Glastonbury

Four days at one of the World’s most famous festivals. We came, we partied, got wet, muddy and sunburnt. The music was also pretty good.

Taking us back to the start. Huddled in the flat on a cold day back in April, we sat, each with a laptop, a flatmates iPad and several phones, all waiting for the moment when the tickets would come online for sale. As the clock turned, some had jumped the gun, sending the chat group into a frenzy. Eventually, one of us got in, we can’t remember who it was first, but all vital details were emailed and entered – we had our golden ticket.

At this stage we didn’t know the line-up, we didn’t know anything. All we knew was that there was a good hole in the pocket and we needed to get leave approved – quite a bit too. The music didn’t start until Friday, but people started arriving on the Tuesday to claim prime real estate for their tents at the inner circles of Worthy Farm. Luckily we had a friend, Nicole, to set up ours.

The months passed by quickly and one by one major artist began to fill up the slot. Foo Fighters, Florence and the Machine, Kanye West, Lionel Richie and The Who all billed as major acts on the main stage.

We didn’t have much time to organise ourselves, flying in from Nice hours before Tam having to catch the bus. Mitch opted to take the bus later in the day, saving one more holiday day for later.

The Wednesday saw a few small artists do their thing. This day was for a lot of the smaller features of Glastonbury to shine, particularly those in the Green Fields. A large fireworks display took place with a giant phoenix effigy ceremonially burnt to the ground. Mitch was not in the best of moods; his company and job had just gone under and on top of that he had a dose of man flu.

Thursday was where everything got a bit more interesting. While still only half of the festival had arrived, there was more than enough to keep everyone entertained. We saw a Greenpeace lesson in how to swing dance and a lesson in how to build a solar panel. At night the infamous South-East corner; a pop-up of themed bars and hedonistic nightclubs was on the cards. Unfortunately, we were so pissed we didn’t remember any of it…

Friday’s hangover had to be short lived. The bands started just after midday and besides, as soon as the sun hits your tent, it warms up to over 40 degrees quickly. Having worked through all of the weekends alcohol ration in one night proved costly. The good thing about Glasto is that you can bring in virtually anything. Anything. Although, in saying that, you could quite easily turn up with nothing – buying everything you needed on the farm. A camping goods store was 50m away. Charity Op-Shops. Arts and Crafts. More pop-up food stalls than you could ever imagine. Yorkshire pudding the size of a plate, full of pork, crackling, stuffing, chips, gravy and apple sauce – enough said.

The first act on the Park Stage was King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizards. An Australian psychedelic rock band – as odd as they sounded. Am sure that half the audience were there to see the band attached to the name. They were a decent band playing with a lot of energy a good sized crowd. They had another gig at another stage in 10 hours.

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Alabama Shakes on the Pyramid stage was next on the bill. Their soulful beats opened up the heavens and it began to pour with all intensity. Poncho’s proved a worthy investment against rain that came in from all directions and the group huddled like penguins, sharing unexposed sides to the elements. The Shakes were really upbeat despite. From the back of the field, 150m from the stage, we could notice the delay between light (on the two large screen TV) and sound from the speakers.

The next band was at the West Holt stage for the Gaslamp Killer. A bit too dark for us and probably set the mood as the rain started to kick in. It really started to bucket down as the Bolshevik band seeped out semi-murderous tones. Making a swift exit after a couple songs to the Other Stage to see Jungle, who with their head spinning child dancer and funk beats became our find of the festival. Indie rock outfit the Vaccines followed with a good set before we departed to catch the last of geriatric rock act Motörhead. The fans front and centre here were real rock and metal nuts. This was their Glastonbury highlight. The organisers of Glastonbury at Worthy Farm had a bit of a dilemma. Following the withdrawal of the Foo Fighters from the concert, with the lead singer Dave Grohl breaking his foot, Florence and the Machine was deservedly promoted to the headline slot, leaving an open gig. We had an inside word though a friend of a friend, who was a sound technician. But it didn’t seem to stop any anticipation that it could be any number of our wishlist bands. It could be Oasis! It could be the Rolling Stones! It could be the Foo Fighters!

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The Libertines ended up smashing the gig in true Glastonbury rock fashion, with great on stage chemistry and presence. A great last minute fill in before Florence.

Florence herself was epic. With large lungs screaming out crowd favourites, dancing from one end of the stage to the next (on one occasion falling over) and whipping the fans to a frenzy. Florence herself had just come back from a foot injury at Coachella. Testament to how much energy these performers put into their set. She started out at Glastonbury many years ago, playing to a small crowd in a small tent.

