Kings of Leon to Kanye West: the cringiest festival TV moments

Festival season means live coverage of unpredictable, drunk or stupid stars on and off stage. It doesn’t always work out

Primal Scream at Glastonbury, 2005

The faces of presenters Edith Bowman and Colin Murray were wildly fluctuating barometers of rock-TV strife as they welcomed Bobby Gillespie and bassist Mani to the sofa: the hosts began sunnily, but within seconds Gillespie had effed and Mani had joked about stabbing hippies to death. Then everyone relaxed into it but, just as Ede and Col thought they’d escaped, Bobby G labelled Basement Jaxx “fucking cocksuckers”, and it was time for a cheek-puffing apology, because – magnificently – all this was pre-watershed.

Kings of Leon at Reading, 2009

Kings Of Leon at Reading Festival, 2009.
Kings Of Leon at Reading Festival, 2009. Photograph: Kevin Nixon/Classic Rock Magazine/Rex/Shutterstock

Boredom is one’s natural fear when faced with a televised performance by the Nashville cousins, but nobody was expecting their Reading headline slot, in the wake of a mainstream breakthrough, to be a knuckle-in-mouth binge of cringe. That’s what it became when singer Caleb Followill told off the insufficiently loud crowd: “I’m trying to hold back and not say anything negative, man … I hope it warms up out here because we need it.” Followill then twanged out the intro to Sex on Fire, shaking his head and tutting like a not-angry-just-disappointed mum. Rock and eyeroll!

Arctic Monkeys & Lily Allen at T in the Park, 2010

A sticky bit of awful backstage banter occurred when Zane Lowe and a hoarse, visibly defeated Lauren Laverne took on perennial chat-derailers Arctic Monkeys, guest-starring an industrially lubricated Lily Allen. Laverne’s efforts to discuss the Monkeys’ upcoming set were drowned in a fug of swearing, Lowe’s bovine interjections and Allen’s attempt to sexily chew a lanyard. Some INTENsely diRECTtional microPHONES turned an alienating simulation of someone else’s crap party into a disorienting trip.

Zane Lowe v Beyoncé at Glastonbury, 2011

Very much the white and gold dress of agonising festvision: was Zane Lowe dissing his co-host Lauren Laverne and Glasto headliner Beyoncé, or was his reaction to Laverne’s review of Beyoncé’s set just an unfortunate mix of weekend fatigue and live telly’s imperfections? Either way, laughing in a colleague’s face after they’ve improvised a stirring piece of oratory on the genius of Ms Knowles wasn’t a good look; nor was the abruptness with which Lowe moved on. Never have the words “I was watching a bit of Queens of the Stone Age” sounded ruder.

Kanye West at Glastonbury, 2015

Kanye West, Glastonbury Festival, 2015.
Kanye West, Glastonbury Festival, 2015. Photograph: Samir Hussein/Redferns via Getty Images

Kanye arrived ready to blitz our wonky little hoedown with an uncompromising set, performed under a ceiling of spotlights. But he fell foul of British TV’s knack for bathetic absurdity. First, subtitlers made Yeezy look silly by claiming he’d used the word “motherducker”, at one point giving up and simply typing, “HE RAPS”. (Yes. Yes, he does.) Then, TV “prankster” Lee Nelson invaded the stage. For four unreal seconds, before Nelson was bear-hugged by a henchman, the two men stood opposite each other, West staring ignominy itself in the face. He’s not been back.


Jack Seale

The GuardianTramp

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