Glastonbury 2014 Sells Out!

Today I woke up waaaaaayy before 9am on a Sunday, to get ready for the annual lunacy which is getting Glastonbury tickets, which this year sold out in a ridiculously quick one hour and 27 minutes. Sadly a large chunk of the crowd I now go with haven’t got tickets, so it’s a case we’ll be refreshing like mad come the resale in April.

The problem I have is that Seetickets, the organisation tasked with selling tickets, are frankly, barely fit for purpose. The first half hour of today’s sale saw Seetickets admit to an enormous fuck up.

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This frankly isn’t good enough for an organisation who’ve been doing this for a decade, and are I assume paid handsomely with our money. Neither does it especially reflect well upon Glastonbury Festivals Ltd (GFL). It just looks shoddy and a bit of a cash-grab. I know the system is the best GFL can do, and I know it’s possibly the fairest, but it’s not asking much for the multinational organisation worth millions that runs the ticket sales not to have technical issues when they plan (I assume) months in advance.

One of the conversations I had of my Facebook stream today was in regards a loyalty scheme, or something that would help people who regularly go, to get a ticket. As regular readers of these blogs know, I talk a lot about comics, and one of the things San Diego Comic Con does is something called preregistration. The jist is this

Comic-Con is working hard to improve the online registration system and will launch Comic-Con 2014 badge preregistration sometime between November 1 and December 31, 2013. Only those that have purchased a Comic-Con 2013 4-Day attendee or 1-Day attendee badge, have a valid Member ID, and retain their actual Comic-Con 2013 badge* will be eligible to participate in 2014 badge preregistration. – See more at: http://www.comic-con.org/cci/2014-cci-badge-preregistration#sthash.pEhnR1yH.dpuf

Essentially if you attend one year, you have first shout on the following year. Adapting this for Glastonbury registration so that if you’ve attended one year, you get first shout is something I’m putting forward to GFL as an idea. There would have to be a way to ensure it’s not the same old people turning up each year, but at the same time the people who have supported it for years, or in my case decades, should really get something to ease the agony of these Sunday mornings every October….

The Rise and Fall of the Reading Festival part three

Part one. Part two.

This is the story of my experiences at the Reading Festival and last time I explained how the festival in 1996 was, and still is, one of the best festivals I’ve ever went to. This time I’m going to outline the years of 1997 and 1998.

After 1996, myself and my mate Zeb decided whatever happened we’d do 1997, and after doing that year’s Glastonbury together we were looking forward to that year’s Reading even if the line-up was, well, a bit thin to say the least.

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Britpop was on it’s sad last leg’s but it was to have it’s Altamont moment to put it out of it’s misery with the release of the third album by Oasis, Be Here Now.

This was due to come out on the day before Reading Festival (you can see the date on the cover), so it’d be something that would be the talk of Reading. None of this especially mattered to Zeb or myself as we were planning to get down early, get pitched in the field right opposite the arena and hopefully get neighbours as good as the previous year.

At this point I was in a bit of a mess as I was between homes, but I wasn’t going to be miserable so off to Reading we went early on the Thursday morning. If I remember right we left around 8am which got us down to the site at Reading around 10am and into the field by the arena shortly afterwards to find that field pretty much empty, so we picked a spot, set up, got our wristbands and headed into to town to recapture the fun of the previous year. Sadly the nice pub we found in 1996 was now closed ~(though the other one which sold breakfasts was still open) so we headed into town to Sainsbury’s to stock up on beer and snacks.

On returning to the campsite we saw the field was now rammed and that a group of students were surrounding us. We got chatting to them and found out they’d bought a copy of Be Here Now on tape, but couldn’t play it. Luckily Zeb had brought his Walkman with some external speakers, so we all huddled round the speakers in a humid field in Reading one Thursday afternoon in August in 1997 to hear the most eagerly anticipated album of the Britpop generation.

It was rubbish.

The sense of crushing (and I mean crushing) disappointment was high. Even now when I hear a track from it I can’t stop laughing at the pompous arseholeness of the album. It is a testament why pop stars shouldn’t be allowed to take too much coke and believe their hype.  It also somewhat set a tone for the weekend.

The students pretty much kept themselves to themselves for the rest of the first night, not to mention the weekend, and we’d noticed that the festival was full of youngsters. Not the 18-20 year old’s who you’d  normally see at a festival like Reading, but kids from 14-17. We were in a field of them, so we didn’t find anyone cool to chat to or get horribly drunk with so we just wandered round the site for bit on the Thursday, drank a lot and spoke to a few other mates who were there. Next morning we’d promised to go to the pub for breakfast and not miss half the first day because we were drunk.

Friday saw us get up early on a dry, but very humid day to walk to the pub for a bit of breakfast and there we had a chat with a few other older festival goers who also noted just how young the crowd were this year. Still, we had a jolly time in the pub and early in the afternoon headed back to the site to catch Earl Brutus who were a band I quite liked.In fact most of Friday was spent watching the type of band I quite liked at the time with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Stereolab being warm ups for me for Suede who were probably at the peak of their success at the time and did indeed turn out a great show. but the day felt a bit lacking in something, plus the festival really was full of very, very young kids who’d clearly never been out by themselves  let alone being set loose alone at a festival as tasty as Reading could get.  As we headed back to out camp after Suede we noticed how things felt a lost tastier than previous years and the general standard of rowdiness wasn’t as good natured as previous years. When the acrid smell of burning plastic hit our noses we perked up and kept our eyes open for the rest of the weekend.

