It’s not Glastonbury.
Then again, it’s not Kendal Calling.
A Glastonbury with minimal unwelcome rain at last! Just a couple of heavy showers on the Friday and rain through Saturday morning making having a lie-in more pleasant than it would have been on a sunny day! Only 31 acts seen this year, but for the first time nobody who was really bad. My theory for this is that at Glastonbury it is difficult to have a bad set if you look like you are enjoying playing and being there. Sometimes this can be hard, if the weather is truly grim or if there are technical problems, and of course there are some curmudgeonly groups who thrive off not giving any sign of enjoyment.
As usual, I travelled down with friends from the Heatons early on the Wednesday morning. Thankfully the proposal that I wouldn’t be listened to unless I ended every sentence with 88 in honour of having inadvertently added these digits to the end of my registration number, making our first attempt at getting tickets fail, petered out quickly when it was discovered that there were better banter victims. Namely the driver of one of the other cars in our group who had delayed setting off by 4 hours because he’d decided that morning to saw his luggage trolley in half and was welding it back together by the time we’d started on our way. In any event, our journey was quick enough not to rely on the list of local road closure orders Bob had printed out to find short cuts. Indeed we got to the car park early enough that our walk to our camping spot (pretty much the same place as last year) was just over a mile and a gentle stroll as Bob and I would be sharing a tent being brought down by another of the group, Anthony, later that evening so didn’t have to carry one. And, that tent was definitely not going to be the monstrously impractical one in the shape of an old VW camper van that Anthony brought last year. Oh no.
After setting up camp, Wednesday is a day for wandering around and drinking beer. Confusingly, they’d moved the Avalon Inn to the other side of the Avalon field, but somehow we managed to find it and at least this year the roof wasn’t so low that taller members of the group continually bashed their head against beams. Late on, Bob disappeared to help Anthony pitch (who’d finally arrived after zooming down from Oxford where he’d won a prize for being unfeasibly clever). When the rest of us went back we were just discussing how much easier it was to find our camping area last year because of the Camper Van tent when suddenly, lo and behold- a Camper Van tent! Which was very confusing because Anthony was bringing a proper tent and Bob had categorically stated that there was no way he’d sleep in the Camper Van tent ever again. But, hang on, what’s this, another tent? And those ones there by the Camper Van definitely look like ours. And there’s Anthony. Looking a little shamefaced. As Bob finishes putting up the new tent that he had immediately turned on his heel to go and buy when he saw that the Camper Van had returned. So he could keep to his word and not sleep in it.
As so many people now come on Wednesday (back in the day I’d turn up after work on Thursday evening), Thursday’s programme has grown so that there is a lot on the smaller stages and the site gets pretty much into full swing.
That said, on a sunny afternoon, there’s not much better to do than go up the hill and enjoy the view. Particularly if, like Anthony you were going to drive off in the early hours of Friday morning to spend the next day and a half sailing around the Isle of Wight. If ever anyone was needed to show that Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter stories was a bit of a lightweight for needing a time turner, Anthony would win the gig.
Drenge were one of the “To Be Announced” surprise bands on the Williams Green stage. Thankfully they kicked off with their current, excellent single, Running Wild. The next song sounded a bit like Bauhaus. I wandered off after handful as they got a bit dreary. I blame Tom Watson for his recommendation of them in the sign off to his resignation letter to Ed Miliband where he did an impression of Rufus from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. To be honest, I can’t quite see Ed Miliband having any appetite for Drenge.
Goodnight Lenin- anthemic Rock. Ok for Avalon stage
Cerrone – Ibiza-ish French DJ, in the wacky environs of Block 9. Something wrong with the PA so far too quiet.
Charlatans – did what they do and ended with 10 minute Sprowston Green. Despite having a ludicrous lampshade of peroxided hair, Tim Burgess looked far better wearing white jeans and a black anorak than anyone ought to be able to get away with.
Leon Bridges – nice, 1950s crooning. Radio 2.
Lonelady- the youth outside Asda who you’re not sure whether they’re collecting trolleys or mugging you for the quid that gets released when you park it up. 80s synth sounds but didn’t quite work
Stornaway – best act so far. The right side of twee. Played a cover of Yazz’s The only way is up, which showed why it was a good enough song to have got to Number 1 in the days when that sort of meant something. The set coincided with the first of the short downpours and the singer seemed touchingly pleased when the Acoustic stage tent didn’t empty when the rain stopped.
