Glastonbury, So Much To Answer For…. (Part 3)

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Mention Glastonbury to anyone who’s never been, and they will say one or both of the following two things:

1) they will make some reference to you, and everyone else who has ever been to Glastonbury, being a drug taking hippy,

2) they will say something about how crappy the weather always is.

Neither of these things are, of course, entirely true.

You may have noticed that in my last two posts, whilst I haven’t exactly banished the spectre of Glastonbury as a haven for spliff-puffing, pill popping longhairs (it isn’t, though there is a fair bit of hippyness going on) I have tried to shy away from mentioning the weather, partly because it’s so damned predictably English to talk about the weather, but mostly because on the whole it wasn’t too bad in 2003 and 2004.

In fact, I came away from Glastonbury 2004 with quite the tan, mostly because I’d lost my cap on pretty much the first day, and hadn’t bothered applying any sun cream for the rest of the weekend. On my first day back in work afterwards, I was met with a couple of “Fucking hell, where did you go on holiday?”s, although this was probably because my bald bonce had burned so badly I was quite literally able to peel a whole layer of skin off in one go, leaving me with what appeared to be a swimming cap made of my own skin, like some macabre tribute to Duncan Goodhew made by Hannibal Lecter.

So that was the look I was rocking post Glasto 2004: draw a line through the middle of my forehead and I was bright sore pink above it and tanned brown below. I must have looked like I was going to a fancy dress party, had taken it waaaaay too seriously, and was going as a Big Dog’s Cock.

But I digress. There’s really no getting away from it, the weather at Glastonbury 2005 was terrible. We (a considerably smaller posse this time, but I really have lost track of who was there this year) arrived on the Wednesday of our hat-trick year, pitched up and wandered round, and the weather was gorgeous, no sign at all of the quite literal storms to come. This continued through Thursday, and by Thursday evening we were all beginning to believe that we were about to experience that most rare of things: a sunny Glastonbury festival.

No such luck. On Thursday night/Friday morning, the rain came down. And down. And down. Camp sites were flooded, tents and their belongings swept away. Proceedings at the Pyramid were delayed starting due to flooding, with the first two acts, Adjágas, and The Subways having to bow to the storm and the threat of electrocution.

When I was researching (alright, trying to jog my memory) about the 2005 festival, I came across this on YouTube, footage taken by a festival goer showing before, during and after the storm. It kinda has the feeling of one of those camcorder horror films like Blair Witch Project, or Cloverfield that were all the rage a few years ago; for the 1:40 seconds at the start you just know something terrible is going to happen and then…boom!

Still, at least there wasn’t a repeat of the Infamous 1998 Flooded Dance Tent Incident….You couldn’t make that…er…shit up.

But something happens when the Glastonbury Festival is hit by extreme weather. All the festival goers seem to come together in defiance, determined to have a good time no matter what the skies may throw at them, and assuming that your tents survived the deluge that’s about all you can do: chuck a waterproof on, decide “Aww, fuck it”, neck some scrumpy, and soldier on. That’s British Bulldog Blitz Bravado, right there.

Anyway, tracking down footage of some of the acts playing in 2005 proved rather difficult, presumably because most of the TV companies covering the event decided to follow the example of the Pyramid on Friday morning and elected not to risk electrocution by filming much bar the headliners.

As a result, I have nothing to offer you in respect of Editors on The Other Stage on the Friday morning, after which we trudged over to the newly named John Peel Stage to catch Maximo Park. We didn’t manage to see them, but we did manage to stand outside the rammed tent and hear them, a bit. You can get a better idea of how they were here.

Next it was over to The Pyramid to see the legend that is Elvis Costello. Sometime in the late 1980s I’d picked up a copy of his “The Man (The Best Of Elvis Costello)” album. This was back in the days when people released a “Best Of..” album when they had established themselves, and had a wide body of work to choose from and show off about, rather than after two or three albums with a couple of new tracks thrown in to sucker you into buying it. I’m with Dave Gorman on this one. (Hopefully, that link should take you to a rather brilliant analysis of the content of Scouting For Girls’ Greatest Hits album. Scroll up to the start of the chapter if it works. If it doesn’t, then buy the book from which it’s lifted “Too Much Information: Or: Can Everyone Just Shut Up for a Moment, Some of Us Are Trying to Think” here)

It would seem that the British Bulldog Blitz Bravado spirit hadn’t quite kicked in yet; much as I loved his set, Elvis went on record saying it was “fucking dreadful” and pledged never to play in the UK again (a threat he has, thankfully, reneged on since, returning to the festival in 2013, sporting, it has to be said, a rather natty hat)

Here’s him doing sticky Valentine unrequited love classic Alison, and segueing into something by some other chap also called Elvis. Not sure what happened to him.

Next up, Doves. Not much to say here, other than I miss them a lot more than I thought I would. Their slightly brooding but captivating sound certainly seemed to sum up how everyone was feeling as the weather resolutely refused to improve.

Next, The Killers. Promoting their first album, the aptly titled Hot Fuss, they were much anticipated by all that had not yet seen them. I, and most of our gang, being super-cool indie kids, had already seen them, headlining the NME Awards Tour earlier that year, with support from (and get this): Bloc Party, The Futureheads, and Kaiser Chiefs. Now THAT’S a line-up.