Saturday saw us again up early. We sat around drinking and playing cards for a bit before heading for breakfast at the pub which saw us both getting very, very, very drunk and heading back to leer at Saffron from Republica who are a band I slowly grew to like, but were the perfect mid-afternoon festival band of the 90’s in that you didn’t need to pay attention when you were hammered. In fact the Saturday was mainly like that with the exception of The Orb who played a great set, and although I didn’t mind the post-Richey Edwards Manic Street Preachers they were a shadow of a band without him, which still put them ahead of most of their contemporaries, but that night’s gig was average at best,

In fact the whole weekend was average at best so far which is something Zeb, myself and some friends who were sitting around a mate called Dig’s camper van on that horribly humid Saturday night were saying. It was alright, but nothing great.The entire weekend was a sticky mess which was alright.

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Sunday saw me woken up by Zeb saying someone had nicked his speakers and he was fed up. We toyed with leaving early but he wanted to see The Verve and I fancied Metallica so we stuck the last day in order to see an amazing average Metallica set with 49 minute bass solos and a tedious line in macho nonsense.This was after noticing again that the site was full of 15 year old’s running around like something from William Golding’s worst nightmares. We did however notice this was mainly focused round where we were camped, and the fields just around it, so we thought things would be ok that last night but as the first rumour of toilets going up in flames hit, followed by us actually seeing one go up in flames we really weren’t having much fun.

Monday saw Zeb wake me shortly after dawn. It was starting to piss down with rain and the humidity broke hard. I packed up quickly, legged it with Zeb in what felt like an escape and headed back to Leicester thinking I was pretty much done with Reading and anyhow, I had more important things to sort out like my life, plus 1998 seemed a lifetime away.

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1998 however did roll round and things were on the up. I’d got myself what would be a long term girlfriend (Tash) and by the time Reading rolled round we were living together in Leicester, and the line-up for 1998 looked bloody wonderful as it’d been supplemented by the collapse of the 1998 Phoenix Festival.

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The Saturday especially was just a brilliant line-up. Friday was good because of Ash, and Sunday was the tale of the tailend of those Britpop chancers (and the Divine Comedy who were a touch apart) but on the whole I had to go.

I don’t remember if Zeb wanted to go down or not, but Tash wanted to go so we went down together for what was her first festival of this scale, and although I was wary of the toilet burning antics of the previous year I knew we’d not get a camping spot anywhere near the arena as we were going to get the bus from Leicester to the festival which was a first for me, though I was wary of it.

As it turned out I didn’t need to worry. The bus left Leicester on a warm sunny day the Thursday before the festival and arrived eventually late in the afternoon onsite. Tash had overcome her wariness about going to a festival with 60,000 other people and was now very excited, which was tempered somewhat when I told her we had to lug our stuff along from the drop off point to find a decent place to camp. We got through the gates and walked for a while as all the campsites near the arena were rammed, so we went further out and eventually found a good spot near an older group of grungy types rather than the hyperactive kids who seemed to be ricocheting across the site by the arena.

After we set up, we went to get our wristbands before going to a walk into town to get beers and snacks. As we did we bumped into a mate Doug, who I’d first met six years earlier while working at a comic convention back home in Glasgow. He was there with his relatively new girlfriend, Andrea who he’d met in Yorkshire and they were camped together fairly near us so we hung out for a bit and Tash and Andrea amazingly hit it off like old friends from the off, which was nice for Doug and myself who could talk comics, and comic related nonsense while getting quite drunk on the first night.

On the Friday we’d arranged to meet up and I’d take them all to the pub where Zeb and myself had used for breakfasts, drinking, darts and chatting up the ladies, though I was obviously skimming over the latter this year. Here we all continued to bond and have a jolly time til we went back to the arena for a day of music, and of course the mighty Ash! to help us on our way Doug had bought some speed so against the better advice of Tash and Andrea we proceeded to neck some which quickly made us both slowly fall asleep. In fact all I remember of the Friday night is the Afghan Whigs coming on and passing out before waking up nearly 12 hours later with a very narked girlfriend in the tent next to me. After some desperate apologies We went to meet to Doug and Andrea in the pub to see a very sheepish Doug who had also passed out the previous night. I came up with the bright line ‘I don’t think that was speed’ to which Tash and Andrea ripped the piss right out of me for saying the bloody obvious.

Moving on from Doug and my own stupidity we looked forward to the Saturday line up which was spectacular. Tash and myself had agreed we’d take a break during Supergrass to get changed for the night and some food, but otherwise we were camped in front of the beer tent on the right hand side of the stage (my favourite spot) for the day from Bis onwards.

This was more like it. The music was good, Asian Dub Foundation showed just what a spectacular band they are, while Doug, Andrea, and Tash were confused by Lee Scratch Perry but I bloody loved what he was doing which was making all the 15 year old kids waiting for Foo Fighters eyes and ears bleed.

After seeing Foo Fighters for the sixth time in three years, we went back to the tent to get some food and change quickly before the double bill of The Prodigy and then the Beastie Boys. There was a bit of needle between the bands after the Beastie Boys had criticised the song Smack My Bitch Up by the Prodigy and had asked them not to play it in their set before the Beastie Boys came on. That resulted in Maxim from the Prodigy to make it perfectly clear what he thought, and the Prodigy played a blinding set before the Beastie Boys also played an amazing set. Ultimately the fans won!

Sunday was a pretty poor line up as it was the Britpop chancers day, so we all got very drunk, enjoyed a lovely set from the Divine Comedy, while ignoring the dross like Gene and Shed Seven before seeing what was the last time I saw a great set from New Order. Unfortunately for Garbage they had to follow that, and sadly although they were good, they were a bit overwhelmed by what had come before not to mention the occasion itself.

As the night ended we said our farewells to Doug and Andrea with a vague promise to meet up whenever the next comic convention was held, and off we went for our last night under canvas. Now there was a bit of trouble from all accounts but we never saw anything where we were camped, though when we were leaving to get our bus back to Leicester we saw burned out toilets and a lot of wrecked tents.As said, Reading was tasty but this was a different sort of rowdiness which felt much, much darker than just people getting drunk and being loud, but we were yet to see the festival change from one where people who loved music turned up to see bands, to one where people turn up because it’s something they do before going to university. That wouldn’t be clear to me until 2001.

