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Glasto first-timers: Florence and the Machine

By Kev Geoghegan
Radio 1 music reporter

Florence And The Machine

OK, technically we're cheating a little bit on this one as Florence and the Machine did actually play a short set at last year's Glastonbury. Although she reckons that it really doesn't count.

"It was a complete shambles," Flo admitted.

She continued: "My guitarist didn't turn up. It was at 11 o' clock in the morning. Everyone was having breakfast and hadn't slept in two days.

"I was crying and had to do half the gig acapella. When my guitarist turned up people started booing him because they'd seen what state I was in.

"It was all a bit of a palaver."

You get the impression that nothing really goes according to plan around Florence and that really doesn't phase her.

Florence And The Machine
Florence refuses to take a rest, playing three shows at Glastonbury

On stage, she's half blues chanteuse, half stand up comedienne.

Stick thin with red tumbling locks and the I-just-got-dressed-in-the-dark look that passes for vintage chic. Her bare knees and shins are all scuffed and scraped, making her look a little like the naughty kid your mum didn't like you hanging round with at school.

"Who goes for a full-on power slide with no trousers of any kind?" she shook her head.

Kiss With A Fist

Well, 21-year-old former art student Florence Welch is exactly that sort of person.

Her show at SXSW in Texas in March ended with her jumping into a swimming pool and hiding under the stage.

She is yet to sign a major record deal and admits that she would really rather do things her own way.

At first listen, her songs appear to be a little on the dark side.

Her latest single, Kiss With A Fist, details a particularly abusive relationship with lines like I hit you once / You hit me back / You gave a kick / I gave a slap.

But she insisted the song isn't to be taken literally.

She said: "The lyrics are just imagery to use. You see these couples and the only thing they get from each other is anger, they just push each other's buttons and you can see it's so destructive.

"But the destruction is what holds them together because they actually love it.

Florence And The Machine
I'm going to be acting weirder than I am normally
Florence Welch

"There's so much passion and all of these feelings can't be expressed in words.

"It's not about actual physical violence."

And yet, the themes reappear in songs like Girl With 1 Eye, about blinding a love rival.

Cheery stuff, but central to Flo's appeal is the stunning voice which crackles with emotion.

She sounds like a cross between Adele and Amy Winehouse, sharing the latter's taste for all things retro.

Apparently, when she was little, a childminder compared it to Celine Dion, though thankfully that is where the comparison to the Canadian foghorn ends.

Electric Harp

Looking towards Glastonbury, Flo is thinking big. She's one of a handful of artists who are playing a series of gigs across the weekend.

She said: "We've got an electric harp now, so I've gone from having no instruments to having about 14.

"You can only go up, can't you."

"It's going to be interesting playing four gigs. I'm going to be acting weirder than I am normally."

But she admits it is a very big thing for a young artist to be asked to play at the biggest festival in the UK.

He said: "It is a really big deal, it's so exciting, I feel honoured.

"I keep waking up in the morning and thinking, 'Pyramid stage, Pyramid stage, Pyramid stage'."

She cheekily added: "I mean, you've got to smart small."

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