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Glastonbury Festival 2024: The Biggest Rock Moments

Glastonbury Festival 2024: The Biggest Rock Moments

Photo: Laura Harvey

A wise man once said that Glastonbury is the kind of place where you look at something and you look around and think, ‘There’s nowhere else in the world I want to be right now’. And that’s almost an understatement for anyone who’s had the privilege of literally travelling miles around the grounds of Worthy Farm. It’s one of the best cities in the world that can be visited for just five days in the calendar year. A bold, big, brilliant example of what you can build from the ground up and thrive in. Everyone there has a different experience, a different story to tell and returns home completely different from when they arrived. A treasure trove of love, life, inspiration and, most importantly, music.

Under the banner of ‘Contemporary Performing Arts’ every form of sonic expression can be found, sometimes right in front of you and sometimes after scratching the surface a little. And with that in mind, 2024 was yet another year of rock bands causing chaos and proving their worth on one of the biggest platforms. From the hardcore-infused Britpop of High visibility to the historical Indonesian metal of Voice of BaceprotThere were patches of cruelty everywhere along the trails, each leaving its own unique mark.

Skin red are no strangers to Worthy Farm, having graced the Truth Stage in the infamous Shangri-La environs last year. Their 2023 performance was so exemplary that they’ve been invited back, this time to close out the coveted Avalon Stage on Friday night. And while many rock and metal fans know exactly what they’re getting when Benji Webbe and his crew take to the stage, for a crowd that’s unlikely to be familiar with all of their beats and bounces, they seem even more determined to lay waste than usual. There’s an extra dose of energy in tracks like ‘Nobody’ and ‘Gimme That Boom’, while the glorious positivity of ‘LOVE (Smile Please)’ resonates even more deeply in environments like these. By the time ‘Nobody’ and the Newport Helicopter have cemented their place in the hearts and souls of every topless visitor in this tent, and are heading out into the night with a new lease on life, it’s hard to argue that this isn’t one of the biggest moments in a career full of big moments for Skindred.

By the time Sunday rolls around, there’s a real need for something to blow away the sleepiness that may have set in after 48 hours of late nights and laser beams. So it’s a good thing PLAY SOFTLY are in such a heady mood. After ten years, it’s still amazing to see how much glorious noise Isaac Holman and Laurie Vincent can make, no matter where you put their guitars and drums, and on The Other Stage their performance feels all the more aggressive and angular. ‘Fuck The Hi-Hat’ and ‘Girl Fight’ remain the most fun things you can do in forty seconds, while the fresher numbers ‘Act Violently’ and ‘Mirror Muscles’ fall into place with a cheeky wink and a devilish grin. There’s even room for Bob Vylan to come out and join the chaotic kneecaps on ‘One More Day Won’t Hurt’. It’s not all mosh pits and menace though, with ‘Everything and Nothing’ slowing things down to a folky pace, with Isaac visibly emotional that they’re playing such a beautifully personal song from such a grand position. Behind the banter and mirth, this is just two best friends living out their wildest dreams, and it really takes the air out of your lungs.

Nothing but thieves are a great example of what it means to conquer the world to your own beat. Pulling from every corner of guitar music and kneading and mashing it into something that transcends such boundaries, their placement on The Other Stage is as deserved as it gets. And they use their time to prove once again how important they are to the infrastructure of the genre. In Conor Mason they continue to have a generational talent, an effortlessly crystal clear voice that delivers depth and emotion as if it were second nature. ‘Is Everybody Going Crazy?’ and ‘Welcome To The DDC’ show the full range of what his strings can deliver, while musically a mash-up of ‘Ce n’est Rien’, ‘Gods’ and ‘Number 13′ shows just how much biting riffage they really have in their back pocket. A cover of The Pixies’ iconic ‘Where Is My Mind?’ is a welcome treat too. Although it is in the closing one-two ‘Amsterdam’ and ‘Overcome’, two songs that feel like anthems for the ages, that they confirm their place as contemporary icons. Visibly moved by how many people lose all inhibitions on both tracks, without ever lowering their high standards, it is two moments that will surely mark their next appearance here in an even bigger environment.

If you knew that history was happening before your eyes, everyone would experience it and try to see it clearly. Avril Lavigne on Sunday night. Every entrance to The Other Stage would eventually be blocked off after a reported 70,000 people tried to gather, with some visitors having to stand between tents in the nearby campsite to catch a glimpse. Avril, who has been in the spotlight since she was 16 and has documented her every move, personally and professionally, in meticulous detail, has earned such curiosity and adoration with difficulty. But these days, it’s about the legions of hits she’s written, and the immediate rush of joy you feel when “Girlfriend” bursts into life is deeply addictive. From the teenage earnestness of “Complicated” to the suppressed heartbreak of “My Happy Ending,” everyone on the pitch has their own personal relationship to these songs and the role they’ve played in their lives. That level of emotional connection can’t be bought. It comes from years of sticking to your principles and not letting anyone distract you from who you are and what you represent. That’s why songs like ‘Bite Me’ and ‘Here’s To Never Growing Up’ are delivered with such vitality, because they’re what Avril has always been about. To then pull out a song as transcendental as ‘Sk8er Boi’ as the final trick is nothing short of astonishing. There’s no reason why this couldn’t have taken the coveted Legends spot at this year’s festival. On the strength of this performance, Avril Lavigne could headline the entire thing.

With such a grandiose statement still on the lips, it’s worth stating that 2024, more than anything else, has been a year in which alternative culture reminded Glastonbury that it’s still a vital cog in what makes it tick. While other genres may have dominated the headlines, there’s still room for this corner of ephemeral expression in this great place, and that the demand for the heavier side of things is greater than ever. In the face of adversity, constantly under the microscope and always wondering whether it’s lost its fire, rock music is in a hell of a position right now. Let’s hope Glastonbury can provide the scene with more huge moments to truly shine in 2025 and beyond.