Glastonbury 2015 blog: Saturday, Sunday and Summary

Intro – Revolution and Religion at Glastonbury

I’ve now returned from the cultural fantasy land and endurance test that is Glastonbury. Back in the real world, and two days after the majority of festival goers have left worthy farm, I’m now tasked with summarising the last days of experience at this most iconic of music festivals.

dalai lama glastonbury

The first few days I had managed to cover from the scene but due to the packed timetables of Saturday and Sunday I decided to take a break writing and completely immerse myself in the proceedings. Over the course of those days I witnessed some of the most unique performances I’d ever seen. I saw both Kanye West and Dalai Lama with a 12 hour timespan and as you can imagine, both were hugely memorable and yet had widely juxtaposed messages. The ego-fuelled spectacle of Kanye, which I and many other fans absolutely loved, was contrasted by the humility and compassion of Dalai Lama. The Buddhist leader, celebrating his 80th birthday, spoke to a crowd of twenty thousand or so about the need for better education, the importance of compassion and even of the inability of music to provide true contentment. The Dalai Lama instead told us he felt music was no different a sensorial experience to touch or taste, no different than the fleeting pleasure we get from eating a cake or having sex. He also encouraged people to believe that the next generation could create change. I thought delivering this kind of grounded message to a field full of pleasure seeking festival goers was sobering and appropriate.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama appeared again during Patti Smith’s awe inspiring set on Sunday, possibly the best set of the weekend, and bestowed upon Smith a white scarf that must have had some significance. We all sang Happy Birthday to His Holiness and a cake was brought out to him which he cut. He looked as if he was disappointed to have not eaten a piece as the cake was wheeled away from him. The rest of Smith’s set was a full blown punk riot, with Patti ripping through an extended version of Horses and Gloria, tripping over on stage in her fury, and recovering by telling the crowd “I am a fucking animal!” Smith’s dialogue between songs was in line with sentiment shared by Pussy Riot and the Dalai Lama – one of freedom, from government and corporations and that change IS possible. In spite of what others tell us. This rebellious sentiment didn’t feel contrived, it felt inspiring. Maybe we were only at a hedonistic music festival, but I can only dream that some of this revolutionary talk will help open the perspectives of some on the audience and watching at home.

From Pussy Riot holding a militant hostage on top of a war vehicle in front of The Park stage, to Pharrell leading a packed Pyramid audience in a chant championing Freedom, there was a definite liberal and confrontational edge to the festival. Greenpeace and other charities were everywhere. Up in Green Fields, where the original hippy inhabitants of the festival set up camp – you could talk to charities, meet alternative folk, get vegan cooking lessons, do power-ballad yoga and get behind many causes aligned with the festivals green mentality. Everywhere there were signs about not peeing on the land to avoid pollution, taking your tents and rubbish with you and leaving the farm without a trace. It’s sometimes hard to believe that a regular Somerset farmer would let all this happen on this backyard, but it’s probably justified by all the good work the festival has achieved, both raising money and awareness for causes. It’s great that this extends to the artists’ performances, that traditionally rebellious acts like Pussy Riot or Patti Smith champion their own causes, but also mainstream, seemingly corporate acts like Pharrell. Of course, some of this is done for the TV, and when Pharrell looked humbled by the mass singalong of his song Freedom, that was probably just as much due to the intoxication of the audience, and the British lad culture that encourages sing-along chanting, as it was to the crowds reception to the idea of freedom for our brothers of all colours and creeds.

Saturday and Kanye West

At odds with the liberal politics elsewhere, my Saturday was largely taken up with anticipation for Kanye’s set that night. I first took in some of the opportunities Glastonbury holds for the slightly-skilled like myself and headed to Stonebridge Bar in the The Park for Hip Hop Karaoke. Having learnt the whole of Through The Wire by Kanye West, I felt this was the opportunity to give it a go, and to appear in front of an audience at Glastobury. I managed to tick this one off the bucket list, and although I may have gone a bit too hard on the swearing and shouting, the experience seemed a success. Video proof to come.

