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Glastonbury Festival 2016 – Small Stages Highlights

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Glastonbury Festival 2016 – Small Stages Highlights

Posted on 27 June 2016 by Joe

Even festival organiser Michael Eavis, a man well used to the unpredictable Somerset summer weather, says this year was the muddiest Glastonbury ever. He wasn’t wrong. Getting about in ankle deep sludge for most of the weekend was indeed tough going as the weather and Friday’s shock Brexit vote conspired to give this year’s event a distinct vibe.

mud

For the acts the political developments fueled a sense of rage that gave their sets some extra steel. Meanwhile, the mud made audiences seem even more grateful than usual. They’d fought through mud to reach a band and by gum they were going to enjoy themselves once they got there.

Meanwhile, the Leftfield tent became a Mecca for the confused, as young and old alike looked for answers across its line up of politicians, activists and bands.

Here’s our look across some of the highlights on the smaller stages. Were you at any of these gigs? If so let us know what you thought.

Dan Stuart

Dan Stuart

Opening the John Peel stage on Friday a few hundred hardy souls gathered where the mud was less porridge-like to see a rare UK performance from Green on Red’s Dan Stuart. He didn’t disappoint, having flown in from his home in Mexico together with his be-suited and excellent band Twin Tones.

Brexit naturally was mentioned, so too were tracks from Stuart’s  latest album as well as Green on Red standards, all delivered with a wry grin and plenty of passion. Solo track Last Blue Day was dedicated to us poor post-Brexit vote Brits, while Death and Angels more than satisfied those that remember Green on Red’s heyday.

Michelle Stodart

Michelle Stodart

Over at the Acoustic stage the weather was the main protagonist to help along Michelle Stodart’s fine country folk set, accompanied by a backing group that included her brother and fellow Magic Number, Romeo. For artists playing in a tent on a Friday afternoon bad weather is a godsend. Her set was perfectly timed with a month’s worth of rain descending and the crowd soon swelled looking for warmth and comfort. Ain’t No Woman from her forthcoming album as well as Invitation to the Blues were two of many highlights for this packed Acoustic tent.

William’s Green is often our favourite venue at the festival, always showcasing new and innovative bands who know how to please a crowd. Friday afternoon provided two excellent examples of their stellar booking policy with Yak, and then Vant.

Yak

Yak

London based trio Yak are slowly building up a strong reputation for their incendiary live shows, with frontman Oliver Burslem the catalyst, full of Jim Morrison freak outs on their single Use Somebody in particular. If you ever despair of the future of British rock music go and see this band.

Vant

Vant

Vant are more polished, a little Nirvana like in places, but cut from the same indie rock cloth as Yak. Live they are intense. Brexit again gets mentioned, with frontman Mattie Vant ordering any leave voters in ‘his tent’ to do just that. He was genuinely pissed at the vote, summing up what so many young people feel. It was another example of politics fueling a performance with this proving to be one of the best sets I’ve seen at William’s Green. Bigger tents and stages beckon for them.

With the soup of mud threatening to become knee height I waded through to the nearby Leftfield stage to station myself for the night. I wasn’t the only one. Plenty more were there to escape the mud and find some answers to the political malaise, from tonight’s headliner Billy Bragg.

Billy Bragg

Billy Bragg

I often go to Bragg’s regular Friday night set here but this was by far the best with the aftermath of the electorate’s decision firmly on his mind. The crowd’s roar after hits like Milkman of Human Kindness and Sexuality was “just what I needed”, he said. Even Bragg admitted towards the end that this had been one of his best ever gigs and certainly it was the busiest I’ve ever seen the Leftfield in five years as a regular. There Is A Power In A Union sing-a-long was intense with its added topicality and New England was rousing. Bragg kept urging the crowd to pick up their guitars and get out there and be the protest singers of the future. Over at William’s Green Mattie Vant was doing just that a few hours before.

Man and the Echo

Man and the Echo

Supporting Bragg were Warrington’s Man and the Echo, a curious highly polished indie pop act that somehow emerged straight out of the early 1990s, via the 1960s for a stop over, for our 2016 delectation and delight. Smart, fun and in their own words the favourite band of ten people, ten very wise people that is. Here’s a clip of Vile As You Want, by the band.

