Published Jun 25, 2011Like dining in the dark, draping a taster plate of acts in mud yields surprising results. Case in point: Glastonbury, the UK's foremost festival, began mired in sludge, but tire marks in the muck evidently had a levelling effect. Sure, forgettable MOR Britrock bands still played mundane sets -- Two Door Cinema Club stood out for their, er, unmemorable main stage amiability -- but the day's atypical bookings ultimately outshone safe-bet heavy hitters.
Despite Noel Gallagher's apprehensions, Jay-Z's 2008 headlining slot made hip-hop a Glastonbury possibility. Though relegated to a mid-afternoon stopgap, Wu-Tang Clan made the best of the opportunity. With most crew members in attendance -- save for Raekwon and the gone but often alluded to Ol' Dirty Bastard -- the legends played a rousing greatest-hits package on the mammoth Pyramid Stage.
The intricacy of the Clan's spoken harmonies, the lyrical acrobatics of the GZA, Masta Killa and Ghostface Killah, and the sheer charisma and earnestness of Method Man made it a stirring performance, despite the rain and the crowd's initial reticence. Highlights included "C.R.E.A.M.," "Ice Cream," and "Method Man," all accented by heavy beats and spry vocal interplay. By set's end, "W" signs abounded.
Conversely, many highly anticipated acts struggled, even in relatively safe contexts. Scotch rockers Biffy Clyro delivered plenty of bombast to an easy-to-please (i.e., quite drunk) crowd, but nonsensical drum fills and trite lyricism tripped them up.
More glaringly, in a poorly kept-secret "Special Guests" spot on the idyllic Park Stage, Radiohead initially fell prey to a terrible mix, which inadvertently spotlighted Phil Selway's drumming but allowed for almost nothing else. Eventually, Jonny Greenwood's guitar and Thom Yorke's vocals broke through, mostly salvaging a could-have-been-great gig.
Three hours later, a tardy Crystal Castles turned up on the same stage for a scintillating showcase, which culminated in a rain-drenched Alice Glass crowd-bound and howling through huge takes on "Celestica" and "Not in Love." And then the whole stage drifted out to sea (no, not really).