Dance Magic: The Countdown to Glastonbury 2023
It’s that time of year again, the infamous return to Worthy Farm. We spotlight Stonebridge…
Glastonbury is the UK’s best music festival – a statement contested by some but one which is hard to challenge given how recognised and acclaimed it has become globally. Some might go as far as to say that it’s the best in the world.
The iconic weekend remains an integral part of the international music calendar with Worthy Farm becoming a haven for artistic freedom, self expression, music and euphoria – if only for a brief moment. Glastonbury often comes and goes in a flash, with little left for revellers but for some hazy memories and a story or two to tell. That’s part of the magic…
This year the festival will, as ever, play host to an all star cast of musicians from far and wide. Headliners will entice crowds to the Pyramid Stage where some will camp in deck chairs all day just to see a glimpse of some old time legend. Meanwhile, just around the corner some fresh faced Punk band will scream and shout into oblivion as a small crowd of onlookers take in what might just become the next big thing.
Then there’s the circus of festivities and chaos which unfolds after dark – another world in which Glastonbury exists for the reckless raver, crusty wanderer, shady dancer and the lost souls of the night.
Glastonbury is many things to many different people. However, in recent times the prolific rise of underground Dance and Electronic music has brought a new aspect to an already diverse extravaganza. As EDM entered its decline (thank heavens) – there has been more focus on creating meaningful dance based experiences at the festival. Several areas and stages have risen in prominence – be it Silver Hayes, Block 9 or Shangri La. The nighttime has become as much an escapade as the day…
Stonebridge is an “accidental dance tent” as best described by Carl Gosling, who has been curating and programming music on The Park based “stage” for many years. It was never meant to be as such, originating as a humble beer hall which then became more and more increasingly lively and rogue. This year the tents capacity is being increased, as teased by Emily Eavis on social media – this was the first Carl had heard of it which perhaps reinforces the very nature of the DIY spirit that the tent embodies on the hillside….
“It was supposed to just be a bar, they wanted us to programme background music really. A bit of a jolly… Nobody would ever give a s**t or look at the line-up in the first two years of Stonebridge. You’d have to look way back through some mad, weird festival website or whatever to find out who played but from what I can remember it was me, Raf Daddy and The Heavenly Jukebox with Jeff and Danny.”
Stonebridge, we should add, is pioneered by the team behind The Social. The history goes way back but should be noted, never had all that much to do with Dance music.
“None of us are or were really just ‘dance music’ people. None of the people behind The Social ever were and we’ve never been strictly a sort of Dance music venue, even though all of the different people involved have been involved in Electronic music in lots of different ways. Be it from, you know, Robin and Nick or Jeff and Martin and running the Heavenly Social Nights. The Chemical Brothers came through that and everything else, all of that history. We’ve always all been into lots of different things and never felt the need, like most people, to become particularly pigeonholed.”
This year the programming across Stonebridge is perhaps as diverse as its ever been – reflective of a changed landscape in which the interconnecting properties between Genres and elements of Electronic music are perhaps more closely tied than ever before.
“Over the years it’s always kind of grown and grown and grown with whatever you could get away with. I’ve always considered myself a bit of a chancer. Stonebridge has kind of always existed as a venue that isn’t a venue, a weird situation. The thing that I wasn’t expecting was for artists to say yes. You know, like if you ask someone, would you come and play Stonebridge? I really can’t think of too many occasions where people have said no. People are there and they get it and they want to come and do it. I’ve never tried to talk people into doing it.”
There is an energy which reverberates around Glastonbury, which to a degree is unlike other festivals. Artists are keen to immerse themselves in the culture and experience of it all, at times showcasing a different side to themselves and letting it all hang out.
This year Eats Everything will return to open the festivities at Stonebridge. Last year, he was kindly asked to contribute a set to the programme described as a ‘History of Rave’. It was also pretty crazily the first music to be played at the festival last year meaning that tens of thousands descended far beyond the remit of the smaller Stonebridge tent to kick off their weekend much to the surprise of Eats Everything himself.
“It was absolute bedlam last year, really crazy. Way beyond expectations! Stonebridge is one of those places that is totally welcoming to one and all, as is all of Glastonbury! I’d played there a few times previously and always had a mint time so it seemed like a great place to launch History Of Rave.
The thing with History Of Rave is, and I can’t stress this enough, is it’s not a nostalgia party or a retrospective thing. It’s a celebration of all things Rave, from the early days of Paradise Garage right up to the freshest most technologically advanced Drum n Bass. It’s for all ages, all genders, all races & we cater all genres, on one stage. Young or old, black or white or blue or green or lilac, fat or thin, man, woman, they, bi, straight or gay, everyone is welcome.
I expect more of the same this time round. The tent is twice as big this year bc of what it was like last year, so hopefully that eases the madness somewhat!”
“Over the years it’s always kind of grown and grown and grown with whatever you could get away with.”
Glastonbury has become much loved by many a musician, with DJ’s becoming very much a part of that, presented with an opportunity to try new things in a receptive, welcoming environment as Eats Everything reflects.
“Glastonbury is the single greatest social gathering on the planet. Nothing compares to it. It’s hard to quantify how much I love it. The second I leave I’m counting down the days till the next one. It’s a mixture of Christmas, Disney World, Vegas, Woodstock, your wedding day, your 21st birthday, winning the lottery all crammed in to one glorious weekend of the most fun possible. It’s the most culturally important recurring event in the history of man, to me anyway.”
For some it will be the first time. Glasgow DJ Bonzai Bonner has been invited to perform at Stonebridge alongside friends in what will be their very first experience of the festival.
“It’s a dream come true to be part of the iconic Glastonbury line-up and to share this experience with my friends who have invited me along for the journey means so much more. Sherelle and Jordan set out this year with their ‘Reflections’ tour and to find two artists who I am able to relate with through the queer clubbing sphere has been affirming.”
The programme across the Electronic music areas of the festival is largely a celebration of a united community, the goal being to bring together likeminded souls in the spirit of a right good knees up. Dance music has slowly but surely meandered its way into the heart and soul of this festival, albeit at times kicking and screaming with a few ups and downs. It’s many things to many people and as Ruf Dug, a friendly faced veteran DJ reflects it’s all about…
“Singalongs. Tired legs. The perpetual odour of cider. Doing ecstasy and watching bands…”
Bring it on…