Rhoda Dakar

Rhoda Dakar

Also on the Friday night bill was ska legend Rhoda Daka, whose engaging banter with the crowd and with her band, who incidentally were as good as a ska band gets, providing the most fun gig of the weekend. Easy Life and Let’s Do Rock Steady from her Body Snatchers days got the biggest cheer and rightly so.

Sam Lee

Sam Lee

Among Saturday’s small stage highlights was a mesmerising performance from former Mercury Music Prize nominee Sam Lee and his band at the acoustic tent. In recent years Lee has made it his mission to collect and record ancient songs from across Britain, particularly among the traveller communities. This gives Lee’s  gigs an extra dimension as he details the various travellers he has met and sung with, including Freda Black an octogenarian Romany singer from Kent who provided him with the Napoleonic epic Bonny Bunch of Roses. He’s developed a great relationship with those communities he meets and as a modern day Cecil Sharp now provides one of modern music’s most interesting and ancient sets.

William’s Green’s excellent Saturday line up included Boxed In, a band we’d touted before. They didn’t disappoint with their take on keyboard driven pop and the track Mystery proving a particular highlight.

Meilyr Jones

Meilyr Jones

New favourite artist alarms rang immediately during another intense set, this time from former Race Horses singer now solo artist Meilyr Jones. Stage diving can get a little tiresome but I’ll let Jones off as he took the strategy to new lengths with the aid of an extra long mic lead. Somehow during the meander he ended up atop a nearby bar with his mud covered bare feet gleaming by the pumps. Billed as chamber pop, his band rocked far too much to warrant that fey tag. Incredible performance.

John Grant

John Grant

Our final look around the smaller stages was to see John Grant. Poor John had flu but this somehow made his performance at the John Peel stage better, with the crowd urged to sing-along and wave their arms around to keep him going. He has come along way as a performer since I last saw him at Glastonbury two years ago and he is now a proper diva, albeit one in a country and western shirt and a massive beard. Queen of Denmark, Greatest Mother Fucker were highlights but Glacier blew the whole gig apart with its emotional brilliance.

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The mud may have meant many gigs were missed, and many were stumbled upon by accident but the weather along with the shock Brexit vote ensured this year’s Glastonbury had an edge that the acts on the smaller stages in particular met head on to put in some career high performances.

By Joe Lepper

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Glastonbury 2016 – Best of the Smaller Stages

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Glastonbury 2016 – Best of the Smaller Stages

Posted on 02 June 2016 by Joe

With dozens of venues and hundreds of acts there is certainly more to the Glastonbury Festival than the big names appearing on its Pyramid and Other stages. Outside of these two largest stages there is the festival within a festival of the Park, the John Peel tent and a raft of smaller venues, including William’s Green, BBC Introducing and Leftfield tents.

After scanning through the line up we have selected our Glastonbury 2016 – Best of the Smaller Stages list.

She Drew The Gun

Rabbit Hole – 4pm, Thursday 23 June
John Peel – 11am, Sunday 26 June

She Drew The Gun at the Glastonbury 2016 ETC finals

She Drew The Gun at the Glastonbury 2016 ETC finals (pic by Joe Lepper)

This year’s Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition winners appear twice, bringing their unique blend of dream pop and clever, bittersweet lyrics to the event for the first time. In their track Poem, they have one of the best songs of the year.

Yak

William’s Green – 4pm, Friday 24 June

This excellent venue continues to be one of our favourites on site due to its strong focus on showcasing emerging acts, with Yak from Wolverhampton among the pick of its 2016 line up. This exciting trio have just finished support slots with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard as well as The Last Shadow Puppets and will be promoting their latest album Alas Salvation.

Boxed In

William’s Green – 4pm, Saturday 25 June

Boxed in is the moniker for London based producer Oli Bayston, who has worked with a diverse range of musicians from Steve Mason to Lily Allen. Here he will be showcasing his distinct brand of piano powered alternative pop, with his track Mystery set to be among many highlights.

Michele Stodart

Acoustic Stage – 2:30pm, Friday 24 June

The Magic Numbers bassist has also carved out a fine career as a solo artist, with a penchant for beautiful, low-key country folk. She will be appearing with a full band at the Acoustic Stage. As an aside, for those partial to proper beer its worth noting that the Acoustic Stage’s beer tent is one of the best places to get a drink on site.

This is the Kit

Avalon Stage – 5:15pm, Saturday 25 June
William’s Green – 4pm, Sunday 26 June

Among the best west country bands at the event is Kate Stables and her folk pop band This is the Kit. Appearing twice at the event they count the likes of Lauren Laverne and Mark Radcliffe among their fans and for good reason.

