Glastonbury 2017: Heat Wave, Sausages and A Musical Feast
Someone recently asked me for my top camping at a festival tips, I sent her my top ten, however after then spending five days at Glastonbury I have whittled it down to one … Have the right shoes.
What an amazing festival Glastonbury is, from the moment you arrive in beautiful Somerset and get lost among the country lanes looking for the farm, to the moment you trudge back to your car wondering where the weekend went it, is an overwhelming array of sensory delights, but there is a cost.
We arrived on Wednesday in the baking sun and headed through the car parks to Gate A, it was hot but the talk was of last years mud and how the heat was not a problem compared to that. It took about two hours to get through the zigzag queue up to the entrance to find that the security was not quite as bad as we had expected. Sniffer dogs and bag checks were random rather than for everyone, and it was all flowing fairly well.
After setting up camp in Hitchin Hill it was time, not for a leisurely stroll around the site, but the second trip to the car for the rest of our gear, the heat was starting to get to us but food and clothes would be required so we trudged back, passing what was slowly becoming a graveyard of trollies, as even the sturdiest looking models could not cope with the terrain of a working farm.
At the end of the day with all the tents up, the beer cooling and BBQ heating, we finally sat down to watch the 11p.m. fireworks display that officially opened the festival, ahhhhh ooohhhh they were quite spectacular and a mass sigh of relief that all the stress of getting a ticket, planning and travelling were over, we were here again…
Thursday, and after a camp breakfast of sausage and bacon butties, we were determined the save money this year, it was time to explore, we wandered down past the Beat Hotel already busy with music loving dancers hanging out on the base of its sign. Then, stopping only to buy a Guardian in a cloth backpack, we headed straight for the Pyramid field to show the newbie in our group the most famous stage on earth, the ground was hard and lumpy from tractor’s, but it was dry and the grass was green, and the sun had come out.
Heading across the field to the rear we grabbed a drink from the Somerset Cider Bus and carried on toward the Kids and Circus area, our newbie was starting to look a little shell shocked, this place is massive! Yup !!
The water recharge points were selling metal water bottles so that was our next stop, while waiting we took in the sounds and smells of the hundreds of food and shopping stalls, all interspersed with art and stages and bars.
From there it was a 15 minute walk over the railway track to the Healing, Future and Greenpeace fields, a cool, calm, soul enhancing area where you can have a massage, your aura cleansed, or learn to create a bee out of straw.
I had my future told by a mechanical jumble of a man who was sparked into life by pressing a repurposed pelican crossing button, War is not determined by who is right, but by who is left. Is what he told me via a small card.
Time to get involved in the largest human peace sign ever, so up to the Stone Circle and take a seat on the grass, we felt significant and the chatter was about how much coverage it would get and the impact it could potentially have, we talked with strangers about Manchester and London and how now more than ever our voices need to be heard, or in this case seen.
Mooching around the South East Corner, we checked out this years Shangri-la theme of waste and recycling, an insane amount of trash is left at the festival site every year and they had created a thought provoking art installation using these so-called disposable items from last year, giant towers of plastic and waterfalls of waste to emphasise our ridiculous ignorance of the damage each of us does to our home planet.
So with our conscience’s overwhelmed and our fitbit’s showing 26,000 steps it was time to slip down the railway track to the Glade to catch the Orb for a final drink, or two, and have a little dance before bed.
Friday, after more sausages and bacon, in the rain that was just a bit drizzly and soon stopped, I split from the group and headed straight to the Other stage to catch Nothing but Thieves a great young band mixing poppy synth with rocking guitars and sweet melodic vocals. From there I went and sat in the Leftfield tent at the centre of the festival to check in with Billy Bragg’s Radical Round Up featuring Zoe West, Paddy Nash, Luke Branch (Asylums) and Billy himself, it was a mix of country, folk and modern indie music, all interspersed with powerful messages of making change happen, of peace and unity and of community and support, the perfect place to reinvigorate you’re activism centre, Billy finished the show with a great cover of Bob Dylan’s The Times they are a Changin’ (back) !!
As I was looking for food I stumbled across an Irish guy being tied up in a straight jacket and chains, which he then escaped from by dislocating his elbows and reaching up his own back inside the jacket and unfastening the straps, it was disgusting and enthralling all at the same time, whilst I stood there watching him a piano on a bike navigated its way past the crowd, then as I moved on to find some food before heading to the John Peel stage an Indian brass band danced by slowly making their way to nowhere in particular, I love this place.
