Nevertheless, this year’s event was well up to standard and remains the Festival that all Festivals should aspire to. Despite the enormous amount of airtime set aside on up to three BBC channels (plus the red button), the ever growing size of the goings-on is beginning to defeat even the wily TV editors and the viewing experience is becoming one of not so much what you do see, but what you don’t.
This year the number of stages and line-ups over the three days was so huge that I was left feeling a bit frustrated by the fact that some of the smaller bands I wanted to see were not covered. Of course, the answer is to attend the thing myself, but as BBC presenter Jo Wiley put it so succinctly, ‘Why brave the mud, when we can do it for you?’ Having said all that, the atmosphere was like a well-used comfort blanket and for a weekend, music did what it should and provided a considerable amount of emotional pleasure.
The 2011 extravaganza was thus for me, one of undoubted enjoyment but tinged with a sense of loss. I have no real attachment to any of the three headliners, U2 (it rained heavily on them on the Friday evening - so there is a God), Coldplay (OK, but they didn't play 'Speed of Sound' - my only real must-have Coldplay track) and Beyoncé (more of her later) so this year I became more attuned to some of those lesser names further down the playing order. Many were very good indeed and some will feature in my top three acts which will be revealed, as has now become a MO tradition, in my next post, but there were names that never saw a TV camera.
Of those that were given airtime my particular favourites included the astounding vocals of Hurts, the neo-prog of Everything Everything, the wild Aussie rock (circa 1969) of sister-band Stonefield, the quite outstandingly good harmonies of The Pierces (I’m sure John Phillips was smiling down at their Mamas and Papas meets the Jefferson Airplane song, ‘Glorious’) and Jessie J complete with broken foot.
Sadly, top of my list of non-shows was the Swedish female quintet, Those Dancing Days, which was first introduced to me by fellow blogger, Zee, and whose last few singles I have enjoyed enormously. Their raw energy and slightly ragged playing style puts me in mind of bands like The Slits and the Raincoats, but they have a classic Swedish ambience all of their own. Apparently, their set on the Park stage on the Saturday was beset by technical problems so perhaps it was best they remained anonymous this once. However, in order to balance out the fact that they got no airtime, here is their latest poptastic single, ‘Can’t Find Entrance’.