Live Review: Chvrches (Alexander Palace, London, 2015)

 

I was slightly cynical before attending Chvrches largest London headline show to date, having previously seen them play Laneway in Auckland in 2014, where they had been promoted to headliner after Lorde dropped out. At the time they didn’t quite seem headline material, even for an indie festival such as Laneway, and a minimal stage set up and technical issues in my eyes confirmed this to be the case. With their latest album, Every Open Eye being a strong follow up to The Bones Of What You Believe, and their fan-base only growing in size and dedication, it seemed there were enough reasons in the lead up to the Alexander Palace show to believe that Chvrches now have what it takes.

Alexander Palace, with it’s standing capacity of 7,300 is not a small venue. Chvrches has sold this out, which is perhaps an indication of their rising popularity. The audience was eclectic, not being dominated by teenagers or indie kids, but with a suitable proportion it seemed of over 40 year olds and casual concert goers, of both genders. Gangs of lads could be spotted as could many couples, choosing this band for the soundtrack to their courtship. It seems Chvrches are a band that crosses demographics.

The opening acts were equally eclectic, with Australian indie-EDM cross-over act Mansionair opening proceedings. There drummer was particularly notable, backing up layers of melodic synths and reverb heavy chords with jazzy rhythms and the expected drum machine sample. It was a fairly chilled beginning, before Four Tet took the stage with his intoxicating progressive house vibes, encouraging some welcome movement throughout the steadily growing crowd. It is perhaps notable to mention that the show ran like clock-work, with Chvrches taking to the stage exactly on their 9pm listed time.

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The house lights went down and the Glasgow band emerged, with singer Lauren Mayberry’s presence causing the expected shrieks of excitement from their especially female fan-base. Wasting no time, Mayberry danced about the stage, leaping up on the fold-back’s and seemed a much more confident front-woman than at Laneway two years earlier. Opening track Never Ending Circles has some of the best hooks off the new album and provided an energetic opener. Her two bandmates, Martin Doherty and Iain Cook, were largely stuck on their podiums of synthesizers and samples, although 41 year old Cook occasionally left his podium to add live bass. Doherty gets turn front of stage later for a lead vocal cameo, with Mayberry showing her percussions skills, her drumming cameos being somewhat of a highlight.

The two massive screen’s either side of the band focused on Mayberry, making her a seem larger than life presence, in spite of her relatively slight real life stature.  These screens also provided a glimpse into what was taking place behind Doherty and Cook’s podiums, giving evidence that they were in fact playing their synthesizers live – not just queuing backing tracks as could easily be assumed. The stage design has gone up a notch as well, though remaining understated, with three screens of colourful animations and an arena-sized lighting rig providing a visual accompaniment to the music. These production values are expected for a band of this size, but in my eyes greatly improved the shows sense of spectacle compared to that minimal Laneway performance. They are now suited to a venue the size of Alexander Palace, without completely giving themselves over to the excesses of mainstream pop live productions.

Although Chvrches are fast rising the ranks of indie fame, they continue to approach their pop career with modesty. This determination to stay down to earth shows itself particularly in Mayberry’s on stage persona, herself admitting during between song banter that she could never be a Motley Crue-type, crowd pleasing front-woman. Although asking the crowd later if they were having a great time, referencing the earlier self-deprecating banter, the crowd in turn responded with cheers, showing that if Mayberry was every to fully embrace the role of a rock performer, she would well have the capability. But perhaps Chvrches reluctance to embrace the fake side of rock and pop is what draws their fanbase towards them. At other points in the concert, Mayberry talked of her fear of becoming another headline, in light of recent onstage events becoming tabloid fodder. Regardless of what the journalists chose to write, the bands authenticity in songwriting and performance remains endearing  and I think it is a large part of their appeal.

Most importantly, Chvrches have the hits, blitzing through big singalong moments such as Gun and We Sink off the first album, with new singles Empty Threat, Leave A Trace and Clearest Blue already being some of the biggest moments. Vocals are always impressive and the performance quality near identical to what is heard on the album (a good or bad thing depending on your appreciation of improvisation). Ending with the tender Afterglow, before signature anthem The Mother We Share, Chvrches prove they more than have the songwriting skills to be major headlining act. Compared to recent concerts I’ve attended of this genre which seemed slightly underwhelming, Purity Ring being one example, Chvrches are staking their claim as a major electronic pop live draw-card, and they have the evidence to prove it.

