FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: GLASTONBURY CALLING
Fifty3 Fridays is two days early this week as we preview this week’s Glastonbury Festival. I am leaving early Thursday morning with the hope of catching some of the action on the smaller stages later on in the day. The main stages do not open until Friday lunchtime so it’s a great chance for some grassroots artistes and emerging talents to play to larger audiences than they might expect over the weekend, when the rule of thumb is there will be around five acts on at any one time you would usually fancy seeing.
The whole event spans 80 stages which host over 2,800 performances; a line-up that would take up 123 sheets of A4 were you to select all and save it. Alongside a full spectrum of music styles, you’ll find theatre, dance, circus, kids shows and activities, street performers, all things Green, speakers, purveyors of nightlife, a seaside experience and much more. First time visitors will be amazed by the sheer size of the place – over a mile and a half across, with a perimeter of around eight and a half miles. Be prepared for lots of walking and micro-climates resulting in variable weather. Sounds like we’ll get both sun and rain but hopefully no mud baths.
Photos by Anna Barclay
Anyhow having condensed the aforementioned 123 pages to a mere four to create some kind of who-I’d-like-to-see almost feasible schedule, the highlight pen has already run out. As I am unlikely to discover time travel in the next 24 hours, I won’t see them all but at least it gives me something to work with. The other thing that struck me about putting together a preview of potential festival highlights is how subjective it all is. You could equally conjure a list with just as many different names; indeed, I know someone who fully expects Sunday evening Pyramid Stage headliner Kendrick Lamar to be the highlight of his weekend, whereas I still can’t forgive the man for destroying a Lamborghini on The Brits and am more tempted by Pet Shop Boys who have the same festival closing slot on the Other Stage.
Photo by Andrew Allcock
The sun should shine and the home of all things eco, the Green Fields, will be the place to be with all the stages active. Some highlights include Fifty3 Fridays alumnus Gecko, Michele Stodart (The Magic Numbers) and Cerian on Toad Hall Stage, while the Mandala Stage hosts Heard Collective and The Portraits. Your green renewably-powered experience can be capped by the wonderful Nadia Sheikh who plays the Lizard Stage at 9pm, one of four shows she and her band are performing. Elsewhere on the site you can catch Body Water and Andrew Maxwell Morris and his band on the Bread and Roses Stage. Gecko is keeping busy by also putting in a daily appearance at The Astrolabe Theatre from Thursday to Sunday, while I spotted that Blue Violet could be seen at Strummerville.
I’ve heard good things too about Bristol collective, Doreen Doreen, who will be playing three late night shows at The Summer House from Friday to Sunday. Within a 10-strong line-up, the band numbers Tom and Emily from Tiny Dyno who will be playing their own show as a duo on the Small World Stage on Friday evening. Small World also hosts another Andrew Maxwell Morris set plus one from Michael Baker earlier in the evening. After Tiny Dyno, I should then get back just in time to see Friday’s stellar Pyramid headliner, Billie Eilish. Meanwhile if contemporary dance is your thing, I do recommend you check out Comrades in the Dark from Caitlin Barnett Company, a visceral piece inspired by the secret writings of Irish Nationalist and hunger striker Bobby Sands. There are two shows at The Astrolabe on Friday and one on Sunday.
There are too many delights on Friday main stages to list but in addition to Billie Eilish, I have especially marked Wolf Alice (Pyramid), First Aid Kit (Other Stage) and Phoebe Bridgers on the John Peel. The Peel actually opens on Friday morning with a set from Glastonbury Emerging Talent runner-up, English Teacher. ETC winner Lewis McLaughlin can be seen on the BBC Introducing Stage in the afternoon while Little Simz (West Holts), Wet Leg (Park Stage) and Penelope Isles (William’s Green) are further standouts.
The Pyramid Stage will have plenty of day campers pitching their chairs early and with the wonderful Haim sisters and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds leading up to Sir Paul McCartney’s headline show it is going to be hard to tear oneself away in the evening. Picking through some highlights elsewhere during the day, I marked down Olivia Rodrigo (Other Stage) while an afternoon home run of Holly Humberstone, Self Esteem and Beabadoobee on the John Peel looks the business. Other standouts for me are Celeste (West Holts), Big Thief (Park), Laura Veirs and Katharine Priddy (Acoustic), Tom Robinson Band (Avalon) and Porridge Radio (William’s Green).
On Sunday afternoon, there should be a Dolly-sized crowd for Diana Ross at the famous Legends slot on the Pyramid and Elbow is then the perfect early evening follow up. Let’s hope for “My Sad Captains” even though it won’t be quite the time for sunset. Earlier in the day, I picked out Lianne La Havas and Sea Girls on the Other Stage, plus Sports Team on the John Peel, Chloe Foy on the Acoustic Stage and Orla Gartland on Avalon. On the smaller stages the redoubtable Alex Hall plays a couple of shows (Toad Hall and Small World), having made his Glastonbury debut on Friday late evening on the Mandala. I also picked out Ajimal on Bread and Roses plus Charlotte Campbell (Toad Hall).
As I really should be packing now, I will leave you with secret sets. There are several TBA slots in the programme and rumours abound as to who might fill them. It’s pretty nailed on that you’ll be able to see Bastille on William’s Green on Thurs evening and catch a Wolf Alice DJ set on BBC Introducing (Friday evening) plus there’s a good chance that George Ezra will turn up on the John Peel on Sunday afternoon. Whether Harry Styles will join Billie Eilish for a duet or Sir Elton John will hit the Aunt Joanna with his fellow knight Sir Macca on Saturday evening is pure speculation. All I will say is that Fleetwood Mac won’t be there and Liam won’t forge a sudden brotherly reunion with Noel either. You could do worse than follow @secretglasto on Twitter if any of this excites you.
Glastonbury opens on Wednesday 22 June and closes on Sunday 26 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 over 35 hours of coverage across its TV channels, and also on BBC Radio and online. Enjoy!
I STAND WITH UKRAINE