There’s no mistaking Chrissie Hynde walking into Glastonbury’s hospitality entrance on Thursday afternoon. Skinny black jeans, black jacket, sunglasses and that shock of hair. A little more than 12 hours later she appears, unleashed, on the Other Stage, her guitar covering a Motorhead t-shirt as she belts out I’ll Stand By You. She pointedly reminds the crowd that it is, in fact, a Pretenders song, despite the “reality TV covers you might know it from”.
It’s one of the opening sets of the weekend and the sun shines, people laugh and there’s a palpable feelgood buzz in the air. Nothing too out of the ordinary about that. Only this year, our biggest festival arrives amidst a backdrop social unrest, political turbulence and the general feeling of a country in trouble. Recent terrorist attacks mean a heavy police presence, sniffer dogs and person-by-person searches on the way in, on a day where searing heat meant people were passing out in the queue. That doesn’t sound very Glastonbury.
But it seems this hoary old festival is resistant to just about anything, and the overriding feelings on Friday are of hope, happiness and positivity. Old Worthy Farm clichés they may be, but try and dislodge them from your mind as you hear thousands of people chanting the name of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for the 37th time.
As Charli XCX counters The Pretenders’ wizened rock with toothrot pop, Music Week wanders for a cup of tea in the Healing Fields, a stopgap before Third Man Records signee Margo Price on The Park Stage. Whether you want to do yoga, try acupunture or hand make a badge or not, it’s pretty idyllic up here. That idea of Glastonbury retaining its identity looms larger still.
Part of that is the thrill of the new, which on Friday is delivered by Shame and The Lemon Twigs – who both follow main stage slots with shows at the tiny Crows Nest above the Park Stage – and London MCs Dave and AJ Tracey. The fresh-faced Dave plays before his friend and collaborator Tracey, and the dark, smoky Sonic Stage instantly feels like a London basement. Given that, just outside, there are people parading around on stilts and clusters of blokes gobbling hog roast, this seems impressive.
A more obvious way to channel Glastonbury’s smileyness is via huge, popular pop tunes. Friday’s best come in the shape of Seasons (Waiting On You) by Future Islands and Lorde’s Green Light. When the Baltimore trio blaze through their biggest hit, white light fills the John Peel tent and time seems to stand still as singer Sam T Herring takes on the role of possessed preacherman. Shortly afterwards, on the Other Stage, Lorde finishes with Green Light, its housey keyboard line alone proving more emphatic than even Royals. Topless on his friend’s shoulders next to us, one man looks like he’s ascending to heaven during the last chorus.
As the skies darken further, Dizzee Rascal unites a massive audience at West Holts with grime banger after grime banger. He too looks thoroughly infected with Glastonbury’s bug. So, apparently, is David Beckham, who we hear is milling about the Park area. The rumours are verified, but alas, our own search for Goldenballs proves fruitless.
Much easier to spot is Noel Gallagher, who looks frankly a lot brighter than you might expect from a 50-year-old former Oasis frontman, wet from midnight rain surrounded by people in a bar. Heading for the exit as birdsong begins to indicate that day one is done, he’s walking as only Noel can, but the huge grin slapped across his face is less familiar.
So congratulations Glastonbury, you know you’re doing alright when even The Chief is on side.