Monday, 29 June 2009

Glastonbury 09 - Port, Sweat, Thunder, Skanking, Where's Wally and Parklife

Copyright The Guardian 2009. Their excellent coverage here.

11.00 Get on megabus at Victoria. Meet 'Nutzo' who is also sharing a lift with friend-of-friend Yasir from Reading. He's lovely, of course.
12.30. Wow. Reading Sainsburys is massive. No inflatible pillows though. Port or Rum? Both. Oh and a token bottle of Old Perculiar. Food bill (Apples, Cereal Bars, Shortbread): £6. Booze bill: £39.
14.00 On the road. Stop for punnet of Strawberries. First swig of pear cider for the weekend (yes it's Tuesday I know)
15.30 Arrive at Glasto. Sun's out. Hooray!
15.34 Carrying stuff from car. Bought too much beer. Heavy. This hurts.
16.00 Set up my mini tent in 5 minutes, in the time my neighbours have read the instructions for their Presedential Suites tent apartment.
20.30 I am working on the Lockups for Yorkshire CND, so we go for a briefing. Meet all the friends I see once a year working on the lockups, and some very old friends from Leeds. I try really hard not to volunteer for roleplay. I volunteer for roleplay.
21.00 Only the workers are on site yet. It is beautiful; incredibly tranquil. Reminds me of some sort of camel-trading festival in the Rajistani desert. The sun setting over the Dance Village made the roofs of the tents look like the sillouhettes of ornately crafted spires. And there's still grass on the ground by the Other Stage. You almost want it to stay this way.
22.00 First random 'I had no idea you were here' encounter. Excellent.
23.00 Cider.
00.00 Bed

The Yorkshire CND Lockup Crew. Actually looking freshfaced.And grass on the ground.

11.00 Cider.
12.00 Shower. Which feels a little wrong. I haven't even done anything suitably murky to deserve such cleansing yet. But inevitibly feels great.
14.00 Two of my friends are in a play about bullying in the Green Futures Field. An opportunity too good to miss, despite my friends' protestations. On the way, second random encounter, with the lovely Evan and Jodie. They come to the play too. The play is quite obvious, but makes its point (Bullying boss, who bullys the speccy four-eyed geek underling with such snarling enthusiasm he makes Alan Sugar look like Alan Titchmarsh).
15.00 First cold pint of Brothers'. PieMinister Pie. Ale, Steak. Feels a little luxurious.
15.10 Feels a little woozy. Crikey, had forgotten how strong this stuff is. Pokey.
16.00 Work.
20.30 Housemate Ciara and her bf Ed have arrived. Me and Ed wander into Shangri-La. Our wristbands get us access into the temporarily cordned off , wierd tunnels of what I think were called the Badlands. Mad max meets Bladerunner meets depressed small-town shopping arcade. Green-glowing shop windows revealing mutilated taxidermy. Stuff like that. And a big open area surrounded by battlements and lazers. Looking good.
22.30 Sunset by the stone circle. The spiritual sound of balloons being dispensed. Slightly more congruous sight of candle lanterns rising into the sky .
00.00 Well into the bottle of port. Lots of different groups of friends around. Feeling marvellous.

01.00 Attempt to climb a giant wooden dragon.
04.00 Don't know how it got this late. Rapping down a megaphone with a group of Northern Irish boys from a gospel choir (flamboyent lie or delicious truth?)
06.00 Oh dear. It's only Wednesday. Sat in a tea tent sipping lumpy chai (yes, I didn't chai could or should be lumpy) as a Manc with his bottom lip gurned so far up his face he looks like a fish from the deep tells me he's friends with Oasis.
07.30 Bed.

Pics nicked from Jen Conneely.


9.30 Too hot too sleep.
10.00 Ian tells us that yesterday he needed two poos, but only did one. The thought of what happened to the second one, plus sleep deprived delerium sends me into a fit of giggles.
10.09 Rolling around on floor, still laughing. Getting silly now.
12.00 Shower no2. Curry for breakfast. Feel vaguely better. Practice teddybear rolls.

