Glastonbury 2016: The year of cancer and Brexit

Well, the UK voted for Brexit, I’ve got cancer and couldn’t go to Glastonbury and people this morning woke up at the festival to deal with what is a massive shock. Also, the main music stages of the first day are mainly shite and it has been raining buckets on and off all day as I kick the weekend off viewing it on the BBC’s very good Glastonbury service.


I would have been there had I not been hit with a stroke then a diagnosis of papillary thyroid cancer, but even looking at miserable people waking up and finding out a racist, xenophobic campaign won the EU referendum vote, and having to wade through fields of mud I’d rather be there right now as opposed to sitting around watching Glastonbury on TV while the world starts to burn around me.

However, the Friday afternoon is terrible.


The Pyramid looks nice though with its David Bowie tribute but lordy me, there’s some shite on these stages. Bland, empty, soulless acts or the sort of music you stick on in the background while cutting your toenails. In fact most people seem to be wandering around in a fug wondering what the fuck is going on in the Real World outwith of Worthy Farm.


Still, the afternoon moves on and even the sun decides to come out to add a wee bit of cheer in an otherwise dismal day.


Imagining people wandering around Glastonbury in an air of confused gloom does my mood no favours, but thankfully the ridiculous sight of ZZ Top on the Pyramid Stage offers some light relief on a day that really is crushing the spirit.


I’ve always had a vague soft spot for the silliness that is ZZ Top and they do their shtick well, plus it is fun, daft, dumb and totally escapist which is what’s needed. Plus they’re actually really very good musicians which is something I’ve never noticed or appreciated before. They’ve got the sheen and skill of people who’ve been doing this for decades (they have) and love what they do.


This though would be the sort of day had I been fit enough to go I’d have spent wandering around or in the comedy tent, or more than likely drinking heavily, something I can no longer do in my current condition. So I’d be in the comedy tent trying to inhale the stale smell of skunk from some middle class student trying to rip jokes off so he can use them himself next term. The site though looks good considering the rain we had down here in the South West over the last week and the sun is shining.


Sadly, I’m not there to soak it all in so rather than wallow in misery after the Brexit news I check out a bit of Daughter on the Park Stage. Everyone on stage looks bored, especially the keyboard player.

They’re dull. They’re very good playing their respective instruments but they play the sort of music first year university students called Jeremy from Welwyn Garden City would play when they’re trying to work out how to badly fuck the first girl they’ve ever gotten into bed. Like far too many bands like this there’s no bollocks, no soul and not a lot of excitement. Perfect for the Mumford and Sons generation.

I realise I’ve not eaten in eight hours and take a break to make some food, which will be filthy as I’m two days off a strict diet before my radiotherapy starts. I come back and check out the crowd footage between bands and start wishing I was there, even though I’d make my doctors want to cut my balls off for breaking their orders.


On a friend’s advice on Facebook I check out Bring Me The Horizon. They’re alright, but they’re different from the tiresome Indie pap soaking up on the shore of Glastonbury’s main music stages these days but they are a bit like they’ve fell through a timewarp from 2004.


By this time on the first full night most people are pumped for the big headliners on stages all over the site. Muse are headlining the Pyramid. Now that may have some reaching for their razors but I don’t mind Muse. An ex-girlfriend loved them and she infected me with a bit of that love. Before that though I check out Rosin Murphy at West Holts.


She starts off very odd, very sweary. I’ve always had a soft spot for Murphy’s stuff even if it does occasionally cross into Jazz which is as nearly a warcrime in my eyes.

I hate Jazz.

Anyhow, Murphy’s playing a mix of avant garde and more dancey commercial material and its very good, but the shitty smell of Brexit hangs over the day which seems to drive Murphy onto perform out her skin.


The headline acts provide a choice. Muse, Underworld or Sigur Rós. As I’m at home I can do all three.


By this point though the day has taken its toll. I’ve been awake since 5.30am and I feel dreadful so I give all the main headliners a go, catch a bit of Muse and head for bed.


Saturday: the first realisation upon waking is that the first day of Brexit Britain was real and that 170k people at Glastonbury don’t get what’s happening out here in the real world. I fearfully turn on the TV to see what’s happening….

Basically the UK is rudderless. Nobody knows what’s going on but the EU want us gone, the UK is on the verge of breakup but I’ve had eight hours kip and some grub so I settle in for a bit of Baaba Maal at the Pyramid Stage.


His music suits a dry, sunny day so you can sit down in the dry dirt in front of the Pyramid, enjoy a cold cider and chill in these uncertain times, times I may remind you, most at Glastonbury have no idea they’re now living in. Instead it’s a bit overcast but not as muddy as the other days.


This time on a Saturday afternoon at Glastonbury is for wandering about, drinking, chilling and soaking up the festival in its prime. You’ve been here since Wednesday, even longer if you’ve been working there, so you’re settled. You’ve totally adjusted to the lifestyle but you also know you’ve got the buffer of Sunday so you don’t have to think about the grim dystopian world they’re coming back to.

