Glastonbury, the First

I want to apologise for not being a journalist. For being one whose iPhone barely lasts a day, let alone six, and who actually poured suncream on her cute wee Nokia, making for a pathetically flickering screen – a living example of technology being rather incompatible with camping. MacBooks, as well as not seeming wholly in-keeping with the spirit of Glastonbury, might, therefore, have been a bit muppetish to even attempt to bring.

For these reasons, then, whilst Q magazine minions were selling their Glastonbury Review all over the place, before the most part of us had even left the campsite, and so many blogs and reports have now been published about Glastonbury, a week in, I am somewhat late. But still, stubbornly, I insist on going on with this writing.

OK, I’m chaotic, disorganised and unprofessional. But maybe this characteristic lateness will also reap benefits: I’ve re-watched videos of some of the performances, read reviews, and pondered a little. And I’m not going to abandon those little pencilled notes I wrote in my minuscule Guardian guide, a few words per act. My only souvenir from the event, save the dwindling phone, a peeling suntan, and a rather raffish spotted headband.


We arrived on Wednesday to pitch our tent, even though music starts only on Friday. This, I found depressing. Perhaps it was because I started with horrendous blisters, over an inch in diameter, on each heel. Tiptoed in my wellies. Dropped my camping backpack on the train catching on my bare bingo wings, making a grotesquely fascinating bruise. Staggered around the campsite in pain from those bloody blisters.

Took ’em to the medical tent on Thursday and a real podiatrist popped them. I felt no pain, and they vanished and never bothered me again. Wow! You’d think my mood would lighten, but it didn’t. Kept wondering, what’s on with life at the moment? Worries about the future. Worries about not reaching God. Fears of getting dirty. Worries about not sleeping! We were in ‘Pylon’ campsite, which had a hilarious enormous cricket-like buzzing sound. Right under the bleeding Pylon, which made it hard to sleep. Aren’t earplugs disgusting? 

And then it rained, that afternoon, and I wrote in my new diary about sadness transposing to joy, because God is everywhere. The rain driving around the tent, like God’s courting, His surrounding. And then, finally, it seemed to go better, even though now the campsite was proper muddy, real, sticky mud, flooding the tents of the mugs who’d camped downhill. We had a great time going out to the portaloos in the rain. And I felt like I started to click better with my lovely friends. Or maybe we always did, and it’s just my neuroses.



The action began with the delight of actually finding a good coffee stall on the campsite. On Thursday I had thought it’s odd that people can not wash and still have an appetite for pies, hot dogs, hog roast, pizza, nachos, chips… But now maybe I can do the same. As long as I have my Segafredo cappuccino, we’re good. Had a Costa-pwning raspberry and white chocolate muffin too, and vaguely enjoyed the African music starting off the day at the Pyramid Stage. Having relatively enjoyed the open-air portaloos.

The first act was Haim. An unusual act in that more than one of our group wanted to see them, as well as me! They appeared, dressed in all-black, and hairy: one review compared their hair, a little cruelly I think, to Cousin It. It’s just all three of them had very long hair. Their voices – I’m listening again now, and reminded of the fact – are outstanding live. They are so gritty, punkty. The bassist, Este, did a lot of chat, flirted, and was a teensy bit annoying, but she’s got a good persona going there with her gurning and bright lipstick. I love that the lead singer, Danielle, is the least showy of them all. But what a voice. Slight Michael Jackson influence? The other one’s cute and minxy. And has a stellar voice too. I am so looking forward to their album this autumn. It was during this gig that I decided I wanted an electric guitar for my 21st birthday present.

Amanda Palmer next, a friend’s choice. She made us go! I thought, ‘no, I should be open-minded’, when Amanda started all noisy and, to be honest, offensively shouty (not music!). But stood there in the magnificently sun-dried field listening to Neil Gaiman’s wife’s music, admiring her extremely engaging performance, her lovely bra, and her many changes of clothes. She did some fantastic show: crowd-surfing in a massive floaty train skirt. Looking back, I wonder, is this crass? Perhaps, but so engaging. And her voice is great, though wasted on shouting sometimes. Her ukulele song was a bit cheap but quite sweet. Not gold, but some fair enough bronze. Overall she really brought home the importance of performance. Drama and music, I’m learning all the time, fertilise one another. Charisma is almost everything I looked for from then on at Glasto.

The Lumineers, then, disappointed. A poor man’s Mumford and Sons, an astute reviewer decided, and a singer who didn’t seem to try, though his voice is alright. We left for better things after they’d done Ho Hey.

‘Better things’ was Martha Wainwright. Of course, she’d be better singing in the shower. She sings with attitude! It took us blooming ages to find the Acoustic Tent, which was miles away, and disappointingly ill-supplied with tech (maybe I should have expected it from the Acoustic Tent), so that her face was hard to see, and the PA might have been a bit dodgy too, since I couldn’t hear what she was saying. Maybe she mumbles? Which was a shame since the singing was delicious, and she was saying a good deal. What I could hear, was interesting remarks on how and when she wrote the songs. She’s got charisma; she’s from a music family oozing nasty bitchy charisma. Give her a bigger stage next time! But she carried it off totally on her own. Enough drama and musical prowess to need no band.

Onto Alt-J, whom I chose over Bastille, achingly. Bastille are pretty mainstream though; the John Peel stage also seemed unpleasantly stuffed with teenagers. Not sure they were; just the stage being in a tent is so unflattering. Alt-J, I had never heard before, but my friends like them quite a bit. They’re great – check them out! Moody, interesting voice, harmonically elaborate, creative. I have since loved their very cheap album, £4.99 from iTunes. The only damper was the crowd around us. The Other Stage was horribly crowded; our first experience of pushers. The man in front of me had a massive bum and was wearing a tiger-striped knitted toga (some comic value when the pusher-in-front of me said, ‘We can’t stay here, this man has a massive bum!’ and the man turned round). But worse, an absolutely derpy couple who were the same height and seemed to be grinning and rubbing noses the entire time, right before my face. Imbeciles. Still, I was so glad to have done Alt-J.

Arctic Monkeys last – a real toss-up whether to go or not bother. We went, and left after four songs. The music, boring! Just loud boys. (In my bigoted opinion). But worse, the dark side of Glastonbury: pushers! Idiots. Some people have waited hours to get a good place; can’t you respect that? And we didn’t appreciate being ground by some pushing guys who were way too close behind.

I left the gig disillusioned. What happened to the friendly hippies who were supposed to make up Glastonbury? Replaced with a load of yucky teenagers, sluicing around their too-much, stinky cider. But maybe that’s just Arctic Monkeys audiences! (Gordon Brown?! Never fear… it did get better. See Part Two, coming soon.

That night I slept well under the Pylon for the first time.


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