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theartsdesk at Glastonbury Festival 2013 | reviews, news & interviews

theartsdesk at Glastonbury Festival 2013

theartsdesk at Glastonbury Festival 2013

The world's greatest festival explodes back to vivid life

It's just a shot away, shot away, shot awayPhoto © Finetime

The smell is like a squidgy hash spliff marinated in hickory-smoked barbecue sauce. There’s an additional top note of tangy, excited human musk and a hint of vinegary organic waste. By the weekend’s end this Parfum de Glaston will have infused everything, from unworn clothes to the tent to even skin and hair. It will take days to shift, permeating the pores as completely as this temporary city of madness sandblasts the mind. But let’s not get carried away before we’ve begun.

To peak too early would be a classic rookie mistake.

Thursday 27 June

Things begin, then, on a sunny A303 that turns slowly to a grey, drizzly A303. The millions who’ve been making anti-Glasto voodoo at their Facebook shrines all week – too muddy, too corporate, too big, etc – can now happily revel in sneering at 170,000 fools making this semi-annual pilgrimage. I’m one of those fools, have been for years, must be missing whatever the naysayers take such umbrage at. As does my close friend Finetime whose battered Eighties Merc is eating up the miles to Worthy Farm. He will be camping with me for the duration.

spandex meWe pick up some cold tinnies at a service station and, once the Merc rumbles into the queue of cars outside the festival, crack them. The rain is coming down hard now, the beer going down too, and the anticipation is that of a 10-year-old off on summer hols. Stupidly, as I usually arrive by train, I’ve made no arrangements for Hospitality Parking, a means for us media slags to avoid dragging our wheelbarrows of oh-so important equipment over long distances. I try and blag Hospitality Parking but fail – three times – trawling up and down a rainswept road with soggy fellows in hi-vis vests shouting at us and waving their arms in irritated semaphore. Eventually we pay £30 to park up with everyone else

Finetime and I have brought ambitious amounts – cooker, chairs, bedding and wotnot. We decide to carry it in two journeys. Then we walk for 35 unblissful minutes to Hospitality Camping – or indeed, any sort of camping – in relentless wet. Soaking – although not cold – and with my cowboy hat having sponged up a cloud’s worth to twice its weight, I raise my tent.

After my tent was moved during the night in 2011 by Middle England tossers who’d mistaken Glastonbury Festival for their personal suburban lawn barbecue, I decided to give Hospitality Camping a whirl this year. I always imagined it to be full of a breed I’m not keen on – the music media – all japing and showcasing their calculated, wry, witty stances, shrewdly assessing the most interesting angle on everything rather than getting stuck in. I was wrong, as so often, where we were was just full of blaggers, performers and affable service staff. Also, judging from the accents, it’s temporary home to half of Dorset, Devon and Somerset.

While Finetime continues to set things up I head back to pick up the rest of the gear. On the way I finally persuade Hospitality Parking that I’m a performer called Captain Trouser and his Dancing Turtle and I need to bring my electrical gadgets closer to the site so they don’t become soaked and ruined. Gratifyingly, I’m finally allowed Hospitality Parking entry, thus I can park up 10 minutes from our tents. Result!

Rain is pelting so, once changed into dry clothes – a delightful yellow collared T-shirt garnished with multi-coloured sequins atop black combats - Finetime and I gather in his larger tent. Before the evening grows any older, we must make the most of supplies to hand. We quickly scoff random food and drink – a feast of crisps in unbuttered tiger bread alongside cereal bars, washed down with mugs of boxed red wine, all followed by four hunky post-prandial honkings of Energizer Z. The rain even stops to celebrate with us.

beat hotelOut there madness is starting up. The clouds are clearing and there’s a ripple of tents opening and wellies being hauled on. I fill a disused container with cider from the Burrow Hill Cider Bus, as I always do, and we hook up with my old Glasto mucker Don Carlton who's dancing on a table in a bar to a covers band. In search of kicks we end up at the Beat Hotel, which in Glastonbury terms is almost a high-street nightclub as it’s on the main drag leading to the Pyramid. It has a tiered podium outside and here Finetime, Don and I dance until 3.00am, immovable and occasionally whooping, to chunky, thumpy house music, even when a frightening gentleman from Liverpool who’s consumed way too much of everything has a funny turn and decides he owns the whole tiered podium.

