Glastonbury Festival 2023 @ Worthy Farm, Pilton, Somerset, UK, June 21-26, 2023 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, December 10th, 2023  

Arctic Monkeys, Glastonbury Festival, Manic Street Preachers, Slowdive

Glastonbury Festival 2023 @ Worthy Farm, Pilton, Somerset, UK, June 21-26, 2023,

Jul 03, 2023 Photography by Adam Houghton Web Exclusive
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Glastonbury Festival hit Worthy Farm once again, bringing with it a bumper year of huge headliners, defining icons, legacy acts, and essential artists. Featuring over 3,000 performances of everything from metal to shoegaze, alt-pop and hip-hop, plus even a bit of folk, techno and jazz all chucked in for good measure! The dazzling array of artists included massive headliners Arctic Monkeys, Guns N’ Roses and Elton John presiding over the likes of Lil Nas X, Manic Street Preachers, Slowdive, Lana Del Rey, The Murder Capital, Jockstrap, Lizzo and Viagra Boys. Even the Foo Fighters were there – surprisingly absolutely no one under the pseudonym The Churnups.

Under The Radar was there to experience it all, and now we take a deep dive into the best (and worst) of the greatest music event of the year!

Rianne Downey & Billy Bragg
Rianne Downey & Billy Bragg

As stated before, it was a year of big names, and it would have been an easy choice to see Guns N Roses smash it on the Pyramid Stage on a Saturday night. But feeling in the mood to throw some shapes, seeing former Housemartin Norman Cook now superstar DJ Fatboy Slim was a very good decision indeed. Launching with a reworking of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”, excitement was driven into overdrive as the Glasto veteran dove into a mash-up of Eminem’s “My Name Is”, then joined on stage by Rita Ora providing live vocals for his classic party tune “Praise You”.

Classic dance tracks and euphoric alternative songs were seamlessly blended together in a set filled with essential pop landmarks, flowing through Cornershop’s “Brimful of Asha”, Talking Heads’ “Once In A Lifetime”, Faithless’ “Insomnia” and Kernkraft’s “Zombienation” and more were flawlessly mixed by a man who has been central to both the dance and indie scene for 40 years.

Not just a DJ and producer, Cook is a linchpin between the underground and the mainstream, and it reflects in both his skill on the decks and selection of tracks, ensuring maximum ecstasy whilst dazzling pyro effects and mind-warping visuals bring the Ibiza spirit to a field in Somerset. “Only Love Will Conquer Hate” was beamed onto the backscreen whilst hands were thrown into the air to Underworld’s “Born Slippy”. Everyone excitedly chanted to his epic tune “Right Here, Right Now” before Cook disappeared behind a curtain of golden sparks.

Crows Nest DJs
Crows Nest DJs

That’s not to say that all the headliners were amazing, and we need to talk about Arctic Monkeys. True I’ve never been the biggest fan and never quite got the appeal after they first burst onto the scene during the first flourishes of MySpace madness in the early 00s but I was eager to finally discover what all the fuss was about.

It’s been ten years since they last topped the bill at Worthy Farm, plus it’s almost been a decade since they dropped AM, the album many consider to be their best, and given their glorious track record Arctic Monkeys had nothing to prove. But success can be a slippery slope and can often lead to bloated sets and self-indulgence. Certainly, ripping into “Brianstorm” provoked a roar of approval from the audience having built the tension with “Sculptures of Anything Goes” and cancelling previous shows due to Alex Turner’s reported laryngitis.

Perhaps it’s due to illness, maybe it’s ego or even the impossibility of living up to your own hype, but Britain’s biggest indie band right now fell flat the rest of the night. It doesn’t help that Turner’s deadpan delivery borders on the sarcastic, and we’re left scratching our heads when he seemingly mockingly says “The Monkeys are back on the farm. Wow.” Still, ardent supporters loyally ignite flares to tracks like “Teddy Picker” and “Fluorescent Adolescent” even though the pace never picks up, and it all feels sluggish, slow, and wrong.