Before that however there’s 1999. That’s for next time.

 

 

The Rise and Fall of the Reading Festival part one

I’ve spoken about festival culture in the UK from the late 80’s, and had a huge focus on detailing my history of Glastonbury in previous blogs, but I’ve not really touched on Reading Festival, so here’s my little potted history of my experiences at Reading, not a history of the festival itself though there’s a little bit of that in my story.

Reading was always a festival I had no interest in when I first stumbled across the idea of festivals back in the 80’s. This is mainly because it looked bloody awful with dinosaurs like Budgie, Gillan and Whitesnake making up the headline acts, but the nadir of the festival came in 1988 which featured Meatloaf being bottled off stage and the festival itself becoming a bit of a laughing stock.

The following year saw the festival give itself a royal kick up the arse when Mean Fiddler took over and suddenly made the festival attractive to a new generation who weren’t just into metal and wanted something more, so within a few years Reading gained a reputation for having bright young talent from the Indie scene across Europe, while still getting the big American bands.

Part of the attraction of Reading was the way you could buy a day ticket, so if you wanted to go for just a day to enjoy a band you wanted to see you could which was a huge advantage over Glastonbury, but as I’ve pointed out before Glastonbury wasn’t just about the bands. Reading however was, and if you didn’t want to sit though bands you hated then the day ticket was a nice way to dip your toe in.

I didn’t get myself down to Reading until 92 for the day to see Nirvana,  which was the last time I’d go until 1995, but even on that one day I instantly loved the thing for the sleazy, drunken end of summer party that it was. See, the wonderful thing about Glastonbury is that it’s a celebration of everything good, positive and wonderful about summer, our culture and society generally. Reading used be a farewell to that as well as wallowing in the Bacchanalian joy of everything good and bad about summer, and also, as it was held in a pretty dreary city which suffers from not quite being London, but not quite being somewhere where it can develop it’s own character and culture. In other words it’s a perfect place for everyone to impose what they want upon the festival.

I don’t remember much of 1992. We turned up early on Sunday and had started drinking the day before, plus when we got in we carried on drinking hard so by the time Nirvana came on we were hammered. I can at least say I may have been there in body, and possibly, spirit.

I did a few other days over the next few years, but ultimately the day trip is fun but it’s not the full experience as it’s really foreplay for the main event, so after 1995 and an incredibly fun day which saw me with very short, dyed red hair for reasons which to this day I’m unsure about, but I did decide to dye my hair red which made me look like this.

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This was taken at the legendary lost Leicester pub, The Pump and Tap on a Sunday shortly before Reading in 1995, and the other chap with the long red hair is Steve, who now has no hair at all, but there you go….

1995 was fun and everything as we were getting in free as we’d got free tickets from the brewery as I worked for the same local group which also owned the Pump, so we belted down early on the Sunday, got hammered and I do remember Neil Young being quite bloody awful.

After 95 I wanted to do a full Reading Festival and lap up all the sleazy joys it offered, and with Glastonbury taking a year off in 1996, there was a gap so in early 1996 myself and a mate, Zeb, (who’ve I’ve mentioned before) came up with the plan to go down.

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That however deserves a blog of it’s own, so in the next part of this I’ll go into the details of what still is one of the best three festivals I’ve attended in over 20 years of going to festivals…..

Even the Guinness Book of Records Hates the New Superman Outfit

This weekend at Kendal Calling there was a new world record for people dressed as Superman

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A bit of research shows there’s a lot of competition over this and it is indeed, a big thing in it’s own wee way. There’s one thing though from this link here…..

PLEASE NOTE:  The costume requirements for participating in this event are as follows: 

Any costume must have the blue body suit, the red and yellow “S” shield on the chest, the yellow belt, the red cape, red boots, and the red trunks.  Guinness has given us no indication that other costume variations set forth in the comics, films, or books other than the Classic Superman version or the “Superman Returns” version are considered acceptable, so- to be safe- we are limiting it to these two costume styles only.  The Rubies-brand Classic Superman and Superman Returns costumes are considered acceptable as they are officially licensed. Fan-made costumes are acceptable as long as they meet the criteria listed above.

So there we have it. Even the Guinness Book of Records thinks this is horrible…

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We are however nowhere near this yet…

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That Horrible Feeling You Get When You Know It’s All Over

It’s the last day of T in the Park today, and that means they’ll be thousands of people experiencing the strange melancholy you get at a festival on the last day when you know it’s coming to an end. It’s not just festivals, but any big event and it’s somewhat different to being on holiday, though it’s a cousin of that melancholy you get on the last day of a holiday.

At a festival you’re busy doing things and trying to plan your day as you go on. If the weather’s awful, you struggle against the conditions to wring everything you can out of it, but you know you can’t put anything off til tomorrow because there’s no tomorrow. It’s over and to rub in the fact it’s over you can refer back to your programme and see all the stuff you missed or were putting off til the next day but now you can’t because it’s coming to an end.

Two weeks ago I was in a field in Somerset having a ball. Those fields were rammed. This is them now…

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There’s a few signs that over 200,000 people were there two weeks ago. The skin is still up on the Pyramid Stage, and there’s the roads and paths, but otherwise it just looks like a field in summertime. It’s passed and gone.

I used to get the same feeling on the last day of a comic convention I was working. It’s a different feeling when you know your last day is going to be often the day when you make your money. You can get a feeling of that in this clip from Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope featuring Chuck Rozanski of Mile High Comics. I’m going to go into more detail about this sort of thing at conventions another time though…

There’s a feeling of loss and you suddenly realise you’re not living in the moment not to mention the reality of packing up and going home kicks in and I hate that as you can see here….

