Sleaford Mods And Yard Act At Glastonbury: Angry-bloke sprechgesang double header

Appearing back-to-back at Woodsies on Saturday, Yard Act and Sleaford Mods made for a dream pairing

Sleaford Mods

by Andrew Perry |
Updated on

“It’s a never-ending cycle of abuse!” bellows Yard Act’s James Smith circa 7.35pm up at Woodsies. It might almost have been the advertising tagline for Saturday night’s fare in the Pyramid Stage-adjacent sideshow tent, with Yard Act and the Sleaford Mods bringing the angry-bloke sprechgesang energy, back to back, from early evening through till nightfall.

READ MORE: Sleaford Mods Interviewed: “It suddenly dawned on me that this was my calling…”

For this festival summer, Smith’s Leeds-based quartet have in fact feminised, perhaps a touch unforeseeably beefing their line-up only two albums in with a pair of all-dancing backing singers, who, decked out in the same powder-blue whistles as Smith, lend extra force to choruses like the self-proclamatory We Make Hits and existentially agonied The Overload.

Today, they also welcome aboard Katy J Pearson to co-sing When The Laughter Stop, while a male sax player (has every indie combo on Earth hired one in the last fortnight?) skronks in any remaining space in the entire set’s aural barrage.

So, this 2024 model Yard Act make a right old racket, anything but four-square schmindie. As the set proceeds, a more expansive soundworld opens up, with the crack rhythm combo of Sam Shipstone (guitar), Ryan Needham (bass) and drummer Jay Russell busting out funkier flavours like shoe-shuffling disco (Vineyard For The North), Curtis Mayfield-style meditative soul (100% Endurance) and even bangin’ trance/house (Trench Coat Museum), which ultimately ignites the outlying arena into delirious, hands-in-the-air shapes-throwing.

Where Smith merrily emotes to his public (“Glastonbury!”), eulogises “this wonderful cow farm” and also dispenses obligatory election/Palestine messaging, Sleaford Mods remain murkily impactful and rock-hard, yet, after seven albums in the eleven years since 2013's Austerity Dogs, still somehow elusive and beyond rational comprehension – a touring conceptual art installation, with nary a word of between-song stagecraft, which ongoingly baffles those with expectations of something as conventional as “live music”.

Master track builder Andrew Fearn here revels as ever in his somewhat labour-light role as SM’s live laptop operative (select track, click play, repeat) and pirouettes about the stage like a long-lost turbonutter from the rave era.

To the right, Jason Williamson is gnomic, unreadable behind his rhymes-spewing rage, variously voicing entire tracks with a water bottle held vertically on his head, or absent-mindedly caressing his genitals. Zero emoting, needless to say, just an occasional “fuck off” or baboon noise by way of (possibly) appreciating the crowd’s reaction (or not).

This is not some journey pragmatically imagined within a lead singer’s brain, just a machine-gunning of sobering yet hilarious Sleaford classics like Jolly Fucker (“Ian Beale tight pants”!) and hits such as the Brexit-foreboding BHS (“we’re going down”…and ain’t we just) and the daft TCR, which all have the grumpy old dads dancing.

More downbeat tunes like Stick In A Five And Go bring a frankly terrifying subterranean edge, more Hackney drill shoot-out than vale of Avalon peace fest, a reminder of brutal realities in the world at large, with no vacuous “hope” or transcendence.

Perhaps most baffling of all, Sleaford Mod’s cover of Pet Shop Boys’ West End Girls is played straight, but deviant as all hell. This extraordinary duo’s filthy, malign energy, its perennial Jobseeker fury, here as much as anywhere else, is still a blessing indeed, for which all present give their hearty and uproarious thanks.

Yard Act Set List

Sleaford Mods Set List

Stay on MOJO4MUSIC for complete coverage of Glastonbury 2024’s best music including ColdplayIDLES, SqueezePaul Heaton and Fatboy Slim's Housemartin's reunionDexysLCD SoundsystemPJ Harvey, The Last Dinner Party, Michael Kiwanuka, Orbital and more.

Picture: Sleaford Mods in Madrid, November 2023. Credit: Mariano Regidor/Getty

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