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The Chills New Album Gets a Release Date & Single: America Says Hello (+ lyrics)

The date has been announced and Martin Phillipps and band’s new album Silver Bullets is to be released 30th October on Fire Records. You can pre-order here. It’s only been 19 years since the last The Chills album, Sunburnt, which in my humble opinion was a pretty great album and an overlooked one – a trend of much of The Chills career. But it seems they’re set for a revival of appreciation, with all the big indie trendsetters such as Pitchfork spreading the word of the cult Dunedin band’s brand new release. The Chills performed to sold-out audiences through-out the UK last year; here’s hoping they return soon with more international dates, as well as playing the home land. The Pitchfork article does indicate a tour for next year.

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In tandem with this news being released is a brand new single, America Says Hello, which following on from the previously released Molten Gold is another slab of classic atmospheric pop. This one features a drum and bass rhythm guaranteed to bang heads, dark jangling melodies and politically charged lyrics. The choice of vocals in the mid-section – “a rocket attack, and a property boom” are pretty telling. The bass riff of the chorus is almost Joy Division-esque, dropping the guitars for Phillipps’ hook to cut through with immediacy – “America says hello, and the world says welcome home”. The production is both rough and polished, suiting the reverb drenched, swamp-pop Phillipp’s has long mastered, but with a modern touch. The melodies and structure are complex, this will most likely be one on high rotation for some time.

The lyrics are up for interpretation, and although political in theme partially, I would be missing the point I think if I took criticism of foreign policies to be the song’s only meaning. The opening lines are about the wonder and scope of the universe; the futility of human endeavor in light of this seems to be another theme through-out. The planets and the symbolism of Mars are effective metaphors for waring powers. The chorus perhaps then alludes to the habit of the world to forgive America for the violence of their empire, and all it takes is a greeting. Stockholm Syndrome maybe. I’ll stop here before I get too university-student with this analyses. As with anything, give it a spin and come up with your own interpretation. It shows Phillipps has still got it – he’s given us a lot to chew on with this one.

The song can be heard on Soundcloud now.

Give the song a share and go pre-order the album now.

I’ve attempted to write out the lyrics, and I’ve probably got some wrong, let me know if so (comment down below)

The Chills – America Says Hello (Lyrics):


“When you gaze at the stars on a cool, clear night
– novas, sapphires, giants and diamonds, and all beautiful

But you grapple with fear as you stare at the sight
For they’re cold uncaring, moving, scaring – inscrutable

For it’s a small world after all – a lonely little blue and white ball
And the universe yawns at our plans – as another empire expands
For on behalf of the war-god Mars – here are fifty white, fightin’-fit stars
That make people want to wail and pray – saying Rome wasn’t burnt in a day…
…but hey, we shall see!

But then America says hello – and the world says welcome home
America says hello – and the world says welcome home

Yes, it’s a god eat godless world – as the galaxies around us swirl
While the poor run riot in spite
– to see stars they set the night alight

For the everyday people aren’t free – and they know they’re never going to be
With the powerful keeping them hushed – as the tyrants get noisy ones crushed
So they turn a deaf ear to the prophets of gloom
For there’s funding galore from the profits of doom
First a rocket attack then a property boom
A rocket attack then a property boom
Just a rocket attack and a property boom
a rocket attack and a property…

Yes – on behalf of the war-god Mars – here are fifty white fightin’-fit stars
That make people want to wail and pray – saying Rome wasn’t burnt in a day…
…but hey, we shall see!
…cause this isn’t the way it was always portrayed it should be

Now the cash has crashed, the dream-ship sailed, the gravy-train has been derailed at its own terminal
Let the fairy tale be an epic fail for no one found the Holy Grail and time’s terminal

But then America says hello – and the world says welcome home
America says hello – and the world says welcome home

We were on the wrong track, will you welcome us back if we say hello? (America says hello…)
We were on the wrong track, will you welcome us back if we say hello? (America says hello…)
Now, we’re back on the track – will you welcome us back if we say hello? (America says hello…)
Yes, we’re back on the track – will you welcome us back if we say hello? (America says hello…)”

A Season Of Firsts part V: First day in London and it’s a toilet-less Blur

The ‘A Season Of Firsts’ series of blogs is me accounting my experience of relocating from New Zealand to the United Kingdom to work and travel.

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Unwrapping the bags at Gatwick

On the 20th of June, 7am in the morning, I arrived in London. That’s over a month ago, so any thoughts I’ll be sharing on this iconic city will be from the mindset of the jaded recent arrival, rather than the completely naive and fresh London immigrant.

