A few minutes before show time at Worthy Farm later this year, Dave Grohl will do as he always does: stretch to a couple of Michael Jackson tunes in his dressing room, rally his band mates together for their ritualistic pre-gig shot of Jäger, then, guitar in hand, head towards the delirium of 100,000 roaring fans awaiting him onstage. For most bands, headlining Glastonbury is an overwhelming experience that renders even the gobbiest of arena-filling megastars speechless: “it was unlike anything I’d ever seen in my whole life, the size of that crowd… just fucking blow-your-brains-out mental,” Kasabian’s Tom Meighan grinned to NME after tumbling off the Pyramid Stage in 2014. Foo Fighters though, who play two nights at the 86,000-capacity Wembley Stadium the week before Worthy Farm, are used to massive crowds that stretch and stretch till they fade into the horizon. It’s a daily part of life in one of the biggest bands on the planet. They’re one of the few Glastonbury headliners, the Rolling Stones among them, so big you could imagine approaching the occasion as just another show: another day at the office.
The reality is, Glastonbury means something to Grohl, and what follows when he finally emerges onstage at Pilton will likely be a thunderous, history-making spectacle. Now 20 years into illustrious career, Foo Fighters are a band with few milestones left to run. Michael Eavis’ festival is the most glaring omission on a CV that’s seen them top the bill at basically ever other international festival worth its salt. “It’s just so iconic,” the frontman told NME in October, when rumours first started doing the rounds that this might finally be their year. “If they need a band, we’re pretty good. They should give us a call.” Since their one previous Worthy Farm appearance in 1998, sandwiched between James and the Lightning Seeds, Foo Fighters have barely stopped for breath en route to the summit of modern rock, cranking out eight albums of lean pop-rock thrills and soul-baring sing-alongs made for mammoth occasions like Glastonbury. There’ll be some groans, but after a few years of murmurs that the festival has run out of bonafide blockbuster headliners left to book, following opinion-splitting sets from Kasabian, Metallica, Mumford & Sons, few could dispute Foos have the power and pull to warrant their place at the top of this year’s bill.
As coincidence would have it, the announcement comes almost 20 years to the day of Foo Fighters’ first ever gig – the story of which is a reminder that Foos’ ascent to Glastonbury headliner status was no foregone conclusion when they rose from the ashes of Nirvana in 1995, but a hard-fought victory for Grohl. Not much was known of the band when they made their live debut in front of 200 people at sleepy Californian town Arcata’s Jambalaya Club on February 23 1995. Rather than ride the coat-tails of his previous group’s success, Grohl refused to do interviews and essentially hit reset on his career, deciding to cut his teeth as a frontman in America’s DIY punk scenes rather than huge venues and glitzy ceremonies Nirvana had elevated to following the epochal ‘Nevermind’. That night, Foo Fighters opened for a local covers band, turning up in a beaten-up van and selling their own merchandise – the full story of which you can read in this week’s NME. When Foo Fighters step out at Worthy Farm in June, it’ll be on their own merit.
Their last album, 2014’s ‘Sonic Highways’, might not have been their pinnacle, but c’mon – ‘Everlong’, ‘One By One’, ‘Learn To Fly’, ‘Breakout’, ‘Best Of You’, ‘Big Me’! These are songs inked permanently onto their consciousnesses of hundreds of thousands of people who, over two decades, have watched Foo Fighters stake their claim as a band for big occasions. Occasions don’t come much bigger than Glastonbury, so expect something special. Bring it on.