It was then off to the main stage to camp up for Kanye’s headlining set. Before Kanye, in my attempts to get front row and centre, I enjoyed a set from Burt Bacharach, who turns out has written a lot more classic songs than I realised. Rain Drops Keep Fallin’ On My Head seemed perfect for the weekends weather (although it had cleared up at that stage). Paloma Faith followed and was sexy, had a lot of sass and some well-rehearsed dance moves. Then it was time for West. You may ask what all the fuss is about and why someone would be excited to see the man live. I’ve been a fan of his music for a few years now, notably since the release of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. He’s now a Marmite kind of brand, you either love him or hate him, and event though his ego does overshadow the music, he’s got a heck of a lot of good songs and I felt it was going to be a memorable show.

kanye west glastonbury

In the eyes of this fan, he delivered. In the eyes of many other, he probably didn’t. I had expected the pancake lighting rig, having seen it hanging at the top of the pyramid stage earlier. I had also expected him not to bring a typical Glastonbury people-pleasing set, as this is not in his tool-set. I was correct, but he did bring his hits, and from where I was right at the front – surrounded by fellow Kanye super-fans – we had no complaints. Things did get a little unfocused in the middle, mistakes were made during Hold My Liquor by Kanye and guest Justin Vernon, and the guest appearances from Macca and Rihanna for Four Five Seconds never emerged. Kanye attempted that one by himself, which no-doubt was slightly disappointing. But for this fan – no complaints. He dropped rarities like I Wonder, attempted a hilarious karaoke version of Bohemian Rhapsody, and emerged from a crane for Touch The Sky – mimicking his triumphant Coachella set of 2011. It may have been self-indulgent, it probably wasn’t in the spirit of Glastonbury, and it wasn’t the highlight of the weekend. But it was good enough for this fan.

Sunday

Beginning with the relatively secret Dalai Lama’s appearance in the early hours up by the Stone Circle, Sunday had a decidedly more sober vibe compared to Saturday. In terms of substances as well as sounds. The Dalai Lama’s appearance and speech was most probably the highlight of the weekend for me, and well worth getting out of the tent early for. Sunday lunch-time I walked past the dance area on the way back to my tent and caught Minneapolis rap crew and record label Doomtree, who through down a huge hip hop party, leaving the stage altogether and performing in a circle in between their fans. I attempted to learn some lyrics to not look like the most clueless guy in the audience.

Patti Smith then owned the afternoon, and following that, exhaustion set in. My feet now dying from wearing gumboots and trudging miles across Worthy Farm for days on end, I was forced to leave Alt J’s mainstage set (which I wasn’t a huge fan of regardless) to head back to the campsite to return my so much more comfortable Chuck Taylor’s to my feet. On the way, I got distracted by Belle and Sebastian playing a much better set than the one they delivered at Auckland’s Laneway earlier in the year. I came right in time for I’m A Cuckoo and Another Sunny Day, but left early to complete the shoe mission. Comfortable footwear now acquired, I headed back to the Other Stage to watch a joyous performance of The Boy With The Arab Strap, complete with a pile of stage invading kids.

Sunday was the biggest test of endurance of the weekend. I had managed to sleep throughout the festival, but at this stage fatigue really had set in. I wandered up to The Park and watched a few songs of The Fall, Mark E. Smith delivering the punk grooves to a devoted audience. Unwilling to drink any more cider or consume the last of my Jagermeister, I carried a bottle around and wandered some more, finding a place to nap at the back of FKA Twigs. She sounded good, but I felt it was time to take my place for the headliners. I needed no more entertainment by the time The Who got on stage, so my excitement levels were not high. To my suprise, it was a very entertaining set, peaking with a Tommy medley towards the end. Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend appear more youthful than expected and still had some anger left in them, destroying the glass wall that encased drummer Zakk Starsky, due to it causing sound problems. Albums tracks such as Bargain were well received, as were the massive hits of course. Patti Smith’s version of My Generation from earlier possibly topped The Who’s latter version however.

My enthusiasm and energy now returned, I sprinted to The Chemical Brothers, to make it in time for their last song, Block Rocking Beats with some of Do It Again thrown in. The light show seemed incredible and I immediately felt at home. I couldn’t help but think that was headlining set I should have been at. Never-the-less, this is the challenge you are faced with at a festival the scale of Glastonbury, and if your problems are whether or not to see The Who or The Chemical Brothers – they don’t really seem like problems at all.

Summary

Glastonbury is a festival of opposites, partly a great fundraiser for charities and causes and partly a hedonistic, waste producing machine, where millions of pounds are exchanged throughout and millions of pints and bacon buns are consumed. A place for families to watch their favourite bands and have a break in the British country side and a place for teens and lads to drop pills and party in the rave areas until the early hours and beyond. My experience encompassed several of these opposites, with my time divided between relaxing, taking in the ideas and messages being transmitted and at the same time partying hard in my wellies until trench foot set in and I was forced to head back to camp.

I will probably go again, but to be honest once was probably enough. It’s quite an adventure and there is almost too much culture to consume. Within all the hedonism, excess and massive crowds, there’s a good message, one in opposition to the corporate conformity of everyday life to be consumed as well.

