Departure lounge ramblings on music, places, climate change and stuff outdoors

When Jeremy headlined Glastonbury 

The western world’s greatest music festival is over for another year and 2017 was undoubtedly defined by the way that Glastonbury embraced Jeremy Corbyn. I can’t think of a single hour during the festival when I didn’t hear a spontaneous chant of “Woah Jeremy Corbyn’ going out to the tune of the White Stripe’s ‘Seven Nation Army’.

On Saturday afternoon the Labour leader drew one of the biggest crowds in Glastonbury history and delivered a speech of such power and hope that, like your author, many people were crying as they whooped and cheered the roof off the Pyramid stage. Even at 4am on Sunday in the Block 9 dance area, a DJ mixed in a 5 minute long Corbyn speech over the top of crashing techno beats, as 5,000 revellers danced away the last minutes of the festival. 

I’ve been going to this magical festival for 25 years and have experienced countless ‘Glastonbury moments’, when an entire crowd is moved to euphoria as one under the power of extraordinary musical performance, but I’ve never witnessed anything like this. Looking back at previous markontour Glastonbury reviews, it is true that I always come back on a high, with my faith in humanity similarly restored, but this year was extra special. 

The music was pretty awesome as well, indeed so much so that it has presented a challenge to my festival scoring system, the rules of which dictate that I must use whatever score I allocated to each performer, denoted in ticks ranging from 1 to 5 in my little Guardian festival guide, immediatlely after watching them. There are so many ‘five out of fives’ that a cynical reader may be concerned that markontour’s judgement was impaired, or at least that I have lost the critical faculty of determining relative brilliance. I do have a category of ‘5 tick stars’ for the absolute best of the best, but there are even mulitple entries for that category. I have thus changed the nomenclature, but not the underlying scoring..

Life-changeingly amazing

Jeremy Corbyn, Pyramid Stage, Saturday (4.15pm)

He forgot to introduce Run the Jewels but everything else was amazing. A powerful speech about love and looking after each other, relayed with feeling and without cliche and soundbites by a political leader who really wants to build a better world for the many, not the few. A vast Pyramid Stage crowd went crazy. 

Elbow, The Park, Friday (7.30pm) 

Taking the Park’s secret guest slot with aplomb, there can’t be many performers in the world who can work a crowd like Guy Garvey. At one point he paused between songs to say “Now let’s get some things sorted out here, starting with the flag wavers: you’re a shambles”, and then proceeded to get them all waving left-to-right in unison. Getting the crowd sitting far away on the Park hill to wave down to the main audience in front of the stage created a golden Glastonbury moment. So many of Elbow’s are anthems and made for a festival stage, but as always nothing could outshine a joyous rendition of ‘One Day Like This’. 

Loyle Carner, John Peel Stage, Saturday (4.50pm)

Sitting in a leather armchair on stage, a coffee table and desk lamp to one side, Loyle Carner delivered sublime rap about how much he loves his Mum and siblings, racking your CDs up in alphabetical order, and the songs his Dad used to sing (closing with ‘Yesterday’s Gone’). Rap is not generally a genre that gets me excited, but this (like Run The Jewel’s performance earlier in the day) convinced me to try harder.

Absolutely wonderful

Mik Artistik, Croissant Neuf Bandstand, Wednesday (6pm)
The man with a pocket full of straws on top comedic form, ending with a massive sing-a-long to Sweet Leaf of the North, about a leaf that got trapped under the windscreen wiper of the tour bus all the way from Leeds to London and back. The perfect start in the late evening sun.

Margo Price, The Park, Friday (1.30pm)

Proper heartbreak country from Ms Price, who was struggling a little with jet-lag but still wowed a Park audience that seemed mostly to be hearing her for the first time, not least with the best song on her debut album – ‘Hands of Time’, and her acapella version of Janis Joplin’s ‘Mercdez Benz’.  