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Still, you treasure the fun you had but milking the last day of all drops of joy is what I’ve tried to do but it still doesn’t stop the feeling that’s you’ve missed so much, and then as I’ve said, looking at your programme and realising you have.

Ah well.

So even though I feel T in the Park has become a horrible corporate thing (it always was really), I feel a little bit for those people walking around today who suddenly have the dread melancholy hit them around about now as they realise it’s all going to end and all that stuff they were going to do at the festival tomorrow isn’t going to happen. It’s coming to an end and you can’t stop it, no matter how much you try.

Depressing isn’t it?

Best. Glastonbury. Ever. A brief word about Glastonbury 2013

This isn’t a full post about this year’s Glastonbury on the scale of my previous posts, but just a quick word while I recover from what was one of the best weeks I’ve had in a long, long time.

This year’s festival worked as it should. Yes the flaws and increasing gentrification of the event were there and obvious, but the positives of the festival were overwhelming as this year’s festival showed just how good the festival can be, and how now the organisers are free from their partnership with Festival Republic they can move the festival back to how they want it to go. Yes, there were gaps in the organisation and infrastructure but the CND logo returned to the Pyramid stage, and the festival felt more like the pre-2000 festivals which was really quite a good thing indeed.

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Today though is about a rest, not to mention get rid of the cold I picked up. A longer post about this year’s festival is coming but it’s a damn pity this year’s festival had to end as it really was wonderful…

51 weeks til Glastonbury 2014………….

This Green and Pleasant Land-Glastonbury 2013

It’s about 10pm on Tuesday the 25th of June 2013 and we leave for Glastonbury Festival 2013 in around seven hours. I’ve been writing a series of blogs about my experiences of the festival since first going in 1992 and am about to head from Bristol to this year’s festival

It promises to be a settled and mainly dry festival. The line up is good, though the Pyramid Stage looks suitably bland. It’s all set and all we have to do is get an immense amount of stuff down on the backs of three people.

Piece of piss…

Some thoughts on this will come but right now sod it, I just want to chill in a field for nearly a week.

Bye….

Wide Open Spaces-The tale of Glastonbury 2002

Last time round I’d hit the year 2000 in my series of Glastonbury blogs, and I’d left the festival looking forward with some trepidation to my new life in Bristol with my girlfriend Tash. The festival itself was taking a year off in 2001 to regroup and plan ahead after the vast overcrowding of 2000 which meant the future of the festival itself was under threat as the council refused to give it a license unless it did something, and the police advised they wouldn’t be able to deal with another year like 2000 where an estimated 300,000 (possibly more) people were onsite. I’d actually say there were near half a million people onsite, so they’re wasn’t a chance in hell Glastonbury could continue now the festival was mainstream and seen as an alternative to an overseas holiday for a demographic who a decade earlier wouldn’t have been seen dead at a festival full of hippies.

As for myself the first 8 or 9 months in Bristol were great. Relationship was fine. Working at BT and in an office for the first time was more fun than I thought. I loved where we lived, and Bristol is a great city. Then it was announced in early 2001 we were all being made redundant as the operation was being moved to Doncaster to save BT money, and to get rid of the pesky, annoying staff in Bristol who performed but were a pain in the arse for BT as we’d demand workers rights and crazy stuff like that.

This meant getting a job sharpish, but at that point getting back into comics full time wasn’t possible, and I had no urge to get back into the pub trade, so stupidly I took the first job that came along which was working for Direct Line. Now, so did around 40 or us from BT as at that time there wasn’t much around Bristol for people with thin CV’s like we did, which isn’t to say we were all wasters and bums but we were a motley crew so we took the Direct Line jobs.

Within six weeks the 40 or so who’d joined turned into a dozen. During training our trainer said the line ‘we work hard and play hard’ which made me and several others piss ourselves laughing at the self-importance of it all, but at that point I didn’t realise that people were walking out and that I was marked as a ‘communist’ by one of the senior managers because I’d pointed out the sheer nonsense of the environment. I reacted to this by not making a complaint (as I probably should have just to fuck the blighter up) but buying a T-shirt with a hammer & sickle on it and wearing it on dress down days. Oh the looks of horror…..

Anyhow, things were falling slowly apart as the entire situation had driven me into a depression (although I didn’t realise it at the time) which affected my relationship with Tash to a point where were drifted slowly apart.

Things fell apart early in 2002 when she left and I was numbed by it all for a while, and again, I’m sure I was probably nuttier than a New Year’s Day cake by this point, plus the job wasn’t helping as it was making me physically ill by this point. A few friends came round to cheer me up, and I tried hard but I was falling apart slowly, but I still had Glastonbury to look forward to but I didn’t want to camp with anyone. I wanted to do my own thing, so I turned down the offer to camp with Denise and her crowd for the third festival in a row in Big Ground but instead opted to camp by myself in Pennards Hill which seemed like a good idea as it was always a hub of interesting people but far away from the fuss of the Pyramid Stage so I could run away and hide if I wanted to.

As for the festival it’d had a ‘superfence‘ built round the site to keep people out. Now this was a familiar thing for regulars to hear that Eavis had a ‘tough’ fence to get over, but 99% of people laughed and got over it anyhow. Guess what? It worked.

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But I’m getting ahead of myself…

In the year Glastonbury had off some big changes to the festival happened. One of the biggest was the growth of online communities dedicated to festivals and of course, Glastonbury. The main one then was E Festivals. There were others but E Festivals had a link with Glastonbury which is merrily exploited until Michael Eavis pulled the carpet from under them a few years later, but in 2001 it was a closely guarded connection. This meant anyone joining the message boards and questioned simple things of the E Festivals organisers would end up getting stroppy and start throwing around legal threats and kicking people off the site. It was a tyranny, but fuck it. A few of us from that early community went off to form forums of our own or join other forums elsewhere.