Dan Stuart & Twin Tones

John Peel – 11am, Friday 24 June

The former Green on Red man turned his back on the music industry for more than a decade but has returned in recent years with an excellent solo career. Now teamed up with Mexican act Twin Tones, this icon of the 1980s alternative US music scene has chosen this year’s Glastonbury for a rare UK performance.

Compiled by Joe Lepper

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Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition finals – Pilton (April 9, 2016)

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Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition finals – Pilton (April 9, 2016)

Posted on 12 April 2016 by Joe

Of the four Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition finals I’ve attended this was perhaps the most surprising, with bands far exceeding the promise they showed from their submitted audio and video clips.

In most years the best sounding act from their submissions goes on to impress live at the competition’s annual  finals at Pilton Working Men’s Club.

This year was different with all the acts deciding to offer something far more than the simple promise on offer in their submissions.

Of course each year the quality is high. An act has to be excellent to make the finals from an initial entry of thousands and a long list of 120 acts,  picked by 40 music journalists and bloggers including myself.

She Drew the Gun with Michael Eavis

She Drew the Gun with Michael Eavis

Based on this year’s final eight submissions,  it was only really Bossy Love, with the sensational pop of Tell You What, that stood out for me.  The rest though certainly proved me wrong, all stepping up a gear, especially eventual winner Wirral’s She Drew The Gun.

Here is a band that demands to be seen live with singer songwriter Louisa Roach’s delivery and stage presence offering some real hairs standing up on the back of your neck moments.

She Drew The Gun's Louise Roach

She Drew The Gun’s Louisa Roach

As with their clip, their billing as dreamy psych-pop band on their Facebook stage also proved to be a masterclass in under selling. Live they are so much more, with Roach’s generation defining lyrics on the track Poem shining brightest. They were definitely my favourite on the night and thankfully also of the ETC judges, who include Festival organisers Michael and Emily Eavis.

She Drew the Gun also win £5,000 talent development cash from PRS for Music Foundation as well as a main stage slot.

Bossy Love

Bossy Love

Glasgow’s R&B Bossy Love  impressed, as I expected, and marched into second place on the night. They have a “we are going to be famous and there is nothing you can do to stop our relentless juggernaut” vibe about them as they took to the stage. I can’t see many standing in their way.

In third was another surprise – London folk singer Hattie Whitehead. As with She Drew The Gun, her Soundcloud clip offered promise but not much more. Live, with a full band and electric rather than acoustic guitar, it was a different story. The songs had depth and shine and she emerged as a genuine contender to win the first place prize. She and Bossy Love also grab £2,500 PRS for Music Foundation prizes as well as festival slots this year.

Hattie Whitehead

Hattie Whitehead

Also performing on the night were rapper Lady Sanity, 13th Floor Elevators-esque Early Ghost, south west of England singer/song-writer Henry Green, Marcus McCoan and London’s Gillbanks. All have also been awarded slots at the festival after their impressive performances on the night.

Words and pictures by Joe Lepper

To see more pictures from the night click here.

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Swampgrass – One Eye Open

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Swampgrass – One Eye Open

Posted on 01 March 2016 by Joe

Somerset gig audiences like to dance. It’s a bit of a sweeping generalisation, but there does seem to be more of a foot stomping feel to gigs in the small venues spread out across its levels and small towns than in many other parts of the country.

swampgrass-one-eye-open-album-cover

Granted a chin-strokingly-good acoustic set will go down well at a Glastonbury or Frome open mic set or at a small tent at the Godney Gathering festival. But the ability to help an audience discover their dancing feet gets the real plaudits around here.

It is therefore no surprise to hear that the brand of blues from Somerset based Swampgrass is not the slow mooching melancholy of a tortured soul but instead is of the fast paced, balls out, dirty rock blues variety.

Here on their debut they aim to recreate as much as possible their live persona and bring that festival set to record and in Sharon Honeywell they have one hell of a brassy lead singer, with Etta James and Aretha Franklin among her influences. From opener Roadside Soul she takes control and her vocals are especially good on the album’s standouts Hell No and Heart Attack.

For those in the Glastonbury area on March 5 Swampgrass will be performing tracks from One Eye Open at Glastonbury URC. Doors 7pm.

