My weekend at Glastonbury tought me a number of things, but a recurring theme i noticed was that different people approach things in very different ways, and can have highly divergent experiences whilst, pretty much, doing the same thing. This was a lesson that began to manifest itself up to a week before the festival started, as one of my housemates, who was also going to be at Glastonbury, finished her packing four or five days before the festival started, I, on the other hand, started at around midnight the night before I left, knowing full well I had to up at around 6am the next day.
Being one of those highly annoying people who overuses the somewhat idiomatic expression of not ‘doing mornings’, I was not impressed with life when the alarm went off, but I knew it was in my interests to get out of bed, and drag myself to the train station, which I did, begrudgingly. Upon arriving at Paddington station, a sniffer dog seemed to take kindly to my aura, which is apparently enough reason to search someone these days. I co-operated, knowing I had no other choice, resisting attempts made by the cop to initiate some form of friendly rapport. I didn’t understand why he thought I would I speak in a friendly manner to someone who is actively trying to ruin my weekend. Unsurprisingly, they found nothing, but I almost missed my train. By the time it left I was relieved to finally on my way.
After a few hours on a train and a short coach trip, we arrived at Worthy Farm and set up camp, after getting a little lost, of course.
Being Thursday, there wasn’t much going on in the way of music, which gave me an excellent opportunity to explore, being my first time at Glastonbury, I was unprepared for how huge the place actually was. I like to think I covered most of the site that day, but almost certainly didn’t. My favourite parts of the site are ‘Strummerville’ which was a caravan and a circle of sofas around a large fire, just like the one described in an Joe Strummer biography I once read, and ‘The Park’, the area just behind where I was camped, which had a giant tower made of ribbon and a hill with incredible views of the whole site.
At around 6pm I saw my first musical act of the weekend, Charlene Soraia on the Queens Head stage. She has a really beautiful voice, and writes songs that meander complexly through different themes, I was impressed. I then proceeded to further explore the site, made plans to watch This is Spinal Tap in the cinema tent at 2am, and then witnessed the heavens open. I got my first taste of the Glastonbury mud and an excuse to use the Wellies I bought the day before.
Having waterproof footwear is all well and good, I thought, but when you have nothing water resistant from the knees upwards, it all seems rather futile. I got drenched, but I didn’t let it dampen my spirits. I was still in awe of the creative atmosphere and starting to be taken in by the Glastonbury magic.
Later, I caught a set from an Indie/Dance act ‘Metronomy’ who apart from some excellent bass lines, failed to impress me. I then headed back to my tent, having been caught up by the lack of the sleep. No spinal tap, but I’d be seeing the real thing in a few days.
I learnt a valuable lesson on Friday morning, if you’re camping in the rain, it is in your interests to shut your tent properly. I woke up to learn first hand that my sleeping bag isn’t waterproof, and had a little private sulk before I remembered I was at Glastonbury. I put my wellies on and headed to the dance village, where Pama International about to play. They played a tight and enjoyable set, blitzing through their most well known songs and adding a few new ones to the equation for good measure. Though they seemed to lack a little enthusiasm on stage, the music more than made up for it, I had a massive grin on my face from start to finish. The sun was out by the time I left the tent, coincidence? I like to think not.
Next up, this time on the John Peel stage, was another band I am no real stranger to, Fucked Up. Possibly the only traditional punk/hardcore band on the bill, and a band with a legacy for the type of energetic live shows that some bands struggle to transpose into a festival arena. However, Fucked Up managed to harness the sheer energy of the packed tent and put on one of the most memorable performances of the weekend. Though I’m yet to be impressed with the experimental vibe of their latest record, from which they drew at least half their set, the songs were given a ferocious and frantic edge, and by the time the set, which included their singer, Pink Eyes, performing from every possible surface, came crashing to an end with Crusades, possibly my favourite Fucked Up song, I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone else playing that day could top them.
In the style of the stage’s namesake, the next band up couldn’t have been more different than Fucked Up, American indie Rockers ‘The Virgins’, whom I had heard no songs by, but plenty of good things about, they didn’t initially strike me as ‘my thing’, but Glastonbury is about broadening horizons, and by the end of their set my toes were tapping enthusiastically, I was impressed, but probably wont actively pursue them in the future.
Heading towards the Jazz World Stage to watch the ‘Hot 8 Brass Band’ whom I had seen about a year previously playing a fantastic free set on the streets of Brighton, I witnessed, for the first time, disabling qualities that a crowd the size of the one at Glastonbury can posses. I, for some reason, thought it’d be a good idea to cut across the space in front of the Pyramid stage. This turned out to be one of my less good ideas, very little ‘cutting’ was done, but I caught the end of an energetic performance from N.E.R.D, who over ran their set time and had their sound cut, much to the bemusement of Pharrell Williams, though I found it rather amusing, especially when I found out they ran over time because they were late arriving.
At this point I made a decision that i’d had enough loud music for a little while and headed towards ‘The Park’, where I purchased an overpriced falafel (my lack of organisation proved to be expensive, as I failed to bring any of my own food or drinks), looked over the festival site and then headed back to my tent. I must have fallen asleep, because after what seemed like enough time to blink, I received a phone call saying ‘The Specials are on in 10 minutes, where are you?’, I got my things together and ran down to the pyramid stage, to catch an amazing set by a band that I’ve wanted to see since I was much younger. They were everything I had hoped they’d be, the sound was incredible, they were tight as I could have wished for, sounding just like they do on the records I’ve played to death. It’d have been nice if Jerry Dammers had rejoined them, but purely for symbolic reasons. Though I got there late, I managed to catch most of their set, including Too Much Too Young, Ghost Town and my personal favourite song of theirs, Hey Little Rich Girl, they left me feeling the happiest I have in a long time and topped Fucked Up’s set for enjoyment factor, easily.
Headlining Friday was Neil Young, whom I deem responsible for much of my love of folk, having been raised with his album ‘Harvest’ coming at me from the front of my mum’s car, I didn’t actually know much of his other music and was completely unprepared for just how ‘hard rockin’ some of it was. Neil Young put on a fantastic show. He abused instruments, sang amazingly, played some of the crunchiest guitars I heard all weekend and even threw in the occasional huge chorus (’Keep on rockin’ in the free world’ will surely go down in Glastonbury history for the number of times it appeared to finish before he broke into what we all believed would be one last chorus). My highlight though, was ‘Heart of Gold’, a song I associate with many of the road trips of my youth and left we singing loudly and smiling from cheek to cheek .
I chose to end my night on a high after Neil Young’s set and took my tired legs to bed, in anticipation of what I assumed, by all means, would be one of the best music days of my life, though I had no idea as to how good it was actually going to be.