Glastonbury, So Much To Answer For… (Part 4c)


Sunday Morning. I hate Sunday Morning at Glastonbury.

Hate is maybe too strong a word, but there’s an air of sadness and resignation about the whole place. Everyone knows it’s the last day of fun¬†we have before we must¬†go back to our boring, normal lives. Back to being mothers, partners and daughters, as the FA so succinctly, and sexistly, put it after the Women’s World Cup.

As I stir from my slumber, I am confronted by Chad, avec sausage.

I should clarify that.

He is cooking breakfast, as he has done so masterfully every day we’ve been here. Chad also swerved the Kanye fiasco the night before, but he went to watch (deep breath): The Mothership Returns: George Clinton,¬†Parliament, Funkadelic & The Family Stone.

Chad and I¬†had discussed the Saturday night headliners we would watch in advance, and I had proffered the argument that at every Glastonbury, there is an act that I probably wouldn’t pay to go and watch (see Paul McCartney 2004) but who I would watch just because they were there and I would never see them again, and that this year, 2015, The Mothership Returns: George Clinton,¬†Parliament, Funkadelic & The Family Stone, were that act.

But they were up against Suede, and I couldn’t ignore those boyhood (okay, early manhood) urges any longer.

Chad’s argument was that they’re exactly the sort of¬†act he would pay to go and see and that was reason enough not to miss them. I have to admit he has a point. Especially when I watch this.

But I am perfectly happy with my choice of Saturday night headliner. Could’ve been worse. Could’ve stood through Kan Nay.

So, for Chad, here’s a download of the above, fill yer boots.

But as we all know, Sunday at Glastonbury is the day we all get to gather at the Pyramid, indulge in a bit of a sing-a-long, and watch a classic artiste strut their stuff. This year, it’s Lionel Richie, and Llyr and I head off, determined to meet up with his flatmate James for this. Up until now, he has¬†eluded us.

James is not camping this year; he has managed to wangle the use of a camper van for¬†free (Sorry, I can’t type the words Camper Van without linking to a bit of Beethoven) (NB – It’s not actually Beethoven) and our paths have not crossed, although a valiant effort was made on the Thursday night and again on Friday afternoon.

On Sunday, at the Pyramid Stage, we finally manage conscious coupling. We find James just as Patti Smith is welcoming The Dalai Lama on stage. In a year where the headliner on Saturday has been interrupted by some comedian running on¬†(Jarvis at the Brits it definitely wasn’t), I was slightly disappointed that the Dalai’s stage invasion didn’t involve¬†him busting a few moves and¬†breaking into an accapella¬†rendition of “Blurred Lines”, but there you go. Can’t have everything.

Speaking of everything,¬†Patti Smith is everything you could hope a punk poet priestess¬†would be, and I find myself slightly ashamed that¬†I haven’t caught her complete set, but I am there in time to see her do People Have The Power¬†as well as Gloria and even My Generation, which is jolly nice of her as it means those of us who don’t want to watch The Who later have an excuse not to bother,

And then, there is Lionel.

I’d had my reservations about going to see Lionel before I got to Glastonbury. I’d never really been that much of a fan, other than of Machine Gun from his Commodores days. But Sunday afternoon at the Pyramid is one of those “must-see” events, and I know I’ve had a blast at every one I’ve been to previously (Brian Wilson, Shirley Bassey, er….that’s it) so I figured, nothing ventured…

By the time Lionel comes on, the Pyramid is strictly Standing Room Only. We appear to be positioned at a point where people cut through the crowd, so I spend much of my time before he comes on organising random strangers around me into a barricade so folks cannot disturb my watching pleasure by tramping through on their way in/out.

Lionel spends the next hour churning out his schmaltzy-hits, starting with Running With The Night, through Easy (regardless of what it says in the Guardian, he did do it), Penny Lover, Three Times a Lady, Say You Say Me before we get to the holy trinity: Dancing on the Ceiling, Hello and finally All Night Long (All Night).

Anyway, here’s his whole set if you want to watch or just listen.

Although it’s not really captured in the footage, James and I notice Lionel has a tendency to wipe his fevered brow with a towel before throwing it done on his piano. It seems to be his signature move. That and looking shocked and asking “What the Hell is going on???”.¬†He gladly indulges us when we all chant for him to glug his cranberry juice down in one, and we all¬†love him for trying, even if it had been much better had he been swigging from a plastic flagon of scrumpy. In short, he seems to have as much of a blast as we all do.

