Words by Tom Farmer
The rabbit hole of all rabbit holes, Glastonbury Festival finally returned to our TV screens after a three-year absence. For the vast majority of us who were unable to click fast enough or had forgot to set an alarm, Glasto is very much a spectator sport, gazing longingly at the seas of bucket hat-clad festival goers swaying and jiving to artists who have shaped and crafted the British soundscape across the ages. From Paul McCartney, whose influence needs little elaboration, to the likes of recent newcomers Fontaines DC and Ardee, every waking (and sleeping) moment of Glastonbury seems to have some sort of cultural significance. Fear not if you couldn’t make it to Somerset, or indeed had better things to do than me over the weekend, for I have dedicated my weekend to watching and selecting the must-see sets of the weekend. Head onto BBC Iplayer, pour yourself a lukewarm lager, don your retro football shirt and have a little dance as if you were on the hallowed turf of Glastonbury festival.
Fontaines DC, the Other Stage
A name revered by Radio 6 dads and angsty teenagers alike, Irish post-punk superstars Fontaines DC are not quite the best-kept secret they were in 2019 when they graced the John Peel stage. Instead, the five-piece are constantly grappling with the weight and burden of expectation. Third album Skinty Fia did not disappoint, perhaps the strongest record of their repertoire so far. Complete with a small choir (who were admittedly a bit ropey to begin with) and strings, the set grew into a barnstorming, feet-stamping display of why guitar music is far from dead. Frontman Grian Chatten’s disinterested snarling couples perfectly with the rich yet expressive guitar tones the band has become known for. When playing live, however, the band’s secret weapon becomes clear: drummer Tom Coll. Whilst many drummers are reactive to vocals and guitar, Coll seems to set the tone and tempo for the band, ensuring their iconic cutting edge sound, The set’s highlight, aside from the carnage crowd pleaser “Boys in the Better Land” inevitably causes, was recent single “I Love You”. An impassioned cry to their homeland, you will see very few other songs over the weekend which generate as much emotion.
Wet Leg, the Other Stage
The last time Glastonbury graced our screens and fields in 2019, a wet leg at Glastonbury was one of the less glamorous effects of taking too many illegal narcotics. Yet, like a phoenix out of the ashes, Wet Leg emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic to dominate the guitar scene. In making indie-rock sexy and seductive, something which many would have seemed inconceivable, the duo have been placed on a pedestal by the Gen Z Tiktokers. As is inevitable, their set was a jamboree of screams and self-deprecating awkward chat between songs, as well as tracks destined to make you grin. Tracks like “Chaise Lounge” and “Wet Dream” are not only amazing songs in their own right, but are very little else you have ever heard. Whilst I fear they may not be at this peak for much longer, Wet Leg are something truly special.
Oliver Rodrigo, Pyramid Stage
Whilst I’m aware the OSM readership may have varying views on the former Disney star, there is something undeniably, deeply impressive about 19 year-old Olivia Rodrigo. With an ability to oscillate seamlessly to melancholic ballads to feel good pop-rock tracks is something any musician would be impressed by, let alone someone with so little experience playing such iconic stages. Winning the prize for coolest backing band, Rodrigo bounced around the stage with unbridled joy, as well as seeming genuinely humbled by the seas of people that congregated to join in with her catalog of tunes which have been ubiquitous over the past year or so. However, the moment of the set came when the singer-songwriter brought out Lily Allen to deliver a special cover of “Fuck You”, dedicated the US Supreme Court Justices who backed the overturning of Roe Vs Wade, stripping millions of access to abortions. As Rodrigo delivered a passionate speech, Allen looked on smiling, as if they were master and apprentice. A set which, in ten years time, will still be on IPlayer.
IDLES, the Other Stage
Perhaps more than anyone else, what you see is what you get with IDLES. Frontman Joe Talbot booming vocals, lead guitarist (also a qualified dentist) throwing himself into the crowd during every second song, the crowd engaging in what looks like a fully-condoned brawl. Yet, there is something enigmatic about the success of the Bristol-based post-punk overlords. So many bands have done (and will no doubt continue to do) what IDLES have done, but have not been able to escape small venues or punk festivals. For such an acquired taste, the five-piece have successfully wriggled and wormed themselves into gaps which are not used to the hefty and burly body of IDLES. Yet, they are a band whom you would be hard-pressed to hear a bad word about. It’s true that their lyrics are like no one else, with references from Charlie Sheen to Mary Berry, as well as a sharp political and socially-aware instinct that seems to underpin nearly every track. In many ways, IDLES operate in something of a double-dynamic: fun and entertaining to watch as they bounce around in the midst of orchestrated chaos, but also have this much deeper lyrical and sonic ability which sets the outfit apart from the long list of bands who have tried and failed to reach the heady heights that IDLES have found themselves at. The less said about the “All You Need Is Love” cover, the better.
Arlo Parks, the Park Stage
With a stage filled with sunflowers, Arlo Parks was (as ever) one of the brightest rays of sunshine over Worthy Farm at the weekend. South-West London’s answer to international stars like Clairo and Lorde, the poet (for singer-songwriter seems like an understatement) is another artist who was virtually unknown last time Glastonbury festival came to fruition, despite playing a couple of sets on Glastonbury’s smaller stages. Good luck trying to stay still during tracks like “Cola”, resisting the urge to sway and tap your feet. At only 21, Parks strolls and struts around the stage as if she’s done this thousands of times. A close runner-up for “coolest backing band”, the soulful backing to Parks’ vocals sounds better live than it does recorded. Although Arlo Parks seems to be at the top of her game, you can’t help but think she is going to become even bigger. Watch her now so you seem cool in the future.