Glastonbury Festival 2008

Well, it’s been a good day or so since we made it back to the real world after 5 days down in deepest Somerset to attend Glastonbury Festival 2008, so I thought it was about time I set about trying to actually write about it. This is that attempt.

In the Beginning

Attending the Festival as a group was John, Mike, Owen, Duncan, and myself. Duncan would be joining us on the Thursday, whereas the rest of us drove down on Wednesday. The journey down was uneventful, but we had the vehicle packed to the rafters with bags, tents, booze, and Pot Noodles. There really was little else.

The Music

So, this is the selection of artists I actually managed to see live whilst I was there. Of course, the sad thing is that I will miss some artists out, particularly those that I heard in passing or caught their sets midway through on the Wednesday or the Thursday, where no published program seemed to exist to help me find out the names of some of the funky musicians I listened to.
More or less, this list is in chronological order, starting on Thursday with The Levellers, and finishing with The Verve on Sunday night. You can fill in the other times and days yourself, or just trust me when I say they follow through the weekend…

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see everybody I’d wanted to see, but I did get a fair old whack at things.

The Levellers

[last.fm linkage]
Various signs around the place on Wednesday and during the day Thursday had made it fairly clear that the Levellers were performing, and I decided pretty early on that I had to go see them. I don’t know why I thought that, because I’d only ever heard one track by them (knowingly) pre-Festival, and that was Just the One. But I went anyway, and plodded down to the Left Field tent in the pissing rain to try and get inside and be remotely dry whilst watching and listening. The place was full to the rafters.

As to the performance. Personally, i thought it was brilliant. Everybody loved it, lots of singing along, the sounds quality was good and the atmosphere was great – a really solid band to unofficially kick things off. Shame I got piss wet through in the process, but that’s what it’s all about I guess!

Kate Nash

[last.fm linkage]
Mornings soon proved to be not the best of times for our merry little crew, be it because we were sleeping, recovering, or just plain ol’ procrastinating instead of going out there and listening to music. Thanks to that, we arrived pretty late to see the last couple of songs Kate Nash was performing.

Kate Nash tends to get quite a lot of flack, or so it seems to me anyway and, if I’m honest, I think I was the only one of us who quite fancied going to see what she was like live, which probably doesn’t score me any points on the heterosexual scale. Bugger.
Still, I have to say what I saw at the end of the set was good, if you like the stuff she does, which I do. It’s entertaining, easy to listen to, and amusing, which is just fine in my book.

The Subways

[last.fm linkage]
To be honest, I hadn’t listened to much Subways stuff before the festival and wouldn’t have initially rushed anywhere to see them. I have the first album lying around somewhere and it occasionally gets a listen to and does the job well. However, they followed Kate Nash on the Pyramid Stage so we figured, why the hell not? There was nothing else particularly pressing that I wanted to see in the morning anyway.

As with what I saw from Kate Nash, I enjoyed it. They seemed to have a fairly solid stage presence and were fairly interesting to listen to. I only recognized a couple of songs from the first album, and wasn’t entirely sold on all the new material they tried out, but it was fun. Would see again (at a Festival… probably wouldn’t go out of my way to buy tickets).

Hobo Jones and the Junkyard Dogs

[last.fm linkage]
Fecking brilliant. John summed it up afterwards by commenting that this sort of thing is exactly what Glastonbury should be about- variation and random fun.

The atmosphere was brilliant, the performance was amusing and captivating and generally to a pretty good quality considering the washboard was in action. The three of them did brilliantly and genuinely seemed to convey an almost humble attitude to being there. They may have opened by saying it was a joint effort between the audience and them, but it really did seem that way as it went on – every single person in the room seemed to become a real part of the gig. Simply brilliant, and I hope to see these guys again at a future point. Try and listen to some of their stuff, it’s fun! ๐Ÿ™‚

Alabama 3

[last.fm linkage]
Over to the Jazz World stage, this was another artist I really didn’t know very much about (except, of course, the Soprano’s Theme ๐Ÿ™‚ ). They’re fascinating. In a really weird sort of way. I really can’t even begin try and describe them, as I wouldn’t know where to start. The vocals are a strange mixture but they seem to work and there’s something completely unavoidable about how cool and, dare I say it, funky the whole band is. Genuinely interesting.

