Glastonbury went ahead fan-free this year as an online festival
As any regular attendee knows, part of the Glastonbury experience is spending long, frustrating hours sat at your computer, refreshing the screen in the hope of getting through. But this year, that stress wasn’t for the tickets, it was for the festival itself.
We get everything from shopping to sports betting online or via a mobile app these days. Now, even Glastonbury has become an online experience thanks to the imagination and entrepreneurial spirit of Emily Eavis. Her five-hour film, Live at Worthy Farm was aimed at recreating the Glasto experience for fans who were holding the festival in their back yard, and on the whole, it did just that.
The ‘live’ part of the title was perhaps not strictly true, as the performances were filmed over a week and stitched seamlessly together for the broadcast. However, each band did play live for their individual set. Coldplay recreated a true Glastonbury image as they belted out their hits in the pouring rain, while Haim were whipped by a fierce wind as they attempted to deliver their sunny Stateside melodies.
Unfortunately for fans, who had paid £20 ($28) for exclusive access to the broadcast, the streaming was not as slick as the production. For almost two hours fans with entry codes were unable to access the festival, and when they finally did get in, they had already missed the first three acts – Wolf Alice, Mercury winner Kiawnuka and George Ezra. Fortunately, the rest of the night more than made up for the initial problems.
Recreating the Glastonbury vibe
One of the joys of festivals like Glastonbury is discovering the odd bands and performers away from the main stage in the nooks and crannies, and Live at Worthy Farm delivered this with style. We happen across Idles in a barn, apparently gate crashing their rehearsal as they play in a circle while workers build stuff in the background. We find Hiam in the famous stone circle as the sun sets and we end the evening in a dark corner as Honey Dijon pumps out a late-night dance set from a converted bus.
All of this is interlinked by the kind of Glastonbury weirdness we know and love, with PJ Harvey stomping around reciting her own poetry and Jarvis Cocker unloading his rambling views to no one in particular. Just add an overpriced vegan burger and a queue outside your toilet and you’re as good as there.
Naturally, there were headline acts too. Coldplay has become as much a part of Glasto as the mud, and they did not disappoint. Gamely playing on through the rain, they belted out the kind of hit-filled set that would usually have the flags flying high and get the crowd even higher. “This is very weird but very fun,” exclaimed Chris Martin as the horizontal rain battered the band.
Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, from Radiohead, gave us a taster of their new band, Smile, while Damon Albarn took the audience-free opportunity to do a less crowd-pleasing set of new and lesser-known material.
A critical success
Despite the problems with the feed, Live at Worthy Farm was a big hit with fans and critics alike. The NME said the festival film ‘leaves us exhausted, elated, disorientated, moved, grinning ear to ear and ready to do it all again tomorrow.’ The Guardian was particularly impressed with the production values, saying that it was beautifully shot and ‘the filmed performances, from Coldplay’s twinkling spectacular to Kano’s dynamic theatre, were superb.’ Meanwhile, the BBC described the experience as ‘a bittersweet love letter to the magic of music festivals.’
As for Emily Eavis, all she could say was ‘sorry’, telling fans that she was ‘gutted’ by the problems. But really, she had nothing to be sorry for. Live at Worthy Farm was a spectacular stand-in for Glastonbury, recreating much more of the feel of the festival than many thought possible. Roll on the real thing in 2022.