There are few events that could have dragged me away from the adventures and hedonism of South American traveller life, but the infinitely higher levels of hedonism on offer at Glastonbury festival is the one that brought me back across the Atlantic.
Leagues above any other music festival, the collective strength of feeling amongst a crowd of three hundred thousand like-minded revellers is the perfect place to position oneself in a week of Brexit and division. United we stood, jumped and danced; the ultimate expression of solidarity.
Unfortunately, for the first time in my six-year-strong Glastonbury stint, I experienced some uncommon negative vibes: namely, someone emptied our wallets, whilst we were asleep in our tent. But, for every asshole who flouts the trusting Glastonbury family rules, there were fifty people offering me financial aid, from near and afar, and a hundred more people face down in the mud- so I concluded that perhaps I wasn’t so unlucky after all! Once you float around the sprawling site, following wherever the mud flows, I found myself crossing paths with friendly faces left, right and centre; strangers, friends and even a reunion with some relatives, all worked to reaffirm my faith in humanity almost instantly. (The shock of being robbed was also allayed by a morning of mindless laughter and a pint of milk pouring from my friend’s nose; less of a hippy loving message, but still ranks on the cheer up scale!)
Whilst the weather held out for the most part, the week of preceding rain made this the muddiest festival I have ever experienced. Having said that, I probably used the fewest wet wipes to date, as everyone embraced the filth, gave up the fight for cleanliness and became a hybrid of man and land. Negative aspects of the mud included severe delays and often entire closures of some areas: the late-night, South East Corner fields were more overcrowded and over-sludged than I have witnessed in years previous, often rendering them a no-go. Thus sadly I never got to experience Hot Chip’s tribute to Prince; a loss perhaps worse than the £80 from my tent!
The mud also provided the trials and tribulations of never being able to sit down, but, beyond that, it provided unlimited hilarity. One night we found our friends ‘at the comedy tent’: an area of mud so deep that it attracted a hundred-strong crowd of spectators, as people sunk and face planted to their demise. One might expect this level of entertainment to wane fast, but with an unending stream of flamboyantly dressed party-goers, the show went on and on. Survivors joined us as audience members and mud-pundits. The method we learnt: tight wellies, don’t stop moving and, if in doubt, dab.
Of course, in amongst the unrivalled people watching and one too many free meals from the Hare Krishnas, there was some music too!
‘James’ kicked off the weekend, with a lead singer who made me slightly worried for his mental wellbeing! They were shortly followed by some Mancunian indie tunes from ‘Blossoms’, who unfortunately lacked much stage presence or the ubiquitous humility of Glastonbury performers.
Some of the best singalong sessions came courtesy of ‘The Smyths’ and ‘Squeeze’, playing non-stop crowd pleasers. Meanwhile, ’MØ’ took crowd-pleasing a step further and spent almost half of her set down in the hustle bustle, busting some seriously fierce dance moves; she exudes the very essence of “cool”.
Unlike many previous festivals, where I had a determined schedule, I dedicated a lot of time to seeing bands who I had never heard before, other than by recommendation. This brought some great, and diverse, new music to my attention: ‘Unknown Mortal Orchestra’ had a few microphone issues, but ultimately put on an enjoyable, largely instrumental, show. ‘Hinds’ proved that girlbands don’t have to follow the mould and can jump and scream with the best of them. ‘Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats’ had gloriously upbeat Sunday afternoon vibes, combining a ‘Mumford and Sons’ folky-rock with swinging brass and a token tambourine man (the subdued Bez, if you will). And finally, ‘Kwabs’ provided some very chilled out, but still boppy sounds- almost like if ‘Jungle’ took a lot of sedatives.
Sadly, ‘New Order’, amidst a superb light show, started their set a little flat and a little off; they picked up, with some classic songs getting the crowd pumped, but weren’t at the top of their game. Similarly, whilst I only caught the end, ’Beck’ did some strange things with his time of stage, and the crowd weren’t exactly lapping it up.
‘Half Moon Run’ put enormous amounts of energy into their show, considering how sleepy their music can sound; but with a string of melodic surprises and slight alterations to an album I know like the back of my hand, they were a highlight on Friday afternoon. Similarly, I have seen ‘Muse’ four times, across the last ten year period, and their headline set was like nothing I have ever seen from them before: never slowing down for some of their older, low tempo numbers, and not wasting time chatting to the crowd, the entire set was heavy and hugely exciting from start to finish. Yet, attempting to match their level of intensity, I completely lost my voice; I guess I ought to leave it to the professionals!
Every time I see ‘Foals’, ‘Wolf Alice’ and ‘Catfish and the Bottlemen’, they don’t disappoint. They were all in their element, perfectly tuned to their surroundings, considering British indie rock bands are pretty much what festivalling is built upon. Other repeat viewings for me included ‘New York Brass Band’ and ‘Tame Impala’- both bouncy and upbeat, the latter graced the Pyramid stage, with some psychedelic backing visuals, whilst the former can be found performing almost perpetually across the five day festival; how they have such boundless energy, I can’t fathom!
‘The Last Shadow Puppets’ were an as-yet unseen band for me until now, but by combining two of my favourite groups into one, they were bound to please! It’s a joy to watch bandmates really appear to enjoy one another’s company; yet they are far from being caught up in themselves, as both are incredible showmen.
Finally, the most quintessentially Glasto vibes were delivered by ‘Coldplay’s closing set. The crowd was unanimously happy and the famous flashing wristbands showed just how far we sprawled in every direction- we were a part of something enormous. Despite a somewhat bizarre interlude from Barry Gibb, Chris Martin whipped the crowd into a frenzy with the set list alternating between the classic, subdued Coldplay of yore and the newer, far more poppy numbers. Almost every song had a trick up its sleeve, with glitter and confetti cannons, giant balloons, infinite lights and fireworks.
‘Muse’ similarly used all of these tricks, but in a less colourful, more aggressively rock-orientated fashion. I for one was delighted with this allocation of this year’s budget, because, as my wisely drunk friend said: “no pyro, no party!”
Other highlights included: being served ale, in a wooden shack pub, by the guy from the infamous ‘Gap Yah’ video; an encounter with a man dressed as a bumblebee, on stilts, by the oldest tree on site; and greeting sunrise, vigorously at the silent disco and more relaxedly, whilst reclining at the Stone Circle. The delights on offer span all genres!
In accordance with tradition amongst my friends, we spent the first night upon Glastonbury’s own Hollywood hill, watching the twinkles below and the fireworks above. We were joined by a man who classed this glorious festival amongst the Seven Wonders of the World. Whilst I questioned some of his other “wonders” (the Channel Tunnel, really?!) I can’t help but agree that there is something very special about Worthy Farm and the atmosphere it promotes. Until next year, my lover x