We’d decided they were okay enough to warrant us sticking around and to watch them again, though this decision had more to do with the mud underfoot and the fact that The White Stripes were on next as headliners than any particular desire to watch The Killers again. That said, they put on a pretty good show, opening with my personal favourite by them, Somebody Told Me, followed by Jenny Was A Friend of Mine (a song which, to this day, my friends and I are unable to say the title of without doing it in that ridiculous yelp Brandon Flowers does when introducing it here), before rounding off things with the song that has perhaps the most cringe-worthy rhyming couplet ever in it All These Things That I Have Done The reaction of people to this song baffles me to this day, all eyes closed, hands and lighters in the air like it actually means something. I’m with Bill Bailey on this one.

Much like Adam Buxton in Commentary Corner, I can’t resist looking at the comments left under a clip on YouTube, and some of the screaming outrage on show under the clip of Mr Bailey, left by Killers fans, is the internet version of those earnestly singing along to utter claptrap. Like Daniel Pacheco, for example, who says “The phrase in context of the song makes perfect sense. Hell even taken out of context it makes perfect sense. Bill Bailey is obviously retarded”. Well, no, Daniel, it does not, and I note that you haven’t actually gone as far as to explain why you think it makes sense. I would challenge him to expand on his theory via the YouTube comments, but I won’t, partly because I’d like to think I’m above that sort of thing, but mostly because I’m not a masturbating fourteen year old. Sighs…I wish….

Anyway, The White Stripes are next, and they do their thing, which is Jack tossing off some awesome riffs whilst Meg just twats the fuck out of her drums, the two seemingly bearing no relation to each other, yet somehow working brilliantly at the same time. We get every White Stripes song you could wish for: Blue Orchid, Hotel Yorba, Jolene, My Doorbell, I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself, and, of course, Seven Nation Army to name but a few that anyone has actually heard of.

So ended Friday, and off to our tents we all trudged (eventually), hoping Saturday would be a little drier.

It was, but not much. No more floods, thankfully, but still not exactly flip-flop weather.

My day was spent flitting between The Other Stage and The Pyramid. Apparently Goldie Lookin’ Chain played The Pyramid on Saturday morning, and a tiny part of me wonders if this is where my confusion with them playing in 2004 comes from, but a larger part of me remains fairly sure the line up was as I remember. Anyway, I couldn’t find any footage of them in 2005, so I guess I’ll never know.

Next up: Kaiser Chiefs. As already mentioned, we’d caught them on the NME Tour earlier that year, and until that night I’d been totally non-plussed by everything I’d heard from them. But that night they completely blew me away: they were first on the bill, started their set off with a blistering rendition of  “Na Na Na Na Na”, took no prisoners after that, and to my mind utterly upstaged all the acts that came after them.

Their set at Glastonbury followed pretty much the same pattern, and whilst The Pyramid Stage is a rather different proposition to Cardiff University’s Great Hall, they still were pretty darn good. Here’s two out of the three of their early singles that have the trademark “Whooooooooaaaaaaahhhhhhh” in them: Oh My God and, of course, I Predict a Riot.

Next on The Pyramid, Ash. It’s incredible to think that they were still in their late-twenties by 2005; they seemed to have been around for ever, churning out indie classic after indie classic for ten years or so. They don’t need any more introduction, so here’s A Life Less Ordinary and Burn Baby Burn.

Back over to The Other Stage now for the obligatory Echo & The Bunnymen set, The Killing Moon being an obvious high-light, closely followed by Interpol.

Interpol are one of those bands that seemed to have made one awesome album (Antics, for the record) and several kind of okay ones. Luckily, they were promoting said album in 2005, so we got Slow Hands and Evil (I’ve never seen them since, but I imagine they’re staples of every set).

Who’s on next? Wait…is that….Fuck, run!! Head for the hills!! It’s Kasabian!!!

Luckily, over at The Pyramid there was New Order, back in the days when they were still speaking to each other, kind of, occasionally, if they had to. This was a proper tear through their back catalogue, plus a couple from their slightly iffy new album, so we got some Joy Division (Love Will Tear Us Apart, of course), some classic New Order (Temptation) and Keith Bloody Allen, coming onstage riding a pantomime horse, comic genius that he is, so he could “join in” on World In Motion.

Choice of Saturday night headliners had been a bit of a quandary for me this year. 90% of our group elected to watch Razorlight on The Other Stage; promoting their one half decent album (Up All Night) they were probably the wise choice. However, one of the group really wanted to go to The Pyramid and watch…Coldplay. Somewhat bashful after how rude I was to the girl the previous year who wanted to watch Muse rather than Orbital, I think I decided I needed to do something to sort my karma out (now there’s some hippy bullshit, right there).

So, I volunteered – yes, volunteered!! – to go watch Coldplay with my buddy. Now that’s friendship.

They couldn’t be that bad, now could they? I reasoned.

Oh, but yes they could.

I can honestly say that I have never been so deathly bored at a gig in all my life. The one highlight, if you can call it that, was their cover of “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head“, played as attribute to Kylie, who had to pull out of doing the headline slot on Sunday due to fairly well-publicised health problems.

Needless to say, they turn one of the finest pop records of the 21st century into a dull dirge. Oh and Chris, don’t give up the day job for comedy.

People, if you buy Coldplay records, CDs or MP3s, or go to their gigs, or buy their T-shirts, then please stop. You’re just encouraging the morose posho dullards.

