With the legendary Glastonbury Festival happening down in the muddy fields of the West Country this weekend, Burn Fm’s Jamie Weisz gives you the low-down on the headliners and his top 10 must-see bands…
METALLICA (21.45 Saturday, Pyramid Stage)
The first band which should be discussed is Metallica: arguably the most controversial choice of any band at the festival. Should we be surprised by their inclusion? As Michael Eavis alluded when giving clues about who the final festival headliner would be, Metallica are one of the biggest musical acts in the world. This is in terms of commercial success and critical acclaim – a quick read through Wikipedia will support this view, as will numerous outbursts of righteous indignation against Metallica’s inclusion on the bill (proving that people do, at least, know who they are).
When discussing the prospect of Metallica gracing Worthy Farm, some suggested that choosing Metallica as a Glastonbury headliner was a bigger risk than Jay Z in 2008, assuming that thrash-metal was a suitable genre for Glastonbury in the same way that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a suitable viewing experience for five-year-olds – there will be disgust, outrage, and probably tears.
I’d be reluctant to agree. Although my experience of Glastonbury amounts to one visit last year, two things make me think that Metallica might not be such a bad choice after all.
Firstly, Glastonbury is the sort of festival where the clientele are fans of music in all shapes and sizes. Indeed, it somewhat begs the question to deem Metallica as unsuitable. What tastes are Glastonbury meant to accommodate anyway? Metallica’s back catalogue is an arsenal of some of the most impressively composed and recognisable within any musical genre. The riffs for many of the classics – ‘Master of Puppets’, ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’, etc. – make spines tingle and faces melt. A significant proportion of the Glastonbury crowd will probably be able to chant all the words to ‘Enter Sandman’, at the very least being able to convincingly recite it on the air guitar. If there was one band that Glastonbury–goers will appreciate from the realms of metal, it will be Metallica. They are simply more popular than many people think.
Secondly, great faith and trust is invested in the judgement of the Eavises. If a band is chosen to play at Glastonbury, it can be assumed that this was done not to intentionally cause distress. After all, Jay Z went down a storm in 2008. Who’s to say that Metallica won’t similarly blow the Glastonbury crowd away?
On the other side of the coin, however, there are a number of reasons why Metallica’s set would not be greatly received, vindicating some of the concerns which have already been voiced.
In recent weeks, a petition has circulated online calling for Metallica to be axed from the bill. Not for musical reasons (although there may well be a hidden agenda), but in response to frontman James Hetfield’s involvement in ‘The Hunt’ – a TV series documenting hunting wild animals. On top of the fact that Hetfield openly supports (and is a member of) the National Rifle Association, there is genuine concern that by allowing the band to perform at the festival, Glastonbury will be seen as hypocrites. Sure, rock stars shouldn’t be moral role models for their fans (if bands were banned from festivals every time they did something naughty, Glastonbury practically couldn’t book anyone!). But Hetfield evidently contradicts the eco/environment-friendly, humanity-loving ethos that Glastonbury has worked very hard to build over the years. The matter is a bigger concern to Glastonbury in particular than many people think.
Musically, Metallica’s great success originates in the 1980s and very early 1990s. Since Metallica (AKA The Black Album) in 1991, Metallica have released a string of astonishingly disappointing material – the less we say of St Anger and Lulu the better. A lack of recent material is itself not a reason to turn our noses up, as The Rolling Stones showed last year. However, at least the Stones’ 50th anniversary warranted celebration. Although picking Metallica is an ambitious and potentially rewarding choice, their selection just appears to be for the sake of it and without any notable consequence.
Metallica’s live show could also be a cause for concern. Their set at Download Festival in 2012 famously featured a performance of the Black Album in its entirety. Not a problem, as far as Download fans were concerned. But James Hetfield used the breakdown in ‘Enter Sandman’ as an opportunity for nausea-inducing crowd interaction – I still wince thinking about “Metallica’s family” which I was reluctantly made to be a part of (watch it here if you dare). And given that Glastonbury tickets sell out months before anyone can really sensibly guess who will be performing, Metallica cannot depend on a similar army of devotees that will tolerate such shenanigans.
These considerations worry me that Metallica, though adored by the international metal community, may not translate so well to the Glastonbury environment. But when all is said and done about whether or not they will be popular, we must bear in mind is that no one will be forced to watch Metallica at Glastonbury, and the programme is so expansive that there will literally be hundreds of other things to do. What remains to be asked is whether the other names playing during the Saturday night slot (Jake Bugg, Bryan Ferry, MGMT et al.), with no disrespect, will warrant a mass exodus away from the Pyramid stage when Metallica are on. Unless you are the most avid Metallica-hater, it might be worth giving them a chance.
ARCADE FIRE (22.00 Friday, Pyramid Stage)
In Arcade Fire we probably have the safest choice of headliner – slowly but surely building up a reputation over the past decade or so as one of the world’s very best live bands (if not one of the very best bands outright). Anyone that has ever been to see Arcade Fire live before will surely confirm this. What may baffle some is why they have only just been considered worthy headline material? Reflektor is the fourth critically acclaimed record from Arcade Fire, with a strong selections of already-hits which will entertain the Glastonbury crowd, though they could have been here a couple of years ago off the back of Suburbs. However, we should not be bitter – the wait will be worthwhile.
