After a minor last minute freak out. I packed my bags, grabbed some train tinnies and set off to meet my Glasto destiny
Glastonbury's too big and too long to attempt any kind of day by day account, I was there for a total of 92 hours and compared to others, that was a relatively short trip. Over the course of the weekend I saw an enraged hippy hurl eggs at Kanye West, a swarm of paparazzi kettle Kate Moss in the Hospitality bar, a group of ravers re-enact Cersei Lannister's walk of shame on the way to Shangri-La, I met Jamie Jones at a bar and Seth Troxler at the toilets, I unintentionally participated in a Day of the Dead death march and I lost countless hours to walking around in a haze of lazers, music and mud. But even though the Glastonbury cliche of "it's about the experience, not the music" rang true throughout the festival, I was there to cover (and you're presumably here to read about) the impressive array of dance music on offer, so lets focus on that for today.
You could spend your entire Glastonbury listening to obscure music from all over the world, a specific genre, or a cavalcade of the biggest names in modern music. Rock, Pop, Latin, Rap, Dance, whatever your tastes are, you'll be catered for. You don't need to go to Glastonbury to know this, but I'd argue that to truly appreciate just how major a role dance music now plays at the festival, you have to experience it in person. Scanning down the official lineup there are the occasional dance heavy weights - Chemical Brothers, Rudimental, Deadmau5 - on the major stages, but it was only once I arrived that I realised there was an entire section dedicated to dance music, not to mention the myriad all night areas, bars and clubs that catered to more underground or specialist dance tastes.
So what can a dance music fan expect to see, do and dance to at Glastonbury? Well I can't really tell you that, but here's what happened to me.
The Superstar DJS
It ain't easy clashing with Yeezy...
Lets get the obvious out of the way early. If you make the trek to Glastonbury, you'll be rewarded with some of the absolute biggest names in dance music playing on some of the major stages at primetime slots. While no dance act made it onto the Pyramid Stage this year, both Deadmau5 and The Chemical Brothers
headlined The Other Stage (Glastonbury's second stage). Each act drew huge crowds, all the more impressive when you consider they were up against Kanye West and The Who respectively. Both acts brought their A-game music-wise and played crowd pleasing, technically impressive sets that demonstrated each act was worth their reputation.
The Chemical Brothers brought a load of new toys with them.
Both artists also had something special up their sleeves for the Glasto massive. I'd seen The Chemical Brothers the previous weekend at Sonar, so I knew that their visual show was not to be missed, but at Glastonbury they upped the ante by lowering two towering clockwork robots from the ceiling, which proceeded to walk on the spot and fire lazers from their eyes. They weren't done yet though, as they managed to top even this by releasing a swarm of giant balloons into the crowd during the first drop of flagship track, "Saturate".
Deadmau5 chilling with left Shark. Statement or timeout?
Not to be outdone, king of the trolls, Deadmau5, also had a big set piece planned for his closing set on Sunday. At around the three quarter mark, he removed the mau5head and walked to the front of the stage. Then a man in a hotdog costume and another dressed as Left Shark (the meme from Katy Perry's Superbowl performance) appeared, dragging a sofa out onto centre stage. Deadmau5 and Left Shark then sat on the sofa and pulled some Corona's out of a cooler and literally sat there for the duration of "Seeya" swigging beer and chatting. I don't know if this was Joel just messing around, or if it was intended to underline his recent "we all hit play" comments. Either way it was pretty entertaining and a ballsy move from the Canadian. We managed to get some shaky instagram video evidence of the whole charade, which you can watch over here.
Underground Heroes Galore
Fatboy Slim has become a Glastonbury mainstay. Photo by Jason Bryant
Silver Hayes is the newly renamed dance village and is composed of the giant Sonic Stage, BBC Introducing, den of iniquity La Pussy Parloure, the Ship-themed Wow! Tent and The Blues stage, which looks "sort of like a slum" as I was told by a guy in a leotard at 4am. Across these stages from around 2pm until as late as 7am you can see a procession of the most exciting acts in underground dance and associated genres. From DJ supergroup JESuS (Jackmaster, Eats Everything, Skream, Seth Troxler) kicking off the party on Thursday night, to Skepta shutting down the Wow! Tent, to DJ EZ's roadblock afterparty to the CircoLoco takeover to surprise Fatboy Slim appearances. Oh and speaking of heroes... Idris Elba played an early evening tech house set on the Sonic Stage and dropped "Love Shack" - video evidence of that, right here.
Live Dance Titans
The kings of live dance, SBTRKT and Sampha. Photo by Jake Lewis.
