This year will be known for two things: the referendum and the mud. I hardly saw an act that didn’t mention both of those things. I’m sure you will have heard about both from plenty of other people, so I’m not going to dwell on either. This is going to be one long post about the entire five days, so fetch yourself a mug of hot chocolate and if you don’t quite make it all the way through, just leave the tab open and come back again later! ….
My husband Chris did not read my preparing for Glastonbury Festival post from a week or so ago, and discovered on the morning we were due to go into the festival that his combat boots had fallen apart. Now some time ago he bought a new pair, wore them once and lost them again, so the next hour or so was searching for those. By some miracle, I found them chilling by the airing cupboard so we were all, ‘Thank goodness for that,’ etc. Then we drove down to the Villagers’ car park, walked down Muddy Lane, headed towards the Info point for the kids to choose their t-shirts, when this pair of boots completely fell apart. The soles split horizontally in half, having been pulled apart by the sticky mud. Cue some very painful walking on his part, and lots of running around on my part looking for the surplus army stall where he’s often bought stuff before. Chris is very fussy when it comes to footwear and refuses to wear wellies, but luckily I found a stall selling waterproof walking boots that he liked, so at last our day could begin properly.
Time to look for some food as by now we were ready for lunch. Next problem discovered: due to the mud, deliveries had not been allowed and most of the food stalls had very limited options. We found something to keep us going though and our usual Wednesday shopping began. It wasn’t the most successful Wednesday in the world. Many of the market stalls weren’t open or weren’t in their usual place and a couple of my favourite regulars weren’t there at all. I did buy a couple of things that day, and a few more over the rest of the weekend, so I’ll do a haul and try-on You Tube video another time.
We left the festival site in the early evening and went home. We opened a bottle of wine and sat in the garden for the fireworks display. I did miss catching up with friends who we usually meet up with at Glastonbury, but who were unable to get tickets this time.
Chris stayed at home on Thursday, but the kids and I went in for the afternoon and evening as there were a few people we wanted to see. It was incredibly crowded everywhere, but I did manage to have a relaxed wonder round the craft field and the stalls further up the South side that we hadn’t got to the day before. There was a vague plan to meet up with some local friends at the Avalon Cafe for the Vodka Jellies, but the tent was too busy, I couldn’t get anywhere near enough to actually find them. I did see Michael Eavis doing his karaoke stint though. Then more general wondering; met up with Rain and her friend; watched a bit of Tankus the Henge at the bandstand, and then came home.
On Friday we had a lazy morning and then the kids and I went straight to the John Peel stage for Elle King, who I thought was brilliant and should have been given a longer set. As well as great songs, she was funny when she talked to the crowd too. Afterwards Jude went off to meet friends and watch bands I hadn’t heard of, while Rain and I headed to the Sensation Seekers stage to watch Professor Elemental, who annoyingly started a little early so we missed the beginning. He is so funny and his positive energy really makes you forget you’re standing in the rain. If you get the
chance to see him, I highly recommend you do and as he’s a bit of a regular at Glastonbury, I hope he’s back again next year.
We then met up with Chris in the nearby Cabaret tent and watched Shappi Khorsandi, who is really funny and I like her a lot, but I heard the same material last year or on the telly since. Rain was suffering with sore feet, so we left her there while Chris and I went to the Other Stage for The Lumineers. The highlight was seeing Aiden Turner walk past. We were too far back to be within the crowd of fans, so The Lumineers were probably better than I’m actually giving them credit for. They were better than I expected and I enjoyed listening to them, but I wouldn’t rush to buy an album. Anyway, back to the Cabaret and Marcus Brigstocke was on. He’s another comedian I really like, particularly as he includes talking about being a feminist in his act and is often proud to mention it on the radio too. Rain said we were lucky to miss his shouting about how stupid we are for the referendum results though.
ZZ Top at the Pyramid was our next act, which I enjoyed as they put so much effort and energy into their performance. Having watched the film Dazed and Confused a million times, it was more than pretty cool to see Tush played live in front of me!
I then had a meandering walk up to the Avalon Stage for Corrine Bailey Rae. My goodness, she has a beautiful voice, but I was so bored. I left the standing crowd and sat down at the edge, but I was too bored to even sit and listen. She didn’t sing anything I recognised – it must have been almost all new material, and I was so disappointed because I’d been looking forward to seeing her. So instead I walked up to the Park and bought a hot chocolate from the Treehouse Cafe. The ribbon tower; the lights and the sun setting looked beautiful and I had a bit of an emotional moment to myself.
To West Holts Stage next for Underworld, who were underwhelming. I waited three songs in the hope one would be good enough to dance to, but as none came, I left. It might have picked up as it went on, but anyway, I think I’m slightly too young to remember the tracks from the ’80s and early ’90s, apart from Born Slippy from Trainspotting of course. We did a really cool dance to that at my jazz/street dance club too, so I would’ve loved to have been there for that, but it was bound to be last and I’d arranged to meet Jude at the gate at eleven so I had to leave then anyway as getting across the site in the mud takes so long. I walked past Muse at the Pyramid, but I’m not at all interested in them, and they did nothing to persuade me otherwise.
