Stage Times: Glass Animals

From playing to 100,000 people at Lollapalooza to getting rushed by 10-year-olds, Glass Animals take us through their gig history

When we first meet Glass Animals’ Dave Bayley and Drew MacFarlane, lead vocalist and lead guitarist respectively, their energy over Zoom is as infectious as their music. There’s a playful delivery in their responses that makes you feel like you’re catching up with old school friends – ones who’ve played to crowds of over 100,000 people, received a Mercury Prize nomination for their sophomore album, and are about embark on their biggest tour yet. Their willingness to talk about gigs where no one turned up or when Dave broke his foot on stage adds a humility that takes all the pressure of their accolades away.

The Oxford quartet have no plans of slowing down, still basking in the major success of RIAA diamond certified 2020 single ‘Heat Waves’ – which a Sim version of Dave performed, in Simlish, at a virtual music festival on the Sims 4 during lockdown. With both a new tour and new album on the way, festival appearances and more, fans can expect a summer full of their signature future-sounding psychedelic indie pop sounds. Ahead of the release of their upcoming album, I LOVE YOU SO F***ING MUCH, and their GLASS ANIMALSTOUR OF  EARTH tour, the band takes us through their best, worst and weirdest shows.

The gig that made you want to play music

Drew: For me, I don’t know if there’s like a specific gig, but my mom always took us to church. When I was a kid, I ended up singing and playing the organ in church. So I was just doing that a lot. And that was kind of the beginning of music for me; I went from there. Yeah, it’s kind of a weird answer.

Would you go back and play music in a church?

Drew: That’s a good question. Maybe when I’m much, much, much older – like in my 70s – I can see that as a really nice way of doing music when you’re retired. But probably not right now.

Dave: No shade to church musicians, who are so good! I just don’t know if we’d have time to do it.

My first gig was Bloc Party. I just remember being in awe of live music because that was my first real concert. Like, I’d been to a pub gig with my mum when I was a kid. But Bloc Party was my first where I travelled to London with my friends – no adults – I think it was 13. It was at Brixton Academy, and I just thought, ‘Wow, music is powerful. The togetherness in this room is awesome.’ I loved it. I don’t know if it made me want to be on a stage or anything though. It just made me think that live music is a f*cking beautiful thing.

The First

Dave: We had a couple of – I don’t know how to describe it – false starts? Misguided starts? A friend of ours had a 16th birthday party and he asked us if we play something. It was very different. You [Drew] were singing.

Drew: We were playing covers of The Strokes. We got heckled.

Dave: I don’t know how good we were but we got through. It was a bad start. But then we didn’t play for ages. The next show was at the pub across the street from my house. It was f*cking awful.

Why would you describe it as “f*cking awful”?

Dave: I think we didn’t have enough music. And there wasn’t really anyone there because we were the first on of five bands. And we didn’t have any space because we were the first on of five bands – I remember Joe was sitting on the floor playing a drum machine. It was nerve-wracking. And we hadn’t mixed anything, we hadn’t really told the sound person what was happening. So when the guitar came in, it was insanely loud and caused actual physical pain to everybody in the room. Steep learning curve.

Glass Animals - Black Mambo (Live in London)

The smallest

Dave: I remember we played in Leeds and no one had bought any tickets for the show. That was that was our first tour of England. And we had a little rider that was just some hummus and pita bread – basically just enough food for us to eat – but they couldn’t get it for us because we didn’t sell any tickets. It really was quite a sad moment, wasn’t it? We all thought we were going back to our day jobs at that point.

Drew: We also had a show in Bristol where the only person in the audience was a guy called Jeff – he was known as Big Jeff. He’d go to all of the festivals and small band gigs in the area, and he’d always be at the front moshing away. So there was no crowd whatsoever at our Bristol gig, except for this dude, Big Jeff, standing literally a foot in front of us in a tiny room just moshing as hard as he could.

The best

Drew: I think my favourites are probably the Red Rocks shows. It’s an outdoor amphitheatre venue in the mountains Colorado, and it kind of overlooks Denver. There’s always something really special about those shows – there have been some really climactic moments like when we’ve been hit by massive storms during the set and the whole thing gets shut down. There’s a video of that on YouTube [see below].

Dave: Yeah, I said the word “Thunder” and then lightning hit the stage. I felt like Zeus.

Drew: People thought we’d staged it! It was incredible…then we got taken off stage.

Dave: I’ve had a lot of favourites over the years for different reasons. The ones that are my favourites are the ones that slightly kind of catch you off guard. There was one that we did in Oklahoma, or something, and we turned up in the bus at the venue and it was just like a suburban cul de sac. And this little kid comes out and he’s goes “Hey guys! Welcome to the show!” He just booked us to play this garage. I don’t know how he pulled it off, but our booking agent booked us this show in this garage. And he didn’t have a stage – it was just one speaker and a little lamp. It was very family friendly, but it popped off.

Drew: It was feral.

Glass Animals - The Other Side Of Paradise (Live at Red Rocks)

The biggest

Dave: Lollapalooza, we played before Paul McCartney and someone said there were over 100,000 people in front of us at that particular moment. Which is pretty frightening. It was also the last night of the tour and we were so tired. But the energy from everyone kept us rolling. Our biggest headline show was in Kansas City, which was about 20,000 people. But this tour will beat that.

The worst

Dave: There was a show that we did in Mexico where they didn’t tell us that they had gotten us some surprise pyrotechnics. And then I was standing over this flame thrower – I thought I was gonna die – and when it went off, it was so loud and the flames just missed the insides of my thighs. Some EDM act from the night before had left $10,000 worth of pyrotechnics behind. And they asked our tour manager, Tom Allen, if we’d be up for it and he said “definitely, but I have to push the button…”

The weirdest

Dave: We played a house party in Kansas City and that one was weird because it was a crowd of 11-year-olds at someone’s birthday party. And we just got heckled again.

Drew: They were trying to make us wear hats and throwing sunglasses at us, and there was a stage invasion at the end. All the kids flooded the stage and tried to take our instruments and play them, which is very sweet, but also quite confusing. I don’t know how it happened. But we basically pulled up to a house in a tour bus again, kind of similar to the one in Oklahoma. I think I spent the entire gig just trying to get the keyboard to work. And then I got it working by the end and then we finished.

Find tickets for Glass Animals’ TOUR OF EARTH tour here

Photo credit: Frank Hoensch/Redferns