I argue with Don at one point that it will rain again before Glasto is out. He bets me £10 I'm wrong. I am. Glastonbury 2013, excepting the shower on Thursday evening, is gorgeously balmy and summery. Take that, Facebook voodoo people.


Friday 28 June

Never arise too early at Glastonbury. Who wants to be awake between 7 and 11am? There’s nowt going on and you’ll need those hours back later. Finetime uses an eye-mask and wax ear-plugs so he’ll sleep through an earthquake. However, the sun has a real blaze on, turning our domed canvas homes into sweltering ovens. We both unzip our tents and gradually sprawl further and further outside, our semi-naked bodies lying on the grass, relishing the occasional breeze. We exchange a single unseemly, half-asleep joke about “opening flaps”.

Friday sees the mud turn glutinous and slowly disappear, forming a mural of flattened grass traces amid cracked brown. The look for women is shorts and mini-dresses with hipster wellies. Men may be dressed less flamboyantly, unless wearing a skirt – of which there are many - or turning out as Walter White (off Breaking Bad), a piece of Lego, a Viking, and so on. Rising around lunchtime, Finetime and I head straight for the central backstage hospitality to pick up press passes and a handy mini-programme to hang round our necks. Unfortunately, on the way we catch a little of Jake Bugg on the main Pyramid Stage. Don just sent me a text saying, “He has talent, 18 years and holding the main stage.” I send a text back saying, “Bollocks.” I’ll stick by that - music designed to be played on sport montages and US TV shows and win best newcomer at music awards, professional to the core, like that odious Tom Odell. You can keep it.

lionelOutside the press tent Radio 1 DJ Nick Grimshaw is holding court. He’s surrounded by papping photographers and slime. A woman comes rushing over, leaping a tiny artificial white picket fence and shrieks, “Nick, daaahhhling”. It’s vomit-inducing and Finetime, quite rightly, makes the appropriate noise. This is exactly why it’s best to avoid too much backstage nonsense (except for using the loos and cutting across the centre of the site, for which it’s very handy). Fortunately, also outside the press tent is a giant tank-like metal vehicle that looks like a robot dinosaur designed for Mad Max II. It’s much more fun than Nick Grimshaw, as is seeing Alan Yentob, who’s a Glasto fixture. This year he seems to have been glued to a chair for the weekend in a posh restaurant bit backstage, a living art installation grinning a crinkly, twinkly Alan Yentob grin.

In an enjoyable symmetry, the gigantic main backstage VIP hospitality has the worst bar on site, staffed by people who clearly don’t usually work in bars, take an inordinate amount of time to do anything, and don’t know how to pour drinks. There’s a weird justice to this as you can usually get a drink in moments at the public bars, even right by the Pyramid Stage. Apart from a couple of breakfast lager tops today, to accompany a very serviceable breakfast of Thai green curry, I stay away. I have my endlessly refilling Burrow Hill cider bottle, after all.

Over at West Holts Stage – the old Jazz Stage - at 2.30pm it’s Goat. This lot are appropriately nuts, a Swedish lo-fi tribal psychedelic rock band, fronted by two stomping, shrieking women wearing white Afro-kaftans and feathered masks. The band members look like a convention of equally kaftan-covered wizards wearing hangman’s masks. Their sound is hugely effective, squalls of grungy guitar fight it out with attacks of tom-tom and mostly unintelligible howl-riff choruses, like Jefferson Airplane wrestling with Fela Kuti and Soundgarden. They’re about 4,000 times more exciting than Jake Bugg or Tom Odell - and don’t give me any of that “They’re just operating in a different arena” crap that so spoils barroom music debates.