Sunday arrived, and the weather didn’t seem to be showing any sign of improvement. And then Brian Wilson played The Pyramid, and suddenly everything was alright with the world, for, just like during Belle & Sebastian’s set the year before, the sun suddenly came out to play, only this time we had Surfin’ USA, California Girls and a whole host of other Beach Boy-tastic tunes rather than wry Scottish indie pop songs about someone called Judy dreaming about horses to celebrate to. I have deliberately not posted a link to film footage of the set, partly because I again struggled to find much of decent quality, but mostly because if I had, you would have to watch Brian looking…well, let’s just say he didn’t really seem to be fully aware of where he was, what was going on, and what he was doing, for the majority of the set. But no matter, Glastonbury loved him for bringing the California sun with him.

Next up: Garbage. I don’t mind a bit of Garbage, and actually met lead singer Shirley Manson many years ago when she was backing singer in Goodbye Mr Mackenzie (CLANG! – the sound of a name drop there). Actually, she won’t remember it (nor should she) and I certainly don’t. I’ll explain this some other time. Needless to say, there is no gossip for you to get your teeth into.

Garbage were here in support of their fourth album, “Bleed Like Me”; an album that I would struggle and fail to name a single song from, much the same as with their third album, whatever that was called. Thankfully, they knew what to do in a festival atmosphere, so we got the decent singles from their first two (good) albums: Stupid Girl, Push It, and the apt-if-only-you’d-been-on-stage-a-couple-of-hours-earlier Only Happen When It Rains

Next: Primal Scream. I love a bit of Gillespie, Innes and Co., and now the sun was out, and about to go down again, I, along with probably about 85% of the rest of the crowd wanted a set of sunny-Screamedlica songs to compliment our new found joy and dryness. The signs were good when the into music was the chorus of the single version of “Come Together”, but The Scream don’t really “do” what you expect, so instead of summery dance records, we got their Kraut-rock set, which was fine, they were still fantastic, just not what most of wanted, I think. They started by launching into a blistering version of Accelerator before ending up with Movin’ On Up via Swastika Eyes .

I say “ending up”, but anyone who was there, or watched it on television, will know that their set didn’t end after Movin’ On Up. Well not straight afterwards. Bobby was clearly not impressed that Basement Jaxx were now headlining the Sunday night in place of Kylie, and decided that he wanted to a) berate the crowd, and b) play another song. Some of his taunts are just priceless (“Do you wanna dance? Yeh?? Well you should’ve been here fifteen fucking years ago”). This, I have decided, was definitely aimed at me and the rest of the Screamadelica crowd. He had a point.

So, on to Basement Jaxx. You’ll recall that many of my fellow festivalees had chosen them over Paul McCartney the previous year, and whilst I have no regrets about seeing the former mop-top, I have to admit the Jaxx were incredible, giving Glastonbury the dance Bobby refused to and Kylie would have done.

Again, for some reason, footage seems to be in short supply; here’s U Don’t Know Me from Glastonbury, and Oh My Gosh, which isn’t, despite it being the first time I ever heard it, and it became possibly my favourite song by Basement Jaxx.

Oh My Gosh was a new track on Basement Jaxx’s “The Singles” album. Which I bought. What does that say about me, Mr Gorman?

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Glastonbury, So Much to Answer For… (Part 2)

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And Lo! So it came to pass that the majority of the same motley crew from Glastonbury 2003 all managed to get tickets for Glastonbury 2004, with a few additions. I’m not going to list them all for a couple of reasons: firstly, they may not appreciate being linked to some of the activities described below; and secondly, I’m not entirely sure who all of the additions were (by which I mean, I’m not sure I can remember who was there, rather than not being sure who they were). Anyway, by my reckoning there were 16 of us this time, a record figure never to be repeated, not by us anyway.

I’d learned three lessons from the previous year:

1) Arrtive early (we did)

2) The stuff on the Pyramid Stage is not necessarily the most interesting stuff that’s going on (I vowed not to spend the whole weekend there again)

3) Stay off the brownies (I’m pleased to report that not one passed my lips)

You may call into question how honest I’m being on that last point when I tell you that when writing and researching this post, I find not only are there dirty great holes in my memory, but also that some of the acts listed in the 2004 booklet, and on the Wikipedia page, are not listed where and when I remember them being. But trust me, it was a brownie-free weekend.

We’ll stick with what I can remember, and what I think I remember.

Friday began with me utterly failing to honour my promise to not just sit at the Pyramid Stage all day. Although there were 16 of us in total, two (who shall be named: Gary and Meg) didn’t arrive until the Friday afternoon and for some reason we’d arranged to meet them at our usual spot at the back of the Pyramid Stage.

Much drinking ensued, and since the majority of our party were Welsh (I think just three, maybe four, of us were English) we spent much of the day making up humorous puns based on Welsh place names/acts playing the festival, in much the same way that now “I Love The Diff” do mugs with the names of works of popular fiction altered to include a Welsh place name or phrase. I haven’t explained that at all well, have I? Well, have a look here and you’ll see what I’m banging on about.

We came up with dozens of these, the pick being “Kings of Caerleon”, which years later Newport’s finest, Goldie Lookin’ Chain named one of their albums. I knew we should have got a copy right on that.