Candi Staton

[last.fm linkage]
Everyone knows and loves at least one Candi Staton song, even if they don’t know her by name. And, arguably, this was one of the best sets I saw over the whole weekend.

Simply put, she’s brilliant. Superb voice, great stage presence, and everyone loves the music. She belted out some absolute classics, seemed to hit every note just the way she wanted to, and seemed to be havingย  a great time being there. If you didn’t see her, you missed out, regardless of whatever else you saw in her place. Sorry, you just lost the game.

Fun Lovin’ Criminals

[last.fm linkage]
The start of a crazy evening.
I’ve seen Fun Lovin’ Criminals before, in Lancaster, and thought they were great then. This time, they also didn’t disappoint, although I had a much more relaxed approach to watching them – that being that I was wandering around the gig on my own, too drunk for my own good, and talking to strangers (see ‘Reckless Abandon’, below for more). So in many respects, they were background music. But it’s great background music. This set also served to remind me that I should listen to them a bit more often. Tasty.

Sinead O’Connor

[last.fm linkage]
I was pretty excited at the prospect of being able to see Sinead O’Connor live in the run up to the festival, and so was a little disappointed with hindsight to admit that I didn’t actually see the show.
I was there – please don’t think I skipped it all together – but I just heard it again as background music whilst I was talking to two very nice people from the Czech Republic. Good times.

What I heard was good though, although it would be hard to claim she has a bad voice and, as with FLC, it was really nice to have good music going on around you whilst you could sit and talk to strangers, embarrassing yourself along the way. Lovely jubbly. I also failed to spot if she still had a shaved head, so anyone who can help confirm / deny that it would be much appreciated.

Kings of Leon

[last.fm linkage]
I’ve enjoyed listening to the Kings of Leon ever since I first heard Molly’s Chambers, which always struck me as fairly fun and easy to listen to. However, I will quite happily take the points made by both John and Mike that, relatively speaking, they are quite a boring band and don’t bring anything new to the table. That doesn’t bother me though. One thing Glastonbury reaffirmed for me is that I’ve largely got past worrying about where the music’s come from, what it means, what it brings to the table, or whether its overrated, ‘sold out’, or any other such phrases. Of course, if a songs got an emotional background, pushes boundaries and has something I can relate to in it then it will be preferred, but it doesn’t stop me just enjoying listening to things non-committally.

And so it was with Kings of Leon. I knew when I saw them announced that they were one of the few acts I would feel I _had_ to see whilst at Glasto, purely because what I’ve heard recorded I’ve enjoyed and – just as with so many other acts at the Festival – I really wanted to see what they could do live.

Honest verdict? I was disappointed. I enjoyed the songs, but I felt as a live act they were simply dull. I think I was expecting a bit more stage presence, and probably beer. I wanted rock and roll but all I got was this lousy CD-quality experience.
That’s not to say they were necessarily bad though. I did enjoy what was played and had a little solo boogie all to myself in my slightly spaced out state but, in future, I wouldn’t be overly bothered whether I saw them or went to see something else.

Pete Doherty

[last.fm linkage]
Following the end of Kings of Leon, I staggered up towards The Park to see the end of Pete Doherty, seeing as he’s another artist I really haven’t heard much from. I literally arrived right towards the end, but from what I did see and hear, he did a good job. Well played that man.

James Blunt

[last.fm linkage]
No one will believe me, but this was largely accidental. We lost Owen, and I had to hold the fort whilst the search parties went their separate ways. Turns out it meant I got to sit / sleep through this. Everyone there seemed to love it, good for them. Have to admit I was strongly apathetic, letting this rank as my biggest regret / wasted time moment of the weekend. It’s not that he’s necessarily bad, he’s just not really anything I’m into.

The Raconteurs

[last.fm linkage]
I dozed a little bit for this as well, but I thought they did a pretty good job overall. I knew hardly anything about them before sitting through it, and I probably would see them again given the chance. Not much more to say though really.