13.00 Walking through the farm house (which provide some of the best loos on site) we see Michael Eavis himself. Wow! Just stood there! 3 feet from me. With manual labour gloves on. Never mind The Boss, ME is my man of the people. I want to call him Mikey and give him a playful knock on the arm. I don't. Though I think he could take it. He's looking very healthy, and relaxed.
16.00 Work. which actually invloves some work this time. Blistering sunshine, glad of the shade

18.00 The band 'The Momeraths', a boy and girl in red and white stripy shirts, check in a glockenspiel, a bag of coloured material and an ironing board.
21.00 Head to canteen. Cloud the colour of Gordon Brown's eye bags groans towards us. Grab dinner and shelter as the skies open, and claps of doomful thunder ring out.

21.20 Amazingly, by the time we've finished our lacklustre burgers, the storm has cleared, and the sun reappears, like a naughty puppy pretending it's done nothing wrong.
22.50 First music of the weekend. Squeeze into The Queen's Head for Kap Bambino, at my request. The atmosphere is incredible. Ebony Bones had just whipped them into a frenzy and they want more. French Boy/Girl duo KP dive fearlessly into a relentless 40 mins of their indie-happy-hardcore, accompanied by a stunning light show. It is fantastic. I was reminded how exciting music can be.
23.00 Metronomy continue the good work, though they are cut off before they can triumph with 'You Could Easily Have Me'.
00.00 We dance the night away to Rock n Roll in The Diner, Shangri La. Mine and Maddie's keen, if unrefined jiving sees us invited to Conga across the dancefloor. We find ourselves by the bar. Seems rude not to indulge in a couple of tequilas. Find my friend Kate and promise I'll meet her for Bjorn Again in the morning.
02.00 Stumble home. Workers camping: nice toilets, quiet showers - very far from everything else. It's a long stumble, softened by some tasty free garlic bread from Manic Organic.


10.00 Wake up feeling surprisingly fresh.
11.00Yes, Bjorn Again it is. A perfect hammy start to the festival. They kick off with Waterloo. Sunshine, lots of smiles all round. They seem to exist soley to please the middle aged man who pretends not to like ABBA, but is tempted to them by the flashes of thigh on the 30 something ladies, who sing and dance with bored slickness, as well as the outlandish guitar solos and smutty humour from the men. Plus they somehow get a cover of Status Quo and a very silly hip-hop pisstake in there too.

12.00 More chai.
13.00 Jazz World Stage. Speed Caravan - driving arabic dance-rock.
13.30 Eat best meal of festival - North African goats cheese and spicy lamb bourek (filo parcel) with pepperonata (something like that).

15.00 N.E.R.D. on the main stage. They start late. Pharrel oozes with hip-hop arrogance, claiming misguidedly that '200,000 people had paid $100 dollars' to come see them, which at first just doesn't work to this relaxed Galsto crowd. But his absolute committment to his music, and the barrage of heavy-hitting hits, sort of wins us over. He gets down into the crowd, he sparks a stage invasion, and absolutely refuses to leave the stage despite being told his set is almost over. He reminds me of Axel Rose at Leeds who told us they hadn;t come all this way to be cut short. Unlike Axel, though, Parrel has the PA cut, as the opening shouts of 'All the Girls Standing In The Line for the Bathroom' ring out. But he stays down in the crowd, trying to whip the crowd into a mini riot, acoustically. He only half fails.
17.30 Lamb on Jazz World. Trip-hop hasn't been fashionable for about a decade right? I certainly haven't heard their name uttered once in the last five years. But this most un-scene of cats win me over with their soothing yet deep sound, haunting vocals and joyous exuberance. Jazz world sees its first and possibly only stage dive from their keyboardist.
20.00 I go to work, gutted I'm missing Neil Young, The Specials, The Horrors and Animal Collective.
21.00 But I do sneak out for half an hour with friends for the comforting sure-bet of Crookers, who push all the buttons.
22.00 A man spends 10 minutes checking in a can of cider, only for his girlfriend to come along, as he finally hands it over, to declare 'That's my can of cider!'.

01.00 Spend an hour getting into Shangri-La, half an hour queuing for a beer, dance for 30 mins back in the diner, then decide to call it a night. V tired.


10.30 Woken by the blistering heat in my tent. Eat an apple and cereal bar.
11.00 Sit and watch VV Brown, who's much-discussed hairspray-heavy fringe is looking fine in the morning sunshine. Good, fun soul music.
12.00 Work. I miss Spinal Tap, and their 14" stone henge.
14.00 A man has lost his ticket. I spend 10 minutes being very officious filling in forms and explaining that without any ID he can't claim items until he manages to butt(y?) in and say it's just a sandwich he's checked in. I still ask him to name the filling. It is egg mayonaise.
16.50 Sit in the sun on the park stage to watch Horace Andy. Do some dozing and some skanking as he soothes with his distinctive vibrato vocals, Massive Attack songs and cool yellow traditional dress cum PJs. Find my voice sings out quite nicely to 'Big Wheel'. A minor miracle given the chain smoking occuring over the last 4 days.

