From beardy folk to Green Fields...
Glastonbury Festival

The William’s Green tent, a 2,000-capacity space, is at its best on Sunday, opened at midday by long-bearded Canadian Ben Caplan. If a man’s musical prowess can be judged by the superiority of his beard, then before even opening his mouth, Caplan is a god of a songwriter.

Remarkably, his performance exceeds such expectations, Caplan delivering heartfelt folk tales with a powerful and gravelly voice. There’s an intimacy between his words and delivery that is rare, and echoes of both Jeff Buckley and Tom Waits (the latter, certainly, informs aspects of Caplan’s sound).

The standout might be the melancholic ‘Drift Apart’. But Caplan is never not upbeat, and has the charisma to get the audience on his side and make his solo performance feel bigger than the sum of its parts.

Palma Violets follow at William’s Green. The Lambeth four-piece’s debut Glastonbury set is invested with an overwhelming energy and a primal punk-rock showmanship. They confirm their status as one of the fastest-rising bands around, and make the hype seem justified. Chili Jesson and Sam Fryer, as co-frontmen, put their hearts into it. Chili is frenzied and unpredictable, lending the show a tense feel that suits their Clash-like sound.

To cap off the afternoon at William’s Green, The Vaccines provide a snappy 14-track set, with singles ‘Nørgaard’ and ‘If You Wanna’ causing the biggest surges in an already euphoric atmosphere. Their performance consolidates their position as a favourite future headliner. They appear to be at the same stage as Mumford & Sons were after their John Peel Stage performance in 2010, where the folky types had a crowd stretching far beyond the perimeter of the tent.

For the sunset slot on the Other Stage, The Smashing Pumpkins churn out some of the heaviest rock of the weekend. Billy Corgan’s clean vocals and lead melodies can be heart-achingly beautiful at times, and are woven into a foundation of brash guitar and drums. Their sound is one of rock’s most enviable juxtapositions, and at its most evocative when played live.

The crowd is enthusiastic, lighting up when ‘Bullet With Butterfly Wings’, ‘Disarm’ and ‘Tonight Tonight’ are aired. At other times, though, a more sedated atmosphere prevails.

Away from the deluge of rock and indie, the West Holts stage, host to Chic and Public Enemy on the previous two nights, caps off a remarkable weekend with two Bobby Womack sets.

First up is Bobby Womack and The Bravest Band, with Damon Albarn on piano and backing vocals. Womack’s distinctively husky and soulful vocals fit well within a sound that headed by warbling basslines, giving the band an innovative and contemporary feel.

After a brief turnaround, a classic Womack set begins – and the crowd really gets going. It’s a truly joyous occasion. The night sky is lit up by a stage filled with a brass section, a trio of female gospel singers, two drummers, a guitarist and bassist – and, at the centre of everyone’s attention, the remarkable, charming and legendary Womack.  ‘Across 110th Street’ is the biggest hit, but there is a consistently jovial atmosphere, and astonishment at the excellence of the band on stage.

After hours, the most idyllic part of the festival – the Green Fields – plays to some of its latest-running live music. There are smile all round when Bristol-based dub reggae outfit Laid Blak play Croissant Neuf.

By sunrise the stone circle is at its busiest, as those last standing flock there to cap off a truly brilliant 2013 at Glastonbury.

- - -

Words: Cai Trefor

Find Friday's highlights here

And Saturday's highlights here

Get the best of Clash on your iPhone - download the app here


Follow Clash: