Glastonbury Festival 2020: The Cure, Foo Fighters, Skunk Anansie, Bastille, Libertines and more on why Glastonbury is a festival like no other

As the fields of Worthy Farm sit empty on what should have been Glastonbury’s most celebratory year, Roisin O'Connor speaks to the artists who will never forget the times they performed on sacred ground

Saturday 27 June 2020 17:24
Comments
Pyramid dreams: headlining Glastonbury has been a career highpoint for (from left) Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters), Robert Smith (The Cure) and Skin of Skunk Anansie
Pyramid dreams: headlining Glastonbury has been a career highpoint for (from left) Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters), Robert Smith (The Cure) and Skin of Skunk Anansie

It should have been the best year yet. Glastonbury 2020 was to mark 50 years of one of the most storied festivals in music history, with a line-up that nodded to its own heritage, but also looked far into the future. Even the weather, that most fickle of mistresses, looked certain to be on its best behaviour.

As The Independent’s music critic Mark Beaumont said in his pick of the 20 all-time best performances, Glastonbury has experienced countless moments that don’t just make the weekend, but “mark out the evolution of pop culture … Glastonbury is where musical history is made and cultural colossi are crowned on a near-annual basis.”

It explains why, from the artists who have graced the Pyramid Stage to first-timers who’d dreamt of performing at Worthy Farm since the first time they picked up a microphone, they all turned out in force to celebrate Glastonbury’s 50th anniversary – festival or no festival.

The Cure (Robert Smith)
Headlined the Pyramid Stage four times, in 1986, 1990, 1995 and 2019

‘Feeling the crowd at the end of ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ last year was very special’ (Getty)

Our headline set in 2019 all went by in a bit of a blur, but we loved the way everyone really got into it, even after four long hot days in the field.

There honestly is no such thing for us as “just another gig”, we are always trying to make it “the best show ever”. To that end, we like to keep the pre-concert “routine” as simple and consistent as possible – it helps with nerves and focus. Having said that, hordes of family and friends milling around backstage definitely changed the vibe… but it worked out well, it was a very memorable night!

The opening “Shake Dog Shake” drum roll and chord in 1986 was an unforgettable moment – that first Glastonbury headline felt like we really had “arrived” in the UK. The “Fascination Street” emergency helicopter landing in 1990 remains awfully vivid… playing unreleased songs in 1995 was strangely good fun… and feeling the crowd at the end of “Boys Don’t Cry” last year was very special. We have a long and curious relationship with Glastonbury… and I hope before we stop we will be back there for one last splash!

(Read our five-star review of 2019’s performance here)

Foo Fighters (Dave Grohl)
Headlined the Pyramid Stage, 2017

‘The energy coming from that field was just so much love, I couldn’t wait to hit the stage’ (Getty)

There are more than a few unforgettable moments in the Foo Fighters timeline, but Glastonbury 2017 eclipses them all.

After having to cancel playing there in 2015 on account of a nasty stage fall that resulted in a splintered leg, 2017 was the ultimate “make-up” gig. One that I not only felt obligated to play, but was chomping at the bit for, because it was like a big fat prize I could give our fans who had been patiently waiting for so long.

Just before taking the stage that night, I looked out at the crowd with a cocktail in hand and thought, “This is gonna be f***ing GOOD...” Surprisingly, I wasn’t the least bit nervous, even though there was an enormous sea of faces out there waiting for us. The energy coming from that field was just so much love, I couldn’t wait to hit the stage. From the second I stepped up to the microphone I felt at home. For the next two hours and 15 minutes, there was nowhere else on earth I wanted to be. The vibe was like a dream. What an unforgettable night.

Enjoy unlimited access to 70 million ad-free songs and podcasts with Amazon Music Sign up now for a 30-day free trial

Sign up

Skunk Anansie (Skin)
Headlined the Pyramid Stage, 1999

A cold, quiet calm excitement… that’s the feeling before you walk on the Pyramid Stage. The most overwhelming feeling is that everyone there is on your side, and they are gagging for it and waiting for it, and they want you to be good, they want you to be amazing. So you have this anticipation, you’re thinking, this is going to be really fun! Because I’ve done a lot of festivals and you can gauge the vibe – are you going to have to persuade people, are they tired, is it raining?

But I remember it was a beautiful clear night, there were loads of flags and I could see people for as far as the eye could see. It was like the moment before stepping into the hurricane. And at that point, you’ve done everything you can do, now you’ve just got to go on stage and enjoy yourself, and not worry about it. Just waiting for the explosion to happen. That’s what happens when you walk onstage, the place just explodes, and that’s a delightful feeling for an artist.

