After waking to the soft pitter-patter of rain on nylon, we gather our wet weather gear, pull on freshly purchased wellington boots and emerge from the tent to the smell of baked beans and soy sausages. One vegetarian fry up later, we are ready for the official first day of Glastonbury 2008.
Arriving at the huge Pyramid stage, a small crowd has already started to build for the festival’s main stage opener, Kate Nash. For Nash’s set, the stage has been decorated as an underwater garden with Nash herself seated inside a large clam shell as she starts her set with Pumpkin Song. The audience response for Nash is a little indifferent, with most people more focused on site familiarisation and claiming prime positions for later.
Next, we head past the Park Stage and up Pennard Hill, where this year the fence has been pushed back higher than ever before. From here, we enjoy a spectacular view across the whole site while listening to the end of Sparkadia’s second set of the festival and Beggars, who open their slot with a cover of Leonard Cohen’s The Future before playing thirty minutes of fairly standard festival rock for the seated but appreciative crowd.
Santogold is next on The Park Stage; the Philly-based MC is joined on stage by a DJ and two backing dancers dressed in what look like air stewardess uniforms, topped off with white Wayfarers like all the cool kids are wearing this year. Santogold’s style is hard to describe: she raps but the music is new-wave, she screams like a punk but has smooth R&B beats. Regardless, the crowd love every bit - L.E.S. Artistes gets a huge response, and not even the rain can dampen the fun in set closer Creator.
Listed in the Glasto guide as a guilty pleasure, Ben Folds was filling the lunch time slot on the Other Stage. Playing a lot of songs from his forthcoming fifth solo album, Folds’ set suffers from lack of familiarity. The crowd’s willingness to get involved is not increased by the appearance of Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls, who joins Folds for two songs from her yet to be released Ben Folds-produced solo album. It is not until Folds plays old fave Army and a cover of Dr Dre’s Bitches Ain’t Shit that he starts to win the crowd over. Unfortunately, by then it is too late.
While stopping for delectable home baked organic brownies at Cafe Tango in the Greenpeace field, we were lucky enough to witness a performance of Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit - a poorly timed broken arm had reduced them to a three-piece for this intimate set. Even one man down, the band produce a stomping sound that, with Flynn’s ability to swap from resonator guitar to banjo to violin, means the Sussex Wit would be equally at home in the backroom of an American bar as they would atop potato crate at an Irish folk festival. He looks no more than 15 years old, but his boyish face belies an amazing depth and maturity to his lyrics. The stories as sung by Johnny Flynn tell tales of heartbreak, loss, and belonging - covering all three in single The Box. Flynn is a real surprise find at this giant festival.
With the rain still falling, Lupe Fiasco took to the Jazz World stage to a sea of rain coats and wellingtons - definitely not the stylish hip-hop crowd to which he is accustomed. But never mind, Lupe still looked and acted the part, energetically delivering his thinking man’s hip hop with the help of guest MCs and vocalists. In a good sign for hip-hop headliner Jay-Z, the crowd bounced right though the performance, with highlights being Daydreamin’ and Paris, Tokyo. The only disappointment for me was the rushed version of Kick Push.
Back at the Pyramid, the crowd has swelled in anticipation of Editors’ appearance. The band is clearly delighted at the chance to perform for such a large audience, and their songs translate really well to the large stage. Older tracks Blood, All Sparks, and Munich hold up really well next to the newer material but the real highlights come from 2007’s An End Has A Start, with title track Bones and set closer Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors getting the biggest responses. Editors are my Pyramid Stage highlight for 2008.
Starting with Nobody Move, Nobody Gets Hurt and finishing with The Great Escape, We Are Scientists have a large crowd dancing at the Other Stage but lose points for Blink 182-esque toilet humour between songs and a slightly dull guest appearance from Lightspeed Champion's Dev. Meanwhile in the Queen’s Head, wearing suits as sharp as their sound, the Young Knives are playing a short warm up set ahead of their performance on the John Peel Stage later that night.
The sun is setting and the field in front of the Pyramid is filling with inebriated masses as the Fratellis swagger onto the stage. Opening with Mistress Mabel and Flathead, the crowd are immediately into it, singing/shouting out the lyrics. Chelsea Dagger gets everyone shaking their hips before closer Milk and Money leaves the Pyramid perfectly warmed up for Kings of Leon.
Over on the John Peel Stage, Reverend and the Makers push their groove-based funk rock out to a huge crowd. The audience doesn’t stop dancing for the whole set, although some of the momentum of the performance is lost when guest MC Lowkey raps politically over Open Your Window, but this is compensated for by front man Jon (The Reverend) McClure’s performance perfectly interchanging his own lines with infamous words from The Stooges (I wanna be your dog) and Massive Attack (Karmacoma). Near the end of the set, as things are going nuts and the whole crowd is singing along to He Said He Love Me, one fan lights a flare which fills the cavernous tent with bright red light and smoke. In true Glastonbury spirit, this doesn’t represent a fire risk but just enhances the live experience.
Closing the John Peel Stage tonight are The Cribs. The Cribs (sadly minus sometimes member Johnny Marr) punch out indie punk track after indie punk track, helping transform the audience from a bunch of tired zombies to carefree dancing machines. The response to Hey Scenesters! and Men’s Needs is particularly overwhelming, a live-wire finish to the official first day of Glastonbury 2008.