Friday, July 14, 2017

Review: Glastonbury Festival 2017. Part 1,'The Sun Machine Is Coming Down'

After months and weeks and days of growing excitement the big day had finally arrived. It was time to head once again to Glastonbury, 38 years after my first Glastonbury Festival in 1979. I had been packing and unpacking and re-packing my rucksack for about two days. I had decided not to pack my wellies because the weather forecast was good but at the last moment I changed my mind and stuffed them in the rucksack. It was a beautiful Sunday morning as I locked my front door and headed to my friend and neighbour Curly’s house 3 doors away. Curly had kindly offered to give me a lift to Westbury railway station. Sitting on the platform waiting for the train from London Paddington who should come strolling along looking as lovely as ever but my friend Odele from Salisbury who I first met at Glasto in 2013. She didn’t seem a bit surprised to see me but I was amazed because I didn’t even know she was going on the train. Soon the busy train arrived and we piled on it. Odele immediately met someone else she knew called Luke. It was so crowded that we had to stand up. That didn’t matter though because it only took 18 minutes to get to Castle Cary. This normally sleepy little town suddenly becomes for a few days every year one of the busiest railway stations in Britain.
Although the festival gates didn’t open for another four days, dozens of people laden with tents and rucksacks got off the train and made their way to the shuttle buses that took us to the festival site near the village of Pilton. Me, Odele and Luke made our way to the recyclers cabin at Red Gate A only to find that our wristbands hadn’t arrived yet so we had to sit around and wait. Finally, after about half an hour a lady turned up with the wristbands. After the terrorist outrages recently we got searched on the way in but we didn’t mind that. Then we hauled on our rucksacks for the long walk across the top of the site to our home in Tom’s Field near the farmhouse.

It only took about half an hour but it was a killer in the hot sun and part of it was uphill. Odele seemed to be carrying even more than me but she has got true grit. Our camping area is called Tom’s Field because there was once a horse who lived in there called Tom. Anyway, we reported to the office and registered and got our gloves and veterans t-shirts. It only took about ten minutes to put up my tent. It was tiny, I bought it on E-Bay for £19.99 but it was a nice little house for the next 8 days. I camped about 30 yards away from the toilets in case I needed to go for a wee in the middle of the night which is always a concern. I got a passer-by to take my photo of me and my little house. Then I went to visit Odele who was setting up her tent in a corner and took her picture. Odele said she was staying back at base for the evening but I wanted to go for a walk, so I set off.

It was great walking around the vast site when it was nearly empty. In front of the Pyramid Stage the grass was really lush. In a few days it would be trampled on by 200,000 people. In the market area most of the traders were only just arriving and I didn’t think there would be anywhere open but I found a nice cafe and bought a falafel which was really tasty and a cup of tea. Then I had a lazy stroll up to the Field Of Avalon. I was a bit disappointed that one of my favourite places The Tiny Tea Tent wasn’t open yet. I carried on walking as far as Shangri-La & The Unfairground but none of it was open so I headed back to look for a drink.
The Bread & Roses Saloon or any of the other bars weren’t open but then I remembered the backstage bar at the Acoustic Stage. Thanks to my sister Margaret & her partner Wayne I had discovered this bar about 4 years ago because our friend Rob had provided the marquee for it. I had two pints of Black Rat cider in there and chilled out and talked to a few people. The barmaid was from Dilton Marsh which is a village near Westbury and she told me that it was Rob who got her a job there a few years ago. She gave me two wristbands so I could go in there any time I wanted. I gave one to Odele the next day. I ordered a large gin & tonic for the walk home.

I walked back home via the Pyramid Stage and they have these benches made out of painted breeze blocks and I just sat there taking in the view with Glastonbury Tor in the distance. It was great, and although it was gone 9.00 in the evening the sun was still beating down. The words of David Bowie came into my head, ‘The sun machine is coming down, and we’re gonna have a party’. Finally, I walked back to Tom’s Field and there wasn’t much going on so I went to bed. About 1.00 in the morning I was awoken by the sound of fireworks going off in the distance. I just turned over and went back to sleep. Little did I realise what drama lay ahead !


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Review: Glastonbury Festival 2017.Part 2, The Rakes Progress.

It was Monday morning at Glastonbury and I was wide awake. I looked at my alarm clock and it was 5.00 and daylight already. I was glad I had decided to bring my wellies because it was quick to pull them on for a quick dash through the lush dewy grass to the loo. Then I thought this was a ridiculous time to get up and tried to go back to sleep. At home I would be able to but at Glasto once I am awake that is it. They had given me a meal ticket  when I arrived so at 6.00 I made my way to the workers restaurant for breakfast. This is the most important meal of the day because you burn up a lot of calories with all that walking. The food is all vegetarian but I don’t mind that. I had the full Monty of eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, hash brownies and toast.

By 8.00 it was already warm in the sunshine. We didn’t have to be at work till 10.00 so I passed the time sitting around, drinking tea, smoking and talking to people.  At 10.00 we made our way to the office to meet our leader. There were 25 people on the Trader Information team and we were divided up into five groups of five who were all given a team leader. I made sure I was in the same team as Odele. In all the years I have been on the recycling crew this turned out to be the best team and one the best leaders I have ever had. Our leader Tony is a great guy and as well as being on the crew he also did theatre at Glasto with his wife. More about that later. Along with Odele the other team members were John and John who both came from Weston-Super-Mare which was a bit of a coincidence and Scott who came from Stoke On Trent. By the time we had completed our four shifts we had gelled into a hardened fighting unit and were all the best of friends. As well as our crew t-shirts we were also given high-viz jackets to wear and a green wristband for access to the rear of the markets area. I now had four wristbands, I am still wearing them now. We also had a rake to pull things out of skips that shouldn’t be in there. One of the John’s took responsibility for not losing the rake.