There was also a virtual Glastonbury in 2001. It was pretty naff but the idea had be solidified in the culture that Glastonbury was now becoming more and more establishment, but it wasn’t yet the huge cultural event it is today. That was still a few years away, but 2001 was an odd year as of course it was when 9/11 happened and that’s an event which should have mobilised Glastonbury into pushing against the establishment, promoting an anti-war agenda on the main stages televised by the BBC and finding it’s anti-establishment heart again but it didn’t. That side of the festival was being pushed into the Green Fields and away from the main stages that the BBC would show live on BBC 2.

Again though, I’m getting ahead of myself.

The 2002 festival had arrived and I’d decided to go down on Thursday, and the weather forecast was for a long spell of settled, warm weather so I got a load of beer (as much as I could carry), wandered to the bus station and headed to the festival early on the Thursday afternoon.

Like previous years Bristol bus station was rammed, full of touts and the usual type of people you see at festivals but there was more police than usual, plus lots more security. Also you couldn’t jump on the bus without a ticket. That was new but one of dozens of measures to stop people without tickets getting onsite, or indeed anywhere near the festival site, the village of Pilton or Glastonbury itself. Anyhow, I had a ticket and didn’t mind as the crowds of 2000 would be nice not  to to be repeated.

As the bus pulled itself to the site, the Superfence was shining in the distance and it did indeed form a ring of steel around the festival…

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It wasn’t thought til I got off the bus, and saw it up close that I realised it wasn’t the old type of fence where it was tough but you really could get over it. No, this was tougher, nearly impossible to scale without some serious equipment which isn’t to say people didn’t do it. After the festival I found out a few did, but there was also a security operation which bordered upon the paramilitary, checkpoints and all manner of security to keep people very much out. You didn’t have the Scallys by the gates offering to get you in, you didn’t have the people hanging around waiting for the right moment to get in. You just had a wall of security and steel and if you didn’t have a ticket you were getting nowhere fast.

As I passed through the gates and into the festival itself I noticed how quiet things were in comparison to 2000, which isn’t saying it was deserted but it felt like there were things missing but I didn’t know what yet but my main task now was to walk to Pennards Hill and set up my own little camp there if I could find a space, which I did easily. In fact for a Thursday afternoon, you could camp pretty much wherever you liked so I walked to near the top of the hill, found a nice view, and promptly put my tent up and set up camp with loads and loads of room around me. I needed to get some water so I wandered down to buy a bottle and fill up the watersack I’d brought, and when I got back after about an hour of having a wander, I found I had neighbours setting up, so I said hello and offered some help but ended up not even getting a grunt in exchange however on the other side of my tent were a young student couple who were setting up and perfectly pleasant so I helped out putting up their tent and we had a wee chat as it was their first festival of any kind, and we thought the yuppie snobs next to me were worth ignoring.

That evening I’d arranged to meet Denise and her crew at the Cider Bus, which I did and we then went for a wander around the site after drinking cider and absinthe cocktails.As you can imagine, the rest of that evening is hazy but I do remember waking up in my tent just as the sun had come up wondering how I’d managed to find my tent in the state I was in and what was that agonising pain in my leg?

That pain was a huge gash where I’d obviously fell and split it open on one of the metal walkways. There was remarkably no blood everywhere apart from the pile of blood soaked  toilet paper in the corner of my tent. I’d somehow managed to stagger back, clean myself up, patch myself up with some tape and toilet paper. Taking a closer look I realised the wound probably needed stitches, but it was the Friday of Glastonbury, it was early and the medical tent was the other side of the field so I decided  to make a makeshift bandage and deal with it as and when which meant when the drink and drugs wore off, or Monday. Whatever was quickest.

It was Friday though, so I climbed out of my tent, said hello to the students who said I was in a shocking state the previous night and they had to guide me to bed, and I had also upset the yuppies which was nice.

I’d decided to wander around the site as there was room to breathe and the site had also expanded since 2000, so the site was now huge, but there were vastly less people than 2000 so this created a lot of space, and a vastly less frantic festival than 2000 so you could amble around the festival quite calmly. As I walked by the Pyramid Stage, they were just starting up so I decided to watch the first act who were the Shibusashirazu Orchestra.

They were an act from Japan who nobody had heard of but everyone who saw them that morning fell in love with their insanity, and as it turned out they were due to play another gig at the Jazz Stage later that day which ranks still as one of the best things I’ve ever seen at a festival.

In fact most of 2002 was spent seeing bands or in the comedy tent or just watching things, or chilling out at one of the beer tents, and then chilling with mates I bumped into. I saw a series of  great sets from Queens of the Stone Age, Ash, and Garbage on the first day plus all the wonderful stuff you normally see, except there wasn’t the full spread of people. The buskers, punks and crusty bands who would jump the fence and play were gone. A large amount of performers were gone. In fact most of the working class kids were gone. The crowd were a lot more wealthier, a lot more middle class and although still mainly ok, the social nature of the festival had been somewhat lost as people were less willing to mix, ok, I’m not saying it was vast numbers but it was enough to notice a defined split in attitudes from previous years and this was partly because you wouldn’t really notice these sort of people in previous years. With a large chunk of normal festival people gone you suddenly did.

As the Friday drew to a close I had somehow managed to relax and looked forward to the rest of the weekend. It wasn’t a great line-up but the freedom and the relaxation was great as I was starting to feel a bit more human.

Saturday was more wandering, watching acts, drinking and chilling. It was a poor line up but Orbital played on the Saturday night and they made up for a pretty dull selection on a whole but I didn’t really care. I was happy enough but Saturday was a blur which quickly led into Sunday and I’d arranged to hang around with Denise’s lot on the Sunday to see Roger Waters and the probably hilarity of Rod Stewart. Before that though was the sheer genius of Isaac Hayes.

