"My 21st Glastonbury was a great one. Glastonbury is different from other festivals. Even now, with connectivity at all times, it feels like you are in a different world there; a nicer world. “This is where all the cool shit is!” said Beans On Toast, who loves the festival as much as I do.

The overcrowding did not feel as bad as the last few years, but some areas did get closed down at times. Frank Turner at Strummerville was always going to be rammed. I don't know if the organizers could have foreseen that of all acts the Sugababes and Avril Lavigne would be the ones to shut down stages.

 Because of all the coverage, the festival attracts “event junkies” who can get in your way when you are trying to enjoy the music, so you have to plan around them now. As anyone who has been knows, it is in the outer fields and on any of the 100 stages that are not shown on TV where the magic is. 

 I do try to take in as much music as I can though, so I only catch the ‘other stuff’ on my way to things: A White Strips spoof, singers at the Crooners Corner, the power ballad yoga that could be heard all across the site in the mornings ("Why am I hearing Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes?", I wondered as I was making coffee at my tent), cute dressed-up kids, music fans in camping chairs scrutinizing their clashfinders...

 I went with Oxfam again and had much better shifts this year, plus a shift location not that far from the camping field (20 minutes walking instead of 45). The walking was easy this year because of the state of the ground. I ‘powerwalked’ from the Acoustic stage to The Park in 15 minutes - a new record.

 The weather was a mixed bag, but no rain. One morning when I got up for an early shift it was 7 degrees. Later that day it went up to 27. Thankfully there are property lock-ups where you can leave a bag with clothes. By the time Coldplay started it was cold again. That was one of several 22 hour days I did, but it’s all worth it.

 These were my favourite shows:

1. FRANK TURNER (Avalon)

 “Just one man and a guitar, how about that?” said Cambridge Folk Festival compère Myke Clifford, who presents the Avalon stage at Glastonbury. With so many acts, particularly on the televised stages, the production has become a prime ingredient of the show. With Frank it is all about the music. He can do that of course because he has ten album’s worth of great songs to choose from, and a loyal fanbase. I first saw Frank at the Leftfield stage at Glastonbury 2010 and I was amazed by the crowd singing along to everything word for word. I decided I wanted to be part of that and here I was - my 85th Frank show (show #2911 on his count). 

I got there early and was front centre, on the barrier. I go and see Frank a lot, and tend to get my camera out when he comes to a song that I have heard often enough, but during this set that moment never came. He played five songs from his latest album, starting with the title track ‘Undefeated’. Highlights for me were my favourite of that new album, ‘Show People’, his song for Scott Hutchison ‘A Wave Across The Bay’ and the always beautiful ‘Be More Kind’. He finished with ‘I Still Believe’ and this very impressive show of ‘one man with a guitar’ underlined that I definitely still believe. No fireworks or confetti canons needed.

 2. JUDY COLLINS (Acoustic)

 Surprises are one of the best things about festivals. It was a last minute decision to go and see Judy Collins. Any time she had come up on a playlist I had thought, “What a beautiful voice", but for many singers as they age their voice changes. So what a delight it was to hear Judy come out to ‘Both Sides Now’ with her voice exactly as it always was. To me her voice embodies the hope and optimism of the 60s. Sometimes these evening shows at the Acoustic can suffer from sound overspill and can be poorly attended, but for this gig the tent was full and people kept coming. Judy sang ‘Send In The Clowns’, ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ and ‘Suzanne’, and entertained us with stories about Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez. She also sang songs from her most recent album ‘Spellbound’, which is her first album of entirely self-written songs. ‘When I Was A Girl In Colorado’ from that album was a highlight. As well as a superb singer Judy is an entertaining raconteur. She was accompanied by a keyboard player and she had a lyric book on a stand. Judy Collins is 85. Hats off. 

