Alexis Petridis says: “Foo Fighters pretty appealingly raw and ragged, lots of songs thus far at hardcore punk tempos, and Dave Grohl just broke into the riff from Paranoid by Black Sabbath. Definite sense of “This is our roots”, ie: “We are still the same band”.
Surprising absolutely no one, the Foo Fighters are the mysterious Churnups, playing the main stage right now! Sounds invigorating from where we are backstage at least: feedback from the field incoming. Ben Beaumont Thomas says: “It’s almost a showcase for new drummer Josh Freese – long songs with lots of drum fills and beefy guitar wigouts.”
Also, hello, Laura Snapes taking over the next three hours’ liveblogging.
The Park, 4.45pm
New Zealander Ruban Nielson has quietly amassed one of the best catalogues in alternative music: five albums (and some extraneous, long, meandering offcuts) of lo-fi psych-pop and funk with the faintest sense of a hip-hop beatmaker’s sensibility. It means he essentially has a greatest hits set to roll out at festivals, particularly because the material from new album V – made as ever with bandmate Jacob Portrait – is some of his best. This is the Platonic ideal of a mid-afternoon Glasto set: laidback and three-pints blissful, but also with a bit of pep and bite to keep the head nodding rather than nodding off. The riff of opener The Garden sounds gorgeous rolling around the slope of the Park stage, and Nielson – while not a naturally robust vocalist – makes the most of his melancholic croon on the likes of Nadja. There’s a heady, happy vibe under the baking sun; a positive mindset to launch you into the evening’s big hitters.
Foo Fighters appear to have confirmed they will be playing a surprise show on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, ending weeks of frenzied speculation.
An hour before a set advertised to be played by a mystery band dubbed The ChurnUps, the American rockers posted a photo of flags in the festival crowd – one with the phrase Churn It Up brandished across it – and tagged the post #Glastonbury2023.
A separate tweet from the account of the ChurnUps was signed off by ‘DG’, the initials of frontman Dave Grohl.
The online posts appeared to confirm weeks of increasingly frenzied speculation about the identity of the Churn Ups, the fake name given to a secret group set to play shortly before headliners Arctic Monkeys.
Short of being spotted at Pilton Tesco, their appearance was as good as confirmed earlier this month when the band posted a tweet to their fans, saying “it feels good to see you, churning up these emotions together”.
Shortly before the band were due on stage, Texas frontwoman Sharleen Spiteri gave further credence to the speculation when she said: “I was chatting earlier to a particular frontman drummer – I wonder who that could be …” – prompting cheers from the tens of thousands in front of the Pyramid stage.
Their performance will come just over a year after Taylor Hawkins, the band’s drummer, was found dead in his hotel room during a tour in South America last March.
The band, who headlined Glastonbury in 2017, are due to begin a world tour in Canada next month.
The world’s biggest greenfield festival has always hosted secret sets, but this one on a Friday evening on the Pyramid stage is by far one of the most high-profile.
Emily Eavis, whose father Michael founded the festival half a century ago, said earlier on Friday that the ChurnUps were a band who could easily headline the festival.
West Holts, 4pm
Decked out in a preposterous pair of leaf-covered parachute pants and backed by a big band clad in skeleton costumes, Louis Cole cements his reputation as the king of what Pitchfork calls New Weird Jazz. This is jazz delivered with a semi-ironic wink, full of strange postmodern inside jokes and a loose, lo-fi vibe. There’s something raw and underperformed about his band’s performance here, their extended funk freakouts just about staying on the right side of sloppy. Everything feels done on the fly. At one point Cole suddenly decides to skip a track because it’s too “soft” for a festival. It turns out to be a smart choice because Cole and his band are at their best when they’re blasting through tracks like his breakout song Bank Account with high energy. He’s backed by an extremely game trio of vocalists, bouncing and dipping and writhing around the stage, barely staying still all set. Cole is scarcely any more sedate, hopping between keys and kit several times during each song. It’s an exuberant Friday afternoon palate cleanser, setting things nicely before the sun goes down and the festival turns feral.
Other Stage, 3.45pm
OK, I know we are five hours from the headliners but, as far as I’m concerned, the festival has been topped and concluded by Carly Rae Jepsen already. There is a specific joy to a pop star who exists for a niche audience who in turn treat them like a world-beating star, singing along word-perfect, revelling in every move. The faithful have assembled at the Other Stage today. Anyone who wrote off CRJ as a one-hit wonder based on her 2012 smash Call Me Maybe has lost out on a world of joy.