After Hayes I was surprised at how good Waters was as I always thought he and Pink Floyd were insufferable bores, but the weekend was closed by Rod Stewart. Now I like Rod’s early stuff, and he had a great voice but the entire show was hilarious as he rasped through all his old hits and tried to convince the crowd he was still capable of playing live. I remember actually being on my knees after having been doubled over laughing at how awful he was. I was laughing so much I didn’t notice the patchwork job on my knee had split & I was bleeding again. Hey ho, this was worth it as it was funny to see Stewart witter on about ‘our boys in Iraq’ on a stage which used to have the CND logo on it and regularly feature anti war and anti imperialist messages. Glastonbury was now very much engrained within the establishment now when you have artists like Stewart on board, but it’s always funny watching an accident happen in slow motion and it provided a funny end to the festival.

I walked back slowly to my tent and took the last night’s atmosphere in, and eventually got to sleep in my tent in the wee small hours. The next morning I pulled myself together in the sunshine, packed up slowly, and took a stroll through the site to the onsite bus station to head back to Bristol. As i did I noticed how relaxed the people were and how there were still people raving in pockets across the site, so I slowly made my way to the station for a short wait for my bus back to Bristol.

As I got off in Bristol, it was still a lovely sunny day and I grabbed a taxi back to my flat in Clifton and my cat. Things felt good, and I was a bit more positive about things but the next few months would end up being very odd indeed…

As for Glastonbury a message had been sent out that a new order was in place. You weren’t getting in without a ticket. You needed some money to get in. The festival had compartmentalised it’s radical politics away from the BBC cameras and as it was those images selling the festival to a generation of people with the sort of disposable income which made Glastonbury easily affordable then things were going to change even more. the transition to what it is today still had a few more years before it was complete.

Next time in this series of Glastonbury blogs we arrive amazingly at 2003 and even more changes, but you probably expect that by now…..

 

 

 

All good things…. The tale of Glastonbury 2000

Last time round I went through the fun and frolics of Glastonbury in 1999. 

In a move which should surprise nobody used to the Gregorian Calender , this takes us kicking and screaming into the new millennium with my tale of Glastonbury 2000, which still sounds like the sort of 70’s SF film featuring Sean Connery in a shexy red thong.

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Anyhow, 2000 was the festival’s 30th anniversary, the first of the new millennium, the first with the new Pyramid Stage, the first without Jean Eavis’s influence hanging over it (although Jean died before the 1999 festival, it still felt like she was a part of that year’s festival), and the first year where it started to feel like the festival had moved out of alternative culture and started becoming very much part of the mainstream thanks to the involvement of the BBC, the Guardian and it’s other sponsorship deals.

As for me, I was no longer in Leicester, but now on my way back to Bristol after seven years to live again thanks to my then girlfriend Tash, having sneakily got herself a job in Bristol just after that year’s Comics Festival. I’d even managed by sheer luck to get myself a job at BT in their Customer Options department after undergoing the first real, proper interview for a full time job I’d had in my 33 years. Prior to that I got jobs through contacts or being at the right place at the right time, plus I’d never worked in an office before so this was something new and exciting for me! It also meant an end to the two years of being settled and secure.

That excitement and security didn’t last long but moving on…

Thing is the move from Leicester to Bristol could only happen for a variety of reasons (mainly due to Tash having a very fixed start date) the week before Glastonbury, and I didn’t start at BT til the week after, so we worked out between us that Tash would pack in Leicester, and I would unpack in Bristol as I was sitting around doing nowt for a week. This was fine and suited me perfectly, but firstly I had to get some cash together, so I managed to raise about a grand in a week through some very dodgy deals that didn’t involve drugs but let’s say they didn’t involve drugs or selling parts of my body…

Which brings us to the big move. The Saturday before Glastonbury. On what ended up being the hottest day of the year. We did it though, and it wasn’t too traumatic but what was glorious was piling down the M5 with Leicester turning into a distant memory in the background and driving into a convoy of trucks going to Glastonbury. I have to admit to being a bit teary as the emotion of this huge move kicked in tempered by this magnificent site of dozens of vans, cars and trucks driving to a field in Somerset…

I’d arranged to camp with Denise and her friends again after the success of 1999, and again they were in Big Ground but this year we all had mobiles! I had this piece of technology..

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I felt I was in the space age and wondered where my bloody jetpack was.

Anyhow, the fact we had mobiles didn’t negate the fact they actually didn’t really work in a big field with little coverage with 200,000 other people trying to get a signal, so we arranged to meet at the same place on the Thursday night. Tash couldn’t come down til Friday due to work, but I was happy going down with the tent, beer, etc to set things up.

On the Thursday I woke up. Went to Clifton Down shopping centre (did I mention we got a flat in Clifton which felt like the pair of us had gatecrashed a party but it was still Clifton when it was cool and not full of wankers and students), bought a load of beer, and headed to Temple Meads station to get the train down as I’d never taken the train, and let me tell you something else, I never will again.

Temple Meads is a hellish place at the best of times, but when tens of thousands of extra passengers are passing through it’s fucking shite. I did however eventually barge through the crowds to get the train to Castle Carey (the nearest station to the festival), and actually had a nice journey down with two Irish lads who allowed me to share their whiskey, while I let them partake of the Remy Martin I had. It was a hellish, but tolerable journey until we arrived at the station to find we then had to get on a bus to the site. As I waited for the bus, I contacted Doug (a friend from the world of comics fandom) who was also at the festival where he was as I’d invited his crowd to camp with us but they wanted to pitch near the Other Stage to get a prime spot for Nine Inch Nails who were headlining the Friday night. He was onsite already and warning me by text there was rain on the way.

Joy.

