Glastonbury 2017: Extensive Report

It’s been just over a week since the emphatic 2017 Glastonbury Festival and The Music Radar UK is proud to present the extensive coverage of what happened across the five days at Somerset’s iconic Worthy Farm site.

First view of Pyramid Stage
Pyramid Stage on Wednesday

At 8am the gates for the 2017 Glastonbury Festival opened to a buzz of excitement, 47 years since the first festival took place. As the last festival before the dreaded fallow year next year, organisers Emily and Michael Eavis promised a festival like none before it, with new areas, huge secret sets and an extended list of artists to compensate for the lack of music in 2018, Wednesday was ablaze with heat. Glastonbury has always been at war with the weather but the 31 degree temperatures around the Somerset site gave organisers a new issue to deal with.

As The Music Radar UK, arrived in Somerset ahead of what would be a mind blowing festival, we were captured by the hospitality of everyone involved in the management of crowds and festival goers. This was our first Glastonbury experience and what a way to start it, and after an atmospheric couple of hours queuing in the sweltering heat, we entered the site with eager anticipation and following a mini trek through the north side of the site, reached a perfect camp spot in Big Field, overlooking the prestigious Pyramid Stage which was just a five minute walk away. Having watched Glastonbury on both TV and laptop, seeing the iconic Pyramid Stage alongside the Other Stage, John Peel Stage, The Park plus the rest of the bigger stages was something special, and from the offset it was clear that the aura that so many past Glastonbury goers had spoken of was something of reality and not fiction.

Whilst there was no live music across the majority of the site, there were still a variety of activities on offer for the 200,000 people that had managed to get a ticket. A new area was opened in 2017 for film lovers, wth Cinemageddon promising an experience that replicates that of a drive through cinema. With classic cars build by a team of artists, the new experience allowed for one to sit inside the cars whilst a variety of films played on a large screen in front. With audio available through headphones given at the site, the new area was opened in the evening by Michael Eavis, Johnny Depp and Julian Temple, the legendary director who curated the film list for the area. It was during this opening that the controversial speech given by Johnny Depp and aimed at President Trump occurred, which sparked huge debate across the globe. Controversy aside, the heat filled opening day allowed for festival goers to relax in the shade of various areas whilst preparing themselves for the coming days of activity.

Thursday came to the same excitement as the previous day, with festival goers building up for the first sight of music which included two secret sets in the evening. William’s Green was the main point of focus for the eager music lovers amongst the camp. Rising singer Rationale brought his neo-R&B styled blend to a building crowd whilst London five-piece Pumarosa, one of the UK’s biggest upcoming band, drew a huge crowd who wanted to listen to their grunge tinged style of music. With singer Isabel Munoz-Newsome, Pumarosa take their style from the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s and blend it with the beauty of Wolf Alice. Following on from Pumarosa were Glastonbury’s first two secret sets of the festival which like in typical Glastonbury tradition, were known way before the sets happened. Liverpool’s brilliant indie rock band Circa Waves delivered an energetic set with tracks from across their first two albums.

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Everything Everything’s Secret Set

The first moment of brilliance at the festival came in Everything Everything’s secret set. A band whose indie math-rock gained a huge cult following at the beginning of their career before going more mainstream, the Manchester four piece shone throughout their set which included new material from their upcoming fourth record. Unreleased track Ivory Tower was a glimpse of the class that can be expected on their pending record and had they have released the track before that set, it would have ignited the tent but nevertheless, closing with Distant Past and No Reptiles, the band presented a clear case that they are a force to watch out for this year as the crowds filtered away from the tent and into the night which was abundant with places to go and DJ’s to see.

 

As Friday arrived, the barriers for the main stages were removed and the crowds flocked to the Pyramid Stage for a late morning opening of Glastonbury’s iconic main stage with the the help of Hacienda Classical. A tribute to one of the UK’s most important venues, the set was simply stunning, brilliantly arranged and orchestrated by DJ’s, New Order’s Peter Hook, Bez and a stunning orchestra. It was a perfect way to begin the first full day of music and following on from that, The Music Radar UK team found ourselves at the Other Stage to see Charli XCX, whose PC pop has infected the nation over the last year. Her noon slot might have been a reason for her energy being higher than that of the crowd but her set was full of wonderful pop bangers. Back over on the Pyramid Stage, Stockport’s indie risers Blossoms delivered a set which oozed class and old school indie charm. The band’s stunning debut album was given a perfect platform to be heard by the thousands of people gathered and with more huge shows this year, expect the band to be one of the biggest UK artists in the future.

