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Old Stones and New Beginnings: Glastonbury 2013 Preview

Glasto 1
Courtesy of BBC
Courtesy of BBC

In a few days’ time, one-hundred-and-fifty-thousand people will descend on the famous Worthy Farm. That’s a city of festival goers the size of Oxford, tucked amongst the rolling hills of Somerset. It requires a feat of miraculous logistical engineering just to make it all possible, with 4,800 toilets, 3,000 megawatts of electricity and 11 million litres of water required for the weekend. But of course it’s about more than that, and there are infinitely more romantic things for us to ruminate over, ahead of the world’s most famous festival (ongoing at least) returning to action, after a summer off in 2012.

In case you live in a news vacuum with God Is In The TV as your only servant (god help you), Sir Mick Jagger and co. are playing their first Glastonbury at the ripe old age of 69. Meanwhile festival favourites such as Dizzee Rascal will stop the Pyramid stage from becoming an overly complacent site of guitar-rock-pop four pieces.

Other old-timers of note will include Elvis Costello (& The Imposters), as well as Primal Scream and Rufus Wainwright. Hyperbole is as overused as ever in music today and I would hate for enthusiasm to descend into something contrived and unadulterated on my part. But, but but. Attracting such a collection of actual real-life music icons alongside an extensive list of new talent is what has kept this massive festival going after all these years, despite controversially rising ticket prices. The list for the latter is endless (exaggeration, the list is long); Foals, The Vaccines, Peace, Ben Howard, Alt-J, Tame Impala, Bastille, The 1975, Calexico, Disclosure, Swim Deep and Miles Kane are all hot properties in the 2013 music landscape playing a part. It won’t stop them from getting criticism, but let’s be fair Richard, they’re not the only ones topping the £200 mark and it’s a real shame you had to go and blab to a national newspaper about just how much money you turned down to play the festival to so beautifully prove a point about corporate mentality taking over.

It might not be what it used to be. But at this level, in this day and age, the industrious nature of the music business and entertainment media is stapled to the acts Glastonbury will put on year after year in a bid to maintain its pulling power and relevance to modern culture. Whether that is too much to stomach for some to attend shouldn’t necessarily invalidate the swaths of other things that some will congregate together for over the weekend. In many ways, having so many young people in and amongst it because they bought a ticket to see the Arctic Monkeys, or because Dad reeled off some vague long story about sixties nostalgia that made them think the Rolling Stones were still worth catching, gives a fresh audience to those wishing to use the coming together as an arena for performing arts, political discussion and social empowerment. Never before has politics been so pertinent to our young people, and never have they been as interested or vocal. The weekend will offer the temporary inhabitants of Worthy Farm an opportunity to renew that ‘liberal lefty’ cause amid the overbearing modern context.

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As the old cliché goes, it is about so much more than the music, man. It’s about forty years of history, and an unlistable list (apologies again) of extracurriculars that will pop up all over the festival site, as is touched upon by Billy Bragg‘s generously courteous repost.

But I shall finish (for now) where most discussion has started. For when the Rolling Stones pick up their guitars next Saturday, even if most of us weren’t even born at the time, we can all momentarily hark back to that special decade of cultural change, from which the Stones and Glastonbury were both born, even if in slightly divergent paths. We can raise a warm can to the success and glory of all that was once counter culture, and we can look forward too.

4 thoughts on “Old Stones and New Beginnings: Glastonbury 2013 Preview

  1. Good balanced piece!

    I struggle to buy the ticket every year, but for me it’s a priority as it’s typically the highlight of my year, and I rarely go to gigs throughout the year other than local unsigned bands.

    I wonder how many people who complain about the ticket price actually attend smaller festivals with less “name” acts? I would like to see it being more inclusive but the tickets sell out in crazy time at £200, reducing them would only make the scrum for tickets even madder – but then it creates opportunities for smaller festivals for those priced out of Glastonbury who aren’t fussed on big name acts, and want a more back to basics approach with no corporate involvement.

    There are many things to justifiably criticise about Glastonbury (the toilets, affordability for those on low incomes, lack of genuine unsigned bands, gradually increasing corporate involvement) and many things to celebrate (charitable contributions, political debate, raising awareness of green issues) but it’s far too big an experience to summarise, or to identify the “typical” glastonbury goer (I know lots of people who go from all walks of life) and impossible to understand the appeal without going (and exploring beyond the pyramid with an open mind 🙂

    1. I’ve never made it to Glasto despite having a ticket one year in the early 00s and not being able to attend due to illness. I’ve always wanted to attend and experience the Glastonbury spirit and the whole thing rather than just the main stages. Although I do question certain aspects of it now in terms of the booking policy, ticket pricing and the corporatisation but the truth is it’s still one of the biggest and best. The problem is when you become a sprawling beast you will never please everyone and I no longer feel like I want to sample it….

      1. Aye I know what you mean – luckily I went in 2005 when there was a brilliant lineup, I was lured in by the music but gone back each year for the festival – I’m not sure if I’d have gone on the strength of this year’s lineup if I’d never been before to be honest.

        I think the booking policy has always reflected what is popular at the time – so a few years back when you had a lot of XFM/6 Music type of bands dominating the top 40 there were a lot of WOW’s for me personally in the lineup, but at the moment when the charts are dominated by people like Mumford and Sons (2 albums in the top 40 this week) and Jake Bugg you’ve got to look a lot further down the lineup until you find anything worthwhile, but fortunately because it is so big you can usually find plenty that you want to see and discover a few things along the way.

        Out of curiousity I had a look at this week’s Top 40 album charts and sure enough 13 of them were represented at the festival, and the ones that aren’t (e.g. Eagles, Beatles, Rod Stewart, Daft Punk, Will I Am…) are obviously either too expensive, or not available.

        It would be nice if they booked artists more on artisic merit than record sales, but they’d probably end up bankrupt! A single slot given to Jay-Zee was responsible for taking the festival from selling out in 3 hours to nearly not selling out at all. Booking Gorillaz as a last minute replacement in the way that Pulp replaced Stone Roses last minute had a lot of people complaining to this day that they weren’t famous enough – though I thought they put on a good show despite not really being a fan.

        I looked up the Pulp thing and apparently Common people had charted a month before they played and had supported Blur.

        They still take occasional risks – e.g. when the lineup came out lots of people commented that Nick Cave was good but not famous enough for the penultmate slot – and they were right, I’ve never seen the pyramid so empty at that time of night- and that was despite all the bemused mumford fans staking their place early!

        Still their loss, they missed a blinding set, but you can’t force people to be more adventurous, and contrary to popular belief there isn’t a special breed of people who go to Glastonbury, they are just ordinary people, and being interested in policics and being adventurous with music sadly seems to be out of fashion these days with the general public!

        1. I think the thing with Pulp was despite the fact that they’d had a hit and had been around for ten years they still weren’t considered big enough to headline that night the Stone Roses were. Hence when stepped in at late notice and totally smashed it with one of the greatest headlining sets at Glasto ever that pushed them over into a even wider consciousness…And my point is that doesn’t happen much anymore because as you point out for the most part(and apart from the rare occasion) the headliner has to be HUGE. Whereas in the past you had one night for a act that wasn’t quite at that stage yet. Thus one of the stages for this kind of showcase of acts that wouldn’t usually get the chance has gone and it’s the usual already enormousness ones, It’s also a observation of how big Glasto has become in a way and maybe my dislike of much of the line up on the main stages this year is actually down the the parlor state of mainstream music at the moment. But I appreciate there’s a lot that goes on at the festival away from just the main stages and that is what makes the festival still one of the best.

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