Afterwards, three of Finetime’s mates appear. One of them is already deeply fried and asks if I have any naughty num-nums. When I affirm I have he asks if he can have them right now as he needs them. “Maybe later,” I tell him. I’m lying on this occasion. The other two are Tania and Ted Ted. Tania is very tall and sells me a bag of Mexican fungulation for £20. “Chew them well,” she says with a grin that tells me she has. “It lets out the goodness.” I’m not sure what Ted Ted’s been up to but it’s his day off from working for a famous chill-out act and he’s taking full advantage. He keeps hugging Finetime and me and later asks if we will hold his hand, smiley and gregarious. Alice Russell arrives onstage and plunges into her belting soul girl routine. She’s a very likeable live performer, although she needs better songs to make the final push to fame, just like the equally talented Jamie Lidell. I hope it happens for them both. I think these thoughts as I glug scrumpy that looks like diabetic urine from a mud-stained two-litre plastic milk container.

I have been asked to DJ at the Deluxe Diner in the Shangri La area for someone called Meat Liquor. Shangri La is part of the far-flung fields where lunacy happens late at night. We make our way there very slowly, as that is the speed Tania and Ted Ted travel. To be fair, it tends to be the speed anyone travels at festivals if they’re in groups of more than three, maybe even two, especially as things grow messier. We stop at a bar by the Avalon Stage to restock. Herbal cigars have started floating about and add to the general sense of the unreal. There’s a tall wooden pub across the way that appears to have teleported in from Robin Hood’s era – including its rustically dressed staff - and a band playing Cornish folk-punk (Crowns, I later find out).

We troop onwards along the railway track at the top of the site, past a Maoist agit-prop poster saying, “Whatever path you choose, there is only one true leader,” featuring a sinisterly militaristic Michael Eavis looked up to by his people. The Deluxe Diner is just that, a cool American-style burger bar that also serves the odd cocktail. After a little Energizer Z, glamorously consumed crouching behind a stinking Portaloo, just to get me in the mood (the only negative toilet-based remark in this review - a rare treat!), I take over the decks from rave historian and DJ Bill Brewster whose family are there with him. I worry aloud that it will be hard to follow his cheerful disco. I was asked to play "synth sleaze". He says, “Don’t worry, the last bloke was playing heavy metal.”

So I start with Electronicat’s awesome electro-billy “Sex & Accessories”, then move onto the Dead Combo’s equally raucous version of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”. Finetime, Tania and Ted Ted come into their own, clambering aboard a podium and shaking their rumps. A few other freaks come in, all overcome with Glasto-glazed afternoon glorying in their own groove potential. A lady dressed as a fairy lends Finetime her hula hoop which he proceeds to use for a brief but spectacular show. For 40 minutes things proceed with this momentum, then the energy slides and everyone returns to their couches and burgers. I decide "synth sleaze" is a bit limited and travel off into Santa Esmeralda’s disco-corking Kinks cover, "Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood", and Motörhead’s fantastic "Killed By Death". After the latter causes the bar manager to ask me to turn it down I return to and finish with synth sleaze, literally - Maceo Plex’s “Sleazy E”. My payment is a round of ginger cocktails for all four of us, which we drink with relish alongside a few shots. We wander out, past Bez’s Acid House, a venue that consists of a giant warped vision of the Happy Monday beneath a huge horror film baby’s head.

Time for the night. Back at the tent I change, putting on my billion-pocketed festival flak jacket, amongst much else. Across at the nearby John Peel Stage they’re going bananas for Bastille, the biggest crowd the place has ever seen. They nearly bring the tent down and throng about outside. They shout along with such verve and at such decibels to the hit ‘Pompeii’ it almost convinces it might be a great. Almost.

Tonight Arctic Monkeys headline the main stage, a cracking indie band but not quite what I need to take my lid off. Chic, however, should do it, basking in Nile Rodgers’ Daft Punk afterglow. When Finetime and I arrive at West Holts, there’s even a banner saying “Get Lucky”. But will they play it?

We run into Don who offers yellow crystals of Moombara which are consumed on wetted fingers from a small, sealable, transparent plastic bag. He’s with B&M who come as a pair, say little, wriggle little, smile sometimes, but enjoy Glastonbury in an almost abstract, observational way. At least I hope they do.