It was an early-ish start on Saturday as Rain and I were determined to catch a performance at the Big Top by Wookey Hole Circus. Every year they impress us and do tricks and performances that are at least as good as most of the adults on stage there. This year was no different as they did a show with aerial silks, unicycles, juggling, trick cycling, roller skating, hoola hooping and other things packed into the show that I can’t remember now.
Then it was on to the Avalon Cafe for Tell Tale Tusk, who we discovered by chance last year in the same place. They’re a folky gypsy pirate type group, though confusingly have different bands under the same name. This time we saw the four girls and no guys and the tunes were more mellow, and much more suited to the tired and sitting-down mood we were in; but at the same time it was a shame we didn’t hear our favourite more dancey tunes by them. Not only do they all seem talented in a variety of instruments, I have never heard such stunningly beautiful voices in my life.
We walked through the craft field together and Green Futures (Which was much more bustling and interesting than usual) and the permaculture garden and then went our separate ways as I was meeting Jude at the Pyramid stage for Wolf Alice. Having seen them go from John Peel to Other to Pyramid, that was pretty cool and I still loved watching them. I need to get their new album now. We stayed there for Madness, which was lots of fun. I met my husband while listening to Madness on my walkman and it was the coolest tape I owned! It was a great atmosphere in the crowd with everyone doing the silly jogging on the spot dance.
The Pirates of the Carabina show ‘Flown’ in the circus Big Top was the next thing to see. It was all very impressive, and they’re obviously a hugely talented group of people, but it was all too performance arty for me. I’m just not high-brow enough for that sort of thing. Or maybe they just got it a bit wrong. Clearly inspired by Cirque du Soleil, they included bits of comedy with parts of the staging “accidentally” falling down, and incorporated a love story within it; but at other times you’d get a member of the company come to the front and talk for a bit like they’re out of character, while someone else crawled weirdly around his legs. Just a bit strange really. The live band were amazing and a highlight of the show – which was forty-five minutes, and did pick up as it went on, so by the end I was enjoying it.
The rest of my evening was not particularly successful as I went to the Acoustic stage for Art Garfunkel. It was too muddy over there to sit down, and it’s not exactly the sort of music you can dance around to. I heard Rosemary and Thyme, which is one of my favourite songs, and guessing that he’s save Bright Eyes till the end, I decided to leave and see if I’d get to Avalon in time for Will Young. I got there for the last couple of lines of ‘I think I’d better leave right now’ – probably the only Will Young song I know! Everyone turned round and left, but he did a three song encore, so that was good. I was lucky enough to find a spot on a bench, so I stayed there for a while writing in my notebook and listened to a fair bit of Turin Brakes, who came on next. For some reason I thought Turin Brakes was an old school heavy metal band, but I was obviously quite wrong about that. I enjoyed it, but didn’t stay till the end.
I had to squeeze through people just to get into the Pyramid Stage field while Adele was on. I took a very slow walk up the hill and stopped at the back for a few songs. I love the way the singers talk to the crowd and get them all on side. It is quite an amazing feeling when you’re surrounded by thousands and thousands of happy people all laughing at the same time and going Awww at the same time when she got the little kid on stage. I stayed for Skyfall, but as Adele’s music isn’t really my sort of thing, I went home afterwards even though it was probably a really good show and now I’m wondering if I should have stayed. I just like my bed too much I think.
Sunday began with the biggest queue I’ve seen at Glastonbury for anything ever (including the first time the Infinite Monkey Cage did the Cabaret tent). This was for a preview screening of Finding Dori. The queue went from the entrance, to the top of the field next to the Acoustic tent, all the way down the road, out of the field and almost to the Tony Benn tower. We got up early specifically for it, but our hearts sank when we saw that queue, and sure enough, we didn’t get in. Instead, we decided to walk all the way up to the Green Futures Field where Rain hoped to do an aerial circus workshop; only to find they were fully booked. So, we sat around by the pretty flags and just chatted for about an hour, which was lovely, and reminiscent of the old days before our kids got their own music tastes and went buggering off on their own!
We wondered back down to the Cabaret tent to see what was going on in there. I wasn’t all that impressed with Aidan Killian – he just wasn’t funny. He simply thought he was being “too dark” for a Sunday morning. Rod Laver came on next with his usual juggling with ping pong balls using his mouth act, which had improved since the last time I saw him. He must have to swill his mouth out with disinfectant afterwards though! Then it was Josie Long, who I really like, but last time I saw her live she was very politically preachy and I don’t go to Glastonbury for that sort of thing so since then I’ve never sought her out to watch. This time, however she expressed her passion for politics with funny stories and generally came across much nicer.