Making ever more odd statements like “Effective How effective. What a night” and “Astonishing”, it’s hard to tell if Alex is trying to convince us or himself that something exciting is happening. If he was trying to be ironic, it certainly wasn’t the time, as banger “Mardy Bum” is played at the sedated pace of a lullaby. The telltale signs of chemical excesses seem to be all too clear, and we were given a passable performance that won’t go down in the annals of their own history, never mind Glastonbury’s. Success is a hell of a drug, shame there’s no rehab for it. Whilst Turner and co. could never quite be described as bad, they were guilty of something far worse – it was just dull. And that’s a crime that should never be committed by a band of their size and status. Certainly not when headlining the Pyramid Stage on a Friday night with most of the festival watching with even more viewers at home. No wonder even die-hard fans slipped away midway to catch The Chemical Brothers banging out a pounding DJ set at monolithic arachnoid Arcadia which was far more enjoyable.

Jamie Webster
Jamie Webster

Also, I know it’s easy to bash Royal Blood right now, but their bubble has finally well and truly burst. Bassist/Vocalist Mike Kerr was largely mute between songs, no doubt still smarting after their embarrassing display at BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend and the well-rehearsed yet humiliating PR exercise with Greg James. This was their opportunity to make a massive comeback, a chance they squandered as generic rock singles like “Out Of The Blood”, “Lights Out” and “Little Monster” failed to hit home. They couldn’t keep the drooping rockstar mask on long enough to limp to the end of their shit show and disappeared awkwardly to “Figure It Out”. Hopefully, this will finally see them fuck off back to obscurity, having made absolutely no meaningful contribution to the history of rock and roll.

Despite being billed as major attractions, both Arctic Monkeys and Royal Blood were entirely devoid of charisma. Contrast that with the enormous stage presence of The Hives, whose enormous appeal certainly hasn’t diminished despite being on the scene for thirty years. The Swedish garage rockers could be accused of being a one-trick pony – but who cares when the quite frankly batshit Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist gives a masterclass in working the audience the second they hit the Other Stage on Friday? And “Main Offender”, “Hate to Say I Told You So” and “Come On!” sound fresher than ever. Plus, pop princess Sophie Ellis-Bextor was the perfect way to start Sunday. Accompanied by a full band of family members, radiant covers of Modjo’s “Lady (Hear Me Tonight), Moloko’s “Sing It Back” and her own smash hit “Murder On The Dancefloor” shone brighter than so-called purveyors of “real music” ever could.

Fortunately, there were plenty of my own personal favourites to make sure the weekend always remained on a high – and non-more exciting than the mighty Manic Street Preachers. This was their seventh appearance at Glastonbury across four decades, and so it’s fitting for a band so focused on their own history to play a legacy set sepia-tinged with nostalgia. Hopes were high after the band played a warm-up show in Bath where they played deep cuts and treasured fan favourites that hadn’t been unearthed in decades, and the Blackwood band did not disappoint, striking the balance perfectly for hardcore fans and casual listeners alike. Launching with “Motorcycle Emptiness”, spectators screamed along to James Dean Bradfield who began trending on Twitter thanks to his trademark fancy guitar skills and boundless kinetic energy, bouncing around the stage. Second song “1985” was both a nod to the re-issue of the 2004 album Lifeblood next year and their tribute to the teenage passions and social strife that inspired the Blackwood boys to start a band that means so much to so many. “Back to the 90’s we’re taking you!” cried Bradfield before playing “Everything Must Go” and “You Stole the Sun From My Heart”; two of the Manics’ most popular hits.

Having worked up the crowd, the band were free to truly indulge themselves and their most dedicated follower as Nicky Wire reminisced about their infamous first Glasto appearance back in 1994, not long before Richey Edwards’ dramatic disappearance. Decked out in an impeccable white suit and huge Hollywood sunglasses, Wire smiled to himself as onlookers cheered his now-absent best friend and shared his memories. “Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong but it was fucking fun, you know? This one’s for him off The Holy Bible” as they savagely rip into “Die in the Summertime”. Edwards’ lament for the lost simple pleasures of childhood was met with roars of approval from the devotees whilst songwriter, producer and now favoured collaborator The Anchoress (AKA Catherine Anne Davies) prowled onto the stage in a sharp leopard print suit to duet on Top 10 single “Your Love Alone Is Not Enough” and taking the lead on the achingly beautiful “This Is Yesterday”.

The final third act was littered with the Manics’ best singles, rousing spirits with “A Design For Life”, seeing Sean Moore pound the drums like never before plus an acoustic rendition of “La Tristesse Durera (Scream to a Sigh)”. The raucous race to the finishing line including the blistering collision of visceral riffs and Ballardian lyrics of “Faster” (my all-time favourite song), crystalline single “Walk Me To The Bridge”, the only “new” song of the set despite being 9 years old, and classic chaotic punk rock “You Love Us”. Just enough time to close with the anti-fascist anthem “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next”, complete with an added live outro which sees everyone gathered at the Other Stage singing in unison. Their choice of songs may have been firmly rooted in the past, but such a fiery performance filled with passion and intensity proves Manic Street Preachers still have plenty left in the tank, and we can expect plenty more scissor-kick action and political-edged hits in the future.