The Libertines (Carl Barat)
Surprise performance on the Pyramid Stage, 2015

Peter Doherty and Barat during their surprise set five years ago

My parents were at the first ever Glastonbury festival and I’ve been going ever since I was a year-old nipper. I’ve seen it go through some changes over the years, as have I. From not having a tent and sleeping in the mud, to being helicoptered in to play the fabled Pyramid Stage.

It’s an incredible entity, like a nomadic city that materialises overnight in the mystical West Country. It’s not just about the bands, it’s about being in a field in Somerset where you can find Sodom and Gomorrah, ruin and salvation and all in the wee small hours. Without doubt it’s the best festival on the planet… what’s not to love?

Bastille (Dan Smith)
John Peel Stage, 2013, Other Stage, 2016, Pyramid Stage, 2019

Smith in 2019: ‘If they’ve chosen to be at your gig then they’re there to enjoy it’ (Dave J Hogan/Getty)

Glastonbury is my mates’ and my favourite weekend of the year. We’ve gone every year since 2008, even on the weekends where our band’s been booked to play elsewhere. I once went and camped from the Tuesday, even though I had to leave Friday morning to play three other festivals across Europe that weekend, just so I didn’t miss out on being there. So basically, I’m a Glastonbury mega fan.

Last year when we played the Pyramid Stage, I was convinced that the field would be empty and we’d play to nobody, so I was probably annoying the shit out of the rest of the band, the choir, and the crew with my usual pessimistic bollocks.

Because I’ve been lucky enough to see so many bands and artists that I love on those stages, it’s always been incredibly surreal to then be able to play them. I don’t always have the best time on stage but every gig at Glastonbury has been pretty amazing for us. I think the crowds there are so up for it and invested, and they have such a vast choice of things to be seeing at any one time, so if they’ve chosen to be at your gig then they’re there to enjoy it. We’ve also been lucky to be booked on the Friday the last couple of times, get our gig out the way and then spend the weekend watching bands and properly enjoying the weekend.

Tinie (formerly Tinie Tempah)
Pyramid Stage, 2011

Tinie performing at Glastonbury in 2011

The biggest thing that sticks out in my mind about my Glasto performance was the sheer number of people! There are bodies as far as the eye can see. As well as the scale and size of the site itself.

Jehnny Beth (Savages)
John Peel Stage, 2013

Singer Jehnny Beth of Savages

I was playing Glastonbury for the first time with my bandmates from Savages on 29 June 2013. It was our second set of the day at the John Peel Stage. I remember feeling exhausted – no food and barely any sleep (classic). Five minutes before the performance, a nice woman came to me explaining someone had requested for her to translate the lyrics of our show for the hard of hearing people in the audience (and on TV). She asked if it was going to bother us. ‘Of course not’ I said. When I grew up around the age of eight, a few students in my class were deaf-mute and a lady everyday was coming to translate the class for them. I had learnt how to communicate with sign language then and loved it. I was used to it.

In five minutes we didn’t get a chance to share the lyrics with the translator at Glastonbury, so she was going to sign what she could understand. Before we started I took the time to warn her: “Sometimes it sounds like I am saying f*** but actually I’m not.” I was referring to the word "forget" in the song "She Will" ("she will forget her name"), everyone used to think I was saying "f***" because of my accent. But my zealous attempt to make her job easier actually created more confusion. When I started singing F***ers I repeated, "Don’t let the f***ers get you down" over and over and the nice lady got totally lost: “Is she saying what I think she is saying or am I completely misinterpreting the words?” I had forgotten to mention to her that on this particular song, if it sounded like I am saying f***, it was probably because... I WAS!

Fontaines DC
Leftfield Tent, John Peel Stage, 2019

The John Peel Glastonbury set was really big for us because it was rumored to be around 10,000 people in the tent. I don’t know if it was but it was definitely enough for us to get that flurry of fear before the gig, which was interesting because we’d done so many gigs before that, we’d just got used to a particular size of crowd and that kind of snapped us out of oncoming complacency. I think we all hugged each other when we came off, it was one of those moments – it was a massive moment for us as friends. I remember thinking during the gig, looking round, seeing the lads and thinking that this is something tangible that we’ve achieved together – this sea of people. (Grian Chatten, frontman)

I remember before the show there was a bit of panic, not only because it was quite a big show for us – and a show we weren’t even meant to play until the very last minute – the panic was mostly that most of our gear was in bits and all our guitars and pedals were broken. We had two guitars between the two of us, which is all we need, but we were worried that if anything went wrong we’d need another. In spite of all the panic we found a lot of friendliness from Johnny Marr who heard about our problems and sent one of his personal guitars over. We kept that guitar for a while – he let us have it on tour. So we have to say thanks to Johnny for that. (Carlos O’Connell, guitarist)

The Psychedelic Furs (Richard Butler)
Headlined the Pyramid Stage, 1986

Headlining Glastonbury on a Friday night was an incredible experience for the Furs. I believe it was at that point the largest crowd we had ever played to, and at the most prestigious of festivals. Quite terrifying in its own way, but what a wonderful memory.

