Don’t Forget Your Wellies: Glastonbury 2008

By Saturday, the mud had miraculously dried up and the sun came out. That morning I saw Los Campesinos and Black Kids, two up-and-coming bands who seem to receive attention largely due to their youthful, “We’re just kids!” exuberance. Both groups mesh annoying cheerleader screams and ultra-hip, self-aware lyrics about parties and dancing with their childlike enthusiasm. I don’t get it. Perhaps it’s because they represent the first generation of indie bands younger than me?

Los Campesinos

I stuck around the Other stage to hear Neon Neon, Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys’s newish band. They played the entirety of their John DeLorean-themed concept album, Stainless Style. Dressed in suits with skinny ties, the duo (the album was written and recorded in collaboration with LA Producer, Boom Bip) communicated their ’80s manifesto by bearing keytars. Har Mar Superstar made a surprise appearance, introducing himself with a complete rhyme verse performed mid-headstand.

Kool Keith

Kool Keith

I had time to catch one more act before the headlining performances, so I climbed the hill to the Park stage, where the audience welcomed Kool Keith with a chorus of “You ARE the best.” Led by Kutmaster Kurt, his resident DJ, Keith delivered a chronological sampling of material from each of his personas, beginning with his Ultramagnetic MC’s days. He transitioned into the Dr. Octagon era with the still chilling “Blue Flowers” and “Earth People”. He left us with some Black Elvis and ridiculous Spankmaster raunchiness.

Several years back I saw the Shins play a free show in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This was a year or so after the release of Oh, Inverted World. They seemed so tired of their repertoire. Midway through their set, lead singer James Mercer asked his bandmates if it was time to open the ‘Zep fakebook. They spent the next ten minutes playing Led Zeppelin songs–a chorus here, a bridge there. Mercer’s eyes lit up as he unleashed a shockingly right-on Robert Plant. It was as if they had transported themselves back into teenage rock fandom, noodling around in the basement, when it was still fresh and fun. That’s how I see the Raconteurs. Jack White’s “other” played a joyous concert in the afternoon sun. “You’re either with me or again’ me,” Jack playfully told the crowd, encouraging them to sing and clap along, and displaying why he is modern rock’s foremost showman. It’s clear that this is his “for fun” project. For a guy who’s built his career on minimalist indie-friendly guitar work, it must be such a release to shred like there’s no tomorrow.

Fans waited in front of the Pyramid stage long before the Amy Winehouse set. Her fans certainly have a love/hate relationship with their favorite starlet. Many were alternately chanting for her downfall and cheering her on. I overheard a few press people arguing about which photographer would be forced to endure her performance. Neither wanted to attend, but they agreed someone needed to be there, “In case she passes out or whatever.” The rubbernecking crowd buzzed with whispers of, “Do you think she’ll collapse?” The camera hovered on her drink. A group of completely out-of-their-mind-drunks behind me decried her drug use by screaming throughout the entire concert. I am reminded of “The Irony of It All.” Amy’s show began when she stuttered onto the stage and spat out her bubblegum immediately before singing, all smiles. The crowd loved it. With colorful cocktail umbrellas stuck in her beehive, she performed her first song with gusto before spitting out a second enormous wad of bubblegum. The crowd again went nuts.

She’s seems fine for someone who was just diagnosed with emphysema. She played a few Specials covers and powered through her hits, “My Tears Dry on Their Own” and surprisingly, “Rehab”. I expected boos for the latter, simply because so many people during the weekend cursed her rampant addiction. And yet, the enchanted crowd couldn’t help themselves. Yes, she punched out a fan for allegedly grabbing her hair or boob (the press can’t seem to agree and I was too far back). But forgetting the drama, the woman has more soul in her eyelashes than Kate Nash has in her whole body. After two decades of histrionic vocal calisthenics from the Mariah and Xtina crowd, we crave her brassy voice. This is not the woman on the verge of collapse that we read about in the tabloids. She owns the night. “My husband gets out of jail in two weeks,” she giggled. This is ultimately why we love Amy Winehouse: She’s a celebrity, but she chews with her mouth open; she eats white bread and banana sandwiches sprinkled with potato chips; she has to put up with a deadbeat husband; and she is always putting up with haters. We’re loathed to admit it, but, singing voice aside, she’s just like us.

Jay-Z, or “Jay-Zed”, as the English kept calling him that weekend (one guy even called him “hobo,” instead of “Hova”), was up next. The British media would make one think that Jay-Z had a lot to prove that weekend. He was the first hip hop headliner of the long-running festival, and that “Bastion of Cultural Relevance,” Noel Gallagher, recently told the media that there was no way he was going to allow it. Heck, even Dizzee doubted. Jay-Z played a clip of Noel’s disparaging remarks mashed up with images of old frowning grannies, George Bush, and extra-white hip hop-hating talk show hosts before launching into a mocking rendition of “Wonderwall”. This brilliant tactic instantly won over the nay-saying tabloids, and the next day’s dailies led with Jay-Z’s cultural victory. The rappers’ flirtation with rock and roll continued with a “Heart of the City/Sunday Bloody Sunday” mashup, and of course, the ubiquitous but less interesting Linkin Park “Encore” collab. He even teased the audience with a special English rap about the Queen, The Sun, London Bridges, and “taking the piss.” He made sure to proclaim that the show was a huge moment for hip hop, but it seems like the only ones who doubted were the sensationalistic British media and old fart rockers.