FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: A SENSE OF DEJA VU
This past week has been a mite challenging. I was ready to gear up for Glastonbury 2023 on return from a relaxing break on the island of Sardinia when news came through that our flight home had been cancelled. Not that we were awake to read it as the text message was timed at 03:32. Other than mad options like a 23-hour round trip via Napoli, there were no more flights for two days so we stuck with less than Easyjet. Ever get that sense of déjà vu? Well, the second one was cancelled again during the early hours. Reluctant to risk sticking around till the next not so Easyjet a further two days later, we found our own way home to Gatwick via a Vueling flight to Barcelona and a fraught dash from the huge main terminal to a small, deserted one where we were told we had two minutes left to hand in the luggage.
Ironically the Barcelona to Gatwick leg was, you guessed, via Easyjet which we had to book ourselves at three times the usual price. Instead of doing a F3F column, I then spent the next day writing a Chairman-ready essay detailing our experience and attempting to claim the four-figure net cost back from our erstwhile friends in orange. The knock-on effect of all this was that I had little time to complete all the stuff that I should have done last week and properly prepare for Glastonbury. The decision not to go this year was sealed by a medical condition I am still awaiting a simple operation to fix and the slight inconvenience of the place I was staying deciding to close its doors. Maybe someone was trying to tell me something?
Briefly returning to Sardinia now, you may recognise the gentleman above alongside the staff at the excellent Ristorante Mari Mannu in Cagliari. Well, he’s a hero both in England via his exploits winning the premiership title with Leicester City and in Cagliari, having just secured promotion for the home team to Serie A following a last minute play-off winner at Bari. Forza Claudio Ranieri! [Err, any music this week? – Ed]. Ah yes, I usually publish a Glastonbury preview here so will attempt a this-is-who-I-might-have-seen-if-I’d-gone digest, some of whom will undoubtedly be on BBC iPlayer and may even be included in next week’s armchair Festival review. There are many others who BBC cameras will not pick up yet are just as worthy of your attention.
Photo of Alex Hall and Alleya Weibel at Bread and Roses by Janine Cook
OK, it’s already been and gone now but I would just like to record how important this day is for emerging and grassroots acts as they get the chance to draw meaningful sized crowds on the smaller stages before the main ones get going on Friday lunchtime. A few will also have had an early moment in the sun on Wednesday on Toad Hall, The Lizard and Mandala in the Green Fields. On Thursday it was the turn of the estimable Alex Hall to open the Bread and Roses stage at noon. My spies tell me he drew a 300+ crowd and played a sparkling set along with his violinist, Alleya Weibel. Later in the day Bread and Roses also hosted the wonderful Frankie Morrow followed by the splendid ETC 2023 Winner, N’Famady Kouyate. Others I marked were ETC 2023 runner-up Prima Queen at the Rabbit Hole stage, one of 5 spots for the new indie royalty, rock icon Liela Moss at the Bimble Inn, Cerian followed by Gecko on Toad Hall, Andrew Maxwell Morris and his band on Mandala stage, Michael Baker at The Hive and Steve Knightley at the Avalon Café.
My day would most probably have started with Ben Howard who opens on the Other Stage at 11:30 followed by a quick interstage hop to the Pyramid to see the brilliant Maisie Peters make her Glastonbury debut. Although I remain perplexed by how few of the acts on the BBC Introducing stage I have encountered before, Nieve Ella looks an early afternoon delight there today. Loyalties would be fully stretched later into the afternoon/early evening as ETC 2023 Finalists Cordelia Gartside and Ezra Williams line up on Bread and Roses along with the Heard Collective’s Daisy Chute while the wonderful Blue Violet is at Strummerville, Pale Waves return to Woodsies (formerly the John Peel Stage), Lightning Seeds bring 3 Lions to the Other and Texas comes to the Pyramid. A truly weird late evening billing combination sees Freya Ridings followed by The Dammed on the Avalon stage while I am reminded that moons ago I worked for the Milk Marketing Board after clocking Kelis, who closes things at West Holts with a large shake. That just leaves The Churnups, the Pyramid mystery act billed at 18:15 and expected to be Foo Fighters or possibly Pulp. Let’s see! Oh, and a trip down memory lane for me via Sparks on the Park Stage. Choices, choices.