Following on from Blossoms on the Pyramid Stage were Swedish folk rock duo First Aid Kit whose harmonies blended superbly amongst the warmth of the Somerset site. Country legend Kris Kristofferson was the first name announced for 2017’s festival but unfortunately his set proved to be a cataclysmic booking. Looking confused throughout the set, Kristofferson’s set rarely took off, even with hit Me & Bobby McGee. Failing to inspire the large crowd that had gathered for the set, it was a real shame to see a major slot at the festival wasted and the only shining moment of the set was when actor Johnny Depp appeared with an acoustic guitar to play alongside the singer.

Trying to inspire a crowd following on from Kristofferson’s set was always going to be difficult but no one could be more better at achieving this than Brighton rock duo Royal Blood, whose debut album exploded around the world and second album had just been released. Quite simply, their set was absolutely stunning, tearing apart the stage and the crowd responded to them as if they were headlining the full festival. A crowning moment of their slot was the pause that the duo took to be told that their second album had reached number one in the charts. It was a real display of quality from the rock two piece that surely shows them as potential headliners for the future.

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Royal Blood stun the Pyramid Stage

Over at The Park stage, various speculation was going around as to who would be playing the 19:30 secret set. With the Manic Street Preachers in Bristol and Arcade Fire in London around the festival dates, fans anticipated that a huge set was going to occur and they weren’t wrong in that aspect. Whilst it wasn’t Arcade Fire or the Manics, the Guy Garvey led Manchester band Elbow took to the stage to deliver an hour of startlingly beautiful alternative music. With tracks from their most recent record plus parts of their Mercury Prize winning album amongst others, their set was wonderful amongst the sunset and a real joy for those who managed to race down to the stage in time.

Before Radiohead took to their headline set at the Pyramid Stage, minimalist experts The xx delivered a beautifully emotional set that really enraptured the crowd. Romy Madely-Croft’s cutting vocals connected beautifully with fellow vocalist Ollie Sim’s and together they conjured harmonies of pure beauty. Jamie xx held the fort down whilst the two front members performed, and you could sense the boost in confidence that Jamie xx had gained from his successful solo album, which allowed him to be more noticed amongst the band. Whilst famous for their serenity and fragility, their evening slot was more of a majestic statement of strength against anything that will and has been against them.

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The xx deliver a startling set to a huge crowd
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Thom Yorke leading Radiohead’s headline set

Finally, the sun set on the first night of music to Thom Yorke’s Radiohead, whose hotly anticipated set was rumoured to be a celebration of the iconic OK Computer, a record which was celebrating its 20th anniversary. The lengthy show was full of career spanning hits from the recent opener Daydreaming to their most known track, and one which defined their first record, Creep. As always, there was a mix between rock and electronic, which at points seemed to lose the audience a bit alongside Yorke’s seemingly inebriated personality. My Iron Lung, Just and Burn The Witch were unfortunately amongst the hits that weren’t played but with an encore including Paranoid Android, Karma Police, Creep and No Surprises, it was safe to say that the thousands that were gathered at the Pyramid Stage saw one of the finest band’s ever to have released music delivering a set that highlighted their originality and personality and as the final singalong to Karma Police ended, the swarms of people flocked into the night to enjoy the treats of the South West Corner, Arcadia and many more of the installations that went on through the night and early morning.

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Arcadia showing that Glastonbury has more to offer than big artists

Saturday started with a nostalgic performance from The Bootleg Beetles before an early glimpse of future stardom over at the John Peel Stage from Maggie Rogers. The young American artist played a selection of new material alongside some tracks from her current EP’s. Her mix of country, folk and electronic pop is something sublime which carries a wave of innocence amongst it and midway through her set she brought out rising indie star Declan McKenna and it was at that point we truly believed we were watching two stars of the future. Rogers seemed stunned by the large crowd that had gathered for her set, but in reality it was everyone watching that was truly stunned. Also on the John Peel Stage were INHEAVEN, whose brand of indie rock becomes more polished each time we see them. The Amazons’ mid afternoon set on the John Peel Stage saw crowds flock to a band which has been dubbed as the UK’s future leaders of rock. Matt Homson’s anthem ready vocals matched the ferocious drums and guitars from the other band members. The Radio 1 friendly Junk Food Forever closed their set to raucous applause and with a huge list of shows across the summer and for the rest of the year, 2017 looks to be the biggest year of the band’s career.

