Now that you seem to have stopped finding mud in the most unusual of places and the hangover has finally abated, we thought it was a good time to reflect on last weeekend’s shenanigans down on Worthy Farm.
I knew Glastonbury was the world’s best festival when I sat separate from a house party and watched the Arctic Monkeys headline slot in 2007. It wasn’t the quality of the music or the groundbreaking performance, it was the atmosphere. Over the next three years I began my slow crawl towards Pilton and eventually lived the dream last weekend. It’s hard to comprehend a festival that you’ve built up in your head for four years (and it’s even harder to write objectively about that event) and I’m aware that I’ve not been to every festival, so to say Glasto is the best may appear a somewhat sweeping statement. Nevertheless it is one I’m going to try and justify.
The Eavis’ haven’t made life easy for the festival goer, placing the site in the middle of rolling green hills that collect rainwater like guttering. As we pulled up at 8 o’clock Wednesday morning (getting the full £200 worth, we’re not silly) Glastonbury was immediately challenging us. When rain strikes at a festival you can usually work around it; heading for tents or just getting progressively more drunk. But during the queue to get your wristband the rain is a relentless mistress, saying to you “Look! Your car is over there. Just turn back now!” Needless to say we didn’t turn back and although the rain persisted until Friday, at Glastonbury it becomes almost a novelty; because once your welly has become lodged in the mud more than twice, there isn’t much further you can sink. And after all the complaining Saturday evening and Sunday saw nostalgic renderings of last year, turning the temperature to eleven. When the rain is bad you get blisters and muddy, when it’s hot you get burnt and sleepy, and there’s absolutely no way to win.
But it’s not the personality of the weather that makes Glasto so great (although it does add a certain charm), it’s the music, the atmosphere, and the wealth of places to explore. I took it upon myself to watch all three headliners as they’re usually our first point of reference when reviewing a festival. U2 were welcomed by inexorable rain on Friday night and saw an almost nervous looking Bono, after rumours circulated to boycott the band in protest to the frontman’s financial decisions. Unsurprisingly this didn’t happen and the four Irishmen delivered a powerful set, opening with four tunes off of Achtung Baby. U2’s only real performance problem is the size of their back catalogue, which is always going to leave some fans disappointed, but the audience were treated to plenty off The Joshua Tree and some newer tracks too. Coldplay left no room for disappointment, and after a risky opening with new song ‘Hurts Like Heaven’, the band played almost every hit. What made things more special was the band’s revival of ‘Everything’s Not Lost’ and ‘Shiver’, Martin’s overwhelmed appreciation and his reworking of the lyrics to ‘What a Wonderful World’, where he sang ‘I see thousands of people covered in mud, who love this place with every drop of their blood’. And Sunday night the queen of pop Beyonce was the first solo female artist to grace the pyramid stage in over two decades. Silencing all the cynics, the independent woman followed in Jay-Z’s steps gloriously, putting on a show of pure entertainment and performing a set of pop songs that have been inescapable over the last ten years. In my opinion, this year saw three exceptional headliners who reinstated their positions as three of the biggest acts in the world.
But Glastonbury is about more than superstars, it’s the little bands as well, to which the festival holds an arsenal. What breaks one’s heart is just how many you have to miss, and I’ll cry myself to sleep knowing that I had to skip Caribou, James Blake, Lykke Li, Jamie xx for the sakes of Elbow, Radiohead, and so on. But it meant I also got to discover the quality of other acts, such as Two Door Cinema Club, who looked to be having the time of their lives. Ghostpoet provided an almost ambient set on the Wow! Stage, creating an intimacy that’s hard to conjure at a festival. Warpaint generated a buzz around themselves, performing twice over the weekend. As someone who could never get into their minimalism, on Friday afternoon I finally ’got it’ and enjoyed their beautiful melodies fluttering over the Park. Nicolas Jaar is also a noteworthy act, getting the whole of West Holts interested in his exciting new sound, which went perfectly with the Strawberry ciders being sold just to the left.
It’s largely commented that you can’t understand the size of Glastonbury until you go there, which is true, but nor can you understand the kind of things that go on there. My friend and I went on a mission Saturday/Sunday morning to find the weird and wonderful Glastonbury, and this lead us directly to the imaginary utopia of ‘Shangri-La’. After a terrifying experience in a club that would allow only the moustached gentleman in, we saw fire breathing stages and plane crashes turned zombie night clubs. A Bono and Edge puppet show caught our attention shortly before we entered an open air club, enclosed within circular walls, completely packed at five in the morning. It’s safe to say Glasto doesn’t sleep. Two areas worth mentioning are firstly (and obviously) the dance village, which showcases the biggest names in dance and electronic music whilst staging new talents alongside. No matter what time you stroll through, the dance village will cater to your needs. Secondly, The Rabbit-Hole also drew attention this year. With an Alice and Wonderland theme, your job was to crawl through the series of manmade tunnels in order to find the stage. A truly excellent/terrifying experience in the early hours of the morning.
Glastonbury festival sets itself aside from the likes of Reading, V, or T in the Park by its sheer size and variety. You can remain at main stage all day and see some of the world’s most exciting acts, or you can wander through tranquil healing fields and take part in a bit of yoga, or you can go to the circus or the theatre, catch some cabaret or comedy, finding something wonderfully unique around every corner. At Glastonbury you can do whatever you want, and that’s what makes it the best festival in the world. And so, just the same as over the weekend you’ve not enough time to see all of Glastonbury, I’ve simply not enough space to write about it all here.