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theartsdesk at Glastonbury Festival 2014 | reviews, news & interviews

theartsdesk at Glastonbury Festival 2014

theartsdesk at Glastonbury Festival 2014

The fullest report of all from the best party on the planet

Mega City OneLead image/Lily Allen/Robert Plant © Jason Bryant. All other photos © Finetime.


On Thursday 26 June I arrive at a cloudy but warm Glastonbury Festival, set up camp, eat sausages, chase after DJ Richie Hawtin for an interview that never happens, then acclimatise, settle, let this hedonist Mecca do its work on me…

Friday 27 June

It starts as spotting. Then it lets go. The sound of droplets pattering against the outer skin of the brown four-person tent becomes a regular tattoo. I lie within, waiting out the mind-fuzz of yesterday’s cider, whisky and chemicals, munching on a breakfast of Morrisons Cheese Savouries (which are, incidentally, addictive). I wonder if 2014 will be like 1997, 1998, 2007, my Glastonburys that really were the “mud-fests” of media myth, the occasions when the weather remained so determinedly miserable that fun-powders turned to clay, skinning up became papier mâché-craft and festival-goers, alongside the oozing landscape around them, were persistently soaking. If it does, so be it. I didn’t come for comfort. Nothing interesting ever came from comfort. I want action. Then again, it’d be lush to have some sun.

glasto 2014I look at the programme, anticipating like a child with unopened presents before them, Christmas for (alleged) grown-ups. Now an OAP with a copy of the Radio Times, I ring acts with a biro, yet there are so many circled that remain unseen by the festival's end - The Pixies, Skrillex, Dexys, Clean Bandit, Jagwa Ma, Caro Emerald. The Glastonbury site is so vast, just over a mile and a half, east to west, and just under, south to north, with 177,000 souls milling about, mashed. A traveler must push through as if at a Turkish bazaar on market day, but often in wellies ranging over gluey ground. I need a time machine.

At 11am the rain stops abruptly, the sun pops out, and in the John Peel Tent, next to where I’m camped, the Kaiser Chiefs open the festival and begin a surprise slot with a rip-roaring “I Predict A Riot”. Shaving, wet-wiping and dressing, I eavesdrop on my neighbours’ conversation. A man is dismissing the Kaiser Chiefs with a sneer, claiming they’ve only one good song and are very much yesterday’s men. They didn’t sound tired to me, but each to their own. It’s only when he announces a moment later he’s looking forward to seeing Gaz Coombes of Supergrass that anything he’s ever thought in his life is rendered meaningless.

I wander to John Peel. The sun is out and there’s a breeze. It will remain warm all weekend, even when it rains. Glastonbury 2014 is a meteorological odyssey but, in essence, a series of showers blowing through the famous vales, with long patches of glorious sun drying everything out afterwards. It’s really not so bad, however much armchair BBC viewers with their tea and biscuits may have smugly imagined.

At John Peel, a band from Melbourne, Australia, called Money For Rope are giving it everything in front of a small crowd who I join. The festival proper has only just begun but already there’s the overpowering sense of crowds willing every act to give their best, be their most potent. With two drummers and a messy-quiffed snarling singer who looks pure rock’n’roll, they raise a volcanic mood by the time they finish with a number called “Easy Way Out”, a corking grunge-punk classic which, as soon as I returned from the festival, I downloaded and which proved every bit as impelling as I imagined.

glasto 2014Buzzed by Money For Rope’s righteous verve I fill a one-point-five litre water bottle with scrumpy at the Burrow Hill Cider Bus and scoff a large sausage in a bap lathered in tomato ketchup and mustard. When I was a vegetarian I still ate sausages at Glasto. Irresistible. I clearly wasn’t much of a vegetarian. Incidentally, there seems to be a movement against the abbreviation “Glasto”. Words go in and out of fashion, almost unnoticed. If you used the word “rave” between 2001 and 2006, for instance, people looked at you like urine was trickling down your leg, yet now it’s fine again. Cycles in a void, dictated by the whims of fools.