Manu Chao

[last.fm linkage]
Another artist I was determined to ensure I caught at least once during the festival, we decided to stick at the Pyramid Stage and see Manu Chao there. They didn’t disappoint. Energetic, upbeat, and all under the late afternoon sun. It couldn’t have been better.

A great mix of their songs, some new, some old, all timeless, it was everything I would have hoped for from a Manu Chao gig. Would definitely try to see them again.

Amy Winehouse

[last.fm linkage]
Not really a lot to report on this one that would be classed as ‘new news’, seeing as how everybody seemed to be talking about it and the ‘Punch up’ incident since the Festival. However, I thoroughly bloody enjoyed it. She was incoherent at times (could have been the sound levels). She was tottering about looking rather unstable. And the dress wasn’t the most flattering. But fuck it. She also has a brilliant voice and got stronger and stronger as the show went on. If newspaper reports are to be believed, and if she really is ‘ruining herself’ then, yes, of course it’s a shame and a sad story but, at the same time, if she’s having fun and making good music then… meh… maybe I’m just being selfish, but I actually quite enjoy seeing musicians embrace the rock and roll spirit every now and then. They’re only human, afterall. Why should their mistakes and life choices be plastered all over the place? And why should it bother us from a music point of view? To me, it shouldn’t.

So, Miss Winehouse, well done on the performance. I salute you.

Jay-Z

[last.fm linkage]
It’s been spoken about enough, but the intro was brilliant, and showed a solid sense of humour. To then open up with 99 Problems was something I knew and appreciated. Good song.

Whilst I didn’t watch the entire set, the first half I watched was good. It was entertaining, had a decent variety of samples that brought back some songs I hadn’t heard for a long time, and it brought variety and controversy to the floor. I certainly hope there’s hip hop at next year’s Festival, even if it doesn’t headline. It brings it back to being a Festival in celebration of music, in all its forms.

Massive Attack

[last.fm linkage]
Given that the timetables clashed between Massive Attack and Jay-Z, I was only able to catch the last bit of Massive Attack before retiring for sleep. From what I saw, and from what I heard others say, it was epic. Great use of lasers as well. A little part of me is gutted I didn’t see it all, but then I was glad I got to see Jay-Z.

Neil Diamond

[last.fm linkage]
There’s very little that can be said against this mighty fine individual. In fact, if I had to nitpick, it would be because I thought his acknowledgement of the applause he received was a little repetitive – there’s only so many times I can hear “thank you so much” and hearing it after every song got a little boring.

Still, it was actually a lot better than I’d hoped it would be, with highlights clearly including Sweet Caroline and, for me at least, Pretty Amazing Grace since I’ve enjoyed the song immensely since I first heard it (repeatedly) on the Radio when it was released. It sounds just as good live.

Good clean fun would be a good way to describe the set. The afternoon sun made it very continental in it’s party atmosphere. Wild.

Goldfrapp

[last.fm linkage]
Yet another band I really didn’t know enough about / of before going to the Festival, I was very pleasantly surprised at quite how much I liked them. Granted, I dozed through a good portion of the set, but the music clearly wasn’t so offensive I couldn’t sleep to it. Great voice, and really quite interesting, I can imagine I’ll listen to more of this stuff before too long. Good job.

Leonard Cohen

[last.fm linkage]
The one artist I feel I can write an unhealthy chunk of text about.

Without doubt, this was the single greatest performance of the weekend (in my humble opinion), even if I wish to put all the weight of that achievement onto one song – Hallelujah. Simply stunning. Words don’t even come close. I am being completely honest when I say I don’t think I have ever seen any other live performance that has simply knocked me for six on an emotional scale as watching Mr Cohen belt out his version during this set. It actually makes the original album version seem rather disappointing by comparison, and it’s a song I absolutely adore.
As it happens, I had also been listening to Jeff Buckley’s version of the song a few too many times to be healthy in the weeks before the Festival, and that had always managed to intrigue me, but by comparison, it can’t do anything like Cohen’s version can. It’s husky, it’s candid, it’s bare bones, and it’s brilliant. It seemed to get possibly the greatest applause that I witnessed during the weekend and, if everybody was doing as I was, it was automatic. I could think of nothing else but applause. I couldn’t have shouted anything out. It genuinely hit me like a bottle of wine.

