After the 2007 festival I was doubting whether I’d go back, but the 2008 lineup was pretty good and our merry gang of campers had grown. I’d not bought a ticket but after being pestered by mates on Facebook, I decided to buy one at lunch one day as this year they sold tickets in HMV due to a lack of sales over the ‘Jay Z controversy’ (I’ll get into this later on) so instead of my year off, I was going To be honest, it was really the chance to hang out with this lot of motley souls that had pulled me to Glastonbury in 2008, but things were vastly different to that summer 16 years earlier when I’d snuck into the festival in a hippy’s van. Now I was working for The Man, and older, if not always wiser but 2008 was a weird time. My job was ok, but I hated where I was living as the area where I lived had started to be infested with fake Hipsters, obnoxious students and wealthy yuppies driving up prices. However there were signs that something very, very bad was coming so there was also a feeling that this Glastonbury was to be one to be enjoyed as much as possible as long as it didn’t piss it down of course!
This time I was picked up by my mate Janet who picked me up from Bristol on the Wednesday morning very, very early and we promptly drove into a traffic jam as soon as we got near the site. As Janet had forward access due to her disability this wasn’t a huge problem as we’d simply drive right to the front but the traffic in the early hours of Wednesday morning was ridiculous. It was now very, very clear this festival was now a five day affair, as tens of thousands who in previous years would come on the Thursday, or even Friday morning were now rushing to get there as early as possible on the Wednesday.
After stocking up on beer/food/paracetamol, we got onsite, and promptly couldn’t find our way around, so after being directed somewhere by a steward, we ended up again as near an entrance as humanly possible. Super!
We legged it as quickly as we could to what was now our usual site in Park Home Ground and as we were first, we pitched ASAP, and waited for Jan, Barry and all the others in our increasing wee group. Eventually all the others turned up, and after some jiggerpokery with tents (which included Janet taking sympathy upon me by buying me a new tent after seeing my poor replacement tent after dumping my usual tent the previous year) we were set up, with new additions Hannah, Ross (who it turned out went to school with a mate, Will, I worked with) and Toni we got ready for the weekend! Even the neighbours seemed sound, though the wanky London snotty wankers camped to one side proved a pain in the arse for as long as they realised they weren’t camping next to a bunch of Scousers (who were delightful) and some Scots of varying temperament. They however spent the weekend talking about how much ketamine they took, so I’m sure some six years later most of them are dead, or at least pissing into a bag. It’s of such thoughts that makes joy shine into my heart……
Hopes were high as long as it didn’t rain. Please don’t let it rain. 2007 was fucking miserable for me, and although I ended up enjoying 2005, I was no longer as mobile as previous years due to mainly working for a living in jobs where I sat on my fat arse telling people they should do what I tell them. That and drinking lots, and eating crap didn’t help either but hey ho!
Wednesday was a messy blur as they tend to be at Glastonbury because they’re such long days which often mean you’re awake for 24 hours, and even worse, without any chemical means of keeping you going. Thankfully, I’d filled my boots (literally) with such delights from a lad in Bristol who offered such substances, plus he could get you a good price on a new bike for you too!
As is the case, Wednesday mumbled to a close, and sneaked sleekitly into Thursday. It was still sunny, dry and although a bit windy, the weather wasn’t bad. There was also a lot going on during Thursday, in fact, more so it seemed than previous years, so we wandered along the old train track down to the Brothers Bar to get some bottles of cider, and found they were no longer selling them in litres, so we made do by sitting around drinking two pints at a time. This was followed by a wander into the Green Fields, and the Tiny Tea Tent.
A wee word about the Tiny Tea Tent. This place has over the years been a solid, reliable place that on at least one occasion , saved my arse when I was desperate. It’s a vitally important part of the festival the mainstream media ignores so it can show you Jo Whiley interview some dreary mainstream Indie guitar band.