Nile Rodgers (pictured top) comes onstage before the band to much roaring, dressed in white right down to his headband (as do the whole band). He takes photos of the crowd and displays a very wide grin. He has been working the live circuit in recent years to prove his life’s work stands strong beside other pop greats. His set, an ebullient, camp, sexy, retro-disco partytime, not only takes in Chic’s monster hits but everything from Duran Duran’s “Notorious” to Sister Sledge to Diana Ross - anything he’s collaborated on. They’re the perfect wedding band – only much cooler because all the hits are Rodgers’s, boosted by that joyful, unique guitar style.

arcadia 1Finetime doesn’t usually recall the words to songs but he was a soul boy in his youth and gives vent to every single line of "I Want Your Love" and the rest. The best moment, though, is when drummer Ralph Rolle sings Bowie’s "Let’s Dance" with epic gusto. Or is it the sight of a bloke next to us, who looks like a paratrooper-navvy, as blokey-macho as a man ever was, singing along blithely, joyfully to Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out”? Or it could be the closing “Good Times/Rappers’ Delight” medley, a stage packed with crowd members dancing their arses off? Perhaps it’s even after the band finished. Clearly Rodgers is contractually obliged not to play “Get Lucky” but immediately after his set the song is played and the crowd sing every word back at him. It’s a solid two-finger salute to the career-curtailing, faintly racist and homophobic Disco Demolition Night in Chicago 34 years ago. Disco does not suck.

Instead of speeding up, tonight things slow down, speed up, slow down, and speed up again. Tania & Ted Ted reappear, the latter very refreshed indeed. For every start there’s a stop. With seven of us on the move we break one of the 10 great festival rules: ALWAYS TRAVEL LIGHT. When an army is on the march one soldier will always want to stop for a drink, a wee, a wander, a lost moment, and so on. Especially if members of that army have been consuming booze’n’narcs all day. Nonetheless, when I realise that’s the way things are going, I remain unperturbed, making happy peace with it. A rolling funky evening is had (very) slowly moving across the site. Highlights include Andy C blasting drum & bass from atop Arcadia’s metallic spider behemoth, the rippling crowd swept by its green lights and lit up by great blasts of flame that my friend Wilf the Glasto electrician told me could be physically felt in their Portakabins miles away. And finally to Detroit techno don Carl Craig at the Wow! tent in Silver Hayes (which used to be known as the Dance Field). Here the techno thumped until 3am. When it finishes Finetime, Don and I notice our friends have disappeared. We decide we will too.


Saturday 29 June

The best day, not just of Glastonbury but in general.

It starts hazily when Finetime wakes me to strongly suggest we eat a full breakfast at the Hospitality Camping café before they stop serving it. I’d mumbled the previous morning from within my snooze that, “I think it’s an all-day breakfast.” It wasn’t and Finetime was left with a rumbling tum. Taking no chances today, we head down bleary-eyed and half-dressed to eat a solid English of bacon, sausage, scrambled egg, hash browns and a half a tomato that’s been briefly introduced to a frying pan. On the table behind us sits Billie Piper, wearing rock-star shades and looking very moody. I don’t blame her. The morning does that to you.

Retiring back to dreamland we eventually embrace the day as Sydney trio Jagwar Ma hit the nearby Peel Stage. Their pulsing hypno-rock, licked with electronic weirdness, sounds great and I wish I’d seen them. At the end of Glastonbury, it’s easy to wish you’d seen so much but, in reality, especially given travel around the site, which can literally take hours, a month-long festival would be needed to catch even a tenth of it.

suit manInstead we head to the Sonic Stage in Silver Hayes, a sprawling open, sci-fi awning, to start the day with the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. These eight sons of Chicago trumpet player Phil Cochran take the brass band notion far into funk and hip-hop. Before their set a very over-excited DJ – possibly one Charlie Sloth - spends his time shouting at us to wave our hands in the air to his breakbeat-dubstep before almost exploding as he insists we join in as he plays Oasis’ “Wonderwall”. He won’t stop and has to be almost physically removed so the band can start. They are a bubbly, sunny refreshment and set Finetime and I up to wander the site, exploring.

Next stop is rude rapper Azealia Banks on the Other Stage. Her stage set-up could be better – it’s basically just her and a DJ (or backing tape – I only assume DJ). She also has a guest dancer who occasionally pops on wearing a lime green spandex ice cream wig on her head. Azealia is her usual potty-mouthed self, only dressed as a Stegosaurus’s spandex bondage fantasy. The fins up her arms being especially striking.

