top of page

Glastonbury Review: Reflections from the biggest party on earth

Written by Christian MacManus

Sun burnt noses, warm ciders and multiple heart-felt “FUCK YOU”’s to the Supreme Court.

The 50th Year of such a historic and internationally regarded festival comes at a time of chaos in the outside world. I’d like to express my solidarity with both the women of the USA and the people of Ukraine. Justice will be served.

Approaching the tiny, somerset village of Pilton at 7:30am on a muggy Wednesday morning, some newbies to the festival may have felt a slight wave of dread wash over them. Yet, for me, an overwhelming sense of peace and nostalgia hit me. We turned into one of the many carparks of the festival, beckoned in with smiling faces and hi-vis jackets. I knew, as soon as I placed my feet on the grass that I was entering the largest party on earth – let the fever dream begin.

We found a spot and pitched our tents. That sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? It wasn’t as easy as it sounds yet lets skip the dreary details and practicalities of attempting to live outside for six days.

The sound of rumbling chatter, and cans popping open reverberated around the camp, and we joined in on the symphony. After resting for a couple hours, we decided to explore a little; the sun following us around the site, we sought after some shade for refuge. Walking into the enticing “Silver Hayes” area of the festival, we stumbled across a tent, a shisha bar. After soaking up the atmosphere (amongst other fumes), we headed back to our tents. The evening had sunk away, and with fully bellies and tipsy heads, we decided to try our luck at sleeping.

The following morning, we awoke with scratchy eyes in our pressure cooker tent. Not a cloud in sight, we resided to our fate of sunburns and sweaty foreheads.

The day sped past, exploring small second-hand clothing stalls, getting henna tattoos, and garnering ourselves in beaded necklaces. As the evening approached the sound of heavy dance music began to disrupt the somewhat eery peace of the festival. The sound of live music awoke an excitement within all of us, most likely heightened following the oppressive pandemic era.

The sound of Piri and Tommy was the first to grace our ears, and whilst I’m usually reluctant to admit enjoyment of so-called “tik tok” songs; I found their set thoroughly enjoyable, sampling many old-school jungle songs, and mixing live. I was impressed. My personal highlight of the night was The Firmly Rooted Sound System, unfortunately I cannot recall the name of the DJ, but the energy of the set was insane: the crowd jumping, the DJ swimming from hit to hit, with the haze of smoke permeating the air. I was completely engrossed.

As the night progressed the ensnaring sound of Yung Singh blasted across the Lonely-Hearts Club, his impressive mixing of Punjabi and garage mixing, sampling jungle, hip-hop and grime created a mesmerising set. The seamless handover to Chippy non-stop B2B Pxssy Palace was incredible with the female collective bursting out onto stage with grime samples.

Friday rolled around. I woke up with almost a sense of panic, feeling as though the festival was already over – the acts hadn’t even begun. After having a slow start, we strolled down to the Pyramid Stage, and listened to Ziggy Marley, the son of Reggae legend, Bob Marley. The sweet sound of “jamming” washing over us, we prepared ourselves for a long day.

Feeling slightly hurt by a £6.50 pint of cider, we decided to head back to the tents to gather some slightly cheaper alcohol. We got back down to the pyramid stage just in time for Wolf Alice. The set was incredible, “don’t delete the kisses” provoked emotion in me that I’d never felt when listening prior to the festival. I took this as a sign of their talent, and possibly my own sensitivity. A sense of release for the chaos that has been these past few years.

Later, we were graced by Phoebe Bridgers in the John Peel Tent. Now, a preface; I happen to a big Phoebe Bridgers fan, so beware this may sound a little sickly. But this set was truly one of the best things I’ve seen, ever. I managed to hold it in until Kyoto, the lyric “I’ve been driving out to the suburbs, to park at the goodwill, to stare at the chemtrails with my little brother”, evoking childhood memories. Other than this, phoebe managed to keep most of the songs upbeat, even bringing Arlo Parks out as a surprise guest, the crowd loved it. I loved it. And my friends, who formerly didn’t like Phoebe, left with a new appreciation for her work.

To finish the day, we saw the youngest headliner in the fifty-year history of the festival, Billie Eillish. I personally, am not a fan of Billie. But with her high energy and heavy bass it was impossible not to appreciate why she was placed at the top of her industry.