Dancing on The Ceiling also has the added extra of what I believe is called a “flash-mob” throwing some shapes to it. It’s the security at the front of stage¬†but what I wish I could find some footage of, but can’t, is the dance that is happening close to us. A bloke dressed in, as far as I can see, a pair of wellies and a some gold hot pants, stands on his head throughout Dancing on the Ceiling, his little legs gyrating for all their worth, in what we used to call “The Dying Fly” when I was a kid, whilst all his mates held on to him, keeping him upright but¬†more importantly, clutching¬†his shorts, ensuring¬†there¬†is no cock and balls wardrobe malfunction type incident. He gets a massive cheer as he finally flops to the floor; Lionel looks on shocked and asks “What the Hell is going on???”. Too complicated to explain, Lionel. Throw a towel down, why don’t you?

When it gets to “Hello”, and the wonderful sing-a-long reaction it invokes, I can’t help wondering if Lionel is in on the joke: we all know it’s an awful song with an awful video, but we love it in a kinda post-ironic, self mocking kind of way. I think he thinks we all think it’s a great record. He is wrong. Or I am. Probably me.

By rights, “All Night Long (All Night)” should be the end of his set, but Lionel isn’t finished yet. He decides to remind us (in exactly the same way as I did about Live Aid in Part 4a) that it’s 30 years since “We Are The World” came out, the yankee version of our Band Aid, which effortlessly outclassed us by having everyone from Lionel, through Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross, through Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen and er….Huey Lewis involved. They saw our Jody Watley and raised us one Dionne Warwick. Cash your chips in, they win.

But¬†Lionel doing We Are The World on¬†his own doesn’t have quite the same “Name That Singer” novelty value as the original does and I get the impression that the crowd would have been quite happy if Lionel had quit whilst he was ahead i.e. after “All Night Long (All Night)” – (mustn’t forget the bracketed bit)

I’ve probably mentioned this before on these pages, so forgive my self-indulgence, but Bob Dylan really does sound like Cartman on his lines in that, doesn’t he?

My plan for the rest of the day is to flit between the Pyramid, the John Peel and the Other Stage, but as anyone who has ever been to Glastonbury will tell you, flitting between stages isn’t really something you can do successfully, not if by successfully you mean watching all of the band you want to catch at the next venue anyway.

And so Llyr and I head off to the John Peel, to catch Charli XCX. Although he doesn’t say anything. I can tell Llyr is delighted I’ve suggested going to see an out-and-out pop act. It was when I lived with him that Llyr reminded me that it’s absolutely fine to like pop songs and that you don’t have to try to be achingly-cool all of the time (which I definitely wasn’t anyway), advice which I gladly took on board, proceeding to buy¬†some truly awful pop records almost immediately. But more of this when I return to more¬†normal business ’round these parts: suffice to say I wanted to catch Charli XCX, but just getting out of the Pyramid Stage proved to be almost mission impossible.

During Lionel, we had been positioned bottom left as you look at the stage. The easiest way to get to the John Peel was along the path that led from top right. With everybody else trying to move on (I’m sure the next act, Alt-J, were very popular in their own sweet way, but it seemed there were far more people trying to leave than arrive) it took us an age to plough through; by the time we got to the top right of the field, Alt-J were just coming on, so it must have taken us¬†a good 45 minutes or so.

Luckily, once out of the Pyramid (which I realise as I type it makes it sound like a task on The Crystal Maze) progress was swift; we miss the start of Charli XCX’s set but get there just as she’s doing the one everyone with a right mind and a pulse adores, I Love It, and she ends up by doing Boom Clap¬†and all is right with the world with pop this perfect nuzzling into my lug-holes.