Maybe it was because I was still in a mildly fragile state from the previous few days, but it brought me bloody close to crying. Sad? Probably, but it’s the truth. Whether it was the combination of the music and the setting sun, with the added mix of having the entire crowd hanging off his every word with adoration or not I really don’t know. But it was special. I’ve linked a mobile phone video that somebody put on YouTube below. Check it out if you like. It’s rather good.

In many ways, it was a shame that Hallelujah came in the middle of the set because, as Mike said, it meant that the next few songs almost felt disappointing, but in so many ways I really don’t think Cohen cared, and he definitely kept everyone on board and interested as he continued through the rest of his set.

If you ever get the chance to see Cohen live, do it. Don’t think twice about it. Don’t wait. Just do it. You probably won’t get many chances. If he’s performing at a Festival near you and there are tickets left, buy them, and go. You will not regret it. It’s a statement I’m probably going to grow up to hate myself for saying, as it sounds a bit weak, but he’s an amazing performer, coming across as very commanding over his domain whilst at the same time seeming genuinely humble and honoured to be so adored. Plus, seeing as all his songs are largely, and primarily poems, I would be very surprised if he ever performs the same song quite the same on any two occasions. Brilliant.

Go watch the video: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=_tPQQLMXmQ4

The Verve

[last.fm linkage]
Probably the one band I was most excited about pre-Festival. The performance itself has no doubt been well documented. I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially Bitter Sweet Symphony. Nearly returned me to tears again. I believe it brought Owen closer.

Seriously good show though. Very impressive, and clearly appreciated by all who attended. They were every bit as good as you would expect them to be, and deserve any and all praise they receive. Solid performance.

Reckless Abandon

Friday night was Crazy Friday. In fact, Friday in general was Crazy Friday. But it was brilliant, and full of, you guessed it, reckless abandon.

I did everything my mother always told me I shouldn’t do:

  • I wandered around on my own in a strange new place
  • I drank excessively
  • I spoke to (and accepted gifts from) complete strangers
  • I applied the ‘cocktail’ methodology to my stimulants of choice
  • I picked my nose

With hindsight, it was foolish. It was also bloody brilliant, and something that I’d never done before. That’s not an encouragement though.

Anyway, where to begin? Well, my guess is it started with that Guinness at an ungodly hour of the morning. In so many ways it was a wrong choice, yet it seemed so right at the time. Lovely stuff. Then there could be the Hot Spiced Cider. After all, it’s only apple juice fundamentally, so we were all more than entitled to give it a whirl. Invigorating in and off itself.

As I remember it, at some point after this myself and John returned to ‘base camp’ to get some booze and lunch, by which I mean a Pot Noodle and the remains of the first box of red, red wine. Plodded on down towards The Other Stage to meet up with Michael and co, at which point the cave suit was on (it had started spitting again). Here came the first break, as the rest of them were off to see… someone… can’t remember who, and I headed back to Jazz World for the Alabama 3, ‘bag’ of wine now in hand (the box disintegrated in the rain). According to the strangers I was talking to, it looked quite suspicious, me being in, effectively, a boiler suit with a transparent bag in hand containing an unidentified red liquid. I’m sure they loved it really though.

At the end of the Alabama 3 set,which I enjoyed thoroughly, I latched onto some unsuspecting Welsh folk to chat about my dodgy appearance and why I was on my own (“No, really, I _do_ have friends, they’re just… erm… somewhere else…” ๐Ÿ™ ). Just before Candi Staton came on stage, Mike and John found me (apparently, my bright yellow suit stood out… *shrugs*) and we made our way to the rest of them to watch – and subsequently boogie a little to – Candi Staton.
Once more, we got talking to strangers. A couple of fellows from down south, and a considerably older gentleman I’m led to believe was not with them, but who was, certainly, loving life. It was a solid hour of banter, and I thank them for that.

