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Column – From Brexit to Bowie: 10 'facts' proved at the 2016 Glastonbury Festival

Column – From Brexit to Bowie: 10 'facts' proved at the 2016 Glastonbury Festival
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With many acts, stages and stalls selling personalised rice, not to mention this year a sea of sticky mud to get between all these wonders, a lot happens at Glastonbury. To cut through the all rumours and stories, Q presents 10 incontrovertible ‘facts ‘ (well that might be a bit strong) we discovered on Worthy Farm this weekend.

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No festival is an island…

A three-day escape of hedonism and hippy idealism it might be, but in these times of 4G and Chill And Charge tents Glastonbury is never going to be fully cut off from the real world and its attendant bad news vibes and reality niggles. So it was on the morning of the referendum result. As people began to wake up and check their phones the news spread from tent to tent like a sort of bewildered wildfire. Though the decision overtook the mud and the weather as the chief topics of conversation and onstage between-song patter, the overall attitude seemed to be a resolution to try not to think about it too much and make the most of the weekend (not too dissimilar to the weather and the mud, then). A mood perhaps best encapsulated by Madness’s wry – if fairly shambolic – cover of Highway To Hell on Saturday. Yes we may be doomed, but we can still get rat-arsed and do Dad dancing in the mud.

…but Brexit can be poetic

PJ Harvey’s brilliant, stark but beautiful set was enhanced by her sage-like recitation of the aforementioned John Donne poe, No Man Is An Island, as she reacted to Brexit. With her songs also containing observations of war and European misadventure, we’re keen to hear the journalist songwriter’s Brexit record.

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Radiohead weren’t there

“Apparently Radiohead are going to be on at William’s Green just after Foals finish,”; “Yeah, Radiohead are going to be up at The Stonebridge Bar at quarter past twelve tomorrow,”; “Seriously, Radiohead will be playing the Goan Fish Curry stall at 3am tonight.” Secret sets are a regular occurrence at Glastonbury and yes, Radiohead have played them in the past, but not this year, no matter how many wild, totally unfounded rumours you might have heard over the course of the weekend…

Bowie lives!

There were poignant tributes to Lemmy and Prince made by festival organisers, but it was the loss of David Bowie that manifested itself most clearly. The Aladdin Sane lightening flash eye above the Pyramid Stage, Bowie Karaoke, a Bowie flashmob and countless Bowie covers across the stages. Gone but not forgotten and judging by the perplexed look on some faces at the more experimental Phillip Glass Bowie tribute on Saturday night still managing to confound expectations.

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Techno takes years off you

It must be daunting returning to a festival after more than 15 years absence, especially one where your 1998 set is considered one of the best Glastonbury sets of all time. Not that Underworld showed any signs of nerves. Or the aging process. Karl Hyde actually looked younger than when they were last here, weaving and ducking his way through a set that was unrelentingly brilliant right through the Fall-like march of this year’s I Rah to a thunderous Born Slippy. Shouting ethically produced cider, cider, cider, cider, cider!

All hail ‘The Queens

From Glastonbury veterans to Pilton newbies – Paris’s Christine And The Queens’ witty, immaculately dressed and oh so very French performance on Friday was one of this year’s best. Not bad for a first attempt.

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It’s fackin’ Adele!

On paper, sad piano ballads about your ex shouldn’t be natural Glastonbury headline source material yet Adele triumphed. Not only due to those crowd-melting songs but through sheer warmth of personality. That and a vernacular that could make a merchant seaman blush. Hopefully there isn’t a swear jar to the side of the Pyramid Stage.

Festivals are a team game

Or so Bernard Sumner reckons, as he less-than-politely asked the crowd to up their game early during New Order’s Other Stage set. Whether it was this Mourinho-like tough love or the fact the band started playing classics included True Faith and Blue Monday after the ‘team talk; we may never know, but the formation clicked and New Order played a blinder.

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It’s harder to find a guitar at Glastonbury than you think

Gone are days of camp fire sing-a-longs it seems, as acoustic guitars are actually hard to come by at Glasto. Q’s Ted Kessler put out an appeal for one so Squeeze’s Chris Difford could end their My Old Man Live talk with an acoustic set but one was not forthcoming. Still fear not, there were plenty of heartstring tugged during the frank and emotional talk.

Viola Beach headlined…

In an novel but touching tribute, Coldplay ensured the Warrington band who were killed in a road accident earlier this year got their moment at the festival. As the weekend reached its climax, Chris Martin and co covering Viola Beach’s Boys That Sing while the band featured on the festivals screens. A brilliant moment in a set of many highs.


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