Then we set off down the hill following our leader. We began work in the market just to the left of the Pyramid Stage. At the rear of each market area is a little shed where the rubbish bags are stored. Then we went from stall to stall handing out the rubbish bags to the stall holders. We had to explain to them carefully what to put in each bag. The white bags were for food waste and anything organic such as paper plates, paper cups, wooden knives and forks and cups. It is really important that nothing else goes in this bag because it is all made into compost. The green bags were for tin cans and plastic bottles and the black bags were for anything that wasn’t recyclable. Glastonbury is very proud of its record on recycling. We also had to make sure that they flattened all their cardboard waste and put it in the cages provided. The other thing that we had to do was make sure they were putting the correct rubbish bags in the right skips so that it didn’t get mixed up.

It was really hot by the time we stopped for lunch. Tony gave us some more meal tickets and we went back to base. It was quite hard work walking back up the hill in the hot sun so I resolved not to bother going back to Tom’s Field for lunch any other day. In the afternoon we carried on doing the same job. Odele was really good at giving the traders all the patter so I was quite content to just follow along tearing the bags off the rolls and handing them out. The only thing that went wrong was that we managed to lose Tony just before we finished at 4.30. It didn’t matter though because Odele phoned him up and we arranged to meet at 10.00 the next morning.

That evening I bumped into Robin who is a friend from previous years and I showed him where Odele was camped and we arranged to meet up for the workers quiz the next evening. We were determined to win this as we had done two years ago. I spent most of that evening back at the Acoustic Bar and met some Irish guys from Roscommon. One of them was really interested in my blog page and looked it up on his phone so I hope he reads this.
There was a fire pit back at base and a huge supply of firewood but nobody had bothered lighting a fire yet because it was still warm, even at midnight. I crawled into my sleeping bag about 12.30. From a neighbours tent I could hear two blokes who were sharing a tent talking. One said, “Goodnight mate”, and the other one said, “Night mate, I hope I don’t snore too much”, and the other one said, “Don’t worry about it mate”. Ten minutes later I could hear them both snoring their heads off. I wished I had ear plugs I can tell you. Anyway, another exciting day at Glastonbury was only a few hours away but little did I realise that the day would begin with a disaster !


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

My Glastonbury 2017 Review: Part 3, The Road To Bella's Bridge

When I saw the weather forecast before I went to Glastonbury I decided to treat myself to a new pair of sunglasses and I lashed out £33 on a nice pair of shades in Boots of Warminster. I thought I would look really cool wearing them. On the Tuesday morning when I was tidying my tent I found they had broken on one side. At first I thought it was my fault and I must have rolled on them in the night but a couple of days later they broke again in exactly the same place on the other side. That was annoying. Next time I am in Boots The Chemists I will tell them what I think of their sunglasses. When I met Odele at breakfast she gave me a couple of plasters to mend them with. That was kind of her but instead of looking cool I spent Glastonbury looking like Jack Duckworth out of Coronation Street. ( Ed, since I wrote that, Boots replaced my broken sunglasses even though I didn't keep the sales receipt. Big shout out for Boots !)

Anyway, our little band of brothers and one sister met up at 9.45 and set off down the lane towards the Pyramid Stage. Everyone found it very amusing that John had slept with the rake all night in his tent which caused a few comments. I volunteered to take responsibility for not losing the rake today. I balanced it on my foot and said to Odele, “Look Odele, Rakey Heeling”, (Reiki Healing, geddit ?). We all knew the ropes by now so Tony more or less let us get on with it. We stopped for lunch at 1.00. I put the rake in one of the sheds and we arranged to meet up by The Samaritans at 2.00. For lunch I bought another falafel because I like them and a cup of tea and sat in the shade of the tree by the Cider Bus. The afternoon passed quickly and we finished work at 4.30. On the way home I bought some postcards and Odele and I went for a drink in the Acoustic Bar. I had a large gin & tonic with ice but Odele only had water. She didn’t drink the entire festival which is quite admirable. We amused ourselves by taking photos in the giant deckchair which they had there. 

Back at base I went for a shower because the work had been so hot and dusty and rinsed out my t-shirt  which was filthy with dust and draped it on my tent to dry in the sun. The food they serve the workers at Glasto is nice. I eat better at Glastonbury than at home. Tonight I had West African bean stew with peanut butter & couscous. Then I wrote my post cards while waiting for the quiz. Our team were called ‘The Glastafarians’ and there were three survivors from our team who were victorious in 2015. That was me, Odele & Robin. This year we were joined by the rake guardian John and Odele’s friend Roger but he only arrived near the end. In the picture round we had to identify some of the team leaders and I was disappointed that I didn’t recognise Jeremy my leader from two years ago. I appointed myself captain and I over-ruled John on one answer which was fatal and on some of the name the year questions we were unlucky to be only a year out on at least three questions. In the end we came second and were beaten by two points which was disappointing. I had brought my camera along for a picture of the winning team which I thought would be us. In the end I just took a photo of Odele who went back to her tent early hoping to get up for the Solstice. I can’t remember what I did for the rest of the evening but no doubt it involved alcohol.