So, to John Peel to see Future Islands, one of my must see’s this weekend and they did not disappoint. I met back up with some friends who were not really sure who they were. They hail from Baltimore USA and play the most danceable synthpop around today, with super quick drumming, charging guitars and tinkling instrumentals all topped off by an insanely charismatic front man who’s voice goes from lullaby soft to growling aggression in an instant, and who’s dancing has to be seen to be believed, they stunned my friends who all agreed the best thing they had seen so far (and still had them as a highlight at the end of the festival).
Only one thing left for me on Friday, so round to the Pyramid Stage to get settled in for Radiohead, there has been so much chat and disagreement about previous performances and their overall catalogue, that this was never going to suit everyone. But for me it was the perfect set starting with Daydreaming and Ful Stop from Moon Shaped Pool they then went back to Airbag and Myxamatosis, they kept it building with No Surprises and Paranoid Android, my personal favourite Fake Plastic Trees, then to the delight of all they DID play Creep and closed with Karma Police. That was a good day, however I was a little cold and very tired so after a cheese toasty I went to bed.
Saturday, BBQ breakfast once again, Polish sausages today. The morning started with Josh Barry at the John Peel, one of Glastonbury’s Emerging Talent Winners he has a soulful voice which he lends to popular dance tunes like Freak but which is emotionally striking on slower tracks like When I’m Gown, definitely one to keep an eye on. It’s a quick trot from John Peel to the Pyramid Stage so I strolled through the new Wood Area, the path in there was hard and dusty but its still a pretty little place with a viewing platform, a small bar, and a fire pit with a seating area, there was an art installation called The Gathering by Rob Mulholland made up of part human part animal reflective figures standing passively in the wood. It really is a calm space amongst the raging storm of 135,000 people navigating around approximately 100 stages.
But time now for some boogie woogie dancing at the Pyramid Stage with Jools Holland and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, it’s never too early to dance and you know what you are going to get with Jools Holland, he has a huge amount of musical friends, and today he brought with him Beth Rowley, Louise Marshall, who both stayed on stage to join in the boogie numbers then on came Chris Difford for some Squeeze classics and finally Musical Royalty, Ruby Turner.
A quick trip to the loo’s, which are nowhere as awful as everyone imagines, and it’s time for Craig David, I am not a huge fan but there were obviously plenty in the Pyramid crowd and the field was pumping, a little confusion was caused when he seem to go off in the middle of his set and a DJ desk was brought on, but he came back and explained that this was his new project and he proceeded to mix and sing along to a string of popular dance hits.
Why did I stay? For Jeremy Corbyn. He was introduced onto the Main Stage by Michael Eavis himself and quickly delighted the crown with his vision of a world were equality is top of the agenda, he looked relaxed and is probably the only politician these days who does not look out of place and uncomfortable when in the company of the common people. He pulled a bigger crown than even Adele last year and we were all left wondering why equality is a vision and not a reality?
Time for a wander, as I passed by the Other Stage with Liam Gallagher pulling the biggest crowd I have ever seen there, but seeming to hit more than a few bum notes. I then stopped by Toad Hall to have a little boogie with the funky, bluesy, country outfit My Baby. Pausing at West Holts for a quick pint of Brothers I caught the first couple of numbers from Avalanches, fun and so danceable I could have stayed, but the Pyramid was calling me back.
The National were another must see for me, and despite some initial sound issues they treated us to a mix of classics, Bloodbuzz Ohio, Mr November, Terrible Love, and new tracks like Sleep Well Beast, they dedicated England to England! And bravely closed with a new song Turtleneck, all delivering melancholic yet angry lyrics with Matt Berninger’s throaty vocals grumbling over grimy guitars and rambling drum beats.
The rest of the gang then joined me for the only place to be that night, one of my friends said I am not sure the Foo Fighters can headline a stage this big, but I said nothing as I knew what was coming. And they delivered, as they always do. Kicking off with Times like These, dedicated to Florence + the Machine, starting with a Dave solo then building in the rest of the band, they took over two hours and made it feel like 20 minutes, with Dave the nicest guy in rock Grohl constantly threatening to keep playing until morning they just blasted though hit after hit after hit, they covered Queen’s Under Pressure with Dave taking a turn on the drums and Taylor coming out front to take charge of the vocal, they dedicated Walk to Dave’s Surgeon, My Hero to a naked guy in the audience, they introduced us to Rami Jaffee, with a huge accordion solo in Skin & Bones, Dave broke Adele’s swearing on stage record by singing f*ck f*ck f*ck to the Skin & Bones guitar line, then they ended the set with Everlong and a massive firework show. I looked at my friend who just said OK I stand corrected that was the best headliner I have seen in years.