Arcade Fire makes every live show special with elaborate stage designs, desirable fancy dress, and carnival atmospheres. The unofficial warm up for Glastonbury took place on June 6th and 7th at Earl’s Court in London. True to the name and nature of the latest album, there were plenty of mirrors and vibrant, colourful themes from Haitian culture – a demonstration of Regine Chassagne’s (band member, leader singer Win Butler’s wife, and Arcade Fire resident hurdy gurdy-er) cultural upbringing. Despite the notable absence of ‘Keep the Car Running’ from the setlist, Arcade Fire fans should be excited that the Glastonbury setlist will be filled with long-standing favourites (‘Rebellion’, ‘No Cars Go’, ‘Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels) etc.) alongside the best of the new album.
If you have never heard any Arcade Fire before, then you certainly should change your ways. Their songs are beautifully constructed, finding a fine balance in their songs between a natural composition development (the appeal of bands like Sigur Ros and Explosions in the Sky) and elements of memorability. Nothing is forced, yet you will find that you have learned all the words after a couple of listens. The ability to create such experimental music, without feeling pressured to write more conventional, formulaic records as popularity increases, sets Arcade Fire apart from nearly every other commercially successful band and guarantees a very loyal international fanbase.
Is there anything bad to say about their Glastonbury set? Probably not. The only disappointment might come to optimistic festival fans who have been yearning to see David Bowie live might get a chance to see him offer live vocals on ‘Reflektor’. The guy is highly elusive, so don’t hold your breath.
As a huge Arcade Fire fan, I might be completely biased in singing their praises so loudly. I feel that I am, however, justified in my views. A perfect combination of wonderfully anthemic hits with an unparalleled stage presence means that Arcade Fire may well be the highlight of the festival.
KASABIAN (21:45 Sunday, Pyramid Stage)
Are Kasabian one of Britain’s biggest modern rock bands? Yes. But are they a good fit for Glastonbury? Hell yes!
These Leicester lads returned recently to play Victoria Park in a triumphant home-coming show which saw tickets sell out to over 50,000 people; both fans from around the world and locals who have followed their explosive rise to rock n’ roll stardom over the past decade. Frontmen Tom Meighan and Serge Pizzorno have become an iconic duo, with their individual styles combining Tom’s raw power and Serge’s quirky creativity, not to mention their phenomenally heavy hitting drummer Ian Matthews. While some may criticise their lyrical simplicity and tendency to stick to the same old chunky riffs, there’s no question that they’ve struck a winning formula – and 4 platinum albums can’t lie.
The band have just released their fifth studio album, 48:13, a blindingly pink dance-infused affair which garnered mixed reviews, but has already zoomed straight to the top of the UK album charts. Though arguably their best albums Kasabian, Empire and West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum were released way back in the 00’s (gasp! that, was, like, ages ago. I’m so old!), this latest offering is a bit of a patchy mish-mash of disco and hip-hop-inspired tunes, with a few absolute bangers such as ‘Bumblebeee’ and ‘Eez-eh’ (watch the video here) in between the shorter instrumental tracks. While there are sure to be a good selection of these new songs, surely the majority of their headline set will be pulled from their enviable back-catalogue of top 10 hits, number 1’s and indie-rock anthems. Coming to mind are mainstays of every club night and ‘Greatest 100 rock songs’ compilation album the world over – ‘Fire’, ‘Underdog’, ‘LSF’, ‘Shoot the Runner’, ‘Empire’, ‘Club Foot’, ‘Reason is Treason’, ‘Processed Beats’ and Russell Howard’s bouncy theme tune ‘Fast Fuse’, guaranteed to get even the most die-hard Metallica fan jumping along. And that really is the thing about Kasabian, while many people claim they “aren’t really all that into them” , they’ll at least know a few songs well enough to be able to dance/yell badly to. And at a festival, that’s all you need.
While in the last few years they’ve seemed ubiquitous on every festival bill, this is their only UK festival appearance this year, and aside from a few scattered European dates, this may be your only chance to see them play a huge venue this summer. Back in Reading 2012, they also headlined the main stage, just after the release of Velociraptor!, a huge, stomping, monster of an album that was absolutely glorious to behold being blasted out from 30ft speakers.However, this was on the Saturday night, whereas this year at Glasto they are the festival closers. Generally at this point in the evening, a few of the mud-spattered crowd tend to sneak off home to try and beat the Monday morning rush, but will the promise of Kasabian keep them from leaving?
And now a quick look at the best of the rest… 10 Acts I’m most looking forward to.
You’d be forgiven if you thought that this year’s Glastonbury line-up was recycled from a previous outing, with bands such as Manic Street Preachers, Dolly Parton and Pixies amongst the stand-out names. Blondie also belong to this group of nostalgia merchants, claiming their title of new-wave giants way back in the 70s/early-80s. Their hits are, nevertheless, timeless and will expect to pull a large crowd to the Other Stage (if people are willing to rise up at the crack of noon on the Friday).