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Maggie Rogers shows a glimpse of the future

Back over on the Pyramid Stage, the crowd were getting their first big hit of nostalgia with garage legend Craig David delivering a performance that included hits from the early 2000’s plus more recent releases and chart remixes. Whilst seemingly outdated, there was no denying the sense of enjoyment of his performance and the huge crowd gathered seemed to agree as well. It wasn’t until Craig David’s set that you felt a real sense of anticipation amongst the 70,000 expected people gathered at the Pyramid Stage to hear what was one of the most expectant moments of the festival. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had a presence over the site since it opened on the Wednesday, with thousands of individuals inspired by his honest style of politics. His speech on the main stage both celebrated the uniqueness of Glastonbury, whilst offering the broader message for unity and prosperity for everyone. His speech echoed across the festival and confirmed for many the fact that many people feel ignored by the establishment. Corbyn’s appearance Glastonbury, alongside appearances from shadow chancellor John McDonnell and deputy leader Tom Watson highlighted the celebration of arts that is felt by some of the UK’s politicians which is refreshing to see.

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A huge crowd gathered for Jeremy Corbyn’s speech

On the John Peel Stage, a celebration for one of the UK’s most talented rappers was taking place. Loyle Carner, whose album Yesterday Gone elevated the rapper to a new height, showing his craftsmanship as both a rapper, lyricist and narrator. His personality onstage is infectious and you can’t help but feel proud for Carner, who, filled with emotion at the incredible reception given by the crowd paid tribute to his mother by bringing her onstage at the end of his set. One of the most noticeable things about this year’s festival was how dedicated the crowd were to the artists on show. Across all stages and at all times, there was an abundance of people present, all giving support for the talent on offer.

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Loyle Career blew the crowd at the John Peel Stage away

Whilst Carner’s set was a starting chapter in what looks to be a huge career, the Pyramid Stage welcomed a megastar whose fame has reached all corners of the globe. US pop star Katy Perry’s appearance at Glastonbury was always going to raise an eye amongst the festival goers but with a highly political pop record released just a week before, her appearance paid off even if we had to deal with moments of awkwardness. Delivering a selection of hits from the new record as well as from across her career, Perry’s alternative costume and stage design was wonderfully different. It’s an applaudable booking by the Eavis’s but the Californian’s statement that she goes “to all the festivals” was met with smirks of disgust from many in the Somerset field.

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Huge crowds gathered at the Pyramid Stage

As the stream of pop fanatics left after Perry’s set, The National stepped to the Pyramid Stage to display their melancholic blend of alternative rock. With a new record coming out soon, it was a rare appearance from the Cincinnati five piece. Whilst the exception was building ahead of Foo Fighters’ headline slot, The National still had a crowd of fans eager to listen to their biggest hits and unfortunately they were let down. The hour long set dragged along, and at no point did they live up to the expectations that many had for the American rock band. Their presence was oddly dull and their sound seemed flat. Whether they were building back up to being on the road, who knows, but it was a big platform for the band and one that seemed squandered.

Saturday’s events were blessed with more great weather and as the sun started to fall, it was finally time for rock heroes Foo Fighters to take to the stage, two years after a broken leg forced Dave Grohl and co. to pull out from their 2015 headline slot which was then filled by Florence & The Machine. Coming onstage alone at first, Grohl paid tribute to Florence & The Machine’s slot alongside a joke about the delay of the band’s appearance. Starting with Times Like These, the rest of the band joined Grohl halfway through the track and from the beginning, it was clear how much love the crowd had for the band. Huge singalong’s amongst the flurry of energy that was provided at every possible moment, stunned Grohl, who despite playing at the biggest venues in the world, looked to enjoy every moment on stage.