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Glastonbury 2015 live blog: Thursday and Friday

glastonbury 2015 c

Thursday

12:51
Day two has started with a trek to the only hot showers, over in the greenpeace area, which saw a forty minute wait to get freshened up. The queues will only get bigger for these enviromentally concious showers where one must use the provided organic soap, so baby wipes and rinses by the nearest tap might be the options for hygene for the rest of the festival. The rest of the day has so far been quiet, with a big breakfast consumed from our favourite Summer Cafe and a bit of reading of the Glastonbury Free Press, the festival newspaper printed at a printing press on site.

I missed a few details from yesterdays adventuring in the previous blog. Earlier, I had in fact ran in to Michael Eavis, who joined the Mayor of Pilton to give a speech officially opening the festivities. It was a little unscheduled moment I stumbled upon. Later, our trek up the hill made it only half the way to the stonecircle, as crowds have already gotten rediculous, with baths between stages being excrutiatingly congested. This congestion will apparently be sorted out once the music starts tomorrow, as the crowds will disperse to in front of the stages instead of in the paths between. Up on the hill, we were treated to a display of pyrotechnics and lights, as the Arcadia spider stage kicked into action in a demonstration of its spectacle. Worth googling if you haven’t seen it. Club and bar stages were already kicking off – so even though just Wednesday and the lineup not starting officially until friday, things are already massive. This festival would be great without the bands.

glastonbury other stage 2015

Friday

07:49
The blogging ceased to happen for the rest of yesterday but I thought I’d get one in today before the real hectic rush to catch bands begins. Thursday night saw a mission to catch Drenge play a secret set in Williams Green. Rumour had gone around throughout the day that they were appearing and a substantial crowd had already filled up the tent an hour before the band was due to appear. This would be some of the first major sets of the weekend, with Seafret and Wolf Alice appearing as well. Seafret played a pretty good set first of emotional acoustic indie which warmed things up. When Drenge took the stage, the real crush began, with moshing and circle pits not just from the guys but the gals too. Drenge’s mix of indie melodies with sludgey, downtuned grunge grooves seems to have a bit of cross over appeal. No doubt these guys will be on a larger stage as an official billing next year.

Later on, after drifting through tides of people on my way back to camp I stumbled on a rock band called Waa Wei playing a killer set in a tent called the La Pussy Parlure. The female singer, perhaps Japanese had an intense presence with glammed out costume design. I stood, hypnotically watching this band I knew nothing about for some time, and also appreciating how cool this little venue was. Just another one of those interesting things you stumble upon in a festival as eclectic as this.

The festival is about to kick off for real today, so I’ve consumed a full english breakfast and a coffee and am plotting my potential schedule for the day. Must sees include Motorhead and Enter Shikari, so it could be a day of the heavy. Pussy Riot is giving a talk at The Park, which could be something not to be missed. The crowds are about to reach their zenith, so my ability to see these acts will depend upon the time it takes to get between stages. We’ll see how I go.

pussy riot glastonbury 2015

11.56
The Charlatans are kicking off the Other Stage with a set of britpop classics I’ve never heard, but there’s good grooves and great stage presence. The massive crowd seems happy in spite of an ominous dark cloud over head that signals the traditional Glastonbury mud will be hear soon. Luckily I’m prepared, carrying with me a plastic poncho obtained from a frozen yoghurt stall at last weeks Blur concert at Hyde Park. My welly’s are back at the camp site, so it’ll mean a trek back later to get prepared, probably before the Motorhead mosh. It’s so far pretty easy to get between stages, I’ve already walked  from the Greenpeace area, where I engaged in some surreal power ballad yoga (videos to come) and had my camera battery charged by some nice hippies in green fields. As I write this I’m sitting in the grass outside The Park stage, waiting for Pussy Riot to give a talk.

14:59
Pussy Riot gave a hilarious talk in support of rebellion on top of a military vehicle in front of The Park stage. A considerable crowd was perplexed and captivated by the presentation. King Gizzard then followed with double drummer assault of riffs and harmonica, a crazy indie rock version of ACDC, straight out of Australia.

alabama shakes glastonbury 2015

23:48
Attempts to write during the day were cut short by an intense day of wandering, getting stuck in the rain, gearing up with weather proof clothing and heading back and forth between stages seeing bands both expected and surprising. It’s been quite a full to be honest, i know that its a cliche to talk about the size of this festival, but it really is huge. After a day of amazing sets and three days of exploring, I’m still discovering new areas. The Arcadia stage has kicked off, a giant spider with moving parts and pyro exploding generously. It’s glowing red eyes peer ominously over the audience, the DJ sits within the spider – and although the music isn’t to my taste, the attention to detail of such areas is impressive.

As for the rest of my first Friday of Glastonbury, most notably the rain came down and with it the mud. With the right perspective you can soldier on, and once the wellys were donned all was fine. Motorhead in the pouring rain was a particular highlight, with Lemmy and co. bringing the speed metal, even though most of the crowd basically only knew Ace of Spades. Moshing in front of the Pyramid Stage was hilarious, the old school double kick and heavy rock riffs a welcome change from the indie jangling which is most prominent elsewhere.

