This was far from a vintage year for Glastonbury - none of the headline sets were really up to previous memorable performances. There was little musical or stage show innovation here, and nothing too much to write home about. Florence and the Machine on the first night was just like every other performance we have seen of theirs, Kanye was too minimalist, a little disjointed and woefully out of tune on the Bohemian Rhapsody Kanye-Oke, and The Who looked somewhat tired.
Headline sets are supposed to be things of wonder which reveal depths of musical richness not witnessed before, or a proper show with surprise superstar cameos, pyrotechnics and Hollywood-level production values. Of everything I saw, I enjoyed Mark Ronson’s, Pharrell’s and Lionel Richie’s sets the best, all 3 were packed with moments of pure listening pleasure - and Pharrell’s new track ’Freedom’ went over amazingly well for something so new. Nothing though came close to personal all-time highlight - the Radiohead headline set from 1997. I thought that last year’s performers and performances were by-and-large preferable to this year’s lot - bar a few notable exceptions.
Yet the BBC digital coverage goes from strength to strength though, and the actual live iPlayer broadcast was pretty flawless this year. The major innovation was the new ’Timeline Navigation Bar’ which allowed you to rewind the stream to watch earlier sets - something that YouTube has been doing for years for their Coachella coverage. The BBC innovation is that the the relevant slots are named on the timeline and you can simply click on a band name to be taken to the start of that set - versus YouTube’s Coachella where you need to kind of guess and then manually adjust backwards or forwards.
The BBC Glastonbury site is still generally poor for social media, and switching the stream between stages was clunky - while for YouTube’s Coachella you just have a tabbed menu to switch across - so still plenty of room for improvement on the BBC side.
If the YouTube Coachella interface had the band names superimposed on the timeline tracker (like the BBC) it would be the perfect live-streaming experience. YouTube already has the edge with a longer timespan timeline, better switching between stages /acts, and better ’what’s up next’ navigation, as well as better social media / updates integration and of course participation in that area.
The Glastonbury armchair experience is still far from ideal really - there is insufficient coverage of the more specialist stages and unique and weird and wonderful areas of the entire Worthy Farm site. I don’t think the BBC will every cover all the different angles adequately - so it is up to Michael and Emily Eavis to find a sponsor for all the needed webcams to give home viewers the full 360° experience.
I am not a fan of queuing - especially waiting in line for smelly chemical toilets, and nor do I enjoy splashing around in the mud. Ticketing is also obviously limited - meaning the Eavises could create a proper all-areas access armchair experience and charge home-viewers for accessing the site in that way. The appeal of Glastonbury is still enormous, and thousands are unable to get to the festival every year - ’Glastonbury All Access Live Streaming’ could be a significant and worthy revenue stream for years to come ...