Robin Hood passes by with his Merrie Men, looking for the rich to rob, while a gathering of student sorts by an oil-drum bin clutch waxed cups of horrid Tuborg lager and lead a hearty chorus of “Oh What Beautiful Mornin’” that Rodgers & Hammerstein might not sign off on. Meanwhile, on the Pyramid stage something called The War On Drugs are widdling away on guitars and sounding like Dire Straits jamming with Kings of Leon which, in my world, is a disaster of catastrophic proportions. Never mind them, though, I’m basking in the sun’n’cider glow of my favourite city. Oxford, Cambridge, Colchester and Peterborough have similar sized populations, but can hardly compete for sheer hedonic joy. Nowhere can.

I place myself in the middle of the Pyramid field as a crowd gather for Rodrigo y Gabriela. A blond man of about 50 stands next to me with a girl-baby strapped to his front, facing outwards. The child has a bonnet and gigantic cherubic cheeks and is fascinated by my loud shirt and cowboy hat. She keeps reaching for me. I compliment the man on the baby’s good nature.

“It’s my wife Ola’s,” he replies, gesturing to a younger woman next to him in a headscarf. Given the baby is between six and nine months old, I’m not sure what to make of this remark. Fortunately Rodrigo y Gabriela arrive to interrupt such ponderings. The Mexican duo’s remit is to play flamenco guitar with heavy metal oomph. They don’t talk much but their instrumental sparring is hugely impressive. Gabriela Quintero lays down finger percussion on the body of her acoustic guitar with electronic kick-drum snap, while both of them do ridiculous, impossible things to the strings of their instruments, attacking my personal favourite, “Diablo Rojo”, with requisite zest.

There’s a lull two thirds of the way through their set and Rodrigo Sanchez is clearly trying to make us sing words to whatever he’s playing. We do not and he gives up in affable exasperation and asks, “Don’t you people know fucking anything?” I think he was playing a Metallica tune as Rodrigo y Gabriela have a well-documented penchant for them, but I’ve been asking about and no-one seems to know any Metallica songs except “Enter Sandman”, which doesn’t bode well for tomorrow night. Instead Rodrigo leads a sing-along to Radiohead’s “Creep” and suddenly everyone’s onside, merrily shouting out that they’re a weirdo and what the hell are they doing here. It’s one of the only Radiohead songs I like but, whatever my thoughts on that band (prog rock for Q readers), they’re a Glastonbury institution, their 1997 set being regarded as an all-time classic. After this enlivening interlude the final two numbers are greeted with solid applause.

glasto 2014As the audience exits the field, it’s great to see the Glastonbury walk in action. This is the wanna-be-dignified rolling gait of the high-functioning alcoholic. In the real world it would mark the walker out as being one to avoid at a party, but here, exaggerated by the bumpy ground, almost everyone does it (except in the Green Fields where they’re all on yoghurt, mung beans and locally sourced beetroot juice). Relaxing into it is a sign the walker is on course for a good weekend.

It’s now around 2.30pm and my dilemma is that my partner-in-chaos, Finetime, is due to arrive in Hospitality Parking around four so I don’t want to veer too far from that side of the site. I’ve promised to help bring onsite his many bags, his chairs, his bedding, his tea-making gear and much else. Thus I trawl the Silver Hayes area, once and more aptly known as the Dance Field. Few look glazed yet, most look determined. Give them time. The Sonic Stage here is a large architecturally ambitious awning and within it Gorgon City, AKA DJ-producers Foamo and RackNruin, are turning a Somerset field into Ibiza, as crowds sway along to singer Yasmin Shahmir’s rendering of club hit “Real”. It all sounds a bit deep-house-soul ordinary but what the Hell do I know, I’m sitting outside eating another sausage and swigging scrumpy instead of necking a pill or ten and getting sweaty.

Back at the John Peel stage Minneapolis indie band Poliça are proving to be a collection of NME-friendly beards fronted by a short-haired female singer. Tinted with synth-funk, they’re like a much less good Friends (whatever happened to them, by the way?), more self-involved than involving, so not really Glastonbury-winning material, and a good indication of why the NME only ever shifts copies when they put heritage artists on the cover. A shame. Bring back Money For Rope.