We even adopted the words to “Molly’s Chambers”, which in our world now went:

“You want it, she’s got it, Bonnie Tyler’s gonna change your mind,  Bonnie Tyler’s gonna change your mind. She’s got your, your rissoles! Bonnie Tyler’s gonna change your mind,  Bonnie Tyler’s gonna change your mind.”

Well, we found it funny, anyway. That’s the scrumpy for you.

Truth be told, this is where the first of the black holes in my memory appears.

My source materials tell me the first act on the Pyramid was Ralph Myerz and the Jack Herren Band (Nope, me neither). It’s entirely possible that I started elsewhere, but a quick flick through the listings fails to jog my memory as to quite what I was doing. I know I definitely wasn’t over at The Other Stage, that’s for sure, for that would have meant I was watching Kasabian, and I’d already developed a healthy, well-founded aversion to Leicester’s finest exponents of deathly unoriginal cock-rock. To this day I would rather eat my own testicles than sit through a Kasabian gig.

Let’s assume I was sleeping off a heavy Thursday night. This is certainly not beyond the realms of possibility.

I do know that I was at The Pyramid in time to catch Bright Eyes, but remember nothing other than being totally underwhelmed by him/them. Next up: Wilco, a band who, given their association with Billy Bragg, you’d think I’d have some vague recollection of seeing, but no. Nothing. Zip.

Nelly Furtado. Yup, I remember her alright. Not quite sure why she was there, but there she was. You want proof? Ok.

Nelly Furtado – Turn Out The Lights (Glastonbury 2004)

Want more proof? What am I, your mother? Go YouTube it.

Next up, Elbow, a band enjoying a ground-swell in popularity at the time, which has seen them edge further and further up the bill as the years have gone on. This was, of course, in pre-Seldom Seen Kid days, and before that bloody song about opening your curtains became the obligatory soundtrack to every momentous event on television. Their set was notable for their performance of Grace Under Pressure; the version which appeared on their “Cast of Thousands” album featured a recording of the Glastonbury crowd from 2002 singing along (see what they did there? Quite literally, a Cast of Thousands), and which we were encouraged to reproduce, which most of us gladly did, even though we’d never heard the song before. I wondered loudly if I would get a share of their fee for assisting their performance. Suffice to say, I had not exactly entered into the spirit of things at this point.

Next: Groove Armada. I have a bit of a soft spot for this lot, mostly because a year or so later I saw them at Lovebox and during their set witnessed a bloke successfully – yes, successfully! – using the greatest, most bizarre chat-up line I have ever heard (for the record, it was: “Do you like Ian Dowie? I like Ian Dowie!!) And whilst, again, my recollection of their set is the very definition of “sketchy”, they definitely did Superstylin’, to my mind one of the happiest summer-ish records ever. So there.

PJ Harvey was next up, a typically wonderful set. I think. Can’t really remember it (it’s going well this, isn’t it?). Sadly, I’ve not been able to source much from her set, bar her rendition of The Letter which, marvellous though it is, isn’t the Alex Chilton/Box Tops classic of the same name. I think she’d do a tidy version of that. Probably wouldn’t even change the “she” to “he”, the saucy androgynous sexpot.

Next up were the Kings of (Caer)Leon, and if you thought my recollection has been a tad on the sketchy side so far, well, you ain’t seen nothing yet, for events were about to overtake us. In between Peej and the Followill brothers, O’Keefe and I were sitting on the grass, more than a tad pissed, happily watching the world go by, when I suddenly heard O’Keefe say “Ey up, eyes right!”. I assumed he had spotted an attractive lady, looked round, and spying nobody I thought likely to have raised his dander, said “Nice was she?”.

“No”, he replied, “on the ground. There.” I looked down to my right, and was greeted by the totally unexpected site of a rather large bag of white powder, nestling in the grass next to me. “Someone just dropped it when they walked by”. Quick as a flash, it was scooped up and safely stashed in my rucksack.

Now. I am not about to condone any kind of drug use. And I am certainly not about to suggest to anyone that they, in the event they are presented  with a similar scenario, should do anything other than hand the contraband it in to the relevant authorities.

That said, at this time in my life, well….let’s just say that I had a bit of a reputation to uphold, and there was therefore only one place the contents of that bag were going. One quick dab confirmed it was speed. Not my favourite, but what the heck. A few more dabs, and Kings of Leon were on stage (the two facts are not linked, though I probably thought they were at the time. I very much doubt that Will Followill peeked out from behind the stage curtain, spotted me, and said “Hold on guys, he’s only had a few dabs…let’s give him a few minutes, eh?”). What seemed to be just a few more dabs later and their set was over. They did “Molly’s Chambers”, apparently. We sang the new improved chorus.

A few (okay, a lot) dabs more, the bag was empty (I’m not going to pretend I consumed the whole bag, but I am going to confirm I consumed most of the bag, and that none of the other people from our gang mentioned in this post had any), and suddenly, Oasis were coming on (similarly, there was no curtain twitching by Bonehead).

Never mind all of these Frank adverts which are supposed to scare folks off drugs; the most effective way to achieve total global abstinence from all things narcotic would have been to have a video camera permanently trained on me throughout Oasis’ set, for if ever there was an example of someone being off their tits and thinking they were the funniest bloke on the planet, but actually being an annoying, tedious prick, it was me, then. I spent the entire set with my hands clasped behind my back, leaning forward into an imaginary microphone, doing dreadful, oh so dreadful, Liam impressions (“Is it my imaginaayyyy-shun….”…”sunnnshiiiine” etc etc you get the giste), and also, bizarrely, encouraging everyone round me to “gather round…sing along…you all know the words”, phrases I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say.

