“Glastonbury!” beams Debbie Harry. “Nowhere else like it!”
Just past midday on Friday in the Vale of Avalon, and the world’s largest voluntary refugee camp is already on the move.
Even at this early stage of the festival, with sporadic rain and mud underfoot, the Other Stage Arena is rammed to bursting for Blondie. Currently celebrating their 40th anniversary, these New York punk-pop legends have been around almost as long as Glastonbury itself.
“We’ve got some new songs, some old songs and some really, really old songs,” Harry jokes. Sure, they creak and trundle more than they used to, but they have earned those stiff joints – Harry turns 69 next week, after all, and still looks fabulous. Absolutely Fabulous, judging by her dance moves. But even Chris Stein’s latterday love of blustery blues-rock can not ruin New Wave classic like “Atomic” and “Rapture”, the latter morphing into an agreeably incongruous cover of the Beasties’ “Fight For Your Right To Party”. They even make the sun come out, earning the loudest cheer of the festival so far. Blondie make everything alright.
Arriving onsite yesterday evening, the party was already swinging in the Silver Hayes field, a cluster of architecturally elegant tents and flamboyantly decorated stages showcasing mostly DJs and club-friendly acts. New Build, the Hot Chip side project led by Al Doyle and Felix Martin, officially christened the nautical-themed Wow stage with a solid set of heavily percussive, lightly melancholy disco-tronica. They were followed by East India Youth, aka one man band William Doyle, who battled gamely through long delays and sound problems to deliver his agreeable hybrid mash-ups of banging techno and soft-rock power ballads. The crowd was heaving, shame about the technical glitches.
Thursday also saw the first edition of the festival’s slender daily newspaper, the quaintly retro-styled Free Press, featuring columns by Billy Bragg and Yoko Ono. Bragg is again hosting his own performance and discussion area here, The Left Field, complete with a tower named in homage to Tony Benn. Old hands may complain that Glastonbury has lost its soul, but you simply do not get this kind of mix at other festivals. Indeed, is hard to imagine any other event where you might find back-to-back tributes to both Tony Benn and Frankie Knuckles. Glastonbury honours its fallen heroes.
So that was the first 24 hours in Glastonbury. Here are the edited highlights:
Least punk-rock star-spotting story: Arcade Fire spotted at the uber-posh Bath Priory hotel, playing croquet on the manicured lawns. One of them, according to Uncut’s reliable sources, was wearing “clown shoes”.
Finest meat-based pun to wind up the Metallica haters: a Glastonbury breakfast kiosk emblazoned with the slogan “We built this city on bacon rolls.”
Number of spurious rumours about Prince/Radiohead/David Bowie playing a secret set over weekend: only 24 so far. But it’s early days yet.
More Glastonbury updates to come later. Keep watching this space.