The sky is being kind, a perfect combination of clear blue with seas of passing clouds allowing mild breezes to take the edge off. Over at the Spirit of ’71 Stage Brighton electro-swing duo Kitten & the Hip are concluding a set with a messy final number. Front woman Scarlett Quinn looks like a glamour model who has run through a fluorescent charity shop while covered in glue. Her accomplice, Ashley Slater, once of Freak Power with Norman Cook, plays a mean trombone, and a backing drummer holds down the beat.

Nearby is a large white domed construction wherein we find punk-reggae perennial Don Letts playing dubstep to one out-of-his-head man who paces from foot to foot with eyes closed. It’s a very Glastonbury sight.

Winding our way onwards, the food stalls are rammed. Among this year’s most popular, judging from the constant winding queues, is ostrich burger. We settle for slices of queue-free - and probably less flavourful - pizza, followed swiftly by a mash-up of bacon and potato. Today seems like a day to fill stomachs early so that, should we find ourselves appetite-challenged later on, we’re sufficiently fuelled to plough on.

I receive a hug from a fellow with giant eyelashes whose whole body is a heart-shaped red gym mattress

We join the children and hippies sauntering round American composer-architect Christopher Janney’s Sonic Forest installation, a bunch of 8ft upright red metal tubes with grills in that emit gentle, sweet sounds as you wander among them and/or place hands upon them. Then it’s over Bella’s Bridge, constructed three years ago from old canal lock gates in honour of the late Arabella Churchill, the countercultural aristocrat who played such a vital role in keeping the festival alive in its early and most difficult years. Next to it is Bella’s Field, a hive of arty theatrical activity that leads onto the Circus Field and Glebeland. I haven’t spent enough time here in recent years, preoccupied as music journos often are with seeing as many bands as possible but, hell, this is theartsdesk so let’s souse ourselves in art in all its forms. Apart from that, of course, it’s such a genuinely lovely place hang out in the sun.

That said, is a mechanical rodeo bull art? I fear not but I do know I didn’t last very long and that the guy operating it was having an unfeasibly good time, hurling punters all over the shop. There are so many wandering players around, hula-hooping girl guides, a pair of bird-watchers – human-watchers, actually - who loudly take notes, especially amusing when observing the mating habits of couples. There are suddenly trolls everywhere, clad in sacking and offering free hugs. There are lots of free hugs to be had. I also receive one from a fellow with giant eyelashes whose whole body is a heart-shaped red gym mattress.

Finetime and I wander to a rare spot where human traffic is low, a verge of bushes strewn with detritus from past festivals, pieces of aeroplane and half buses overgrown with foliage, mementoes that this is no normal farm. There is a raised shelter hidden amid the plantlife where Finetime and I perch with our drinks, sampling fresh Energizer Z and observing comings and goings throughout the fields beyond, such as the People’s Front Room, the size and décor of a Victorian living room, with acts performing to three or four people in plush armchairs, or a cinema that seats eight. It makes no financial sense in any usual circumstance but that’s the joy of it all, the escape from anything usual. It’s a brain holiday from logical-empirical, consumer-aspirational, consensus reality crap.

trollA happy hour is spent watching the Kiki & Pascal Show from raised bleachers at the Outside Circus Stage, gently supping Burrow Hill cider and neat Jack Daniels in the heat. In truth, there’s no sign of Pascal, who forms half this cabaret couple, but Kiki – AKA Tamara Campbell - done up like an acid pink Su Pollard, holds down a madcap theatrical, a comic fairytale performed by audience members, involving occasional acrobatics, mockery and mild flirting on her part, as well as covering someone in so much suntan lotion they’ll not be needing any more for the rest of the summer. At one point a topless man wanders past the stage raging and swearing at Kiki whom he appears to think is mocking him. “Let’s let the bad energy pass,” she says. There are a few of these characters round the site - fortunately very few - blokes who shouldn’t be drinking and drugging because it simply lets loose their inner demons. I saw one the previous day, kneeling by the pathway, again topless, snarling, “Fuck off!” and “NO!” at passersby.