It was later reported to me that my flatmate Llyr, when realising what was going on (and more pertinently, what I was on), was heard to mutter “Okay, own up: who’s given him a whole bag of speed?” and, later “If he wasn’t my mate I’d have fucking chinned him by now” He would have been well within his rights to have done so.

Here’s the performance of Cigarettes and Alcohol. Thankfully, they were loud enough to drown me out (just).

Saturday arrived. More (understandably, given the above) vague memories of making my way through the crowd on The Other Stage during Keane’s set at precisely the moment they performed Somewhere Only We Know the only song by them that I’ve ever liked. The intended destination was The Pyramid for Scissor Sisters, who seemed to be just about everywhere at the time, their debut album churning out an endless supply of glam-camp sing ‘n’ frug along pop nuggets, pick of the batch being Take Your Mama Out

Lostprophets were next on the main stage; bearing in mind the name of this blog, and the despicable, depraved behaviour which led to their lead singer’s recent incarceration, I’m glad I didn’t hang around for them. Nope: back over to The Other Stage for My Morning Jacket and British Sea Power (I got nothing) followed by a quick pit stop before returning to The Pyramid for……. the Black Eyed Peas! I’m joking, but sadly not about them playing there, for there they played. No, I did not return to The Pyramid to see them (though I did have the misfortune of catching their last song or two) – the possibility of seeing Fergie soil her trackie bottoms on stage was not sufficient a draw for me (or drawers, haha see what I did there?). No, I was off to see the headliner, Paul “Fab Macca Wacky Thumbs Aloft” McCartney (readers of Smash Hits in the 1980s will appreciate how much I loved just typing that).

McCartney divided opinion in our gang even before he came on stage. We were split pretty much 50/50, with half of the group (some might say, the cooler, or perhaps just the younger ones) opting to go and see Basement Jaxx play The Other Stage, the rest of us electing to watch McCartney. My position on this is that it’s not often you get chance to see one of the Beatles play live these days (and Lord knows we’re not exactly blessed with choices about which of them to see now anyway), and there was no way I would ever pay to go see McCartney anywhere else, so since he’d been nice enough to turn up…well, it’d be rude not to, wouldn’t it?

His set was one of the most enjoyable couple of hours I’ve ever spent at Glastonbury, one massive sing-a-long as he bashed out hit after hit after hit; kicking off with Jet (a song which always reminds me of Alan Partridge), Live and Let Die, and also treating us to a remarkable version of Helter Skelter. I have a vague recollection of being told this was the first time he had played it live since the whole Manson Family she-bang back in the late 1960s. Even more remarkably, his set didn’t end with an overly long rendition of either Let it Be or Hey Jude.

Sunday began, as every Sunday should, with a performance of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyrie on The Pyramid, followed by, apparently, Joss Stone. This is another one of those occasions where my memory plays tricks on me, for in my head Goldie Lookin’ Chain were on next, but since I can find nothing to corroborate this, I’ll just have to accept that they weren’t. Or were they….? The Glasto 2004 booklet has a slot between the Opera and Stone listed as “tbc”, so maybe I have remembered that right. I know I didn’t sit through Joss Stone and her pseudo-American accent (although that was a few years away yet), but I do know that I sat through lashings of rain and Christy Moore who was on after her…so…oh, I just don’t know.

The early part of my afternoon was spent over at The Other Stage, watching Belle & Sebastian, a band I was only really just getting into, despite having bought The Boy With the Arab Strap a few years earlier after I was impressed by their whole internet voting to win a Brit award-thing. The weather until then had been pretty crappy, but mid-set the clouds parted and the sun made an appearance, along with a spectacular rainbow. It was one of those moments that ordinarily you’d find quite lovely, but at Glastonbury you find yourself grinning from ear to ear about, attributing the change in climate and improved spectacle purely to whoever was on the stage at the time. I’m reliably informed the mood was much the same over at The Pyramid, where Supergrass were playing instead of The Libertines. Any rumours that Pete Doherty had refused to play until someone located his missing bag of speed are completely unfounded.

Next: Morrissey at the Pyramid. Now I love The Smiths, and, despite buying pretty much everything he’s ever released since the split, I have to say I’ve always found his solo stuff somewhat lacking. Sure, there are highlights, but they are few and far between, generally restricted to a few great singles and the occasional album track rather than the utterly flawless output created by him and Johnny Marr (I am legally obliged to add “and by Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce too”; anyone who has ever read Morrissey’s biography cannot have failed to notice that the legal case which led to Joyce getting a large slice of royalties still sticks in Morrissey’s craw, so much space does it take up in the book). Live, Morrissey and his pub-rock backing band will often try and recapture some of those past glories; but just listen to their version of “The Headmaster Ritual” at the start of this five song snippet (also featuring “The First of the Gang to Die”, “The World is Full of Crushing Bores”, “Everyday is Like Sunday” and “Irish Blood, English Heart”): plod…..plod……plod…….. Be grateful I haven’t posted a link to them doing “This Charming Man”, one of the most splendid records ever committed to vinyl, but which they somehow manage to make sound like “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” by Jet. The problem is that the band is lacking a certain spark, and the certain spark is someone who can play guitar like Johnny Marr, or preferably, the actual Johnny Marr.

