“Like a Hieronymus Bosch painting”
“I’m losing the will to live!” Friday afternoon comment from someone passing.
“Can you just hold my bag while I piss by this tent.”
Glastonbury has always been the jewel in my summer festival crown, since the words “don’t climb over that fence” first entered my vocabulary. Those 5 incredibly short days and nights were reminisced on, dewy eyed for months afterwards and on into the cold winter. Hours were spent poring over the NME, Melody Maker & Select (I’m showing my age here) post-festival reviews and free cassettes of the lost weekends in those fields.
Being called an indie kid/hippie was something I’d grown accustomed to in the sh*t, dead end town that I grew up in but Glastonbury was where I could indulge and be accepted for these leanings. I used to have the piss taken out of me for going to Glazzers, from a very young age. My parents had a stall at the festival for many years selling airbrushed t-shirts of rainbow cows and tie died laces. Then as a teenage indie kid intent on staring at his shoes, listening to Ride, dropping green oms and smoking cheap nasty hash in a closed tent to get the most bang for his buck, I was let loose on my own. I was, I’m not ashamed to admit a Glastonbury evangelist of sorts. But enough of that. I hate to read reviews/articles where the writer harks back to the good old days… so I’m going to dispense with that. You need to move forwards in whatever you’re doing.
So it was, with some excitement this year that I was asked to review the festival for the first time For such purposes I felt obliged to look past my rose tinted gasses, making the comparison with former years and witnessing/realisation of the modern day Goliath the festival has become.Peace, Love and the Glastonbury Spirit? High St. Pedestrianism, Cans of Fosters and the odd fight? It seems to have a bit of both these days to be fair.
Mud to Sun.
Last year was one of my favourite Glastonburys bar none. This was probably in no small part down to the blistering heat all weekend and the company. This year doesn’t start with the same flair that last year’s did. It mostly involves trudging around in the dark in quick-setting concrete with a bit of gate to-ing and fro-ing, to organise tickets upon our much later than intended arrival. However, the first sparkle of festival magic shines through and punctuates and indeed lifts this mission, by N20 and Julio Bashmore lighting up the Wow Stage. That man is a talent of true proportions. If he doesn’t completely explode in the coming year, there is no justice in this world.
There’s nothing like starting an experience on a low – brought on by mud, traversing and setting up camp in the dark – because it can pretty much, only be up from there. Friday is something of an inspired challenge. However, sitting in a hammock in the new additon the Beat Hotel – cocktails, chairs and aforementioned hammocks – as the heavens rain down from above, cider firmly in hand, Danny Heavenly lifts the mood with his rather marvellous records on what is looking like another sludge filled mire of a weekend. We sidle/stumble/fall/hike over to one of the more memorable and only visits to the main stage of the weekend, to catch Wu Tang chastising/hyping 40,000 in the pouring rain to the call and response “White people on the beat one time”. Personally, for that time and space, I loved ‘em; the general consensus by everyone else I come into contact with over the weekend is to the contrary. Don’t follow the masses William!
Oooh, it’s a secret guest! Heading over to catch the now rather predictable ‘secret special guest’, we witness Radiohead alienate the majority of the soaking field by pretty much playing their whole new album to a field of sodden, hungry ‘head hits fans. Bit of a change from those many years ago when they saved many a person’s festival, headlining the main-stage of another washout weekend. The piss police are out in force with mega-phones ensuring no-one soils the fences around the stage. A righteous idea, even though I’ve been guilty of it in the past. We’re a wealth of contradicitons.
A stop back and a refuel, the possibility of not braving the outside is discussed. It is rightfully thrown out by my cohort. Dan Beaumont & Hannah Holland playing to a packed tent of sodden-ness is where it all goes right. The ‘spirit’ (or is it just mine) is returned in all its annual glory. Onwards into the night and Block 9 and NYC Downlow. NYC Downlow – a 1970′s New York disco in the middle of a field, a load of trannies dancing on stage, Dan B playing again and some excellent company… the world accordingly to Avalon has saved us again.The level of production that goes into the late-night-zone or whatever they actually call the collective of the Shangri-La, Block 9, Arcadia, The Common and The Unfairground areas is phenomenal. This is why Glastonbury is still the greatest festival in the world. Forget the average headliners and Jessie J (who the fk is she anyway??), the work, care and attention to detail that goes into this area is ridiculous. The space opens itself up for night to us like Disney Land does to kids only on a little more . Walking into a building that resembles London housing blocks and tumble down hotels, reveals another hot, sweaty dance-floor packed full of wellies and waterproofs
Saturday… Tinie Tempah makes the people go low and he’s pretty good at it too. Pulp are the ‘oooh secret guests’ today but they’re incredible special guests and we’re reminded what real national treasures they are. And I’m not one to use that expression lightly. We swerve the headliners once again – with a brief wander past Chemical Bros who are surprisingly great after the last time I saw them – and Ross Allen tearing up Stonebridge Bar, to where the true heart now exists.
A wander through Shangri-La draws wonder and intrigue, washed down with a bit of ’tude from a random Barry. Needless aggression diffused, we open another door to find a room built on a 45 degree angle. Feeling our way around the walls we come across a band playing to about 8 people. We stand, we watch, we get involved, we move on. Around each door, another bizarre world. And there are lots of doors.Ingestion involves ex-gestion. A bull ring full of Yoda & Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, a strange warren of yet more doors, an aeroplane with a tequila bar, Thom Yorke DJing next door, Strummerville, a diner, table football, fire breathing dragons, dancing, smiling and passing out in the stone circle on the way home… these are the reasons I still come here.
Glastonbury and the internet have become such intertwined bedfellows these days. With a million sites devoted to eulogising the myths of yesteryear (and I don’t pertain to be any different at times), you have to wonder if it has so much to live up these days that people are almost expecting more than is actually there and are searching for ‘that thing’. Don’t think, ignore the middle of the road headliners and head for outskirts. It is where you’ll find the good and true stuff. Perhaps in 2013 they should enforce a similar policy to that of Burning Man. You’re allocated a campsite and if you trash/don’t dispose of your litter you’re not allowed back the next year. It is not that Glastonbury has ‘lost it’ per se, you just need to know where to ‘find it’. It has just become a victim of its own success. Not a vintage year but head and shoulders above anything else you’ll find for breadth of production etc.
Want more this year? Go check Farmfest or Festinhno, small and nice.
Let’s leave the attitude at the door next time around tho eh?