Sun, Skin and saxophones: 10 things we learned at Glastonbury 2022

Glastonbury 2022
(Image credit: Pyramid Stage, Yungblud and Skin: Matthew Baker/Redferns; McCartney and Grohl: Harry Durrant/Getty Images)

It finally happened. In the three years since Glastonbury last opened its gates, we’ve had a full-blown (and still ongoing) deadly pandemic, a change in US Presidents and UK Prime Ministers, the costly and ugly activation of Brexit and six film entries into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (not to mention seven - yes, seven - TV shows). 

It’s all been a long time coming, basically, and the loud cheers of pure, unadulterated jubilation that greet the opening of the gates at 8am on Wednesday morning are an emotional reminder of what this festival represents for people, and indeed what we’ve all endured as a collective species over the past two years. For many, this will be the first significant event of this kind of scale they’ll have attended since the pandemic began. And everyone is determined to make the god damn most of it. 

What follows is five days of celebration the likes of which even Glasto hasn’t born witness to in its five decades on this earth. From the hundreds of bands and DJs playing to the artists, dancers and performers taking over the theatre and circus fields, right down to the thousands of crew members working across the site, there’s an incredible atmosphere flooding Worthy Farm that never lets up. Even the weather is on good form - aside from a few relatively brief flashes of rain, it’s mainly sunshine and boiling-to-mild temperatures across the whole week (and after all, it wouldn't quite feel like a proper Glastonbury comeback without just a little rain, right?)

As the dust settles on a historic weekend - one which co-organiser Emily Eavis has already described as the "best yet" - here are ten of the many, many things that blew our minds, stole our hearts and gave us food for thought over a blockbuster Glastonbury 2022.

80 is the new 60

Bringing one of the single biggest and most important songwriters in the history of music back to Glastonbury was always likely to produce something special, and whatever might be said of Paul McCartney's ability to hit every single high note these days, for a man now in his ninth decade, the guy certainly can't be accused of scrimping on effort. From the 38(!) song setlist to the 'duet' with John Lennon to the real world appearances of Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl, McCartney's show felt like a fitting peak for a festival celebrating its 50th year (albeit two years after the fact). May we all aspire to that level of dedication and passion in our 80s, quite frankly.

Skunk Anansie are a national treasure

Skin may have taken the prize for coolest look of the festival with her bright green 'CLIT ROCK' suit and giant, spiky head gear, but it wouldn't have counted for much if Skunk Anansie's set didn't deliver. Luckily, it's Skunk A-fucking-nansie, and their hour set on the Other Stage on Saturday afternoon was an anthemic triumph. They may not be headline status as they were the last time they played Glastonbury, but make no mistake about it: Skunk Anansie are a national treasure and a band British rock music should never, ever take for granted. As it happens, the singalong that greeted Hedonism suggested absolutely no one in the field was doing that. 

The future of punk made itself heard

During a dizzying couple of hours in the John Peel tent on Sunday, the future of punk was given the ultimate platform to take over as Aussie scamps Amyl And The Sniffers and Baltimore hardcore crew Turnstile played one after the other to cause absolute bedlam during the festival's final day. We don't have the data to back this up, but we're pretty confident that the ratio of circle pits per 100 Glasto goers shot up by about 5000% during that time. In a weekend where The Damned were forced to pull out and a rumoured Green Day surprise set never happened, it was perhaps fitting that punk rock's next generation took the opportunity to steal the show.

Nova Twins put in a serious shift (three, in fact)

Nova Twins made no fewer than three separate appearances at the festival to further install themselves as one of the brightest young bands in alternative music right now. Our pick of the bunch was a late night showing on Shangri La's Truth Stage on Thursday, where the duo kicked off the weekend in style courtesy of a rollicking 45 minute set of futuristic electro-punk bangers. Even some brief sound issues couldn't derail their set - if anything, it made a packed-out crowd lose their shit even more when it came back half a song later. By the time singer/guitarist Amy Love chucked herself into the crowd for Undertaker, the first of three flawless victories were confirmed. 

Nova Twins play Glastonbury 2022

(Image credit: Federica Burelli)

Brass instruments are punk AF

It might not be your typical protest music fare, but credit where it's due: Brass Against have cornered the market on rock and metal activist anthems reinvented through the funnel of trumpets, trombones, tubas and a good ol' saxophone. Their set at West Holts on Saturday afternoon was a blast, reimagined classics by the likes of Rage Against The Machine and Alice In Chains drawing the kind of reactions befitting of their heavy origins. The band were clearly delighted to have made it to Glastonbury after pandemic-induced time off the road, too. "I'm not gonna lie," admitted singer Sophia Urista. "There was a time when I thought things were looking pretty bleak." Us too, pal.

Alewya is a superstar in the making

Mixing dub, soul and r'n'b with flourishes of the Ethiopian and Arabic influences which informed much of her childhood, and beefing it up live courtesy of a tight and charismatic backing band, Alewya was a revelation on the intimate BBC Introducing stage on Saturday afternoon. Effortlessly winning over a packed-out tent that was eagerly awaiting an imminent surprise DJ set by dance-pop crew Confidence Man, the London-based artist was a magnetic presence, looking like a star that could captivate Wembley, let alone a 500-capacity new band stage. Next time she plays Glastonbury, bet money on it being courtesy of a much bigger stage.

Music should never stay out of politics

Be it the rapturously received speech on climate change given by Greta Thunberg on the Pyramid Stage, the full weekend of action in the politically engaged Leftfield tent or the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Olivia Rodrigo, Megan Thee Stallion and Skunk Anansie commenting on the recent, horrendous scaling back of abortion rights in the States, Glastonbury 2022 continued the festival's decades-long tradition of being steeped in activism and progressive values. In fact, the most powerful image of the entire weekend may just have been the final thirty seconds broadcast on the Pyramid - Kendrick Lamar, blood streaming down his face, yelling the lines "They judge you they judge Christ, god speed for women's rights."

Yungblud might be the world's most excitable rock star

We somewhat covered this in our review of Yungblud at Glastonbury, but it really is worth saying once again: we're not sure anyone on site was as happy to be there as the Doncaster singer-songwriter, whose persistent, bouncy enthusiasm and demands for crowd participation were so relentless that we're not still sure whether we're allowed to stop moving yet. We're pretty sure he hasn't, wherever he is right now. 

We want the Scum stage back

While Nova Twins, Turnstile, Skunk Anansie et al did an excellent job of repping alternative music at Glasto, the Scum stage that hosted the likes of Gojira and Venom Prison in 2019 was MIA this year, meaning that there was nothing in the way of full-on metal on the lineup - a little disappointing given how much better the scene's representation at the festival has been since Metallica headlined in 2014. It's a relatively minor gripe when you're talking about an event where pop, rock, hip hop, reggae, indie, disco, punk and edm can all be bedfellows, but we're still hopeful to see the Scum stage return with an extra helping of heaviness in 2023.

The livestream era was fun, but nothing will ever beat the real thing

It already feels like a lifetime ago that artists were tripping over themselves to do special livestreams during the early days of the pandemic. So effective were some of them that the format seems to be here to stay, but when all is said and done, nothing beats a proper, in-person live music experience, and there is nothing under that umbrella quite like Glastonbury. It may be just one stop in a mammoth run of festivals happening this summer, but that live music's biggest event has been able to return all guns blazing means that, even if just for a weekend here and there, life is still able to feel like something approaching normal again. Let us never take that for granted again.

Glastonbury will return in 2023

Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He has also presented and produced the Metal Hammer Podcast, presented the Metal Hammer Radio Show and is probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.