The rucksack starts to take its toll in what seems to be a two mile route march across the whole site to our camp. What strikes you first and foremost is the sheer scale of the place. It’s enormous. Thousands of tents line our route taking up every conceivable piece of grass that’s not in front of a stage. How you would find your own tent late at night and then getting to it without tripping over the spiders web of tent guide ropes is beyond me.
We’ve upgraded and are staying a further ten minutes off site where we find our two tents pre erected with air mattresses and sleeping bags provided. Whilst not quite the full glamp, the advantages of our own toilets, showers, bar and food van prove their worth over the course of the weekend.
Rucksacks dumped, we take stock on the forthcoming events of the weekend over a beer or three. Being the only Glasto virgin in the group I am guided by the others as we explore the site. Over the course of the next few hours we took in just a small taste of the site soaking in Pyramid, Other and Park stages touching on Arcadia, Circus, Avalon, Shangri-Hell and the stone circles.
I have described in detail the days’ activities below but if you don’t want to read the band by band reviews I have tried to summarise the weekend as follows.
Glastonbury is like shoehorning weeks of experiences into four days. It’s a full on assault to the senses. To enjoy it you must engage with it. It’s like having a good hand in poker, you must go ‘all in’. If you don’t throw yourself in you’ll come away grumpy and complain about the long drop toilets, the heat, the rain, the noise, the camping, the ignorant people, the poor sound, the flags, etc. This is Glastonbury, its all of those things but my most overriding emotion was one of pure joy. Its the love of music, the fear of the unknown, the out of your comfort zone, the openness to new things. You cannot absorb or see everything Glastonbury has to offer in four days, it would take a couple of weeks. There are so many areas and sections I didn’t even touch on at the site. I’m not naturally inclined to talk to strangers but I spent the whole weekend starting conversations with new people talking about our shared love of music, life, beer or whatever. I probably spoke to more new people in those four days than the past ten years in total. Any prejudices and unconscious biases are put aside and its just 135000 people looking a good time. I went with a group of five others, four of whom I’d never met before and we all went our own ways each day, splitting up, regrouping, splintering up again and finally coming together at the end of the day to share on what we’d seen. New friends were made and many stories will be regaled over an ale or two over the coming months until we perhaps do it all over again next year.
It’s Thursday so the tsunami of music has not started in earnest yet so we head to Glasto Latino in the evening and we salsa it up with Aji Pat Ti. Its then off to what becomes our midnight musical nightcap at the Avalon Café where we see what can only be described as Folk-Hop with Coco and the Butterfields who fuse Folk with a beat boxer and it somehow works.
Day one over, weather has been very kind and has provided the perfect starter to the musical main courses over the next three days.
Hobo Jones and the Junkyard Dogs start the day with apparently a Glasto tradition opening the Avalon Stage. So after experiencing folk-hop for the first time its skunk today which is a mix of skiffle and punk. Above all else its good time music, full of covers, anecdotes about Dave Grohl and the infamous Hobo juice (equal measures of vodka and apple juice).
Alabama Shakes next up at the Pyramid but two songs into the set the heavens open for a full on extended downpour. If the new album was stronger I would have thought about staying but it isn’t so we didn’t.
Rushed to the nearest tent at Williams Fields where we catch Other Lives who weren’t bad followed by Hooton Tennis Club who were. Decanting sideways to a bar where we grooved for an hour to a DJ specialising in seventies American soft rock, everyone’s singing and dancing. Rain stops briefly and we move onto an unplanned triple header in the Acoustic Stage where we stay for a lot of the evening while the rain moves between torrential and biblical.
JD McPherson. Old school rock n roll at its best
Wilko Johnson. Nuff said, it’s Wilko Johnson.
The Proclaimers. One of the unexpected highlights of the weekend, you all know the words and a highly enjoyable hour of singing and shouting ensues.
Tonight’s musical nightcap at the Cafe is Three Daft Monkeys, upbeat folk that gets the enthusiastic crowd up and dancing with the seemingly obligatory female fiddle player.
In summary a good if not expected line up of acts experienced albeit somewhat dictated by the weather.
We have no such problems with the weather today and there’s a definite plan today with a full roster of seven bands on the list.
Frank Turner. Been a fan for a while but never seen him live and he starts the day off on the Other Stage for what is the second of three sets he’s doing at Glasto. Some new converts in our party and he nails if for an hour.
The Strypes. Late replacement for Azealia Banks and I can imagine the shock on any of her fans expecting to a see young female rapper who were then confronted by these four young Irish, sixties and seventies influenced, rockers. Thought they might struggle on the big stage but brought the crowd on with them and are now a must see whenever they tour.
Giant Sand. Hop, skip and a jump to the Park Stage where we catch Howe Gelb and friends mellow us out on a very hot Saturday afternoon.