After that, I believe myself and John went back to the tent again, or maybe a few more of us did, to replenish food levels (with Noodles) and to grab another beer. I was to be the only one who wanted to see Fun Lovin’ Criminals over the other options so I set off back down there on my own, this time replacing my sun hat with the Indian Headdress. I could probably cite this as the defining moment of the evening.

On the way from The Other Stage to Jazz World, I stopped for another Cider, and shook many strangers hands, not to mention uttering the famous ‘How’ whilst raising my right hand a good few times. The concept made me giggle.

Arriving at FLC, I decided it was too busy for me to be bothered to get near the front, so I wandered aimlessly (and drunkenly) towards the edge of the sound stage. It was hear that I latched onto my second group of the evening – a jovial bunch of guys from Anfield (of course, I played the dubious card and admitted I was a United fan – not something I would have done sober). They were a really nice bunch and seemed to appreciate my odd attire. They offered me a beer which, for a Carling, settled surprisingly well, and soon introduced me to Gary, which I mistakenly thought referred to Green when they first mentioned him. Apparently, I was wrong, and I can only guess his name should be spelt Gar-E. But that’s just a best guess, the truth is, worryingly, that I have no idea. I know it wasn’t negative, and it made me eager to talk to strangers but beyond that, I’m stumped. The Gar-E suggestion came from Mike.

Anyway, the Jolly Scousers soon departed, and I was back to embarrassing myself in front of another group who, I think, were from London way and were only to eager to provide a screen for me to piss behind – a fact I had forgotten until a couple of days later – I know, I’m an embarrassment to my family. ๐Ÿ˜‰

After chatting for a while, I realized that I was risking missing Sinead O’Connor, so I made my apologies and left. On the way I got talking to a delightful couple that were heading towards The Other Stage who decided to share some poppers with me before we went our separate ways. Apparently, they liked my headdress. Lovely folks.

I carried on walking, in my blissful state, up past the Left Field stage, where I stopped briefly to cut short some little kids who were trying to take the piss. I blind-sided them with good temperament and wished them a good festival. I still don’t quite know why, it just seemed easier than ignoring them.

Before long I was up by the Acoustic Stage, sat outside it and returning the ever-increasing number of “Hows” I was receiving, even occasionally going as far as responding with “That’s How… for now [dodgy facial expression]”. It amused me greatly.
Up outside the acoustic stage I got talking to Tom and his Czech girlfriend (Katka?). Lovely people. And really quite interesting. God only knows what they thought of me. All I really remember is repeatedly apologising for ruining their evening. I sat outside the tent talking to them most of the way through Sinead’s set. Her set provided great background music.I also spoke to a group from New Zealand and did a crap job of taking their photo for them numerous times. Even the time I tried to rest the camera on Tom’s head didn’t work. Wacky.
We sat, chatted, had a little smoke to stir things up and laughed about Tom’s apparent knee fetish. Fun times.

After staying just long enough to thoroughly embarrass myself I left to go catch the Kings of Leon set. Feeling fairly content still, the walk there passed quickly, with a silly grin slapped across my face. More “Hows” were exchanged.

Wandering around the crowds waiting for the Kings of Leon, my initial intention was to find Mike and John, who I knew were both meant to be there somewhere. Apparently, they were equally smashed after getting through as much of the booze as they could. Solid performance.

However, I didn’t find them, as I was distracted by a fun-loving group who stopped to talk to me. After providing them with my carefully rehearsed caution – “I warn you, I am an idiot and have spent the evening attaching myself to different people as I can’t find my friends” – we joked, laughed about my attire, and smoked some more, and waited for the show. It was fun, but I sort of drifted away from them mid-Kings of Leon as I seemed to be struck by a niggling sense of paranoia / soberness that left me realizing I may be ruining everyone’s night _and_ the fact that they seemed to think I was gay. I questioned what I was doing, and just switched off and watched the rest of the set on my own. That was rude of me, and I apologise. As with most people I met that night, they were a lovely group, and I shouldn’t have let my social ineptitude stand in the way of me trying to be polite. God damn my shy side!

