Glastonbury, the Third


Waking up pleasantly late due to no little boy noise, I made some princess cooing noises and stretched. ‘The last day of music!’. I’d slept amazingly, better than in bed. Cliché but true: ‘I’ve really grown to love this’.

Sunday was the best day for music. After making my pilgrimage to the least disgusting toilets, I stayed at the Pyramid Stage, coffee, listening to African music and contemplating several things. Not reading poetry, as I had planned. Sometimes we need breaks, even from things we love. Words of wisdom, part one. I thought gratefully about ‘African music’. Not really my ‘thing’, but it fulfilled an important, ministering role to me throughout the festival, like sun making greening chlorophyl in a plant, only I imagine this music made me bright yellow, zanily alive. Music ministers – most music does, in its own way, but I especially appreciate the musicians who do it gently. Early at 11 in the morning, especially. It’s amazing how early I was to everything because we were camping, with so little to distract us, and I wanted to be out.

My friends joined me for First Aid Kit, one of the bands I’d been really excited to see on the lineup poster. They were great. Their voices always are – I’ve always loved their original sound; again, singers with attitude. Their quirky country-infused sound, heavily harmonised, has already impressed me plenty. I was surprised that one of the sisters, the less smiley and shorter brunette, does all the melodies, and the smiley agreeable blonde does more harmonies and talking. Why don’t people smile? She must be shy, I suppose. I really, really appreciated their talking; it was insightful. They talked up Paul Simon, their favourite songwriter. Johanna introduced their cover of his song ‘America’, as ‘a song about a journey of self-discovery’. I had never thought about this one of my favourite Simon and Garfunkel songs in that way. Insightful, girls. It was amazing to be seeing this band I love live. And to sing along to ‘Emmylou’. Which is just so clearly their best song. It’s in the perfect key for a melancholic, passionate country song. And ends happily. My friends liked them, too. Who couldn’t, a little bit?

Oh, dear, but all, all was eclipsed under the dark moon that is Rufus Wainwright. I went through a long phase of liking him and all his albums in sixth form. I listen periodically now, still, and think ‘Yeah, he’s actually everything I want in a songwriter’. Yeah: despite his deliberately offensively kitsch flat decorations, his toy dressing up; despite – yes, that is a good word for Rufus Wainwright.

‘I’m here to delicately take you into the next phase…. of your downfall’. Despite the split infinitive, that phrase made me laugh suddenly. I was glad to be standing, alone, to see him, the closest I got to any band. I’d made an effort with my appearance but felt the raffish headband a little tatty, a little too ‘Glasto’ for him, who apologised with impressive mock self-deprecation for his inability to provide ‘happy festival music’. And proceeded to play a ‘happier’ tune, (hardly: as if any of his music was ‘happy festival music’!) ‘Sanssouci’.

Did I mention how devastating he looked? Only to absolutely everyone who’s asked me how Glastonbury was. He wore a simple black shirt, with only the smallest trim of glitter on it, and jeans. I adored the close-ups of his face. I became the 17-year-old fangirl I always was. I wonder if the Queen of the Night finds it off-putting that so many girls find him drop-dead gorgeous? His cute lispy banter was dry and made me want to, almost, drop all this ‘Glasto’ lark and follow him into the darkness. Almost. Oh dear, leave me to reading his several fascinating interviews and listening to Want One again, over and over. Does it help to say that Elton John thinks him the best living songwriter on the planet?

I was slightly disappointed that there was no band to play his elaborate arrangements (probably for financial reasons), but his being there made up for it. He’s pretty good on piano and guitar. And he did Memphis Skyline, all vulnerable about it (could he be serious?) : ‘this song’s kind of a mess’. Only my favourite mess in the world!

I’ve forgotten who even followed him. Oh yeah, that’s right, no one. I went to see Tom Odell, who had a great band with him and created the ‘festival atmosphere’ really well, but the stuffy John Peel stage made it hard to see him. I’m also underwhelmed with how heavily he has been marketed, although Odell himself seems like a sweetie, a newcomer, and super-keen about the whole ethos of Glastonbury on facebook. Quite good songs too, especially ‘Another Love’, with the zombies singing in the background.

After a soltan-handbag catastrophe, I found my friends at Segafredo and danced to Vampire Weekend in the late afternoon sun of the Pyramid stage, dress pockets stuffed indelicately with the purse and sunglasses case I’d rescued from my dead bag. This is my life. I adore Ezra Koenig, I think. The English teacher turned musician. Especially having since listened further; Vampire Weekend give me twinges of Glastonbury. Then, I just thought they were brilliant party music. Now, I know this was the start of something far more than a one-day stand. Something about their tone touches the spot. Its major simplicity would be overly bright, sun-shimmering and dazzling if not delivered so intelligently. And being just the right amount of flat; just the right balance of electronic. Now, whenever I use an Oxford Comma I cackle in delight.

Sunday had three outstanding acts, both musically and vibe-wise, but Tom Odell was pretty good. Mumford and Sons provided a fitting finale, too. Not that I would call them musically outstanding; but we were with some jolly nice 30-year-old men who knew all the words. Mumford and Sons do have some pretty eloquent lyrics.

The lighting – gold – was gorgeous. The band are beloved sons of Glastonbury, having performed there for five years already. It was especially lovely to celebrate their amazingly bearded bassist’s survival of a recent scary illness all together as a crowd. Mumford and Sons are darlings. There was a special moment, singing ‘Awake my soul’, which has a bizarrely Christian line: ‘for you were made to meet your Maker’. It was special, and ethereal, that they got everyone to sing along there. Usually I become irate at people waving their hands vacuously in gigs, but this moment, my hands were right in the sky. High as kites. There was nothing vacuous about it. The finale was lovely, bringing in several other bands. Ezra Koenig played saxophone, the ever-more-eligible little multi-instrumentalist!

Wonderful enough, to bear the long, long queues for the train home the day after. To endure the scornful glances of London airheads on the tube, who judge people for having a backpack – you weren’t there, man! It was like returning from Narnia. This grime is like being anointed with oil of honour. I’m made of substance, to have got through all this muddy crap bearing an epitome-of-uncool bag on my back with dignity intact. I am eternally grateful to the wonderful man working in Pret a Manger, Kings Cross, for calling me ‘darling’ when I bought my cheese croissant and cappuccino.

All that remains, then, is for me to say ‘I’ll be back’, like my dear friend Arnie, only minus the comic understatement (back in one second when I will proceed to motorcycle into your police station and smash everything up) which makes it worth saying. Yet, with good and civilised manners, a happy half-hippie, I will be back.



  1. rachel8194 · July 10, 2013

    Have really enjoyed all your Glastonbury posts. Clear and well written, I could really get a picture of you being there. It sounds amazing-glad you had such a good time.

    • Billie · July 10, 2013

      Thanks Rachel! 😀 that’s encouraging. Maybe come next time? :p x

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