London has very few public toilets. This was my first major revelation about the place, and one that would strongly taint my initial first impressions of the city. Making my way from Gatwick to a hostel in a suburb I had no idea about, dealing with the underground for the first time, trying to use Google Maps and orientate myself with a 24 KG pack on my back; this was all hard enough. Let alone with a full bladder, and seemingly no way of emptying it. I skipped the toilets at Gatwick assuming I would easily be able to find one on the way. This is one of the largest cities in the world after all. The only one to be found at London Bridge Underground Station required coins, and I didn’t yet have any Great Britain Pounds to my name. There was none to be found at my next stop of Rotherhithe either. This is now a good hour and a half after I boarded the express train from Gatwick into the city. London looked nice, but I’d not yet seen any major landmarks yet, just suburbs of brick houses and a grey-ish sky. It was beginning to seem a particularly anti-climatic entrance to the city, but one that in it’s own way was quintessentially London.

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My introduction to London

I didn’t make it all the way to the Hostel, I had to dive into the first bushy area I could find and illegally relieve myself, making the most of the one of the conveniences of the male gender. Now able to think straight, I soon found my hostel and proceeded to the next mission of getting some Pounds in hand. Turns out withdrawing money from a New Zealand Debit Card was an equally frustrating endeavor, with the ATM in the hostel spitting my card back at me without handing over any paper. Off I went to find the nearest Barclay’s which were apparently fee-less. I got lost, ended up at a small Thameside mall, and gave in to the first ATM I saw. I would soon find out that there was no avoiding bank charges when withdrawing from an overseas account in the UK. So advice for anyone traveling soon; take all the cash with you.

My first day in London was therefore suitable un-restful. That afternoon, on my return to the hostel I would receive a message from a friend. Blur were playing Hyde Park that afternoon, so it was off to that. Being unaware of the time it takes to travel throughout London, and lacking in any sense of direction I gave up on trying to navigate the tubes and instead booked an Uber. Probably the best decision I made my first day in London, as the Uber got me right to Bethnal Green Station early. I met up with my friends and was able to head to Hyde Park together, right on time to see all the support acts. I wasn’t too tired at this stage; I had slept enough on the plane from Dubai to London, but I was completely overwhelmed by having finally made it to the British metropolis I had been anticipating for sometime. Being overwhelmed I was unable to truly appreciate seeing Blur live, or appreciate what it was like to actually be standing in Hyde Park. In fact, it didn’t seem that special. Turns out Hyde Park is just another park, which happened to have a large stage situated upon in, and a lot of people milling around listening to music.

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We’ve made it to a concert

It may not have the wisest idea to go to a large music festival the day of arrival in a completely foreign city twenty four hours from home. But regardless, Blur were amazing, and maybe one day I’ll see them when I’m not confused – and truth be told, slightly drunk. The ciders were flowing, the exchanging of dollars for pounds were taking place, and my slightly hedonistic first Great Britain summer was had begun. How else do you spend your time in London, then spend all your money on music, arts, performances and substances? I should add, before I sound too jaded, that Blur at Hyde Park was a great concert that well lived up to expectations. The set-list was huge, the new songs sounded great side by side with the old classics and they even made time for fan favorites like Stereotypes. But the whole thing was a bit of a.. fog. Too much entertainment, too soon.

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It was all a Blur

It would not be long until I would have a job yet again. Applying for positions before arrival turned out to be a wise option, and within days of touching down I would have my first interview. Finding a flat was not easy, and for someone looking to keep costs to a minimum I soon learned I would have to settle. London is no place for indecision and my problem solving skills were immediately tested. Savings would not last long, and as I sit writing this, I’m wracked with doubt about how I’m going to avoid expensive meals and drinking sessions yet still remain social. Still another month to go until that first paycheck comes.

If you take anything from my experience, it’s to be prepared. For the bank charges and for the lack of toilets. Learn from my mistakes – use the Airport toilet before you hop on the train to the city. London is a hard enough city without having to deal with a bursting bladder and no options to empty it.

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Disregarding the puns – Blur are awesome

Review: Rioting outside Wireless Festival (Finsbury Park, London, 4th July 2015)

 

 

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Yesterday Kendrick Lamar played as part of Wireless festival in London. I had a ticket for the day, having wanted to see Lamar live for some time. But having arrived at Finsbury Park i was overcome with festival snobbery and decided Wireless wasn’t for me. My feelings were probably due to the fact that apart from Lamar, the only other acts on the lineup that I would have had even a vague interest in seeing were Mary J. Blige, who I already skipped at Glastonbury, and Childish Gambino, who I don’t particularly rate. The fact that Avicii was headlining, an artist I dislike in a genre I particularly dislike, cookie-cutter radio pop house, EDM or whatever the currently label is, irked me further. Why should Kendrick Lamar have only an hour, with his discography only getting stronger, him having probably the best album of 2015 after all, yet Avicii was given nearly two hours to stand on stage and cue corny pop anthems and tweak eq nobs on his CD-jay or serato set-up while the kids trips peak as the streamers and smoke and mirrors create the usual manufactured concert euphoria. I eventually decided this was not worth the 45 pound I paid for the ticket, and flogged it off to the first group I found who were buying.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 13: Kendrick Lamar performs on stage on Day 2 of Yahoo Wireless Festival 2013 at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on July 13, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Andrew Benge/Redferns via Getty Images)