 3. LANKUM (The Park)

I discovered Lankum in 2015, when they were still called Lynched, and I have been following them since. It has been amazing to see them getting more successful and showered with acclaim. It is rare to see genuinely good music getting so popular, so this feels a bit odd, but it is totally deserved. I had downloaded their new ‘Live in Dublin’ album just before leaving home and had listened to it on my iPod on my day off, the Tuesday before the gates open, when I had spent seven hours walking all across the site.

Lankum have been outspoken in their support for Palestine (and were removed from a festival in Germany because of it), and it was good to learn that ‘The Rocks of Palestine’ and all the flags made it onto the TV broadcast. “Good luck to the BBC for editing that one out”, said a smiling Radie Peat. I was wondering how their complicated sound set-up would work at a festival, but the sound was good and, amazingly, the chatterers were quiet. My favourites were the instrumentals - their bonkers interpretation of ‘The Pride of Petravore’ and the joyous ‘Bear Creek’. If anyone is new to Lankum, do check out side project ØXN and Ian Lynch’s podcast ‘Fire Draw Near’.

 4. COLDPLAY (Pyramid)

 I had missed Coldplay in 2016 so I was determined to see them this time. I was late getting to the Pyramid field, due to being at the front for Lankum. I decided to try and make my way down starting at the top and see how far I could get. This was while Little Simz was still playing. I got to the spot halfway between the sound towers and decided to stay put, as the people there seemed nice, and I could lean on the side barrier, which also meant there would be no walkers. The pit can be uncomfortable during headline shows ("Carnage", said a girl who had been there for Dua Lipa) and also there is such a show element to Coldplay concerts that you get a better view of it a bit further back. 

They pulled out all the stops: LED wristbands, laser beams, confetti, balloons, fireworks. It felt amazing to be part of it. Coldplay have the songs to back it all up and prevent it from being just a spectacle, and Chris Martin is such a sympathetic frontman. I did not know that they had a B-stage and it was a surprise when they suddenly popped up very close to where I was for an acoustic intermezzo. There was a nice spontaneous element when Chris asked the cameramen to pick out faces in the crowd and he made up a little song for them on the spot. This included someone I know from the Efestivals forum, who had an impressive Pyramid stage-hat on.

What I liked less was all the guests, some of whom were there, and some of whom only appeared on video. I prefer it when everything is live, and I am also not a fan of choirs at rock shows. 

 5. GRACE PETRIE (Acoustic)

 “For those of you who don’t know me, I am a left-wing protest singer”. Grace Petrie represents the side of Glastonbury that you do not get to see on the BBC. I had seen Grace before, but not with a five-piece band, so this was a treat. To make the most of her forty minute slot, Grace kept the talking to a minimum and played us as many of her excellent songs as she could fit in. She introduced ‘We’ve Got An Office In Hackey’ as a song about how much she hates Spotify. ‘Ivy’ was appropriately played. Grace wrote this about rushing away from Glastonbury one year because her niece was about to be born. She told us that Ivy was going to be ten the following day. Singalongs ‘Black Tie’ and ‘Northbound’ rounded off her short but perfect gig.

 6. AROOJ AFTAB (The Park)

 Arooj Aftab was aware of the irony of presenting her new album with atmospheric songs about the night in blazing sunshine in the afternoon, “but we are not famous enough yet to be playing later”, she said dryly. Arooj could be a comedian. Her banter is completely at odds with her music, but it is a winning combination. Initially Arooj was wearing a heavy-looking golden coat, but the English summer weather made this uncomfortable and she announced she was going to have an outfit change. A lighter coat was brought up. Arooj had a different band with her from the last time I saw her. I have yet to hear her latest album, ‘Night Reign’, which I intend to get. I think Arooj is a unique and original artist, on a level with people like Nick Cave or Björk. 


 I always try to go to one of Billy Bragg’s radical roundups - which are song circles where singers take turns presenting songs. When I lived in London in the 80s I used to go and see Hank Wangford at the Half Moon in Putney, so I was curious to see him again so many years later. Hank is a country singer (as well as a doctor and a writer) and he and Billy go back a long way, I learned. They sang a great version of the Flying Burrito Brothers’ ‘Sin City’ together. Billy himself sang ‘Between The Wars’ amongst others. 