By Joe Lepper

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Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent 2016 Competition Launches

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Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent 2016 Competition Launches

Posted on 14 January 2016 by Joe

Details of this year’s Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent competition, which offers UK and Ireland based acts a chance to play on one of the iconic event’s main stages, have been announced.

As well as a main stage slot, the winner will receive a £5,000 talent development prize from PRS for Music Foundation. There are also £2,500 PRS development prizes for two runners up.

etcjudgebutton2016

We are also delighted to announce that Neonfiller.com’s editor Joe Lepper will once again be among a panel of 40 music writers, who will be helping to compile a long list of 120 acts.

This long list will then be whittled down to an eight-strong shortlist by judges including festival organisers Michael and Emily Eavis. All eight will then compete at a live finals at Pilton Working Men’s Club, near to the festival site, in April, when the winner will be announced.

The competition is free to enter and open to any musical genre. But you need to get a move on as it is only open for entries for one week only, from 9am Monday 18th January until 5pm Monday 25th January 2016 via glastonburyfestivals.co.uk.

When entering acts need to supply an original song on Soundcloud plus a link to a video of themselves performing live.

For the last two years the quality of the eight finalists has been so high that all were offered slots at that year’s festival.

Declan McKenna performing at Glastonbury last year

Declan McKenna performing at Glastonbury last year. Photo by Joe Lepper

The 2015 winner Declan McKenna, who was aged just 16 when he won, has since been signed by management company QPrime, which also handles Metallica, Muse and Foals.

Last year also proved a breakthrough year for Nadine Shah, one of Neonfiller.com’s three long list entrants in 2013. As well as the release of her critically acclaimed album Fast Food, Nadine also featured on two tracks on Ghost Poet’s album Shedding Skin.

Commenting on the launch of this year’s competition Emily Eavis said: “New music has always been a huge part of what we do at Glastonbury, and the Emerging Talent Competition has become an incredible way for us to discover and help draw attention to the very latest talent.”

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Glastonbury 2015 – Best of the Small Stages

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Glastonbury 2015 – Best of the Small Stages

Posted on 02 June 2015 by Joe

Shock revelation of the day – Glastonbury is so much more than the BBC coverage and the main Pyramid stage line up. So for all you Kanye West haters with tickets in your hand why not pop over to some of the event’s many and varied small stages.

We’ve had a scan through the full line up, which was released this week, and  have come up with our pick of the small stage acts. As with last year William’s Green continues to impress, especially as it hosts this year’s 25th anniversary of Heavenly Records. We also have some old punks, the best of Somerset’s local bands and one of the best indie bands around at the Leftfield.

Stealing Sheep

William’s Green, 4:30pm Friday

We first saw this Liverpool trio supporting Field Music in Bristol three years ago. They play as part of the Heavenly Records contingent, at what has become one of our favourite small venues at the Festival, and are one of the best live acts we have seen. Blending folk, indie and 1960s surf music they are not to be missed.

Declan McKenna

William’s Green, 10:45am Friday

The deserved winner of this year’s Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition opens proceedings at the William’s Green stage. Be sure to get up early to see why this teenager won the world’s toughest Battle of the Bands competition.

La Femme

William’s Green, 5:30pm Saturday

From France, via California, this stunning live act blend electro-pop and are another in our list to borrow from 1960s surf culture. Their 2013 album Psycho Tropical Berlin was one of our albums of the year for good reason.

The Phantom Band

William’s Green, 6pm Sunday

Their 2014 album Strange Friend was their best to date and proved why they are one of Scotland’s best bands as they merge rock and electronica effortlessly. Get there early at 5pm to see legendary prog rockers The Bevis Frond beforehand. Both great bookings for William’s Green.

Martha

Leftfeld, 6pm Friday

At Indietracks a couple of years ago Martha was the most talked about band there and for good reason. They are injecting some much needed energy into an increasingly introspective UK indie scene. Billy Bragg and co, who curate this stage, certainly know their indie music. An impressive booking.

Buzzcocks

Leftfield, 9pm Sunday

Leftfield again impresses and has bagged the legendary punk act Buzzcocks. With guitarist Steve Diggle still playing like a 17-year-old on stage and Pete Shelley’s timeless lyrics of love this looks like one not to be missed.

