Before I start, apologies for the length of this blog. As ever I was trying to keep it short but didn’t manage it but come on, it’s Glasto, there’s so much to say!
I have just about returned to earth after six days at Glastonbury festival. It truly delivered on all expectations and more...if I’m honest before going, I wasn’t that psyched by the line-up. But there is something very special about live music and I was certainly won over by most of the bands I saw.
Wednesday morning saw myself, Tim, my sister Ali and two of her kids Oli and Phoebe up at 5am and arriving at the festival site at 6am. We hadn't banked on the thousands of people who had got up way earlier than us and were already queueing; also the few ignorant selfish a...holes who didn’t think queuing was for them and just pushed straight in at the front, ooo they made my blood boil. No matter; at 8am when the pedestrian gates opened, we were herded in concentration-camp style (apologies for the reference), along another half mile of queues until finally we were inside the festival just before 10am. Without doubt, this queueing was the worst bit of the week, we had most of our stuff on our backs and an overloaded teetering garden cart, added to that I’d only managed to sleep an hour and a half. So shuffling for nearly four hours wasn’t ideal but everything got better from that moment on. We managed to find a tiny space right near a noisy path to pitch our tents, my sister had her lovely canvas bell tent, which provided us with some handy shelter when the rain hit at times.
It was quite a shock that the camping seemed to be already full, where and how had all these people already got in? But as it turned out our little space on the edge was great. We had an incredible view of the pyramid stage with Glastonbury Tor in the background and we were a short walk from toilets and the rest of the festival. It really did turn out to be a primo spot, so if we manage to go next year, hopefully we’ll head there again.
The next two days were spent exploring every corner of the site. This meant lots of walking which was definitely the theme of the festival as a whole. It is so massive that you just can’t get anywhere without a hike and if you’ve got a busy agenda, sometimes you’re running between venues, negotiating the crowds and the mud! The amplified music doesn’t really start until friday, so it was great just to be able to explore and catch more left field things before the big headliners got going.
(left, Tim in the dreaded morning queue)
The weather was incredible the first day and there were a lot of burnt bodies around but on thurs the rain arrived and it became a balancing act between wearing waterproofs and sun cream for the next few days. Unfortunately, with rain comes the inevitable mud, so what were lovely grassy fields to sit down on and chill out in, became mud baths. And poor Tim only had his trainers. Somehow we had put a rogue pair of wellies in the van (no idea whose they were), so he had to tramp around in the squelching mud just in trainers, pretty grim but he just got on with it.
There were so many different areas to the festival, they all had a uniqueness about them so it’s really hard to say which areas were favourite. Also, some quarters came alive after midnight and some were more daytime venues, but I spent most evenings running around catching bands. So the daytime favourites were the Greenfields and the Circus and Cabaret area, where there was always so much going on and plenty of unique things to watch. I tried tight-rope walking and was pretty rubbish. I thought I had good balance but evidently not on a wobbly rope. The bar helped a lot and was pretty heavy, I think I was gripping onto it way too tightly and I got a bit pumped. It was the only work my arms did for days, it was the legs that were taking centre stage and the vocal chords; there was much singing and cheering but as the days went by I realised that I was coming down with a virus that Tim brought back from his photo shoot in Barcelona. So on top of late nights and not the best diet etc, I had a stinking chesty thing- great!
But I stocked up on Beecham's/lemsip type stuff (yes there is even a pharmacy on site) and if I’m honest, that really kept me going. The singing had to become a whisper but I managed to keep up with most stuff going on. We didn’t have any crazy late nights as we were all pretty to keen to make the most of the days, so some of the nicest times were spent after catching the last headliners, just chilling outside the tent with a late night drink and watching the festival from our comfy chairs until around 1am. It truly is a wonderful sight especially at night and just sitting there drinking in all the sounds, lights, fireworks and lasers, is a unique experience.
My one goal was to be at the front for Jack White (fifth left), so my sister and I got our faces painted (had to give a nod to Mr. Bowie, gutted he wasn’t playing) and we quested off to the Pyramid to watch Robert Plant (fourth left) who was the act before Mr. White. We managed to get about 10 from the front for most of ‘Robert’, who in all fairness gave a fantastic show. Neither of us knew much of the music, apart from a few modified Led Zep classics but we really enjoyed his set. A few people left after him, so we managed to get even closer to the front. Then it turned out that there were two very kind people in that audience that day, a young guy who was tallish and let us go in front of him and then a lady who was slightly taller than me, very kindly let me go in front of her; there are advantages to me being short after all! This meant we were behind a 10 year old boy with the clearest view of stage and were able to see Jack White performing at his raucous best, looking pretty damn sexy and quaffing a bottle or two of champers through the gig and then falling onto his drummer and smashing the drum kit at the end. Awesome!!
Then...the little kid left after Jack White and we were both on the front barrier! Dilemma, because who was on next but METALLICA. I definitely hadn’t banked on being right at the front for them and certainly hadn’t planned on watching them, partly because I don’t know any of their music and partly because of the whole anti-hunting hoo-hah...
