Glastonbury Review: Barry Can’t Swim

June 28, 2024

Nothing says “flavour of the festival” quite like a ludicrously oversubscribed early afternoon Park Stage slot. Teeming to a level that would have health and safety nervously twitching, Barry Can’t Swim – real name, Joshua Mainnie – came to prove he’s worth the ‘new Fred Again…’ hype.

The Tropicalia-inflected rhythms, gospel and synth sounds that propel Barry Can’t Swim’s exceptional debut When Will We Land were brought beautifully to life. So infectious are his house beats and melodies that they transcend club culture. This much can be observed from afar but was confirmed, and then some, at Worthy Farm.

Looking upon the stage were more pupils than an entire state school district, and so it was apt that the first visual backdrop was a pair of eyes darting from left to right. Mainnie set to work wearing a lime green silk shirt so gaudy that the Highway Code have likely approved it for safe cycling. The message was nevertheless clear: the energy was ‘’up and at ‘em’’. The party started here. While this was true from Mainnie and co onstage, out front was a different matter. Maybe festival goers sleep still had sleep rooted in their eyes, or a hangover to shake off, but things took a little while to warm up.

It wasn’t for Mainnie’s want of trying. He attacked his piano like there was a fire that needed putting out and, in between knob-twiddling and impressive playing, Mainnie danced like a toddler hitting the disco dancefloor. Maybe the crowd took his cue. Gradually, limbs loosened, and his seductive brand of heady house brought smiles beneath cloudy skies. Lift-off was well and truly achieved.

‘Kimbara’ took it’s Gloria Estefan-referencing melody and ran with it, while ‘Can We Still Be Friends’ drum n’ bass courting beat was impossible to deny. Two years ago, Joshua Mainnie was a punter prowling the festival site with a USB stick in his pocket hoping he could play in case someone dropped out. Today, he stood triumphant before a crowd so large the space couldn’t cope, and with a sound no soul could resist. Barry might not be able to swim, but he knocked it out the Park Stage.

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