This has been one of Glastonbury’s first – of many – singalong moments to nostalgia-tinged pop with one foot in the 80s. One of the purest pleasures of Jepsen is that she seems to enjoy her music as much as her fans do, giddily bounding around the stage. She reflects their devotion to her catalogue by confidently playing one of her greatest songs, Run Away With Me, as her third number, because she knows there are manifold joys still to come. The song starts with a wistful, expressive saxophone solo, and she faces off with the sax player before the crowd yell along to a chorus that expresses the purest essence of Jeppo: “Take me! To the! Feeling!”
Jepsen’s music is all about that: cutting the small talk and just getting straight to the potent part, with almost serial-killer precision; it’s restraining-order pop. “Who gave you eyes like that, said you could keep them,” she sings on I Really Like You, like a Top 40 Ed Gein. “I didn’t just come here to dance if you know what I mean,” she sings on I Didn’t Just Come Here to Dance, and you slightly worry about exactly what she means. “I’m never getting over it,” on The Loneliest Time. She is fiercely intense, a quality that is reflected in her endearingly rabid performance. There is not one emotion that she doesn’t act out in her brilliantly literal dance moves, nor a moment when she isn’t jumping around as hard as her audience.
Some people have written Jepsen off as a flop because she has not ascended to the world-dominating heights of Call Me Maybe again, but it seems to me that she enjoys a transcendent pop sweet spot, unpressed by commercial pressures and well aware of how to serve the people who love her. And she knows it: the only other pop star in recent memory I can recall enjoying themselves this much is Rosalía, and in an era of trauma-pop, it’s easy to forget what a simple pleasure that is.
There are a few lulls but they are excusable moments in which Jepsen can get her breath back after the moments of euphoria. The universe seemingly agrees: after a welcomely shady afternoon – blessed, à la the Jepsen song, by a Western Wind – the sun comes out for closer Cut to the Feeling, yet another imperative to cut the crap and just enjoy things for what they are.
At the Cabaret tent earlier this morning, in conversation with the Guardian’s Alexis Petridis, Texas frontwoman Sharleen Spiteri spoke self-effacingly of her band’s remarkable 35-year run and range of hits: “Texas, who are those old bastards? Oh – they did that song?”
It’s true that in 2023, some of the breadth of Texas’ back catalogue may have receded from view, but the hits are instantly recognisable, still potent and impressively varied: Inner Smile, Black Eyed Boy, Halo, I Don’t Want a Lover (the first song Spiteri ever wrote, she said this morning), and Say What You Want, to name the first to come to mind.
As such it’s a packed field when Texas take to the Pyramid stage just after 4pm on Friday, in an inspired choice of programming for the (sizeable!) over-thirties demographic of the audience, at least. Of course the hits play best with the crowd, but what’s most striking about Texas’s set is her inspirational, Jagger-esque energy as a frontwoman – contrasted with her humble gratitude. It’s clear that Spiteri doesn’t take the audience for granted.
“I would just like to say thank you so, so much,” she says. “I know there’s loads of bands on. It’s been 35 years since we started.” (“Oh my god,” says a woman behind me.)
She rewards us with “another chance to dance”, launching into Mr Haze, which samples Donna Summers’ Love Unkind, making it seem more familiar than suggested by the 2021 release date. True to Spiteri’s prediction, a different woman passing behind me says: “I know this song!”
The labels of “adult contemporary “ or “easy listening rock” that might be applied to Texas belie the songwriting and musical nous that is necessary for them to last through decades: the illustrative outro to Black Eyed Boy, received gladly by the crowd, demonstrates Spiteri’s powerful voice.
This is followed up swiftly by Inner Smile – when even Spiteri seems taken aback by the audience’s enthusiasm (“bloody hell!”) – and Say What You Want. The sun comes out for the end of the latter, concluding a rich and rewarding set.
“I just want to say one thing,” says the famously outspoken Spiteri before her final song. “Emily Eavis is a massive supporter of female musicians, not because she’s ticking a fucking box … She’s putting us on this stage because she thinks we’re fucking amazing.”
It’s testament to Spiteri and Texas’s mild manner and priorities that they choose to conclude their time on Glastonbury’s most prized stage with a cover – indeed, a singalong. “If you don’t know this, fucking go home!” says Spiteri before launching into Suspicious Minds, a song everyone is always happy to hear. It’s a fitting conclusion for a band clearly happy to be here.
Joe, far right, tells us about this group’s outfits: “We’re in a syndicate of about thirty of us who always try for tickets, and then pick an outfit theme. Last year was Kit Kat Klub Kouture; this year is Denim Divas. Tomorrow we’re doing Barbie and Ken. We love the Guardian liveblog; keep up your good work!”
