Wednesday, 9 July 2008

whatever happened to my glastonbury?

Edith Bowman ended BBC coverage of Glastonbury ’08 remarking on how she’d seen for the first time how important the slotting of bands is. Indeed Glasto’s setup never looked so skeletal in my memory, and that’s for one reason: meagre resources. It wasn’t the lack of Macca-mega traditional headliners; last year thrived offering scorching music of the moment. It was mainly buoyed by a huge injection of staggering American talent: Arcade Fire, Bright Eyes, Modest Mouse and Rufus Wainwright took the weekend so far that it didn’t matter how good fledgling headliners Arctic Monkeys and The Killers were (both in fact pulled off gracious, sparkling sets). Fresh-faced bands towering on the bill wasn’t the reason this year looked limp. A fixation on new music is itself nothing new; look at The Smiths triumphantly headlining Glasto in 1984 with only one studio album to date. Nor was the oh-so-controversial first hip hop headliner a spanner in the works. Jay-Z’s set and attitude was refreshing. George Lamb commented in this month’s Arena on the pleasure of interviewing hip hop artists over snotty “monosyllabic” indie bands: “Those rap boys are so drilled, they’re straight in: ‘Yo Georgie! When I’m in London I hang with George Lamb!’” Jay-Z’s bombastic performance was a joy to watch and a welcome change to the moody mumbles and yells of the likes of Foals, who have gotten a little tiresome to say the least.

The problem at Glasto ’08 was not how new or controversial many of the acts were, but how crap their music is. And worst of all, it’s a British problem. The Kills writhed as sexily as ever, The Raconteurs (led by the coolest rock star alive, Jack White) made me want to go to Tennessee and Leonard Cohen was the act of the festival. Even pedestrian Texas three-piece White Denim fed us some riotous beardy noise-pop from the Queen’s Head. Yet what was sitting second on the bill on Friday night? The demented Fratellis. Flying the flag on Sunday? The Pigeon Detectives. On home turf for their Glasto debut? The stupid Ting Tings. It doesn’t sound like there is half a person in any of these bands, and this is the supposed forefront of British indie! In the shadow of such goons it was gorgeous to see witty janglers Franz Ferdinand, upward-bound Mystery Jets and a curiously clean Pete Doherty up at The Park (the newest and best stage and area of the festival with a stall selling amazing steak sandwiches). These guys, who came up right before NME lost its nose and hit freefall, are (along with Moz) all we have on our doorstep. They’ll come a time when it’ll be no good spitting the alternative of glitchy electro at ranks of betrayed indie fans missing shoegazing, Fender-laden anti-heroes. Glastonbury showed that British indie needs to grow up again, and stop thinking that Glasvegas et al are the answer (someone needs to tell that lead guy that he’s not Ian McCulloch, he’s not even Ian Brown).

Songs of Glasto '08:

1 comment:

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