So we had been standing there since 4.30pm, it was now 9pm and we would have to wait another hour until they came on, hmmm was it worth it? We both decided it was and stood it out. We were next to a guy who had been on that front barrier since 1pm waiting for Metallica and last year he had got to the front at 9am just to be at the front for the Rolling Stones, that’s commitment for you. I’ve done the same for Mr. Bowie though. We felt a little fraudulent, as we didn’t know any of their music and to be honest weren’t really that bothered about seeing them, yet we were right at the front of 100,000 people at Glastonbury festival, just that was a bit of a rush. But then I heard some guys chatting behind us and it turned out they didn’t know any Metallica either, so I felt a bit better.
There was a building tension to the crowd, partly boredom as a lot of us had been there for hours and also anticipation. Mostly everyone was in good spirits but there were a couple of people completely off their heads who were acting like idiots. As the sun started setting and darkness surrounded us, Ali and I started getting nervous. What if we got crushed by the crazy mosh pit behind us? We got chatting with the security guys in front of us (who oddly all turned out to be serving in the military, how does that work?) and Ali primed them saying she thought we’d last about two songs, then want to get out. I just stood there thinking, we’re two 40+ yr old women at the front of a massive Metallica gig, what a couple of idiots--what had we let ourselves in for?
Ali (my sister) and myself on the front barrier waiting for Metallica!
Then the house lights dimmed and a load of Metallica fans came on stage and shortly after a film started playing. It was a faux fox hunt which even so, I found pretty revolting to watch and was shouting all sorts of obscenities but then it finished with the Metallica guys dressed as bears shooting all the huntsmen and the fox got a way. A gruesome violent end and also a two fingers from them to all the brits who tried stop them playing Glasto.
And then the music started, it was great!! Totally not my sort of thing but as I said before there is something very special about seeing live musicians, especially guys of Metallica’s calibre doing their thing and it was oddly mesmerising. Also, James Hetfield the frontman, has got quite a bit of that good old charisma and he was oozing it on the Pyramid. He has a smile that draws you in and just knows how to perform and take charge of the stage. By five songs in there was no thought of getting pulled out, the guy behind me was doing a good job of trying not to crush me by holding himself off using the barrier but I’m not sure the guy behind Ali was doing such a good job. I looked over at her and she’d gone a funny colour. I asked if she was ok and she said yes. Then five minutes later I looked again and she was slumping on the barrier with her arms dangling down over the sides and she was going an even funnier colour. I shouted at her was she ok, she could barely answer me and her eyes were starting to go, so there was nothing for it, we had to get her out and I got pulled out behind her. It was kind of gutting to have to leave and she was mortified that she nearly fainted but at least we were at the front for a bit and got the whole full-on Glastonbury experience. After five minutes recovering in the medic tent (below) we went back up to the tent and carried on watching from there which was great in itself. We were going to head over to West Holts and Bryan Ferry but as we walked down past the Pyramid squeezing through the massive crowd, the music just pulled us in again and we stayed watching them right to the end; it truly was a great performance and we were both really glad to have seen it.
The next day was more charging about doing all the things you hadn’t got round to and then an awesome sing-a-long a la Dolly, who seemed to have almost as big a crowd as Metallica! I finished the sunday night with Massive Attack, who were a brilliant way to end things. I wish I’d got slightly got closer to the stage just to get amongst things and really feel the music because they played a lot of their crowd pleasing classics but I think I’d used up all my pushing power on saturday. Fortunately, we had decided to leave on Monday, which allowed us a relaxing sunday night just soaking up the final experiences of Glasto 2014.
So all in all Glastonbury was the eccentric experience expected, the mud was bad but not horrendous, the toilets were bad but not horrendous. The music was amazing and the whole unique ‘town’ that you explore for five days is an unparalleled feast for the senses.
Contemporary dancers watched from comfy deck chairs
If you have ever thought about going but weren’t sure if it would be worth it, do not hesitate. It is definitely worth it and is something you won’t forget in a hurry. It’s a slight shame that the vibe seems to have changed, the whole hippy thing (which I am secretly into), just doesn’t seem to be as prevalent and there is a disproportionate amount of people in Hunter wellies taking their ‘Gap yar’. But hey each to their own and I guess everyone has a right to be there, even if they do seem to spend most of their time staring at their phones. At least there wasn’t the whole gang violence that got out of hand a few years ago.
Thanks to the ‘Krishnas’ for their food, which they doled out for free (we always donated and hope they managed to cover their costs, I can’t imagine they converted anyone but you never know) twice a day, while they serenaded us with their unique brand of music and never-changing lyrics--Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare...and so on!
Giant pans at the Krishna tent where we ate a few times
And thanks to Michael and Emily Eavis and all the thousands of volunteers and workers who manage to organise something that on paper is a crazy, eccentric undertaking and seems to be a near impossibility. But year after year it happens and long may it keep on happening.
Bring on 2015!!
Clearing up the devastation...it was unbelievable how much rubbish people threw on the ground and how much camping stuff was just left behind...
Bands seen (some just a few songs, some the whole set):
Yes Sir Boss
Also, loads of smaller stuff like comedy, contemporary dance and side show acts, which unfortunately I don’t know all their names but were captivating, in fact more so than some of the above!
BEFORE (in the queue at 6am) AFTER (in the car park-you can't see the mud!)