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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the Glastonbury festival line-up

Caroline Polachek performs at the Coachella Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on Saturday, April 16, 2022
Caroline Polachek performs at the Coachella Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on Saturday, April 16, 2022 Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Jonny Walfisz
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Queens of the Stone Age, Skepta and Caroline Polachek are some of the many names added to Britain's biggest music festival.

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Glastonbury’s full line-up has been announced ahead of the festival this June. After initial criticisms for booking exclusively male headliners, late additions have attempted to change the narrative. Is it too little, too late? 

Here’s our good, bad and ugly of Britain’s biggest music festival line-up.

In its second year since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the festival, Glastonbury is back and will run 21-25 June at Worthy Farm in the south-west of England. In March, festival co-organiser Emily Eavis announced headliners Elton John, Arctic Monkeys and Guns N’ Roses.

Initial reaction was pretty muted. Elton John is obviously a massive get for the festival and he claims this will be his last concert in Britain ever. But looking across at the other night’s main acts, it was hardly titillating. Anyone who hasn’t seen the Arctic Monkeys in Britain by this point has been actively avoiding them at the festival scene. ‘The Car’, their 2022 album with a ear-numbingly dull take on lounge-rock is hardly going to renew much interest. Guns N’ Roses may not have played the festival circuit as recently but that doesn’t exactly save them from being your dad’s fourth favourite band.

Sven Hoppe/(c) Copyright 2023, dpa (www.dpa.de). Alle Rechte vorbehalten
Elton John performs at the Olympiahalle during a concert as part of his "Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour 2023",Sven Hoppe/(c) Copyright 2023, dpa (www.dpa.de). Alle Rechte vorbehalten

So far, so male pale and stale. 

Eavis did claim that Lizzo’s placement on the line-up was also a headline slot shared with Guns N’ Roses. Be honest though Eavis, who is going to play the final and bigger set of the night? If it sounds like a support act, looks like a support act, and… tastes like a support act, then Lizzo is the support act.

Lana Del Rey was also announced in that initial line-up reveal. Del Rey is of course a brilliant female act who is headlining the Other Stage, Glastonbury’s second biggest stage. She couldn’t help notice she’d been listed – unlike Lizzo – in the alphabetical main section of the poster. “Thanks for announcing that I was headlining the other stage. Thumbs up,” she posted on Instagram. Snarky.

Eavis claimed at the time there was a pipeline problem with bringing more female artists to the top billing. I’ve written before about how that’s a load of rubbish. Now, let’s look at the big names and see what’s what with the rest of the line-up.

The Good

All the way down at the Woodsies Stage you can check out some of the most interesting pop acts of the festival. 

Hot Chip are headlining the first night, followed by a double billing of French art-pop act Christine and the Queens and Japanese-British singer Rina Sawayama on the Saturday. On the Sunday, eccentric pop-rockers Phoenix are supported by the newly announced Caroline Polachek.

Combining off-kilter weirdness with massive pop hooks, Polachek is exactly the kind of artist that Glastonbury needs more of. After two critically acclaimed albums in a row, Polachek is one to watch for the future.

Scott Garfitt/Copyright 2021 The AP. All rights reserved.
Skepta performs at the Wireless Music Festival, Crystal Palace Park, London, England, Saturday, Sep. 11, 2021.Scott Garfitt/Copyright 2021 The AP. All rights reserved.

The latest announcement also brings grime legend Skepta and Digga D. 

Skepta won the Mercury Prize in 2016 for his brilliant album ‘Konnichiwa’, and Digga D is a 22-year-old of the UK’s drill scene.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor has also been announced. Anyone who claims they’re too cool to want to bop along to ‘Murder on the Dancefloor’ ain’t no friend of mine. Definitely the place to be on Sunday morning.

The big mystery of the full line-up announcement though is The Churnups. With the third biggest slot on the Friday night, The Churnups have zero internet presence and Glastonbury is staying tight-lipped on details. Expect a surprise big-name act to turn up. Rumour has it, it will be Brit-pop icons Pulp.

The Bad

Full disclosure, I was meant to be going to Glastonbury but lost my ticket due to admin failures. For this section, I’m going full hater and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.

Among the newly announced was also everyone’s dad’s fifth favourite band, Queens of the Stone Age. Just like Guns N’ Roses, QOTSA are a decent act with some genuinely cracking songs. But with them headlining the Other Stage the night Elton is on, it’s a desperate attempt from Glastonbury to keep the crowd of people shouting “rock isn’t dead” at their mates in smelly bars with sticky carpets. It is dead. Grieve. Move on.

Robb Cohen/Robb Cohen/Invision/AP
Joshua Homme of Queens of the Stone AgeRobb Cohen/Robb Cohen/Invision/AP

Fat Boy Slim has been announced again. The DJ is such a regular at the festival it’s basically his summer residency. In other words, I’m bored of him. Same goes for the Chemical Brothers. We’ve all perfectly timed coming up on Molly to the chorus in ‘Galvanise’ enough that it’s starting to lose its allure.

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Bringing on singular Spice Girl Melanie C does nothing for me. It’s a group and that’s where their power lies. There’s a reason watching Liam Gallagher cycle through the hits of Oasis on his own falls flat. You need the energy of everyone involved to pique interest. 

Finally, novelty choice Rick Astley, whose only song you know is from an overplayed meme, seems like almost a cruel choice. What’s the real point in giving him a 45-minute set when everyone will just leave after ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’. At least he’s getting paid, I guess.

The Ugly

You thought I was being a hater in ‘The Bad’ column? Supporting the Arctic Monkeys’ Friday headline slot is duo Royal Blood.

If you aren’t as glued to the internet as I am, you might have missed Royal Blood walking off stage at Radio 1’s Big Weekend on Sunday. Sandwiched between pop acts Niall Horan and Lewis Capaldi, the band took umbrage at the crowd’s lack of interest in “rock music”.

“I guess I should introduce ourselves seeing as no-one actually knows who we are. We’re called Royal Blood and this is rock music. Who likes rock music? Nine people, brilliant,” singer and bassist Mike Kerr grunted at the audience.

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After a round of demanding the crowd applauded more, Kerr exited the stage with his middle fingers up to the festival. Making the whole situation weirder though is that from the sound of the clip, the audience is made up of baying fans. There’s applause and screams for the duo the whole way through.

More important than the dissonance between the audience approval and Kerr’s miniscule ego is the fact that Royal Blood are just not hard enough to get away with these kinds of antics. As previously stated, rock is dead. Pretending you get some auto-respect for making limp affectations of your dad’s sixth favourite band’s albums doesn’t give you the right to storm off stage like they might have. Just as the 1975’s Matty Healy comes across as unrepentantly lame for his shallow Mick Jagger impression, Royal Blood just don’t have the songs to back up such a toddler-esque meltdown.

Glastonbury Festival takes place from 21 to 25 June at Worthy Farm, UK.

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