Glastonbury 2013. My verdict.

En famile at Glastonbury 2013.  The bar on William's Green.

En famile at Glastonbury 2013. The bar on William’s Green.

The Glastonbury Festival is the single most visceral experience I’ve ever had.

This year was my second and the best I’ve been to. Not just because a lot of the bands we saw were great (because some of them weren’t – the strength in depth in 2011 was far greater), but because I went with my three, now adult, kids and we had a (mostly) collective experience that I doubt we can ever beat.

For me Glastonbury is about the music, but when the BBC cameras stop rolling at 11.30 each night much, much more goes on and this time I took a lot more of that in (Arcadia and Shangri La in particular).ria and amy at Arcadia

2013 was all about The Rolling Stones (more on them later) and, like others, I can only speculate that, generally speaking, the top of the bills were weaker than previous years as the Stones’ coffers had to be further topped up to get them.  So, we explored the smaller stages a lot more and unearthed some peaches.

In particular I loved the Williams Green Tent  (an outstanding venue with the best sound and lighting in the entire site – we saw about seven gigs there).  The Park Stage is a real favourite of mine and so is West Holts (my favourite big stage).

The John  Peel Stage suffers fro awful acoustics and my worst gig of the weekend was at JP.

The Pyramid Stage suffers from being too quiet unless you are at the front.  And the only gig I saw on the Other Stage also suffered from poor sound mixing.

All that sounds a bit negative but we had a ball.  And I’ve decided to rank the bands I saw as follows.

1 Savages (10 out of 10).  This incredibly in your face all-girl four piece simply assault you from the stage. In a festival of viscerality this was Glastonbury distilled to perfection.

2 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (9 out of 10) Truly wonderful performance.  At times the “wind” from the bass stack hit you in the face as he told his tales of death and destruction.  In particular his cover of “stagger Lee” by Fred Waring and his Pennsylvians brought the house down.  As part of the performance of this song he stood on the barrier and caught a female in a white dress in a long drawn out stare that was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

3 Chic with Nile Rogers. (9 out of 10) Simply incredible greatest hits show with a ten or so strong band and great backing singers.  Danced n=my ass off without about ten other people for 90 minutes.

4 Penguin Cafe. (9 out of 10) One of my all time favourite groups beautifully reignited by Arthur Jeffes, son of Penguin Cafe Orchestra founder Simon Jeffes, were wonderful in the Avalon Tent.  I was on the barrier for this one.

5 The Hives (9 out of 10).  The Hives opened Glastonbury on The Other Stage and blew most of what followed away with lead singer, Howlin’ Pelle Amquvist, stealing the show with patter that was not matched by anyone else at Glasto (other than, I’m told, Steve Aoki)

6 Ben Howard (9 out of 10).  A beautiful set that somehow managed to captivate most of the Pyramid Stage’s vast audience.  An unexpected gem from a man who only has one album.  What a belter.

7 Rokia Traore. (9 out of 10) Another opener, this time on Saturday on the Pyramid Stage.  Totally out of place here but this beautiful Malian singer pulled out all the stops and it was magical.

8 Vampire Weekend (8 out of 10).  Just a good, polished, fun set on the Pyramid Stage.

9 Fanfare en Petard (8 out of ten) a French rap jazz combo that we stumbled upon on the Shangri La Hell Stage on Thursday night.

10 Melody’s Echo Chamber.  (8 out of 10).  Melody (like Ben Howard) has taken no beating with the ugly stick but her music too was just right for a sunny Saturday lunchtime on the Park Stage.

11 Primal Scream. (8 out of 10).  The “pretend Rolling Stones” were much better than the real thing with Bobby Gillespie seemingly under the influence and raging against the machine that was a disinterested Pyramid Stage crowd in place for the “real thing” that was to follow.  “Are you fuckers all on Valium?” he shrieked in disdain.  Much to my amusement.  They rocked.

12. The Vaccines (8 out of 10).  They’d already performed on the Pyramid Stage but we opted to see them in the much more intimate Williams Green tent.  Very good indeed.

13. Foals. (7 out of ten).  A great set.

14 Tribes. (7 out of 10).  A good set in William’s Green.

15 Swim Deep (7 out of 10).  Nice wee band.  Good set in William’s Green.

16 The Rolling Stones. (6 out of 10). None of my group of friends much liked them.  “Are they waiting for the BBC to finish filming before they get going?” Chris asked me.  The party just never started.  Highly professional, tight and note perfect as they were it was unengaging.  The Pheonix that crowned the stage came to life for “Sympathy for the Devil.”  But so what?  Only one song really cut the mustard for me.  I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.  How very, very appropriate.

17 Barbarossa.  (6 out of 10). A good set but spoiled by the crowd talking throughout as they waited for The Vaccines.

18 Palma Violets (6 out of 10).  A hot ticket on William’s Green, but no big deal.  Copycat early Clash with only 2 good songs.

19 Ben Caplan. (6 out of 10).  Funny guy.  Funny beard.  Funny voice.  All good fun.

20 Mumford and Sons (5 out of 10).  Pass marks, but no more.  The good thing about their gig was that we were right at the front,  so it was a good atmosphere.  But these guys are one trick ponies.  By far the highlight was the encore of “Get by With a little help from my friends” with The Monkeys, Vaccines and Staves joining them on stage.