Everything Everything (Jeremy Pritchard)
John Peel Stage, 2010, 2011 and 2013, Other Stage, 2015

Glastonbury 2003 was the first festival of any kind I went to, and I think it gave me a fairly rose-tinted view of what festivals are actually like. I was immediately struck by the sense of freedom, openness, cooperation and good old-fashioned love that the site and its inhabitants exude. I refuse to be cynical about it. It is impossible for me.

Everything Everything have played it many times, and I had a very memorable show with Foals there last year. My favourite memory of playing there is the pair of shows EE did in 2015, the week our album Get To Heaven came out. We played to 25,000 on the Other Stage on the Friday, and then a secret set on the Saturday. We had no idea if people knew or liked the record at that stage, but the audience reaction to a set of brand new songs just laid us to waste. We all walked offstage weeping after the secret show. It was so moving and so special. Also, I got trenchfoot there as a punter in 2005.

Margo Price
Park Stage, 2017

‘There was a cosmic peacefulness to the place’

When I arranged to play Glastonbury, I hadn’t slept in 48 hours. We had a faulty plane and had to turn around when we were half way, sleep in the airport and then switch planes. Anyway, when I arrived, it was one of the most beautiful places I’d ever been. There was a cosmic peacefulness to the place, and even though I was hallucinating from sleep deprivation, it was spiritual. I joined Kris Kristofferson for several songs in front of the biggest crowd I had ever seen while movie stars watched from the wings. It was quite surreal. Lovely time and a forever memory.

Toots and The Maytals (Frederick Hibbert)
Performed in 2004, 2010 and 2017

It is always a pleasure working the stage at Glastonbury enjoying the warmth of my fans along with the general audience. The staff, media, and the BBC crew who are always there for me. I love my UK fans.

BUSH (Gavin Rossdale)
Pyramid Stage, 1999

Glastonbury is the ultimate festival. It’s the king of all festivals. The festival of festivals. I’m looking forward to playing there again one day. It’s been a minute.

Kojaque
West Holts Stage, 2019

I remember arriving on the back end of a tour, late, three days into the festival and seagulls had descended upon Glastonbury, the sun was blazing like a furnace, the size of the place was unbelievable. I remember hiking up to the Glastonbury sign the minute we arrived to catch a proper view of the site and meeting Hozier on the way up, looking like one of the Stations of the Cross. I’ve never seen so many people in one place before, I saw some of the best music ever at Glastonbury and it was an undeniable buzz! I can’t wait to go back.

James Bay
Pyramid Stage, 2015

‘I stood in front of 80,000 people and basked in the sound of that many voices singing along to ‘Hold Back the River’’

Even before I’d seen any pictures of Glastonbury festival, as a kid, I was already aware that it was the holy grail of festival opportunities for any performer. Whether you’re setting up in some mystical, far off corner of the site, or on the Pyramid Stage itself, I’d known for a long time before my first visit that it was a very special place to play.

When I played the Pyramid Stage, it was 2015. My debut album Chaos and The Calm had been out for three months. The first couple of singles had been out less than a year. I stood in front of 80,000 people and basked in the sound of that many voices singing along to “Hold Back the River”, louder than I could have ever imagined.

Yizzy
Runner-up in Glastonbury’s Emerging Talent competition, 2017

It has to be the atmosphere. At 17 years old seeing everyone vibing and having a good time and being carefree was incredible. Everyone was happy to just live in the moment and vibe to the music, there’s no negative vibes when everyone is there to have a good time. It was my first time even going to a festival, let alone performing at one, so it was a very memorable experience and one that will stick with me forever

Lucy Rose
Avalon Stage, 2013, 2017, Other Stage, 2014, Acoustic Stage, 2019

Rose in 2014: ‘A beautiful Sunday morning crowd that I will never forget’

My most prominent memory of performing at Glastonbury is from 2014 when I got given the opportunity of playing the Other Stage, a real dream come true. I had only released my first album at the time and had only just recorded my second. I decided to be brave and play mostly new music that people hadn’t heard and I was blessed with the most amazingly supportive crowd I think I’ve ever played to. In their 10,000s which was something I’ve never experienced before or again. A beautiful Sunday morning crowd that I will never forget. I think the sun might have even popped out.

