30th June 2010
I’m back from my fourth trip to the Glastonbury Festival, where I celebrated its 40th anniversary in sweltering heat with 180,000 other lunatics.
I last went in 2004 (full report). My first time was back in 1995, for the 25th anniversary, when it was equally as hot, and I had hippy hair.
Figure 1: A long-haired me at Glastonbury, 1995.
The unique thing about Glastonbury is that the festival itself is the centre of attention, not necessarily the bands, the entertainment, the performers. It’s the size of a city, spanning much of the Vale of Avalon, and until you go, you can have no idea of the scale of it, nor it’s magical, erm… vibes. Surely no festival anywhere in the world can match it.
So, like I say, it isn’t just about the bands, and it pays not to be too determined to try and see everything. The site is so vast, there is no way one can run around between stages trying to catch everything. This year I really chilled out and went with the flow, especially due to lack of sleep, lots of alcohol, and my inability to cope with three solid days frying in rare English sunshine.
So, here’s a sketchy top eight of my own personal musical highlights, in no particular order:
What’s not to love about The Flaming Lips? Epic show, a stage full of costumed dancing oddballs, balloons, confetti cannons, and Wayne treading the crowd in a giant ball. Add lasers, weird naked dancing girl backdrops, some massive songs, and typically hippyish between-song banter about leylines and peace, and you have the perfect Glastonbury band. I smiled throughout, literally beaming during a rousing Do You Realize.
The biggest surprise, I think. Three albums in, they’ve perfectly honed the noisy indie anthems thing. I didn’t own any Cribs albums until yesterday, buying them all on the strength of this performance. Best track is probably We Share The Same Skies, which features utterly perfect Smiths-esque Johnny Marr guitar goodness. Quite fucking overwhelmed to watch Johnny Marr playing, to be honest.
I was really looking forward to this, and wasn’t disappointed. They’re more angst and noisy live, and tracks from High Violet and Boxer were performed with real vitriol at times. Highlight may have been England; utterly beautiful, yet rounded off with some top quality grunting.
I love the album Measures by these Sunderland monkeys, but was really impressed seeing them live. Lots of interchanging of vocals, guitars and drums and technically incredible songs. A bit 80s at times, but sort of better for it, and often nice angular guitar stuff a bit like their pals The Futureheads.
Now, I love Laura Marling, but even more so after trekking up to the Park Stage just before sunset to watch this brilliant performance, with loads of tracks from Alas I Cannot Swim and I Speak Because I Can. She’s only 20, but sings with so much experience of life and shit that it blows my mind.
I’m not especially into Muse, but I can’t deny they have some massive songs and put on one hell of a show. I watched from right at the back, with maybe 90,000 people in front of me. The lights and lasers were special, but man, the noise they make is earth-splitting. So much more powerful than you can get from the TV. The Edge came on and did Where The Streets Have No Name. Even that was bloody amazing, and I hate U2.
Noisy yet melodic Staten Islanders with a singer called Joseph Ferocious. Greg recommended their Why There Are Mountains album and I haven’t looked back.
I really like this band, and live they seemed to cut the mustard, although somebody should kill the sound man as it was too fucking quiet! Anyway, despite that, they were ace and I still play I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose weekly.
I also saw a bit or all of sets from The xx, MGMT, Editors, Tegan & Sarah, The Bees, Broken Social Scene, Two Door Cinema Club, The Orb, Reef, Wild Beasts, We Are Scientists. All good in their own way, but not enough to get their own blurb on this post.
As you’ll see, I pretty much avoided the Pyramid Stage, as it was all a bit “safe” this year, and I prefer noisy tents and the Other Stage. That said, part of me wanted to go and watch Shakira, but not for entirely musical reasons.
Figure 2: Flags and dry, dusty ground near The Other Stage.
My biggest stupid decision was to go with 70,000 others to watch the England football team lose spectacularly to the Germans, when I could have been watching the sublime Grizzly Bear. I watched their performance on the BBC Glastonbury coverage, and am now even more upset. Bloody stupid England team.
I also missed a surprise performance from Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood on the Friday, although after being awake for 35 hours, driving 200 miles, drinking seven or eight pints and being baked alive, a sleep was preferable, trust me. I also had to leave earlier on the Sunday night, so I missed the headline performance from Mr. Stevie Wonder. Never mind.
So, after a lengthy hiatus, I now feel like I’ve got Glastonbury back in my veins, and intend to make the effort again next year. I expect biblical rains, seas of mud, and plagues of locusts, but I don’t really give a shit. Glastonbury is incredible, whatever the weather throws at it.
Figure 3: Glastonbury from the air (image from the BBC website).
Are you sure that first picture isn’t Michael Hutchence?
Too bad you missed Stevie, I watched the performance on the BBC with the speakers full blast, it was a pretty good gig.
I went in 1994 when it was about £30. I have to say the cost of what it is now and probably how much it would cost to stay in liquid, would cost in excess of £300 - which is quite a lot, I would need to have more bands than I liked to make that kind of commitment.
However, I think the wife is especially keen to make a visit some time in the near future. So it may well tickle my fancy next year.
Best start saving. :)
Glastonbury was the one festival I always managed to miss out on going to when I lived in the UK, even though all my friends seemed to end up going at least once. I don’t think I’ll ever make it there now, but good to hear it’s still going as strong as ever.
Great post, good to see another side of a designer! I haven’t experienced Glastonbury yet but I definitely need to go next year!! Awesome taste in music by the way!!
Thanks for sharing.
# Emily responded on 5th July 2010 with...
I really like your blog layout + you’re really really organised! :) Nice!
Massive failure on my part that at the age of 29 I have still not been to Glastonbury, or any other festival for that matter. Considering I go to so many gigs during the year too. Looks like you had a grand time though!
Its four o’clock in the morning here and I’m looking at your website.
I have been looking on this since last few days. I visit this site off & on in order to read the latest updates.
Great post, good to see another side of a designer! Keep on the good job, nice article.
I remember Glastonbury ‘95. It was my first visit. I was just turned 16 and camped on the hill near the Green Fields. It was very hot that year. And the first year of the Dance Tent. Prodigy played and I think Oasis. Although I can’t remember much more than that.
Don’t you think it’s changed so much over the past 15 odd years! The last time I went Glasto was 2007 - a proper mud fest. And I kept pointing at areas of the site, saying ‘Now that used to be there.. and that used to be this!’ Lol.
I love Glastonbury. Always will. But it’s not the same as it used to be. (Now I really do sound like a grumpy old woman!)
I went this year it was awesome! great artice, nice read :)
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