*warning - uberlong post alert*
No longer a Glastonbury virgin I can certainly see what all the fuss is about - it was awesome!
Normally the mere suggestion of camping would have me running in the opposite direction as fast as I possibly could but this year, having finished medical school, I decided to brave the fields of mud, we'd always quite fancied going to Glastonbury and this year there were no exams/jobs/other responsibilities stopping us.
The journey began on Wednesday, along our way we picked up our guide, a seasoned Glastonbury go-er. Having such a guide made our first Glastonbury experience much more successful than it would have otherwise been. Getting there was a rather painless process compared to the queues I had been expecting. Our guide, who with all her experience now has the whole Glastonbury process down to a fine art, had a trolley which made carrying our stuff from the car park considerably easier than it could have been. We pitched our tent - something I'd not done since Duke of Edinburgh a long time ago and set off on a very useful tour of the site. I was surprised how huge it all was but at the same time how close things were. The view from the top of the hill was really quite amazing.
I could bore with more details but I'll concentrate on the things we saw. Musically the festival itself doesn't officially get underway until the Friday but there was plenty to see and do before that. Whether it be tea on the sofa of a chai tent, watching trapeze artists at the circus or dancing in the silent disco it seems almost impossible not to find something to do. One thing I should mention is the food, beforehand we'd been told that there was very little that you can't get to eat at Glastonbury and despite my misgivings it turned out to be true, there is a huge range of food from all over the world, and it's not too expensive either which is always a good thing.
It took a while to get used to the toilets but again, they were not as bad as I had expected. With 150,000 campers on site you can't expect perfect conditions, and the toilets are certainly not a nice experience but with some trusty advice from our guide, things were not too bad. Perhaps more upsetting from my point of view was the lack of warm showers, (although there are a couple available) I did manage to wash my hair once under a cold tap but that was all I could cope with.
When the music finally got underway choices and sacrifices had to be made, with so many different stages and hundreds of different acts there is almost too much to choose from. Things aren't helped when there are 2 or 3 people who you want to see on at the same time, unfortunately you can only be in one place at once. With the music came the mud, on Thursday night it rained but fear not, we had come prepared with ponchos and wellies. I had been obsessed with the weather forecast for days before the festival, praying that our first Glasto wouldn't be a washout like it had been in previous years. It did rain, and for 1 day it was really muddy, but I was almost pleased to have the chance to make use of my wellies and for the rest of the time the weather was great so I can't complain about that at all.
On Friday morning Kate Nash opened the festival and we made it to the front row of the Pyramid stage to see her, what can I say, I'm a Kate Nash fan, please do not judge my musical taste. She appeared a bit moody at the start but I still thought she was awesome and for me, a great start to the musical portion of the festival. Annoying moving from stage to stage gets rather difficult when 150,000 people are trying to move around the site at the same time as you, and almost always in the opposite direction it seems. Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong were next for us over on the Other stage, they were ok but it was the next band, Vampire Weekend we had really made our way over there to see. Despite sounding like some gothic metal group, their indie/afrobeat sound is rather more upbeat than their name suggests. Over on the Jazz stage, we danced in the mud to Candi Statton. For me, one of my highlights were Editors who were amazing with an energetic performance on the Pyramid stage on Friday evening. On the way to the Park stage we caught some of We Are Scientists set who I'd recently seen anyway and who were again, really good. We were surprised to find Franz Ferdinand on the Park stage, one of the evening's special guests who for some reason had been delayed, unfortunately we found ourselves towards the front surrounded by sweaty teenagers moshing their little heart out, not our cup of tea at all but when we managed to escape the mosh pit their set was pretty damn great. Dizzie Rascal followed and for me the whole atmosphere changed as the hip-hop rap led to a rather intimidating feel among the crowd. By now I was knackered and my feet, having traipsed thorough miles of mud, hurt like they never had before but I wanted to see if Pete Doherty would turn-up - he did, and he was surprisingly brilliant. He might be a bit of a wanker but he has a great voice.