Nick Parker & the False Alarms and Flipron

Nick Parker and the False Alarms Avalon Café, 7:30pm Friday

Flipron, Avalon Cafe 1:30am Saturday and Bandstand 7:30pm Sunday

Nick Parker and the False Alarms

Nick Parker and the False Alarms

Two of Somerset’s best live acts are back again at Glastonbury, which once again is showing a strong commitment to promoting local talent. While Parker and crew focus on bittersweet folk rock  tales of love and life, Flipron will be showcasing their trademark brand of whirly-gig hipster new wave (note: actual genre may not exist).

Compiled by Joe Lepper

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Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Finals – Pilton Working Men’s Club (April 11, 2015)

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Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Finals – Pilton Working Men’s Club (April 11, 2015)

Posted on 12 April 2015 by Joe

It was the closest Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Contest finals I’ve seen in three years as one of 40 music writers, who help sift through thousands of entries in the early judging stages.

Last year as soon as innovative electro pop act M+A had completed the first of their allotted two songs the audience at Pilton Working Men’s Club near the festival site, knew they had watched the winner. The same happened the year before with the beautiful folk of Bridie Jackson and the Arbour.

K.O.G. and the Zongo Brigade

K.O.G. and the Zongo Brigade

But this year was different. At least half of the eight acts tonight put forward a great case for being chosen as the winner by the judging panel, that included the festival’s stage bookers and organisers Michael and Emily Eavis.

In the end it was 16-year-old singer songwriter Declan McKenna who won.

Why did he win in this closely fought competition? The power of a song helped. In Brazil, the first track of his two song set, this bandana clad kid had the best song of the night, an immediately catchy track with a great melody all from him, alone on stage with his guitar, synth and box of tricks for company.

Declan McKenna

Declan McKenna

Also the focus of the contest, to uncover original emerging talent, shone through. His precocious talent was hard to ignore. If the 16-year-old McKenna can create music like Brazil now then what can he do in five, ten, 15 years time? This boy will go far and the judging panel knew it.

If second placed Shields had won there still would have been a worthy winner. Their powerful rhythm section elevating them above the usual indie pop fare. So too with third placed K.O.G. and the Zongo Brigade, who started proceedings with an energetic set combining African music, funk and rap.

Shields

Shields

But there was far more than these three. MoD was sensational with his hip-hop jazz fusion. And Princess Slayer, with their stadium friendly set were another valid contender for the top prize

While the rest of the acts may have lacked the eventual winners’ originality they all were worthy finalists, from the folk of Lucy Kitchen to the well-worked vocal arrangements of Isaac Lee-Kronick.

Declan McKenna receiving his prize from Michael Eavis

Declan McKenna receiving his prize from Michael Eavis

Shortly before presenting McKenna with his prize of £5,000 and a main stage slot Michael Eavis announced that all the acts would be appearing at the festival. It was a fitting end to a contest that continues to impress.

by Joe Lepper

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Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition – Three Acts To Impress So Far

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Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition – Three Acts To Impress So Far

Posted on 02 February 2015 by Joe

For the third year running I’m spending February helping the Glastonbury Festival organisers unearth some new talent as one of 40 music writer judges involved in the event’s Emerging Talent Competition.

emerging

Over this month I’ll be sifting through around 150 tracks and video clips of UK and Irish acts to find three to put through to the next stage in the competition – a place on a 120 strong long list. This will then be whittled down further to a short list of eight acts who will compete at a live final at Pilton Working Men’s Club in April to win the top prize of a main stage slot at this year’s festival.

The winner also receives a £5,000 PRS for Music Foundation Talent Development prize to help develop their career and two runners up will receive £2,500 from PRS.

As with the previous two years I like to focus on some of the acts that have caught my ear so far during judging and are in contention to become one of my three.

For the final three acts I’ll put through I’m looking for a strong live performance in their clip and being able to offer something different. Here are some that have grabbed my attention so far. I’ll post again over the next week or so with another batch of bands to impress.

New Opera Hero

New Opera Hero look like they could be incredible live, combining indie rock with 3D holographic effects and dance. If they were to make an appearance at the live finals it would test the Pilton Working Men’s Club’s lighting and sound engineers to their very limits.

Miss Halliwell

The second act to spark my interest so far is Miss Halliwell from Birmingham. According to their Wikipedia page, so it has been taken with a punch of salt, this act have been going on and off and in various guises since 2007. Now sounding something like a cross between The Fall and that Phil Daniels bit on Parklife they have a ramshackle feel and stand apart from other indie rock acts I’ve heard so far.  At this stage I can’t tell whether they are the best band ever or the worst, another trait that reminded me of The Fall. To make us work hard they don’t appear in this clip until just after the one minute mark.

