It’s nearly that time of year again. In a matter of weeks, hundreds of thousands of people will descend on Worthy Farm in Somerset for one of the world’s greatest parties. Ravers will rub shoulders with indie fans; comedians will be competing with circus acts for your attention and the massive 900 acre site becomes one big playground. Glastonbury, as ever, will be immense.
That’s not to say the festival isn’t without its detractors and this year many people have been sidetracked by Shawn Carter, better known as Jay-Z. While asking him to headline Saturday night may have been one of Michael Eavis’ bolder moves, it’s also proved rather controversial.
Whatever your views on it, Jay-Z’s single slot on Saturday evening accounts for just one out of over 900 acts on the festival’s line up. Just think – 900. And there's more to it than the music. It’s something of a cliché, but the old adage that ‘you don’t just go to Glastonbury for the bands’ is also very true. In fact, it’s arguably the only major UK festival where it would be possible to keep yourself entertained for an entire weekend without seeing a single one.
The reality is of course that you do want to see bands and fortunately, beyond the hype, this year’s line up is excellent. For the first time, the festival will kick off on Thursday, atleast on some of the smaller stages. That evening The Levellers will be playing on the Left Field Stage. Their unique brand of folk-rock mixed with green-anarchism has always suited the festival's ethos and you can expect another classic gig from the Brighton-based sextet.
The main stages open up on Friday and the choice for the headline slot alone is bewildering. The Kings of Leon, Fatboy Slim, Panic at the Disco and Ozomatli all top the bill on the various larger stages with literally dozens of smaller events all over the site. Earlier on the day we're treated to an indie feast with the likes of The Fratellis, Editors, The Enemy, Reverend and the Makers, The Hoosiers and We Are Scientists to name a few. Hayseed Dixie will be unleashing their crazy, but awesome bluegrass covers on an unsuspecting public at the Shangri La stage. If you've never seen a country take on Highway to Hell before, it's well worth investigating! Meanwhile, The Fun Loving Criminals will be keeping it schmooth on the Jazzworld Stage and the Voodoo Trombone Quartet will be livening things up in the curiously titled Pussy Parlure.
Saturday looks to be a day of variety. Besides the much berated headline slot with Jay-Z, there's the wonderfully retro, bluesy sound of The Raconteurs; a symphony of trip hop from Massive Attack and scintillating punk-tinged rock from Biffy Clyro. James Blunt will be appearing for the audience to shower him either with praise or bottles of stale urine depending on their preference and the excellent Buddy Guy will be making his famous guitar cry and sing on the Jazzworld Stage. Welsh rockers The Automatic should deliver a typically energetic performance during their time on the Left Field stage and dance act Kosheen will be playing in the east dance tent. However, one of the highlights looks set to be Franco-Spanish cult star Manu Chao, when he takes to the Pyramid Stage during the afternoon. Expect a fantastic show with an eclectic mix of French, Spanish, English and Senegalese vocals, combined with rock and reggae influences.
The Verve - one of the definitive 90s indie bands and an excellent live act – headline the Pyramid Stage on Sunday night. The same day sees superstar DJ Mark Ronson, electropop act Goldfrapp and dub maestros Groove Armada take to the stage. Once again there's a strong indie presence with The Zutons, Scouting for Girls, The Pigeon Detectives and The Bluetones to name a few. On a slightly different note, American crooner Neil Diamond is also due to make an appearance. It's difficult to tell whether this is a canny decision to present a man who's supported The Who and been covered everyone from Elvis to Johnny Cash, or a misguided attempt to regain the 'older audience' that Michael Eavis believes he's alienated with Jay-Z. Glastonbury, as ever, will be full of surprises.
And there are plenty more to come… Most notably, a series of 'special guest' slots on various stages, yet to be announced. Another was the recent comment by Jack Black that his band Tenacious D are due to play at the festival.
So there you have it – or rather a tiny fraction of it. By my reckoning this preview leaves another eight-hundred-and-something weird, wonderful and occasionally brilliant acts left to cover. That's before you get in touch with your spiritual side in the Green Fields, catch a few movies in the Cinema Field, learn to Salsa in the El Rythmo tent, join the 24 hour party people in The Glade, pass out at the stone circle and, well, you get the idea…
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