My Glastonbury band watching schedules are always pretty ambitious, even though they mostly consist of travelling between West Holts, The Park and Shangri La, which is where I’ve played the last few years and shall be returning to with Big Swing Sound for an extra special show this year, but more on that another time.
Already on my ‘never seen / must see’ list for this year are The Avalanches, Ani DiFranco and Solange, and only a small part of the line-up has been released so far. However, there are many more impressive acts to be seen, so if you’re headed for Pilton in June, here’s an ultra-quick run-down of personal recommendations for those of you who like to have a plan on whom to watch, even if you don’t ever stick to it.
Let’s start from the top down, firstly if you can handle a headline show at the Pyramid Stage (I never can), then Radiohead are a pretty safe bet. I saw them at Secret Solstice last year and was surprised at how energising their show was given the melancholy that often permeates their music.
Next up is Laura Marling, who I’d hope would be at The Park stage as she’s the perfect act to lie back on that hill to, soaking up her music. She might not have the showmanship of many of these other acts, but her voice and her songs are more than enough to carry her. She’ll more than likely do a number of tracks from her new album, but that’s really no bad thing given how good that is.
Run The Jewels should be on this list, but I have to admit that having seen them smash it on smaller stages before, their last show on West Holts just didn’t really do it for me. A much safer bet if you’re in any way Hip-hop inclined would be the rather more soulful Anderson.Paak & The Free Nationals. Although they might be fairly fresh on some people’s radars, Paak is a seasoned performer and the band are super tight!
If you need any more seasoning though, then Toots & The Maytals carry that old-school charisma and work ethic in abundance. I first saw them at Glastonbury in 2004 and it was one of my favourite shows of all time, of course the more sensible amongst you will want to save the experience until their opening Lion’s Den show at Boomtown this year 😊
Another act who gives it his all on stage is Father John Misty. I have to admit much of his recorded material washes over me, but he’s definitely more engaging live so worth checking out whether you think you like him or not. I’d probably say the same about The Flaming Lips, as their stage shows tend to be pretty epic affairs. I also love their music but if it’s not quite your bag then the visual feast alone should be worth it.
I’ve not seen BadBadNotGood since I booked them for a London show in 2012, they were pretty fresh faced kids back then but I can’t imagine that time has dampened their talents or enthusiasm in any way. They’ve released two more albums since then and worked with the likes of Frank Ocean, Ghostface Killah, Earl Sweatshirt and Future Islands, ‘IV’ was also BBC Radio 6’s album of the year, all which has helped secure themselves as the favourite jazz band for people my age and younger, who don’t always know they like jazz.
Sleaford Mods are a must for those of you who want to be ranted at for an hour over electronic beats. That might not sound instantly appealing but I find them surprisingly cathartic and very much enjoyable.
I’m a big fan of Kate Tempest so I’ve enjoyed her meteoric rise to omnipresence over the past few years. I first saw her live when I booked Sound Of Rum at Cardiff Arts Institute around 2010. I had a brief panic when I thought it would all be a little too much for a Saturday night crowd in the Welsh capital but I needn’t have worried, everyone absolutely loved her. Now the crowds are huge but that love from them hasn’t changed, and Kate still gives it every ounce of soul at each show.
Another of the music industries’ favourite jazz acts at the moment is Thundercat. His association to acts such as Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus have ensured his status but he’s certainly a force in his own right. If we have the rare pleasure of a sunny Glastonbury this year then I hope it’s shining whilst Thundercat is playing, because they will both provide the perfect accompaniment.
Now I’m going to include Wiley, but for the record, the likelihood that he will either be absolute shit or even absent is pretty high given some of my past experiences. The last time he was due to perform at Glastonbury he cancelled and signed off a twitter rant about it with “Fuck them and their farm” – however he claims to finally ‘get’ festivals and their importance and if he’s on form then it could well be worth the gamble to go find out.
The last time Songhoy Blues performed on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, I was blown away at the difference between the slickness of that show and their first appearance in London a couple of years previously, which was powerful but undoubtedly shambolic. They have definitely become the most accessible Malian band for European tastes (take that as you will but it’s certainly not meant as any kind of slight), and they’re a really great family festival band to boot.
Another artist who has transformed in a very similar way to Songhoy is Rag N Bone Man, who is almost unrecognisable from his first festival appearances when he’d shuffle shyly onstage with his guitar, maybe a hype man such as Stig Of Da Dump or Jam Baxter, and blow the audience away with his simply stunning voice and Hip-hop rooted Blues tunes.
Now with full band in tow, a presence that stretches way beyond his vocals and a whole new repertoire of accessible songs that includes his number one hit ‘Human’ – it’s certainly a different experience, but one that should be experienced nonetheless.
When Lionel Richie played 2 years ago, I was gutted that due to various reasons including a young baby in tow, we couldn’t seem to get to an enjoyable spot to experience his show properly, so we gave up and headed to see Future Islands instead. Thankfully my disappointment didn’t last long as they became one of my highlights of the festival. Sam Herring as a frontman is a joy to behold, and even when he tumbled backwards over a monitor speaker, it just made him even more endearing. If you’ve not seen them before, I’d say they’re a must.
I feel that Shaggy got a slightly raw deal when he played at Boomtown, yes it was far from a great show, but there were plenty of other factors that added to it and if the sun is shining then I shall be heading down to watch him play at Glastonbury. If it’s not and the heavens have opened, then I fear he might just give up on British festivals for ever.
I’m going to stick to band recommendations for this post, although there are some great DJs on this line up, it’s all so dependent on what stage they’re on and what mood (or state) they’re in, that I don’t really feel comfortable offering my recommendation, so the final act for now is The Cinematic Orchestra. Not really one if you’re in full rave mode, but an incredible live act who will be perfect if you’re feeling a little fragile and in need of restoration at the time. That could well be me, so if I don’t see you there, I’ll probably see you down at Shangri La feeling fully refreshed afterwards.
Edit: Somehow I missed off Chic from this list, but that’s essential viewing. Hopefully they have the same slot as Earth Wind & Fire did on West Holts last year, because that was just perfect.