Moonlands

The final act to grab my attention during the first 40 or songs I’ve listened to so far is Moonlands who combine 1950s guitar twang, with songs about proms and moody indie-chic. Reminiscent of Beach House and Frankie Rose they show real promise.

 by Joe Lepper

 

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Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition Details Announced

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Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition Details Announced

Posted on 15 January 2015 by Joe

Glastonbury Festival has announced details of its Emerging Talent Competition 2015, which offers new acts from UK and Ireland the chance to compete for a main stage slot at this year’s event.

emerging

The competition is free to enter with the winner also netting a £5,000 PRS for Music Foundation Talent Development prize to help develop their career. Two runners up will receive £2,500 from PRS.

Those interested are urged to be quick. Entries are only accepted for one week, from 9am Monday 19 January to 5pm Monday January 26, via the Glastonbury Festivals website.

To enter, acts will need to supply a link to one original song on SoundCloud, plus a link to a video of themselves performing live (even if it’s only recorded in a bedroom).

Previous entrants have includes The Subways, Stornoway and last year’s winners M+A.

2014 Glastonbury ETC winners M+A

2014 Glastonbury ETC winners M+A performing at last year’s event

Once the entries are in a panel of 40 music writers, including Neonfiller.com’s Joe Lepper, will whittle down the thousands of expected entries to just 120 acts. This longlist will then be handed to a judging panel, including Michael and Emily Eavis, who will filter it down further to just eight artists. These eight artists will then compete in a live finals at Pilton Working Men’s Club in April to decide the winner.

Glastonbury co-organiser Emily Eavis said:  “New music is such an important part of Glastonbury, and the Emerging Talent Competition is always an incredible way for us to find fresh talent from across the musical spectrum. In fact, eight of the acts that entered in 2014 ended up with slots at Glastonbury 2014. I can’t wait to hear who we discover this year.”

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Glastonbury Festival 2014

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Glastonbury Festival 2014

Posted on 30 June 2014 by Joe

Everyone has their own Glastonbury experience. It’s so vast, with 200,000 people and thousands of acts scattered across two large Somerset farms that this giant muddy city is able to offer something for everyone. There are those that like the big name acts of the Pyramid and Other stages, some who can dance all night at Shangri-La and Arcadia and then there’s some like me who enjoy finding new bands and watching music in the many smaller, more intimate venues.

Storm clouds over the Pyramid Stage

Storm clouds over the Pyramid Stage

I was attending this year as a judge for this year’s Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition so was especially keen to catch up with some of the finalists. During this review I’ll cover each of my day’s trek around the storm hit, mud strewn site’s smaller venues to bring some new acts to your attention.

Friday

After discovering it was Kaiser Chiefs not my dream of Prince playing the surprise slot opening at The Other Stage I headed to this year’s best venue, William’s Green, where new bands rub shoulders with more established acts looking to play a second, more intimate gig. Ralfe Band were first on and provided the perfect start with Oly Ralfe’s accomplished Baroque pop on keyboards and acoustic guitar putting in great versions of tracks such as Crow and Ox.

Ralfe Band

Ralfe Band

As I made my way over to the BBC Introducing stage I stopped off to watch a little of Blondie. I knew it would be a soul destroying experience for this fan and was proved right. Debbie Harry, Chris Stein and one of the world’s best drummers Clem Burke remain from the original line up but they were supplemented with some rent a rock session musicians and were now very clearly a spent force. Harry shouted rather than sang her way through the classics like Hanging on the Telephone and their bland ‘new ones’ were met with groans and sighs from the crowd. Is it time to call it a day? In Blondie’s case, definitely.

Wood Burning Savages

Wood Burning Savages

Over at the BBC Introducing stage Dan Hyde proved a welcome antidote, backed by cello and giving a new take on the skinny jeaned young singer songwriter genre. Derry’s Wood Burning Savages were next and immediately looked like a band destined for bigger things. Every track in their short 20 minute set of fast paced indie rock sounded like a single, especially Lather, Rinse, Repeat. In singer Paul Connolly they also have a great frontman; part Bono, part Danny Kendall from 1980s Grange Hill.