Walking out to a fully packed tent at your very first Glastonbury does take some serious nerves, and at first, British R&B sensations Flo do appear to be bricking it. The opening lines of Not My Job are pretty shaky, but when they find their footing and those harmonies pop out, the results are properly impressive, making it clear why they have earned their Destiny’s Grandchildren tag.
As the set goes on, flickers of their personality begin to show, gaining confidence with every sneaky reassuring look at one another or tumbled chat with the crowd. “We didn’t think it would be this big!” marvels Stella, while Reneè adds some nervous state-the-obvious pivotals: “We’re a girl group, we sing”. It falls to Jorja – the group’s most assertive performer – to let us know that they will be singing songs from their debut EP, The Lead.
In a festival set, the samey nature of Flo’s “don’t need no man” approach to songwriting feels a little exposed, but there still are several home runs. Another Guy, is a gorgeous 90s low-key garage ballad in the vein of their idol Brandy, while Losing You – a solid addition to the girlgroup heartbreak ballad ouvre – is elevated by how much they’re clearly enjoying playing vocal gymnastics, prompting several women in the front rows to snap their fingers and holler “Saaaaaang!” in approval of their skyscraper notes. It opens them up for a Y2K-tastic cover of Jamelia’s Superstar, before the big finish of Fly Girl and Cardboard Box.
The logistics are all on point, and the vocals are truly sensational, but Flo’s finishing flourish will be when they find a touch more looseness, a deeper sense of spontaneous joy in their own obvious talents. With the crowd clearly on side though, they’ll likely find their, ahem, flow, soon enough.
An absolutely massive crowd turned up at the Woodsies stage earlier – FKA John Peel – to see Nottingham rapper Bru-C, a ludicrously energetic MC whose ferocious take on basslines is, surely, jolting awake anyone still trying to sleep off last night’s hangover. I’ve felt profoundly listless all morning, but Bru-C’s aggressive, hyper-melodic rap certainly shakes me out of it – even if the 2010s brostep vibes of his production do occasionally get a little too intense to bear.
Judging by the crowd, I seem to be alone on that front: everyone around me is absolutely losing it. I feel like I’m watching the keynote address at the Glastonbury lad convention – I’m surrounded by lads of all creeds and colours, shapes and sizes. I might be the only man here who’s wearing a shirt; a shirtless child in a bucket hat next to me has been breakdancing for the entirety of the set.
After whipping the crowd into an absolutely insane frenzy with TMO (Turn Me On) – a Luude collab which, despite being released less than two weeks ago, the entire crowd knows – Bru-C takes a second to get real. “I’ve been battling with mental illness for a while,” he says. “I think it’s important to speak about it here when everyone’s having a good time, because it’s real.” The introspective moment doesn’t last long: soon enough, he’s leading the crowd in a sing-a-long of his hit Sunrise. The duality of lad! Closing with his hit You & I, Bru-C matches the sheer euphoria of his crowd, clearly ecstatic about even being here.
The ChurnUps’ Twitter account – which has been sharing terrible puns for days now – has just posted this classic festival query … but the sign-off is what’s interesting here:
DG? Now who could that be? David Guetta? David Gilmour? Or … Dave Grohl? Guess that’s as good as confirmed the Foos.
There are more kids than ever at this year’s Glastonbury, apparently, due to a post-Covid influx of rocker/raver babies – and you can certainly see a lot of babies strapped to parents’ torsos, toddlers asleep in wagons, and older kids atop mum’s shoulders so they can see the performances at the bigger stages. Our reporters meet some of the kids at Worthy Farm, and the parents brave enough to bring ’em:
West Holts, 2.30pm
Have you ever enjoyed an impromptu Korean lesson in the middle of a Glastonbury set before? No? You’re missing out. Ak Dan Gwang Chil, AKA ADG7, brought their amazingly danceable take on Korean traditional music to the West Holts stage earlier in front of a small but extremely enthusiastic crowd. We had two people playing two different types of zither. We had a flautist in sunglasses absolutely killing it. We had double-percussion keeping an irrepressible rhythm the whole time, soloed over by about six different instruments during different songs. We had three singers, one in a stovepipe hat, chiffon shirt and billowing red trousers, and two wearing colourful paper hats. The audience was totally along for this ride, bouncily swaying from one foot to the other, arms aloft.
Everyone plays with jazz-esque fluidity and precision. The vocals – whether soaring, chanting, or busting out whip-fast lyrics – are perfectly on beat, but annoyingly we can’t actually hear them for the first song and a half, as the mics refused to work. Nonetheless, we could still admire the enviably restrained choreography and brain-blitzingly relentless rhythm. “This next song is about a magic spell that will make all of you happy!”, we’re told when the mics finally start working again, and I’m reminded why it’s always worth going to see a band you’ve never heard of at a festival like this.