Bringing things to a conclusion on The Pyramid were Muse, a band renowned for their astonishing stage shows. We, on the other hand, decided we would rather end the weekend over at The Other Stage where Orbital were performing what at the time was supposed to be their final ever appearance anywhere ever. The Hartnoll brothers have since got back together and even played Glastonbury again in 2010; however, believing this would be our last chance to ever see them, and being well aware of their entry into the annals of Glasto history following previous performances at the festival, the majority of us decided that’s where we wanted to be.

I say “the majority”, for there was one of our gang who most decidedly did not want to see Orbital, she wanted to see Muse, and took every possible opportunity to remind us that she wanted to see Muse, and that Muse were her favourite band and she really wanted to see them and they were supposed to be amazing and they were her favourite band and she really wanted to see them.

Now, I’m usually quite a laid back kind of chap. It takes a lot to get me riled. And even more to make me snap at someone, preferring to restrict airing my discontent to catty comments whispered to whoever happened to be standing nearest to me, like the true gentleman I am.

But by the time Orbital started, I snapped. I could make a case for mitigation in my defence: I was tired. It was raining. I was soaked. But the fact is, I’d just had enough of her whining, and, on hearing her announcing for the umpteenth time that she loved Muse, I found myself whirling round to vent: “Right. I’ve had enough of you now! We are not going to watch Muse. We are going to watch Orbital. If you don’t want to watch Orbital then Muse are playing over there, so either fuck off to watch them, or shut up and stay here!.”

I’m a real charmer when I lose my rag, that’s for sure.

Despite the whine and the rain, Orbital were amazing, treating us to Belfast (played surprisingly early in their set, possibly in an effort to get me to chill the fuck out), Satan (nuff said), Halcyon (one of my all time faves) and, inevitably, Chime

And so ended Glastonbury 2004. Well, not quite. The next day proved to be one of the most hellish in respect of actually trying to get out of the site, with traffic gridlocked for hour after hour after hour. Those of us heading back to Wales were luckiest, our minibus finally hitting the main roads some 4 hours after we had set off. Our London buddies were less fortunate, some of them still sitting in their car in the car park as night fell on the Monday.

But this delayed ending did provide one final moment of unutterable pleasure. We in the minibus had the radio tuned to Worthy FM, the radio station which broadcasts from somewhere deep within the bowels of the Eavis farm buildings throughout the festival. Our collective ears perked up as we heard a dedication coming out the speakers:

“And here’s a request from Gary and Meg, asking us to play “Molly’s Chambers” by…oh, it says the Kings of Caerleon here, that can’t be right…never mind…anyway, thanks from Gary and Meg to all of the Welsh gang for a wonderful weekend, and don’t forget: Bonnie Tyler has got your rissole. Er…ok. I’m not sure I understand that. Anyway, here’s the Kings of Leon and Molly’s Chambers

Glastonbury, So Much to Answer For… (Part 1)

glastonbury

The plan for this week’s post was to travel back to 1983 and talk about some of the records I bought back then. But I was, and still am, truth be told, struggling to think of anything much of interest to say about any of them. So as I was lazing around my blog-cave today, seeking inspiration by watching “Pride” (which is rapidly becoming my favourite film ever; if you’ve not seen it yet, I urge you to do so: it’s the one of the best films ever about the relationship between gays, lesbians and striking miners. Well, I say one of the best: it’s definitely in the Top 10 of that saturated genre, anyway), when I received an email from See Tickets, telling me that my tickets for this year’s Glastonbury had been posted out to me today.

Yes, indeed. Glastonbury here I come. This will be my 6th Glastonbury, the first being back in 2003. I guess you could say I was a bit of a latecomer to the whole festival scene, and some will probably take this as evidence of Glastonbury being tailored towards the more middle-aged, middle class clientele these days than it used to be.That might well be the case; since I didn’t go to my first Glastonbury until 2003, I have no frame of reference as to what it was like in the good old days, bar the usual old stories about how much better it was before the fences went up, and of course Julian Temple’s rather wonderful 2006 rockumentary, pithily entitled “Glastonbury”. (I don’t know how he does it, I really don’t)

Glasto 2003 wasn’t the first festival I’d been to. No siree bob. The first festival I went to was Reading in 1989, at the end of my first year at college. (I appreciate calling it a college makes me sound like a plaid-shirted, gum-chewing, Chevy-driving, yee-hawing Yankee, but having dossed around far too much at school, I didn’t get good enough grades to go to a University, and I ended up going to a Polytechnic. A Polytechnic was a place where people not bright enough to go to University, but who weren’t ready to go get a proper job yet, ended up, like an Immigrant Holding Cell for the moderately clever but lazy. It became a University literally moments after I graduated. I’d no sooner handed back my mortar board and gown after my graduation ceremony than they started painting over the sign and giving the whole campus a makeover. I swear they were waiting for me to leave.)

Reading 1989 was an experience I was not keen to replicate, hence the 14 year gap before I attended another festival. This was the first year after it stopped being “Reading Rocks” (I believe a bottle of piss throwing incident involving the crowd, Meatloaf and Bonnie Tyler was the final nail in the coffin of that particular incarnation of Reading. Tyler has subsequently apologised). My reluctance to go to another festival had nothing to do with the line up at this one: the headiners were Friday: New Order (tick!); Saturday: The Pogues (tick!); Sunday: The Mission (ah well, can’t have everything, I suppose).