So after that sit-down, Rain and I walked and mud-skated miles to the John Peel tent for Bat for Lashes. Luckily the ground in there kept relatively mud-free and we were able to find a spot at the side where we could sit down and be able to see the screens. Yes I know I’m talking about sitting down a lot, but you’ve got to realise that this is the fifth day of what is in effect a particularly difficult workout every time you move through the mud to get from one place to the other. I was utterly exhausted by now and if any act had a place for sitting, then it held a particular appeal. Inside there, we also missed the worst of the rain.
Bat for Lashes was beautiful. I don’t know if I say ‘she’ or ‘they’ – I’ll have to look that up. When I was tiling the kitchen floor I listened to a Bat for Lashes album and it kept me calm and relaxed – it was strange seeing an actual person to go with the music as I’ve never looked them/her up on You Tube. We left before the end and decided to walk through the new Woods area. It’s very pretty in there with lots of willow archways and fairy lights, and of course two giant badgers.
We parted after that as Rain was ready to go home, but I wanted to stay till the end. I heard the last couple of ELO songs, expecting to recognise them, but as I didn’t, I’m glad I didn’t sacrifice Bat for Lashes for the classic Sunday afternoon golden oldie slot. The recent rain and ELO crowds had made the field too wet to sit down on, so luckily a nearby bench became free and I sat there waiting for Ellie Goulding, with my poncho on and staring absent-mindedly at people’s feet until I struck up conversation with an NHS co-ordinator who was having her first Glastonbury Festival experience with the mud and a pulled tendon in her pelvis. Challenging!
Ellie Goulding was absolutely fantastic and put all her energy into the performance. Apart from a couple of singles, I’m not particularly familiar with her songs, but I’ll definitely be getting her latest album now. She was much more rocky than I expected and quite my cup of tea.
Then back to John Peel for Of Monsters and Men, who I discovered a few years ago on the Other Stage. They drew a big crowd and I’m glad I got there early enough to have a good spot where I could see the stage and the screens clearly. This is really my kind of music and I wish I’d listened to more of their songs before the festival so I knew them better. I say things like this every year, but never manage to listen to enough music!
A slow and slippery walk through the mud later, and past Beck (who didn’t seem all that interesting) and into the Big Top just in time for Space Cowboy. Why oh why do I never manage to avoid Space Cowboy? There aren’t many people in this world who get on my nerves as much as he does, but every year for the last ten years (at least); just when I settle in for a good bit of circus, Space Cowboy comes on and a little bit of me wants to flick mud at his face when he’s juggling blindfold with the chainsaw. I just cannot abide people who think so highly of themselves. During his act 50% of what he says is boasting about how clever he is and the other 50% is moaning at the audience for not clapping and cheering as much as he thinks he deserves. For at least ten years he’s had the same quip “It didn’t look this big in the catalogue” – referring to his unicycle; and often says things like, “Isn’t it weird how I can unicycle with one foot for longer than you can clap.” At least he has improved – he didn’t fall off the unicycle or drop anything when juggling this time. If you like dangerous circus skills though, then he is the man to watch.
One of my favourite acts I’ve ever seen in the Big Top has to be the new group who came on next, called
Fauna. Rain saw them the day before and recommended them. It’s circus with performance art, but not in too much of a weird way; and quite often in an erotic way, the whole show was beautiful. I appreciate dance, so I loved the way the performers moved about the stage and combined acrobatics and balancing skills. I get impressed when I can hold a handstand for a couple of seconds, but these guys could live their whole lives up-side-down if they wanted to. I’ve never seen such graceful aerial work either, particularly transitioning from one trick to another, which was seamless. I so hope they are back next year and will definitely go out of my way to watch them.
Then it was the final sad walk through light misty drizzle to get to the Pyramid stage for Coldplay. The field was packed and it took a while to find a place even beyond the road right at the back to be able to see the
screens. The atmosphere was utterly amazing and I’m so glad I went to see them. I nearly didn’t bother because I think I have seen Coldplay all the other fifty times they’ve played at Glastonbury, but they always pull it out the bag for a fantastic show. I could only stay for a few songs as I was meeting Jude at 10:30 for a relatively early night. She had to be up early the next day to beat the traffic for her driving test. I have to say, I’m quite gutted I missed quite a bit and it’s always horrible walking up that hill to the gate for the last time.
As usual it was an amazing Glastonbury, and with all the political stuff going on, it felt more than ever like we were in our little bubble of freedom – albeit a muddy one. The mud is a shame because it makes the festival more difficult, but it could have been worse – it didn’t actually rain that much. And the only thing worse than having to stand and eat your burger with mud all around you; is having to stand in the rain to eat a soggy burger with mud all around you. (I’ll never forget ’97 and ’98 when we frequently had that problem.) So now I’m dealing with post-festival blues and luckily have a road-trip to plan to keep me busy.
Come back soon as I’ll be doing a post with just my photography from Glastonbury Festival 2016. Now roll on next year!