21 The 1975. (5 out of 10).  Nothing that special.

22 Martha Wainwright (4 out of 10).  I like her a lot but not in her acoustic stage set that was shrieky and awful.

23 Jake Bugg.  (4 out of 10).  Who on earth decided to put him on the Pyramid Stage?  Out of his depth, nervous.  What’s more he was characterless and boring.

24 Bastille. (3 out of 10) He wasn’t helped by an awful John Peel sound mix but it was desperately dull throughout too.

So that’s it.  Back to work now.

(Wish I’d seen Portishead)

The best of 2008


It’s that time of year again. The wrap. After a great deal of deliberation I have arrived at my Albums of the year and my best of 2008 CD.

You’ll not be surprised to see my usual heavy inclusion of female singer songwriters, although in percentage terms they are rather lower than usual – only about 25%. There’s more Rock ‘n ‘roll than previous years. Don’t know why. Just a good year for rock I suppose.

In no particular order my albums of the year were.

Dig Lazarus Dig!!! by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Reviewed here. A total classic that is full of cracking and totally unique songs. I absolutely adore this record.


Third by Portishead. Ten years in gestation it was worth every second of the wait. Eerie, disconcerting. Unique. I reviewed it here.


22 Dreams by Paul Weller. I’m not a fan usually, but this record is wonderful. Reviewed here.


The Very Best of Ethiopiques by various artists. What a wonderful discovery. In a classic year for world music, in particular african stuff this blew me away as I explained here.


Welcome to Mali by Amadou and Mariam. Just in. Just Wonderful. This Malian couple make stunning fresh pop music. Not had time to review it yet.


The Seldom Seen Kid by Elbow. Deserved winners of The Mercury Prize. This album came from nowhere and was a hot contender for my album of the year. I reviewed it here.


Only by the Night by Kings of Leon. They just keep getting better. This is a fine record with great grinding melodies.


Stay Positive by The Hold Steady. What a wonderful, opoetic record. The other big contender for album of the year. Reviewed here.


Glasvegas by Glasvegas. Yikes. Scotland’s best this year. Huge sound great lyrics and Geraldine is a gem of a song. Reviewed here.


A Piece of What You Need by Teddy Thomson. This is a great underground folky, rocky album by the son of Richard and Linda Thomson that has been on heavy rotation this year. I suspect Jeana would have it as her album of the year. Very good. Reviewed here.


Juno Soundtrack by Various Artists. One of the movies of the year and a cracking soundtrack to go with it. Another one that received heavy rotation in the spring and summer. Reviewed here.


Aman Iwan by Tinariwen. Last but certainly not least it was actually released in 2007 but it only came to my attention this year. The third of my much loved African albums on the list. Reviewed here.


I have to say in conclusion that Dig Lazarus Dig!!! wins my overall album of the year.

And so, to my best of the year CD…

As usual, if you want a copy you need only ask.

Probably the hardest decision of all was to leave off One day Like This by Elbow in favour of Starlings, but my rules only allow one song per artist.

Overall I thought 2008 was a vintage year and I think this might be my best ‘best of’ yet…

Here’s how it pans out.

1. Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
2. That’s not my name by The Ting Tings
3. Cler Achel by Tinariwen
4. The Rip by Portishead
5. Come On Over (Turn Me On) by Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan
6. Have You Made Up Your Mind by Paul Weller
7. Freeway by Aimee Mann
8. Family Tree by TV On The Radio
9. Lights Out by Santogold
10. In My Arms by Teddy Thompson
11. You Cheated Me by Martha Wainwright
12. Geraldine by Glasvegas
13. Starlings by Elbow
14. Daydreamer by Adele
15. The Age Of The Understatement by The Last Shadow Puppets
16. Crawl by Kings Of Leon
17. Lord, I’m Discouraged by The Hold Steady
18. 5 Years Time by Noah And The Whale
19. Sabali by Amadou and Mariam

So good was this year’s stock that I’m strongly considering a ‘B sides best of”.

What do you think?

The aforementioned One Day Like This would feature, as would a couple of tracks from the Very Best Of Ethiopiques, and a great Karine Polwart song called Sorry are among the contenders…

The Nightfly – Stop Press

Loud and live

Loud and live

They’re doing a Johnnie Walker on me and moving my slot about a bit, but I can confirm I will be on Jubilee FM, online, from 7 till 9 tomorrow, Thursday, night. Because I’m on a lot earlier than my usual Round Midnight slot I may crank the volume up a bit…

I’ve got a cracking playlist that includes; The Imagined Village, Sigur Ros, The Hold Steady, Portishead, Stephanie Dosen, Katrine Polwart, Paul Weller, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Nck Cave and the Bad Seeds, Calexico, Danny and the Champions of the World, Chemical Brothers,Led Zep, Aimee Mann, The Clash, Belle and Sebastian, Martha Wainwright, The Fleet Foxes and more.

Oh so many more

Portishead – 3

The new Portishead album has been ten years in the making. I read a review that said it was “nice background listening”. It may have been written by a monkey stabbing randomly at keys until this particular sentence appeared because nothing could be further from the truth; as this track demonstrates.


This, the fourth on the album, is the best song they have ever written. It is a thing of intense beauty.


Throughout the record Beth Gibbons’ vocals are used sparingly above an electronic symphony. Cool, funky, orchestral but all synth driven with utterly astounding drumming. This is so good that I thought I was going to cry just listening to it on the train home from Glasgow on Thursday night.

Album of the year so far.

No question.