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Foreign Correspondent: Glastonbury Festival 2013 – Part 1

Written by Alex Langlands on July 3, 2013

Since its inception in the summer of 1970, Glastonbury has grown to be world-famous for its unbelievable lineups, unique artistic vision and unparalleled euphoric feel. As the beginning of the European summer began to set in, this unique brand of festival was once again imprinted on the small British town of Pilton. As the gates opened to over 250,000 punters, staff and performers early on Wednesday morning, it became apparent that this would be the finest celebration of global musical talent the festival circuit has seen in some time.

With a lineup that consists of nearly 2000 artists from across the globe, performing over 58 stages, there was no questioning the variety of talent and styles at the 3-day event, and the presence of 6 separate Mercury Award recipients in addition to some of the biggest names in music history made it clear that it was not going to be any ordinary music festival.

As excitement grew for the forthcoming festivities, thousands of expedition parties set out to discover the vast 1100-acre campsite, but it was clear that one week would not be enough to explore all the festival had to offer. Beyond the expansive array of music lay a net of labyrinths, mazes, hidden surprises and experiences waiting to be discovered. This is part of the magic which Glastonbury incorporates into its celebration; unlike many festivals it truly embraces the arts. Going beyond the norm, a web of installations populated the farmland, providing moments of awe amongst veterans and newcomers alike.

As the sun began to illuminate the sacred Stone Circle, festivalgoers awoke early for more exploration. The warm ciders and ales were cracked and consumption commenced, as the countdown began for the first bands to open the weekends proceedings. African artist Jupiter & Okwess International filled the ears of those in attendance with their infectious tribal vibes. However it was not until local hero Jake Bugg took the stage that the crowds really began to pick up. Powering through tracks from his debut album the Nottingham singer-songwriter’s melodic tunes soundtracked the first afternoon of the event.

Jake Bugg – Lightning Bolt (Live at Glastonbury 2013)

A surprise set on The Other Stage from Liam Gallagher’s Beady Eye saw many fans left with nothing but disappointment as the reality of the extents of Gallagher’s singing ability sank in. Musically, Beady Eye were on top form – reproducing an Oasis-esque sound and even delivering a couple of Oasis tunes – but their frontman’s vocals brought the overall performance down. It was The Hives who took the Most Impressive Act of the Morning award, automatically winning Best Dressed for the day in the process. Up to their usual antics, vocalist Pele caused an absolute frenzy as the Swedish outfit smashed through tracks from most albums within their hour-long set.

The excitement and crowds continued to build as day turned to dusk. With Kodaline having amazed the crowd in the John Peel Tent and Goat achieving a similar effect with their tribal tunes, it was time for the big names to begin. Dinosaur Jr and Miles Kane led the assault of rock on Worthy Farm, as the likes of Steve Aoki, SBTRKT and Skrillex’s Dog Blood retaliated, giving the guitar groups a real run for their money with their endless beats and cakes.

However, as time passed, it was clear the DJs could no longer keep up, as Tame Impala showed the majority of acts how to really stage a live show on the Other Stage, with British hipsters Alt-J in hot pursuit. Since their success in last year’s Mercury Prize, Alt-J have been swept along in a whirlwind of success, as evidenced by the crowd who stood witness to their set. As the group closed with Taro, the reasons for their success were clear, with the majority of punters standing awestruck at their talent.

Alt-J – Breezeblocks (Live at Glastonbury 2013)

Despite indie rockers Foals taking over duties from Alt-J, it was British MC Dizzee Rascal who drew the big crowds for his hour-long set. Including the likes of Scream, Dance Wiv Me and Bonkers the local star caused a frenzy, administering Friday’s dose of hip-hop. Having destroyed the Pyramid Stage yet again, he left to make way for Glastonbury veterans Arctic Monkeys, who were set to make their grand return.

Despite the rapper drawing the crowds, it was Foals who put on one of the performances of the day, with Spanish Sahara and recent single Inhaler being clear highlights. The performance was not only extremely well polished, but the vocals of Yannish Philippakis not only surprised the crowds but evidently some of the band members themselves, judging by their facial expressions during the climax of Inhaler.

After the release of Suck it and See in 2011 and its subsequent singles, the crowd were ready to see what had changed within the Arctic Monkeys camp to warrant another headline performance and, as predicted by NME, it was one to remember. Opening with their epic new single Do I Wanna Know? the tone was set early for their performance, yet the Sheffield four-piece covered all four albums in a set which saw hit after hit boom through the speakers. The energy hit an all-time high as the opening riff of R U Mine? echoed throughout the crowd. With most in the audience singing every word, it was a truly unique atmosphere. After the final notes of A Certain Romance faded, the group briefly left the stage before returning for an encore consisting of Mardy Bum, When The Sun Goes Down and finishing in a spectacular rendition of 505 featuring none other than Miles Kane.

Arctic Monkeys – R U Mine? (Live at Glastonbury 2013)

As the first night of acts came to a close, it was time for the infamous nightlife of Glastonbury to open up, and what better place for it to happen than Shangri-La. The after hours section consisted of two distinct zones; Heaven and Hell. Living up to their names, Hell consisted of freakish twists and turns, all leading to an open field of fire and metal. With a vast array of groups performing across the weekend the highlight came in the early hours of the morning as Rudimental, Zane Lowe and special guest Diplo blew the minds of those in attendance. The derelict-themed stage was the perfect setting for the absolute wrecking ball set that the Americab DJ had in store.

Over on the more pleasant Heaven stage, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke pleased fans with a mammoth DJ set consisting of NWA’s anthem Fuck The Police. As the set came to a close, punters crawled out of the muddy arena and slowly dispersed to various other sections of the mammoth camp site. From Silent Disco to the Rabbit Hole, only few took the comfortable option of sleep, as others were purely overwhelmed for choice.

Stay tuned for part 2 of our Glastonbury experience in the coming days.

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