Next morning I was awake at 4.30. It was the Summer Solstice and  hundreds of people had gone up to the Stone Circle in Kings Meadow to greet the dawn but I wasn’t one of them. By 8.00 it was already very hot. When I put on my t-shirt it was still damp but I didn’t mind that. The gates opened today and the festival goers were pouring in by the thousands every hour and racing to get a good spot to pitch their tents. It is incredible how quickly the fields fill up with a mass of tents. The gulls always start arriving on Wednesday, hundreds of them. They must come from fifty miles away to scavenge at Glastonbury. How do they know it’s on?. Word must travel fast in the seagull community. Work continued as the day before. Our only problem was when we stopped for a break finding somewhere shady to sit down. I let myself down badly at lunch time because I like to be veggie at Glastonbury but passing a pie stall I thought, “Those pies look nice”, and I ate a chicken & ham pie before I realised. While I was waiting for the others after lunch at The Samaritans tent one of them started talking to me and asking me questions about myself but when I asked him where he came from he got all evasive and said, “We are trained not to talk about ourselves”. “Fair enough mate”, I thought to myself, “But I didn’t want to talk to you in the first place, you started it”. Most strange.
We got through the afternoon in the heat and dust and finished at 4.30. Walking home up Muddy Lane I saw something I had never seen before at Glasto. Muddy Lane is lined with trees and hedgerows and there were dozens if not hundreds of people sitting in chairs all the way up Muddy Lane to shelter from the sun. After this year it ought to be renamed Shady Lane. After dinner which was really nice lasagna & salad. I went for a walk around the site and although the music didn’t start officially till Friday there were a few things going on. On the Bandstand in the market area there was a band on called Three Daft Monkeys who I think I have seen before at Folk festivals so I sat down and listened to them for an hour. Then I went back to Tom’s Field and by the end of the evening Tom’s Bar had run out of cans of Thatcher’s Gold cider which I found a bit worrying because it is only £3.00 in there and £4.60 in the other bars. Luckily they replenished their stock the next day.

The next morning at breakfast I met Peter from Bristol who had been a good mate at previous Glasto’s and a member of the glorious Glastafarians of 2015. Also I got talking to a lady from Peterborough who had worked at the same places as me back in the day which was a bit of a coincidence. Thursday was our last shift so there was a lightness in our step as we followed our leader down the hill and tore into the work with gusto. We were all in a great mood and at break time we sat around telling jokes. I told my joke about the Balloon family and the Red Indian who knew everything. There were teams going around from Water Aid who cleaned the toilets. Total respect for them. I named them ‘The Poo Fighters’. Finally our work was done and our little team went our separate ways. Tony had been such a great team leader we all chipped in and bought him an ice-cream and Odele made a little speech when she presented him with it. Also, we promised Tony that we would go to Bella’s Bridge at 11.00 to see him and his wife perform as Wayne & Wanda.

That evening I had delicious Moroccan Tagine for dinner and we chatted to Kevin who is a nice bloke and comes from Newcastle originally but now lives in London. He had decided to cycle to Glastonbury from London but gave up at Reading  and came with his bicycle on the train. Later it was the recyclers party with Glastonbury supremo Michael Eavis the guest of honour. I sat outside with Odele and her Irish friend Bronagh who comes from Drogheda and we had a good chat about politics mainly while we were waiting for Michael to arrive. We were hoping for a photo opportunity as we did two years ago but he pulled a flanker on us by arriving at the other side of the marquee. I did manage to get one snap of him but it was packed in there so it’s not very good.

There was a band on at the party but they got on my nerves after a while so I went for a long walk which ended in the Theatre Bar. One thing I love about Glastonbury is that everyone is so friendly and total strangers talk to each other which you don’t get so much in everyday life. I got talking to this nice couple called Megan & Joe from Manchester and when I was leaving they asked where I was going and I said I had to be at Bella’s Bridge because a friend of mine was performing there at 11.00. This aroused their curiosity so they came along as well. The bridge is over a stream at the bottom of the Theatre field and is in memory of Arabella Churchill who played such a huge part in Glastonbury’s success. We met Odele & John of the rake. At 11.00 we heard music and then Tony & his wife floated out from under the bridge. He was dressed at Kenny Rogers and she was Dolly Parton and they were singing Islands In The Stream. It was brilliant and hilarious.

After that, me, Odele & John walked back via the market area. On the bandstand there was a really good band playing called World Government so we listened to that for a while and had a bit of a dance. I think it was about 2.00 when I finally crawled into my sleeping bag. We had been here five days now and the festival was only about to begin. What a fantastic day the next day would turn out to be.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

My Glastonbury 2017 Review. Part 4, Long Walk To The Beat Hotel.

It was Friday morning at Glastonbury, the sun was shining and finally on my sixth day at Worthy Farm the music was about to begin. You can get these little guides in a plastic cover that you can hang around your neck, they call them lanyards. At breakfast I studied my lanyard and put circles around the acts I was hoping to see. It often doesn’t work out that way though at Glasto because there are so many stages you can set off to see one band and on the way there something happens and you end up watching something else. The music was due to start at 11.00 so at about 10.00 I set off on a marathon walk that was to last all day.
When I reached the Pyramid Stage The Hacienda Classical Orchestra were rehearsing and doing a soundcheck for their performance. They sounded good but I didn’t hang around because I was heading for the second biggest stage which is known as ‘The Other Stage’ to see The Pretenders. What a great band to start a festival with. I got there early so I managed to get a good spot right near the front and waited patiently. Precisely at 11.00 they came on stage and I must say Chrissie Hynde looked great in her Motorhead T Shirt and tight blue jeans. She is one month older than me but is still a sexy rock chick. I like her attitude as well. She is as outspoken as ever and had a few choice words about Rupert Murdoch which I bet the BBC didn’t broadcast. She still has her original Pretenders drummer Martin Chambers, I don’t know how long the new guys have been in the band but they rocked. Chrissie dedicated a song to Michael & Emily Eavis and also sang a song for Glastonbury legend Joe Strummer and everyone who goes to Strummerville which must have pleased my mate Dave who is a huge Clash fan. You can’t beat a good bit of guitar based rock to kick-start a festival. Chrissie’s voice is as good as ever and although I wasn’t familiar with some of the songs, they played lots of classic Pretenders songs such as Stop Your Sobbing, I’ll Stand By You and of course Brass In Pocket.

