atop of The Park’s running order, which they share with James Blake and Lykke Li amongst others. Curated entirely by Emily Eavis, it’s yet again one of the best, most consistent stages, beaten only in terms of quality by the Oxylers In West (which must be assumed to be West Dance’s new name) line up.

Yes, Oxylers In West is where you’ll find me at Glastonbury this year, drinking in its variety and eclecticism. There’s the big names like Radio 1 DJ Annie Mac and legendary Trash Club host and record label owner Erol Alkan, the blogosphere’s golden boys Jamie xx and SBTRKT, dance-flecked indie connoisseurs Metronomy, young charges Egyptian Hip Hop and the acoustic loveliness of Emmy The Great. Safe from the insipidness of the other stages, it seems unafraid to mix things up, take a risk and - most of all - have a good time doing it.

Good acts do pop up now and then on the other stages across Worthy Farm but on first inspection, there’s no heart-wrenching clashes to spend the weeks between now and the festival agonising over. And at a time when music - British music in particular - is so exciting, there should be. Sure, the forerunners like Blake and Woon have been secured but what about those bubbling just beneath the surface? It feels as if Glastonbury has missed a trick this year - a shame considering we have to wait until 2013 to see if they can make amends.

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