18.50 Shuffle down to the John Peel tent for last songs of Passion Pit, who sound a bit fluffy for my liking, but none-the-less encourage a sort of warming euphoria in the crowd.
20.00 Florence and The Machine storms it to the loudest crowd response I've ever heard at any gig ever. They go crazy for her as she provocatively climbs the scaffolding in her flowing black dress. An incredible reaction for a singer yet to release an album, and in between songs, when she lets her sassy persona drop, she is unbelieveably touched by the response, all nervous charm and near-tears. It did strike me though just how much she looks like Noel Fielding.

A video of her performance.

21.00 Is that The Boss arriving in his tour bus we see by the John Peel tent?

22.00. We head down to see The Boss, who is actually pretty amazing. Despite knowing few of his tunes, he was a winner as the seasoned showman I expected. His soliloquay about building a house of love and sexual healing was great fun. He just looked so much like he was having the time of his life. And genuine or not (and of course the beauty of headlining the Pyramid Stage is that everyone is humbled, no matter how big they are. This really is one of the few gigs that everyone is desperate to play) you just loved him.

Pics nicked from Jen Conneely.

23.00 Sneak off early to catch 2 Many DJs. There's never been a safer festival bet than these guys. And once again they wow. Best of all is the visuals. For every song they have the record artwork projected. It means you find out what every song is, a rare treat. Even better, the artwork is then animated, so that the characters on the cover of 'Rock The Casbah', 'Ciao' and'Windowlicker' etc, come to life dancing. All in time to the music as well. Mind blowingly tight. They also had a camera permenently fixed over the decks, so us geek-massive could tech-perve on the incredible skill used in the 4 CDJ setup. The only thing to top this was the climax of Nirvana mixing into Fischerspooner and the skys opening up with confetti and streamers.
00.00 Try to get all our friends to meet in one place.
01.00 Still trying.
01.30 Still trying.... oh wait... no.... we're all here..... hang someone's gone AWOL
01.32 Are they in the loo?
01.35 They've gone to meet some other friends and bring them here?
01.38 Told off for smoking in a tent for the umpteenth time. "Oh sorry! I didn't realise you weren't allowed."
01.42 They were just at the bar. Despite all this having a great time.
01.55 Ed is spun round in a wicked chair on a chain by some crazed Irishmen.
02.00 Finally arrive at Trash City.
02.10 Which 'club' shall we queue for? "Do you have to pay in?"
02.15 There was a whole tent dedicated to Shitmat and Scoth Egg? Next year more research needed. Sotch Egg is just finishing.
02.20 Get into a 'club' in time to catch the last few songs of Ebony Bones. Seen her a few times before, but she and her band suddenly make sense in this madcap, hedonistic setting. Everything is chaos. Their dance moves are so so tight.
02.21 At the Bones's command we go left.
02.22 We go right.
02.23 We go forward (you get the idea...)
02.30 They finish. All getting a bit intense, so we bee-line for some Tea.
03.00 Tiny Tea Tent. How Chai should be. We find they have a womb. We climb through the 'vagina', into this incredible, cosy make-shift tent, complete with lush sofas, and little sperm paintings. We cuddle up with hot tea and feel safe and soothed after a rather hedonistic night. The desired effect. We giggle unashamedly at our womb puns. 'Womb with a view'. A highlight.
04.00 Crawl home to bed.


09.00 Sweat.
09.30 Sweat.
10.30 Emerge. Ouch.
10.32. Ed sums up the moment. 'I feel lost.'

11.00 But onwards. Lots to explore. Quite a quiet afternoon for music, so we decide on some mooching instead. Eat some of the great French sausages in red wine with potato grautin. Feel a world better. See some juggling. Wander through the theatre and circus fields, seeing a Ceilidh, a row of ladies in pink skirt-and-umbrella outfits dancing their way through the crowd, a kazoo orchestra, a man throwing an invisible flee across an audience. Wander in circles finding Ciara a pie. But it's ok, as going in circles sort of makes sense here.