But Saturday afternoon is my favourite time. IN years past I’ve walked for hours soaking the festival in, enjoying whatever I wanted to see and having often the best times of my festival-going life. There’s is nothing better than a Saturday afternoon at Glastonbury.Sadly, I’m in my flat in Bristol split between writing this blog/review, watching the Euros and discussing or arguing with people on social media about Brexit. Luckily Little Simz on the West Holts Stage leaps out with her gobby hip-hop and it’s great stuff with some quality Olympic level swearing.


After this I half watch the landfill Indie of Wolf Alice while paying attention more to Poland playing to Switzerland. I’m also struck by how many bands are just a bunch of middle class public schooled kids playing music that wouldn’t upset their parents.


They’re so dull the cameraman starts filming seagulls flying over the site so I make a cup of tea, take a break from Glastonbury and Brexit to concentrate on the football for a bit. Switzerland V Poland proves to be a better game than I’d expected so I get lost there for a bit.

I come back for Madness who draw a huge crowd for their act which is now so polished you could see your face in it. It’s fun, but tired, plus Wales V Northern Ireland is on.


The next music I’m interested in are the amazing Shibusashirazu Orchestra who were for me the best act of the 2002 festival. They were brilliantly mental but we’re all 14 years older. Surely they’ve calmed down?



They are still one of the most unique acts I’ve ever seen of 30 odd years of seeing live music. They’re also great musicians as well as looking astonishing. These are people who know how to put on a show.

glasto21This is my highlight of the festival so far to the point I totally ignore the Wales V Northern Ireland game or indeed the fact I’m feeling faint as I’ve not eaten in six hours and my fragile blood sugar balance is crashing. Bloody cancer! And oh, Wales beat Northern Ireland and manage to stay in Europe. Irony overload!

The afternoon turns into evening as the buildup to the Big Saturday Headliners boils up with Adele due to come out on the Pyramid Stage later, something that fills me with a mix of interest and tedium, something the acts on most of the stages on the Saturday night bring up. Fact is even if I was fully fit and cancer free this would be a year I’d be in the comedy tent as the music lineup tonight especially is pish. Still, Fatboy Slim at the John Peel Stage provides some respite from tedious bands doing their own Jazz Odyssey.  Norman Cook chooses instead to wake people from their slumber and sends the crowd wild..


Now I’ve seen Norman Cook (Fatboy Slim’s real name for those three people who didn’t know that) probably dozens of times over the last 27 years in many of his various guises. There are times when he doesn’t click, there are times when he’s good and there’s times when he’s on fucking fire. Tonight is the latter, Cook’s playing a blazing set full of energy and joy. It’s a glorious sight and sound.


This is the way to set people up for a long Saturday night or begin the end of their day. It’s brilliant stuff, plus the wee tribute to those who have passed like David Bowie and Prince is lovely stuff. This is Cook at the absolute top of his game. It’s so good it makes me forget about Brexit or the fact the Croatia V Portugal game is even on!

At this point let me moan about BT. At least once a day my internet drops out. It decides to drop out during Fatboy Slim. This is shite. While it sorts itself out I watch some of Croatia V Portugal. It’s also shite. My internet sorts itself out and saves me. Fatboy Slim is still playing and the crowd is loving it.


Eventually he comes to a close and I end up pissing my life away because one of my many meds I takes makes me do that. Ten minutes later I return to find out Croatia V Portugal and no shots on target. I decide to watch a wee bit of Mercury Rev instead.


I listen to a nice set from a band I’ve never went mental for but always enjoyed while watching Christiano Ronaldo look pissed off. This is good. However Adele is due on the Pyramid Stage and out of curiosity I check it out.


It’s alright but dear god, it’s by the numbers musak at times. Still, the site looks pretty.


Choosing to give Adele a rest I check out New Order who once were an essential band to watch but the last few times I’ve seen them they’ve been rubbish. Tonight they’re average.


Bored I turn back to Adele for her to perform Skyyyfoooooaaaallllll.


Skyfall to be fair is the best Bond theme in ages, and I find myself being sucked into her patter in between songs. It’s a tad staged but she is at least trying to entertain rather than last year’s Saturday night shitefest with Kanye West.

Yeah, it is bland but she’s giving a fuck about the audience. She’s also not some middle class public school offspring and the lairs of cynicism built up especially over the last 48 hours drip off.


I’m hanging on now as I’m still exhausted after the last 48 hours, but Philip Glass is performing the Heroes Symphony, and this is something if I’d been there I’d have limped through metres (can I still use the metric system in Brexit Britain?) of mud to see and hear. It is however running stupidly late but I want to watch it live and persist. Eventually some 25 minutes late around 40 people fill the Park Stage and it begins.

There are lasers.


Lots of lasers.


