Glastonbury is undoubtedly the biggest and most respected music festival in the UK - and quite possibly the world. Following a year off, the festival returns this weekend bigger and better than ever. As always, there are literally thousands of acts on the bill, with something to suit everyone - from the hardcore chin-stroking jazz buffs to the most committed ravers.
As you’d expect, the Glastonbury 2019 line-up features plenty of guitar acts, but if you’re prepared to step away from the Pyramid Stage you’ll find a multitude of electronic artists peddling their synth-fuelled musical wares. We’ve put together a round-up of some of the best of them: whether you’re at the festival or watching from the comfort of the sofa, here are the people you can’t afford to miss
1. Jon Hopkins
MusicRadar favourite Jon Hopkins is a busy man this weekend. He’s already joined Annie Mac in the BBC Introducing tent for the opening part of Radio 1’s coverage, and he’ll be DJing at the Beat Hotel on Saturday night. However, the main event is on Friday, when he headlines the West Holts Stage.
Hopkins has been refining his approach to live performance for well over a decade, focusing his setup around Ableton Live and Korg Kaoss Pads to deliver truly live reinterpretations of his music. Expect older favourites alongside a heavy selection from last year’s outstanding Singularity LP.
2. Chemical Brothers
Glastonbury has traditionally been skewed heavily in favour of guitar bands, but dance acts began to worm their way into the headline spots in the mid ‘90s as the likes of Orbital and Underworld won over the crowd with career-defining performances.
The Chemical Brothers first appeared at the festival in 1995, but their last appearance came at a strange time in the duo’s career, with visual collaborator Adam Smith filling in alongside Tom Rowlands while Ed Simons took a break from live shows.
Ed is now back, and with this year’s Brexit-fuelled album No Geography to draw on, you can expect a return to their trademark block-rockin’ beats as they headline the Other Stage on Saturday night.
3. Hot Chip
London synthpop doyens Hot Chip are always a festival favourite, although their Glastonbury performance comes at a time of difficult, contrasting emotions. The group’s seventh album, A Bath Full of Ecstasy, was released last week, just two days after the tragic death of co-producer Philippe Zdar.
If shows earlier this year are anything to go on, you can expect a spellbinding mix of electronics and live instrumentation, with Alexis Taylor, Joe Goddard and Al Doyle lined up like a small synth army, unleashing an assault with Moog, DSI and Roland weaponry. Catch them headlining the Park Stage on Saturday night.
4. The Streets
Back with his Streets project after a lengthy hiatus, Mike Skinner has corralled a slick live band to give a masterclass in reinterpreting back catalogue material for the live stage. With a set based heavily around the classic Streets debut Original Pirate Material, there are no backing tracks here, just an onslaught of live synths, drums and weighty basslines.
Skinner is ably assisted by longtime collaborator Robert Harvey on guitar, backing vocals and quite possibly with a cheeky little cameo performing the odd UK garage classic. Expect carnage as they close the John Peel Stage on Sunday night.
5. Love Unlimited Synth Orchestra
Would it even be Glastonbury if it didn’t at least get just a little bit weird? The Love Unlimited Synth Orchestra is a relatively tame offering by Glastonbury standards, but still a leftfield choice for most of us: a synth-driven tribute to the Walrus of Love himself, dearly departed soul legend Barry White. What’s not to love?
Promising special guest vocalists alongside synths and string players, expect 21st century interpretations of tracks like Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe and It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next to Me. Catch it on the Park Stage on Saturday afternoon.
6. SG Lewis
Samuel Lewis made his Glasto debut back in 2016 but returns this year with a string of impressive EPs and collaborations under his belt. Signed to the PMR label that’s also home to the likes of Disclosure and Jessie Ware, you can expect similar festival-friendly dance vibes, taken largely from his recent trilogy of EPs: Dusk, Dark and Dawn.
What sets Lewis apart is his musical approach. Backed by live drums and bass, his keyboard skills reinforce his songwriting chops in the live setting. He plays early evening Saturday at the dance-focussed Glade area.
Saturday on the John Peel stage is a strong line-up, peaking with the slightly controversial booking of Sean Paul as headliner. One of the afternoon’s highlights is undoubtedly London-based singer-songwriter Shura, whose enchanting electro-pop should suit the tent perfectly.
Usually based around Ableton Live and a Native Instruments Maschine running as a pad controller, her stage set is a truly live affair, backed with electronic drums, synths and bass from her bandmates. Expect to hear previews of tracks from her forthcoming album Forevher, due out on the excellent Secretly Canadian label in August.
8. Maribou State
Ninja Tune-affiliated duo Maribou State are specialists in gloriously downtempo dancefloor melancholia, which should fit the bill perfectly on Friday night on the West Holts Stage. Their set is based around Ableton Live, but with an absolutely blinding array of analogue synths, effects, guitars and live drums to round out their set, drawn largely from last year’s exceptional Kingdoms in Colour album. Expect blissed-out vibes from the start.
You can also catch the pair on Sunday afternoon at the Beat Hotel as part of Maribou State’s Hotel High Tea alongside Medlar.
9. Larry Heard/Mr Fingers
House music pioneer Larry Heard returned to the stage under his Mr Fingers alias in 2016 after a twenty-plus-year hiatus from live performance. Saturday night (technically early Sunday morning) at the new IICON stage offers a rare opportunity to catch him in the UK.
Heard’s typical live set is a fairly straightforward affair in terms of tech, improvising and playing live keyboards on top of pre-programmed sequences of his bona fide house classics. For 2019, he’s added Eglo Records vocalist Fatima and Parisian jazz pianist Paul Cut to his band. Expect it to get deep.
Scheduled so deep into Sunday night’s IICON line-up that it’s technically Monday morning, Karenn are strictly for the straight-through crew. The duo, comprising Blawan and Pariah, have perfected the art of live improvised modular techno, exercising a deceptively hardcore level of finesse in their sonic sculpting. You’ll need to be in the right mindset, but if you’re still going by this point then the chances are that you’ll love their savage approach.
What could be better than a solid dose of kick drums and brutal experimental techno to ease you gently into next week? Expect it to get messy.