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Foo Fighters prove their worth headlining the Saturday night of the festival

Drummer Taylor Hawkins showed just why he is one of the world’s best drummers and his love of Queen was obvious throughout, paying tribute to them during a cover of Under Pressure, which allowed for the crowd to see former Nirvana drummer Grohl back behind the kit. Whilst My Hero was dedicated to a naked man in the audience, the show was dedicated to everyone who has ever followed the band and having dedicated Everlong to Plymouth campaigner Laura Plain, the rock legends let the stage and went into the night, having just confirmed themselves as one of rock’s best ever bands. Their set proved a complete triumph, highlighting Grohl as one of music’s most charismatic leaders and showing the world that they have gained a new lease of energy which look’s set to make them a tour de force on the road this summer.

The final day of the festival came with a cooler temperature and a slight drizzle in the air as punk rock favourites Slaves took to the Other Stage at 11am. Their thundering sound was greatly appreciated by the many eager Glastonbury goers who forced themselves to get up on time. Whilst Slaves are ultimately a punk band on paper, their humour and personalities make them distinctively modern. Jokingly, the Kent duo thanked organisers for giving them “the Sunday morning legends slot” and shared with the crowd the fact that they would be playing a secret set on the BBC Introducing Stage later on in the afternoon. Having been woken up properly by Kent’s finest, we found ourselves at the front of the Pyramid Stage for Jazz star Jamie Cullum. A born performer, Cullum took to the stage alongside a brilliant band and performed a selection of his hits, plus classic jazz covers and he even had space for a bit of Ed Sheeran, Rihanna and Florence & The Machine. The charming singer dazzled both on and off piano and proved to everyone that there is a lot more talent beside the array of rock and pop at the festival.

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Slaves during their “morning legends slot”

Moving slightly towards the folkier side to the musical spectrum, Laura Marling’s beautifully laid back style brought an aura of sincerity to the Pyramid Stage. Her whole set was brilliantly worked and performed, and despite her shy stage persona, her kind personality won over the crowd. Marling’s set was a moment to relax and just reflect on what had been an incredible even so far and what was to follow was going to only add on to brilliance. The coveted Sunday afternoon legend’s slot has been filled by some true icons in the past, with Jeff Lynne’s ELO playing in 2016 and Bee Gees star Barry Gibb taking to the stage this year. An icon of disco and pop, Gibb drew a huge crowd to celebrate hits which included Night Fever, Stayin’ Alive and How Deep Is Your Love.

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Laura Marling’s beautiful folk rock relaxed everyone on Sunday afternoon

 

Seemingly blown away by the reception given to him by the crowd, Gibbs’s charm worked a treat and as Stayin’ Alive was played, the brilliant team of dedicated security, medics and supervisors from the main stage all came out to perform an impromptu dance routine. A touching moment for all involved, it was wonderful to see this team able to enjoy a lighter moment, given their absolute brilliance in assuring calmness to the crowds across the whole festival, and whilst we speak of them, we would like to pass on our sincerest thanks to everyone working and volunteering at the festival. They were all truly brilliant at what they did and allowed the even to run incredibly smoothly given the sheer mass of people gathered at the site. Whilst it has been decades since the Bee Gees were at the top of their game, it didn’t stop an array of people dressing up in full ’80’s attire. After being persuaded by the some 70,00 people in the crowd, Gibb himself put on a sparkling gold jacket that a crowd member had given him. Barry Gibb went above the expectations of his set over the 75 minutes that he was on stage for and it was actually a real shame when he left the stage.

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Barry Gibb rolls back the years for his legends slot

Following on from a legend was always going to prove difficult but if anyone was up to the task, it would be another musical legend, Nile Rogers and Chic. With elements of disco about their music as well, the funk masters performed a spectacular set which covered hits such as Le Freak and Everybody Dance alongside tracks written by Rogers himself. With sounds across Soul, R&B, Jazz, Funk, Disco and Pop, the joyous nature of the band shone like no other. A noticeable aspect of their performance was the sheer musical talent that was on stage. Their bassist and drummer shone alongside the legend of Rogers, whose contributions to music are endless. It was a big slot for the band, but they proved that Glastonbury had some party in it right until the end.

