Once a year, in the mystical depths of Somerset, a city rises from the dewy fields. For five hazy days, a sprawling settlement with a population larger than that of York or Portsmouth eats, drinks and lives music. Glastonbury Festival has, over the past fifteen years or so, taken on a life beyond even that of its hedonistic pre-millennial era. Now, the festival is a cultural landmark. It is a point in the year around which many lives are scheduled, and has to some extent been fetishized by the media, who treat it as the most important icon on the musical landscape.
So, with all that in mind, it’s perhaps understandable that such attention is paid to the acts who are chosen to headline each festival. This year, the decisions of the Eavis family are attracting the sort of debate unseen since Jay-Z’s booking in 2008 almost bankrupted the festival.
After the all-conquering Arcade Fire and indie rockers Kasabian have topped the bill on Friday and Saturday, the crowd will be treated to a festival-closing set by metal legends Metallica. To say that the reception to the Metallica announcement was cool would be an understatement – this week a survey suggested a massive 80% of punters would have returned their ticket if they could have after finding out about the set. Thankfully for Glastonbury, the festival’s tickets feature each individual’s face so as to discourage touting.
But we shouldn’t take this survey at face-value, if you’ll excuse the pun. For a start, it was undertaken by ticket exchange website ViaGoGo – a place that benefits immensely from precisely the sort of touting Glastonbury’s tickets discourage. Whether the survey results are tinted by bias or not, the message they are sending is clear: they want Glastonbury to allow people to sell on their tickets when an act they don’t like is headlining (and presumably they want those people to sell it on through their website).
Regardless of Viagogo’s message, the idea of selling your Glastonbury ticket because one act doesn’t fit your tastes doesn’t make much sense. The beauty of Glastonbury, above that of any other festival, is its sprawling scope. If the act on one stage doesn’t suit your taste there are literally dozens of other stages to choose from. Beyond the music, there are hectares and hectares of other entertainments. Whether you choose the shambolic crafts of the Greenfields, the fiery schlock of Arcadia or the hidden charms of the legendary Underground Piano Bar, Glastonbury is more than just a Sunday night headliner. It is, as its population suggests, a tented city of eclectic wonders.
Our advice is never to miss out on the controversial choices. Jay-Z, whose headline set in 2008 was maligned before the festival had even began for putting a rapper on top of the bill, is widely regarded as one of Glastonbury’s most iconic moments. Headliners are chosen for a reason, and Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis often opts for the act he knows an audience will enjoy over the one he knows they want. In recent years, Sunday night has seen many of the festival’s most famous sets, with The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Blur and The Who all providing defining moments. Metallica, a incredible act that is unlike anything Sunday night has seen before, are likely to add themselves to this prestigious list. If you ask us, the fuss has been placed upon the wrong headliner – Metallica are a bold choice we won’t be missing. Kasabian? They sound a little less brave a headline choice to us!