It is far from hyperbole when Glastonbury is described as “the best place on Earth”. Its beauty is derived through its diversity, optimism and open mindedness – there are few places where humans of all ages, races, can share in the same ideals and experiences, come rain or shine.
Regular attendees of the festival know that each Glastonbury brings with it a completely different experience. This often includes the addition of new stages such as Arcadia’s Pangaea, entertainment in the form of a Victorian style pier, and of course, plenty of exciting performances from both established and up-and-coming artists. A stroll through the site can often lead to unexpectedly fun experiences, which was especially the case this year as we explored areas we would not have otherwise due to a couple of friends (including Mantissa resident Tom Allman) stewarding the Samula stage in the South East corner’s Common area.
Tom: “Spending time at this stage was much more fun than anticipated, and seeing the dancers really going for it gave me the energy to have a little dance myself! The stage production was incredible; from the waterfall at the stage entrance to the lighting and sound quality”.
Our highlight of this year’s Glastonbury was by far and away, Block9’s NYC Downlow. From the outside, the NYC Downlow is made to look like a three storey warehouse from the Meatpacking District in 1982; inside is kept simple with a dark dancefloor, a truly immersive soundsystem, and a DJ booth obstructed from sight by drag queens and smoke in the front right corner of the stage. It is a homage to the golden era of New York’s gay disco scene, and on this occasion played host to several house legends including Eric Morillo and Tony Humphries, the latter of whom I saw play a masterful set of jacking house and disco in the early hours of Sunday morning. Other highlights from the NYC Downlow included Friday’s lineup of Artwork -> Prosumer -> Midland. Artwork eased the crowd in gently with a set full of disco edits, slow paced chuggers, and classic garage house that included Chez Damier’s Can You Feel It (MK New York Dub). Prosumer followed with arguably the best DJ set of the festival, playing plenty of breaks and warped house tracks that included Johnny Dangerous – King of Clubs. The final set of the evening that we caught in the NYC Downlow came from Midland who played from 01:30 to 03:00. From my groggy memory he played plenty of deep and techy house, producing a very loose, anything goes atmosphere as the crowd of 2,000 (often topless and at times shoeless) dancers went wild. The final hours of the Friday night saw us split time between Zenker Brothers and Stenny at IICON, and Honcho at Genosys who played an amazing sunrise ‘afters’ set with plenty of acid and deep grooves.
Glastonbury 2019 also saw the introduction of Block9 West and the 15,000 capacity IICON stage: a 65ft disembodied head that it’s creators described as a ‘call to stop messing around on Instagram’. Little else was given away prior to the festival, and hence was a huge surprise when walking through the south-east corner to catch Batu’s set on Thursday night. At times the immense size of the stage led to what felt like a disconnect between the DJ and the crowd, and at times lack of atmosphere. However, this was far from the case for Larry Heard’s live set with Fatima and Paul Cut on the Saturday night; the combination of the stage and the deep, souful and acidic grooves of Mr Fingers’ spiritual deep house tracks produced a truly immersive experience. At 2am, Larry Heard made way for Hessle Audio who, as cliche as it sounds, led their audience on a journey through many forms of dance music including UKG, UK Bass, percussive rollers, breaks-techno, hardcore and jungle. For many of the crowd, and myself included, Hessle were their gateway into dance music, and each of the crew, Ben UFO, Pangaea and Pearson Sound took it in turns to wow the crowd. Particular highlights from the set included Pearson Sound dropping speed garage bomb DJ Pooch – Let The Bass Roll and Ben UFO playing the euphoric breaks of Origin Unknown – Valley Of Shadows. As our group walked away from IICON and back to the NYC Downlow, we felt we had just experienced as close to a true rave experience as you can get in the 21st century.
The Sunday was mostly spent relaxing in the sunshine and recovering from the previous evening’s shenanigans. There are few better places to do this at Glastonbury than at the West Holts Stage which is famed for its eclectic music curation (2017’s acts ranged from Ata Kak to Moderat) and Brothers cider bar. The legend that is Roy Ayers was a highlight of the festival for all of the group, and he smoothly led into Kamasi Washington who played a set perfect for the mood as the sunset over Glastonbury.
As day made way for night, the group split with the stewards heading to The Temple, to catch Manami, a contributor to our mix series and a DJ on the rise, and Eris Drew, a smartbar resident who over the past year has seen her status rise. Manami played a brilliant opening set, perfectly building the mood for Eris Drew who played plenty of breaks, hardcore and chilled out house and had The Temple in the palm of her hand.
The rest of the group were treated to a great Ondo Fudd b2b Pearson Sound and an electro set from Phonica resident Danielle.
The list of amazing acts we saw from Wednesday to Sunday could honestly go on and on and on, the gist is there are few things better in life than spending a weekend on a sunny Worthy Farm – just ask any of the 200,000+ other attendees, who formed their own lifelong memories.
Words by: James Acquaye Nortey-Glover and Tom Allman
Check out a playlist of the best tracks we heard below: