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Music

Five insanely frustrating set clashes in the history of Glastonbury Festival

No two words are more likely to strike fear into the hearts of Glastonbury Festival ticket-holders than ‘set-clash’. Picture the scene, you’ve just spent £300 on a ticket, you’ve packed boots, clothes, that optimistic bottle of suncream, and your tent. Then, you check the schedule and realise that somebody has made a terrible mistake.

At that moment, you’d rather pick which of your parents to toss into a ravine. You’d do anything not to have to choose, not to have to decide which of your favourite artists is more worthy of your presence. Alas, the set times are set in stone and no music fan, no matter how nimble, can be in two places at the same time.

In Glastonbury’s early days, set clashes weren’t much of an issue. But as the festival grew larger and larger, more stages were added, and overlapping acts became an inevitability. Here, we’ve compiled five of the most infuriating set-clashes from the last 30 years or so. So, if you’re looking to revisit a misspent youth or simply wallow in the suffering of others, make sure you check them out below.

The worst Glastonbury set clashes:

Massive Attack vs The Prodigy (1997)

There’s a space in hell reserved for the desk jockey who decided to put two of 1997’s biggest electronic acts just 15 minutes apart. Although to be fair to them, Glastonbury 1997 was chock-full of must-see acts.

Torrential rain arrived just before the weekend, resulting in one of the muddiest Glastonbury festivals of all time. Despite the quagmire, hordes of welly-clad revellers descended on Worthy Farm undeterred. 1997 boasted more live acts than ever before, meaning set clashes were a given. Still, the expanded 800-acre site, featuring a ‘dubhenge’ made from upturned VW campervans and solar-powered showers, more than made up for it. The lineup also included Radiohead, Ray Davies and Sting.

Portishead vs Arctic Monkeys (2007)

Many Glastonbury veterans will remember tearing their hair out over this one. Those that chose Alex Turner and company will remember the bizarre but undeniably thrilling moment Dizzee Rascal walked out on stage to rap over ‘Temptation Greets You Like Your Naughty Friend’.

Ten years after the ‘Year of The Mud’, Glastonbury 2007 was no less swampy. The festival had taken a year off in 2006, so fans were all the more willing to get stuck in, marching in their droves to Arctic Monkeys’ maiden Glastonbury set. Other acts included The Who, Björk, Dame Shirley Bassey, Iggy Pop, CSS, Amy Winehouse, Mia, Kate Nash, Billy Bragg, Damien Marley, Lily Allen, and The Chemical Brothers.

Neil Young vs Ray Davies (2009)

Ouch, two counterculture greats at the same time. Clearly, nobody thought that fans of classic songwriting might be keen to watch two of its greatest proponents. Still, I suppose you can’t have everything.

2009 saw record numbers of ticket holders arrive on Worthy Farm. By Thursday morning, 90,396 attendees had set up camp and were eagerly awaiting the first main stage acts. As is traditional, the beautiful summer weather broke just in time for the first wave of performances, with a sudden storm dousing sunbathers in a cold, wet measure of reality. Thankfully the clouds quickly parted, leaving ticket-holders free to enjoy sets by Maximo Park, The Streets’ Mike Skinner, Lily Allen, East 17, and Nick Cave, the latter of whom nearly had his set gate-crashed by a would-be reveller attempting to fly over the security fence in a microlite.

Radiohead vs The Flaming Lips (2017)

Honestly, this one makes my toes curl. I think I’d rather eat one of my own hands than have to choose between listening to ‘Weird Fishes’ and ‘Race For The Prize’. Unfortunately, ticket holders for Glastonbury 2017 were met with that exact dilemma.

The Flaming Lips performed alongside Radiohead during 2003’s Glastonbury Festival too, although their sets were scheduled well enough that frontman Wayne Coyne got the chance to watch Thom Yorke and company deliver their iconic performance. Recalling the experience, Coyne told NME; “After we got done playing we were able to stay on stage and watch Radiohead play. I love Radiohead, and just seeing them embrace this huge mass of overflowing love and energy that was cascading down on them…it was amazing.”

Paul McCartney vs Jamie T vs Mitski (2022)

You’d think that more than 50 years of experience would have made Glastonbury a clash-free zone. Well, think again. Glastonbury 2022 ticket holders were forced to navigate a number of ill-placed sets, the most infuriating of which was the Paul McCartney/Jamie T/Mitski clash. Fans also had to choose whether to see Glastonbury newby Billie Eilish or festival mainstays Foals, Haim or Big Theif, Kendrick Lamar or Pet Shop Boys, and Diana Ross or Fontaines D.C.

To be fair, Glastonbury did have a backlog of artists pre-booked to perform the 2022 event after Covid-19 forced organisers to cancel two years on the trot. I just feel sorry for Jamie T, who was probably forced to watch his crowd gradually slip away as Paul McCartney took to the stage.