Tim de Lisle picks 19 acts from the three days. Only one headliner makes the cut
Glastonbury is not so much a music festival, more a global event. It has more stages (58, at the last count) than some festivals have acts, which can make it unmanageable. You could easily pay £205 for the privilege of spending three days with poor sanitation and a mounting sense of FOMO. The bill could do with an editor—so here are the 19 acts I would most recommend, whether you're there in person or watching on a screen.
Half Moon Run (1.30-2.30pm, Park). Gifted young Montrealers who have parked their campervan about halfway from early Radiohead to Fleet Foxes. Their debut album, released on July 1st, is a treat.
Tom Tom Club (7-8pm, West Holts). Not content with being the rhythm section of the late great Talking Heads, and married to each other, Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz are also the founder members of the Tom Tom Club, who made two of the great singles of the early 80s: "Wordy Rappinghood" and "Genius of Love". And they’re still together. At the Jazz Cafe in London a couple of years ago, they were a lot of fun.
Chic featuring Nile Rodgers (10.15-11.45pm, West Holts; live on BBC4). A year ago it looked as if Nile Rodgers might be succumbing to cancer. Instead he has bounced back to number one as the guitarist and co-writer on the song of the year so far, Daft Punk’s "Get Lucky". On Friday night, Glasto-goers are forced to choose between him and the headliners, Arctic Monkeys. I know where I’ll be.
Alt-J (7.30-8.30pm, Other Stage). Today’s young rock stars tend to be bachelors of arts. This quartet are all friends from Leeds university, and another of their mates, Dan Smith from Bastille, is on at the same time (John Peel, 7.40-8.40pm). Smith has the bigger hits and the bigger hair, but Alt-J have the better songs—cerebro-pop numbers that are clever and whimsical but also satisfying.
Rolling Stones (9.30-11.45pm, Pyramid, partly live on BBC2). They are so much the biggest name on the bill, you wonder if that was their price for finally saying yes. Anyway, here they are, playing a full-length set, and even allowing the BBC to show the first hour, after a wrangle. At the O2 last November, they took an hour and a half to warm up, but just about made up for it with an immense final 45 minutes, lit up by "You Can’t Always Get What You Want", their most festival-friendly tune. They’ve been touring America since, so they should be a little less creaky.
The Staves (11.30am-12.10pm, Other Stage; also Sunday, 6.20-7.20pm, Avalon). In the history of pop, not enough bands have been made up of three sisters, but two of them are here at Worthy Farm: Haim, at lunchtime on Friday, and the Staves in a brunch slot on Saturday. And only the Staves have the further distinction of coming from Watford. In an upstairs room at the Academy Oxford in April, they charmed 200 people with their beautiful harmonies. Can they do the same for a few more?
Billy Bragg (12.30-1.30pm, Pyramid; also Friday 9-10pm, Left Field). The Tony Benn of rock has a fine new album, "Tooth & Nail", the mellowest thing he has done. But there’s still plenty of ire in that belly.
Brian Cox (2.15-3pm, University). To make up for all the people going from the lecture halls to the charts, Brian Cox has travelled the other way—from the keyboard player with D:Ream to professor of physics at Manchester university. In the process, with a string of talked-about TV shows, he has shown that physicists can be pop stars too.
Daughter (5-5.50pm, John Peel; 8.25-8.55pm, BBC Introducing). This young London trio, two guys and a girl singer, have a folk-rock sound with a compelling elusiveness. Their cover of "Get Lucky", on YouTube, is a lovely bit of lateral thinking: retro-disco filtered through The xx.
Elvis Costello (5.15-6.30pm, Pyramid). During the post-punk era, Elvis Costello looked like having one of the great short careers—all sound and fury, signifying quite a lot. Instead he has had a long and winding one, touching the heights every so often. He never makes a bad record, or gives a poor performance.
Ruen Brothers (6.45-7.10pm, BBC Introducing). Two years ago, an unknown kid from Nottingham called Jake Bugg played the BBC Introducing stage. Last year he had a number one album, and this year he is on the Pyramid stage. Following in his footsteps are the Ruen Brothers, from Scunthorpe, who do for the Everly Brothers what Bugg did for Buddy Holly: taking a classic Fifties sound and recasting it for fans born in the Nineties. Their debut single, "Walk Like a Man", is addictive.
The Bootleg Beatles (9.50-11.30pm, Acoustic Tent). With more songs to choose from than the Beatles ever performed live, and plenty of wit to wash down their uncanny reproductions, the Bootlegs are as good as tribute bands get. And in a stroke of scheduling genius, they’re on at the same time as the Stones.
Matthew E. White (12.35-1.35pm, West Holts Stage). There’s no more appetising way to shake off a hangover than in the company of this man, a big-band leader from Richmond, Virginia. His first solo album, "Big Inner", reinvents gospel music, keeping the top line stirring and simple, while adding some magnificent subtleties to the undercarriage.
I Am Kloot (2.50-3.40pm, Other Stage). There comes a time, at every festival, when you feel the need to listen to a man from Manchester being eloquently miserable. In the absence of Morrissey, this role will be taken by John Bramwell, the unbeatably lugubrious lead singer of I Am Kloot.
Tom Odell (4.30-5.20pm, John Peel). Back in December, this flaxen-haired cherub from Chichester became the first male to win the Critics’ Choice award from the Brits. Now that he has got round to releasing his first album ("Long Way Down", released last Monday), the critics are divided. Some find his piano pop too close to Coldplay or Keane; others admire the way he weaves those influences in with early Bowie and Elton John. In concert, he wins people over with his sheer passion.
Of Monsters And Men (5.30-6.20pm, Other Stage). As Sunday draws on, Glasto-goers who still have a job face a dilemma: should I stay, or should I catch up with it all tomorrow on the iPlayer? Happily, help is at hand. The Sunday headliners, Mumford and Sons, are fine if you like that sort of thing, but these guys are better and they’re on four hours earlier. Folk, pop, heart and soul, with an Icelandic twist.
Vampire Weekend (6-7pm, Pyramid). It was famously said of Talking Heads that they appealed to the feet, the brain and some of the parts in between. Vampire Weekend maintain that tradition with their infectious Afro-pop grooves and shamelessly educated lyrics.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (7.45-9pm, Pyramid). Being a rock star means being able to stand on a stage with thousands of pairs of eyes trained on you. Nick Cave will do that better than anyone else here, except perhaps Mick Jagger. And he may well sing a song called "Higgs Boson Blues".
Bobby Womack (9.30-11.15pm, West Holts Stage). Most music fans couldn’t name an album of his, yet Bobby Womack is a legend, an old-school soul singer with the chops, the scars and the divorces to prove it. He is expected to play his latest record, the excellent electro-soul album "The Bravest Man in the Universe", with its midwives, Damon Albarn and Richard Russell, before switching to his regular band and set. With this man, though, things seldom go according to plan.
Tim de Lisle is editor of Intelligent Life and rock critic of the Mail on Sunday
Photograph Graham Black
Intelligent Life at Glastonbury:
Tim de Lisle picks 19 of the best acts—and only one of them is a headliner
Hazel Sheffield guides us through the dos and don'ts of Glastonbury
Nicholas Barber recalls all the weather that Glastonbury could throw at him
Georgia Grimond will be watching it on TV, laptop and mobile
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