Always attracted to the fusion of savage guitar strings with atmospheric synth-pop, it’s been a joy to hear Editors team up with Blanck Mass (Benjamin Power of Fuck Buttons fame) and embrace electronica even further, arguably making them a better festival band than ever before. Starting with “Strange Intimacy” was a wise choice, the surging dance track summons gatherers as “An End has A Start” and “Bones” seize the attention. Interlacing their classic tracks with new releases has a hypnotic effect, with everyone pogoing to “The Racing Rats” and “Munich” and throwing shapes to “Karma Climb” and “Picturesque”. Tom Smith’s voice reaches operatic levels on “Hallelujah (So Low)”, and their dark take on Adamski’s “Killer” was a masterstroke before taking their awesome dark-wave gold-selling single “Papillion” to dizzying heights as a closer. Similarly, Working Men’s Club are another brilliantly brooding band that perfectly balances beats with caustic guitars and acerbic lyrics, dripping with bitterness. It was weird seeing such acid house-inspired tracks with the sun still up, but there were plenty of people raving away to the Todmorden tear-ups and appearing at Woodsies on a Saturday afternoon is exactly the sort of mainstream exposure they need. WMC have been “the next big thing” for about four years now and they certainly have the ambition, the ego, and the talent – when they’re not too wasted. But it’s never quite translated into the sort of success they truly deserve, and it doesn’t help that last year’s second album Fear Fear went largely unnoticed. Something frontman Syd Minsky-Sargeant is clearly determined to address, as he gave it his all onstage, tearing the roof off the tent with the infectious “Teeth”, mesmerising “John Cooper Clarke” and hedonistic “Ploys”. There are more than just a few nods to Depeche Mode in their sound, and Syd is even sporting a Dave Gahan lookalike waistcoat by the time they finish. Let’s hope they match their hero’s achievements too.

Prior to Editors set, Slowdive also wow the Woodsies Stage on what was unbelievably their first ever appearance at Glastonbury. Having played their first UK show in over a year at Exeter’s Phoenix venue twenty-four hours earlier in what was billed as a Glastonbury warm-up, the five-piece played a career spanning set that could quite easily have acquired headline status at any other event. The opening salvo of “Slowdive” and “Catch The Breeze” coupled with a pulsating “Star Roving” kickstarted their Sunday teatime extravaganza into overdrive, Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell exchanging lead vocals and harmonies forthwith, while the sonic cathedral of reverb and delay they’ve made their name from erupts incessantly at regular intervals. “When The Sun Hits” proves a radiant thing of beauty, “Souvlaki Space Station” an erotic potion of dub rhythms and shoegaze dynamics while set closer “Golden Hair” sets aim for the stars and eventually lands via cloud nine. They also play current single “Kisses” which suggests September’s fifth album Everything Is Alive might just be one of 2023’s finest.

Sheffield-via-Totnes based four-piece Pale Blue Eyes opened for Slowdive in Exeter, but here on the Friday they proved the perfect accompaniment to that afternoon’s 28 degrees temperatures and resultant sweltering heat. Built around the husband and wife duo of Lucy and Matthew Board (drums and guitar respectively) alongside bassist Aubrey Simpson and keyboard player John Gooding, Pale Blue Eyes make psychedelic rock that’s both infectious and danceable. So when they drop numbers like “Chelsea” or “More” off forthcoming sophomore album This House like a Duracell propelled Broadcast or Stereolab, the Greenpeace is rocking intently. An elongated version of live favourite “Dr Pong” off their debut Souvenirs closes proceedings and with it the bar is set for the rest of the day.

Pale Blue Eyes
Pale Blue Eyes

Indie pop outfit The Big Moon who are just one of those perfect bands. They’ve got the songs, the style, and that near-psychic synchronicity which only comes when a group of friends is so tightly wrapped up in each other. It was a joy to see the girls really enjoying themselves on stage at Woodsies, especially having caught them at BBC Introducing in previous years. They share their jubilance with the whole tent, kicking off with the euphoric “Wide Eyes”, sending shivers down the spine with an acapella intro to “Formidable” and closing with the huge number “Your Light”.