A video I didn't make, but captures lots of stuf nicely.

12.00 Then cross over in the Green fields, and find the tranquility of the Green healing field. It is populated with masseurs from every possible real and seemingly fabricated discipline of healing plying their trade (lady demonstrating sucker-cup massage on a beaming, muscley man, oblivious to nasty purple bruises forming on his back), as well as a smattering of party casualties seeking wholesomeness and quiet. it's a lovely break from the more manic elements of the festival. Me and Ed sit with our feet in a pond in a little water garden. Wow. I feel like I'm being healed too! We unwind. Just great to get out of those wellies, I think. Little nap.

13.00 Wander next into the crafts field, and watch a man start a fire with sticks. Amazing to think that the night before, not far from this spot, we had been witness to a giant skull spewing forth rhythmical flames. We muse, with a wry smile, on how the back-to-nature environmentalism that the festival promotes fits with excessive, purely aesthetic fire cannons. We don't muse for too long, though. More tea to be drinking!
17.00 Much wandering later, we return to see some music. Yeah Yeah Yeahs on the other stage. They are great. Karen O dominates the crowd, shaking them from their hippy-dippy Sunday bliss. They fly back and forth across their back catalogue, from the early, angular art-punk, to raging rock-disco on 'A Date With The Night', the tender swells of 'Maps' and the gargantuan sound of their new electrock-n-roll material. They bow out by smashing up their instruments. Just what Glato needed. Hooray for rock n roll. Who needs healing ponds?

18.00 Madness play an irresistible set on the Pyramid Stage. I think Suggs is very hungover. Or very pissed. Probably both. Either way, he's feeling what I'm feeling. Some of the newer stuff inevitibly a bit lacklustre, but it's all forgotten as they squeal into 'House of Fun' and the saxophonist gets lifted into the air on wires and spins around. Lots of wild skanking ensues.
19.00 Roots Manuva is good fun. Bit of a dip in energy. We sit and contend with our strawberry cider, perhaps seeing about as clearly as everyone else around me. Though I did lose my glasses yesterday. I find a fake moustache, which sort of makes up for it.

22.00 The big event. Blur! I always find headliners difficult. I think I just feel an natural aversion to anything loads of other people scream and shout about. But I know what I'm dealing with here. I lay this cynasism well aside. And they turn out to be the best headline act I've ever seen, by a mile. They are so perfect for the end of the weekend. one massive, emotionallly charged, return-of-the-kings style pop singalong. You just know you are in the presence of pop gods. Opening the set is Boys and Girls. They play it like a runaway rollercoaster train. They then spend the next two hours alternating between the joyous upbeat hits and their spine-shivering tender numbers. Tender itself is a highlight. At the end, the entire crowd, and I mean the entire crowd, chorus back 'Oh my baby, Oh my baby, Oh I, Oh I' for a full two minutes as a stunned band stand in silent awe. They are blown away by the whole gig. Damon tells the crowd, with a barely hidden break in his voice, 'I'm so glad we decided to do these gigs now.'

Gleefully throwing aside hyperbolic self-awareness, this is what pop music is about, what Britishness is about and what Glastonbury is about.

I'm also lucky to be stood with my friends, who are happy to go wild, jig, pogo, jog in circles, lurch and throw their arms about. being able to feel complete abandon also makes the experience.

00.00 the only negative was having to leave a song short of the end to go to work. But actually nice to bookeend the festival with that experience, and then get to sit in a dry tent with Sam, Ian and Anna as the rest of the festival got drenched in the late night storm. And had a laugh to find out that our friend jacqui had got very drunk for Blur and after the first song shouted 'One more tune!' repeatedly.
08.00 A long night of work, with some bits of sleep on the hard wooden shelves, some amusing drunken punters. And searching for ages to find a girl's sleeping bag that she'd checked in only to find Tom asleep in it. Fortunately she saw the funny side. Goodbyes to Sam, Ian and Anna. Sad that our geographical distance (well, the M1) prevents us from seeing more of each other, but was reminded of how much fun we al have.


10.00 Had planned to sleep, but too hot, so we begin the long treck home.
12.00 And long it is.
16.00 Finally arrive home, as the post Glasto blues begin to kick in. The real world is not as fun. Console myself with a long shower, Glasto highlights on TV and begin to write....

Thanks to Anna Danby also for borrowed photos.