Before the end of the set, I was talking to another two strangers briefly, as one of them wanted his picture taken with the headdress on. I said he could, provided I was in the picture. He agreed, the picture was shocking, and I apologise for ruining it. Besides that, I don’t remember much of the conversation.

As soon as that set finished, I left and set off for The Park, to see the end of Pete Doherty’s set. I’d forgotten how long a walk it was, and arrived just in time to catch the end of it, although I very nearly didn’t see anything – the multicoloured tower in the corner caught my eye and I walked aimlessly towards it… and past the stage.
You can’t make this shit up.
So, after doubling back on myself to see the end of Doherty’s set, I was at a loss as to what to do I realized I was still on my tod, 5 hours after I’d last seen any of my friends, and I was sobering up.

I took a stab in the dark and guessed that the rest of them might be in the Dance Village, so I set off down there feeling distinctly alone.
When I couldn’t spot them, I turned around and walked back up to the tent (near The Park). When they weren’t there, I went _back_ down to the Dance Village where I got a little bit worried when one reveller threw his arms round me and tried to tell me that I had his hat. I don’t remember what exactly I said to him, but I think I took his comments as more threatening than they were intended. So, sorry for that.
If they were meant threateningly however then you, sir, are a cunt, possibly the only one I met that weekend.

As I got back to the tent, John and Mike arrived, both thoroughly drunk. I was glad to see them and chirped up a lot. Shortly after John threw up and passed out. I took photos. Mike had a Pot Noodle (I think). Then we grabbed some Strongbow and headed up to the Silent Disco in The Park, for all of about 30 minutes, after which it closed, and we returned to camp to sit around and talk. Mike slept, and I decided to wait up for Owen and Duncan, like a paranoid parent. I still don’t know why, I guess I just wasn’t sleepy.

And that kids, is the story of Crazy Friday. Or, at least, my interpretation of it. I’m sure the others have their own specific stories and fables as to how their evening went, but that was mine. It was truly reckless, spur of the moment, and surprised me in that regard, but it was also just pure fun, and the first time I’ve ever really felt an significant effect from pills. Very interesting, if not very clever.

The Food

Not the cheapest but – when you balance it off against the circumstances – not ridiculous either. I believe Mike estimated, and we concurred, that you could easily buy every meal of the day for ยฃ15 each day. Which really isn’t as bad as it could have been, as that estimate is on the generous side in as much as we would feel full after such a day
We, however, took many Pot Noodles with us, and a good few cans of beans (some even with added sausage!) and a spot of soup. We ate (relatively) well, but I don’t want to look at another Pot Noodle for at least another year, no matter how good they were at the time..!

Of course, it also fails to factor in beer. I’m glad we took our own.

Averaged ยฃ3 a pint, which for a festival isn’t bad, although there were surprisingly few bars offering the bitter.

However, the Hot Spiced Cider stall went down a treat – total win. And, dare I say it, fecking lovely.

Regrets

Surprisingly few, really.

One big one is that I didn’t get to see Duffy. I really should have forced myself off my arse and gone and seen her. Nothing wrong with the Raconteurs, but I do rather like the Welsh girl.

Another one would probably be for the few artists I really wanted to see but didn’t manage it – namely Groove Armada, the full Massive Attack set, and Fatboy Slim.

Yet another one would be that I didn’t spend more time around The Park. Some good stuff on up there.

One more? Missing out on Tony Benn because of a timetable change. I actually wasn’t that bothered to see him pre-Festival,ย  but the disappointment of a later schedule-change bothered me. Fucker. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Final one? Not taking the Monday off work. Not only because it nearly killed me, but because I would have rather enjoyed going fookin’ crazy on the last night. That would probably have killed me as well.

Conclusions

Glastonbury really doesn’t need a conclusion. It met and surpassed all my expectations.

However, one caveat – keep the variation. Maybe hip-hop doesn’t warrant a headline slot yet, but it needs a place. Good hip-hop is, well, good. And it was a brave choice. So bravo.

If you get the chance, go to 2009. And if you do, let me know. We’ll beer.

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