2004 was a defining year for Glastonbury and for myself after the hot sunny year of 2003. It was the year when Glastonbury firmly and seriously entered the mainstream as a ‘national event’ along with the likes of Wimbledon, and became somewhere that the megastars who’d previously turned their noses up at playing in a field in Somerset suddenly realised they could access a younger crowd in a cheap and highly effective way. In 2004 that megastar was Paul McCartney, but I’m getting ahead of myself….
Glastonbury 2004 was the linking year between the post-Superfence years when the festival was still finding out what it’d become, to the current years when BBC, Guardian and media and cultural coverage is wall-to-wall for the week or so not to mention the run-up to the festival became a mainstream news story. This was also the year when for me I decided to not go to the festival myself as I had in previous years, but with Nat, my ex-girlfriend and a friend Laura from a Glastonbury Forum along with her brother and his mates.
So the festival started with Nat and myself setting out from Bristol on the bus on a pretty damp, overcast not to mention, windy Wednesday in some state of excitement. This lasted til just after Shepton Mallet when the driver stalled the bus going up a hill and promptly told everyone that they had to walk the last few miles to the site as there was too much mud, and water on the roads. This meant everyone on the bus had their weekend dampened by lugging their stuff through the village of Pilton, in the rain and wind and that was to just get to the festival site. There was more walking ahead of us when we got there!
By the time Nat and myself finally got to the site entrance we must have looked an utter mess as the stewards offered to help us carry our bags for a bit, which helped but the plan was to get to Big Ground early, set up, and save space for Laura and her crowd but by the time we got to main arena by the Pyramid we were knackered having walked around what ended up being some eight miles with full rucksacks, tents, sleeping bags and of course, beer. making an executive decision I decided we should just camp just off to the right of the Pyramid Stage by one of the electricity pylons and near the yellow and green beer tent in the picture below.
We managed to somehow put our tents up in something resembling a storm without rain, and I’d managed to speak to Laura to tell her where she should head, but seeing as they were now stuck in a very, very long queue This allowed us to crack open our first beers as the weather sort of improved to being just grey and miserable and by the time Laura’s crowd turned up and found us the weather was nearly sunny. With everyone together this meant Nat and myself went for a wander with this being her first Glastonbury.
Wednesday night saw us get very, very drunk which meant arguments, horrible drunken behaviour and the next morning some sheepish apologies from all concerned. Thursday however saw the sun come out blazing as the site was baked after the previous day’s rain and wind. The site was boiling hot, which meant a nice wander round the site some sensible drinking and generally having a nicer day then the previous day but by now we’d both had legs like Olympic runners so we were bounding around like drunken gazelles.
Unbeknown to us. it was around this time that Laura had used a wetwipe to clean her face and suffered a massive allergic reaction to it so when we got back to the site and nobody was around we assumed everyone was off wandering, but in fact they were sorting themselves out at the medical tent. When we did speak to Laura, the poor girl was so fed up she spent the time in her tent trying to get better ASAP.
Effectively this meant Nat and myself just got on with it, so on Friday we got up early and planned the day ahead. I’d grown a load of mushrooms in my flat (it was still legal back then) for our own use, and they’d turned a lovely shade of blue, so we popped a few of them into our tea and set out for the events of Friday….
The lineup on Friday was good, but Oasis were headlining the Pyramid and this was to us, laughable but before we got there there were some great bands including the still astonishing Chicks on Speed, and for myself, PJ Harvey. It was while waiting for PJ Harvey to come on that I saw some young student types asking each other who she was!? This was probably a sign of where the festival was going-people coming just to be ticking it off as something they do along with the gap year in India.
Anyhow, Friday was fun, hot, but huge fun and by now we were mildly stoned/tripping by the time Oasis cranked themselves onstage on that hot summer’s night but dear me, as soon as Liam opened his mouth they were utter shite. At this point I realised that Nat and myself were laughing loudly and pointing at the stage and laughing at the band much to the annoyance of those sad souls who were fooling themselves that they were watching something actually good. Dear me, they were appalling from the ten or so minutes we suffered.
