Top Buzzer @ Glastonbury Town Square – 26/06/11

s store Glastonbury Town Square1

I only saw one band at Glastonbury this year, but this was enough to make the trip worthwhile. No I’m not talking about the Glastonbury Festival, I’m talking about the band who, unannounced and unplanned set up their kit to play to the small gathering assembled at Glastonbury town centre.

I had travelled up on the Sunday, on what forecasters had said would be the hottest day of the year, just in case there was any chance of somehow getting in to the festival proper. I’ve been to the festival four times, and only ever paid once, but then again I hadn’t been since 1999, and things have changed considerably since then. That last time, we’d turned up late on Saturday evening, and just basically walked in where part of the fence had been knocked down, not more than 100 yards from some stewards, who did not bat an eyelid. That year, I saw a fantastic Skunk Anansie close the festival.

Prior to 2000, you could guarantee that surrounding the site would be a host of people, mostly hippy types, who by some means or another, for minimal cost, would aid you in getting in. It was part of the whole experience, and once inside, the number of people who had not paid must have easily matched those who had. Now, the only people walking about were family types. Security guard every inch of the surrounding area – God alone knows what the cost of keeping out the unwanted must be.

As well as wanting to get into the festival, I also chanced my arm at selling the magazine I used to run, Square. I sold one to a group of festival go-ers, but also asked a few bored security as I passed them, in case they wanted something to read. One of these must have felt it their duty to inform their superiors. I could not believe it when I was later stopped by a van of security – these guys in blue suits, not fluorescent jackets, so possibly the uber-security – asking what I was selling. Over a poetry magazine for God’s sake! And aside from that, I think it is actually legal to sell magazines without a vending license so they had no right to stop me anyway!!

Well, I had just about given up hope of getting in, and also given up on society in general, when I bumped into 4 lads who looked up for a bit of anarchy. I asked if they were trying to get in too, and they said in fact they were a band, looking to set up and play somewhere. Although before that, they were wondering about knocking on the door of a house that had “Eavis” written on its postbox! They wondered if this was in fact Michael Eavis’ house. Of course, there were security next to it. We asked a couple of questions, and were sent on our way.

The Devious Generator that almost put a halt to the gig before it had started
(The Devious Generator that almost put a halt to the gig before it had started!)

The guys – a band called Top Buzzer it turned out – offered to give me a lift back to where I’d parked (still a couple of miles on, so I was very thankful for that). We then set out to find a place for the band to set up. I suggested Glastonbury town centre, where I told them it was likely a few ticketless travellers would probably be camping out.

We got to the town. First things first, it was liquid refreshment in the form of cider. I got on well with these guys from the start. They gave the distinct impression that they were completely into what they were doing. They were clearly a fun-seeking rock’n’roll band in the purest sense, and anyone was welcome to join the ride – as long as they could keep up! Top Buzzer are a 3 piece, with singer/ bassist Andy from London – dressed in purple skin-tight jeans, spangly purple DM’s, a Madness t-shirt and with a mop of bleached blonde hair, he looked every bit the punk rock star. Plus Welshy and Becksi from Jersey, a place where magic mushrooms grow in abundance, apparently! It turns out they’re actually a band of some pedigree, having once supported Primal Scream. They’ve also toured America, including playing at the SXSW Festival.

So after a drink and a chat, it was down to the more serious business of doing a gig. Along with their friend/roadie/promoter, James, I helped the band set up. It was all in place, the small assembled crowd were looking on with interest, it was just a case of starting up the generator, and off we
went….except then disaster struck as the generator packed in after about a minute! A frantic 20 minutes or so was spent trying to get it to work. It could have been a bit embarrassing, but thankfully the onlookers were patient, and eventually it kicked into action, and then so did the band!

Andy announced they’d play 3 songs, but these went down so well – this included two of their own, plus their manic cover of M’s “Pop Muzik” – that they did first “one more”, and then “ok, one more” before forgetting about continuing to announce how many more they would play between each song and ended up doing something like a half hour set. It was mostly Buzzcocks-style punk, all at a frantic pace, with pop undertones. My favourite song of the band’s was probably “Deeply Shallow”. When they played another cover, “Daytripper”, it coincided with a busload of, well, daytrippers, arriving at the town!

Despite it being quickly assembled, the mix was great, and the whole thing really went down well with the privileged few that saw this event. This included all the travellers, young and old, surrounding the square, plus locals and others drinking outside in the sunshine in the nearby pubs. A
few people had a dance, one old guy did a collection in a hat and raised easily enough for the band’s petrol money home. We were told afterwards that even a relative of Mick Jagger’s had been there!
Newly acquired Top Buzzer fan
(A newly acquired Top Buzz fan)

Well, Andy broke a string, but they were about to bring things to a close anyway, As James said, it had been truly a guerrilla gig, and as if to emphasise this, the police showed up just as they were packing away their gear! All this still wasn’t enough for the band, as they decided they would still try and find another pub to play at, and with nothing better to do, I continued to follow them! Finally, we decided to call it a night though, and that was our collective Glastonbury experience over.