After that brilliant performance I went to the Pyramid Stage where Paul Carrack had already started his act. I had seen Paul in a previous year but that was an acoustic show. Today he had a full band and sounded magnificent. Although I have known about him for years, today it finally hit me how good he is, especially his voice. When I arrived he was performing a song called Watching Over Me. Wandering through the crowd who should I spot sitting on the grass and listening intently but Odele. She said that Paul reminded her a bit of Van Morrison and I can see what she means with the soulful emotion of the songs and also the band, especially the brilliant saxophone player. I think Van would have no problems playing with this band. I didn’t write down a setlist but songs I remember included The Living Years and Over My Shoulder which were big hits for Mike And The Mechanics, How Long by Ace, Love Will Keep Us Alive, by The Eagles and Tempted by Squeeze. It was great that Paul Carrack was finally given a slot on the Pyramid Stage to show how great he is. When the likes of Elton John & Phil Collins have sold millions of albums it seems an injustice that Paul Carrack who has a better voice and written songs that are just as good as them is only now getting the wide attention he deserves.

 Odele told me that she had just had an amazing experience in the Greenpeace place nearby and I should go and try it, so I did. They sit you down on a revolving stool and put this 3D visor over your eyes and headphones over your ears. Then suddenly you are actually up the trees in the Brazilian rain forest or in the middle of the ocean and if you turn your head or move the stool around you get the whole experience in all directions. I found it quite scary because if you look down there is nothing under your feet and you think you are about 300ft up in the air. It is an incredible experience though. When I took the visor off I felt quite unsteady on my feet for a couple of minutes. 
After that, Odele was going up to the Healing Fields so I said cheerio and headed for the Acoustic Stage where I had arranged to meet my friend Dave. When I got there I had a look to see who was on and it was a singer called Naya. She is only 17 and inspired by Bowie & PJ Harvey. I wasn’t very impressed though and went to the bar where I found Dave and was also pleased to see Brent & Steve who also come from Westbury. I had my first pint of the day and then me and Dave headed back to the Pyramid because we are both fans of First Aid Kit. We had a few minutes to kill so I got Dave to have a go on the Greenpeace 3D thing and he was mightily impressed with it as well.

First Aid Kit are two sisters from Sweden called Klara & Johanna Soderberg. They also have an excellent backing band. I first became aware of them through Glastonbury a few years ago and bought their album The Lions Roar. At Glastonbury this year they sounded a lot rockier than I remember and some of the lyrics to the new songs sounded quite dark. They were still great though even though they have evolved a bit from the Country/Folk group that I thought they were. One of the most memorable songs for me this year was their version of Kenny Roger’s The Gambler. They saved my favourite song of theirs till right near the end which is Emmylou, a tribute to Emmylou Harris. I couldn’t believe how quickly their set went by.

As the First Aid Kit fans left it enabled me and Dave to get right to the front for the next act which was Kris Kristofferson. I was looking forward to this because he is a legend who has written some of my favourite songs such as Sunday Morning Coming Down and Me And Bobby Magee. I was to be disappointed though. It started badly when one of his assistants or roadies came on and started tuning or playing his guitar and talking to the audience and milking the attention. It got on my nerves. Finally Kris shuffled on stage, he seemed to be reading the songs of an auto-cue and it all seemed very shambolic. It seemed very sad in front of such a vast crowd. After two songs I said to Dave, “I’m off mate, I can’t stand this”. As I walked away I could hear him introducing a female singer and it sounded slightly better. I wasn’t the only person leaving either, believe me. Apparently later on Johnny Depp joined him on stage but I was long gone by then. I hope I haven’t offended any fans of Kris. When I saw Dave later he said he had enjoyed it and his opinion is as valid as mine. I just think with his laid back style he might have been more at home on a smaller more intimate stage.

Another reason I left was because I knew that Sharon Shannon was on the Acoustic Stage and I managed to catch the end of her act. I love Sharon, she is to the accordion what Jimi Hendrix was to the guitar and is the perfect festival music for audience participation. She was kicking up a storm and everyone was dancing, especially to her great song Galway Girl. After Sharon finished I used my handy wristband to gain entry to the Acoustic bar because they have a little stage in there and I hoped Sharon might come in and have a bit of a session. It was quiet though so I just had one drink and went back to the stage where Martha Wainwright was performing. I have always been curious about her because she is the daughter of Kate McGarrigle who I love and Loudan Wainwright. She seems a very nice person and spoke fondly of her memories of previous visits to Glastonbury. Her songs seemed very pleasant but sadly I’m not familiar with her music because I haven’t ever bought an album by her so after a while she started sounding a bit samey to me. That’s not her fault though, it was mine.
I moved on and was feeling a bit tired and hungry so I stopped at Pilton Pasta and had some nice carbonara. I have been here previous years because they have tasty food and are nice people. The money they make goes to supporting a children’s hospice so that is why I like eating there. When I reached the Bandstand I was knackered so I sat down and watched a girl band called Elle And The Pocket Belles. They were really entertaining and were singing Glenn Miller/ Andrews Sisters type songs from WW2 and dressed accordingly (See photo). The sun was still beating down so next I went in the Bread And Roses Saloon and had a sit down for a while and a pint of cider.