The Pyramid opens at noon with the unlikely form of Rick Astley who clearly was never going to give this spot up. Later in the day Lewis Capaldi brings his inimitable brand of heart on sleeve stuff to the same stage. The Acoustic Stage hosts some personal faves including The Magic Numbers, Badly Drawn Boy and Richard Thompson though I won’t miss the long walk there, while I would have been torn between these and the twin attractions of Joanne Shaw Taylor and Gabrielle Aplin on the Avalon stage. Meanwhile there is another chance to catch both Andrew Maxwell Morris and Frankie Morrow again on Bread and Roses plus Alex Hall (Lizard Stage). In a no-win situation, the marvellous Ailbhe Reddy can also be spotted on Croissant Neuf stage. A day of impossible choices is capped by Lana Del Rey and Christine and The Queens, closing the Other Stage and Woodsies respectively at 22:30 while earlier in the evening The Pretenders offer justification for a route march down to The Park.
I’ve managed to get through this so far without mentioning Friday and Saturday’s headline acts, Arctic Monkeys and Guns N’ Roses, but it would be churlish not to record that tonight’s Pyramid appearance will mark Sir Elton John’s last ever live set. I might feel that he peaked early with “Skyline Pigeon” but that view puts me in a minority of one so let’s all watch and laud a true legend. Earlier in the day, I picked out Sophie Ellis-Bextor and The Chicks on the Pyramid, plus Becky Hill (Other Stage), Beth Orton (West Holts), The Big Moon (Woodsies), Trevor Moss & Hannah Lou (Bimble Inn), Josh Barry (Rabbit Hole), Will Young and Lissie (both Avalon) and ETC 2023 Finalist Naomi Kimpenu, Toyah Willcox & Robert Fripp and Laura Cantrell (all Acoustic Stage). The clash of the day though sees the act I really, really most wanted to see [You’re not there – Ed], Weyes Blood, on The Park up against Yusuf/Cat Stevens in the Pyramid Legends slot. I'll just say thank you, BBC iPlayer!
Glastonbury opened on Wednesday 21 and closes on Sunday 25 June. You’ll find the full line-up on the Glastonbury website while, if you’re not lucky enough to have a ticket, the BBC offers tons of coverage across its TV channels, iPlayer, BBC Radio and Sounds.
As a postscript to this preview, I write about many new, emerging and grassroots acts virtually all of whom I feel would grace a major Festival bill, or otherwise I would not get excited about them. I’d like to leave you with two such acts. Southend-on-Sea’s The Trusted has rightly featured many times in these columns over the past two years and I remain convinced that the band’s destiny is to grace the Somerset fields one of these days. The Trusted’s new single, “Doomsday”, continues to bear the standard for heartfelt lyrics, admirably delivered by Tom Cunningham and nailed to an impressive tune. The new song brings stadium-sized guitar rock to bear fruit on some heavy societal and personal demons.
The admirably named Brave New Broken Hearts Club is a new one to me. The moniker of North London native Neil Phillimore, the project is a repair job in the most honest and open sense. Neil has crafted a set of songs that mark a creative, healing process to meet and put to rest past experiences where life has not exactly gone to plan: the pain of the end of a 10-year relationship and closure of a music-based charity he had sunk heart and soul into. As an introduction to Neil’s work, in “The Limitation of Words” you’ll find the components of great communication – an accessible turn of phrase married to a poetic sensibility, a characterful yet easy on the ear vocal and a flair for melody. Neil has a new collection of six songs, Best Laid Plans, due for release shortly which will “draw on different influences and use a different sonic palette” in his words. I look forward to that but right now I feel sure that Brave New Broken Hearts Club would sit nicely at Glastonbury alongside regulars Billy Bragg and Gecko.