Assembled Onlookers 2
(Assembled Onlookers)

Maybe their gig was more in the “true spirit” of Glastonbury, although what exactly that means anyymore, who knows? It’s like talking about the “true spirit” of Christmas, but if you’re talking about spontaneity and a spiky zest for life, Top Buzzer have it in abundance. Headliners on The John Peel stage in 2013? Or maybe just another town square appearance! Their album “Outside is a world” is out today.

  1. Fair play, brilliant band – video to Deeply Shallow a great piss-take. Didn’t occur to me at the time that even the name a piss-take as well presumably (of Toploader) – it’s not just that it sounds similar! They’re not quite a novelty band, but almost! They’ll be covering, and do doubt taking the piss out of, Where’s Me Jumper next!

  2. A right riveting read there Nick. It sounds like the spirit of Glasters is alive and well if bands like Top Buzzer are out there, for want of a better phrase, “keeping it real”.

    Your account of the guerilla gig truly made me feel as if I was there (alongside Mick Jagger’s brother).

    I’ve done a fair bit of research on this Top Buzzer lot and it transpires that, although there’s a fun factor within the band, they’re far from a novelty act. I see a very dry and extremely British sense of humour and sensibility to a lot of their material. This is a good thing. And anyone who is out there championing the DIY ethos is ok in my book. And, as proven by the above – they’re doing that and then some.

    Finally (this is proving to be a bit of an opus), it looks like the name of the band is derived from a cult television show starring Johnny Vaughan (called Top Buzzer) rather than being a piss-take of Eastbourne’s finest “Top Loader”. You see – there’s more to this trio than meets the eye.

  3. Yeah, you may be right, Glenn, about the name – I’d never seen the programme either. I would possibly prefer just “Top Buzz” but then people would probably think they were a Northern scally band! And you’re right, novelty not the right word at all – just a great bunch of lads who I think should rightly start getting a bit of attention!

  4. Mate – I have already got it! Swapped 4 couple of Squares – I will get round to doing a review some time this week – been listening to it in the car quite a bit!

  5. Found some really useful info on the band here:

    Debut album ‘Outside Is A World’ out 18th July, 2011

    ‘Deeply Shallow’ to be released as free download single on 4th July, 2011

    Music video –

    “Top Buzzer have a real gift for penning uber-catchy tunes with just the right balance of punky and poppy overtones….highly impressive”



    Big Cheese | | @topbuzzermusic

    TOP BUZZER unleash their debut album Outside Is A World on July 18th through their own label Back2Forward Records. Although recorded in the UK, most of the album was mixed in New York City by Kennan Keating (Nine Inch Nails and Blondie).

    Top Buzzer’s first full-length release is an antidote to Britain’s coalition hangover. It urges the listener to make an informed view of us lot and to enjoy the good while we can. “Remission”, the first single from the album, is a brash, fast paced, witty and catchy number that is a simile heavy account of the demise of a relationship but, whereas this subject matter would normally be the bastion of minor chord addled misery, Top Buzzer successfully manage to inject a surprising sense of dry fun to the proceedings. This track is a lyrical tour de force with innovative references that compare the demerits of a past love to the infamous Sinclair C5 car.

    “She’s Not Wearing Any” and “When I Look At You” may appear as pervy ditties exclusively fuelled by lust, but when you take into consideration that they’re in fact an irreverent and slightly satirical response to the majority of sex-heavy R&B and Hip Hop tracks out there – you realise that Top Buzzer have a knack for incorporating dry British humour into their rocking tracks.

    In terms of more weighty themes, the desire for escape via substance abuse is explored in “Are You In?” and relationship politics, highlighting the desire to move on from the demons of the past, are put to the test in “No More Yesterdays”. “Wake Up Call” is a catchy new wave sing-along anthem yet, at its crux, is fuelled by the bereavement of a parent.

    Since the band’s inception three years ago in the unlikely location of Jersey in the Channel Islands, the trio have honed their sound in venues across the UK and much further afield. Indeed they’ve carved an extensive trail through Europe, North America and even Russia (in support of Primal Scream). Last year they toured the USA from LA to NYC via SXSW in Texas where the band played the Viper Room Swinghouse Studios Party. Playing on bills with bands as diverse as Babyshambles, The Futureheads, Dizzee Rascal and the Macabees, it is not surprising that Top Buzzer are a favourite of legendary US DJ Rodney Bingenheimer at KROQ in LA, who has playlisted the trio on his Rodney on the ROQ radio show.

    The success of their debut offering The Hands Up EP (which entered the CMJ Top 200 National Chart in the USA – not bad for a debut release, let alone an unsigned band from the UK) is testament to just this. The plaudits have come in thick and fast from the US and their UK following continues to grow thanks in part to their rousing live shows. One thing’s for sure; things will only get bigger for the trio in Blighty.

    1. I have been asking myself that question for a long while too.

      I am just an anorak. Stumbled across Top Buzzer (or should I say Top Buzz?) via blank tv. Googled my way to your feature on their glasters gig. And the rest is apparently history.

  6. If you do a bit more delving, you may find out about Top Buzzer’s previous incarnation (and under this name, they in fact did the things like touring US etc). Only been Top Buzzer since earlier this year. I think they are trying to shake off the shackles of their previous selves, even though they did some quite interesting things!

  7. You are better at delving than I. :0)

    Good on ’em in any case. They’re a well needed enema on what is a really constipated music industry

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