Third artist in the roundup was a singer called Tamzene, who accompanied herself on a keyboard. She had brought some fans along who were noticeably younger than the usual Leftfield audience. Her mellow songs were just what I needed on a hot afternoon after a very busy eight hour shift.

 8. MDOU MOCTAR (The Park)

 I have been listening to Mdou Moctar’s albums for a while but this was my first opportunity to see him live. He was as good as I had hoped. Mdou Moctar is from Niger and plays desert blues, but a heavier variant of it. He is nicknamed the Jimi Hendrix of the Sahara, and Prince and Eddie van Halen are influences. The band are dressed in white and purple Tuareg costumes and their playing IS the show. It is mesmerising to watch. Mdou only briefly talked, saying that initially he felt too cold to come out of his caravan and that he was amazed to see the audience dressed for summer. 


It is always a good sign when a band comes endorsed by Tom Morello. Voice of  Baceprot are a trio from Indonesia, who jumped out at me when I was going through the lineup beforehand. The girls are Muslims and wear headscarves. Their music is loud and heavy, and they put a smile on everyone’s faces. They were the opening act on Friday at the John Peel stage, as I will continue to call it. John would have loved this band. The perfect antidote to the gyrating lipsynchers at the Pyramid.

 10. P J HARVEY (Pyramid)

The last time I saw P J Harvey was at the Other Stage at Glastonbury, on a grey day after the Brexit vote. Somehow that was more fitting than the Pyramid in the sun. I was late due to being elsewhere and this time I did not get to a great spot. Groups who simply got into the pit to take photos and chat interfered with me trying to listen to the music. Had I been in a better spot this gig would doubtlessly have been higher on my list, because P J always delivers. Her band included long-time collaborator John Parish. The (too) short set included  songs from her entire career. She looked beautiful in a white dress, and what other artist brings a notebook, lip balm and tea in a china cup on stage? I would love to see a full concert one day, as opposed to a festival set.

 11. BEANS ON TOAST (Greenpeace)

Beans on Toast played seven shows across the festival and I caught the very first one. It annoys me when artists feel that they need to “play the hits”, even though I understand that they have to please the crowd enough that they want to come back. At this show Beans played his yet to be released new album in full. It is a concept album with piano-led ballads about the environment. How wonderfully different! I agree with everything he says and I love his attitude to life. He brought a bag or merch and I got a copy of his book ‘Drunk Folk Stories’, which starts with a chapter on Glastonbury.

 12. THE K’S (John Peel)

 The K’s are a jangly guitar pop band from Earlestown in the North West of England. Their early set on Sunday drew a large crowd. Crowd and band enjoyed themselves immensely. I loved their fast songs. The ballads a bit less.

 13. ANGIE MCMAHON (Acoustic)

 Singer/songwriter from Melbourne who had the Acoustic tent full of people, many of whom knew the words to her songs. Angie performed solo, accompanying herself on electric guitar. The kind of act you’d expect at the End Of The Road.

 14. THE NATIONAL (Other Stage)

 I opted for The National for my Sunday night closer and even managed to get into the pit. Theirs was a well-behaved audience of mainly men who sang along to everything, although I saw on the screen that a girl in the front row handed Matt Berninger a letter which he carefully put away. Kate Stables from This Is The Kit guested. A quietly excellent concert.

 15. AFRIQUOI (Croissant Neuf)

 Only a certain number of stages are open on the Thursday, and Afriquoi, a world fusion group from London, packed out the Croissant Neuf tent, where it was so hot I almost fainted. The band put on a great show, only minor point being that some sounds and voices came off a tape. Why not keep it live and leave those out?


Photos  https://www.therockclubuk.com/latest-photos/glastonbury-2024