As we all pine for the usual summer chicanery that Glastonbury festival would normally deliver had it not decided to take the year off, former Supergrass drummer Danny Goffey has the answer.
Goffstonbury 2018, put together by Goffey himself in the wake of his most recent album Schtick, saw 100 or so of his fans - as well as friends, family, and some very familiar faces in music - invited to his Somerset house to watch some of the most celebrated British acts of the last twenty years. These exclusive tickets were won by fans that had been entered into a draw after pre-ordering Goffey’s latest record and were treated to a day of local-brewed mango cider, sunshine, and phenomenal live music over the same weekend that would normally host Glastonbury.
First up is singer-songwriter Tom Bright, performing without his usual backing band The Dynamite, however this did not seem to faze him one bit. Bright strolled onto the stage with the confidence of a veteran despite not even having released his debut album yet. There’s something about Bright’s voice and attitude that is reminiscent of a young Alex Turner; his songs are catchy, his lyrics are a cutting social commentary on everything that he feels is wrong with modern life, and there’s a glint in his eye that wouldn’t look amiss had he uttered those immortal words, “Don’t believe the hype”. Not only did Bright perform his latest single 'Tsunami of Suits', a more melancholic tune that expresses his discontent with an increasingly consumerist and aggressively gentrified culture - as well as an as-of-yet unreleased track titled 'Wedding Bells' - but 'Last Night’s Kebab' arguably won the biggest reaction from audiences due to the vividly dubious, yet hilarious imagery in his lyrics. Probably best to leave further explanations there for now…
The Listening Device are the next act up, bringing with them their very own brand of the avant-garde to the rock and roll proceedings. They're a seven-piece band fronted by Harry “Bunter” Worcester, the 12th Duke of Beaufort as if that isn’t surreal enough, and they stomp through their set with all the gravitas that comes with having been around long enough to tour three albums and still come out the other side kicking. Bunter introduces the last song of the set with a wry smile, before going into a very different cover of 'Eleanor Rigby' that sees the tempo almost doubled and overdriven guitars in place of the usual brass and woodwind. The band plays hard and heavy whilst Bunter growls over the top of them, and it is clear that here are musicians fully subscribed to the Tom Waits/Charles Bukowski ethos that sugar-coating a message is just diluting it.
Midway through the day, Cardiff based reggae act Junior Bill deliver a slight change of pace, taking to the stage in tartan flat-caps and grandad shirts to dish out gritty witticisms from scratchy vocals. Watching them perform, their grassroots style shows in every move they make, every note they play, and every lyric spat out into the mics, it is an almost childlike honesty set against a very mature anger at social and political issues that make them engaging, entertaining, and endearing, in equal measure. The band leave and re-enter the stage throughout the set, leaving singer Rob Nichols to play songs like 'Wolf in Grange Town' solo before coming back on to rattle through a few more. Junior Bill are a product of their history as well as their environment, and you can hear influences from The Police to The Specials to Madness, but it’s all set to contemporary topics, and by the time the band finish on their last song, lyrics like “we’re gonna blow up the mermaid king” are still ringing around the tent.
Southend rockers Asylums bring it up a gear or two with their set, signalling the beginning of a run of acts well-versed in the art of exciting festival crowds. They’re sonically brilliant and visually intense, throwing themselves around the stage whilst retaining a tightness that is almost recording quality. For the most part, their performance is fast-paced and brash, a wall of energy that envelopes the audience, however, it is their newest single that breaks up the madness mid-set. 'Millennials' is an ambient tune with ironically retro 90s vibes considering its name, and talks about the disillusionment and alienation of a generation. It’s the slowest song in the set for a reason; not only does it give the band and audience room to breathe before crashing back into their usual trademark pace, but in a song where the message is obviously as important as the music, it gives the lyrics room to breathe as well.
Ed Harcourt’s ability to immediately captivate an audience should come as no shock by now, considering he’s been one of the most well respected British songwriters for the best part of twenty years, but it’s still an impressive sight to see. Harcourt plays variations of his songs on piano and guitar, using loop pedals and effects to add in percussion, moving from soft and haunting to catchy and anthemic seamlessly. It is at this point that Harcourt invites his wife, Gita Harcourt-Smith to join him, augmenting the dark tones of his 2016 track 'Furnaces' with an accompanying violin, before resuming his powerful one-man performance. Harcourt’s control over the stage is absolute and he structures his songs to great effect, bringing the mood up and down at exactly the right moments whilst joking and interacting with the crowd. The set also saw an appearance from Suede’s very own Brett Anderson, who joined Harcourt at the end of his set to perform a version of 90s Suede-hit 'The Wild Ones'.
Now for the main event, the headline heavy-hitter himself. The tent is packed for Danny Goffey’s set and the sun is at that point in the sky when it hangs precariously just above the horizon, casting a yellow hue over the proceedings. Goffey is joined onstage by the likes of Marley Mackey, from the band Insecure Men, and then we’re off; the first chords are struck and Goffey and the band launch into the first track. This is definitely the liveliest the tent has been all day, and rightly so, not only seeing that it’s Goffey’s soiree to begin with, but also because he and the band are on top form. It’s not the polished perfection of Asylums, and it’s not the deeply emotional intensity of Harcourt, but neither option has ever been Goffey’s style. Danny Goffey is a musical brawler, a sonic gunslinger, and his performance pulls no punches. Songs like 'Phil’s Dummy' from the VanGoffey days makes an appearance, and 'Buzzkiller', the single from his brand-new album, is situated mid-set, but let’s be honest, it was 'Pumping On Your Stereo' that stole the show. “I haven’t played this one in years”, Goffey declares, and by the time the chords have started up the audience know what’s coming. The relationship that Goffey has with the audience is almost one of familiarity, like watching a pianist trading banter with the punters as he plays at his local, the only difference being that this isn’t a local boozer, and Goffey is a founding member of one of the most exciting bands in history.
As the sun sets on Goffstonbury and the band finish up to rapturous applause, it isn’t hard to see why these fans are still coming back year after year to see Goffey play. Not only is his music timeless and his live show bold and exhilarating, but he also knows how to throw a party, and his festival blows any thought of missing out on Glastonbury to the far recesses of everyone’s mind.