To finish the night I met some girlfriends at the silent disco in Silver Hayes and we danced and laughed our way though to 3:30 before heading back for some well earned sleep.
So, Sunday arrived, its the last day and after, yes you guessed it, more bacon for breakfast, we had so much we gave the rest away to our camping neighbours, some who were already packing up and getting ready to go that night.
Sunday started with a long walk over to the Park Stage for She Drew the Gun, a band that had been recommended to me before the festival and it was worthwhile the treck to the other side of the site, with the angry, beautiful, relentless Poem, the hopeful No Hole In My Head, the atmospheric If You Could See and punky Pit Pony, its not hard to see why they were an emerging talent winner.
I had an hour& half to get back to the John Peel for King Gizzard and the Lizzard Wizzard so had a wander through the shopping area around the centre of the festival, there really is everything available here, silver jewellery, wooden ornaments, camping equipment, old/rejected band posters, t-shirts, jumpers, harem pants and hats, so many hats!
The Orange & Blue stripe of the John Peel called and I landed there for some fantastic adrenaline fuelled psychedelic rock, surprisingly these guys have 10 albums under their belts already plus 2 EP’s and in 2015 they headlined an Australia wide festival tour called Gizzfest to coincide with the release of their album Nonagon Infinity.
With my friends texting me to go and see Barry Gibb, he is a legend you must come, I caved and pottered over to Pyramid (probably my worst decision of the weekend) don’t get me wrong Barry was FAB he had the whole field dancing from the start, kicking off with Jive Talking and You Should Be Dancing then after a couple of slower tracks everyone there, including the security team, got their Staying Alive moves out. However, I was being bombarded with texts from the outside world about the Killers filling what had been a TBA at the John Peel Stage so I had to try and get back there.
I was too late, they had closed the area because it was full.
I went back to my tent, to pack some stuff to take to the car, just to make the Monday morning slog a little easier, and being on Hitchin Hill just above the John Peel tent I could here the set. It sounded amazing starting with a recording of Undertones great song Teenage Kicks then bursting straight into When You Where Young, they blasted through anthem after anthem, I sang along whilst packing up some bits then got on my way down the hill at the side of the John Peel Tent, half way down I could see the security had disappeared from that entrance so although it was rammed I managed to poke my head round and catch a glimpse of the side screen, for All these Things & Mr Brightside. I then carried on with my trip to the car, happy that I had seen a little bit of it but kicking myself that I had left the tent after having a fantastic position close to the stage just a little while before, Glastonbury always seems to be about the stuff you missed!
So, with a choice of Courteeners on the Other Stage or Biffy Clyro on the Pyramid stage I made my second poor decision, I am putting it down to tiredness, I thought I could do both…never happens, so went to Courteeners saw two of their songs looked at my watch, panicked and left for the Pyramid, went to loo on the way, and got there for the last two Biffy songs.
So there I was at the Pyramid, aching from feet to eyes and too tired to move anywhere else, so I found my friends, they were all there, and we watched Ed Sheeran. Only one from our gang was a fan already but he was actually pretty good, he builds each song up from scratch with repeaters. We had a debate about a couple of the tracks having some melody sections pre-recorded but could not be sure, he definitely used a lot of effects pedals. But that in itself is a skill, his voice is bearable and I recognised some of the songs, the people around me in the crowd obviously loved him, there were young lads bouncing about like he was a rock god, and young girls attempting Irish dancing to a couple of the tracks. It was all very good fun.
When he was done we waited for a while to allow the crown to disperse and chatted about the clean up operation, it’s such a disappointment that people think its ok to just leave stuff where ever they like, not just empty cans and food containers but chairs and inflatable’s where strewn everywhere, some people where Wombling already and who can blame them, if they can repurpose/recycle and make a few bob then good on them.
We took a slow wander up to the Greenpeace area for a cup of Hot chocolate and a muffin we sat and put the world to rights for an hour then went back to the tents to bed.
6am Monday morning, the first of five without any pig based products, we packed up tents, disposed of rubbish ensuring we left no trace and headed off to the cars.
Another year gone in the blink of an eye, the only evidence, back ache, sore feet, and an overwhelming desire to wash my hair.
In conclusion the most important thing to take with you to Glastonbury Festival is good shoes! And maybe sausages.
Live Review by Jo Cant Photography by Edyta K at Glastonbury Festival 2017