Carnabells from Leeds were next at BBC Introducing and were brought on stage by fan Steve Lamacq. All giant hair, paisley shirts and velvet jackets they play rock and roll with a huge dollop of indie rock and did Steve proud.

The beauty of the BBC Introducing stage is it is next to the Gully Outer National stage for world music as well as John Peel for the more established BBC 6 Music style acts. Birmingham’s Eternal Taal – Bhangra Entertainment Team were hard to ignore with their energetic crowd participation act at Gully as were Temples over at John Peel with their carefully crafted late 1960s psychedelic rock. It’s a little Tame Impala light but they still do this genre justice.

Carnabelles

Carnabells

Following a brief burst of sunshine some menacing clouds began to appear. I sought shelter back at William’s Green to see We Were Evergreen. Anyone who has heard Canada’s Rural Alberta Advantage will be impressed by this smart, Parisian electro pop act.

The next event was the weather, with a truly frightening electrical storm bringing the festival’s music to a brief close due to health and safety fears. Everyone at the festival will have their tale to tell of where they were when this intense rain came down. For me it was in The Leftfield where Neonfiller.com favourites The Tuts were just getting going in their punk pop set when the generators were shut down. Billy Bragg, who is curating proceedings at The Leftfield apologised but audience didn’t care though as they launched into a Cliff Richard at Wimbledon style sing-along to Bohemian Rhapsody. The guitar solo bit was particularly funny.

Young Knives

Young Knives

Back at William’s Green and the electricity back on, Young Knives played a storming set, filled with tracks from Neonfiller.com top 20 album of 2013 Sick Octave and an incredible performance from lead singer Henry Dartnell as he snarled, barked and jerked around the stage.

Billy Bragg’s Friday night Leftfield show is a tradition of the festival. Tonight it was just him and telecaster and acoustic guitar, belting out his hits and reminding us of the late Tony Benn, who was a regular at the festival. It’s a political venue so the politics is ramped up through tracks such as Between the Wars and There is Power in a Union. But he’s also a preacher with heart and Handyman Blues about his father was among many tearjerkers. Bragg always puts on a good show, but there’s something special about his Friday night Leftfield slot.

Billy Bragg

Billy Bragg

My evening ended with two Somerset based bands, Flipron and Nick Parker and the False Alarms who share members and played a great joint set at Avalon Café. Both Parker and Flipron frontman Jesse Budd were playing a number of times at the festival but you’d never know they were probably wrecked from exhaustion as they belted through their most festival friendly tracks. There was even dancing amid the tea drinking.

Nick Parker

Nick Parker

Saturday

John Peel openers Black Tambourines were one of the Glastonbury Emerging Talent competition finalists this year and left me impressed during their short set at the Pilton finals in April. It was great to see a full set from this Falmouth act, which owes a lot to the 1960s garage punk and mod sounds of the Unrelated Segments and other obscurities from that era.

The Black Tambourines

The Black Tambourines

At BBC Introducing by coincidence another Falmouth act, Polly Money, is proving that the Cornish music scene is in fine voice. Her intricate acoustic guitar work and looping vocals show she is another accomplished, emerging talent. After a surprise gig at BBC introducing from Little Dragon I headed back over to William’s Green for the billed psychedelic rock segment of the weekend, which started with the Nirvana-esque grunge-sters The Wytches, Brisbane’s Blank Realm, Smoke Fairies and Dinosaur Jr’s favourites Bevis Frond.

The Wytches

The Wytches

All these William’s Green acts were great in their own separate ways from Smoke Fairies’ style of dressing in designer white outfits, Bevis Frond’s love of life, Blank Realm’s insane vocals and The Wytches massive hair.

The Smoke Fairies

The Smoke Fairies

The evening was spent in the company of two great songwriters. Watching Nick Lowe sing What’s So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding with his perfect pitch and intonation is one of those ‘things to see in music before you die’ moments. He was especially suited to the beautiful Acoustic tent with its hanging red drapes and giant disco ball.

John Grant

John Grant

John Grant at the Park was as amiable and fun as he appears to be on disc, with his clever lyrics and liberal swearing. As joints were being passed around at the front Grant dazzled us with tracks such as Mars and GMF, perhaps his greatest song. On the way back home that night (I live near the site and was popping in each day) I managed to catch the Arcadia landing show, an outstanding spectacle of fire breathing giant space spider pyrotechnics.