Gaz Coombes. Strong set from the ex Supergrasser leaning from his new solo album.
Back to camp for a regroup and a refreshing shower is just what the doctor ordered to what was the heat and dust of the day.
Vintage Trouble at the West Holts. One of the highlights of the weekend. They’re recorded work doesn’t do them justice as its live where they really excel. After last year’s set was cut short by an electrical storm they nail it tonight with the lead singer crowd surfing from the stage some 400 metres to the sound man at the back, climbs up the scaffolding still singing without missing a beat. Amazing stuff.
Nick Lowe, Paul Carrack, Andy Fairweather Lowe. It’s a quick dash to the Acoustic Stage to catch these old stagers who deliver a perfect three hander of acoustic classics from their respective back catalogues.
George Clinton and the Family Stone, Funkadelic and Parliament. Back to West Holts and in contrast we funk it up for two hours from the three bands who pretty much invented funk in the seventies. Stunning.
Hobo Jones and Junkyard Dogs. Our musical nightcap is with Mr Jones and friends at the Café who include on stage Attila the Stockbroker and Fruit Bat from Carter USM amongst others. Night ends with their classic love song Country Boy (you tube it)
Saturday is the perfect day, great weather, great music, great company and we stagger back to our humble abode around fourish.
Forecast is a little gloomy and we wake to rain. But Graham and I, the hardy souls, leave camp early to catch one of the finest blues rock bands at the moment.
Rival Sons on the Other Stage. The lead singer who bears a passing resemblance to a young Ryan Adams has in my opinion the best white blues voices since Paul Rogers. Despite the rain a respectably sized, enthusiastic crowd support them through their forty minute set. It’s a solid start to the day.
Songhoy Blues. On way back to camp, we take in a few from Songhoy Blues from Mali and while lyrically I have no idea what they’re singing it’s got a good groove.
Brief regroup at base for a change into full wet gear and then its back out again to the Park Stage.
Rae Morris. Radio 1 friendly packed crowd for bright new thing. Catchy pop songs.
The Staves. Three sisters from Watford who sing delightful three part harmonised folk. After Justin Vernon’s appearance with Kanye the night before I made a beeline for this set as their last album was made with him as I guessed he might join them on stage. My hunch was correct and the soundman gave the game away when he announced his sound check on Justin’s mic. This set amongst everything else sums up what Glastonbury is about, surprise guests, unlikely musical marriages, weird covers, etc. The sun comes out for them and doesn’t leave us until sundown. The Park is my favourite stage with its natural sloping bowl for good sight and sound wherever you are.
It’s a sprint off to the Acoustic Stage for a great double header.
Gretchen Peters. Recent alumni in the Nashville songwriter’s guild, the excellent Ms Peters serves up country at its best but with an edge.
Eric Bibb. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Eric live and I know not why. His laid back acoustic blues is just the perfect way to unwind on a balmy Sunday afternoon.
After a lot of indecision, there was so much choice, we plump to end the night at the Pyramid stage with Messrs Weller, Daltrey and Townsend.
Paul Weller. Clearly pissed off at having his set cut, he seemed moody and detached. Misjudging a festival crowd he played five songs from his new album which only his fans would know therefore eschewing his massive back catalogue of hits from the past thirty years.
The Who. Late replacements allegedly for Prince and cancelled a gig in Paris tonight to be here. Their set time was brought forward 30 minutes but they ended up twenty minutes late and finishing ten minutes early. Clearly something wasn’t right with Mr Townsend who continually complained about sound, etc. The performance was perfunctory, they played all the hits but lacked energy and passion that had been shown by so many other bands over the weekend playing to a fraction of the crowd here tonight. After fifty years in the business their on-stage banter is awful.
It looked like the weekend might finish on a bit of a damp squib so we headed over to Arcadia where it is pure sensory overload. It’s impossible to describe or capture the place in pictures but imagine being underneath a towering metal spider spouting fire and coloured lasers surrounded by speakers blaring a heavy beat you start to get the drift. It truly has to be experienced to do it any justice.
Mad Dog McCrea at the Avalon Café provides our final musical fix where a packed crowd are dancing on chairs, tables, shoulders, etc. and then we’re done.
Our weary troop winds its way to the coach park on Monday morning surveying the Armageddon of stray tents, bodies and other debris, gate-crash an earlier coach and arrive back in Bath an hour later.
Goodbyes are said and talk of a debrief and same time next year promises are made. A truly, truly awesome experience which I will never forget. I can’t believe I waited this long. It has to be seen to be believed as the TV cannot capture the very essence of what Glastonbury is. It’s an all-encompassing, sensory overloading, gratifying, stimulating, awe inspiring but most of all enjoyable experience. If you’ve never been you must.