The Highs & Lows of Glastonbury 2017

Glastonbury Festival is over – the ribbon tower dismantled as I write, the Pyramid stage’s luminescence extinguished. I’m decompressing slowly, gathering my wits to reflect after a weekend of pure musical binging. So here is a collection of highs and lows from 2017’s instalment of the most iconic festival in the world.

HIGH: The Killers’ Surprise Set

Let’s get one thing straight – the John Peel stage’s capacity is not built for the hoards that descended upon it on Sunday evening. The Killers filled the second of two blank slots left on the line up over the weekend. By Saturday morning rumours were circulating with a growing urgency. Thirty minutes to go and no one was getting within 200 meters of the venue. “They say you play the John Peel stage twice in your career,” said Brandon Flowers as the band strode onto the stage to a thunderous roar from the crowd. “Once on the way up, and once on the way down.”

 LOW: The sheer size of Glastonbury

The fence which surrounds the ground runs for 8km. This festival is the size of a small town – and you’re left to navigate it on foot. There will come a moment – several times a day in fact – when you’re utterly footsore from the endless treks between stages and now a 30 minute walk and several thousand people lie between you and your tent. My personal record for distance walked in a day was 18km, so pack those hiking shoes in 2019.

HIGH: The South East Corner

If you think the headliners’ last song is the end of the night, think again. The South East Corner is made up of three fractions, each as multi-faceted as the other and home to a simultaneous array of night time entertainment barely dreamt of, and kicks off properly just before midnight. Block9’s towering industrialised compound gives way to Shangri-La’s environmentally-conscious mega-club, while The Unfairground is scattered with the bizarre, the weird and the wonderful. If you aren’t up for the walk however, take a trip down the Rabbit Hole at the foot of the Ribbon Tower for a very happy unbirthday indeed. 

LOW: Foo Fighters and Phoenix clash

This was a personal heart sore. I had all good intentions of legging it to the John Peel stage halfway through the Foo’s set to catch Phoenix – but the second Dave Grohl stepped onto stage proclaiming, “We’re about two years late, I’m sorry. Traffic was a bitch,” I was hooked.

HIGH: The Weather

No mud! In fact, the UK reached record temperatures of up to 35 degrees on Wednesday, which made for a pretty sweaty arrival. I have to admit, in a way I was almost disappointed, since the knee-deep mud is something of an iconic Glastonbury experience, so the fine drizzle which took up most of Saturday morning was more than enough of an excuse for me to whip out the gumboots I had hauled along and trudge through the damp grounds in glee.

LOW: No Encores

South African almost always demand more – and we usually get it. Perhaps it’s a Glasto thing, perhaps it’s a British thing, but not one headliner returned to stage in spite of the roaring crowd – and even the roaring crowd lost interest in its chant quite quickly. Damn it Ed Sheeran – I just wanted to hear ‘Perfect’.

HIGH: Cineramageddon

The newest addition to Glastonbury’s multi-dimensional landscape, Cineramageddon is a rethought drive-in cinema, quipped with an exorbitant collection of jazzed-up classic cars. From grass-covered Cadillacs, looming monster trucks and even a small plane, to Johnny Depp gliding onto the field to sit cross-legged on the bonnet of a blue classic, cigar in hand, to introduce the screening of his film The Libertine.

LOW: The Mass Exoduses of a 135 000 Capacity Festival

I’m not sure which is worse – the traffic jam on Monday morning or getting caught for 30 minutes in a rough crush of people trying to squeeze through a gate after the firework display or the rousing conclusion of Radiohead’s two-hour set. I’ll hang back at the stage thanks. The security guards are surprisingly good company.

HIGH: Stormzy Getting Political

The biggest name in UK grime at the moment, Stormzy dominated the Other stage early Saturday evening, using the opportunity to call out the UK government on hiding some of the details of the Grenfell Tower disaster the week before. “We are urging the authorities to tell the fucking truth […] We are urging the fucking government to be held accountable,” he quipped. Organiser Emily Eavis has even tipped her hat to him, naming him as a performer who has huge future headliner potential.