Dance music isn't always a toss up between an underground DJ set and a big production superstar megashow. Of course Glastonbury have the middle ground covered. Enter the cream of the UK crop and their boundary pushing live dance music performances. Over the course of the weekend we were treated to live setups from Gorgon City, SBTRKT, Flight Facilities (ok, they're Australian) and Young Fathers. Gorgon City brought the summer vibes and had the Sonic Stage sweaty, meanwhile Young Fathers blew the crowd (and this music writer) away with their raw, aggressive performance, but the kings of the weekend were undoubtedly SBTRKT and long time collaborator Sampha. I've been telling people to see SBTRKT live since I first saw him in the halcyon days of 2011 at the Manchester Academy where he was supported by two fresh-faced unknowns, who called themselves Disclosure. In the three years since, they've honed the live show to perfection and added a whole full length of new material to keep it feeling fresh. If you only see one live dance act this summer, see SBTRKT.
Check In, Chill Out, Eat Up and Party Down At The Beat Hotel
One of my favourite spots at Glastonbury was The Beat Hotel. Basically a hotel themed day and night party where the DJs perform in bathrobes, there are booths to relax in and you can eat yourself into a food coma courtesy of Seth Troxler's Smoky Tails. Starting at around 10am and going until 3am, Thurs - Sun. It was pretty much always going off any time I passed it and with a line up that included: Gerd Janson, Jackmaster, Erol Alkan, Gerogre Fitzgerald, Bicep, Pedestrian, Groove Armada, The 2 Bears, and Mark Ronson, it's easy to see why. If The Beat Hotel was a real hotel, I'd take up residency there immediately.
Block 9 - The Underground Dance Dystopia
Block 9's denziens flock to the all night outdoor party at Genosys. (Photo Via)
For a dance fan, Block 9 is definitely the most interesting area of Glastonbury. With an earlier opening time for 2015 of 3pm and a close time of around 8am, you could quite easily spend your whole festival dancing your ass off in this urban jungle. Block 9 is spread across three warped structures. First of all there's the outdoor Genosys stage, where over the course of the weekend you could catch punishing sets from Erol Alkan, Four Tet, Mr G and Robert Hood all while a mutated power plant looms over the crowd, smoking, sparking and generally intimidating.
London Underground, one of the most impressive sights at Glastonbury. (Photo Via)
Right next door is London Underground, a six story tower block lifted straight out of A Clockwork Orange topped off with a smoking tube carriage hanging out of it's fifth floor. Inside the building, London Underground is a celebration of the capital's soundsystem culture and impressive bass constantly reverberates through the walls and your chest.
Expect big queues at NYC Downlow, but it'll be worth it in the end. (Photo Via)
Rounding out the unholy trinity of Block 9 destinations is NYC Downlow, which resembles a New York street after Godzilla stopped over for the night. The poly-sexual club is home to the lighter sounds of Block 9 with a focus on house and disco that serves as a homage to the early New York club culture of Studio 54 and Paradise Garage. There's always a bit of a queue to get in here, but it's well worth the few minutes of not dancing to get in.
Assorted Oddities At The Common
Go through the water fall to enter the dub and reggae rave in the Cave. (Photo Via)
Sitting adjacent to Shangri-La is the often overlooked, The Common. This is where Glastonbury's weirdness truly shines through. You have the CopperDollar, which hosts a Mexican Day of the Dead parade every twenty minutes or so. The Temple is an aztec themed amphitheatre that hosts the harder sounds of the common from techno to drum and bass and welcomed sets from Jackmaster B2B Joy Orbison, Bicep. Plump DJs and D.A.V.E. The Drummer. And finally there's Cave, which features a colossal waterfall on its exterior. Once through the cavern you come out in a dark, dubby reggae rave with a small forrest for a smoking area. It's all very bizarre, but further hits home, just how much thought goes into the design of Glastonbury. Speaking of the bizarre...
Arcadia - The Giant Metal Fire Breathing Spider
We were lucky enough to catch rave legends Altern 8 at Arcadia on Saturday night.
Probably the grand-daddie of all the dance shows is known as Arcadia. Looming large over the festival site like a terrible nightmare creature, you can hear its fire breathing from a mile away and the closer you get the larger it looms. When you're finally under it, you're struck by just how impressive it is, especially when the fire comes out and burns all the oxygen out of the air, literally taking your breath away. Unfortunately I never caught the full Arcadia show, because: alcohol. But I've been reliably informed that at some point the DJ came out of the booth wearing a metal suit, stood on the Spider's head and shot electricity out of his hands. I don't know how this is even possible, but I don't doubt for a second that it happened.
So what did I learn from Glastonbury? Well if you're thinking about going next year, but you don't want to buy your tickets before the headliners are announced then -and I really mean this - YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG. I didn't see Florence, I saw twenty minutes of Kanye, I saw five minutes of The Who and I missed out on nothing. Glastonbury is infinitely more important the three names at the top of the poster. It's even bigger than the sum total of all the names on the poster. It's an escape from reality, it's unlike any other festival I've ever been to, and it's entirely what you make it.
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07 Jul 2015