 

Arcadia

Arcadia

 

Sunday

The Black Tambourines and Wood Burning Savages prove the festival has emerging talent that has seemingly arrived fully formed. But some of today’s BBC Introducing stage acts showed that some have a little way to go in terms of stage presence. Glastonbury Emerging Talent finalists FURS have the right look and sound but fell into the trap of not looking like they wanted to be there. Kagoule have their chops around a distortion pedal but while excellent musically they looked nervous and were smile-shy.

Kagoule

Kagoule

We are told by the BBC DJ who introduced singer songwriter Lapsley that she will be one of those acts that will be making a swift move from the BBC Introducing to a main stage swiftly. It does happen, with Ed Sheeran playing the stage in 2011 and bagging a Pyramid slot this year. Lapsley could do well with her  haunting electronica. She has some nice touches to her act as well, especially through voice manipulation gadgets. But she’ll have to do a lot of work on her stage presence to follow Sheeren’s lead. She looked  like she was on work experience at an office, desperately trying to pluck up the courage to ask a manager where the coffee machine is, rather than at a music festival.

Gallery Circus

Gallery Circus

Gallery Circus though showed these acts how it should be done. This Newcastle duo of twins Graeme and Daniel Ross play sibling blues rock in the White Stripes vein and are  sensational live; Graeme’s frantic drumming especially. After seeing the energy they put into playing live I want them to get wider attention and a main stage slot that so many on the BBC Introducing are touted for but today only Gallery Circus deserve.

After the storms of Friday and Saturday the mud was thick and getting about the site was tough work. I decided to stick to one area for the duration, even if that meant missing the Festival’s buzz act Dolly Parton. The Park was my venue and provided the best segment of the festival as well as the best live act I’ve seen since Nick Cave’s astonishing Pyramid Stage set in 2013.

M+A

M+A

Phosphorescent brought the songwriting talents of Matthew Houck and key tracks, such as Song For Zula and Ride On/Right On from his Neonfiller.com Top 20 album of 2012 Muchacho, to the Park. He had a little wobble early on, having a hissy fit with a mic, slamming down the stand in disgust. Perhaps realising that this made him look like an utter knob he backtracked, thanked the sound engineers for their hard work and the gig resumed.

Ahead of next act Yoko Ono with Yo La Tengo I popped up to the Rabbit Hole, the crazy bar near the Park’s ribbon tower to catch a second gig from Glastonbury Emerging Talent winners M+A. Their blend of European pop and electronic trickery was superb in this tiny venue and they proved worthy winners of this competition.

Yoko One and Yo La Tengo

Yoko Ono and Yo La Tengo

I was not expecting Yoko Ono to be good. I was mostly there for the novelty of seeing such an well known figure of modern culture and had always been of the opinion that her and Lennon’s preaching was more pretentious than heartfelt. There was pretension, but she is such an engaging personality I can see why so many listened to her and husband back in the day. Before she came to the stage people with flowers in the hair went around the crowd handing out labels to write down wishes and hand back in a bucket. Then Ono arrived, tiny, focused and full of smiles backed this time by Yo La Tengo as the Plastic Ono Band.

Packed full of tales from her own life, including the tragic loss of her daughter due to a marriage break up and artists visiting her and Lennon, the audience immediately warmed to her. Musically it was pretty fine too. Backed by Yo La Tengo’s indie rock, Ono throat warbled her way through tracks such as We’re All Water and Mind Train as the audience beamed back at her.

St Vincent

St Vincent

St Vincent provided one of the most astounding show of the weekend. Looking sensational in gold trimmed black dress and stiletto boots she moved around the stage like a android doll that is smirking as it discovers rebellion and music for the first time. Coordinated dances with the band, a move onto a giant white pedestal, a coordinated roll back down it and two of the most insane crowd surfing moments I’ve witnessed then followed.

St Vincent being helped into the crowd

St Vincent being helped into the crowd

The crowd surfing was particularly impressive, still playing guitar she struggled through the mud in her heels, had to be helped up by security staff, fell over a number of times, jumped on people, managed to borrow a flat cap and then popped back on stage still in android doll character as if nothing had happened. How she managed to still look cool after that I’ll never know. Your Lips Are Red and a tender version of Prince Johnny were among many highlights of an incredible masterclass in performance and music for some of the emerging acts here to take note of.

dragon

Words and Pictures by Joe Lepper. All pictures are copyrighted to News and Features Ltd, if you would like to use any please email joelepper@newsandfeatures.co.uk

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