I peel off, as do much of the crowd, and head back to my basecamp where I chat with the fellow in the next tent. He’s called Giles and is wearing an original Justified Ancients of Mu Mu “SHAG SHAG SHAG” tee-shirt. Impressive stuff. It turns out that, in a previous life, he roadied for the KLF when they stormed the Brit Awards in 1992 with Extreme Noise Terror, and was even in charge of the M16 which Bill Drummond turned on the audience. As we talk the western horizon is not only darkening but rent asunder by flashes of lightning, thunder rumbling loudly. It looks very ominous indeed. As the thunder reaches another crescendo my phone rings. Finetime has arrived. And all Hell has followed with him.

“Do you think it’s going to hit just as I reach him?” I ask Giles.

“Yup,” he says, “that it is.”

I race over to Hospitality Parking and Finetime is perched by his old lime green Ford Capri smoking a roll-up and knocking back a chilled can of Kronenbourg.

“Sorry I’m later than expected, I took a wrong turn,” he says, “but I got a box of red wine.”

This will turn out to be fortuitous come Sunday but right now a whipping wind hints that the increasingly black skies are about to explode.

“We’ve got to get out of here,” I shriek, as if it were the end of a James Bond film.

“Just a moment,” says Finetime with cheerful calm, “I want to see if I can find some bungee straps.” He rifles through his bags with stately ease.

glasto 2014I pile myself high with his gear and rush off, leg muscles pumping. He follows at a gentler pace, pulling behind him an old lady’s trolley full of kitchenware, but it’s too late, too late, too late. Just as we reach the Wicket Gate a monsoon deluge hits, thunder kabooms and lightning pops the air around us. It is apocalyptic, the sort of downpour where, if you’re in it for 10 seconds, you’re soaked through. We’re in it for a lot longer than that. Well, I am. Finetime wisely stops for another roll-up and a beer under an awning. Back at the site, I look like I’ve been swimming in my clothes, completely drenched. The tent held, though, and I load Finetime’s gear into his partition.

When all is settled and I’ve changed into a garish yellow Mr Happy tee-shirt and an acid smiley bandana, we have a snack supper so we can crack on into the naughties. Pork pies, half a sandwich and Morrisons Cheese Savouries guzzled, we tuck into a fat helping of Energizer Z. Boom! The sun comes back out but we’re already lit up, marching into the fray, completely unaware the sound onsite has been turned off for an hour for safety reasons, curtailing Rudimental’s slot, a show that could have been their making. Such is bastard fate.

glasto 2014Lily Allen (pictured right) is on the Pyramid, clad in a crotch-revealing acid pink dress (and pink knickers, I should swiftly add), teetering about on super-high heels. Her stage set consists of a bunch of giant baby bottles and she’s having a ball, pulling on a pint of lager, making comments about her “camel toe” and the discomfort of wearing what she is. She’s an endearing soul, a social commentator who’s also bubbly, human and fallible. Her new album is overproduced, rendering a number of decent songs unnecessarily ersatz, but live they pack a punch. The material from 2009’s It’s Not Me, It’s You is even more welcome, especially “Fuck You” which she dedicates to FIFA’s Sepp Blatter - also calling him “a cunt” - and the ever-brilliant “The Fear”, one of the century’s best chart-toppers, and a most fabulous skewering of celeb vacuousness.

From there it’s a question of running away fast, in case I see anything of Elbow or Arcade Fire. Such urgent movement hammers my blisters. I made a big Glastonbury error yesterday evening. I put on wellies as I thought the mud would come. It didn’t so I walked around in them all night on hard ground. Wellies + hard ground = foot annihilation. Now there is mud, albeit not terrible, and rushing from Elbow peels skin and Elastoplasts from my feet.

glasto 2014Never mind, plenty of potions to ease the pain. Surfing scrumpy and Energizer Z, Finetime and I pop to the tent to pick up a bag of records and CDs for I’m DJing tonight at the Cornish Arms, a bar near the Leftfield Stage. First, though, time to explore Shangri-La, one of the far-flung fields that is this year separated into Heaven and Hell, the latter being a series of corporate buildings with 1984-style posters shouting slogans such as “U.S.L.I.P. – IMMIGRANTS – With no border control thousands will be arriving here every night drunk, deviant and deranged.”

Unlike the Block9 field, which is already heaving to the point of discomfort, there’s room to manoeuvre here. As well as multitudes of bizarre little cubicles containing caged ladies, cocktail-drinking micro-lounges and more. There’s also an outdoor stage. Plump DJs are spinning and they’re rockin’ electro-house-breakbeat like it’s 2001. Bingo! Finetime and I rave hard, jogging and jumping and exchanging pop-eyed smiles with passersby! It’s a world away from Arcade Fire which is a world I want to be in.