Motörhead – fantastic, winners of the 2015 Skrillex prize for act I thought I wouldn’t normally listen to or enjoy but did. Best drum solo ever! Followed by guitarist reappearing wearing “I fucking hate drummers” t shirt rather than a bass solo, thankfully. A good example of my theory about looking and sounding like you’re enjoying what you’re doing even if it isn’t your usual environment (where you wouldn’t get only a smattering of hands going up when you asked if people would be buying your new album).
Django django- played three times, here at a very hot Williams Green, and then a quiet acoustic set at the Crows Nest (which was too rammed to get close enough to see them) and finally on the John Peel Stage (which clashed with something else). Great set where the similarity between the songs on their two albums didn’t matter as it meant that they all went together.
Hot chip- surprisingly good as having seen them previously at a festival I thought their music too tinny to work at a large outdoor venue. They took the brave decision of playing Over and Over only half a dozen songs in but didn’t run out of recognisable “hits” to play and finished with a cover of Springsteen.
Lamb- lovely jazzy voice over Drum and Bass provided by an over-enthusiastic idiot (who then touchingly gave a shout out to his mum who came to her first Glastonbury when they first played here and was now at her 17th). It’s 1998 all over again.
Courtney Barnett – Aussie Courtney Love on the Pyramid Stage. Sounded better (and lyrics unbowdlerised) on the Williams Green later on.
Coasts- anthemic uninteresting
Slaves- the sound of the home fans at a Millwall game talking about their lives. What your electrician is thinking while you ask him to fit some lights because you’re too useless to and haven’t got the time or energy after commuting to London to earn the money to pay him. Because you’re DEAD ALREADY! Highlight was a tremendous circular conga line in the crowd with someone crowdsurfing along the top in the opposite direction to the conga.
Sleaford Mods- anger and observation of the non-aspirational. The people who don’t have the get up and go of the characters in Slaves songs because their choice is between JSA and an 8 hour shift measuring the temperature of chicken breasts (19.2- top, 18.4- middle, 18.6- top) as described in Jobseeker. “Hope you enjoyed our support act”- in reference to their rivalry with Slaves who had cheekily been put on before them at the John Peel.
Gaz Coombes – meh
Kate Tempest- the voice of the girlfriends of the protagonists of Slaves songs.
Luke Wright poet- fackin lions! (in reference to the embarrassment for an Essex boy of the mistaken identification of a pet car as a lion in a Clacton holiday park)
John Cooper Clarke- legendary.
Spiritualised – epic delicate fragile loudness, Come Together finale. Could only have been improved for me by playing Cop Shoot Cop. A very different environment from when I saw them at their height of fame playing Ladies and Gentlement We Are Floating in Space at the Royal Albert Hall with full orchestra and gospel choir. I wonder how they’ll pare things down to fit into the Brudenell Social Club later in the year.
Public service broadcasting- better even than last year. Making technology and the adventure of scientific progress emotionally charged. Roygbiv (ostensibly about the advent of colour television) as gay anthem. Songs from the new album made far more sense with the film clips as they’re a lot less loaded with spoken word samples than the first album’s songs. Unique.
Gengahr- good jangly ethereal falsetto guy
Keston Cobblers Club- Mumford and Sons folk. Quite likely that they actually are members of a club for cobblers in a village called Keston.
Patti Smith- a legend but losing her voice at end of tour and not my thing so didn’t stay long enough to see the Dalai Lama.
DJ Yoda and the Breakfast of Champions- fun, doowap,strings, reggae, bluegrass, ukulele Hebrew songs (complete with film of dancing rabbis). As they said, could this be more eclectic?
Lionel Ritchie – played the hits to massive singalong crowd. Which didn’t include me for very long.
Alt-J – music for darkened rooms translated perfectly to a sunny pyramid stage Sunday afternoon
Belle & Sebastian- not as twee as they used to be or I’m getting old and soppy
The Fall- are on early wtf?! Mark E Smith looks like a Stephen hawking. Tightly shambolic, meaningfully incomprehensible. As ever.
The Who – I’d missed them when they played a few years back, opting then to go and see the Chemical Brothers (who coincidentally were also up against them on the Other Stage this year again). Considering that they had played Hyde Park the day before and have a combined age approaching 500 an amazingly lively and energetic performance. I was surprised at how many of the “hits” they played in the 45 minutes I stayed for before slogging up the hill to the Park Stage for Ryan Adams. I was also surprised at how many people left after the previous act, Paul Weller, finished as I’d have expected them to have appealed to his fans (although I suppose there may have been a lot of people who liked Weller’s newer stuff which is not so closely descended from The Who).