Once I revived a bit I carried on walking. By the time I got to the Other Stage it was now eight hours since I saw The Pretenders at the start of the day. George Ezra  was on next. I really like George and if I was asked to name a great young British singer/songwriter I would choose George over Ed Sheeran any day. I first discovered his music when I saw him supporting Robert Plant three years ago. He writes great songs and I can understand what he is singing about. He sang a mixture of old and new songs and the ones I particularly remember were Cassie O, Barcelona, Pretty Shining People and Budapest. It was great to see George back because he has been a bit quiet lately.

I carried on my epic walk through Silver Hayes in the general direction of the Beat Hotel because I wanted to try their cocktails, they had names like Rhubarb Kerouac and Beatnik. On the way there I stumbled across the Hare Krishna’s tent so I wandered in. They have been at Glastonbury throughout all the years I have been going. I did something I have never done in all those 38 years and I had some free food. It was quite bland spaghetti type stuff but I ate it and it wasn’t really free because I chucked some change in the bucket as a donation. I told one of them how a friend of mine joined the Krishna’s about 45 years ago but he didn’t seem very interested. On a sofa in there were two old hippies fast asleep which reminded me of the olden days at Glastonbury. I moved on and I couldn’t get near the bar in the Beat Hotel. It was jammed with youngsters who thought they were hip. I found that annoying because I’m the original Beatnik !

I got a large G &T at another bar and chatted to some girl but it’s all a bit of a blur now. Finally, the sun was setting over Avalon so I thought I better get back nearer to base because I must confess I was quite drunk by now. I headed back towards the Pyramid where XX had just finished and was surprised to find thousands of people leaving. This surprised me because I thought thousands of people would be arriving to see Radiohead. “ Why is everyone going?”, I asked a passer by. “They are all youngsters”, he answered, “They’ve never heard of Radiohead”. I was amazed because I’m so old that I think of Radiohead as a modern band. Then I remembered that it is 20 years ago in the rainy year of 1997 that their performance at Glasto made them world famous. Some of these kids weren’t even born then. Anyway, I watched their show from the top of the field but it left me cold. I have one album OK Computer but I wouldn’t say I was a big fan. Before the end I got lonely and decided to go back to base. There was quite a few people sat around the fire. I nipped to my tent and fetched a bottle of brandy that I had been saving and got a coffee and had a nice brandy coffee. I ended up chatting to this nice lady from Russia called Vera who lives in Portugal now. Also a guy from Oxfordshire called Michael and a Scottish lady called Katie. Some of the best fun at Glastonbury is around the fire.

Finally, about 2.00 in the morning I thought I better get to bed because I was completely bollixed after a long brilliant day. I fell asleep into blissful slumbers completely unaware of the historic drama that would happen the following day.

TO BE CONTINUED ………………………….

Monday, July 10, 2017

My Glastonbury 2017 Review. Part 5, 'Recharge Your Activism !'

Saturday is the peak day at Glastonbury. Everyone who is coming had arrived and nobody had gone home yet. There must have been about 180,000 people on site now. I was up and about early and after breakfast I sat in the shade of the trees opposite the restaurant and studied my lanyard. I was joined by a baby robin who was really tame. That’s another thing I love about this place, it is a wildlife sanctuary. In the distance I could hear the music starting on the Pyramid Stage. It was the Bootleg Beatles & The Pepperland Orchestra. They were celebrating the fact that it is 50 years since Sergeant Pepper was released. I set off down Muddy Lane on an another day long adventure. I reckon I must have walked well over 100 miles at this years Glastonbury. In the market area I spotted a face I thought I recognised but I wasn’t sure. “Excuse me, is your name Tony?”, I asked. It was, I hadn’t seen Tony for over 20 years. I think the last time I saw him was when he had a clothes stall on Milsom Street in Bath. He recognised me immediately which was great. We had a bit of a chat and he told me that he was playing in a duo at the Avalon Café the following day at 2.30 so I put a note in my lanyard to try and remember that.

I said cheerio and made my way to the Pyramid Stage where Vieux Farka Toure and his band were playing. He is a musician from Mali, a singer and guitarist. He also brought on a guest female singer who was good. I like getting to the Pyramid Stage early in the day because it is easy to get right to the front on the barrier and there is always a chance of getting on the telly. That happened last year when I was watching Baaba Maal. I really enjoyed this show with its infectious dance rhythms. He even got the audience singing along to one song although nobody spoke Malian. I think the song was called yamore.
After that it was Jools Holland & His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra. I listened to a few songs and enjoyed Midnight Special and he brought on a couple of guest singers who were very good. I got a bit bored after a while because I’ve seen him before and I can see Jools Holland on the telly any old time.   I wandered on and had a sit down at a bar in Williams Green and just watched the world go by and then watched a bit of Thundercat on the West Holts Stage but basically I was just passing time before the big event of the afternoon that everyone was waiting for which had nothing to do with music. I carried on and by the Leftfield Stage I could hear Billy Bragg singing so I sat down for a listen.