One point of order re Glasto 2014: too many queues. Outdoor stages like Shangri La Heaven are fit for purpose, you roll up, push as far into things as is comfortable and get on with it, but what’s happening more and more is the south-eastern corner of the site, the wild lands, the night fields along the old railway track, have become populated by a host of enclosed pop-up nightclubs where people queue for hours to get in. I do not understand their mentality, given they’re wasting precious time in this orgiastic temporary autonomous zone. On Thursday night, when David Morales was doing an hour-long tribute to the late Frankie Knuckles at Block9’s NYC Downlow venue (the tenement building with half a taxi stuck out of the roof), the field was grotesquely, unpleasantly full. This is not loveable, however many fantastic trannies they have helming the show. Glastonbury’s logistical top dogs have started to spread the night’s load around the site (the Stonebridge Bar in The Park is a little cracker, for instance), but more of this needs to happen. And, while we’re talking queues, the most surreal one I saw was a long queue for the showers… in a shower of rain. Ha!

glasto 2014Back at the Cornish Arms Finetime and I are on a roll. I’ve donned a Mexican wrestler’s mask to play records and, after swigging mojitos and honking Faraway Popping Candy with my old pal Pestilence who has backstage access, I plunge into an hour-and-a-half of eclectic looning, starting with the intro to Plastikman’s new album and ending with a sing-along to “Chim Chim Cheree” from Mary Poppins. Along the way, highlights include the Glimmer Twins’ remix of Roxy Music’s "Same Old Scene", Commander Tom’s old techno-trance banger "Are Am Eye" and, most especially, a madcap response to Wham!’s “Wham Rap”. It’s both silly and gladdening with a small crowd clambering around tables and bouncing on a podium, and Finetime grooving up and down behind the bar egging them on.

After that it all blurs but we did end up in the Arcadia field where the behemoth robot spider has now been joined by other post-industrial delights such as a fire-breathing android dragon and an enormous cybernetic hand that was chucking around a car and messing with it like it was Play-Doh. We settle nearby in a tea tent of exotic Middle Eastern carpets and hookah pipes and let herbs settle our minds until we’re thrown out and head to Lah-Lah Land.

Overleaf: read Saturday


Saturday 27 June

I awake to hear Nick Mulvey’s plaintive voice, far off on the Pyramid, snippets carried on the wind.

“It’s Nick Mulvey, we’ve missed Nick Mulvey,” sighs Finetime from his part of the tent.

“I’m pretty sure he’s on again somewhere later,” I say hopefully, putting my head outside into the cloudy, sun-dappled day and pouring lukewarm bottled water into my face. Nick Mulvey, the ex-Portico Quartet singer-songwriter is quite something. We must see him. We must.

However, right now a trip to the Green Fields is in order. These are the quiet-lands, safe for children and full of holistic sorts, wooden carvings of magic mushrooms, playhouses, shelters built in all manner of shapes, from boats to buses, and muscular men riding glittery tricycle tuk-tuks giving giggling toddlers joyrides.

glasto 2014Here happy bearded men – not hipsters, just men who have beards – serve veggie food at sturdy log-built stalls, an evangelical glint in their eye, alongside women in smock dresses with straight hair, freckles and little make-up. Poetry is going on somewhere, as is quiche, fudge, apple pie and organic falafels. Children’s voices chatter merrily, and coffee is their parents’ predominant buzz. Finetime and I stop at a wooden hut called The Ethical Chef and buy a carton each of organic smoked paprika chilli on a bed of mixed herb bulgar wheat with wild garlic pesto, Glastonbury cheddar and fresh coriander. It’s very good indeed, and as we sit consuming it a small crowd rolls up bearing an award parchment and a bottle of champagne. It’s not for us, sadly. Instead yet another bearded man shouts that his little group are awarding Glastonbury 2014’s Sustainable Green Trader Award. And, yes, the winner is the Ethical Chef who made our chilli. Hurrah! We whoop and cheer as the champagne is opened although we’re not offered any despite our vital contribution to proceedings.