Eventually the bus chugged into the site and spewed it’s passengers out to find their way. At this point I noticed that there was an awful, awful, awful lot of people, but I wrote it off as being peak time for when people turn up and struggled my way through the site up to Big Ground in an attempt to find Denise. Problem was the site really was crammed full of people as as it was now getting dark due to the forthcoming rain Doug had warned me about, I could see the lights of cars waiting to get in and it went for miles and miles and miles and miles….

I struggled to the top of Big Ground to see that they’d changed things round from the previous year and the kids field had taken up all the space behind the hedge where we were the previous year, so I stood there in a field, in the rain, with hundreds of people around me looking hopelessly for Denise and her crowd with little or no hope of finding them as I couldn’t get a signal on my mobile.

Then I decided to shout her name loudly (I am very loud) and to my instant surprise, this voice from less than a few feet away shouted my name back! I’d somehow managed to literally trip over her tent, in the twilight while it was raining. I have no idea how, but I dived in her tent while it was raining, and cracked open the first of many beers.

As soon as the rain stopped Denise and her boyfriend kindly helped me put up my tent and then we all settled into the night with the view of the new Pyramid Stage in the near distance being actually quite bloody impressive..

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Thursday night was a drunken but fun affair and early in Friday morning I decided to crash out as there was a lot I wanted to do as I realised I’d be at Glastonbury by myself for the first time, well, ever, so I wanted to go off and do my own thing for a morning until Tash turned up in the afternoon.

Which i did, but I noticed a few things. One everyone was hyped as David Bowie was headlining on the Sunday. The other it was very warm and humid. The third was there was so many people everywhere. Everyone was crammed on top of everyone else.

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On one of the bridges on the farm there was a crush. A very dangerous crush that made me and several others around me mouth ‘this is like Hillsborough‘ at each other, but thankfully I managed to pull myself out of the crowd (I was still lithe and fit in those days!) and jump over several people while trying to pull people out of the crush. Thankfully a couple of policemen managed to sort things out and introduce some crowd control but it was scary. It’s also a story I heard when I returned to our camp from some of the others who were also stuck in crushes around the site. Basically the site was full and overflowing and there was still more and more and more people coming in whether they had a ticket or not.

As I sat there chatting away I forgot about Tash turning up and as I quickly pulled out my impressive piece of mobile technology, saw a text from her that she was at the bus station onsite and where the fuck was I? Well normally from where we were camping to the station it would have taken 20 minutes but as I tried to run across the site I realised it took me 20 minutes just to get to the other field, and the station was ages away yet so I went to pull out my phone when I realised it was gone. Some bugger had pocketed it in the crush. I checked my wallet and it was still there, but the phone was gone and now I was hitting a panic as I hoped Tash wouldn’t wander too far from the station. As i ran up the station eventually I realised she wasn’t there as the crowds still pouring in on Friday afternoon were ridiculous. Then I remembered I texted her that Doug was camped by the Other Stage, and that wasn’t too far from the station as long as I could get through the tens of thousands of people and remember vaguely where Doug said he might, possibly, could be at the Other Stage.

So I ran down the hill for about 200 yards before hitting a wall of people and shuffled slowly to the Other Stage and it was now getting into late evening, and any chance I had of finding Tash, or Doug in the dark was a million to one they said….

Then somehow in the darkening field I stumbled across not just Tash, but Doug. He’d bumped into her as she looked for me & him and the pair of them were looking for me as they’d tried calling me and couldn’t get through.

I was a lucky, lucky, lucky bastard. To this day I have no idea how I met them in the crowds.

Anyhow, after taking my deserved bollocking from Tash, we headed back to Doug’s camp as Tash had stuck her bag there, plus Nine Inch Nails were coming on, plus Doug’s camp had loads and loads of beer so we headed to it and it was indeed in a great location to view the stage. It was a great show and I say this as someone who isn’t a fan, but as we hung around I realised there really was too many people everywhere. Tash noticed this on the walk from Doug’s camp to Big Ground that the crowds were much, much larger compared to 1999 and she was right.

We got back to our camp well after 2am but people were still up, including Denise who when told of my massive fuck up also dished out a deserved bollocking but was astonishingly impressed at my finding Tash in the crowds as she and her boyfriend had also been stuck in crowds.

Without driving home the point, Glastonbury 2000 was overcrowded like nothing I’d ever seen, and I’ve been to Scotland-England games at the old Wembley and Hampden, illegal raves in Warwickshire and round the M25 and free festivals in Nottingham and London. I was used to crowds but this was dangerous in places, but hey, it must be ok as nobody official said anything.

The next morning I had to go up to the police station to report my phone’s theft which was up by the farm house which wasn’t too far from where we were camping. The other thing about where we were camping was as it was quite high up Big Ground it was pretty well spaced out, but then again that could have something to do with the toilet tent the girls had to sort out as getting to the loo for girls was a nightmare and evolution hadn’t given the the joys of a penis.

I went up to the police, waited about an hour with a hangover kicking in just as the sun started beating down on me and spoke to a nice officer who took my details, gave me my crime number for the insurance and I mentioned the crowds to which she said ‘yes, we know. The Site’s got too many people on it but we can’t stop people jumping fences as we’re overstretched’. With that snippet of information I went back to camp where the girls were tidying up from the night before, but it hardly came as a surprise for anyone.

Tash and myself left the others shortly afterwards as we’d arranged to meet Doug and hang out with him for the day, and we had a totally fun day as well wandering round the site, chatting, drinking and eventually, bizarrely as we all hated them, enjoying Travis who headlined the Pyramid on the Saturday night. After that we chilled and people watched which used to be a great source of fun at the festival, but eventually we said cheerio to Doug and headed back to camp to sit up til late talking bollocks with everyone else. Tash sadly had to go back on Sunday afternoon as work was calling, so it was an early rise, followed by a few hours chilling and then a slow wander through the crowds to see Tash safely on the bus (having now learned my lesson)  and then I realised it was now all about Bowie!