Then behind me I could hear cheering and turned around and this convoy of three land rovers was approaching and in the third one I could see the unmistakeable face of Jeremy Corbyn smiling through the window and waving out. I jumped to my feet and followed the vehicles as did dozens of other people. They disappeared through a gate into the rear of one of the market areas. Because I still had my Markets Access wristband on I waved it at the man on the gate and was allowed through. I whipped out my camera and approached Jeremy’s car determined to get a photo with him which would have been a real feather in my cap. Just as he got out of his car I was within 20 feet when this stern looking security woman ordered me away. “I have a pass”, I explained. “I don’t care”, she replied, “Out !”. I took one picture in defiance of her then another security man escorted me out.  Jeremy had gone into the rear of the Solstice Bar so I ran quickly around to the front of the bar where I guessed he would be. The Solstice Bar is one of the many bars that are run by The Workers Beer Company and all profits go to good causes. That was why Jeremy was here. To promote that and also the special pint pots that had been made especially for the festival from recycled steel. Jeremy came out and started pouring pints for the many, not the few. I was about 12 feet away along the bar and tried taking pictures but it was difficult with all the heads in the way.
Then Jeremy headed off to the Pyramid Stage to make his historic appearance. I didn’t go because I had got wind of the fact that he would be making an unscheduled speech on the Leftfield Stage. I went there and grabbed my place right at the very front and waited patiently. While we were waiting we were entertained by Billy Bragg, Ralph McTell, Steve Knightley from the band Show Of Hands and Louise from a band called She Drew The Gun who I had never heard of before. They were all very good especially Billy singing Sexuality and Ralph singing Streets Of London. Steve Knightley even recited Let The Slave by William Blake which is on a Van Morrison album.

Finally, Jeremy arrived to huge cheers and singing of 'Oh, Jeremy Corbyn'. I was a bit concerned that because there were no large screens in there that the crowd would press forward to get a better look and I’d be crushed against the barrier. It was fine though. Jeremy spoke passionately for at least half an hour. He recalled all the previous figures from the left who had spoken here such as Tony Benn and E.P. Thompson. It was a great inspiring speech. After it was all over I treated myself to a Leftfield T-Shirt with the slogan ‘Recharge Your Activism’.

I didn’t know what to do with myself after that. I did intend to see Toots And The Maytels but apparently they didn’t turn up. Katy Perry was on the Pyramid and Liam Gallagher was on the Other Stage but I couldn’t be bothered with either. I sat down outside the Theatre Bar and watched all the weird things going on. There was a huge turtle going through the crowd accompanied by lots of dancers dressed as sea creatures. Two guys dressed as mermaids being carried by dwarves, (How do you think that up ?) Also a giant ostrich wandering around and a man cycling a piano along accompanied by a woman playing the cello. I moved on and listened to Chris Difford & Glenn Tilbrook from Squeeze playing an acoustic set. I listened from outside and got chatting to two guys wearing red military jackets and had my photo taken with them.

At about 7.30 I made my way to the Pyramid because I had promised a Facebook friend that I would see The National. Also, Megan from Thursday night said they were her favourite band. I had never heard their music before. The first thing to say is that the singer got on my nerves a bit. At one point he gave out the phone number of a senator in Ohio and said anyone from Ohio should phone him about the health care bill. “For f..ks sake”, I thought to myself, “You are in England now, we have enough of our own s..t to deal with at the moment”. Also, he was obviously drunk and kept drinking glasses of wine and throwing the bottles around. Having said that, I found something compelling and moving  about the music even though this was the first time I had heard it. One song that I particularly remember was called The Day I Die. I think it was called that anyway.

After that I was at a loose end again. I did consider going to see Alison Moyet at the Leftfield but I was too tired so I just sat in the bar of Bread & Roses and listened to some girl singer who wasn’t very good. I should have made the effort to go and see The Jacksons but I didn’t. I went to see the Foo Fighters.
I have really tried to get into them because my niece Lee is a big fan of theirs and Odele thinks they are great as well. I watched all of their streamed gig at the Cheese & Grain in Frome earlier in the year. Perhaps it is because I haven’t got any of their albums but I just can’t get it. Dave Grohl said, “I think we are gonna play all night long”. I thought to myself, “No you’re not mate, you will play for the two hours which is advertised”. Nobody plays all night long. I was getting a bit cold now so after 30 minutes I started heading home. I watched a bit more from the top of the hill and then gave up.

It was great around the fire that night. I got talking to a bloke called Carpy who was from Cornwall and a big Van Morrison fan. We had a chat about favourite Van songs and I said I’d see him at the Eden Project a few days later. I didn’t though unfortunately. Odele arrived back from the Foo Fighters and Robin joined us. Me and Robin had a brandy coffee. The last thing I remember was me standing on the stones around the fire singing Status Quo songs and shouting, “Hello Wembley !”.
Finally, I thought I better get to bed before I fell in the fire. What a great day it had been and what an amazing day lay ahead.


Sunday, July 09, 2017

My Glastonbury Review 2017: Part 6, 'Where's Your Car Debbie?'

It was Sunday at Glastonbury, the last day of the festival and I emerged from my tent all bleary eyed and goopy after the events of the night before. I soon pulled myself together though and was determined to make the most of the day. Carpe Diem, Seize the day. That’s my motto ! I spotted Odele in the marquee at breakfast and sat with her. “What’s top of your list for today?”, asked Odele. “You are”, I replied, with a grin. She said she was going to see London Grammar on the John Peel Stage later so I said I’d look out for her if I was up that way. It had rained overnight. Not enough to make the ground muddy and it was quite welcome to keep down the dust. It was quite overcast and windy though so I put a jumper on and my jacket. I was to regret that later.