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – JULY 13: Kendrick Lamar performs on stage on Day 2 of Yahoo Wireless Festival 2013 at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on July 13, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Andrew Benge/Redferns via Getty Images)

Seeing Kendrick live will have to wait, but instead I can review the vibe from outside Wireless Festival in the Finsbury Park grounds, North East London. The party was not confined to inside the walls and outside, hundreds were milling around in groups, publically drinking as this is legal in London, the atmosphere and prospects of getting a show for free attracting youths and hang abouts of all sorts. I may have left my ticket behind but not the festivities entirely. Instead a friend and I joined in with the free Finsbury festival happening that day. It may not have been corperate sponsored entertainment as per what was going on inside, but the outside festivities had a charm all their own, and plenty of entertainment, proving the youths can entertain themselves without needing big light shows and european DJs. The entertainment instead became all about finding a way into Wireless for free.

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The day before, some of these outside lingerers had managed to find a weakness in the fencing, providing the opportunity to get in for free. Saturday night, this was repeated except this time, security was ready and waiting. Word had got out through social media and those attempting to get in the second night had rapidly grown from the day before. I was expecting to see people attempting to break in, but also due to the police and security presence, had assumed this would deter the majority of attemptees. I was quite wrong. My friend and I had found a spot to sit, enjoy the sun and a few beers and perhaps enjoy some of the sounds leaking in from the festival beside us, when suddenly scores of people came running nearby. Quickly clicking to what was occuring, my friend and I caught up and followed behind. A weakness had been found in a back vehicle entrance, and people were pouring into Wireless in droves. Not long after, those same people were pushed back out, and a clash with gatecrashers and security ensured.

Now practically a full on riot, the crowd outside that had only swelled further took it upon themselves to sprint round the perimeter of Finsbury, making attempts to rip the Wireless fence down, a few making it over here and there, most chased away by security and police. Security were unable to physically attack the crowd, the police seemed resigned to let it take place and so arrests were not made and things were largely unviolent. As Kendrick took the stage this only convinced the mob to try harder to break in. Kendrick sounded great from outside, his anthems belting out as the mob took made final attempts to break down the wall of corporate music festivities. King Kunta sounded out and only made the kids try harder to get in.

Kendrick’s set coming to an end, the mob gave up. No one breaking in was attempting for the sake of Avicii, it was Lamar’s street sharp anthems that were uniting a crowd of bored London youths. Someone later made the comment to me that such an event was evident of what happens when there is not enough afforable leisure options available for youths. With school out,what else is there to do but get drunk in a park and try and break in to where the fun is. This is perhaps evident of the organisef chaos that youth boredom can eventuate to, if on a scale of that of Londons. A microcosmic example of the London riots that have been, and will probably be back. An occurance like this anticipates that.

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All this keeping the desperate kids out of the entertaiment does make me think, why should the rich no pay for the poor, taking a leaf out of the Proms books. Once the tickets have all been bought up, if there are 300 people hanging outside, why not just let the doors open and let them in, rather than semi-violently keeping them out of the corperate funded entertaiment. The hack DJs, the bloated corperate sponsors, the venue owners will all still make a profit. It’s happened in the past, The Wall in Berlin 1990 for example, or early Glastonbury festivals where fence jumping was just an expected part of it. Or what about Woodstock, when over demand and not enough ticket supply led to it becoming a free concert.

But it’s not 1969 anymore, and giant metal walls and police presence are the solution to keeping the poor or cheap out, and keeping the profit for the sponsors as high as possible. Bring on the next riots, they’ll probably be a lot more serious next time.

Note: I’ve just read that some people were in fact hurt, and perhaps stabbed in the attempted mob break ins. So to re-evaluate, breaking into a festival and using violence isn’t cool. I would probably recommend distancing yourself from such goings on. Also I don’t wish to insult the victims of previous riots – obviously personal casualties as well as property damage occured in the last London riots and I wouldn’t want to endorse any of that.

In the future I think I’ll stick to reviewing the concert – and discussing why Kendrick Lamar is a much better choice of headliner than Avicii.

Glastonbury 2015 blog: Saturday, Sunday and Summary

Intro – Revolution and Religion at Glastonbury

I’ve now returned from the cultural fantasy land and endurance test that is Glastonbury. Back in the real world, and two days after the majority of festival goers have left worthy farm, I’m now tasked with summarising the last days of experience at this most iconic of music festivals.

