From the top of the hill at The Park, Glastonbury’s festival-within-a-festival, a panoramic view of Glastonbury’s trove of temptations stretches from west to east in a sweep of colour: the far-off red and blue of the John Peel stage; the silver Pyramid poking up in the middle distance, and a sea of tents everywhere.
It all looks great from up here, but really, there’s no reason to leave The Park at all – you could spend the entire weekend at this self-contained corner of the site. Created by Emily Eavis in 2007, it contains all the diversity and colour you could want from a day at a festival; it just happens to exist inside Glastonbury. Among other things, you can enter the Alice In Wonderland-themed Rabbit Hole, send postcards from a dedicated booth, climb the ribbon tower, buy a new hat in Oxfam, see DJs like Jarvis Cocker at the Stonebridge Bar and experience altitude sickness at hilltop bar The Crow’s Nest. The Bimble Inn and The Rabbit Hole offer musicians a chance to shine – including the brilliantly funny Mik Artistik today, June 24 – but it’s the main stage that remains the biggest draw most of the time.
If the sun’s out, crowds stretch all the way up the hill – but today starts off rainy. Londoner Nao‘s self-described ‘wonky funk’ brings the sun back out at 2pm; paired with Declan McKenna‘s prodigious indie and Daughter‘s laconic folk, a Brexiteer might term this lineup the Best of British, but the small groups on the hill collectively mourning the EU Referendum result between sets would probably protest. “We are all migrants!” yells one girl, unprompted and unchallenged by those around her. But the gloom of today’s news doesn’t dampen spirits any more than the rain does: Now in its tenth year, The Park delivers with an eclectic and satisfying lineup that really shines at times.
Declan McKenna’s midday set is an early highlight. The Hertfordshire teen won last year’s Emerging Talent Competition at the festival – the prize included a slot at William’s Green – and here he returns triumphant, having since earned himself a record deal with Foals’ label, Columbia. As the drizzle sets in, the largely seated crowd gets up and by the end of the set they’re dancing along. Taking off his green Adidas trackie top he comments, “It’s getting hot, I’m enjoying myself,” before dedicating ‘Paracetamol’ to the victims of the tragedy in Orlando two weekends ago. “There’s too much homophobic and transphobic bullshit going on, we need to start spreading some love,” he announces, to a collective roar of approval. He ends with an unexpected cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’ – the guy’s full of surprises.
The next moment of glory comes from Nao at 2pm. The 28-year-old collaborator of Disclosure and Mura Masa, who toured with Swedish electro group Little Dragon last year, has been steadily building her profile over the past two years with a collection of offbeat, funky jams. She arrives barefoot in a billowing outfit, and her high-register vocal runs prove irresistible to the crowd, who stick it out through thick and thin rain. The singer and producer coined the phrase ‘wonky funk’ to describe her off-kilter mix of genres – it has her holding her arms outstretched, grooving out and twirling to her band’s Prince-level funk. By the end, for ‘Zillionaire’, she’s even whipping her hair back and forth – much like the throng that she gathers.
This crowd multiplies from the moment she steps on the stage, the majority of them getting up from their seats on the ground to dance immediately. The Park is significant for Nao, who reminds her audience that she was a backing singer on the stage eight years ago. “I was all the way in that corner,” she explains, “so it’s really nice to be here.” ‘Nice’ doesn’t really do the set justice though: when the sun comes out during penultimate track ‘Fool To Love’, the crowd goes wild and she gets a huge mass of people waving along. It’s a triumph.
There’s a similar sun-out moment during Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s set. The Kiwi/American purveyors of psychedelic funk do plenty of noodling to begin their set, with frontman Ruban Nielson sitting down to present virtuosic, lengthened arrangements of their songs that fail to connect properly with the crowd until the sun begins shining again on one of the best tracks of 2015, ‘Can’t Keep Checking My Phone’. Here the crowd whoop: they’re in.
Next up it’s Ezra Furman
’s turn to shine, delivering a set of upbeat gospel, pop and indie that parents properly boogie to with their kids. His scratchy vocals and yowls are accompanied by saxophone squalls and, to finish, a veil of confetti. Daughter bring a more sombre vibe to the grounds before former Ronette, Ronnie Spector, brings a nostalgia trip to The Park as the sun comes out for the last time today.
It’s at this point that the pillars jutting up on either side of the stage start spewing fire towards the sky, and post-punks Savages come onstage. Those that remain get to enjoy frontwoman Jehnny Beth’s unparalleled charisma as she prowls about dramatically – especially when she’s yelping the lyrics from 2012 track ‘Husbands’. Some of the crowd split off at this point to catch Formation up at The Rabbit Hole, where the synthy brothers from South London bemoan the Brexit result (“forget about the shit that’s going on outside Glastonbury”, they say as they come on) and dance their worries away to cowbells and crazy samples.
Closing the zone down for the day is the Steel City’s Mr Richard Hawley – a vision of a future Alex Turner, some might say – who arrives onstage a little late due to technical issues, with a glittering masterpiece of a set behind him and ‘Welcome To Sheffield’ signs towards the front. Before he launches into his slow, reflective crooning – which still has the crowd waving their arms and climbing mates’ shoulders – he asks it we’re going to ‘have it’. It’s like those dragons that welcome you to the Park on the gates: they act the part, but they’re soft on the inside really.
Glastonbury-goers react to Brexit news