Saturday started with the relaxing tone of Joy Crookes, this was coupled by possibly the best sweet and sour chicken noodle bowl, I’ve ever had. Your standards after camping for a few days surprisingly lower themselves. At this point, I was past the idea of saving money and forfeited £11 for a full meal.

By this point in the day, our backs were sore, our legs tired and mouths dry. But we carried on and made it to the other Stage in time to see Olivia Rodrigo. Lily Allen surprised us all, singing “fuck you” in dedication to The Supreme Court. An iconic moment in pop music history.

After this, we trekked on up to the Park Stage. Mitski was truly enigmatic to see, like no-one I’ve ever seen perform, the reaction to this style of performance varied from person to person. Personally, I enjoyed it as a vision of performance art. Then, back down the hill to the Other Stage for the number one ‘hot girl’, and ‘Texas baddy’, Megan Thee Stallion. One word to describe this: hot. The hot girls and boys were out in force, all in favour of “my body, my motherfucking choice”. To say me and my friends enjoyed this would be an understatement, we lived it and did not regret any second of it!

To finish the night, we wandered back to the park area, in hopes of seeing Calvin Harris DJ on Arcadia. A huge installation of a spider that blows out huge flames and often has objects floating in between the spider and the gas tower (a separate installation of the field) – this year it was a hot air balloon with aerobatic dancers hanging off the bottom, often waving at the massive crowds below them. We only managed fifteen minutes here unfortunately. It was heaving with people, and we were miles away from the actual stage. Feeling slightly disappointed we carried on further up the hill and stumbled across the rabbit hole. A highly secretive and often un-heard of venue at Glastonbury. We went into the front section of this venue and danced to the DJ’s playing – little did we know that we’d actually stumbled across a secret set from Glastonbury veterans, Rudimental. When this information was revealed to the crowd by the “judge” of The Rabbit Hole.

Finally, Sunday appeared before us, the festival was almost over. We had a very slow start to the day and managed to just about capture a bit of George Ezra’s secret set at the John Peel tent. We admired Clairo from afar, with the beautiful symphonies of “Zinnias” leading our way to the Pyramid Stage to see Diana Ross. Who unfortunately, seemed as though they were a little too old. With hardly any perception of whether she was singing or just screeching we left early, not in disappointment, but somewhat admiration that someone that old could even attend Glastonbury let alone perform.

We headed to the Other Stage to see Kacey Musgraves, the brilliant country and western pop star from Dallas, Texas. In fact, we had dressed for the occasion in cowboy hats, ready to sing our hearts out to golden hour, her hit album. It was unfortunate that she only played three songs of the album, and mostly stuck to her newest album. But “Kacey-o-kee” stole the show, with the whole crowd singing to dreams by Fleetwood Mac. Leaving the show, we by some strange twist of fate, were ushered off backstage, and got to see the somewhat strange and different side to Glastonbury that people fortunate enough – and celebrities experience every year. The trip was short-lived but enlightening to say the most!

And rounding off the afternoon was Lorde, our Lord and saviour. Brilliant doesn’t cut it; she truly rose to the occasion, and we were highly impressed. Her beachy vibes and new blonde hair solidified her place as a summer girl, to go hand-in-hand with her newest album “Solar Power”.

To finish our festival, we saw Kendrick Lamar, the critically acclaimed rapper and the current “king of rap”. I am a huge fan of his work, so being able to see him in the flesh was beautiful. He finished on a tone, that was resemblant of the festivals tone, and the echoes from the outside world ‘if they judge you, they judge Christ, Godspeed for women’s rights’ – this was somewhat critically received by crowds, as they believed that he’d been comparing himself to Jesus or some kind of Messiah/Mashiach. But the message was of women’s rights, one that much of the festival centred itself upon. It was powerful, and unapologetic and made crowds question what they’d seen. This is something that I’ve always loved about his work; the power to shock, and shock he did.

So, Glastonbury, you were beautiful, you led a discussion on women’s rights, war in Ukraine and climate change. You brought some of the biggest artists in the world to a sleepy town in Somerset, and you were unforgettable. If you ever get the chance to go, I’d highly recommend taking the opportunity and letting go of the outside world around you.

* All pictures taken by Christian MacManus

bottom of page