Next, we’re off to the Other Stage to catch Belle & Sebastian. A band I love, but a band who hasn’t really done much I love for a few years now. They are a little disappointing, their set a little too more-recent-stuff heavy than I’d like. Here’s them doing If You Find Yourself Caught in Love. Meh. Llyr gets bored before the end and heads off to do whatever he plans to do next. He misses the highlight of the set,¬†The Boy With The Arab Strap, where they emulate Pharrell the night before by encouraging¬†folks up from the stage to dance around and generally look awkward. Mostly these are young ladies in indie-nerd indenti-fit acrylic dresses, but a bunch of kids are also ushered on. Bearing¬†this in mind, it is probably wise of B&S to avoid awkward questions being asked by snipping the usual¬†closing line of the song (“You’re constantly updating your hit parade of your ten biggest wanks,¬†She’s a waitress and she’s got style,¬†Sunday bathtime could take a while”) and replace it with…well, an ironically apologetic improvised speech about Scottish independence.

I vacate the Other Stage before catching any of next-up¬†Jamie T, of whom I have no interest, but when I get home and watch the Glastonbury footage I’ve recorded, I kind of regret this. They show him doing Zombie, a song I’d not heard before, and which I have subsequently utterly fallen for. At the very least, it reclaims that song title from that¬†offence to my ears that¬†The Cranberries released back in the early 1990s (apologies if you also¬†had to sit through an advert for Now 91 to watch that – it really wasn’t worth it, was it?).

My aim now is to get back to the Pyramid in time to catch as much of Paul Weller’s set as possible. I have this pipe dream that he might decide to treat us to a raft of his¬†prestigious body of work, although I have been warned against getting my hopes up by a chap I work with who has seen him numerous times, loved it every time, but never heard him really dip his toe too far into the bath of his back catalogue.

Ah. Back catalogue. Back log. Back. Log.

There’s something else about Glastonbury I haven’t mentioned. Something the uninitiated always mention, along with the weather and the mud.

The toilets.

I don’t wish to get all¬†lavatorial on your ass, but we all know the stories about how horrendous the aptly named long-drops at Glastonbury are. By and large they’re not entirely true; okay they’re not pleasant, but, so long as you’re lucky enough to get one where the last occupier had a decent aim (not always a given), and as long as you don’t do anything as foolish as¬†look down, then they’re not that bad.

But knowing this, and even having no sense of smell (as I don’t), I still fear that first, and hopefully only, visit. In previous years, I have crammed my system with Immodium to delay that fateful moment when I have to slope off, toilet roll and newspaper under arm, but not this year. I have decided to embrace the long-drops. Not literally, you understand.

And yet, as I hurry back to the Pyramid, I realise that I have been…erm…clenching…since I arrived. On Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. And it is now Sunday. For five days. And I’ve consumed a lot of sausage in that time.¬†If I don’t so something soon, an accident is almost inevitable.

Luckily – and fear not, I’ll spare you the gory details – I happen upon quite the most delightfully clean and hardly used toilets I’ve ever encountered in all my days of attending Pilton Farm. I’ll probably regret divulging¬†this, for it’ll be full next time I go, but a tip: mid-way between the John Peel and the Pyramid is the Hospitality Area. The toilets by them are kept prestigiously clean, and there is nothing stopping the likes of you or I parking our arses in there. If you take nothing else away from my lengthy meanderings here, then take this: I have found the Holy Grail at Glastonbury and it is a relatively pleasant place to have a shit.

As I sit there, I the sound of¬†Weller wafts towards me.¬†He is doing “You Do Something To Me“. I can’t help but wonder if this is an ironic comment on my present position.

I head off, and as I approach the Pyramid, he does “Start”. Oh fuck, I think, cursing my colon, he really is doing a Greatest Hits set. A quick search of the interweb when I get home tells me he hadn’t, he just did the understandable thing of packing all the crowd pleasers towards the end of his set.

I arrive at the Pyramid just as he does “Peacock Suit”. The Pyramid is absolutely rammed. I don’t really want to go to far in, as I’m going to be heading off again as soon as he finishes, but still…a good view would be nice. I end up sitting in the top right corner behind the track that runs along the top of the Pyramid. I am joined by a couple who sit their chairs next to me and we have a bit of a chat as he does a song we don’t know (“Whirlpool’s End”, apparently. A new definition of the term “crowd pleaser” may be required).

Then, although this MP3 doesn’t really reflect it, ¬†the place goes mental as the bass line¬†of “Town Called Malice” kicks in; there is dancing, there is singing,¬†and a hundred lonely housewives clutch milk bottles to their hearts as at least 25,000 people emulate them, myself included.