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Our office backs didn’t really hold up to a full day of standing. As the after party wore on, Mitch and several others took the chance for an early (1am) retreat. Tam didn’t get back until the sun rose at around 5am.

Saturday’s gigs were a bit of a different mix to the day before. Waking Tam up from the sweltering tent and motivating her to get up took until well after midday. Mitch took the time to go buy a pair of gumboots – his canvas shoes completely coated in mud. By then Frank Turner begin to wind up some fans at the Other Stage, playing a few old 90’s ballads we never knew belonged to him.

A bit of an aerobatic display from the Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the Flyers), an ancient Mesopotamian heritage that is UNESCO protected in Mexico. The act involves tying your foot to the top of a pole and with three others pinning around in a controlled descent.

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George Ezra had settled into his concert by the time we arrived at the Pyramid. The lazy crooner playing to those lying on a field now resembling compacted dirt. Another, clash in musical tastes saw half the group go to support New Zealand band Tahuna Breaks on a side stage, while we saw London dance group Clean Bandit play a few hits.

Back to find a good posse for the evening, we got the tail end of Paloma Faith, a name that, at the time, didn’t mean anything to us, but was responsible for a few pop hits. Her act was full of Essex charm and a matching Playboy bunny suit.

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Pharrell Williams, had probably the best set of the day. Full of high energy dancers, children and fans up on stage (all plucked from the crowd with security clearance). He played a diverse range of his tunes from The Neptunes, N.E.R.D. and an assortment of other Number 1 hits. Most didn’t know he wrote songs such as Hollaback girl for Gwen Stefani. He has been around a long time and doesn’t look like his 50 odd years. His act finished with a resounding call for all people from England with English blood to call out for freedom. Somewhat ironically a small portion of the colonials chimed in.

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So, the biggest act was here. Kanye in complete contrast to Pharrell had the stage set for one man. This was his show and despite the petitions, the mockery and the criticism. He wanted to make it a show to remember. For various reasons it was. There was the stage crasher, the sound issues, the flag… Kanye was prone to starting and stopping, instructing the sound and lighting crew mid song. During “Touch the Sky” a fan got up on some shoulders and lit a flare in the middle of the crowd. Everything got shut down; lights, sound, the stage and the fan was left alone in a sea of people, holding up his flare like a lost shipwreck survivor. Some threw their drinks at the guy till he got down. Kanye reappeared moments later harnessed into a Cherry picker hovering over the crowd. Quite a dramatic turn of events! In all, he was the main act people came to see, he silenced some critics, but woke a bunch of others. Guess that’s just how he likes to operate.

We rounded the night out with some better exploration through the South-East Corner. Through the Mesopotamian themed Common, the futuristic slum apocalypse – Block 9, the horror themed Unfairground and the hedonistic Shangri-La. Highlights included a Mexican Dead bar, complete with face painting and silhouette dancing. Also, a a nude painting class with a DJ was a bit out of the ordinary. To finish the night, we found a Rocky Horror Picture Show screening, complete with audience members in drag dancing and shouting at the screen.

Sunday had an early morning drizzle, which meant a sleep-in before packing up the tents. The Dalai Lama had a speech in the Stone Circle which brought in a large crowd. He was very insightful and humorous – his secret is nine hours sleep. One of the audience didn’t quite have this luxury as he crashed out and fell onto Annabel, the smallest of the group. Startled, he got back up and woke up a bit.

The Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama

Catching a bit of Hozier before Lionel Richie came on stage avoided the massive rush. Richie would have been the most popular act at the entire show. The field was packed tight with people singing along to his and the Commodores hits. His look of surprise when the “Glastanbarry” crowd finished his lines was hilarious.

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The dark Alt-J and relatively unknown (well in NZ anyway) Paul Weller rounded out the warm up for The Who. These guys have been around for the longest time. They were at Woodstock in 1969 and here, 46 years later, were headlining at one of the largest and famous festivals in the world. They still had it made, belting out their famous hits to an even more enthusiastic crowd.

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Leaving early we pushed our way through the crowd to make the Arcadia show near our tents. This we were told was a must see and started every night at 11pm sharp. Arcadia can be described as a large alien robot spider, with a DJ, lightning performers and flamethrowers creating an impressive display.

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Picking up our gear and walking for half an hour to get to the buses at 2am was probably the hardest part of the day. At least we managed to sleep on the bus to London. Arriving back by 5:30 to a shocked person sleeping in our bed, then another 6 hours of catch up on sleep to round out one big weekend. Glastonbury, we’ll be back next year – there is so much more to see and do. And then there is the music…

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