Due to mainstage bands running late I only managed to catch the last song of Run The Jewels, but I did most unexpectadly catch The Libertines on the mainstage. The Libertines filled the gap before Florence And The Machine and proved a great choice – Foo Fighters were probably missed by some watching the live stream online, but at the festival, who was playing barely even mattered. Florence seemed to kick ass on the mainstage but I soon left with new friends met in the Pyramid crowd to see Enter Shikari.

I now walk off, following streams of people trudging through mud, to find a potential last great set before bed, although the day has already been so huge, any more entertainment is superfluous.

Although the bands are great, the highlights of the day have been random interesting conversations with strangers, rather than the bands. The music is the icing on the cake. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though, I feel like there are downsides to a festival of this size. It certainly is challenge and if you’re not prepared with the right clothes and equipment, or if you don’t pace yourself, you risk not making the most of what this unique place offers.

Kanye West tomorrow, and hiphop kareoke at Stonebridge Bar in The Park, 4pm. See you there.

Glastonbury 2015 live blog: Day One

As long as I can get some wifi, and have a little bit of battery life, i will attempt to blog live throughout Glastonbury. Which means the writing might be a little sloppier, but will benefit from being in the moment, rathered than a laboured review two weeks after the event.

09:34

I’ve made it through the gates. The queue wasn’t too bad for me although i had to trek for some time around the festival perimetre to find the international ticket pickup office. The various security and festival staff all seemed to have a different idea of where the ticket office was – at one stage i went back and forward over the same field between different gates three or four times, until eventually finding the correct gate. The line was thankfully short from then on, although my friends perhaps weren’t quite so lucky. As we speak I sit eating a bacon, sausage and egg wrap from the first food stall that greeted me upon entry, quite delicious and a much needed energy boost. My friends on the other hand did not have to trek between gates to pick up their tickets, they are however still in a much larger queue to enter.

Last night we stayed at the town of Glastonbury, which is a town full of history, old buildings and a pagan vibe. Felt like I was sleeping in the Inn from the film The Wicker Man. We took the Megabus yesterday from London to Glastonbury, which on the other hand, is not an experience I would recommend or repeat. It will probably go down as my least favourite bus ride ever, with drunken young lads from London drinking, fighting and streaking throughout the bus. Added to this, the bus had a toilet onboard, which soon lost its ability to flush. ‘Nuff said.

But onwards and upwards, its a beautiful day, and i may blog again soon.

glastonbury day 1

14:48

Tents have now been set up and the crew has been reunited minus a few who are still stuck waiting for coach back in London. We’ve found a good spot to camp near John Peel stage, which, upon scouting the area seems to be not too far of a walk between the Pyramid and Other Stages, as well as much needed necessities such as toilets, taps and food areas. Competition is high already in the quest for the perfect spot, we’ve had to protect our area already from a flood of fellow opportunist campers.

Most of the afternoon has been spent exploring the grounds, mapping out routes between stages and checking out the markets and food stalls. Bacon buttys’ seem so far to be the food choice of the day, another having been consumed at the Summer Cafe on the way back from checking out the Other Stage. The grounds are as magnificent and spectacular as I had expected, the iconic Pyramid stage being surrounded by other notable icons such as the blue and orange John Peel circus tent, the giant maypole in The Park and the..

I’m now on a mission to try and find showers, which are apparently near Michael Eavis’ house. Fingers crossed I’ll run into the man. More from me soon.

18:22

No luck finding Michael Eavis but i did run into his grandson working at the Merchandise tent, upon buying an official festival Tshirt. I’m still exploring the Glastonbury site and haven’t returned back to the camp, so I’ve no idea what the rest of my group are doing. It turns out that the Glastonbury site is indeed huge, and around every corner is another section of interesting food or market stalls – or crazy, wild, diverse music stages.

21:33

Finally made it back to the campsite and to my friends after already having a pretty great time, just one day into this festival. Most of the enjoyment came from having cool conversations with random festival goers and staff, including a long chat with Glastonbury veteran, photographer and friend of the Eavis’s, Matt Cardy. I also found a jam spot in The Park complete with a drumkit – and proceeded to join in a jam of American Pie. A pretty sloppy jam at that, but I can kind of say I’ve ticked something else off the bucketlist – gigging at Glastonbury.

As I write this we’re heading off to the Stonecircle to watch the sunset, so I should probably get off social media for today and get in the moment. I will try to keep up these blogs or at least write a couple more from here, but no promises.Making the most of the festival should probably be my priority so for now, peace out from Worthy Farm.

glastonbury day 1