“Who knows where the time goes?” Sandy Denny once sang. I don’t, I really don’t. You get the impression from the media that it’s a non-stop parade of bands, bands, bands, but I ended up spending aeons in an alternative postcard stall, sipping cider and looking at shots from 50 years of UK festival culture. Finetime sat outside smoking roll-ups until I presented him with a David Shrigley cartoon I’d found and we moved on, stopping only to watch a line of fifteen people, arms linked, high-kicking in front of a tiny stage containing someone called Michael Campari & the Solar System playing a sassy, Sinatra tribute-style version of “New York, New York”. Stuff like this kills hours. Very pleasurably, I might add. But what is this sound coming from the Avalon Café across the way? We rush in and there he is – Nick Mulvey, baseball capped and bearded, performing solo acoustic, but after one song, the beautiful nostalgic paean to childhood “Cucurucu”, he’s gone. We’ve missed him again.

“He’s on tomorrow, I checked,” I tell Finetime.

A weather front is coming in, the sky’s brewing up darkly, so a decision is made. We are going to gather “supplies”, tripod stools and waterproofs, plonk ourselves in the Pyramid Field and stay there, come Hell or high water for the afternoon has a solid run  – Lana del Rey, Robert Plant. Jack White, Metallica. That lot have to be worth an adventure against the elements.

glasto 2014Lana Del Rey certainly has a few gently, perhaps wearily, engaging songs. She’s “the American Portishead” as my mate Thigh puts it, but also Hollywood photogenic, mingled with Julee Cruise and a bunch of other sub-David Lynch schtick. If she could connect with Glastonbury’s eager crowd, it would give her self-consciously calculated oeuvre kudos. At first her doomed sweet-sour trip-hop sways me momentarily but she has dead eyes and the stage presence of a wilted lettuce. There’s nothing going on.

“This is the sort of music I don’t like,” Finetime states, “It’s wet.”

“She’s OK sometimes on record,” I mumble, halfheartedly, damning with faint praise. So we go and buy more scrumpy and lager and a couple of shots of Bullet bourbon, returning to a spot as near to the Pyramid’s front as we’ll be all weekend. It has started to rain. Finetime has brought along a fluorescent green-yellow kagoule that’s not entirely waterproof. This is an understatement. He says it’s alright. Within 40 seconds it’s glued to him. The downpour grows torrential. I have a vast army poncho which goes over both of us like an open-fronted tent so we sit on our tripod stools and hide under it, smoking and chucking Energizer Z into ourselves, the elements beating at us frantically. Weirdly, the outrageous weather has set us on a genuinely bracing adventure.

glasto 2014Robert Plant (pictured right) appears amid this deluge with his Sensational Space Shifters. They include the heavily bearded guitarist Liam Tyson, who looks as if he might be one of Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds in his spare time, or possibly a wizard, and who opens proceedings with a Hispanic run-through of “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You”. From there on the weather slowly clears and, as it does so, Plant’s set becomes a journey to sunlight and exhilaration. Yes, I know that’s a ridiculously hippy thing to say but it’s true - so there! Aided and abetted by the virtuoso Gambian musician Juldeh Camara, dazzling us with trickery on a ritti (a one-stringed lute-violin thing) Plant’s set was a gumbo of global blues, spiced with enough Led Zep to keep everyone hooked (eg an early mellow stab at “Black Dog”). I’m not one of those who grew up on Led Zep – although Finetime was – so I wasn’t just on some dreamy nostalgia trip. He was just great, that’s all, looking as leonine as ever in his WOMAD-friendly shirt, and ending with a full fat rock take on the triple header “Whole Lotta Love”, “Who Do You Love?” and “Rock’n’Roll”, by which time the sun was shining, the field was full, and an irresistible pulse was passing through everything. Top, top stuff.

glasto 2014Very enlivened, we thought Jack White might even top that but it wasn’t to be. He came on absolutely full pelt with White Stripes’ “Icky Thump” and continued at the same pace, leaving himself nowhere to go. Po-faced, swigging Veuve Clicquot and flying about the stage like a sailor on deck in a Force 10 gale, it seemed to me he might also be off his head. I’ve no objection to that, of course, but his 200 mph barrage didn’t suit the mood. My brother texted to say it was fantastic on television and I can well imagine it was, which just shows the difference between that medium and the reality of the moment.

