* This ramble begins with a heads up – we are all big boys and girls I know, but the youtube link today contains explicit lyrics – please be aware before you click play!
So, there I was, laptop ready and earphones plugged in on a Sunday night and I was transported to Glastonbury thanks to the BBC online facility. Yet I felt an overwhelming feeling of sadness wash over me. Let me try explain, for those who don’t know, Glastonbury is one of the UK’s leading music festivals, but honestly, it is so much more. You can’t really go for the day, for this festival, you have to invest time, money and emotion to really get the best out of it – I have had the good fortune to attend twice, both times arriving on the Thursday morning and leaving on the following Monday afternoon.
My first time was 2004 with friends. I twisted arms and begged them to go and they gave in. Sadly, I got more from the experience than they did, which led to me going solo on the second occasion. Both times were very similar in one respect, in that I arrived to great sunshine, I didn’t take wellies (waterproof boots) and both times, the heavens opened and it just became a total mud bath. Not too much fun when you are wearing a pair of ADIDAS Sambas – schoolboy error on my part, but it didn’t overly detract from the experience, but at the same time, lessons were finally and belatedly learned.
I will never forget the first sight of the “tent city” that lay before me when I entered that first Thursday morning. It really was just awe inspiring. We were lucky to get a great place to pitch tent and from then, it was a vodka fuelled journey into the total unknown. I had heard all the stories, but experiencing it myself for the first time was like an awakening. For the first night, we hung round as a group, but Glastonbury is so big and diverse that we soon parted; only meeting up at certain points to compare notes about what we had seen and what bands we had heard.
So many stalls, events, smells, sights, sounds, it can be quite overwhelming. But it’s at night fall that the place takes on a mystical cloak. The areas within the camp light up and begin to both enchant and entrance you. Nowhere more so than Shangri-La – though I am sure it was called “GlasVegas” back then. For those of you that want to find out more- click here .From a music perspective, I think that first one I went to saw Oasis, Muse, Paul McCartney, Snow Patrol, Franz Ferdinand and The Killers amongst a host of others. I remember being so afraid at first to be within such huge crowds, especially for the headline acts, but soon became accustomed to it.
On my second visit in 2005, I was alone. I couldn’t get anyone to come with me and I did try, but was secretly pleased at the end result. It gave me freedom and wings. It let me do what I wanted, when I wanted and that is really the best way to see Glastonbury. There is a story to tell from my second adventure that included Pete Docherty, Kate Moss, Glenn Tilbrook and a missing mobile phone, but I will save that to some other point in time. It was daft at the time, but looking back, possibly one of those “you had to be there” tales. Again, the rain came, though this time I did queue for boots, only to find they had none in my size once I reached the front! So it was another soggy and muddy trip.
Musically this was much better; The White Stripes were on top form. The Killers had really grown from the last time I saw them and Coldplay – the parts of them I saw – were really good. But it was the other aspects that made the trip better second time. I was more comfortable walking around. I was more daring as to where I went and who I spoke to. I found peace surrounded by all manner of people at midnight in a field overlooking the whole thing and I learned much more about myself in 4 days than I could in a longer time frame anywhere else.
I keep committing to go back, but I keep failing. Money issues, time off work issues, child care issues, all seem to spring up at the wrong time – let alone the hoops you have to jump through to get hold of tickets and then the cost. So now, I watch on TV or online. It’s comfortable, but it’s not the same and the same sadness I felt watching my beloved Crowded House light up Glastonbury in 2008, I felt watching Nick Cave tear up the Pyramid Stage on Sunday night.
However, it has strengthened my resolve, so look out Glastonbury 2014 – One way or another, I’m coming back for visit number 3! Thanks for sticking by another ramble and you are rewarded with the explicit “Stagger Lee” which is spellbinding. It also contains the most surreal moment I think I have seen at a gig, see for yourself and let me know your thoughts on the mystical “Girl in White” near the end – a lucky lass or an amazingly executed plant!