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My own virtual Glastonbury: no wellies required

Claire Philpott couldn’t go to Glastonbury — so she curated a festival of her own (all images courtesy Claire Philpott) Classical MPR’s Education Coordinator Claire Philpott is a fan of all kinds of music. Although she enviously reads the lineups of the world’s renowned music festivals, she’s found a way to take in the music while avoiding the mud.

Sometimes I feel like I live in the wrong place. Don’t get me wrong: I’m from the Twin Cities, and it’s a great place to live in so many ways — great culture, progressive politics, fantastic diverse food, and most of the bands that I like stop here. However, there are times — especially during festival season — when I wish I lived in London, where I’d have easier and cheaper access to some of the greatest music experiences in the world.

If I’m honest, I’d actually hate of lot of things about the Glastonbury experience. I don’t have a problem with mud, but I don’t like massive crowds full of drunks, litter everywhere, and above all, lack of proper toilets or real bed (a bit high maintenance, aren’t I?). That still didn’t prevent me from being madly jealous reading the coverage of this year’s festival, perusing each day’s lineup and imagining which acts I would watch and where. From dreamy newbies, Gengahr, to the sexy synthy psych that is the latest from Tame Impala, to Jamie xx’s late-night dance tracks, it’s hard to imagine so much quality music existing in one place!

Luckily though, most of the acts that I’d want to see at Glastonbury or Latitude — where alt-J just headlined last weekend! — or Reading and Leeds or Hyde Park (don’t get me started on the European continent) have come through town or are coming through town in the next few months. So in this way, I’ve been curating my own virtual festival without having to pay an exorbitant amount of money or sleep in a tent. Almost all the artists that I’ve seen so far in 2015 (with the exception of Royal Blood and Portico) were at Glastonbury: Hozier, Wolf Alice, Glass Animals, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Belle and Sebastian, Courtney Barnett.

I thought it was odd that Royal Blood were playing three smaller continental festivals instead of Glasto, especially in light of the success of their debut album. Back in February, they announced a U.S. headline tour, but with no date in Minneapolis (why?!). However, as luck would have it, they were going to Des Moines on a Saturday night, so I called up my dear friend, Haley, who lives there and pretty much said, “I know you don’t know who they are, but I promise you we have to go ‘cos they’re absolutely massive in the U.K. and I’m sure they’re gonna be mind-blowing.”

Turns out that I was proved correct, and Royal Blood do smash it in live performance! The night got even better when we met Ben Thatcher and Mike Kerr afterwards, and they were both as friendly and easy to chat to as I had thought that they might be, judging from all the interviews I’d heard. (They also have a really cheeky sense of humor, and I definitely recommend checking out their interviews if you need a laugh; their in-studio with Mark Wheat is really funny). So that was a perfect evening that really could not have gone better!

The author (L) and her friend meeting Ben Thatcher and MIke Kerr of Royal Blood. “When Ben saw the 10 people waiting for him outside the venue he greeted us with a ‘Hello, lovely people!’ Such a sweetheart.”

That incident began my three-week streak of meeting bands after their shows. I wanted to see Catfish and the Bottlemen mostly because Van McCann is in the music news all the time, and he amuses me (I gather that he basically subsists on bananas and cigarettes). I’d also gathered from reviews that they put on a good show — which indeed turned out to be true.

Since it was a nice night, I decided to wait around after the show to try and meet them — because why the hell not? Much to my amusement (though also slight mortification), I was by far the oldest fan waiting for them; most of the other ladies had Xs on their hands, marking them as under 21, which definitely made me feel old. I won’t say how long I ended up waiting (too long in my opinion, but at least I wasn’t tired somehow), but certainly it paid off eventually.

Claire Philpott meets Catfish and the Bottlemen.

And even though I did bang on about how I wouldn’t like a festival, to be fair, I still attended Rock the Garden this summer. Although technically a festival, Rock the Garden is so civilized and accessible by comparison that it doesn’t bother me so much. In fact, that’s exactly what makes Rock the Garden very attractive: For instance, one can stand at the top of the hill and still see the Jumbotrons with no problem. I had been most looking forward to dancing to Belle and Sebastian, and I was not disappointed. They had an incredibly charming stage presence and I got a proper workout bouncing around to their set. Oh — and I also got to meet the lovely Stuart Murdoch.

Claire Philpott meets Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian.

Happily for me, the fun isn’t over yet! Over the next few months I’ll be seeing Django Django, alt-J (for the second time!), and Wolf Alice again because I only caught part of their set at the Turf Club in May.

I only wish that I could see Blur when they come to New York City and Los Angeles in October. (N.B. Not a proper tour if your band is only going to two cities!) That said, 2015’s been ace so far for shows, and I see no reason why it won’t continue to do so. With Django Django coming to town, this is what I have to look forward to at First Ave on August 2. It’s gonna be a bonkers dance party.

Unfortunately, not everyone visits the Twin Cities. This is the fantastic performance experience that I’m missing because Jamie T never comes here. I watched this entire set on YouTube (note: language advisory) and would’ve given a lot to be in the front row, even though the crowd was absolutely insane.

Despite not being able to have the actual festival experience and atmosphere, I’ll admit I still feel incredibly lucky to have been able to see as much of the music as I have. However, when Radiohead next headline Glasto (it’ll happen), you can bet that I’ll make every effort to be there … even if I have to sleep in a tent.

Claire Philpott is the education coordinator for Classical Minnesota Public Radio.