We took the opportunity to go for a wander and find some more mushrooms, which we did. This meant ending up in the comedy tent tripping our tits off laughing at anything on stage before ending up in the Stone Circle for a sunrise before heading back to our tents for a bit of kip….
I woke up around 9am to the sound of rain hammering against my tent. It’s been raining for a few hours at least and it was wet, cold and utterly miserable. I got up, checked on Nat, and went to get us some tea. Laura was awake and still suffering while the rest of her crowd apparently were still utterly hammered from the previous day hence the snoring from their tents.
I sat with Nat watching the rain fall and the mud form. There hadn’t been a really muddy festival since 1998, but this was a miserable day which put the plan to have a jolly time at Scissor Sisters a bit less cheery as it’s hard to be camp and jolly in a cold wet drizzle. Still, they managed to put on a great show and seeing as we were camped near the Pyramid it wasn’t a huge walk there and back so seeing as the Lost Prophets (let’s draw a line under that band) were on next, we decided to get back to our tents, get some of our remaining mushrooms and head to the comedy tent where we spent the rest of the day.
Come the evening we wandered back to our tents to get some beers, change (the cold rain had changed to just a cold drizzle) we had to cut through the massive crowd that had built up for Black Eyed Peas, the Findus Crispy Pancake (it looks alright from the outside but when you bite into it, it’s going to make you sick) of the music scene.
After getting through the crowd and to our tents, we sat and chilled for a bit until Laura (who by now was well enough to go out) and her crowd came back saying that there was no way to get round to the other end of the site as the entire Pyramid arena was full and still filling up for Paul McCartney.
Not being bothered about heading back for more comedy, we decided to sit in the rain and listen/watch McCartney play. Imagine your old uncle playing a set of Paul McCartney songs down the pub and you get an idea of how pish it was, but there were some big fireworks…
This brought an end to Saturday and we got an early night. Sunday saw us wake up cheery and refreshed which considering we’d been rained on, hiked miles carrying tens of pounds of weight, been sunburnt, drunk, stoned and frankly we were knackered but cheery.
It was also an early start as the English National Opera were doing some Wagner on the Pyramid which ended up being more fun than expected. It also seemed oddly apt considering the mess of the previous few days. After this, we went for a spot of lunch before more comedy tent antics, some beer and no mushrooms, just tea. It was all really quite a sensible Sunday at Glastonbury and in fact a perfectly nice day apart from the sunshine and showers….
Sunday is an odd day at festivals as I’ve said in the past. It’s a time when people want to go out in a blaze of glory but they know that the trip home is the next day and the party is coming to an end. This was exactly the feeling as we stood there waiting for Muse to come on the Pyramid at the end of the Sunday night. Now I don’t mind Muse but they’re a storming live band as Nat had convinced me a few years earlier at Reading Festival. They put on a great set, and we headed back fairly chirpy to our tents to grab a few hours kip before a planned early start to get back to Bristol reasonably early.
The early start didn’t quite happen, but Laura and her crowd left before us. We said our farewells, and finished packing up before taking the long walk up the hill to the onsite bus station and the wait for the bus back to Bristol. The sun had come out, and things were fairly quiet but we were shattered which made us grateful the bus was there waiting for us as we turned up. We trudged upstairs, got a seat and eventually the bus pulled out of Glastonbury Festival to make the trip back to Bristol. At this point Nat became miserable and pointed out how the hell people could take this comedown from the festival which is a good point. That comedown on the Monday on the way home from even a year like 2004 which was a rollercoaster year at best was immense but by the time we got into Bristol bus station, jumped in a taxi back to my flat with a stop by the shops to grab some food/snacks and walked in to a very happy cat who was pleased to see us both, things were better. Everything’s better with a happy cat in your lap.
2004 was a rollercoaster. It was a transition from the previous two years which still kind of felt like the old festival to what it is now which is a cultural juggernaut, but stripped of much of the anarchy of the past. 2005 was to set the pattern for all my Glastonbury Festival’s to date.
2005 was also the year of the Great Flood. Next time I’ll tell the story of that.