Monday, 27 June 2011

Fields of rock

For those who have been cut off from the outside world for the last few days, this weekend was the Glastonbury music festival.

I always feel a bit torn about music festivals. On the one hand: I'm in my 20s; I like music; I listen to Radio 1... I like to think I have a vague knowledge of what music is currently supposedly "cool" (even when I don't personally like it); and I think I could totally get into the right mindset to jump up and down like a loon with thousands of other loons singing along to awesome bands rocking out on stage. On the other hand: I (rather controversially I realise) tend to think that live music is only "better" than the recorded version if you're actually there at the time to experience the atmosphere; I inevitably only know/like a handful of the acts listed; and I wouldn’t fancy lying in mud all night listening to hyper students get drunk and/or high and/or stoned beside my tent or using minging portaloos.

However when the BBC covers festivals like Glastonbury or Reading and Leeds, I always end up tuning in to the coverage for a little while, just to see what the craic is. This weekend was no exception and I had a couple of hours of fun on Saturday and Sunday playing with the multiscreen on the red button. I have no idea when the acts they were showing actually played (either Glastonbury is a magical place where it is daylight and night-time simultaneously or they were re-showing acts that had played earlier in the day) but they had a good variety available anyway.

On the Saturday night I tuned in on time to see an old favourite band of mine from my student days, Jimmy Eat World. That brought back a few memories. In fact just as I started eeeeeing with delight as they played the opening chords of The Middle, the Yorkshireman reminded me that I'd put that very song on a CD I sent him early in our relationship. Bless.

Next up was Coldplay. Now, everybody on Twitter and on the radio this morning was absolutely raving about their set. But - and I hesitate to say this because doing so usually results in huge gasps of horror and tirades about my lack of worth as a human being, etc, etc - I just don't get Coldplay. To me they're just dreary and boring. I even tried giving them a go for a couple of minutes on Saturday night but when my mind started to wander I figured enough was enough and quickly switched to another act. I don't know quite what it is about them that makes me dislike them so. I can only pin it down to being the same thing as makes me dislike bands like Radiohead and Travis. They're all just so depressing. Life is depressing enough - why would you then want to listen to music that just compounds any feelings of discontent you may already be harbouring? I just don't get it. But hey, each to their own. I guess when I'm feeling a bit down in the dumps I just want my music to get me up and jumping again.

Speaking of which, when Coldplay had sufficiently bored me, I switched over to Aloe Blacc. At first I didn't really know who he was, other than instantly funky! I really took straight away to his groovy soul music and was enjoying his set very much… and then he broke into I Need A Dollar and the Yorkshireman and I were like "Oh that's him!" I really like that song and it seems I like some of his other stuff too, which is good to know for next time I go on an mp3-buying spree. I also thought it was über cool when he started a kind of soul medley halfway through I Need A Dollar and had the crowd singing No Woman No Cry and Maneater.

Next up I checked out Noah and the Whale, who were pretty awesome. You've got to love a live fiddle on the stage!

Lastly for that evening I watched a bit of Janelle Monae's set. I still actually don't really know who she is but I tell you something, that chick can sing. Also I loved the whole black and white theme she had going on, including some very enthusiastic backing dancers giving it stacks and also releasing loads of balloons into the crowd. The whole thing was very cool.

I'd tried tuning in on Sunday afternoon for a bit of Glastonbury fun in the sun but it seems the red button was only streaming Friday and Saturday's stuff again. Hmmm - perhaps the festival-goers are still sleeping off the night before at 2pm? But I checked back at night and it was all in full swing again.

The first set I watched last night was Paul Simon. I should explain that one of my favourite CDs of all time is The Definitive Simon and Garfunkel and I pretty much listened to it on repeat in my teens (well, in amongst Alanis Morrisette's Jagged Little Pill, Oasis' (What's The Story) Morning Glory?, The Beautiful South's Carry On Up The Charts and Spice Girls' Spiceworld - oh shush, I have eclectic tastes!). So I was pretty intrigued about this one. It was actually pretty great and I had amazing fun getting all groovy to Call Me Al in the living room.

Next up for me was Plan B. I like Plan B's music on the radio but on stage he was coming across as a bit full of himself for my liking, which I guess just comes with the job when you're arguably one of the coolest new artists on the block. But then he commented that he'd been to Glastonbury a few years before and had been standing out in the crowd like everyone else, which was kind of sweet in a way, if still a bit "yay me" for my tastes. His set was pretty good but not the best I'd seen.

Last but not least, we tuned in to the Kaiser Chiefs. Sorry, there's not enough excitement there… KAISER CHIEFS!!!! If I had to choose a favourite band of all the current British bands out there at the moment, I would have to choose the Chiefs. Whether it's because their music is just pure awesome, or whether it's because they're from West Yawksha like my darling Yorkshireman and are fellow Leeds United fans, I'm not sure, but I freaking love them! And they totally did not disappoint. Ricky was up there, jumping around, sweating away and shaking a tambourine (you've gotta love a tambourine) and had the whole crowd going. Occasionally the camera would pan out and show this veritable sea of people jumping up and down, waving giant flags and happily singing along to songs like Every Day I Love You Less and Less and Oh My God with the sunset in the background and I thought, yeah, see it's moments like this that would actually entice me to go to a festival. That's a memory that's going to linger.

Sadly the Yorkshireman and I had other televisual plans for last night so we had to switch off just as Beyoncé was about to come on and see if Glastonbury was ready for her jelly. I think I'll watch that one back on the BBC website though because everyone was raving about her set too this morning.

So that was Glastonbury 2011 anyway. There are loads of other festivals on over the summer to quench ones thirst for live music, wellie boots and overpriced refreshments, but I have to say that so far as Belfast goes I'm not very impressed with the line-up at Belsonic this year. Oxegen seems a better bet (I mean, they've got the Foos dude!) but I'm not sure it's worth the cost and all the hassle of getting down there.

I do think my festival-going countdown clock is ticking though - I don't think I'd feel comfortable slumming it with teenagers when I'm in my thirties, so I essentially have two more summers of being twenty-something to attend a festival and check that off my bucket list. I think I would rather go to the Leeds festival or something though - maybe go and stay with the Yorkshireman's family and then wander off for a couple of days, returning with muddy clothes and a raging desire to shower. Maybe next year..?

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