I think Saturday was the day when we had a very funny wake-up, when the guy (who shall remain unnamed) in the tent next to us was talking loudly about how he had a brown accident… on the loo. I think wet wipes sufficed? Urrrgh. And maybe it was that day, too, when the sawdust loos had poo piled higher than the toilet seat. It’s grimly fascinating to wonder how that even happened.
We clever girls, though, managed to wash our hair and go against the dirt. All it took was 40 minutes queuing at the single tap in Pylon, and a little sacrifice of pride. And, some bracing at cold, cold water. I put on my new headband and pouted in the portable mirror, slightly smug at not having been sunburnt. Oh! pride comes before a fall.
Segafredo, African music, and we found a spot which was shady at noon, although it meant we weren’t facing the stage. We heard Billy Bragg first, and I gloatingly texted my dad. We went to see him because he is that kind of national treasure. He also sounds like he should have a much chubbier face than he actually does.
Billy Bragg’s music doesn’t strike me as magnificent but his lyrics are witty; I especially liked ‘Handyman’. Some good ad libing too. Yes, what was absolutely impressive was his ease with the audience, his almost complacent affection for them and his clearly being at home at Glastonbury. Chatting away, he gave some good old time left wing talk. Particularly interesting were two remarks: that nothing big, no political action, happens these days because of cynicism (not apathy, as I had thought), and that poets and songwriters need leaders and inspiration; we come after, not before, the revolution. Those were highlights: I also found myself wondering how he formed his classic views; he came across as rather a Red cheerleader, especially when celebrating two facts together that gay marriage and marijuana were legalised in some state. Marijuana? Seriously?
Laura Mvula after; one I’d been prepared to see, since her music is like cyber-inventive gospel. ‘Gospeldelia’, is what the Guardian said. A genre of her own; a lovely voice; and she was tranquil in her puffy white dress and sequins. She didn’t say too much, but she seemed calm. Perhaps too calm? Her songs are delightful; written perfectly for live events such as this. Yet she had been upstaged by Amanda Palmer, in my mind. She was perhaps too nervous to really give – in an interview she said she’d been nervous. Or maybe too nice. It also, to be fair, didn’t help that we weren’t really looking at her. Our shade was rapidly disappearing and we would make the most of it while it lasted.
Afterwards, Ben Howard attracted the masses to our Pyramid Stage. It was really boiling hot. There was one woman in a bikini top and skimpy skirt who looked cool, tanned really well (I’m jealous), but she clearly thought she was an important fan of Ben Howard’s. Sang along with a quite good voice, and said ‘Love you Ben Howard!’, when there is just no way he would have heard her! I can only assume she said it for our benefit. As for me, I was more resigned than psyched to see this gig. Like Mr. Darcy, I would say Howard’s voice is ‘tolerable’. Very good actually, but overrated! Too many crowds; too many girlie fans. Another irritating thing he did was to say ‘This is f-king amazing’. It came across as quite wet, actually, that he couldn’t come up with any better banter than using a swear word as an intensifier. He’s not the only one who did this at Glastonbury; nor will he be the only one in the music business to do so! It’s rather infected me actually, and I’m not sure what to do about that. Only, Ben Howard’s charisma was, as my brother and I have described some of Kate Rusby’s lesser songs, like being hit over the face gently with a fish. Music decent enough though, and I basked in the sun in a dream-like stupor, content to melt, burn and passive-smoke ‘til Elvis came along.
I stayed to see Elvis Costello, because he’s truly great, but by then the sun was so bad and I knew I’d burned, so badly that I sat with my back to the stage for most of his bit. I love that his accent is northern; never knew that. He did many of his best songs – especial highlights were ‘Good Year for the Roses’, and ‘Shipbuilding’. His singing voice was as good as ever; new arrangements for some of the songs brought new life out of them. Love it when that happens. But that’s another one to add to my iPlayer list. Such a shame about the burn: sun, 1.
I went and did sneaky sunburnt things in the empty campsite for the rest of the lighter hours, while my friends were at Primal Scream. So glad I didn’t bother seeing them, from BBC ‘highlights’. Much better to get long-overdue business done in peace, and also to get water with no queue! To wash my face without feeling guilty about making 30 people wait. Getting pro at ideal camping rhythms.
In fact, the only downside to doing this was becoming utterly stranded from my friends for the Rolling Stones gig afterwards. I had to become one of the ‘pushers’, and managed to get to a substantially central place by joining a long line of them. I navigated my way between the vague flags my friends said they were near. Only… no friends. Turns out, it’s surprisingly hard to find someone in a crowd! And then my Nokia (not yet spam-doused) ran out of credit.
I was amazed at the kindness of so many people; two men offered me their iPhones to ring my friends. So now two random men have Shamina’s number. But to no avail; network wasn’t very good. So I sat by some other people. Some kind, nice girls said ‘We’ll be your friends now’. I smiled and thanked them, pulling faces inwardly. Some middle aged ladies gave me advice. I smiled and thanked them politely. ‘What’s the biggie about seeing a gig on your own anyway?’
Quite a lot, it turns out. I regret bringing my purse, which was utterly pointless. I might have been less concerned then. Probably, I didn’t seem inhibited. I hummed along, sang along. It was a bit of an exercise in acting though. I was pretty distracted, not so much by the purse as – other things.
The Rolling Stones were good performers; nothing short of death or insult could have taken away the special vibe everyone had, waiting for them. Personally I’ve gone off the Stones; too ’60’s, not arty enough! Mick Jagger’s sexy but his voice does not make me fall in love with him any more; they’re caricatures, not richly layered older men. But there’s a special place in my heart from when I really did like them a while ago, so I did like singing along. With the old folk around me: the crazy ancient pair of stoned hippies, a huge dreadlocked man who kept sloshing his cider and spilling it on me (good job I had loo roll in my bag – wiped away three times!) and his stupendously cackling hag of a wife. Glasto veterans, surely. And there were middle aged glampers with their wine in a plastic bag, looking like a blood transfusion packet.
I had some more interesting company: a very attractive (and very tall, and rather dark!) strange man started holding my hand. I- reluctantly!- tried to communicate that I wouldn’t be coming back to his tent after the gig. Without words. I ‘just didn’t have a clue what to do!’
That intriguing bombshell left me not entirely regretting the strangeness and strandedness of my night with the Stones. An unusual experience! After the gig, I walked through the warm, dark, people-filled passages back to my tent on my own. Happy to pick up the rubbish (water bottles we’d shamefully scattered outside the tents from Operation Hairwash), because inside I was glowing. Love those moments.
So yes, the Stones gig was strange. Perhaps it reflects all I’ve been thinking about Glastonbury: the music is there, sometimes louder, sometimes in the background; but there is so much more to observe. So many people, on stage and around you. I’ve been thinking about being a music journalist, but maybe I prefer people watching after all.