The Black Dyke Band were performing when I reached the Pyramid. They are one of the most famous brass bands in the world and were founded in Yorkshire in 1855. It has been a tradition at Glastonbury over the years to have a brass band open the proceedings on Sunday morning. I listened for a few minutes to them performing a medley of James Bond music. I enjoyed it actually but I moved on because I’ll see them again in a few weeks when they are appearing with Brian Wilson at Glastonbury Abbey.

The other reason I moved on was because Dave had told me that Slaves were really good. They were on the Other Stage at 11.00. I hadn’t heard of them before but I’m glad I made the effort because they were great. They are a British duo from Royal Tunbridge Wells and are Laurie Vincent on guitars and Isaac Holman on drums and vocals. In Wikipedia it says they are ‘British punk with harsh bluesy garage riffs’. What I liked about them is that they are also very funny. Isaac said that they wanted to form a proper band but nobody liked them so they ended up as a duo. He said that Laurie told him, “Until we get a proper drummer, you just bash these”, and gave him some drums. They seem to have an obsession with manta rays and David Attenborough. They have incredible energy, the song I found most memorable was Where’s Your Car Debbie?.

It started raining towards the end of their set so I took refuge in a nearby beer tent and had my first pint of the day. Once the rain eased off I moved on. Passing the Leftfield I noticed there was a debate going on called ‘Is Democracy Broken?’. The Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell was taking part along with Jonathon Bartley from The Green Party and a couple of others. I sat in and listened for a while. It was very interesting. I think the Labour Party & The Greens should unite in a progressive alliance before the next election. Listening intently in one corner I noticed Billy Bragg so I asked him for a photo. He was happy to oblige but Looking at it later I looked awful after not shaving for a week. I didn’t stay right to the end of the discussion because I wanted to see as much as possible.

The festival was nearly over and there were huge areas that I hadn’t visited so I headed up to The Greenfields & The Field Of Avalon. I walked all the way to Kings Meadow and up above the Stone Circle. You get a great view of the site from up here. There was a choir all dressed in red who were about to perform but I didn’t wait for that. Standing in the middle of the field were two blokes playing piano and a saxophone just for the fun of it. I went and had a look at the 80ft long stone dragon in the stream and carried on walking. In the Field Of Avalon I had a look at all the craft stalls, which were amazing. I watched one bloke who had a little chain saw and was carving up dead wood found on the farm into owls. They looked brilliant. Finally, I arrived at the Avalon Arms and had a large gin & tonic because the pints were going straight through me. On the Avalon Stage I caught the end of a female duo called Sound Of The Sirens who sounded really nice. I wish I had heard more of them. After that I had another drink and watched Chris Jagger’s Rocking Kronies. Chris actually lives in Glastonbury town so he didn’t have to come very far. I’m sure me and Kim met him years ago one afternoon out the back of the George & Pilgrim in Glastonbury. Anyway, I thought the half an hour I watched him for was great. His band served up a lively blend of Country, blues, rock, Cajun & zydeco. I particularly liked his female fiddle player. I only watched a short while because I remembered that my old friend Tony was playing in the nearby Avalon Café. He was in a duo called Hodmadoddery  and playing to a tiny but appreciative audience. They did one song that I particularly liked written by Peter Hamill but I haven’t got a clue what it’s called. After a while I took a photo and said cheerio because time was getting on.

On the West Holts Stage I caught the end of a set by a trio called Yorkston, Thorne & Khan. They are a sort of cross-over band of British & Indian music. I was really impressed with what I heard. Also, I was really pleased when they said that we should have a big shout out for the recycling crew for keeping the place tidy. As one of the army of 2,100 recyclers I took that as a personal compliment and my chest puffed out with pride. They finished with a Sufi song which I really enjoyed.

It was back to the Other Stage then because I wanted to see Rag n Bone Man. I have seen him on the telly and been really impressed with his soulful voice especially his song Human. Sadly there were about 80,000 people all with the same idea. This seems to be the year of Rag n Bone Man. It was so crowded that I couldn’t hardly move or get a good view of the stage. People were even watching from the old railway track at the back. It was getting really hot as well so after only one song I gave up and headed for the more bucolic surroundings of the Acoustic Stage. On the way there I stopped at Pilton Pasta for some food because I was starving by now. The lady in front of me had some food which looked delicious so I said, “I’ll have some of what she just had”. I can’t remember what it was called.

I knew I would find Dave right at the front for Justin Townes Earle and sure enough he was. Right on the barrier. I really enjoyed this set. He deserved a bigger audience. It was just him and a great pedal steel guitar player. The honky-tonk style ballads were the best I thought. My favourite song was called What’s She Crying For?. Justin said that the best songs used to be made in Nashville but these days Nashville is just 15lbs of s..t in a 5lb bag. When I spoke to Dave afterwards he said listening to Justin was like channeling Gram Parsons so I think he enjoyed it.

After that, Dave went off to meet Sarah who was watching Barry Gibb but I decided to go back to base to have a rest and I wanted to get rid of my jacket because I was too hot. I made the supreme effort and went and had a shower as well which was as refreshing as two hours sleep I reckon. I also had some dinner because I was still hungry and a can of Thatcher’s Gold. Then I set off again on one last epic walk.

