Ah, Glastonbury: 200,000 people amassed together on Worthy Farm in Pilton, England for what has become the biggest, muddiest, loudest festival in the world. While the event is historic on its own, having played host to bands like Oasis and Blur in their formative years, this year marked Glasto’s 40th birthday, and for the first time anyone can remember, no one needed the Wellies that have become so synonymous with this particular weekend: not a drop of rain fell on the four square miles of festival ground.
This year’s lineup spanned all genres and generations with everyone from Muse and the Orb to Stevie Wonder and Snoop Dogg coming out to celebrate in the sunshine. Though getting from stage to stage can often take up to a 30-minute trek, we hustled to bring you the “best” and “most” moments from 2010.
MOST RAUCOUS OPENING NUMBER: MUSE’S “UPRISING”
Anyone who ever doubted Muse’s ability as a major headliner was turned into a fan by their wonderfully ear-splitting performance on Saturday night. The set (both stage and sound) was crisp, clean, and vibrant, a digital display of honeycomb-like designs backing the band as they came out swinging with opening anthem “Uprising.” The steady roar of its reeling basslines touched down several stages away and the crowd amassed quickly, which probably had something to do with the hysteria that took place not even a few minutes into the set.
A thick tension built as lead singer Matthew Bellamy’s theatric vocals plunged into to the crowd of adrenaline fiends — many waving huge flags, as is the Glasto custom — and by the time the second chorus hit, security was pulling crying girls over the front railing into the photo pit for a safe escape. As the fans hobbled down the walkway, tear-streaked faces illuminated by the grand lighting display, Bellamy hit the floor for a ripping guitar solo. Anyone upset by U2’s cancellation should have felt at least slightly appeased — especially when the Edge popped up for a late-set run through “Where the Streets Have No Name.”
BEST PERFORMANCE OF A SONG YOU CAN’T ESCAPE:FLORENCE AND DIZZEE RASCAL, “YOU’VE GOT THE LOVE”
It’s a song that transformed British trio the xx from a band of art students into media darlings and introduced Florence & the Machine to waify romantics across the globe. It seems the only one not getting due shine for “You’ve Got The Love,” the genre-crossing hit of the year, is the gospel singer who originally sang it, soulful crooner Candi Staton.While Staton did appear at this year’s festival, a whole lot of imitators were on the bill too, eager to bang out their own renditions to larger crowds.
Both the xx and Florence played the song, but the most memorable came when the latter joined grime kinpin Dizzee Rascal for a surprise performance of “You Got the Dirtee Love” (which debuted at the 2010 Brit Awards). Dizzee, looking quite beefier than usual in his white England tee, sandwiched his “Dirtee Cash” rap into the middle of an odd-couple pairing the crowd thoroughy enjoyed.
BEST NIRVANA COVER: DIZZEE RASCAL DOES “SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT”
In an unexpected twist to Dizzee’s set, backed by a live five-piece band, the legendary guitar chords of Nirvana’s most famous grungy anthem rang out and sent thousands upon thousands of concert-goers skyward.
BEST SURPRISE APPEARANCE NOT NEARLY ENOUGH PEOPLE SAW: RADIOHEAD
There were rumors of this one floating around since the start of the festival, which to some extent is probably because Radiohead is a very typical summer festival headliner.On Saturday night, festival organizer Michael Eavis introduced both Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, who played a mostly accoustic set and were introduced as the “biggest surprise of the weekend.”The set was soft and lovely in the late afternoon sun and ended with a storming rendition of “Karma Police.”
BEST SHOWBOATING BEHIND THE DECKS : FATBOY SLIM
Looking like a beach bum in a wacky yellow shirt and thrusting his arms in the air every few minutes, Norman Cook delivered on his reputation Friday night and ran through everything from Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” to House of Pain’s “Jump Around,” folding in his own hits with more current jams like Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Heads Will Roll” and popular blog-house tracks. The peak moment came when Brighton’s finest flipped off his headphones and twirled them with considerable slack over his head like a kid with a set of faux numchucks. Sort of wished they would have gotten away from him and landed square on a fan’s head.
MOST OVER-HYPED SET: GORILLAZ
At what point does the Gorillaz gimmick of two-dimensional “band members” lose its luster and creator Damon Albarn’s credo as Blur’s frontman finally wear off? Maybe then you try using video of Snoop Dogg in a band leader’s uniform (a totally proper outfit for a former Crip, who is actually being filmed backstage) to introduce your set of mostly Plastic Beach material, as they did at Glasto. Or maybe you leave entire portions of your set to be played instrumentally and lifelessly, leaving thousands of fans packed together, waiting for something to happen.
BEST ’80s COVER AS AN INTRO: KELIS
Poured into a kitchy romper covered in palm trees, the ex-Mrs. Nas strutted across the smoky stage to the unmistakeable ’80s synth lines of Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” — a wise choice to make a fantastic first impression but tough act to follow. Fortunately she absolutely killed it with a string of wacky pop-rap hits, including a “Milkshake” remix. You know, that track everyone says they never want to hear ever again but then belt it out like a bad Idol contestant in their car?
MOST SUBDUED LIVE PERFORMANCE: THE XX
Usually the quiet kid in class isn’t everyone’s favorite, so how is it that the xx remain the ne’er-do-wrong indie newcomers with such minimal audience interaction? While their honest, stripped-down sound is a welcome trait amidst all the noise, you know there should be a bit more going on (eye contact, perhaps?) when revelers cheer a simple sip of beer by bassist Oliver. Despite this, the young trio’s intensely disarming set, filled with nearly all the songs off their self-titled debut, was flawless and heard in earnest by every pair of ears under that tent, so who really needs anything but a “hello”?