Weller exits, as do I, and the couple I’ve been chatting to look quizzically at me as I get up and pack up after catching precisely 2.5 of Weller’s songs. I explain The Who are not for me tonight and they look a bit confused but wish me a happy night, and I reciprocate, because¬†I’m¬†not a wanker.

But it¬†is the witching hour, the time¬†every one must¬†execute their plans to get to wherever they want to be, ready¬†for the Glastonbury 2015 finale. The main stage is to be occupied by The Who; I saw them when they played in 2007, and I was really disappointed. I’ll cover this when I talk about that year another time, but basically, they had a new album to promote that year, so they don’t even do “Substitute“. This, to my mind, is sacrilege. (They don’t do it¬†it in 2015 either, for which there is, frankly, no excuse).

The next choice is The Chemical Brothers on the Other Stage. Now, as any right-minded festival goer does, I bloody love the Chems. But I’ve seen them before…loved them too…but there’s only one place I want to end my 2015 Glastonbury.

A few months ago, I had been at home waiting for some delivery or another, had 6music on, and heard Radcliffe and Maconie play a song by FFS, the band that is the amalgam of Franz Ferdinand and Sparks. It is called “Piss Off” and it is, excuse my language, fucking brilliant. (If you download that, then please also go and buy the album, here. I promise, you won’t be disappointed)

I arrived at the John Peel in time to catch the end of Death Cab for Cutie’s set. They are a band I’m kind of aware of, but don’t really know anything by. You know, one of those “know-the-name-but…”¬† bands. They’re okay. They do this¬†which is perfectly fine, but nothing special in my book.

The John Peel¬†tent is rammed for them, so¬†I decide I’ll do as I did the night before for Suede; park myself outside with a good view of the stage and a screen, and I’ll be happy enough.

However, Death Cab finish and the place just…empties.¬† A¬†few moments pass. I decide to venture inside. There can’t be more¬†than about 100 people in there, all dotted about.

A little while later, and still the tent is cavernously empty. I move a little closer to the stage. Not too close. They’ll all be here soon, surely, and I’m far too old to be getting sucked into a mosh-pit. I end up next to a couple who clearly have the same idea as me: it can’t stay this empty, can it?

It doesn’t. With moments to spare, the tent is chock-a-block, as FFS take to the stage and perform one of the most wonderful sets I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness. It’s mostly FFS, but peppered with Franz songs (“Do You Want To”, “Michael”, “Take Me Out”, of course) and with an even smattering of Sparks records (“When Do I Get To Sing ‘My Way'”, “Number 1 Song in Heaven”, “This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both of Us”), the latter of which leaves me¬† with the biggest smile I’ve had on my face for a long time, and I turn to the couple next to me, who are also laughing, smiling and singing, and advise them I’ve never been happier. They are in a similar mood. At least, that’s what they tell me. “We’re in a similar mood!” they say, and I can’t help but wonder if¬†they are sex people.

Ahem. Anyway, here’s FFS doing “Police Encounters“, and here’s their full set to either watch or listen to.

Regular readers may remember my mentioning previously the terror that was watching Ron Mael (of Sparks) on Top of the Pops in the 1970s and I’m surprisingly happy to report his schtick has not changed in all those years; he still stands, statue-still, just his hands bopping up and down on his keyboard, his Hitler moustache and impassive glare still in place, every now and then bearing his teeth. Until…suddenly there is a spotlight centre-stage, and there is Ron, all on his own, doing a running man-type dancing routine. The audience (of equally scarred children of the 70s) howls at how brilliant this is (though I appreciate it doesn’t seem it from that description).

FFS were my favourite act I saw all¬†weekend (I almost said my favourite thing, and then I remembered my new friends and Andy’s Vodka Alchemy…it’s too close to call, frankly. No it isn’t: it’s you guys!!) and so it would be remiss of me not to nudge you (again) in the direction of the¬†other deciding factor in my decision to go see¬†them: a review a fellow blogger wrote on here a little while back. This clinched it for me, so please keep an eye on her blog for other gigs you’d do well to go to. She’s a proper barometer of cool.

And that’s all folks. I won’t bore you with the tediousness of waking super-early on the Monday morning to miss the rush to get off-site and miss the traffic. Such memories spoil the idyll. Suffice to say we’ll all be attempting to get tickets again next year, so…see you back here then, eh?