Ryan Adams- Mrs B and I saw him play in Leeds earlier in the year where he’d put on a great performance which bucked my rule of needing the act to enjoy themselves (he got very angry at people using camera flashes despite numerous posters politely requesting they didn’t and him having asked nicely once after explaining that it played havoc with his epilepsy). He seemed much more cheerful at Glastonbury and played another great set, only marred a little by the competing noise of the sound system of the Stonebridge Bar opposite the Park Stage during the acoustic encore of Wonderwall.
Jeremy Corbyn has managed to get onto the final ballot to become the next leader of the Labour Party and succeed Ed Miliband. Perhaps fittingly for an MP first elected in 1983, unlike others in that generation like Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, he looks like he believed every word of Labour’s 1983 manifesto (“the longest suicide note in history”) and still does. Unsurprisingly championed by the likes of Owen Jones, he’s a supporter of:
Despite twitter being much more vocally left than right wing even on my feed (!), interestingly there have been a lot of right wing tweeters gleefully suggesting taking up Labour’s offer of affiliating for £3 to vote for him as being a sure-fire way of killing off Labour’s chances in 2020. After all, in 2010, the total number of Labour members and affiliates voting was less than 300,000 (and many of those will have had more than one vote by being both a member and an affiliate), so it would only take perhaps 30-40,000 carpet-bagger anti-Labour affiliates to join and be able to get him to win. If you’re not planning on standing as a councillor, MEP or MP, perhaps that would even be worth risking expulsion if you’re a Tory member!
Or would it?
While Corbyn looks like a stereo-typical Bennite far left candidate of the sort that must surely be unelectable, things aren’t necessarily so straightforward. There are a few things today which mean that it isn’t certain that a revival of Tony Benn’s Alternative Economic Strategy of 75-76 would be rejected so clearly as it was back then. Writers like Owen Jones have made a popular career out of reviving much of it for the generations who, like him, weren’t even born when it was a live issue. Lots of people this year found Labour not properly left wing enough and preferred to vote for the Greens or in Scotland, the SNP. The protectionist core of that line would also be likely to appeal to many who supported UKIP. It is also noticeable that the front-running three candidates, Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, are all pretty uninspiring, either being in Burnham and Cooper’s cases, cabinet ministers from the Brown years or a robotic Blairite like Kendall. In trying to learn the lessons of defeat in 2015 each has awkwardly tried to use the language of aspiration but ineptly like someone speaking in a foreign language and hilariously missing the nuances that would make them sound genuine.
I wrote a couple of years ago that Miliband could, consistently with the policy, ambition and philosophy he had set out have moved towards favouring EU exit and that had he done so, he would have given himself more room to expand on his policies as well as define himself in a cause which would have hurt his Conservative opponents (even if a 200 seat majority might have been over-optimistic). It wasn’t really a serious suggestion as it would have been a very big move away from the consensus in Labour since Kinnock had started the hard job of making them electable again after 1983, particularly for a politician who had only ever seen those times. However, Corbyn doesn’t have to worry about this. He could, as a long term left wing rebel within Labour easily position himself on the EU back on the platform he first won his seat on. With a referendum on EU membership in a couple of years, he could gain a decisive victory against a Cameron led “In” campaign. Regardless of the policies (and interestingly there was an article in the New Statesman last week reminding readers that the strongest anti-EU arguments were left wing ones), all those Tory rebels and UKIP supporters who believe in leaving the EU on the grounds of protecting or regaining national sovereignty would have a dilemma if Labour campaigned for exit. And only Corbyn of the four hopefuls could do so without it being seen as purely partisan.
If this happened and there were to be a referendum vote in favour of exit, it would be very likely to bring down the present government. A large slice of the Tory party might be encouraged by it to defect to UKIP. There would also be little point in those UKIP MPs and supporters campaigning against Labour in any ensuing General Election because they’d be united in keeping out parties who supported staying in the EU. Which might make Corbyn rather more likely to become PM than he might look today.
So, if you’re a Tory thinking of joining Labour to support Corbyn so that the policies you like can continue through to 2025 and beyond, beware of what you wish for. A bit of Schadenfreude at Labour’s pickle today could lead to the stomach ache of a government to make Tony Benn’s ghost smile*.
* Although it is also worth mentioning that it is possible that Corbyn could do all this and fail through being seen as proposing so much rubbish and with so little likelihood of having the competence to see it through that not only does he discredit his broad far left policies but also the whole idea of leaving the EU as being in any way desirable- the question is, do you feel lucky?