BEST HOWL HEARD FOR MILES: SHAKIRA
The She Wolf opened an evening of headliners at the Pyramid stage in a knotted tee shirt and tight jeans and did her usual mating dance with those unfathomable hips of hers.Some two miles away at another stage, during what could have only been “Whenever, Wherever,” an instense howl floated across the plains and smacked me in the ear.This is apparently a feat that gets you transported after your set in a helicopter.
BEST USE OF NATURE SOUNDS: THE ORB
Playing the Glade stage encompassed by a vast white tapestry and lush trees, ambient house mainstays the Orb played what some called a quintessential Glastonbury set late Saturday afternoon to a crowd made up of hippies, steampunks, and grinning small children with their ex-raver parents. A multi-layered tapestry of electronic sounds fell softly on their heads and one could make out barking, raindrops and wind gusts that seemed a perfect compliment to the sunniest Glastonbury ever.
BEST CROWD INTERRACTION THAT WOULD NEVER WORK ANYWHERE ELSE: BBC’s MISTA JAM
Usually, yelling “When I say freeze, freeze / When I say rave, you rave” doesn’t really go over well, but some things are worth trying in dance tents filled with sweaty, mad-for-it Brits.
BEST SET THAT WAS FAR TOO EARLY: BROTHER ALI
The standout Rhymesayer from Minneapolis rode in a van all night from France to make his set at 11:45 A.M. on Saturday morning, but unfortunately for hip-hop fans and for Ali, that’s just when many festival goers who camped on site were zipping up their tents.That kind of lyricism deserves an early evening slot.
MOST TYPICAL MODEL/INDIE ROCKER BOYFRIEND SIGHTING: KATE MOSS & JAMIE HINCE OF THE KILLS
The waify nymph showed up with boyfriend Jamie Hince of the Kills wearing typical model-at-festival garb and skin looking anything but fresh. Dear Kate, just stay home once in a while. And drink some milk while you’re at it.
BEST LIVE HOMAGE TO MILLENNIAL DANCE MUSIC: GROOVE ARMADA’S “SUPERSTYLIN'”
You don’t have to know what the hell the MC is saying to appreciate this one: MC Mad built this one up in a live set-closer that brought us all back to the year 2001, before there were such things as “club bangers.”
BEST FLASHBACK TO THE G-FUNK ERA: SNOOP DOGG
“Oh my god, Snoop was amazing” seemed to be the common utterance among fans who attended the Long Beach rapper’s set on Friday afternoon. A set heavy on the old stuff, the rapper had his swag on extra-hard with a custom mic bearing his name in diamonds, whipping proper British into a frenzy, especially with “Gin & Juice” and “Who Am I (What’s My Name”), which ended his set. He finished by telling everyone to always brush their teeth, thank God and smoke weed.”
BEST USE OF BRAIN-ALTERING BASS: SUBFOCUS
Imagine bass so monsterous that it won’t even allow you to gulp down a drink. And when you do the responsible thing and throw in some earplugs because it feels like if you don’t, your own future children will have hearing problems, it just gets louder. So goes the story of Subfocus, the British dubstep/drum-and-bass/electronic producer who made huge waves with “This Could Be Real” and Daft Punk tribute “Rock It.” His set at the Glade stage made use of a gigantic circular strip of lights that changed patterns with the music, and easily turned out to be the most intense electronic performance of the fest, and if you disagree, you’ll have to put it in writing (on account of temporary deafness).
BEST FILL-IN: DELPHIC FOR SIMIAN MOBILE DISCO
It was so good we wouldn’t have thought twice about it, except for knowing one of them is bald.
BEST SET HIJACKED BY RUDE STAFF AND CRAZY FANS: CRAZE
Bringing a bit of South Beach flavor to the farm, the unbeatable turntable played his brand of hip-hop and Miami bass to a rammed tent in one of the final performances of the festival on Saturday night. But DJing behind your own back and juggling tracks like a showman doesn’t really pack the one-two punch it should when production is setting up the next band and sound-checking loudly in the middle of your gig.
And if that weren’t enough, one super juiced guy jumped over security at the railing and onto the stage to do a little dance and greet the performer who had likely just become his favorite. “Did that really just happen?” Craze laughed on the mic, after security finally pulled him down. Well, fans are bound to act a fool when your stage setup consists of two humungous kissing flamingos, old TVs flashing cartoon aquariums, and giant plastic fruits and cocktail umbrellas. (We considered calling this one “MOST AWESOMELY CHEESY STAGE SETUP.”)
BEST USE OF THE THEME FROM DOCTOR WHO: ORBITAL
Matt Smith from the famously transcendant Orbital worked in the theme from Doctor Who as their intro track on Sunday, setting off a stream of tweets from nerdy fans of the long-running British TV show ‘cross the land.
MOST UNSURPRISING FESTIVAL RUMOR: LADY GAGA AT GLASTO?
She played the Worthy farm in 2009 wearing yet another contraption that not only made her look like the robot in the Svedka advert, but allowed her to shoot fire from her bra. Something tells us she won’t be back until she can figure out yet another way to top herself.(Rumor police: The BBC is to blame for this one, the rumor coming about after a few radio jocks tried to see how far they could spread it by word of mouth).