On Saturday the mud had all but dried but still with achey limbs we decided to have a less mobile day and after tea, cakes and the guardian at a funky little cafe, decided to set up camp for the day at the front of the Pyramid stage. We missed Shakin' Stevens but arrived just in time to see Martha Wainwright who gave a pleasantly relaxing performance. Next was Seasick Steve, I only knew who he was having seen him on Jools Holland at New Year, but I expected big things and he didn't disappoint, for me, another highlight of the weekend. Complete with his bottle of Jack Daniels and battered 3 string guitar, he gave an awesome performance. The crowd loved him and despite being in his 70s he ran up and down the front row following his performance. Very few performers managed to get the crowd going so well. Despite their age, Crowded House also rolled back the years and despite singing about the weather for most of their set gave a decent performance. Next up, James Blunt, not musically to my taste but gave a fantastic performance. He was really energetic and got the crowd going well, I actually really enjoyed his set. Unfortunately the same can't be said for The Raconteurs, a bunch of angry raccoons would have been more personable than these heavy rockers. Their set went on for ages, I kept thinking this must be the last song, only for them to carry on over and over again. We needed something bouncy after that to keep us going having been stood at the front for about 7 hours. Most people seemed to have never heard of Manu Chao but they were just what the doctor ordered (ba-dum-tsh, get it? *hangs head in shame*), I didn't have the foggiest idea what they were singing about as it was mostly in Spanish but they were bouncy and great fun, I was knackered after their performance. After that, 75,000 people piled in behind us to fill out the field for Amy Winehouse, we were still right at the front so got rather crushed at that point. Debateably the most eagerly awaited performance of the festival and definitely the biggest crowd. There were questions whether she'd even turn up, but she did and she started so well. I hear her performance has been somewhat panned by the press after her TV performance but live she was pretty amazing. She was obviously drunk at the start, and after downing several drinks her set started to fall apart, she was wasted. She came down off the stage, and as she stumbled past us right at the front, even more crushing occurred as everyone pushed for a glimpse of her, some people pushed a little too hard and she ended up punching someone in the crowd. Her talent is unquestionable but she obviously has some serious issues, I do wonder whether or not her part of her pazazz is because she is such a train wreck, if she was normal, I don't know if she'd be quite so good. The finale on Saturday was Jay Z, the crowd thinned out slightly but the crushing at the front was even worse several people had to be pulled out of the front by security (although security were fucking useless), we managed to hang on despite being pushed and pushed from all directions. I'm not a Jay Z fan but I was excited to see what he would have to offer after all the controversy and rumours before the festival. He started off with a cover of Wonderwall by Oasis in a dig back at Noel Gallagher who had disagreed with hip-hop headlining Glastonbury and I must say, I thought Jay Z started brilliantly, after that, it all got a little too boring and despite a few covers of more main stream material the anticipated collaborations never materialised, no Beyonce, no Chris Martin, just him. After a great start the rest of his set was uninspiring drivel. I read a quotation from Noel Gallagher in response to Jay Z's performance, having heard that he'd covered Wonderwall Noel said something like "At least the first 5 minutes must have been alright then..." As arrogant as that sounds, I'm afraid I agree.
Sunday was a more laid back affair, in the morning we sat with breakfast (mainly consisting of an ice cream for me) to watch the Redbridge Brass Band. we packed our things up and took them back to the car so we wouldn't have to do it later and spent a few hours relaxing and among other things wandering around the circus fields which were full of bizarre and funky acts. In the early evening we made it over to the Pyramid stage just in time for Neil Diamond which wasn't exactly my cup of tea but was quite good for a sing-a-long. Next was Goldfrapp who musically was fantastic, tired of being near the front we chilled out at the back of the field dancing away to the electrofunk. I was disappointed that the crowd didn't really embrace Goldfrapp as much as they could have but we did and she was amazing. We limped along to the Queen's Head, a marquee come pub/stage for Noah and the Whale one of the only bands we really wanted to see. Again we were right at the front and compete with an eclectic mix of instruments their set was really cool and a fantastic way to round off our festival. On the way to the pie and mash shop for a final meal we caught The Zutons mid-set and enjoyed a few finals songs before heading off back towards the car.
The Verve were headlining the main stage and although we wouldn't have minded watching them we decided to get away slightly early in order to beat the horrendous queues out of Glastonbury. It worked and surprisingly we were away without any delays. A thoroughly enjoyable experience all round. Once again thank you very much to our guide (you know who you are), without you and your tips we wouldn't have had such a great time. I think we would both love to go again, whether or not we'll get the chance in future years I don't know.
Oh, and you might just have seen us on TV a couple of times especially if you saw, of all people, bloody James Blunt.
Sorry if you got bored reading that mammoth post, if you're not tired of reading and want to check out some exciting pictures and videos from the weekend you can do so over here with missbliss.
Monday, 30 June 2008
*warning - uberlong post alert*