Utter virgins at this kind of thing, me and my mate Ian had turned up with a borrowed tent on the Friday morning, pitched and rocked up to the Main Stage (I say Main Stage, my recollection is that it was the only stage, although I’m open to correction there), just in time to a) miss Gaye Bikers on Acid (result!) and b) catch Spacemen 3. I was already a massive fan of their “Revolution”, which regular readers may remember I posted a while ago in those wildly optimistic pre-election days. Next up were My Bloody Valentine: this would have been around the time they were starting to record the masterpiece that is their “Loveless” album, and so the set comprised, as far as I recall, mostly of early versions of what would go on to become that fine album. I was totally blown away by them. And of course they played this, which I still think is one of the greatest, noisiest records ever made that I somehow managed not to buy.

(Actually, I know how I managed not to buy it: I had just started DJ’ing the Indie Night at the Student’s Union, so I could listen to it as much as I liked there, often getting paid to play it. At least one person I know would say that no amount of money would be enough to make her listen to it.)

But anyway, I digress. This isn’t about Reading or me DJ’ing – I can talk about both another time. And I will. You’ve been warned.

No, this is about me popping my Glasto cherry,

Now, I don’t intend to review each act I saw that year, or on any of the years I’ve gone to since; gig reviews are not really what I do here, and besides, there are people who do gig reviews a whole lot better than I could (which reminds me, if you get chance, check out Lorraine’s blog over at “Still Got Manners“. She’s very good, and has a taste for going to the right gigs; her recent review of the Super Furries recent gig in Glasgow is so on the money you’ll see why I didn’t even attempt to write a review after I saw at them at Brixton Academy a few weeks back. No point – she’s already done it far better than I could have managed)

So, Glasto 2003. 10 of us had managed to get tickets – these were the days before it sold out in 26 minutes, and we’d all spent hours redialling and clicking refresh. Seven of us hired a minibus and drove up from Cardiff on the Thursday, the other three came from further west in Wales (Neath) and we not only all managed to meet up, but also pitched our tents together. This would not happen these days; if you’re not there first thing Wednesday morning when the gates open, you’re going to struggle to find space to pitch one tent, let alone a group of tents. Somewhat optimistically, we pitched them in the round, and woke up on the Friday morning to find someone had pitched theirs right in the middle of our group. Morning!

You’ve probably noticed a reluctance in the past for me to name people I’m writing about (I haven’t even told you my brother’s name, and he’s been mentioned loads), and that’s because I wanted to afford them some level of anonymity, just in case I ever write about anything on here they would rather I didn’t announce to the world. But usually I’m just talking about one person, and they know I’m writing about them; now, with 10 of us, I think it’s time to call a register.

There was me (Hello! Nice to meet you. Thanks for stopping by), my flat mate Llyr, his sister Hel, two of our mates O’Keefe and Ballard (mates from work, both blokes, hence referred to by their surnames, as is the tradition), Mike and Vicky (married, from Neath), Johnno (not a bloke, hence everyone else apart from me calling her Claire), Mark and Val (couple, also from Cardiff).  I wish I saw all of these people more often than I do these days. What a merry band we must have looked as we all wandered around the site on the Thursday afternoon, drinking in the atmosphere, before visiting the late night fun on offer that night, and then we finally traipsed off to the Pyramid Stage ready for the first act, on stage around mid-day on the Friday.

We decided we’d head towards the back of the field (stopping off at the bar on the way up, of course) and positioned ourselves right at the top of the slope. There’s a first aid tent there we decided was a convenient reference point in case any of us got lost. I’ve used this as a rendezvous every year that I’ve been since.

First act on were The Darkness. This was before they went massive – or as massive as they got – and imploded (before reforming). We’d never heard of them, but were all pretty impressed with them.

About mid-way through their set, it started raining. Of course it did. Disorganised Glasto virgins as we were, none of us had considered bringing waterproof clothing out with us, so we all purchased what was essentially a transparent bin bag with a hood and two arm holes cut into it from an enterprising local who wandered past. Hilariously, Mark’s only had one arm cut in it, and I will never forget the utterly pissed off look on his face as he attempted to smoke a cigarette using the tethered arm, as rain dripped off his brow.

Next up was the newly reformed Inspiral Carpets, who we all loved, being from “our era” as they were, followed by Echo & the Bunnymen, who the continued rain seemed to suit (and who I also loved). It was a running joke for years later that wherever we went, Mr McCulloch and co would be playing somewhere; it was some years later before a year happened where we didn’t see Echo & the Bunnymen play.

Still the rain continued. It was that fine rain, the sort that soaks you right through. Some of the gang wandered off to go and watch other things – namely Junior Senior, and Har Mar Superstar, the latter of which has resolutely failed to tickle my fancy. But I remained, along with a few of the others to watch the Inspirals and the Bunnymen. Later acts were De La Soul and Jimmy Cliff, and it was during one of these acts that the sun finally decided to reappear. It’s such a simple pleasure, but there’s very little better in this life than the sun coming out at Glastonbury; you can feel the mood of the whole place lift.

