Orbital and Glastonbury

Terrible weather forecast notwithstanding, I'm feeling a bit jealous of everyone heading off to Glastonbury this morning. Farah is representing for Uncut, and you should keep an eye on our festival blog, where she'll be filing reports all weekend.

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Terrible weather forecast notwithstanding, I’m feeling a bit jealous of everyone heading off to Glastonbury this morning. Farah is representing for Uncut, and you should keep an eye on our festival blog, where she’ll be filing reports all weekend.

The dreary grown-up business of looking for a new house prevents me from going to Glasto this year (if anyone is an expert on South Tottenham primary schools, don’t be a stranger. . .). But of course I’m feeling very nostalgic right now. The festival used to always bring out the latent hippy in me, and consequently I used to spend most of my time mooching around the stone circle or the teepee field, wondering whether to join a meditation class, rather than watching any bands or doing any work.

One band that I always used to make a point of seeing, though, was Orbital. And so I’m playing this great new compilation by them called “Live At Glastonbury 1994-2004”, and trying to hear myself yelping in the crowd between tracks. Along with Spiritualized, I always associate Orbital with Glastonbury, maybe because their music always strived to be transporting, intricately ecstatic.

Much as I love bands like Arctic Monkeys, this weekend’s headliners, gritty urban realism never really did it for me in the Vale Of Avalon. I remember at my first Glastonbury in 1989 (or the CND festival, as we used to quaintly call it back then) seeing Van Morrison sing “Summertime In England”, and thinking it was just perfect, transcendent even.

Orbital, of course, took that aesthetic much further. After their “In Sides” album, the Hartnoll brothers got a bit too corny for my liking (though having said that, Paul Hartnoll‘s new solo album has its Morricone-ish moments). But so many of the tunes on these two CDs – “Kein Trink Wasser”, “Impact”, “Halcyon” (complete with its daft and invariably uplifting Belinda Carlisle break), “Belfast”, “Satan” and, inevitably, “Chime” – have a complex emotional power which isn’t, I think, entirely due to my dewy-eyed flashbacks of Glastos past.

The version of “Impact”, in fact, comes from 1995: if I remember right, Orbital played the Pyramid Stage that year at sunset, just before the famous Pulp show. And while Pulp seized their moment brilliantly, I have a distinct memory that there were more people actually watching Orbital.

But then the biggest crowd I ever saw at Glastonbury was for The Levellers, so not a great way of measuring a band’s excellence, all told. I lasted about 30 seconds of The Levellers, by the way. I might be a latent hippy, but I could never cut it as a crusty. . .


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