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The legendary Chic and Nile Rogers take over the Pyramid Stage

Whilst Chic’s blend of funk infected the crowd on the main stage, over at the John Peel Stage, one of the biggest moments in recent Glastonbury history was taking place. Already the festival had produced an incredible display of secret sets and the final one of the 2017 event had huge speculation around it. Like on the Friday, Arcade Fire were rumoured to be coming down to Somerset, as were US indie rockers Cage The Elephant. The biggest rumour from the last three months had been on the possibility of a performance from indie heroes The Maccabees, who having announced that they would be splitting up, were halfway through their farewell tour at the time that Glastonbury came around. With a convenient gap in their schedule on the Sunday, this slot looked possible for the London band, but to the heartbreak of many, us included, they announced on social media that they would not be at the festival.

What was to come however, was something of much greater proportion and it wasn’t until The Killers, led by Brandon Flowers, stepped onto the stage, that we fully understood the quality of this year’s event. Such was the swarm of people flocking to the stage, that security had to shut off the surrounding area as it was getting too crowded. Performing an hour of hits, the band received the biggest reception of the weekend and having headlined the festival before, it really was a special moment for everyone that managed to see them play.

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Simon Neil and Biffy Clyro confirm themselves as future potential headliners

With six sets completed, Sunday on the Pyramid Stage only had two sets left for 2017. Both were hugely anticipated and both were world leading artists. Kicking off the final chapter of Glastonbury 2017 were Biffy Clyro, the Scottish rockers who have already headlined T in the Park, Reading and Leeds festival, Isle of Wight festival and Download festival in the UK. Their booking as supporters for the headliner, was met with both applause and confusion. An incredible booking for organisers, Biffy Clyro’s set was filled with hits which the crowd were perfectly happy to sing ricght back to singer Simon Neil. The confusion was in where they were playing. Right before pop star Ed Sheeran, the front of the crowd was already full of eager Sheeran fans, which slightly lost the connection between Biffy and their fans. Also given their repertoire as festival headliners, the question begs to be asked as to why they weren’t festival headliners in their own right. The answer seems to be simple in some respect. Likewise with Foals in 2016, this set seemed to be Biffy’s audition for future headline status at Glastonbury, and after their set, which conjured an electric atmosphere, it would be a complete injustice to the band if they weren’t headlining in their own right in the coming years.

As Sunday night started fading in, it was time for the final headliner to step up to the stage. A world superstar that’s always remained shy and distinctively original, Ed Sheeran’s slot as Sunday headliner on the Pyramid Stage was met with a variety of comments when it was first announced, but, for an act that isn’t a classic headliner model, he didn’t attract the same ferocious criticism as Jay-Z, Metallica and Kanye West did in recent years. One of the youngest ever headliners at the festival, Sheeran took to the stage and immediately set the tone for the evening with the singalong single Castle on the Hill. His three albums all received their share of play in the set and with an abundance of hits, every moment seemed precious to both artist and crowd. Very few artists have managed to gain such a big response from the crowd, who scream every lyric back to Sheeran with complete joy. The love it / hate it track Galway Girl was introduced by the lines “You probably all hate this next song, but I guarantee you all know the words” whilst Thinking About You was an emotional highlight in the 90 minute set. As the extended version of You Need Me, I Don’t Need You was played, Sheeran swept around the stage waving a Pride flag to the applause of the crowd.

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Sheeran captivates the festival, closing 2017’s event in style

Once the track ended, that was it. A sensational end to the festival, Sheeran’s slot was one of the most flawless pieces of artistry that has come from a single individual in years. Say what you like about him, his talent is undeniable and such is the back catalogue of hits that everyone was left wanting more. We’ve heard some criticism of that set, but we feel that having seen the show from the very front row, we can rightly say that there was a complete sense of magic with Sheeran alone with just a guitar and a loop pedal. It showed the world that you don’t have to be complicated with effects or various instruments and once you dig down to the very core of an individual, it is the determination that shines out amongst everything else and that determination is what has made Ed Sheeran a star.

Glastonbury Night
The site at night

Leaving the site of this year’s festival, we couldn’t help but get a little emotional. With the best weather that Glastonbury has seen in years as well as a line up that rivals the very best, the 2017 event will go down in history as a true classic. World stars mixed with rising talent. Various artists emerged from the shadows to demonstrate their capabilities whilst a range of incredible secret sets stunned everyone following the festival. With various speculation about the future of the festival and the site in Somerset, 2017 will live long in the memory as a year which shone like no other.

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