You can tell this was my first Glastonbury, because I pretty much spent the rest of the weekend in the same spot, watching all the acts come and go on the Pyramid Stage. This was fine by me, for although The Other Stage culminated on the Friday with Super Furry Animals, with Primal Scream headlining, R.E.M. were playing the Pyramid, and there was no way I was going to miss them. This would be the third time I’d seen them, and I still say that the greatest gig I ever went to was not this one, but R.E.M. at the Newport Centre in 1989 promoting the Green album. More of that another time.

(NB – when you arrive at Glastonbury, you’re given a little booklet showing the band times for the whole weekend; having just checked mine from 2003 (of course, I’ve kept it) I find that my recollection is a little skew-whiff: apparently Super Furries headlined the Other Stage on the Saturday night, and Jimmy Cliff played the Pyramid on the Saturday too. This is not my recollection, although I’m certainly not going to argue. But this is about what I remember, so take it that the running orders from hereon in may not be accurate. The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the organisers of Glastonbury, you could say. The reason my memory might be a little off beam will become clear…),

R.E.M. would at this time, 2003, have been promoting, or at the very least working on, their “Around The Sun”, generally accepted as being the worst album they ever made. This is not a consensus I would disagree with; bar one, maybe two songs, it’s an absolute stinker. Thankfully, most of the songs on there were still in their early stages, so we were subjected to very few of them. Instead, we basically got a Greatest Hits set, which is, I think, what you want of an established band at a festival. Their gig was also memorable for Johnno complaining afterwards that it would’ve been nice to hear Stipe sing, rather than having my dulcet tones bellowing along to every song in her close vicinity. Here’s them doing Electrolite; ask me nicely and I’ll sing it in your ear throughout.

So ended Friday. On Saturday, a few of us settle ourselves at roughly the same spot, and it was here that an extra member of our group was introduced to me. One of our little gang (who shall remain nameless, for fairly obvious reasons) had brought it upon themselves to bring some cakes with them. Brownies, to be precise. As you can imagine, there was chocolate in them. And one other vital ingredient, which you can work out for yourself.

The sun was absolutely blistering that day; yet we munched on the brownies like they were going out of fashion (which they had, around 30 years earlier) and then found ourselves totally incapable of speaking, let alone moving, for the rest of the day. I remember sitting next to O’Keefe and neither of us uttering a word for about 2 hours, just looking at each other every now and then and either giggling or just staring. And this was nothing to do with not being able to be heard over the sound levels.

All sorts of cretinous acts passed before us, who I would not normally have gone within a mile radius of. However it’s quite amazing how you find yourself able to endure the likes of Jools Holland and his Boogie Woogie Band (that’s probably what they were called, anyway), Turin Brakes and (I think) David Gray when you are so utterly mashed on space cakes that your legs don’t work.

O’Keefe, from somewhere, suddenly managed to muster the energy to get up and move. He later told me he thought he was going to get sunstroke and decided he had to go and try and find shade, which he did, in one of the Dance Tents, where he promptly had a kip to the sound of some banging techno.

(On returning home, I read about a woman, probably a bit older than I am now, who had been spotted at the festival, clearly off her face, naked, propped up against a bandstand in one of the peripheral fields, legs akimbo, demonstrating the old rustic art of Bean-Flicking to anyone who cared, or could hold their falafel down long enough, to watch. There but for the grace of God, and all that….)

One of the highlights (I think) O’Keefe missed was The Polyphonic Spree, a band I was aware of and had heard a couple of tracks by, and who seemed to be going for the record for Most People on a Stage Wearing White Smocks. They were great, perfect sunny afternoon whilst trashed fodder.

Saturday night was rounded off with The Flaming Lips (wonderful) followed by headliners Radiohead, who were just incredible. I, despite my brilliant plan of making sure every one was by the First Aid tent, managed to get lost on the way back from a trip to the loo, and found myself wandering almost to the front during Karma Police There’s something almost reassuringly unsettling about meandering around, lost in the dark, utterly mashed, in a crowd of some 100,000 or so people who are singing in unison that they’ve lost themselves. Yeh, you and me both.

On Sunday, I vowed that I wasn’t going to spend the whole day at the Pyramid Stage. And thus it was the case: plus everyone else swore off the remaining brownies and I was given the unenviable task of “looking after them” for the day. I decided that “Looking after them” could be interpreted as “eat as many as you like”, and I considered this a challenge I was up too. Cue me comatose outside the Acoustic Tent half listening to Roddy Frame as I drifted in and out of consciousness. The rest of the day is a bit of a blur, understandably. I know that I somehow managed to hook up with most of the gang over at The Other Stage in time to see Grandaddy (never heard of them before, loved them so much I bought some of their records when I got home), Sigur Ros (ditto) and Doves (already perfectly aware of them, thank you very much).

So that was Glastonbury 2003. If you’ve ploughed through all of that, you deserve some tunes:

The Darkness – Get Your Hands Off My Woman

Inspiral Carpets – She Comes in The Fall

Echo & The Bunnymen – Nothing Lasts For Ever

De La Soul – Eye Know

Jimmy Cliff – Wonderful World, Beautiful People

R.E.M.- Little America

The Polyphonic Spree – Section 09 (Light & Day – Reach For The Sun)

The Flaming Lips – Race for the Prize (remix)

Radiohead – There There. (The Boney King of Nowhere)

Roddy Frame – This Boy Wonders (live at Ronnie Scott’s)

Grandaddy – On Standby

Doves – Pounding

As always, if you like ’em, go buy ’em. You don’t need me to tell you where from.

More soon.