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The first few days I had managed to cover from the scene but due to the packed timetables of Saturday and Sunday I decided to take a break writing and completely immerse myself in the proceedings. Over the course of those days I witnessed some of the most unique performances I’d ever seen. I saw both Kanye West and Dalai Lama with a 12 hour timespan and as you can imagine, both were hugely memorable and yet had widely juxtaposed messages. The ego-fuelled spectacle of Kanye, which I and many other fans absolutely loved, was contrasted by the humility and compassion of Dalai Lama. The Buddhist leader, celebrating his 80th birthday, spoke to a crowd of twenty thousand or so about the need for better education, the importance of compassion and even of the inability of music to provide true contentment. The Dalai Lama instead told us he felt music was no different a sensorial experience to touch or taste, no different than the fleeting pleasure we get from eating a cake or having sex. He also encouraged people to believe that the next generation could create change. I thought delivering this kind of grounded message to a field full of pleasure seeking festival goers was sobering and appropriate.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama appeared again during Patti Smith’s awe inspiring set on Sunday, possibly the best set of the weekend, and bestowed upon Smith a white scarf that must have had some significance. We all sang Happy Birthday to His Holiness and a cake was brought out to him which he cut. He looked as if he was disappointed to have not eaten a piece as the cake was wheeled away from him. The rest of Smith’s set was a full blown punk riot, with Patti ripping through an extended version of Horses and Gloria, tripping over on stage in her fury, and recovering by telling the crowd “I am a fucking animal!” Smith’s dialogue between songs was in line with sentiment shared by Pussy Riot and the Dalai Lama – one of freedom, from government and corporations and that change IS possible. In spite of what others tell us. This rebellious sentiment didn’t feel contrived, it felt inspiring. Maybe we were only at a hedonistic music festival, but I can only dream that some of this revolutionary talk will help open the perspectives of some on the audience and watching at home.

From Pussy Riot holding a militant hostage on top of a war vehicle in front of The Park stage, to Pharrell leading a packed Pyramid audience in a chant championing Freedom, there was a definite liberal and confrontational edge to the festival. Greenpeace and other charities were everywhere. Up in Green Fields, where the original hippy inhabitants of the festival set up camp – you could talk to charities, meet alternative folk, get vegan cooking lessons, do power-ballad yoga and get behind many causes aligned with the festivals green mentality. Everywhere there were signs about not peeing on the land to avoid pollution, taking your tents and rubbish with you and leaving the farm without a trace. It’s sometimes hard to believe that a regular Somerset farmer would let all this happen on this backyard, but it’s probably justified by all the good work the festival has achieved, both raising money and awareness for causes. It’s great that this extends to the artists’ performances, that traditionally rebellious acts like Pussy Riot or Patti Smith champion their own causes, but also mainstream, seemingly corporate acts like Pharrell. Of course, some of this is done for the TV, and when Pharrell looked humbled by the mass singalong of his song Freedom, that was probably just as much due to the intoxication of the audience, and the British lad culture that encourages sing-along chanting, as it was to the crowds reception to the idea of freedom for our brothers of all colours and creeds.

Saturday and Kanye West

At odds with the liberal politics elsewhere, my Saturday was largely taken up with anticipation for Kanye’s set that night. I first took in some of the opportunities Glastonbury holds for the slightly-skilled like myself and headed to Stonebridge Bar in the The Park for Hip Hop Karaoke. Having learnt the whole of Through The Wire by Kanye West, I felt this was the opportunity to give it a go, and to appear in front of an audience at Glastobury. I managed to tick this one off the bucket list, and although I may have gone a bit too hard on the swearing and shouting, the experience seemed a success. Video proof to come.

It was then off to the main stage to camp up for Kanye’s headlining set. Before Kanye, in my attempts to get front row and centre, I enjoyed a set from Burt Bacharach, who turns out has written a lot more classic songs than I realised. Rain Drops Keep Fallin’ On My Head seemed perfect for the weekends weather (although it had cleared up at that stage). Paloma Faith followed and was sexy, had a lot of sass and some well-rehearsed dance moves. Then it was time for West. You may ask what all the fuss is about and why someone would be excited to see the man live. I’ve been a fan of his music for a few years now, notably since the release of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. He’s now a Marmite kind of brand, you either love him or hate him, and event though his ego does overshadow the music, he’s got a heck of a lot of good songs and I felt it was going to be a memorable show.