We left before the end so we missed “Seven Nation Army” which I grumbled about briefly, but it was the right move. Stupidly we also missed the Pixies at this point, which was very high on our weekend agenda, but that’s the nature of this place. We revved up, ate three donuts each for supper (bad move on my part), changed into our evening party clothes and returned for Metallica.

glasto 2014When Glastonbury 2014’s headliners were announced I was disappointed. You’d have to go back to 2003, maybe 1999, maybe even further, to find such an uninspiring selection. At least one Pyramid headliner should be iconic, unique or an exceptional opportunity to catch a Paul McCartney, a Beyoncé, a Bowie or wotnot, but Metallica, Arcade Fire and Kasabian are all regularly touring bands. Nothing screamed, “EXCITEMENT!” Of all of them, Metallica were the most conceptually intriguing but the majority only know one song – “Enter Sandman” – if we know any. Even as a media circus “event performance” all three headliners were overshadowed by Dolly Parton, which says everything.

Never mind all that theoretical burble, though. Finetime and I were up for a headbang so we got amongst it. The first sign of life from the Pyramid Stage was a tribute to the late great actor, Eli Wallach, consisting of a sequence from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly broadcast on the stage’s big screens. This was followed by a montage of fox hunting taken from, I think, the film The Bellstone Fox (which used to make one of my brothers cry) but ending with Metallica dressed as bears killing the huntsmen, an oblique, amusing but not especially effective comment on the public reaction to singer James Hetfield’s involvement with a TV documentary about culling Kodiak bears. Then the band appeared and rabid metal pummeling was initially the order of the day. Perhaps if we’d stuck around for more than two songs we’d have been drawn in but it just didn’t feel winning. It felt one note and niche.

On we went to Bryan Ferry on the West Holts stage, in the hope of a smidgeon of Roxy raunch, or perhaps he’d be having one of his swing-laden jazzy episodes, but, no, he was, unfortunately, in tasteful mode, polite to the point of blandness, all “Slave to Love” vibes rather than doing the Strand. Thus we broke away into the far-flung fields before the queues began. Fuelled by a panoply of powders and 1989 Nippynots. we travelled them for hours, enjoying the Unfairground with its ludicrous carnival games, £2 a shot and explicitly designed so punters lose every time, throwing dolls’ limbs past duck-clown mutations into spinning Munch-ian gargoyles and similar, or the Rum Shack out on the verge of The Common, spinning jungle and dub in a temptingly easy-going environment, or DJ Nick Hollywood clad in white top hat and suit, playing electro-swing high above a crowd in Shangri-La.

glasto 2014Along the way I confess my lack of supper came back to haunt me as my cider turned to acid burn in my stomach - my own silly fault - but forward march, grab some vodka and cranberry, grab some Fruit Pastilles, the only way out is in, onwards ever, ever on. So that’s where I went, with Finetime in full 1989 Nippynot mode, to Glasto Latino, a stage where percussionist Edwin Sanz and keyboard player Alex Wilson’s salsa orchestra paid tribute to the music of the Venezuelan barrio of Caracas, which meant a hip-swinging version of Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody” and a tent full of dancers wriggling to South American rhythms as if their life depended on it. There was more after that, and then bedtime came with the dawn, dropping me straight into a deep, dreamless sleep.

Overleaf: read Sunday


Sunday 29 June

Arising midday-ish I felt surprisingly well but Finetime was under the weight of things consumed. He made himself a cup of tea on his gas burner and ate a few Morrisons Cheese Savouries and peanuts. After a quick bacon bap in the Hospitality canteen we set out for the Theatre Field which is always an idyllic, amusing place to hang out. The sun shines all day, the ground slowly dries, and I, for the first time in any of my Glastonburys, stay away from the Burrow Hill Cider Bus, starting instead with three pints of lager top and a pizza (from Wood Fired Pizza in the Theatre Field, the only queue I stood in all weekend - and worth it).

glasto 2014The roving acts are often the real treats. As we eat our pizza a group of “shepherds” gaggle past herding “sheep” in motorized wheelchairs, giving it the full One Man and His Dog treatment with whistles and crooks. Two cricket commentators set up nearby, dropping near-the-cuff remarks about passing festival-goers on their antique microphones. Like a lot of humour, it’s parochial, pertinent to the time and place, hence not funny described at length or in detail afterwards, but a catalogue of Theatre Field lunacy made me laugh aloud, most especially Bramble FM.