The wiry riffs and disconnected rhythms of post-punk has certainly shaped the sound of recent times, and 2023 is the year the new breed came of age. I’ve never quite been convinced by Dublin gang The Murder Capital. Certainly, they’ve got a couple of tunes (“More Is Less” and “Feeling Fades” are pretty cracking) and you can’t argue with their success, especially in their home country where their first record When I Have Fears narrowly missed out on topping the charts and this year’s Gigi’s Recovery hit number one in Ireland (both breaking the Top 20 here in the U.K. too). Whilst this affords them the right to be be cocky bastards, I still just don’t believe in them, and it feels like they’re just trying their hand at styles and sounds to see what sticks rather than actually giving a shit. “A Thousand Lives” sounds like a latter-day Radiohead rip-off, “Ethel’s” vocals are very reminiscent of Bowie’s “Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime” and there are many times when you feel you’ve heard the same thing before but can’t quite place where. That said, maybe I’m being too harsh as “Don’t Cling To Life” was a wicked way to close their slot and there’s no doubt we’ll be seeing a lot more of them featuring on a more prominent slot than mid-afternoon at Woodsies. Shame immediately followed, and show every sign of coming into their prime. Playing with the full force of a headliner, Charlie Steen screams “Are you motherfuckers here for a mother fucking good time?” as the tent erupts whilst bassist Josh Finerty does the most incredible sprint, forward roll and leap to his feet without ever missing a beat. Their ferocity is nothing short of incredible and their major songs “Alphabet”, “Six Pack” and “One Rizla” work perfectly in this setting. And who can forget Steen suddenly stripping down to a pair of pure gold boxers before crowd surfing, stealing an acoustic guitar from somewhere and smashing it to bits? Utterly brilliant!

Even more riotous activities could be found on Sunday at Park Stage courtesy of Swedish hooligans Viagra Boys who went hard and heavy right from the start, knocking heads off with “Ain’t No Thief” and “Slow Learner” before slowing it down with slacker anthem “Punk Rock Loser.” “We’re Scandinavia’s worst band” antihero Sebastian Murphy gleefully exclaims, as he told his torrid tales about dropouts, druggies and degenerates as giant yellow inflatable mashed smiley face balls and punched into the air by their rapid fans. Special mention goes to Kieran Burns (check out @kierenburns) whose insane crowd-surfing skills saw him standing head and shoulders above everyone else gaining a nod of approval from Murphy as seen on the BBC! It’s a shame to have missed Slowdive who were stunning fans elsewhere but seeing the whole hill clapping in unison to “Ain’t Nice” and the immense mosh pit triggered by “Sports” was certainly worth it.

The best festivals are the perfect place to discover new and exciting music from breakthrough bands or cutting-edge artists, and Worthy Farm was packed full of prodigious young talent. And as we expected, Adwaith were nothing short of astonishing and the perfect way to start the weekend having been promoted to a Friday morning slot on the Park Stage having appeared at BBC Introducing last year. The dulcet tones of the very aptly named Hollie Singer wonderfully wrapped her native Welsh around folk-tinged, psyche-inspired indie rock is a testament to the international language of music, captivating an ever-growing crowd. Only two albums deep, their enormous potential is only just beginning to be realised, and we might have a Carmarthen-born Warpaint on our hands. It’s a shame we didn’t catch their second set the following day at Croissant Neuf but make sure you seize every opportunity to see them for yourself – you will not be disappointed!

The Last Dinner Party have been the band of the moment ever since their anthemic second single “Nothing Matters” hit the airwaves causing quite a stir. Following a ridiculously early set at 11:30 on Saturday morning at Woodsies (seriously, many of us only got back to our tents from the night before shortly before that!), they’ve proven they’re way more than a one-hit wonder promising the sort of success currently enjoyed by Wet Leg! Also, be sure to check out Los Bitchos, whose lively Latin rhythms are a real treat for the ears and are a great addition to any music event.