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In the eyes of this fan, he delivered. In the eyes of many other, he probably didn’t. I had expected the pancake lighting rig, having seen it hanging at the top of the pyramid stage earlier. I had also expected him not to bring a typical Glastonbury people-pleasing set, as this is not in his tool-set. I was correct, but he did bring his hits, and from where I was right at the front – surrounded by fellow Kanye super-fans – we had no complaints. Things did get a little unfocused in the middle, mistakes were made during Hold My Liquor by Kanye and guest Justin Vernon, and the guest appearances from Macca and Rihanna for Four Five Seconds never emerged. Kanye attempted that one by himself, which no-doubt was slightly disappointing. But for this fan – no complaints. He dropped rarities like I Wonder, attempted a hilarious karaoke version of Bohemian Rhapsody, and emerged from a crane for Touch The Sky – mimicking his triumphant Coachella set of 2011. It may have been self-indulgent, it probably wasn’t in the spirit of Glastonbury, and it wasn’t the highlight of the weekend. But it was good enough for this fan.

Sunday

Beginning with the relatively secret Dalai Lama’s appearance in the early hours up by the Stone Circle, Sunday had a decidedly more sober vibe compared to Saturday. In terms of substances as well as sounds. The Dalai Lama’s appearance and speech was most probably the highlight of the weekend for me, and well worth getting out of the tent early for. Sunday lunch-time I walked past the dance area on the way back to my tent and caught Minneapolis rap crew and record label Doomtree, who through down a huge hip hop party, leaving the stage altogether and performing in a circle in between their fans. I attempted to learn some lyrics to not look like the most clueless guy in the audience.

Patti Smith then owned the afternoon, and following that, exhaustion set in. My feet now dying from wearing gumboots and trudging miles across Worthy Farm for days on end, I was forced to leave Alt J’s mainstage set (which I wasn’t a huge fan of regardless) to head back to the campsite to return my so much more comfortable Chuck Taylor’s to my feet. On the way, I got distracted by Belle and Sebastian playing a much better set than the one they delivered at Auckland’s Laneway earlier in the year. I came right in time for I’m A Cuckoo and Another Sunny Day, but left early to complete the shoe mission. Comfortable footwear now acquired, I headed back to the Other Stage to watch a joyous performance of The Boy With The Arab Strap, complete with a pile of stage invading kids.

Sunday was the biggest test of endurance of the weekend. I had managed to sleep throughout the festival, but at this stage fatigue really had set in. I wandered up to The Park and watched a few songs of The Fall, Mark E. Smith delivering the punk grooves to a devoted audience. Unwilling to drink any more cider or consume the last of my Jagermeister, I carried a bottle around and wandered some more, finding a place to nap at the back of FKA Twigs. She sounded good, but I felt it was time to take my place for the headliners. I needed no more entertainment by the time The Who got on stage, so my excitement levels were not high. To my suprise, it was a very entertaining set, peaking with a Tommy medley towards the end. Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend appear more youthful than expected and still had some anger left in them, destroying the glass wall that encased drummer Zakk Starsky, due to it causing sound problems. Albums tracks such as Bargain were well received, as were the massive hits of course. Patti Smith’s version of My Generation from earlier possibly topped The Who’s latter version however.

My enthusiasm and energy now returned, I sprinted to The Chemical Brothers, to make it in time for their last song, Block Rocking Beats with some of Do It Again thrown in. The light show seemed incredible and I immediately felt at home. I couldn’t help but think that was headlining set I should have been at. Never-the-less, this is the challenge you are faced with at a festival the scale of Glastonbury, and if your problems are whether or not to see The Who or The Chemical Brothers – they don’t really seem like problems at all.

Summary

Glastonbury is a festival of opposites, partly a great fundraiser for charities and causes and partly a hedonistic, waste producing machine, where millions of pounds are exchanged throughout and millions of pints and bacon buns are consumed. A place for families to watch their favourite bands and have a break in the British country side and a place for teens and lads to drop pills and party in the rave areas until the early hours and beyond. My experience encompassed several of these opposites, with my time divided between relaxing, taking in the ideas and messages being transmitted and at the same time partying hard in my wellies until trench foot set in and I was forced to head back to camp.

I will probably go again, but to be honest once was probably enough. It’s quite an adventure and there is almost too much culture to consume. Within all the hedonism, excess and massive crowds, there’s a good message, one in opposition to the corporate conformity of everyday life to be consumed as well.

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Glastonbury 2015 live blog: Thursday and Friday

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Thursday

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Day two has started with a trek to the only hot showers, over in the greenpeace area, which saw a forty minute wait to get freshened up. The queues will only get bigger for these enviromentally concious showers where one must use the provided organic soap, so baby wipes and rinses by the nearest tap might be the options for hygene for the rest of the festival. The rest of the day has so far been quiet, with a big breakfast consumed from our favourite Summer Cafe and a bit of reading of the Glastonbury Free Press, the festival newspaper printed at a printing press on site.