Eventually it’s time to catch The Orb & Indigenous People at West Holts. Far from their old stoner dub-noodling, at least the part I saw, the performance sees Alex Patterson and cohorts adding electronic frills to the Kakatsitsi Master Drummers of Ghana. The ageing ambient act are having a renaissance lately, what with their recent collaboration with Lee “Scratch” Perry, but Finetime and I are now in the mood for something livelier. There are Rolling Stones masks and variations on Andy Warhol’s Jagger tongue design everywhere. Let's accelerate the pace.

It feels like the best night ever. At the very least, I’m completely overwhelmed with euphoria

On our way we want to have a look at The Nextmen, a party hip-hop crew, at Silver Hayes venue The Gully. What we actually do, I later work out, is walk past the Nextmen at The Gully, who are playing drum & bass, and watch London-Trinidadian soca-junglist duo Jus Now who we mistake for The Nextmen and watch briefly as they whip up a small crowd. But The Stones are calling.

Back at the tent we change and load up on a hefty amalgam of Moombara, Mexican fungulation and Energizer Z. I put a full bottle of Makers Mark bourbon whisky in my flak jacket and Finetime fills a water bottle with the Tuscan liqueur Tuaca. We are cocked, locked and ready to rock. Well, we think we are. As we head across the site, the fungulation kicks in hard. We reach the Pyramid to find crowds starting to build. People who’ve been sitting down in the sun all day aren’t yet wanting to stand up but another mass are pouring in to see the Stones. As we clamber through this mass of humanity, stepping over, squeezing past, the fungulation turns mildly unpleasant. Suddenly, as so often, there’s a great gap in the crowd and we stop, pull out our bottles and introduce ourselves to a gaggle around us, primarily two doctors, A and J, and their female friends. They are irresponsible doctors, I’m glad to say, loved up on Moombara, glugging our whisky with us and the rest. Before I know it we’re having a party and the fungal alienation has vamoosed to be replaced by its more benevolent effects

stones masksAnd then they’re on. “Jumping Jack Flash" is playing, Mick Jagger’s there in a green sparkly jacket, Keith riffing away, grizzled as ever, in more scarves than the Mata Hari, Ron Wood in what looks to be a multi-coloured pink leather. They tear up “It’s Only Rock’n’Roll (But I Like It)” and the effect of singing along to these songs, so iconic and familiar, is dreamlike. I have my arm round Finetime’s shoulder and we’re leaping about, stumbling about, revelling with our new medical friends. “Gimme Shelter” may be the greatest rock song ever written so shouting “It’s just a shot away” repeatedly as if our lives depended on it is only right and proper. Everyone is. Jagger sings a version of the song “Factory Girl” with the chorus changed to “She’s my Glastonbury Girl”, containing such lines as “Gave her my wet wipes, washed off all her dirt” and “She took all my ecstasy, now she’s off with Primal Scream”.

Seventies Stone Mick Taylor is brought on for the guitar-tastic “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”, a song I always associate with the brutalities of Martin Scorsese’s Casino, and Taylor's solo is an absolute peach. Perhaps Keef is not as limber on the frets as he once was but sober Ron fills in all gaps with aplomb. It’s team work and it rocks. Keef’s ragged voice, however, is perfect for his solo spot, “Happy” and “You Got The Silver”, still working that gypsy rogue thing to perfection. There can only be one.

“Miss You” is the song I’ve been hearing hummed in anticipation all weekend, which I was rather surprised at, but it’s no surprise when it’s greeted with such enthusiasm. During “Sympathy For the Devil” a giant animatronic phoenix rises from the Pyramid top and breathes fire. It’s impossible to stop “woo-woo”-ing and, in any case, who’d want to? The final pair are a tear-inducing “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, with full choir, and a version of “Satisfaction” that rolls on and on, building and hammering, fireworks exploding eventually overhead. It feels like the best night ever. At the very least, I’m completely overwhelmed with euphoria and hanging onto Finetime for dear life.

The Makers Mark is all gone and we bid goodbye to our doctor friends, having shared an epic Glasto moment. One of them tells me that if I ever need anything, in medical terms, to give him a call. Shame I don’t have his number as I may need a post-Glastonbury care plan.

