“It’s an amazing thing – THE POWER OF THE GLASTONBURY!” Dave Grohl proclaimed to NME a fortnight ago, waving his arms in mock Gandalf grandeur. “It’s only just starting to sink in for us. I don’t really know if we have that same kind of iconic old-school festival back home,” he explains, before grinning his way through platitudes for what Michael Eavis has spent 60 years creating in Somerset: “an institution… that badass fucking farm party… a place that’s basically music festival Valhalla.” He may have only dropped by Worthy Farm once before in his career, performing with the Foo Fighters low on the bill in 1998, but he’s wise to its importance, and bouncing off the walls with anticipation for his shot at its famous headline slot. “I’m so excited to show up, walk on the side of the stage, look at the audience and just think – oh this is gonna be gooooood. We’re gonna fucking give it to them tonight.”
But it wasn’t to be. Two weeks, one stumble onstage in Gothenburg and six metal screws in his leg later, Glastonbury found itself searching for a new headliner last night, after the Foos cancelled all upcoming UK tour dates – including two massive nights at Wembley, and a show in Edinburgh. “It kills me to say it you guys,” he wrote in a letter to fans on their website. “My doctors have advised me to lay low for a while. The most important thing now is for me to recover from the surgery, to keep my leg elevated so as to keep swelling down and prevent any infection/complication that could do long term damage. I’m not out of the woods yet, folks… I’m really so sorry, guys.”
However great the pain of snapping his right fibula like a twig in that fall in Sweden, it will have been the moment he resigned himself to not appearing at Worthy Farm that really hurt. This was “maybe the biggest week in the group’s career,” he told me – two nights at Wembley in front of 160,000 people marking two decades since the Foos’ first ever show to 200 odd people in a sweaty Arcata punk bar – then Glastonbury. The Foos have done Wembley before, though. It was Glastonbury that was the milestone – one of the last festivals he’d not topped the bill at.
“We’ve played a lot of Readings, we’ve played a lot of V festivals and stuff like that, a bunch of T in the Parks but this one everyone seems to put a lot of emphasis on,” said Grohl. Which is why, from the sounds of it, he was planning to pull out all the stops to make it memorable. He’d made a guest appearance with Paul McCartney at Macca’s London O2 Arena show a few weeks earlier, and hinted at the Beatle returning the favour at Glastonbury. The story’s pretty great, told with trademark Grohl goofy charisma.
“I showed up in town and text everyone like hey we’re in town with nothing to do and the text back was like, ‘get down to the O2 right now! Paul’s going on in 40 minutes! Don’t get in a car it’ll take too long, jump on the fucking Jubilee line like right now!’” he explained. “I just raced down there and had a bunch of drinks watching the show by the side of the stage. Then, before the encore Paul came over and said, ‘what song are you coming up to play?’ I was like UHHHHHHH – I didn’t have a guitar, I’d had like 17 beers. He’s like, ‘OK, you’re doing ‘I Saw Her Standing There’. Then he walks back onstage and I’m like FUCK! I turn to one of his techs, they hand me the guitar and they’re just like ‘GO!’ That’s how that happened. So if Paul happens to be standing round the side of the stage at Glastonbury, this time it’ll be me saying: ‘Paul! ‘All My Life’! It’s in the key of G. Let’s go.’”
There was even discussion about a collaboration with with fellow Glasto headliner Kanye West. “Sure! Why the fuck not?” was his response when I put it to him that Glastonbury has a history of headliners spilling into each other’s sets with cameos. “We’ve done weirder,” laughed drummer Taylor Hawkins. “We let anyone come up onstage with us and sing a song. If Kanye wants to do a Queen song…”
Maybe it’s better to not dwell on the glory that might have been. Two things are for sure, though. First, that it will have seriously gutted Grohl to pull Glastonbury – it isn’t just talk. His excitement for the festival I saw first hand, as did other interviewers who met him as his date with 100,000 fans at Worthy Farm screaming back every word of ‘Everlong’ grew nearer. And secondly, most importantly, he’ll be back. Glastonbury 2016. Dave, we’ll see you there.