Panic Shack
Panic Shack

With so much alt-pop, dream pop and post-punk floating around these days, it’s easy to forget what a full-sounding growling guitar sounds like. Fortunately, Wunderhorse are armed with more than a few distortion pedals, and Cornwall-born songwriter Jacob Slater’s gritty take on Americana on Sunday afternoon at Woodsies had a pleasing crunch. Like a grungier version of Jeff Buckley, as squealing riffs are met with angsty, imploring vocals. Sure, it’s nothing new (dare we even call it a 90’s throwback?), but goddamn they’re good and satisfying as hell. Similarly, Isle of Wight band Coach Party went full throttle and tore up BBC Introducing with a colossal wall of sound. You can see in their faces, even they know they’re on the cusp of something big and they’re loving every minute of their journey on the way up. Echoes of The Breeders are abundantly clear and let’s hope their rise is equally as meteoric. Stay tuned for a debut album scheduled to drop by the end of the year.

It’s only been a few months since Middlesbrough punk provocateurs Benefits released their introduction album Nails, but they’ve already become one of our top choices of 2023 thanks to their unbridled working-class rage and no holds barred account of the damage done by an increasingly callous hard right government. It’s a far cry from the faux rebellion spouted by the aforementioned Royal Blood, summoning more energy, excitement, and anger than the entire rest of the festival combined which is no mean feat in the sweltering heat of the Leftfield Stage on Friday evening. Kingsley Hall veers from impassioned street poet to furious mob leader, with dramatic turns from spoken word to leading incensed chants of “Shit Britain”. Sarcasm is employed with surgical precision, cutting to the core of BREXIT Britain, Tory sleaze, everyday casual racism, and braindead nationalism. Constantly carpeting the crowd with truth bombs, “Empire” explodes with pneumatic drums, doom-laden synths and screaming static laptops. Afterwards, Kingsley is an emotional wreck having given his all to the performance, and it’s a testament to their drive and dedication that we are all so similarly affected.


The Leftfield Stage proves to be a great area for discovering new talent, particularly Billy Bragg’s Radical Round Up sessions, and in particular, Saturday afternoon’s rabble rousing trio including Bragg himself alongside Glasgow singer/songwriter Rianne Downey and Liverpool’s Jamie Webster. Between the three of them, they deliver songs that are both celebratory of their surroundings but also adding an element of political and social discourse that sets them apart from your average bards, particularly Downey’s excellent “Home” and Bragg’s call to arms “Never Buy The Sun” on which Webster charismatically takes the lead.

Derby’s Pale Stranger also attract a fair few passers-by during their lunchtime slot on the Bandstand. Situated on the thoroughfare between the Pyramid and West Holts stages, the Bandstand plays host to an eclectic mix of musicians both new and established all weekend, but Pale Stranger are undoubtedly the pick of the bunch. Essentially the brainchild of musician Paul Lynch whose other band Seas Of Mirth are also playing two sets here, Pale Stranger makes electronic pop that veers between Massive Attack levels of claustrophobia and eighties inspired melodies the likes of Nu Shooz and Thompson Twins would have been proud of. “Woodcutter” is the standout moment in the half hour they play but Pale Stranger are undoubtedly ones to watch over the coming months.

Pale Stranger
Pale Stranger

As are Cardiff five-piece Panic Shack, a band most people will be familiar with having been regulars on the UK festival circuit for the past twelve months or so. Songs like “Baby” and “Mannequin Man” kickstart their second show of the weekend to life in the West Holts Social. Musically falling somewhere between ramshackle indie pop and hardcore punk – someone mentioned Talulah Gosh meets the Dead Kennedys which is a fair description – Panic Shack have the ability to make people laugh, cry, dance and sing. Occasionally all at once, but never, ever outstay their welcome. Even when people out front relentlessly demand they play one more song – which they do, a raucous cover of Electric Six’s “Gay Bar”.

Wow, that’s a hell of a lot! And it’s only now the blisters are healing, and body clocks are resetting, the enormity of Glastonbury 2023 is only just hitting! Certainly, you’re always spoiled for choice and it’s impossible to see everything, especially when clashes forced choices between Hot Chip or Arctic Monkeys (definitely made the wrong selection there!), The Murder Capital or Jockstrap (again, massive regret), The Big Moon vs. Black Country New Road, The Last Dinner Party or getting some sleep!

Constantly raising the number of tickets is definitely having a negative effect, especially in the dark rave recesses of Shangri-La which is becoming way too stressy, and there does have to come a point where either organisers enlarge the site or stop extending the allocation. Yet despite these issues, Glastonbury continues to be the pinnacle of festival fun with real care taken to balance world-class acts with enormous mass appeal with the cutting-edge artists destined for greatness – and we can’t wait for next year!

Rianne Downey
Rianne Downey


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