The big review: Glastonbury 2023

Now in its 51st year, Glastonbury is still championing spaces for all the best rock and metal. We checked out some of the most exciting bands at Worthy Farm for those who like things louder…

The big review: Glastonbury 2023
Rachel Roberts
Jenn Five

There are people out there that will tell you Glastonbury isn’t for rock fans anymore, but off the back of a jam-packed weekend of established and rising rockers, we’d say they’re just plain wrong.

From Cassyette and Nova Twins to a headline set from Guns N’ Roses and a surprise appearance from Foo Fighters (er, sorry, we mean The Churnups), Glasto is still keeping the black-T-shirt-wearing masses very well fed…

The HivesOther Stage

The Hives are in their usual chaotic mood this afternoon – although it’s 1pm and Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist can’t decide if it’s evening or morning. Opening with cheeky punk bop Bogus Operandi, the band erupt under the glaring beady eyes above the stage in their signature monochrome lightning strike suits. Through hits such as Walk Idiot Walk and I Hate To Say I Told You So, the frontman swings his microphone in wide windmills, with no blood shed (thankfully).

He dares not let us have a moment of quiet, cheekily asking, “Did somebody die?” when the cheers subside, and flaunts his effortlessly hilarious rapport throughout. When asking the crowd to sit down ready to jump up in unison, he allows a man at the front to remain standing, “You’re excused… haemorrhoids,” he jokes, and cackles carry across the field.

Finishing up with Countdown To Shutdown he winks that it may all be downhill after The Hives’ vivacious set. We don’t want them to leave, either.

The ChurnupsPyramid Stage

Dave Grohl thunders out onto the stage to the roars of a jam-packed crowd at the Pyramid Stage. He’s smirking and chewing gum, while the rest of band looks practically nonchalant, as if they haven’t been making us wonder for weeks on end if they’d really be here…

Opening with All My Life, the Foo Fighters – oops, sorry, The Churnups – are dripping with sweat already, with new drummer Josh Freese showing no mercy for his kit. They swing into No Son Of Mine, which sees Dave and guitarist Chris Shiflett trading licks before they play a quickfire medley of rock greats (the intro from Metallica’s Enter Sandman into Black Sabbath’s Paranoid), cramming in as much as they can into their shorter set time.

…As always, Everlong is played last, as a way to say goodbye, but the band make us swear to come out and see them when they come back for a summer tour. This one’s dedicated to the dearly missed Taylor Hawkins, and before Dave begins to play that iconic opening guitar melody, he pauses for a moment sentimentally, and points to the sky. The sun is beaming, and birds fly over the pointed tip of the stage.

Welcome back, Foo Fighters.

Read the full review: What happened when Foo Fighters made a surprise appearance as The Churnups at Glastonbury 2023

Royal BloodPyramid Stage

Following on from the Foos’ great return to Glasto, Royal Blood have a lot to live up to. Infamously, during a recent festival show at Radio 1’s Big Weekend, Mike Kerr’s frustration with what he deemed a lack of enthusiasm from the crowd got a little, ahem, spicy on the internet… but there’s no sign of such discomfort here.

Indeed, Royal Blood appear right at home and full of pride, with drummer Ben Thatcher constantly poking his tongue out and Mike giving a pouty bass face as the duo perform classics like Out Of The Black and Little Monster, along with their newer sounds of Trouble’s Coming and Mountains At Midnight.

Ben isn’t one to stick himself to his kit, he works the stage at intervals, strutting from side to side, and feeding the crowd validations and commands to mosh and move. The pair open up a circle-pit during Loose Change, sending shirtless bodies and bucket-hatted heads in a whirlpool at the centre of the barrier.

Mike later again shares his thanks: “My mind has been melting,” he admits. The bouncing bass riff of Figure It Out plays things out, and it’s gratitude all-round today.

CassyetteTruth Stage

Cassyette’s got range. One minute she’s grinning and shimmying, and the next she’s bent in half ripping one of the most searing screams heard at Glastonbury this year. Her late-night set at the Truth Stage sees her perform to a small yet lively crowd. Dubbed as a “Kerrang!-friendly hardcore singer” on the festival’s app, she consistently shares how psyched she is to be playing one of her multiple sets here.

Despite the lengthy drop from the stage, she clamours down for most tracks to stand at the barrier and allow her fans to sing along with her. At one point, she joins the pit herself, and even commands a “wall of hugs”. From Mayhem and BOOM, to Over It and Petrichor, Cassyette’s vocals seem to omit from her lungs like second nature, with little impression of any hard labour to us in the audience.

The biggest crime of her set? That it’s not on a bigger stage, where her exuberant attitude would appear more of a fit. But she still nails it, and draws in an array of first-time moshers who will undoubtedly be back for more.