Kate Tempest, West Holts, Friday (5.45pm)

Another extraordinary set, based on her recent album, Let Them Eat Chaos, telling the story of the residents of a social housing tower block at 4.18am. A coruscating attack on Tory Britain (somewhat in contrast to Jeremy Corbyn’s message of hope the next day). It was utterly mesmerising and only fails to get a 5-plus-a-star because I had to leave before the end for Elbow.

Songhoy Blues Brothers, The Park, Saturday (7.45pm)

I was disappointed to miss The Avalanches to see them, but Songhoy Blues Brothers really delivered the goods to a crowd that totally bought into their Malian blues and infectious dancing. Full-on endorphine rush ensued.

She Drew The Gun, The Park, Sunday (11.50am)

Amazing stuff from a band I liked so much last year that I saw them three times. Now playing much bigger stages and fitting in perfectly, all the original material was great, plus markontour enjoyed the cover of Beloved’s Sweet Honey.

Barry Gibb, Pyramid Stage, Sunday (4pm)

At times the former Bee Gee seemed overwhelmed by the crowd’s enthusiastic response to disco hits including Stayin’ Alive, Jive Talking and How Deep is Your Love. Stomping set.

Four-tick cracking

Tankus the Henge, SHITV, Wednesday (10pm)

Standing on top of a piano, sweat pouring down, trombones blasting and exuding pure energy. 

Matt Sewell, Crows Nest, Friday (10am)
The first lecture at the Free University of Glastonbury, in which artist Matt Sewell illustrated and described ‘Bad Birds’, including Whistling Kites, which snatch burning embers from camp-fires and then drop them into the bush to flush out prey! T’interweb reckons Sewell’s the Banksy of the bird world..

Ata Kak, West Holts, Friday (2.45pm)

I only caught the end, but this Ghanaian dance rapper had really got the crowd going and now I need to hear more.

Kris Kristoffersen, Pyramid, Friday (4.15pm)
Seeming a little frail at times, Kristoffersen still looks like a film star and was joined on stage by a couple more (Johnny Depp playing guitar on stage and Brad Pitt watching from the wings). But it was the appearance of fellow country singer, Margo Price, duetting on ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ that turned the set and Kristoffersen seemed in his element thereafter.

Billy Bragg, Leftfield, Friday (9pm)

I can’t imagine Glastonbury without Billy and it was sad to have to leave for my bar shift while he was still belting out classics including Just Because You’re Better Than Me (Doesn’t Mean I’m Lazy) and There Is Power in a Union, dedicated to the firefighters who risked their lives to save others at Grenfell Tower. 

Whitney, Other Stage, Saturday (12 noon)

Young alt-Americans, clearly visiting Glastonbury for the first timeand quite bemused by it all. “God, it smells like cow-shit here” opined the drummer-lead singer at one point, later adding “But this seems a righteous kinda place”. As good live as their cracking album.

British Sea Power, Other Stage, Saturday (1.15pm)

Really, I’d like to watch BSP every day of the week, but they don’t tour so much and I have to work. Instantly hit their stride with Machineries of Joy, got a predictably big response to the many well prepared audience members for Waving Flags, and generally very chatty by BSP standards. Wonderful as always.

Cabbage, John Peel, Saturday (3.30pm)
Would have liked to see more, but we had to rush to catch Jezza on the Pyramid Stage. Fast, loud, witty and political. More please.

Run The Jewels, Pyramid, Saturday (4.15pm)
Ostensibly introduced by Jeremy Corbyn, although he actually forgot to do it, Run The Jewels impressed what must have been the biggest crowd of their life. Highly political, great sounds, lots of energy.

The Killers, John Peel Stage, Sunday (5.30pm)
Another secret gig that thousands of people got to know about and seemingly everyone knew all the words to everything, not just Mr Brightside.

The Trojans, Rocket Lounge, Wednesday (midnight)

Raucous ska from the veterans and assorted guests.

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