Tons of lasers.


Problem is this is a performance meant to be appreciated. Not something one does on a Saturday night at Glastonbury plus very little sleep added to the dawning horror of post Brexit Britain means it is time for bed and the plan is to approach Sunday fresh because it might be the last day of relative sanity before the weekend is over and the shit really hits the fan.

Sunday is always a weird day at Glastonbury. If you’ve had a good one you’ll be feeling an increasing sadness as the day goes on, but with the Brexit situation getting worse seemingly by the hour those 170k people onsite for the last five days at least face emerging into a very changed, very scary country. There’s always a shock coming back from a festival, but this will be a reality check like no other for these people, and indeed, even speaking to friends who are onsite, they don’t get the scale of what’s happening here. So thank Jebus for Gregory Porter’s chilled smooth soul.


No, I’ve no idea why he’s got a balaclava on either but Porter’s perfect early Sunday afternoon Pyramid Stage fare to ease you into the day and set you up for the one last big push. However Ireland are beating France in the Euros so this takes me away from Glastonbury and Brexit for a wee while….

After a bloody good game I return to see the Mystery Jets. They’re not as thrilling as the football but they’ll do for a wee bit to pass the time.


The main event on this Sunday at the Pyramid is ELO, or Jeff Lynne’s ELO as they’re called now. Even back in my old punk or Goth days I always loved ELO because they’re just brilliant at making fantastic pop music. It should however be sunny but it’s pissing down.


Lynne takes to the stage with the same aviator shades he’s worn for 40 years and a strange, almost wig-like thing on his head rather than his usual curly mullet.


He is however belting through all the hits which is going far with the crowd, further than Ireland will get in the Euros as France knock them out. As for ELO, they’re smooth, polished, and Lynne’s got this so down to a tee that it should sound cheesy but it’s great pop music from one of the last of the great old musicians.


And the rain stops. Sort of.


The Sunday afternoon oldies slot has come into its own ever since I saw Johnny Cash there back in 1994 and ELO isn’t the best act to fill this slot, but they’re brilliantly polished playing a mix of upbeat pop and ballads.

It does predictably start raining during Mr Blue Sky.


ELO wrap up their great set and we’re firmly in the transition between afternoon and evening which means Glastonbury is in its final stages. I take the chance to empty the fridge of anything dairy as I have to be on a low iodine diet as of tomorrow for two weeks so it’s an omelette of eggs and fish for me. I return for a bit of Saint Etienne, still sounding good some 20 odd years after I first saw them in these fields.

Sarah Cracknell does seem to have developed a Hilary Clinton thing though.


The evening begins to draw to a close. Beck turns up on the Pyramid Stage. Beck tends to always put on a great show and he kicks off another great show again.


Sadly Beck clashes with the wonderful PJ Harvey on the Other Stage who has a small crowd which is disappointing but it is raining and a bit cold..


Eventually she comes on and looks amazing!


I’ve seen Harvey in all her Glastonbury appearances  from 1992 onwards and this is the first one I miss. I suddenly feel very sad.


She’s perfect music for the approaching gloom of coming home after what has been an extraordinary week.


She’s playing Let England Shake, a somewhat appropriate song for this weekend.Overall though this is a great set from a great and often underappreciated performer but we’re getting into the home straight now. Nearly time for Glastonbury to end and the remaining people there to emerge into the New World Order.

Now I could watch Coldplay but it’s been an awful enough few days as it is so I decide to catch Earth Wind and Fire but I can’t resist seeing the crowd for Coldplay. They’re wet and miserable and the weather isn’t that great either.


This is the dog-end of the festival now. There’s just one last big burst from all the main stages but the festival does carry on throughout the night, though I’m told by friends who’ve left early and are now on social media that loads of people are leaving early to avoid another 12 hour trip to get home tomorrow.

Before all that is Earth Wind and Fire.


If you’re going to see off Glastonbury and emerge into the apocalypse we’re now in, this is the way to do it and with that the festival closes, another year is over, Michael Eavis says ‘best year ever‘ on Points West, and 170k people come home to realise their entire world has changed just not in the way they think.

They’re back to a financial and constitutional crisis. Rising racism, a Tory coup. Jeremy Corbyn being rumoured to have held back Labour’s Remain campaign as he wanted to leave the EU and Labour shadow ministers dropping like flies, Scotland and Northern Ireland working out how to remain in the EU. They’ve come back to a changed reality after a week at the best festival in the world.  I saw a couple today on the bus coming back looking tired and drained, but happy. That may change when they find out what’s happened.

All of this doesn’t matter. I’ll be back next year and I’ll be cancer free. We may however still be in this enormous mess…..

2 thoughts on “Glastonbury 2016: The year of cancer and Brexit

  1. Pingback: San Diego Comic Con is a far away promised land | My Little Underground

  2. Pingback: There and Back Again: The story of Glastonbury 2017 | My Little Underground

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