What a night follows, mostly in the company of Don Carlton. The depravities of Block9, with its enormous Genosys tree of steel and light, NYCDownlow’s gay disco where we wriggle and snort amyl nitrate to New York houser Kerri Chandler’s jazzy, silky disco (which brings out Finetime’s inner soul boy again), old school drum & bass from Ray Keith and Jumping Jack Frost (I think) at The Cave on The Common, a constant array of drastic new sights and limb-writhing action until six o'clock arrives with startling speed. We’re up at the Stone Circle, the hiss of balloons all around, the site laid out smoked, misty and twinkling before us, Finetime, Don and I sharing herbal edification and passionately discussing lives, friendship and the future like innocent bloody hippies. The sun is riz, Sunday is here. We're trashed and happy. Time to head tentwards.


Sunday 30 June

Sunday begins wretchedly. It often does. I put my back to the wheel last night and the body’s credit meter is maxed out into the red. Even a Hospitality Camping café full English cannot rescue either Finetime or me. We attempt to rise but fail, re-collapsing until 2-ish when we quickly crawl back into the fray before common sense takes over (heaven forbid).

Down in the nearby John Peel marquee LA blues-rock duo Deap Vally are primed to wake us. These two women, one on guitar and one on drums, make a riveting racket, kind of White Stripes by way of The Runaways, with Julie Edwards’ muscular assault on her drum kit especially impressive.

My stomach doesn’t want to eat but I force it to. I cannot recall what. I can remember, however, that Rufus Wainwright was on the Pyramid doing something unholy. I’ve never known what to make of his emotional variety show opera-pop, finding it an original idea in principle, but I can assure you his keening voice cutting through your fuzzed morning-after mind like an electrical current is most unwelcome.

Our aim, for reasons lost in the ether, is to head over to the Field of Avalon and watch Bruce Forsyth and his band. We make it to the Avalon backstage bar, where paparazzi and Strictly Come Dancing fans are crowded at the fence beside the artist entrance. I suck a lager top and, when Brucie appears and gives us all a wave, it seems Sunday is getting somewhere. His disciples shriek in response. Once onstage, however, he’s a mixed blessing.

circus freaksThe crowd, a big one, are as amped as can be and laugh at Bruce’s every aside, as he holds forth in red waistcoat and bow tie. “Let’s get it out of the way,” he says, “Nice to see you, to see you…” and the roar of “Nice” that comes back shakes the tree tops. He is, of course, a consummate pro, chatty, funny, charming, keeping things rolling with banter between a few slivers of piano-playing, light hoofing, the odd standard, and relentless crowd chants of “Don, Don, Don” for his  musical director of 30 years, Don Hunt. Unfortunately it’s his “banter” that’s somewhat problematic. Today’s must be his “grown up” non-TV set, a bit risqué, but Bruce’s idea of risqué includes stinky dud asides about the Irish, Scottish, French, Jews and, most cringingly of all, a strange interlude where he sings in a faux Japanese accent about his Yamaha piano. It’s all a bit 1974 on ITV. Finetime and I go before the sense of good will and enjoyment leaves us.

After a saucy jerk chicken with rice and a snippet of Jah Rasta on a Sunday, courtesy of roots reggae long-timers The Congos, we head to the Circus Field again where thousand upon thousands of large cardboard boxes have been placed for our entertainment. Children are using them as rectangular bodysuits and walking around looking like ET in disguise while adults are simply romping amongst the hillocks and heaps. It’s a tempting proposition and I have a short roll around myself before collapsing in front of Circle Ascent in the main Circus Tent. Theirs is a disciplined, choreographed and beautiful display of acrobatic skills performed to a live soundtrack by singer Chantelle Scott and her laptop, coming on a little like the Cocteau Twins. As she emotes, her compadres run up each other and any pole they can find in easy flowing formations, flipping up and down a rope and entwining in purple aerial silks, eventually performing on a series of poles that are held between the male half of the troupe. It’s engaging, mesmeric stuff but after three quarters of an hour we make a move.

The arrows outside helpfully announce, “One Direction” and “Another Direction”. We follow the latter which leaves us standing in front of a man who sounds like Mark E Smith bawling a comically tuneless dirge about a fake watch he bought in the local market which later broke. It goes on for ages and sounds like Ian Dury meeting I Ludicrous. I wonder who he was. Further on we come across the most bizarre turn yet – Steve Aruni & Henry the Groover, a man singing along with a Henry the Hoover that’s magically come to life. Henry’s voice sounds a bit like Orville the Duck’s, accompanying eerily cheesy songs. The whole thing is enough to unhinge the mind.