While on the subject of dreary mainstream Indie guitar bands, this was also the year Noel Gallagher of Oasis stated Jay Z shouldn’t play the Pyramid Stage as the festival wasn’t about ‘that’ sort of music. This is of course, complete bollocks spouted by people who’ve come into knowing what the festival is from the Britpop era onwards. It’s also, well, let’s be blunt, tinged with racism. Now I don’t give a toss about Jay Z, but I do like Hip Hop and rap, and guess what? I’ve seen these genres very firmly represented at Glastonbury going back to my first few years in 1992 and 1993. Gallagher, and those who bleated his uninformed opinion as some sort of ‘truth’ were playing a racist card, whether they intended to or not. Quite frankly, the festival can put whoever the fuck it likes on. It’s part of why I love the thing. Sometimes I think they’re shite and sometimes I’m wrong, but I’m not declaring them as an Other so they can discriminate against them in terms which aren’t racist or xenophobic. It’s one of the things UKIP are exceptionally good at, and although I hate Oasis outside of their first one and a half albums, I’ve always quite liked Noel Gallagher for being so brazen, but this was a case of a populist twat saying a populist thing to get publicity, or to be controversial. Yes, Jay Z’s often dubious lyrics are problematic but this wasn’t the way to counteract it by being equally dubious.
So there was some tension about a megastar playing the Pyramid, but really the joys of the festival lie away from the main stages. The Pyramid Stage in the previous few years had become very V Festival in places, and an attempt to make it more eclectic was appreciated.
Though to get back on story, we were wandering around the Green Fields, drinking tea, talking to people and generally being cheery when we felt the first few drops of rain. ‘Ha!’ we all said, ‘it can’t piss down like last year again can it?”.
Of course it bloody well did.
It rained and rained and rained and rained. Every single drop was like a spike into my soul. I drifted off to sleep that night with the rain pelting down and feeling a tad depressed about yet again, wading in mud and getting fucked off being wet all the time like I was in 2007. As I lay there dozing, I heard Jan and Janet help set someone’s tent up, or at least that’s what I thought….
Next morning I emerged into a wet, muddy, damp festival. It wasn’t cold, but seeing another camp, muddy festival was depressing, so doing what I could I put my clothes on, laced up my boots and opened my first beer of the day and realised there was a few new tents that’d appeared overnight and we’d gained some new people from London who weren’t enormous tossers. As we sat around in the damp, I decided to wander off and get a chair as my old, creaky bones not to mention my arse, weren’t up to sitting around in mud. Entropy comes to us all…
Friday had a good lineup but the pissing rain at times was annoying to say the least, as was the gloomy grey skies. This was supposed to be summer for fucks sake! Still, eventually I was shaken out of my maudlin state by The Gossip who played a blinding set on the Pyramid Stage.
As you can see from the video it wasn’t actually that bad. Yes it was grey, damp and miserable but it wasn’t as muddy as 2005 or 2007, and there was still a fair bit of grass, plus the ground was fairly firm. Also, it helped that The Gossip kicked arse so newly energised I watched the opening for The Editors, realised that I was watching the very definition of Landfill Indie and that The Editors are the sort of band who end up having lots of songs on Hollyoaks, or backing the biographical films on X Factor. Moving from there I went to the Jazz stage where I spent the rest of the evening watching Fun Lovin’ Criminals and Jimmy Cliff who was superb!
Saturday naturally followed Friday, and I’d been moderately restrained and enthused by Friday eventually. In fact I was so much in the spirit of things that I thought going to see Shaking Stevens open up the Pyramid Stage would be a laugh, but it ended up being as funny as losing a limb. Whomever told Stevens that ‘hey, what a festival audience loves is new material and they hate all that kitschy old stuff. Play the new album!’ is a prize arsehole. Stevens died several different, but interesting, deaths that morning. Watching the Last Great Chance to have a final flourish in his career slip though his fingers was in fact one of the greatest bits of schadenfreude I’ve ever experienced. To add to the joy, the weather was improving, though it was still damp in places, it was at least feeling something like summer, albeit summer in Inverness.
Saturday overall was much more fun, but that’s my best memories of the day as it’s all hazy which is mainly beer related, among other things.It was however a great day closed off by a lovely set from Massive Attack.
As is usual, at the end of the night we all hung around the tents talking nonsense and all the usual stuff people do at festivals. The festival certainly wasn’t a classic by any reach of the imagination and the problems with the site suffering from overcrowding in places were exceptionally annoying. The site’s infrastructure was also pushed with the sheer numbers of people so this meant toilets weren’t emptied as much as they should have been, or that bins were brimming and overflowing everywhere, which was awful in places.
Then there were some of the newer crowd coming to festivals. Drawn by the mainstream coverage of Glastonbury people came for what was a summer holiday (as it was by now for me) but there was no great love for the festival. It was simply something to tick off in a box so you could tell everyone in accounts, or in your shared student house, or your mates down the pub that you’d been and seen Amy Winehouse being crap on the Pyramid Stage, or that watching Elbow was a ‘Glastonbury moment’. With the lack of any real youth culture all the kids looked the same, and in a lot of cases acted the same. Things were becoming increasingly stale and homogenised which is I suppose part of the problem with the post-millennial culture, but I think part of it is fear of being different. This harks back to Noel Gallagher’s comments and that fear of being Othered. Why make a statement to stand out when it’s easier to conform, wear a pair of wanky sunglasses and put glitter on one eye, not two as that would be just a bit too daring.