Problem was there was nothing worth watching on the Pyramid stage beforehand, the crowds were too bloody heavy to get through and there was a load of beer back at my tent so back to the camp I went to chill in preparation for Bowie. Thing was the others had enough of fighting through crowds, so I went down early with the last of my beer and my last tenner (these were the days when cash machines onsite were impossible things so you brought what cash you needed in your pocket) in readiness for Bowie.

Now I’d loved Bowie since a child. The first single I bought with my own pocket money was Life on Mars, and Bowie was the first musical act I loved. I had seen Bowie in Manchester during the Glass Spider tour and it was crushingly disappointing. I also saw him in Tin Machine and it was crushingly disappointing. This had to be good or else!

So with beers in hand and with anticipation at the maximum, I waited in the rapidly darkening evening for Bowie to come on…and when he did it was immense

In retrospect it probably was a weird set list. Some of the arrangements were a bit off, and Bowie’s voice was strained due to him recovering from being ill shortly before the festival but it did not bloody matter there and then. The entire thing was magnificent and my memory of the gig is looking round at this enormous biker next to me who was blubbing like a child during Life on Mars, and that started me off and then a few more blokes near us did the same and the field seemed to be full of 30-60 something men weeping at the simply brilliant gig Bowie was putting on.

Glastonbury moments only exist if you live in that moment and we all lived in that perfect few hours as Bowie played his heart out. Utter bliss.

Walking back from that set was a blur. I remember spending the last of my money on some cider as it was cheap and sat down to take it all in. The last few weeks had been a blur and it all dawned on me suddenly my life was turned upside down and things were uncertain and foggy and I’d just seen one of the greatest, most meaningful things in my life. I was also quite drunk and high on half an E which may have also contributed to this. Whatever reason it hit me, it hit me so I went for a very long walk round the festival just chatting to people to clear my system out . Eventually I went back to camp to only find Denise still up and we chatted for a bit before crashing as the next day was Monday and reality was returning.

In the morning I got up, packed up my tent, said my farewells and headed back for the bus to Castle Carey so I could get the train back to Bristol. I was still an emotional mess, mainly because of Bowie’s set,  but because everything dawned on me. I also had some part of me that realised that the Glastonbury I knew had to change because demand had outstripped supply, plus all the wonderful and weird people were being swamped by a new type of festival goer who were effectively tourists and didn’t care much for music, politics, or anything the festival really stood for. For them it was another notch on things to do as Glastonbury was now a part of the establishment.

See, the thing is while the festival supported CND and stood against the Tory government it was outside the establishment. When it was televised on Channel 4 it was still edgy and alternative because that was the image and demographic of the channel. On the BBC it was acceptable, and when it vaguely supported the new Labour government as well as supporting worthy charities like Greenpeace, it didn’t mean it took an anti-establishment stance. In fact 2000 probably saw the start of the festival as an establishment fixture, but nobody quite knew it yet as the ramifications of the 2000 festival were still to be felt.

The festival was overcrowded. Figures range from 200,000 onsite to half a million. I’m inclined to go to the higher end of the scale, if not more. The site’s infrastructure nearly collapsed and the constant sea of people were astonishing, so some drastic measures had to be done but those measures wouldn’t be known for a while but for the festival to continue something had to be done.

Luckily 2001 was a fallow year, so the festival was to take a year off to regroup and plan for the 2002 festival, but in the meantime the festival found communities dedicated to Glastonbury spring up online which again helped spread the myth of the festival to people. Both good and bad came from Glastonbury’s online communities, some sites were better than others and some tried their best to milk the festival for all it was worth while alienating parts of the growing community.

Glastonbury was now a business. It was now part of the establishment. But it wasn’t quite formed into what it is now. That would take a few more years yet, and the announcement of the Superfence which was to circle the 2002 festival made people think this was just another scare tactic as the festival constantly used to boast about impenetrable fences and this was just something to frighten people off.

Oh how wrong people would be…..

That’s a story for another time though. I left Glastonbury in 2000 in a tired and emotional state, and as it turned out the next two years would be hardly what i hoped leaving Worthy Farm that June morning. Things really were coming to a close in more ways than one.

Next time, the 2002 festival and the messy run up to it….

An update that comes at you screaming ‘BALTIMORA!’

First some updates:

The UKCAC thing is bloody huge, but it will come at you like a drunk in the street begging for 37p for the bus fare home eventually.

I’m doing another Glastonbury blog, this time I’m skipping 1994 and going right for 1995 but in a stunning example of non-linear storytelling I will recount the 1994 story within the 1995 one in a timey wimey sort of way, and stuff. It’ll be dead clever, honest.

A Cunning Plan has been hatched. If I get backing and funding then the Cunning Plan should happen (hopefully) in the autumn and will involve me not having to work in offices again in my life.I think 13 years of working in offices is more than enough but more on that next month.

I’ve got a handful of stories from the AKA days, including the stories of the marts, some tales of the people who hung out there, the full story from what I remember of the Eisnercon in 1986 and a couple of pieces on Pete Root and John McShane as the former needs a tribute and the latter doesn’t get the respect he deserves.

I’ve also got something where I outline how Glastonbury changed during the 90’s from a loose array of hippies and travelers having fun to the establishment event it is now, not to mention how festival culture in the UK is totally fucked frankly.

I might do something about how Bernard Butler’s Stay is the best song of the 90’s.and how Suede are the most important band the UK produced in the 90’s. Or I might not…

Next up though is in the light of last night’s final episode of this series of Doctor Who and the sorry state of criticism within genre fandom, not to mention the horrible misogyny  nepotism and arse licking that goes on within it.

And oh, BALTIMORA!!

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