I’ve often thought after leaving Glastonbury, what made that so special? There is unexplained energy at that festival that feels like it encompasses every part of the festival and unites the thousands of people who are there, sharing a small piece of land. I’ve also always loved the variety in music and the support the festival shows to up-and-coming artists. Feels like the biggest band in the world and the smallest would say playing Glastonbury is the biggest deal ever! There’s something magic that happens there and I’m OK not understanding it.

Mystery Jets (Jack Flanagan)
Park Stage in 2008, John Peel Stage in 2016, secret acoustic set in 2019

Ah Glastonbury. I remember when we played the John Peel tent in 2016. We were foolishly dropped onto the site on the Friday and had to try and stay sane for our performance on Sunday afternoon. I seem to remember coming back to my senses by the stone circle at 5am the morning of the show. I was playing bongos with some pagan fellows. Not sure if they caught our set that afternoon but I (luckily) was there performing to an overflowing tent and it was a huge career highlight.

Orlando Weeks (solo artist, formerly of The Maccabees)
The Maccabees performed at Glastonbury in 2007, 2009, and 2015

Almost all of my memories of Glastonbury are of an extremely good time. Free, chaotic, joyful, adventures. Flip flopping between finding myself lost and actively losing myself.

My first Glastonbury was in 2007 and I was there with The Maccabees performing. That introduction to the wonder that is Worthy Farm wasn’t a bad one by any stretch. But that night after our set, we wandered up to the Other Stage and watched Bjork in high priestess mode and the spell was cast!

Jack Jones (poet, Trampolene frontman, guitarist for The Puta Madres)

Glastonbury was always some sort of mythical thing to me and it’s never disappointed. Trampolene first played there in 2016 on the Greenpeace Stage and we could only gain entry to the festival by doing a silent Disco DJ set at 4am… one member of the band got lost… you could say it was a very, very long day.

In 2016, I wanted to see Grimes and was running through the crowd when I spotted another guy running towards me. He put his hand up in the air. I put mine up for a high five, but he planted his fist into my face. I’m standing there in shock and he runs off shouting, “F*** you and your poems.” I think I must be doing something right or should that be wrong? I made it to watch Grimes but people were staring at me like “what the f*** happened to your face?”. I didn’t care. Grimes was as mad as ever and my face didn’t hurt, as this is of course Glastonbury (and therefore magic).

Last year I managed to blag my way on to the Pyramid Stage while The Killers were playing and had my mind blown… the crowd looked incredible from the stage, dancing, waving flags and singing along to every song… surely there can be no better feeling in the world.

The Amazons
John Peel Stage, 2019

Matt Thomson of The Amazons during last year’s set

Glastonbury was a blur. We arrived on the Friday and didn’t sleep for the rest of the weekend. We lost our guitarist Chris in Shangri-La on the Friday night and didn’t see him until half an hour before we went on stage. Our set on Saturday at the John Peel Stage was a mix of adrenaline and terror, it felt like a moment where things were coming together for us as a band.

Declan McKenna
Winner of Glastonbury’s Emerging Talent competition, 2015, John Peel Stage, 2017

Glastonbury is an all-encompassing world at what feels like some weird magic cross-section of all that is good, the scale of what’s possible there is both exciting and calming at the same time. So many of my best festival memories are from Glastonbury, they really do set the bar of what festivals are all about.

The Wombats (Matthew ‘Murph’ Murphy, who also performs solo as Love Fame Tragedy)
The Other Stage, 2019, booked to play Glastonbury 2020

Wombats’ frontman Matthew Murphy (Getty)

Even though I’ve had some incredible experiences at Glastonbury over the years, what I remember most about the festival is the sheer scale of it. You never really get used to it, you can get completely lost there, figuratively and literally.

Tom Misch
Booked to play 2020 festival

I’m pretty devastated there’s no festivals this summer, but especially Glastonbury. I was very much looking forward to spending my birthday at Glasto and then playing a sunset slot on Saturday at the West Holts Stage. But next year!

I just love the scale and attention to detail at Glastonbury, there’s so much to see. My best moments have been walking around discovering small tents and new music. Then there’s this undeniably great atmosphere. Everyone feels lucky to be there.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in