This was summed up for me with the band closing the Pyramid. The Verve were a stunning band I’d first seen at Glastonbury in 1993, and I was chuffed they’d finally made it big in 1997 at the fagend of Britpop when really shite bands were making it big (Kula Shaker???!?) and some good bands were passing quietly into the night. The Verve were always one of these bands with potential but they were only supposed to shine brightly for a while. they represented safe, Indie guitar music, though with some great songs. Closing the festival with the Verve was a huge act of musical conservatism. It was playing it safe for the tourists who now cluttered up the Pyramid Stage in their inflatable chairs, tins of Stella and the crazy hat they’d only wear again for the office Christmas party.
Before all that though was Sunday. This was littered with some Wurzels for some drunken nostalgia, long wanders round the Green Fields and of course, trips to the comedy tent that I’d littered through the weekend as I’d done with every other Glastonbury since 1992. The main event though for the Sunday was, for me at least, Goldfrapp followed by Leonard Cohen.
I’d been turned onto Cohen back in Glasgow when I worked in a comic shop there in the 1980’s, and he seemed to fit the ‘Glastonbury legend’ spot, but what to expect from a live gig, especially at the world’s premiere arts festival? Following Goldfrapp was interesting, because of that’s band’s filthy, disco/pop owed a little to Cohen so when Cohen came on with his immaculate suit and hat in the early evening sun to a mixed crowd of young and old it was anyone’s guess how it’d go.
Sadly, Cohen’s performance wasn’t broadcast by the BBC (mainly as I assume it’ll end up, or had ended up on a DVD) , so all we’ve got to relive it are shaky Youtube videos and of course, our memories.
Cohen’s set in 2008 is by a mile, one of the finest, most emotionally charged and amazingly fun experiences I’ve had ever, let alone a festival. It was glorious. It really genuinely was.
So for the song Hallelujah to be adopted into the mainstream and become an X Factor standard was depressing, but this showed the great power Glastonbury now wielded, even with a performance that wasn’t broadcast on TV, it still bled out from the world that Glastonbury creates for a week or so and out into the mainstream. Thing is though stripped of the emotion, meaning and of course, the sexual tension the song is utterly meaningless. It’s like those lads wearing T-shirts that says ‘Bantersaurus Rex’. It’s a way to say ‘look, I’m deep, I’m emotional!!’ but without the intelligence or meaning to back it up all it is, is a song being abused by lesser talents. Just like those lads with Bantersaurus Rex T-shirts are really the most tediously dull, but self-obsessed people in existence.
Avoiding The Verve we headed back to the tents for what was now a traditional last evening drinking session to say our fond farewells for another year. The next morning on a sunny Monday, I packed up, helped Janet to her car and she dropped me back in Bristol for another year and although not fully re-enthused about Glastonbury, I was cheery and optimistic for the future. I was looking forward to 2009’s festival, and shortly after I’d agreed to become a housesitter for another mate, Simon, who had moved to Wales with his new wife, so I moved into to his amazing house for 18 months while he waited for a buyer. Things were looking up so next time I’ll tell you the story of Glastonbury 2009!!!
Except I won’t. Those signs and shadows blew up as the recession hit like Mike Tyson on a drunken night out and I nearly lost my job, but I was lucky enough to keep it, but on a reduced wage. This meant something had to give and that something was Glastonbury. I’d paid my deposit in October, but by January I couldn’t afford to live in Simon’s house and do Glastonbury, at least not on my reduced wage. I couldn’t even fall back on comics as that market was taking a kicking as well
This meant Glastonbury 2009 I spent in the pub, or watching Jo Whiley front the BBC’s coverage. It was frankly, amazingly painful, especially when in May things at work had improved enough for my wage to be restored, but not in time to get a ticket. 2009’s lineup was also quite good, and although on the Friday I did get an offer to go down on the Saturday I thought it’d be no fun to go down essentially for a day. In retrospect, I wish I had.
Anyhow, 2009 didn’t happen for me. This allowed a reset as it were. 2010 was going to be a great year. It had to be and you know what, it bloody well was. Why that was is a tale for next time……