Drenge are one of the most exciting current musical prospects in Britain, providing catchy and poignant lyrics about various frustrations of being a young person set to hefty grungey-blues riffs. They have already achieved acclaim at Glastonbury since forming in 2011 (even if it was a mention by MP Tom Watson in his resignation letter). The two Loveless brothers (Rory and Eoin), hailing from Castleton in the Peak District, can be found on the John Peel Stage, a stage dedicated to promoting the best up-and-coming bands. Drenge have certainly earned their spot there.
Sophie Ellis-Bextor finds herself very high up on the bill on the Avalon, considering that she has done very little of note in recent years, aside from murdering on last year’s Strictly dancefloor. But, if you’re like me and you are excited about seeing the SE-B of the early 00’s (a bastion of house with a classy vocal touch – ‘Groovejet’ comes to mind), or of even slightly later (the supplier of stonking pop hits such as ‘Murder on the Dancefloor’ or ‘Take Me Home’), then you are in luck! – recent set lists give strong indication that classic tracks will be revisited. Glastonbury is certainly shaping up to be a delightful nostalgia-fest.
Another prominent British double act will attempt to delight the crowds at Glastonbury this year in the form of Brighton-based Royal Blood. They too are tipped for big things, having been named in the BBC Sound of 2014 poll and embarking on their first UK headline tour earlier this year. I could only describe them as “loud”, but everyone seems to do that. Will “good” do as well?
The Glastonbury website tells us to expect “an across the board run through [the] back pages” of one of rocks greatest enigmas: some White Stripes classics mixed with solo stuff. We are all very familiar with the White Stripes, and it is a shame that they are no longer a (musical) thing. Jack White on his own is still one of the best guitarists in the world: his solo material, though not as well known, shows signs of brilliance and will be well supported by the better-known White Stripes hits as Jack takes to the Pyramid on his own before Metallica.
They are once of the most iconic bands there has been, and were rumoured to perhaps feature high up on the Pyramid lineup after they announced Indie City as their first new album in over twenty years. Instead, Pixies will have to settle for the sub-headline slot on the Other Stage. They are tipped to be another one of the festival highlights despite playing second fiddle to Jake Bugg. It doesn’t necessarily take anything away from Pixies for playing this slot. Last year, Smashing Pumpkins played before The XX on the Sunday – the shorter slot was saturated with a blistering set of classic Pumpkins’ hits which reminded fans of how great the band were and are. Perhaps Pixies can do the same this time around, and we all hope that they do.
2013 was a significant year for Sam Smith, raising his profile as a soulful yet versatile singer whilst featuring on two of the biggest songs of the year (Disclosure’s ‘Latch’ and Naughty Boy’s ‘La La La’). 2014 appears to be an even bigger year for Smith as he won the BBC Sound of 2014 Poll, as well as having released his debut album In The Lonely Hour in the past month. He gets almost a whole hour to himself on the Other Stage, and will be able to lure a large crowd based on his achievements in 2013. This will be the perfect setting to show what he can do on his own.
PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING (16.00 Sunday, West Holts Stage)
PSB are a highly unusual band: yet another duo (this time colourfully-named J. Willgoose, Esq and Wrigglesworth) who have found a niche in sampling (you guessed it!) public service broadcasts and putting them to impressively catchy, virtuoso guitar licks. They are not limited to basic guitar and drums, as Willgoose is competent playing banjos and synthesisers. Don’t let the concept fool you: though they are hardly sing-along standards, you will struggle to get some of the riffs out of your head. Expect a charming yet accomplished performance.
One of the most hotly anticipated names at Glastonbury, many would like to have seen Dolly Parton play all evening, not just for the 50 minutes she has been given on Sunday afternoon in the “Legend’s” slot. Bringing the “Blue Smoke World Tour” to Worthy Farm will be welcome news to most, as it will surely guarantee a much needed feel-good factor. Moreover, if ‘9 to 5’ isn’t the anthem of the weekend, then I’ll be disappointed. Either way, she is one of the most accomplished and experienced artists at the festival, with an impressive back catalogue proving that she is one of the most well renowned country musicians of all time. With this year’s Glastonbury expected to be a complete mudbath, we should turn to Dolly for the motto of the weekend: “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain!”
It is strange to think that The Horrors have been around for nine years. What is arguably more remarkable is the transformation that they have made as a band since then – from punky, gothic weirdos with 2007’s Strange House, who seemed to have a stronger image than sound integrity, to a band who appeared to have the ability to produce genuinely impressive post-punk music in the form of Primary Colours (2009) and Skying (2011). Faris Badwan (née “Rotter”) and co. released Luminous about a month ago, evidence that they are a band still going from strength to strength. They have mixed reviews as a live act, so their Glastonbury set will be interesting to see.
The full line-up and stage times are available over on the Glastonbury website. See you in the mud!
Jamie Weisz & Anna Lim