A Few Disappointments: Glastonbury Sunday
So Sunday it was still raining. It didn’t really stop, not while we ate our veggie breakfasts under a dripping awning, or while we were slogging about the site, or while we had coffee and cakes in the Greenfields solar-powered cinema café (four words you don’t get to type in that order very often). It stopped for a moment while we sat on some grassy bank ‘sofas’, but soon started again. It was starting to get to me. But I was cheered up by the kind of music you really need on a day like that – Eat Static, of all people. We shuffled into the Glade partly to keep out of the rain but as I stood there in my wellies and looked about me at the grinning crusties, I thought ‘what the hell’. It was billed as a ‘chilled set’; in fact it was virtually Bonkers-strength. But that was the only positive moment for a few hours; Micah P. Hinson was a no-show at the Park and while the Manics were fantastic – playing a whole load of stuff off the first couple of albums – the crowd at the Pyramid was blighted by the usual Sunday Locals. As far as I can work out Eavis has to let these people in free to get his licence, but they’re a plague on the Festival (it’s not about him making up for the disruption – that’s like Notting Hill newcomers complaining they didn’t know there was a Carnival on their doorstep). Firstly that’s why Sunday afternoon is traditionally James Bl*nt time – thanks, music-hating locals! Secondly they sit in their plastic chairs in serried ranks, passing the chardonnay about, and asking stupid questions like “which one of them is the one who died, then?” (here’s a clue: he’s probably not on stage right now).
It wasn’t just the locals who were bothering me; everywhere I went there were not-nice-but-dim types flashing their golf visors and haw-ing loudly. One callow streak in front of me couldn’t believe that the Guardian news stalls had run out of copies of the Times. Glastonbury isn’t as leftie as it used to be – selling News International’s rags, allowing non-TUC beer tents – but it remains at least left of centre; it’s just not that obvious to the upper-middle-class scum who have colonised festivals.
The cliché is that you need to spend time in the Greenfields to get away from these people and to remember the point of the festival; quite right, but you also need to head for the Leftfield. One of the festival’s traditions is Tony Benn’s speech there on Sunday morning, but you should also catch the party that winds up the Leftfield’s entertainment, held together with a set from Billy Bragg. This year he was promoting his current campaign, Jail Guitar Doors. The idea is to get guitars into prisons to give people something to do. Might sound a bit daft, but when you see a guy on day release from the festival’s nearest prison playing the Leftfield crowd a song he wrote himself on one of those guitars, it’s something else. Not a dry eye in the house – like reality TV for real people. And then Bragg did a great set, a real singalong, closing as usual with a suitably shambolic cover of the Clash’s ‘Garageland’. He’s a national treasure.
I then needed to rush out of there to get up to the Park for one of the most eagerly anticipated moments of the weekend – Circulus. Unfortunately all the beer (and the cider brandy I’d poured into it for some reason) went to my head and I fell over on my arse in the mud. I wallowed like a hog, briefly happy to have got it out of the way (you spend the whole time expecting it to happen). And then fought my way through the rain and darkness to see Britain’s finest medieval/psychedelic folk band. They were superb – I looked away at one point and looked back to find Will (I think – the flautist/crumhorn player) wearing a truly terrifying devil’s head. In the lightshow and driving rain it was a true Wicker Man experience. I love Circulus.
But they had to go off early, because of earlier rubbish bands overrunning. A fairly sane-looking individual behind me shouted “I only came to Glastonbury to hear ‘Power to the Pixies’!” and I was moved to shout “me too!” but it was all to no avail. So was it worth getting covered in crap and missing the Chemical Brothers to see Circulus at Glastonbury? Of course it was. Between them and Bragg – and Eat Static, come to think of it – this was the real festival, a long way from supermarket indie.
So here’s to Herne and the Leftfield, and Eavis’ beard. Bye bye Glastonbury – can’t wait for next time!
You Love Us – Manic Street Preachers
There Is Power In A Union – Billy Bragg
Unisex Chipshop – Bill Bailey
Garageland – The Clash
Orpheus – Circulus
UPDATE!!! Eavis, a regular reader of BBO, has been stung into defending the Festival against the ‘too middle-class’ jibe (see here). Sorry, Michael – it’s not your fault. And I’m not missing the pigeon-chested, toothless, four-foot-nothing manc scallies who used to come over the old fence. But it’s nothing to do with the internet. I blame Radio 1 – as soon as it tried to be trendy indie was dead. And once it was safe and respectable, in came the dullards. With their sodding chairs.