Empire State BastardTruth Stage

Of course everyone in the alt. crowd knows who Simon Neil and Mike Vennart are, but if you came to catch Empire State Bastard expecting a similar vibe as their day jobs in Biffy Clyro, you’d be vastly mistaken.

It’s 1:30am as the gig kicks off, and straight from the start it’s clear that Simon and Mike are completely different beasts. “We are Empire State Bastard,” Simon rumbles down the mic, introducing the band. It’s a non-stop, jam-packed 45 minutes of hell-ripping shrieks and downtuned guitar. Simon contorts with his screams, allowing the commands of Mike’s guitar to control his every move. His ribs flare as he throws immense power into every note, and a ferocious pit opens before them.

Before they leave the stage, the wholesome version of Simon thanks the crowd, reminding everyone to stay safe. Mike holds his Gibson Les Paul to the air, with bassist Naomi Macleod following suit, letting their instruments feedback and reverb for an outstretched period of time. Big things are coming for Empire State Bastard – and what a fucking introduction tonight.

Big JoanieLeft Field

“Get your arse off the grass!” Chardine Taylor-Stone bellows, as sprawling, heat-exhausted bodies climb to their feet and bring themselves forward to the stage in the Left Field tent. She warns one final time that if you sit down during their set, the band will just assume you’re a Tory voter.

Big Joanie throw the rulebook to the wind; there’s no specific role for any one of them as they each take their turn in speaking out and changing instruments (Estella Adeyeri taking on guitar for a short burst aside from her bass, Stephanie Phillips channels her inner Stevie Nicks with some tambourine). Using their time in between tracks, they show support for Trans rights, discuss intersectional feminism, and a whole array of issues close to their heart.

The band fit right in on the most political stage at Glasto like it’s a comfy pair of slippers, and despite using most of their set to completely take us to school, they finish up with It’s You, which Stephanie explains is about men who are bad in bed, and encourages those who are feeling slightly attacked in the tent to take some classes, and get vulnerable.

Big Joanie stand up for all the right things, and we’re totally here for it.

Delilah BonLeft Field

Those who are already familiar with Delilah Bon are ready to rage right at the barrier when the brat punk singer skips onstage in Harley Quinn-style make-up. Those who’ve never heard one of Delilah’s angsty bops before, meanwhile, linger towards the back of the tent as she raps along to a version of Eminem’s Without Me, with adjusted lyrics which tells the haters to ‘cough on her pubes’.

Running on a cocktail of adrenaline, nerves and complete elation for her first-ever Glastonbury set, her mind moves so fast that she can’t keep up with her own words whilst trying to show her support for the Trans community. “You know what I’m trying to say, right?” she asks, laughing at herself as she tries to piece together a sentence of how they are always in her heart. Delilah’s set also celebrates female empowerment, with audacious grooves such as Chiquitita and Brat, and expresses her own anger at the threat to women’s bodily autonomy in regards to abortion access and sexual violence with Dead Men Don’t Rape and I Don’t Listen To You.

A choreographed dance routine, swinging baseball bats and even a gun that blows bubbles impress elsewhere throughout the set. Delilah is one of the boldest voices in the rise of beautifully bratty heavy music.

CrawlersLeft Field

“I’m about to play a TikTok song!” calls vocalist Holly Minto during Crawlers’ 45-minute set. She chuckles at herself, and the band go into their viral 2021 hit, Come Over (Again). Holly flits in between bassist Liv Kettle and guitarist Amy Woodall with meaningful rolling eyes and theatrical facial expressions, darting between them and kissing them on the forehead, or wrapping one arm around their shoulders. Harry Breen looks incredibly relaxed behind his drums, and occasionally smiles out at audience members, or wipes away sweat under the relentless humidity.

Despite the political slant of being at Left Field, Crawlers’ performance is full of bounding joy and loyal fans, just purely having a good time. Despite this, the band are sure to show their support – like many other Left Fielders today – for the Trans community.

Holly gets so caught up in her own fun, that at one point a full vent about the UK not having enough air con leaves a member of the Crawlers crew in limbo with her guitar in hand, waiting to hand it over to her for the next track as Liv chuckles at her blissful unawareness. Performances of Messiah, That Time Of Year Always and I Can’t Drive are soaked up by the eager faces at the barrier like sponges.

After this set, no-one should dare brand Crawlers as ‘some TikTok band’.


The Woodsies tent is packed out, and Måneskin are running late. Whilst some members of the audience share their annoyance about their delay, others chime in, “It is very rock’n’roll, isn’t it?”

When the Italian superstars do march on, their electric blue outfits paired with the red lighting match the stripes of the tent overhead, and they make up for lost time by powering right into Don’t Wanna Sleep. Gossip quickly follows as bassist Victoria De Angelis and guitarist Thomas Raggi face off: Vic kneels in front of him, moving and swaying with her bass as if it were an extra limb.

