I took a break from writing my personal history of the Glastonbury Festivals I’ve attended mainly to give me a break to do other stuff, but seeing as it’s Spring and that means it’s nearly Summer, it’s time to get back to it. Firstly here’s a recap of previous blogs.
Which takes me to the year 2003 and the second festival since the erection of the Superfence which after 2002 was something that was shown to work which meant the people who tried and failed to jump the fence in 2002 didn’t (on the whole) try it again. 2003 is also the year when things started to take shape to form the festival as it is today, but things were still in flux so it was caught between the Behemoth that it is today to the still somewhat chaotic mess it was back then in that faraway time of 11 years ago.
The first thing that changed was the speed in which tickets sold out. I remember being at work, logging onto the website and buying my ticket first thing in the morning. By the time I got the bus home I overheard someone talking about how tickets had sold out but she’d managed to get five of them which most were to end up on Ebay. This was my first hint that something was going to be different this year, but seeing as I was single-ish (a story for another time) and 2002 had been my first solo festival for years, I decided to do the same again though I’d had offer from friends from a Glastonbury Forum I became part of to camp with them.
So like the previous Glastonbury, I decided to go down on Thursday morning, though that quickly became the afternoon as I spent most of that morning fannying around online which meant I’d arrive mid to late afternoon which was peak time for arrivals, or at least, in previous years it used to be the peak time. By the time I arrived by bus from Bristol, the site was rammed to such an extent my plan to camp in Pennards Hill was ruled out as it was full, so I decided to trek over to Big Ground and find somewhere there. I eventually found a space up high on the hill facing the Pyramid Stage, and I set up my tent for the weekend which was promising much as the line up was good and the weather forecast was exceptional.
Thursday night saw a meet of our little group from the aforementioned Glastonbury Forum, and this involved drinking heavily, people losing their money as they were doing a Spider Walk, and the Voice of the Mysterons...
All in all it was huge fun and a great set-up for the rest of the weekend which started on the Friday morning with my first exposure to a little band called The Darkness. Now this band ended up imploding in a spectacular way with the frontman scraping around for a Eurovision gig, before the inevitable, desperate reunion but at this time, in that field they were magnificent. Yes, they were a bit too knowing but when a lot of British bands were either crap DJ/Pop or over-earnest guitar bands The Darkness were a massive breath of fresh air. They were a bit different from the knowing Hipster music starting to form and they were also a fucking tight band.
After The Darkness closed their set on what was a gloomy, dank morning it was a sprint to the Other Stage for Har Mar Superstar. Now this might seem today as a silly choice, and I’ll be the first admit that Har Mar was a one trick pony, but Power Lunch is still a fantastic tune, and this performance was huge fun. We all needed fun because the rain was coming and as I again sprinted (as much as one can sprint at Glastonbury) to the Pyramid Stage to see Echo and the Bunnymen, the rains broke so I managed to dive under a tree by the main arena to shelter and here I bumped into Wes, a lad who I worked with and his girlfriend who were also sheltering from the rain during Echo and the Bunnymen. Deciding we all wanted to see De La Soul and Mogwai, we hung around as the rain stopped, and the afternoon started to get warmer but poor Wes having taken far too much cider, pills and stupidity, passed out just before De La Soul and regained life halfway through Mogwai. After this we went our separate ways as I caught most of Suede before heading to The Other Stage for Electric Six.
To this day, this set is one of my favourite at any festival ever. The band were magnificent in the boiling bright sunshine; they were simply utterly magnificent but unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be any clips of their show online which is a massive pity.
Now as you may note I’m not talking about being drunk, or bouncing around doing odd stuff but seeing bands and this Glastonbury was the festival where I think in one day I saw more bands than I had in the entirety of the previous year. It really was a great lineup that year.
I finished off the Friday with Primal Scream before wandering to the Tiny Tea Tent to meet people, chat, and drink till the wee hours.
Saturday saw me wake up early, not to mention surprisingly sober. Saturday at festivals is always the day when the weekend kicks into full gear, so it was actually nice to face it with a totally clear head. I spent the morning chilling at my tent chatting to some kids from Bridgewater who’d come to their first ever festival before heading off for a wander of the site on what was an utterly stunning sunny day and there was nothing I wanted to see really til Jimmy Cliff so off for a wander I went, which always means ending up in the comedy tent either watching something brilliant, or some arts student from UWE telling us that ”George Bush is a cunt’. Oh the satires!!
Anyhow, the afternoon went on, Jimmy Cliff came on and did a blinding set and I was ready for my highlight of the Saturday which was the Polyphonic Spree. Now it’s hard to think that what I’m about to say is real, but at the time they were a rightfully massive band and this was reflected by the massive crowd that you can see in this video of the opening to their set.
I’m somewhere on the right of the picture, facing the harp if you can squint hard enough.
Thing was I was standing down the front on a boiling hot sunny day next to the Pyramid Stage which was a silver coloured tent which meant it was reflecting sunlight at anyone near it. This meant I ended up with a Harvey Dent tan for the rest of the weekend and for the rest of the weekend that also meant getting very drunk to get over the sunburn, which ended up with me drunkenly watching Radiohead from my tent with a very sore face, and a sore head as well.
Sunday saw me wake up hungover. Very hungover. After wandering around to find somewhere that sold a greasy fry-up, I decided to take it easy on the last day (no more Brothers cider!) as there wasn’t a lot I wanted to see, but what I did want to see was scattered all over the site plus it included wandering up the hill to see the great Roddy Frame which was fantastic. What wasn’t fantastic was Yes who I endured as I walked past them on the way to the comedy tent which is where I spent most of the end of this year’s festival. I can’t remember who I saw, but I do remember leaving the tent in the wee hours of Monday morning to walk slowly back to my tent in a lovely warm night, and by now I’d got quite used to Glastonbury being warm and dry.
Monday saw me wake early, pack up and walk slowly, not to mention sadly to get the bus back to Bristol. Sad not only because I was leaving a festival where as far as I’m still concerned, had the best line-up of any year at a time when music was at a high, but because that bloody journey back to Bristol was always grim and depressing.
On the bus back I thought about the weekend, mainly about how much busier it was now another 20,000 people were allowed in which meant the festival didn’t suffer the big empty spaces of 2002. It also felt about right but the downside of the event being televised so heavily was it sold the festival as a big gig in a field, which even though this blog has been all about me running around the site seeing bands, it really isn’t. 2003 was in many ways a totally unique year, not to mention one of my favourite years but I’d decided I couldn’t be arsed camping by myself anymore so in 2004 I’d hook up with someone to go.
The story of 2004 and the ups and downs of the year that showed how the festival had changed completely since I’d first went in my next blog….