28th June, 2004

Glastonbury 2004: Another classic

So, that was Glastonbury 2004. Around 120,000 revellers enduring sleep deprevation, come-ups and downs, 1000s of performers and everything the weather could throw at us. Probably my favourite Glasto thus far, thanks in part to the volume of friends around me, two days of intense sunshine and some incredibly powerful music.

PJ Harvey

Here are your choices: check out the GlastonColly moblog for all the junk I texted live from the festival, or just read on for the CollyLogical musical overview…

It sunned, then it rained…

There was mud. There was lots of the stuff - all consistencies and viscosities - mud in the boots, mud in the tent, mud in the brain. Glastonbury excels at mud production, and it takes little more than a downpour to trigger the treading of a new layer. As it dries, the mud becomes like glue as thousands of feet tread it into a thick dough, making stage-to-stage movement incredibly tasking.

Yet, nobody really cares. Not at Glastonbury. For five days a city appears, inhabited by the UK’s most tolerant, open-minded, cup-half-full people intent on having a good Glasto. I saw only one scowl over five days - from a man in the phone-recharging tent taking umbridge with my need to charge two of the bloody things. Elsewhere, smiles are the must-have accessory (aside from novelty hats for wannabe-hedonistic accountants, and wellington boots, obviously). The Glastonbury go-er is a special breed - a hardy fieldsman able to adapt and overcome any situation - including the difficulty of obtaining tickets - and remain jolly throughout. Certainly, he or she is not claustrophobic.

I don’t do cabaret

It’s impossible to see every band, act, comedian, performer, stall, jester, person in kangaroo costume - never try it. 900 acres is a lot of ground to cover through mud, crowds and intoxicants. I see bands, that what I do. I skip the cabaret and comedy stuff simply to make more of my time. So, to summarise the mess of moblog posts, here’s my round-up of the three main days.

Friday

From my point of view, this looked the best line-up - and it was. Leicester silence-botherers Kasabian set it all off with some smart rock, despite wearing polo-necks. The sun intensified as we moved to the Pyramid to see a cracking set from rocky/country blokes Wilco. Also caught The Walkmen, who rocked the New Tent. Best of the afternoon had to be Elbow, with the tightest, most beautiful set of the weekend. A barefoot, sun-drenched crowd lapped up Bitten By The Tailfly, Newborn and Grace Under Pressure (all of us helping sing the latter for an EP released today).

Elbow

In the evening, the sun’s descent was soundtracked by a confident, cheeky, talkative PJ Harvey - clearly having a wail of a time, and blowing everyone away with a blisteringly raucous set. Biggest cheers were reserved for anything off Stories From The City…, and an amazing rendition of Dress. Speaking of which, Polly was wearing a very fetching Spice Girls two-piece outfit and a fluffy hairdo. These elements combined with the cheeky flirting were enough to have the male half of the audience held very attentive. Best performance of the entire festival.Biggest surprise was the groove, stature and 70s-throwbackness of Kings Of Leon. Minus beards (mostly) the brothers raced nervously through their tunes in front of their biggest ever audience. Everyone danced from start to finish, and it seemed as if the band had been teleported from another time to entertain us. Sadly, Oasis headlined - and were crap (where did it all go wrong?) according to almost everyone. I went off to listen to the Chemical Brothers instead.

Kings of Leon

Saturday

It pissed it down all day. Early performances from the surprisingly good ‘n punky Subways, followed by the powerful bluesy-rock of Lincoln’s 22-20s set the pace. Simple Kid may have got there late, but he rolled out a special 45 minutes of quirky storytelling country-esque songs that changed my opinion of him for the better. He also gave us the best soundcheck quote: “Can I get more laptop please?”. Best of the day was a low-key, intimate performance from Adem in the Guardian Lounge (about as big as a squash court). Everyone did indeed lounge as the bespectacled chap and his mates worked through some beautiful tracks from the album Homesongs. Sadly, the wind was carrying British Sea Power and some banging dance stuff up the hill, almost drowning out the wee fella’s delicate sound. Still, top notch stuff.

I saw twenty minutes of Paul McCartney. He came on and said some naff stuff about ley lines and tried to speak ‘cool’, played a couple of Wings and Beatles numbers, then I moved on. The big pull for anyone not watching McCartney had to be Toots and the Maytals over at JazzWorld. Through the dark, rainy gloom they came to brighten up our night with classic reggae and ska tunes that had everyone moving, singing, participating.

Sunday

Mixed weather again - tired feet. Started off with Obi at the Acoustic tent, which was lovely. Moved on to see the very ordinary Ordinary Boys, then over to the New Tent for The Open, who were cool.After the weird Buck 65, we sodded off through the downpour to see the Godfather of Soul, Mr. James Brown - and his eight-million piece soul band. Suddenly, this was Las Vegas, not Somerset. Dancing girls, soul divas, a master of ceremonies, and a true superstar. Mr. Brown wasn’t always on his good foot, and he left the singing to some of the others at times. Still, he was class, and it’s certainly the most surreal thing I’ve seen at Glastonbury.

James Brown

Filling in for The Libertines, festival house-band Supergrass bashed out their very English hits through rain, downpour, sun, rainbow and brief hail to a massive crowd. By now I was a bit of a mess, and the crowd was swelling, so we skipped Morrissey (shame) and joined five other people to watch Black Rebel Motorcycle Club who were really good and wah-wahy.

By now I was a bit wasted, so the chance to see Orbital‘s penultimate ever gig was a great pull. An enormous, joyous, illuminous crowd gathered at the Other Stage to hear Satan, Chime and all their most compelling machine-like noises. Firecrackers were held high and banners aloft, the brothers repeatedly saying “Thankyou. You’re brilliant. Thankyou!”. An unforgettable end to an unforgettable five days.

What else?

Other highlights included the gathering of 60,000 frightened, nervy England fans to despair at the team losing on penalties at The Pyramid Stage, and also the inexhaustable pile of food I made my way through. Getting vaguely lost over at Lost Vagueness was funny - at 3am whilst hammered. Also, most of the girls looked sexy in their wellies (A fetish? No, not really…), and I now sport a wonderful healthy suntan.

A big thumbs up to Michael Eavis, his family, Worthy Farm, the cows and all the thousands who make the thing tick over. We had a very special time on your farm…

Images taken from Strongbow Rooms site. Cheers…

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