They of course play some of their most recognisable material such as Beggin’ and I Wanna Be Your Slave. As their time comes to an end, vocalist Damiano David explains to the crowd how they would normally pick fans to join them onstage for their final hurrah, but they have not been allowed. “So instead, we’re gonna come to you,” he grins. As they obliterate their way through closer Kool Kids, Damiano doesn’t just go to the barrier, he lifts himself right into the crowd. Thomas follows shortly after still squealing his way through on guitar whilst being surfed over a spread of beaming faces.

Plonking yourself in the middle of a festival crowd likely to the dismay of security is one way to apologise to your fans for a slight delay…

Guns N’ RosesPyramid Stage

Things aren’t quite as packed as predicted for Guns N’ Roses, but as the LA legends open with It’s So Easy and Axl Rose’s signature wail, we’re off right away for the heaviest Pyramid headliner of the year. In a crowd amongst rockers (complete with Axl headbands and Slash top hats) and casual listeners alike, one comment that could be heard the most from punters is: “This is so fucking cool.”

As seasoned veterans of big stages, GN’R know how to make the most of their space, switching positions and pacing the steel structures. Bassist Duff McKagan most regularly works the left, with Slash over on the right. The headliners make the most of their full two-hour and 15 minute allocated slot, with performances of Tied Up, Down On the Farm, Reckless and of course, some famed classics. Those introductory riffs from Welcome To the Jungle and Live And Let Die are lapped up by the crowd, and Axl even changes into a shirt which displays the Ukrainian flag for Civil War.

The frontman later introduces each member of the band, many of who get the word “fucking” placed affectionately before their names, and when it gets to “fucking Slash”, the guitarist duly noodles his way into Sweet Child O’ Mine. Past this peak, the band slow the pace with November Rain and Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door. But they’re not stupid: they know this crowd wants ’em to bring the noise. They wail into Night Train, and leave us with Paradise City, where Dave Grohl (who has infiltrated many other sets at the festival over the weekend, which Twitter is now dubbing as “Grohlbury”) joins as Axl declares there’s, “No such thing as too many guitars.” Hear, hear!

Nova TwinsOther Stage

As Nova Twins arrive, they stand side by side in matching galactic purple outfits. They’re trying to stay in the zone, focused. But they’re on the Other Stage at Glastonbury, and it’s a Big Fucking Deal. Stage screens show smiles trying to be hidden on both Georgia South and Amy Love’s faces. They’re about to boil over with anticipation.

Both they own the space, striding, snarling and stabbing out tongues. At the end of Puzzles, the duo shred it out down to the floor together. Shortly before they leave Amy thanks the crowd for showing up, but calls for more women on top.

Novas leave us with Choose Your Fighter, which includes a quick run down to the barrier from the pair. Many of us have watched and supported the band from their early days, and watching them on the second largest stage at Glasto is a testament to how their authenticity and fervour has paid off. But don’t just listen to us, ’cause even a little-known Sunday night headliner called Elton John agrees

The HUWest Holts Stage

We sound like a pack of wild dogs at West Holts Stage as The HU play. “HU! HU! HU! HU!” everybody chants in unison. Masses of hands surge forward in motion together too, in the shape of respective rock horns. Shoog Shoog amps up the chanting even more, and Jaya’s hair flips add to the majestic energy of it all. This band are powerful. Gala shares how happy they are to be at Glastonbury before they stomp into Black Thunder, and every single track played is like a battle call, fiercely executed and a joy from start to finish.

The HU finish up with This Is Mongol, having played one of the most creative and exciting sets for heavy music lovers in 2023.

Queens Of The Stone AgeOther Stage

“Hi Glastonbury, I’m Elton John,” Josh Homme grins. Despite the unfortunate timing in line with the Rocketman’s vast headlining set at the Pyramid Stage, Queens Of The Stone Age have still drawn in a mass spread of fans ready to rock the fuck out for one last night.

The band walk out to Smile by Peggy Lee, as Josh stands before the mic, guitar in hand, with a knowing smirk on his face. QOTSA’s set is one of simple brilliance as they plough through their catalogue – spanning from If I had A Tail to In The Fade (which they dedicate to the late Mark Lanegan), and leaving their looping fan-favourite No One Knows to second from last.

Clearly, Josh wants this to be as great as we all want it to be – it’s the final farewell, the last memory of this year’s stint on Worthy Farm. And sure enough the crowd’s movements swell, and a spiralling pit erupts. The earworm riff is still being chanted and carried across the mass of voices, until the band end things with A Song For The Dead.

The moon hangs in the background of the audience at the Other Stage like a paid actor, and we even get a glimpse of fireworks – and while they’re very much intended for Elton, right now we’re claiming them as ours, too. What a night.

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