I missed a few details from yesterdays adventuring in the previous blog. Earlier, I had in fact ran in to Michael Eavis, who joined the Mayor of Pilton to give a speech officially opening the festivities. It was a little unscheduled moment I stumbled upon. Later, our trek up the hill made it only half the way to the stonecircle, as crowds have already gotten rediculous, with baths between stages being excrutiatingly congested. This congestion will apparently be sorted out once the music starts tomorrow, as the crowds will disperse to in front of the stages instead of in the paths between. Up on the hill, we were treated to a display of pyrotechnics and lights, as the Arcadia spider stage kicked into action in a demonstration of its spectacle. Worth googling if you haven’t seen it. Club and bar stages were already kicking off – so even though just Wednesday and the lineup not starting officially until friday, things are already massive. This festival would be great without the bands.

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Friday

07:49
The blogging ceased to happen for the rest of yesterday but I thought I’d get one in today before the real hectic rush to catch bands begins. Thursday night saw a mission to catch Drenge play a secret set in Williams Green. Rumour had gone around throughout the day that they were appearing and a substantial crowd had already filled up the tent an hour before the band was due to appear. This would be some of the first major sets of the weekend, with Seafret and Wolf Alice appearing as well. Seafret played a pretty good set first of emotional acoustic indie which warmed things up. When Drenge took the stage, the real crush began, with moshing and circle pits not just from the guys but the gals too. Drenge’s mix of indie melodies with sludgey, downtuned grunge grooves seems to have a bit of cross over appeal. No doubt these guys will be on a larger stage as an official billing next year.

Later on, after drifting through tides of people on my way back to camp I stumbled on a rock band called Waa Wei playing a killer set in a tent called the La Pussy Parlure. The female singer, perhaps Japanese had an intense presence with glammed out costume design. I stood, hypnotically watching this band I knew nothing about for some time, and also appreciating how cool this little venue was. Just another one of those interesting things you stumble upon in a festival as eclectic as this.

The festival is about to kick off for real today, so I’ve consumed a full english breakfast and a coffee and am plotting my potential schedule for the day. Must sees include Motorhead and Enter Shikari, so it could be a day of the heavy. Pussy Riot is giving a talk at The Park, which could be something not to be missed. The crowds are about to reach their zenith, so my ability to see these acts will depend upon the time it takes to get between stages. We’ll see how I go.

pussy riot glastonbury 2015

11.56
The Charlatans are kicking off the Other Stage with a set of britpop classics I’ve never heard, but there’s good grooves and great stage presence. The massive crowd seems happy in spite of an ominous dark cloud over head that signals the traditional Glastonbury mud will be hear soon. Luckily I’m prepared, carrying with me a plastic poncho obtained from a frozen yoghurt stall at last weeks Blur concert at Hyde Park. My welly’s are back at the camp site, so it’ll mean a trek back later to get prepared, probably before the Motorhead mosh. It’s so far pretty easy to get between stages, I’ve already walked  from the Greenpeace area, where I engaged in some surreal power ballad yoga (videos to come) and had my camera battery charged by some nice hippies in green fields. As I write this I’m sitting in the grass outside The Park stage, waiting for Pussy Riot to give a talk.

14:59
Pussy Riot gave a hilarious talk in support of rebellion on top of a military vehicle in front of The Park stage. A considerable crowd was perplexed and captivated by the presentation. King Gizzard then followed with double drummer assault of riffs and harmonica, a crazy indie rock version of ACDC, straight out of Australia.

alabama shakes glastonbury 2015

23:48
Attempts to write during the day were cut short by an intense day of wandering, getting stuck in the rain, gearing up with weather proof clothing and heading back and forth between stages seeing bands both expected and surprising. It’s been quite a full to be honest, i know that its a cliche to talk about the size of this festival, but it really is huge. After a day of amazing sets and three days of exploring, I’m still discovering new areas. The Arcadia stage has kicked off, a giant spider with moving parts and pyro exploding generously. It’s glowing red eyes peer ominously over the audience, the DJ sits within the spider – and although the music isn’t to my taste, the attention to detail of such areas is impressive.

As for the rest of my first Friday of Glastonbury, most notably the rain came down and with it the mud. With the right perspective you can soldier on, and once the wellys were donned all was fine. Motorhead in the pouring rain was a particular highlight, with Lemmy and co. bringing the speed metal, even though most of the crowd basically only knew Ace of Spades. Moshing in front of the Pyramid Stage was hilarious, the old school double kick and heavy rock riffs a welcome change from the indie jangling which is most prominent elsewhere.