As I walked down Muddy Lane on a beautiful Sunday evening I could hear Chic & Nile Rodgers so I watched for a bit through a gap in the trees and they sounded great although it’s not really my type of music. I was on a mission so I hurried on. Skirting the Other Stage I listened to The Courteeners for a while and this was another band I hadn’t heard of before but I was quite impressed with their guitar based music. I think they could be the next big thing. They might be already for all I know. I was heading for the John Peel Stage which is a stage I haven’t bothered much with in previous years. The Beat Hotel was as packed as the night before so no Jack Kerouac cocktail for me this year. The John Peel Stage was absolutely rammed. It is in a marquee but the vast crowd surrounded it for about 100 yards. As well as a normal bar there was a smaller cocktail bar so I queued up there and bought some drink that had rum in it among other stuff. It was nice though. I stood on top of a bench and surveyed the crowd hoping to spot Odele but to no avail. I should have got her phone number earlier but I didn’t think of that. I did meet a couple of my recycling mates but I can’t remember their names. Goldfrapp were on when I arrived but I couldn’t see them and the music meant nothing to me. After that it was London Grammar. This is another band I knew nothing about but people had told me they were great. I see they have an album in the charts called Truth Is A Beautiful Thing. I decided to get nearer to listen and was surprised how easy it is despite the vast crowd to get quite near the front by worming my way along the side. I listened for about 30 minutes and there is no doubt that the singer Hannah Reid has a fabulous voice. The trouble is with me though if I’m not au fait with the music it always starts to sound samey to me. Also, I was getting claustrophobic so I wormed my way out again.

There are some woods near there so I went in there for a bit of peace. It is really nice and they have built walkways so you can get right up in the tops of the trees. Also, I found a bar in there which was relatively quiet so I had yet another drink. Then I thought I better head in the direction of home. That was to prove more difficult than I thought. As I approached the Pyramid Stage area more & more people were going in the same direction. Thousands of them. “Where is everyone going?”, I asked someone. “To see the ginger one”, he replied. I hadn’t realised it was this late.
I fought my way out of the crush and sat down on a nearby bench. There was a man sat down next to me. “I can’t understand what all the fuss is about “, I said, “He is hardly Bob Dylan is he?”. “I can’t stand Bob Dylan”, he replied. “He can’t even sing”. This got me angry because I was tired and irritable now. “Bob Dylan is the greatest poet since Keats & Shelley, that’s why they gave him the Nobel Prize for Literature”, I exclaimed and stomped off in the opposite direction, leaving him with a flea in his ear.

I decided to take a long walk round via the Other Stage to avoid the crowds. It was empty compared to earlier in the day. That is when I noticed the little rucksack on the ground. I immediately thought BOMB !. Then I thought that nobody is going to leave a bomb in an empty field so I gingerly opened it up. There wasn’t much of any value in it except two pairs of really nice sunglasses. For a few seconds I considered keeping the sunglasses and throwing the rucksack away but my upbringing told me not to do that so I handed it in at INFO in the market area. After one last drink on Williams Green I braved the journey home via the Ed Sheeran fans. When I reached the top of the field I listened to a bit and I just don’t get it. I have tried really hard to get into Ed Sheeran’s music. Partly because he claims to be a Van Morrison fan and mentions Van twice on his new album and even had breakfast with Van. Also because of his Irish background. I still can’t get it though. I’m not ageist against music by young people. I said I like George Ezra and I loved Slaves at the start of the day. What is so great about Ed Sheeran?. I don’t think he is even a good guitar player. Even the lyrics seem very trite, all about liking the shape of someone. Youth to me is supposed to be about rebellion. There is no mention of all the shite that is going down in the world. He seems a very establishment figure. He goes to parties with Princesses Eugenie & Beatrice & James Blunt. I think he is the Brexit of music. One day soon people will realise it has all been a big mistake.

Anyway, When I got back to camp it was much more fun. There was a big gang around the fire tonight. I went and got the remains of my bottle of brandy and joined in. When you are Billy No-Mates like me and have spent most of the day on your own, you really appreciate the camaraderie around the fire. Nobody is going to tell you to bugger off are they?. I met a nice couple from Nottingham who I worked with two years ago. There was a sing-song going on. One guy had a guitar and was singing Beatle songs and Irish songs in an English accent which I didn’t like very much. Then this young guy asked if he could have a go. He was brilliant and sang Space Oddity by David Bowie, Psycho Killer by Talking Heads and best of all, a song I love which was Creep by Radiohead. It is really funny to hear two dozen people sat round a campfire singing 'I'm a creep, I'm a wierdo'. I enjoyed it more than the real Radiohead who were on Friday night. I asked him to sing some Lou Reed and he was going to but the guitar owner asked for it back, so that was the end of that. God knows how the night ended up. I can’t remember for the life of me.

Next morning I woke up in my tent which was a relief. After breakfast I realised the party was over and it was time to go. I took down my tent and packed my rucksack. The motto is ‘Love The Farm, Leave No Trace’. It was sad when the only thing to say that I had been there at all was a sad little square of faded grass. I made my way to the marquee and sat outside with Odele & Roger. Finally, I said cheerio to a few people such as Stella, Paula & her husband and some people whose names I can’t remember. I wondered if I would see them again. It was especially sad to say cheerio to Odele who had been such a good mate. It was hard to drag myself away but I knew I had to go. I hauled on my rucksack, picked up my tent and set off.

The walk to the bus station was a lot easier than when we arrived because lots of it was downhill. I waited patiently in the queue for about an hour for a bus to Castle Cary and passed the time with a bunch of people telling jokes. Finally, the creaky old bus arrived and we piled on. Sitting next to me was a punky lady with purple hair. I asked her what was her favourite act of the festival and she said Napalm Death. They were her favourite band. That’s what I love about Glastonbury, the diversity. Just the other side of Pilton I took one last lingering look out over the Vale Of Avalon at the fields that have been my temporary home for about four months of the last 38 years and took one last photo through the bus window. I wondered if I would ever return. I headed home, back to the forlorn rags of everyday life.