Glastonbury secret sets – the best hidden shows in recent years

All the rumours that turned into spectactular sets down on the Somerset farm

Secret sets at festivals – the best things ever if you’re there and the worst, most FOMO-inducing ones if you miss out. This year will be no doubt, and rumours around the gaps on the 2019 lineup are starting to grow.

It’s time to get excited about the possibility of seeing your favourite big names in tiny tents and stages, as we look back on some of the best Glastonbury secret sets in recent memory.

Franz Ferdinand (2008)

“Surprise!” announced frontman Alex Kapranos as he walked out onto The Park stage to a large huddle of people who’d heard some whisperings around Worthy Farm in 2008. What followed was a masterclass in festival anthem-delivering, played out on a much smaller stage than one Franz tended to conquer at that point in their career.

The Last Shadow Puppets (2008)

Alex Turner and Miles Kane treated fans to a special acoustic set in 2008, but one surprise wasn’t enough. Arctic Monkeys‘ Matt Helders joined the pair on drums for ‘The Age Of The Understatement’, and then out of nowhere, Jack White casually strolled on stage and helped out with the guitar part on a cover of Billy Fury’s ‘Wondrous Place’.

Lady Gaga (2009)

It’s not just The Park stage that’s played host to secret sets on Worthy Farm. In 2009, Gaga showed up at Shangri-La venue Club Dada to surprise close to 400 lucky revellers, hours after making her Glastonbury debut on the Other Stage.

Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood (2010)

“Welcome to the biggest surprise of the weekend,” Michael Eavis told a rammed Park field as he introduced Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood on stage in 2010. “There’s two superstars… I’ll not name them but they’re right here.” Radiohead would play another secret set the following year, but this year they’re doing things by the book and headlining the whole thing.

Pulp (2011)

This one’s possibly the worst-kept secret in festival history, to the point where the Park field – not just the area by the stage – was so full before a recently-reformed Pulp came on stage that some fans had to be turned away to keep things safe. “You didn’t think we’d disappoint you, did you?” Jarvis Cocker asked lucky punters, before running through hits like ‘Do You Remember The First Time?’ and ‘Sorted For E’s And Wizz’.

Mumford & Sons (2011)

A day after conquering the Other Stage, Mumfords headed up to the Strummerville area to play a short acoustic set for anyone who made their way to the campfire. A rousing rendition of ‘The Cave’ topped it all off.

Skrillex (2014)

Over in Arcadia, Glasto’s flame-breathing spider didn’t want to be left out of the action in 2014. Who better than the EDM king himself to get on board the giant arachnid for a surprise set? The response upped Skrillex’s hero status, as festival-goers raced through acres of mud to dance under the fiery, metallic beast.

The Libertines (2015)

Dave Grohl breaking his leg weeks before Glastonbury not only pushed Florence + The Machine up to headliner status in 2015, but also left a vacant slot free for The Libertines to literally helicopter into Somerset and treat fans to a preview of their third album ‘Anthems For Doomed Youth’. Playing as the sun was setting, it was heartwarming to see the band back on top form, delivering favourites both old and new.

Bastille (2015)

Given their arena-headlining, chart-topping status, it’s no surprise that hundreds were shut out of William’s Green in 2015 when Bastille dropped by last minute. For those safely under the canvas, the band gave them a sneak peek at some material that would go on to appear on second album ‘Wild World’, including ‘Snakes’ and ‘Blame’.

Rat Boy (2016)

Jordan Cardy also shut down William’s Green last year, using his boisterous punk-rap to create total carnage on the festival’s Thursday night. From stagediving, crowdsurfing and some intense moshing, Rat Boy and his band got Glastonbury 2016 off to a proper bang.

The Killers (2017)

Walking onto the stage to the sound of ‘Teenage Kicks’ by The Undertones, frontman Brandon Flowers greeted his mass of fans rather humbly: “They say you play the John Peel Stage twice in your career, once on the way up and once on the way down. It’s good to be back,” referencing their initial 2004 performance. This 2017 set turned out to be a smattering of Greatest Hits from the Las Vegas boys, no doubt helping them land them a headline slot this year, and is certainly one of Glasto’s most electrifying secret sets ever

Who could play secret sets in 2019?

Foals are in the UK over that weekend, and the gaping hole on the John Peel on Saturday night could be a great shout. Meanwhile, The Black Keys hinted that a secret set cannot be ruled out just yet for them and The Raconteurs, with a new album in tow, might well make the trek down. Get the full rumour list here.