Due to mainstage bands running late I only managed to catch the last song of Run The Jewels, but I did most unexpectadly catch The Libertines on the mainstage. The Libertines filled the gap before Florence And The Machine and proved a great choice – Foo Fighters were probably missed by some watching the live stream online, but at the festival, who was playing barely even mattered. Florence seemed to kick ass on the mainstage but I soon left with new friends met in the Pyramid crowd to see Enter Shikari.

I now walk off, following streams of people trudging through mud, to find a potential last great set before bed, although the day has already been so huge, any more entertainment is superfluous.

Although the bands are great, the highlights of the day have been random interesting conversations with strangers, rather than the bands. The music is the icing on the cake. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though, I feel like there are downsides to a festival of this size. It certainly is challenge and if you’re not prepared with the right clothes and equipment, or if you don’t pace yourself, you risk not making the most of what this unique place offers.

Kanye West tomorrow, and hiphop kareoke at Stonebridge Bar in The Park, 4pm. See you there.

Glastonbury 2015 live blog: Day One

As long as I can get some wifi, and have a little bit of battery life, i will attempt to blog live throughout Glastonbury. Which means the writing might be a little sloppier, but will benefit from being in the moment, rathered than a laboured review two weeks after the event.

09:34

I’ve made it through the gates. The queue wasn’t too bad for me although i had to trek for some time around the festival perimetre to find the international ticket pickup office. The various security and festival staff all seemed to have a different idea of where the ticket office was – at one stage i went back and forward over the same field between different gates three or four times, until eventually finding the correct gate. The line was thankfully short from then on, although my friends perhaps weren’t quite so lucky. As we speak I sit eating a bacon, sausage and egg wrap from the first food stall that greeted me upon entry, quite delicious and a much needed energy boost. My friends on the other hand did not have to trek between gates to pick up their tickets, they are however still in a much larger queue to enter.

Last night we stayed at the town of Glastonbury, which is a town full of history, old buildings and a pagan vibe. Felt like I was sleeping in the Inn from the film The Wicker Man. We took the Megabus yesterday from London to Glastonbury, which on the other hand, is not an experience I would recommend or repeat. It will probably go down as my least favourite bus ride ever, with drunken young lads from London drinking, fighting and streaking throughout the bus. Added to this, the bus had a toilet onboard, which soon lost its ability to flush. ‘Nuff said.

But onwards and upwards, its a beautiful day, and i may blog again soon.

glastonbury day 1

14:48

Tents have now been set up and the crew has been reunited minus a few who are still stuck waiting for coach back in London. We’ve found a good spot to camp near John Peel stage, which, upon scouting the area seems to be not too far of a walk between the Pyramid and Other Stages, as well as much needed necessities such as toilets, taps and food areas. Competition is high already in the quest for the perfect spot, we’ve had to protect our area already from a flood of fellow opportunist campers.

Most of the afternoon has been spent exploring the grounds, mapping out routes between stages and checking out the markets and food stalls. Bacon buttys’ seem so far to be the food choice of the day, another having been consumed at the Summer Cafe on the way back from checking out the Other Stage. The grounds are as magnificent and spectacular as I had expected, the iconic Pyramid stage being surrounded by other notable icons such as the blue and orange John Peel circus tent, the giant maypole in The Park and the..

I’m now on a mission to try and find showers, which are apparently near Michael Eavis’ house. Fingers crossed I’ll run into the man. More from me soon.

18:22

No luck finding Michael Eavis but i did run into his grandson working at the Merchandise tent, upon buying an official festival Tshirt. I’m still exploring the Glastonbury site and haven’t returned back to the camp, so I’ve no idea what the rest of my group are doing. It turns out that the Glastonbury site is indeed huge, and around every corner is another section of interesting food or market stalls – or crazy, wild, diverse music stages.

21:33

Finally made it back to the campsite and to my friends after already having a pretty great time, just one day into this festival. Most of the enjoyment came from having cool conversations with random festival goers and staff, including a long chat with Glastonbury veteran, photographer and friend of the Eavis’s, Matt Cardy. I also found a jam spot in The Park complete with a drumkit – and proceeded to join in a jam of American Pie. A pretty sloppy jam at that, but I can kind of say I’ve ticked something else off the bucketlist – gigging at Glastonbury.

As I write this we’re heading off to the Stonecircle to watch the sunset, so I should probably get off social media for today and get in the moment. I will try to keep up these blogs or at least write a couple more from here, but no promises.Making the most of the festival should probably be my priority so for now, peace out from Worthy Farm.

glastonbury day 1