Without sounding moany, as there’s always something to do, none of Sunday’s main acts have a must-see quality, at least for me, although I later hear very good things about Nick Cave’s set. The idea of seeing Pyramid headliners Mumford & Sons is repulsive. It’s seems strange they’ve made it to headliner status. However much I dislike Coldplay, I can sort of see, deep down, that they have the requisite attributes, but Mumford & Sons’ mewling? I just don’t get it.

A group of women dressed at transvestites but also brandishing large sponge penises maraud about

The one band I really want to see today is Brazilian bossa nova legend Sérgio Mendes at West Holts. His set has moments of Latino jolt and bustle and the easy-listening kitsch is sweet as the sun lowers in the sky. His female singers, including his wife Gracinha Leporace, are just right but Oakland MC H20 is not, especially when he boorishly jumps all over the song everyone has been waiting for, the deathless “Mas Que Nada” which Mendes first recorded 50 years ago. We have the 2006 Black Eyed Peas’ version to thank for this clunky hip-hop intrusion. Will.I.Am messing up my day. Again. Worst of all is a stinker of a power ballad that belongs in a cruise ship hell which is where, I get the impression, Sérgio spends a bit of time. Despite these quibbles, hooked up with Don Carlton and his gang, I enjoy the set overall. It’s a soft start to what turns out to be a fluffy evening.

Smashing Pumpkins seem to be having a moment of the Other Stage as we pass, climaxing their set with car crash of dissonance and rock’n’roll. I didn’t see the rest but it looks like noisy fun. The same mighty be said of Tyler The Creator of Californian hip hop collective Odd Future who, along with sidekick Earl Sweatshirt, has turned the John Peel stage into a sea of terrace chant rapping. Stopping for neither, Finetime and I head to Sonic to catch the wob-wob-wob of Skream & Benga in the fading light. Their MCs, Sergeant Pokes and Youngman, are hyping the crowd but somehow the evening doesn’t yet have a tail wind behind it, even with assistance from cider and the rest of our bag of tricks.

ribbon towerAre we finished, then? Not yet. We’re better off over at Spirit of ’71 where hippies are raving to System 7. Steve Hillage of Gong and his life partner Miquette Giraudy are creating psychedelic techno that’s just right. We stand next to the dome where we saw Don Letts a few days back and it has turned into a bulb of eye-boggling lightshow patterns. Inside deep acidic techno throbs, and the packed dancefloor steams, the sounds mingling with System 7’s efforts.

We end up in The Park, looking down on the site from an enclosed bench, a wooden throne room. A group of women dressed at transvestites but also brandishing large sponge penises maraud about. The sun is down and the Park’s multiple small venues have something Tolkien-esque about them, glittering among the teepees. The venue known as the Rabbit Hole develops a huge queue but we sit on our bench, sampling herbalations and other concoctions, watching the world go by, our legs not ripe for the dancefloor tonight. Some are doing the same as us from the nearby 55ft-high ribbon tower.

Don Carlton arrives with B&M and joins us. What a sight is laid out before us, what a place. It’s so large these days it goes beyond anything any other festival can offer. It really is a city of hallucinations, of crazy ideas brought to life and ecstatic behaviour, of living life off the leash for a few brief days. Some find such notions romantic and maybe they are, but Glastonbury is way beyond money-making mechanics (it makes £2 million for charity) or band promotion, although it has both those covered. For some of us it is a Mecca representing the best of British, an event that offers something for everyone, where all of us can sample everything in a wild, pagan, anarchic, countercultural spirit. There truly is nowhere like it on earth.

Monday 1 July

It is July 2013. Britain has become populated by aliens in our absence. Now, with sunken eyes staring into the middle distance, minds befuddled, we must join their strange rituals, our every move raddled with a faint sense that something is very wrong. We will forget, though. By the end of the week this will all seem usual.

Well, for the next 360 days, at least…

I think these thoughts as I glug scrumpy that looks like diabetic urine from a mud-stained two-litre plastic milk container.


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