Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Glastonbury: A top 10 from behind-the-scenes

Working at Glastonbury is hard going - 18-hour days, 20 bands to interview, 20 live inserts on 6 Music and Radio 2, covering the death of a politician, and producing eight or nine other radio segments across the weekend.

But let's face it: I'm a lucky pup. I get to see and do things that only a privileged few will ever experience. The lack of sleep is a small price to pay.

So... Here's my top 10 moments from the behind-the-scenes at the world's muddiest festival.

10) The Joy Formidable. Not only did they ROCK the John Peel stage, but they started a rumour that Beyoncé would have a "giant inflatable clitoris on stage as a symbol of female empowerment". We didn't broadcast much of that interview...

9) Jo Whiley getting her umbrella stuck in a door, but still looking inconceivably glamorous.

8) When the MC on the West Holts stage implored everyone to lower their flags, and everyone obeyed.

7) U2... I didn't get to see any of their set, but this stripped-down version of Stay was a highlight of the TV coverage. It's not one of their best-known songs, but it was a subtle and tender moment in a blustering "biggest band in the world" headline set.

The song's subtitle, Far Away, So Close, reflected the general feeling that U2 had fumbled their big moment - thanks in no small part to the weather.

U2 - Stay (Far Away, So Close)

6) Watching Jimmy Cliff at the side of the West Holts stage as he got ready to perform. The 63-year-old reggae star limbered up by spinning his arms like a human windmill, dressed in a chain-mail tracksuit with gold lamé shoes. And what an incredible set he delivered...

Jimmy Cliff - World Upside Down

5) When Plan B went AWOL 30 minutes before a live interview on Radio One. We had to scramble the emergency phone lines to find another guest, ringing anyone who might have their hands on a pop star. Kaiser Chief Ricky Wilson eventually came through (and was brilliant on air) but not before Steve Lamacq wandered past, laconically noting: "It's ironic that you need a Plan B for Plan B".

4) Sneaking out into the audience for 15 minutes of Elbow - just as they performed my favourite song, Mirrorball. Guy Garvey gave the most affable performance of the weekend, holding the crowd in the palm of his hand with some perfectly-judged bandinage between the songs. I got to be part of his "reverse mexican wave", a beautiful moment of communion between band and audience.

Elbow - Reverse Mexican Wave / Neat Little Rows

3) Standing next to Beyoncé as she waited to speak to BBC TV. She was totally buzzing from her spectacular set on the Pyramid Stage, glowing like a gorgeous R&B firefly.

We were stood as close as the first "W" and the final "E" of this sentence and, if she hadn't been ushered onto the set, I might have gone all Alexandra Burke and started weeping like an idiot. The interview was incredibly sweet, though. As Olly Richards said on Twitter afterwards: "Beyonce seems lovely. I bet she & Jay-Z just sit at home being brilliant and not feeling a need to make it a big thing."

Beyoncé chats to the BBC after her Glastonbury performance

2) Everything about Janelle Monae. The pin-sharp choreography, the stunning voice, the monochrome stage set (everything was black and white, right down to the string section's instruments)... even the bit where she brought out an easel and started painting in an unexpected tribute to Rolf Harris. Possibly the most gifted and individual performer of the weekend.

Janelle Monáe - Tightrope

1) Interviewing Robert "Kool" Bell of Kool & The Gang. Our chat ended like this...

Me: "You're on stage at the same time as Beyoncé. Do you feel any competition? Who's going to be more funky?"

Kool: "It's interesting that they've put us on at the same time, but I think we have enough people out here. And we gonna get down".

Me: "How do you get down?"

Kool: "We get down... on it."

There were other moments, too... Getting to stand in the wings as Cee-Lo played his set. Having to ask The Vaccines to write their names on a piece of paper, because I kept getting them wrong on air. And the backstage catering, which was of an unfairly high standard compared to the falafel vans on the main site (a special shout-out to whoever made the sticky toffee pudding).

I have an amazing job.

If you listened to our coverage on 6 Music, thank you! And if you missed any of it, here's a round-up of everyone I saw and spoke to at the John Peel stage - which was my main home for the weekend.

Glastonbury 2011 - From the John Peel Stage by mrdiscopop

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