I’d seen the Bramble FM caravan here in previous years, a grubby, dirt-smeared, sorry-looking thing, but I’d never seen it in action. Ostensibly a local radio station on 69.9 FM, it hosts a “rock roadshow”, a ridiculous farce fronted by “Les and Maureen” whose line in surreal humour is exquisite. They present a trunk of vintage gear which turns out to contain two vintage house bricks alongside other detritus, before taking us back beyond vintage to the Paleolithic era. This consists of Maureen dressing as a dinosaur and being chased about glasto 2014by Les, Keystone cops-style, around the crowd, before we’re all asked to come up and give their caravan some love. Thus we surround it, cuddling it. They are perfect festival fare, the stuff of randomly caught genius, which makes them even more of a treasure.

4pm is approaching, however, which means it’s Dolly Parton time. The Pyramid field is absolutely chocka, the biggest crowd of the weekend. I later hear The Horrors played to almost no-one on the Other Stage, poor sods. Finetime and I squeeze in beside a gang in their early fifties, all dressed in wigs, party shop cowboy hats, the men sporting large fake plastic boobs. There is a real sense of occasion which Dolly, clad in a silvery white skintight rhinestone suit, buys straight into and turns into an irresistible hoedown party. Her voice is squeaky, her patter is Nashville showbiz corny, and some of her songs are dreadful US FM radio soft-rock schmaltz that made me stand back from myself, wondering how I could be listening to them, but, but, but, she also has an ineffable charm that’s hugely likeable, and is a consummate entertainer. She plays guitar, banjo and dulcimer with impressive ease, as well as preposterously throwing in a version of the Benny Hill theme on the saxophone. She sends us all mad with “Jolene” early in the set, leads an acapella singalong to a new song she claims to have written about the festival called “Mud, Mud, Mud” (sing the title chorus), she hauls on grizzled fret-wrangler Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi to add rockin’ to her gospel version of “Lay Your Hands On Me”, and everyone goes completely bonkers when she kicks into “Nine to Five”.

glasto 2014Whereas Metallica was a primarily blokey experience, Dolly was for everybody, albeit with a massive side order of tongue-in-cheek and cheese. Oh, and she wasn’t miming, a rumour that was caused by some transmitter delay issue, again proving how TV viewers’ opinions can be bemusingly off the mark. It was bizarre to return from the festival and find that, of all the things Glastonbury did, this was what people were talking about. Never mind.

Finetime and I squeeze our way from the Pyramid as Dolly warbles “I Will Always Love You”, a song I could never stand, and grabbing a box of churros – tubular Spanish doughnuts – in chocolate sauce, we reach the William’s Green tent, by the central Glastonbury Meeting Place, just in time for Nick Mulvey.

There are, increasingly, two Glastonburys. There’s the one I go to and recognize and another new one that’s founded in tacky, crappy, irrelevant media perceptions. They have become distinct beasts that only occasionally occupy the same space. They are summed up by two Nicks. One is Radio One breakfast DJ Nick Grimshaw who features in the Daily Mail’s annual online Glastonbury gallery, usually wearing wellies and expensive, trendy clothes, and this year alongside the model Daisy Lowe. A woeful, grinning, scenester dork in tune with the dismal aspirations of wannabe-celeb Britain, he’s offered up as a Glastonbury fashion icon. This is "brand Glastonbury", a world of media SEO teams ensuring their “content” contains words such as “Cara Delavingne”, whether she’s there or not, a pathetic indictment of dreary public susceptibility to consensus reality shite. Anyway, fuck him, them and all they stand for.

glasto 2014The other Nick is Nick Mulvey. He arrives onstage, a self-effacing presence, again in a beard, baseball cap and wellies, but emanating quiet, smiling charisma, and this time accompanied by a band, a backing singer and a cellist. The tent slowly fills as he draws us into the songs from his recent debut album First Mind, fascinatingly lovely things that bely the usual singer-songwriter whining, constructed out of ideas taken from Cuban jazz guitar, modern classical, electronic music and more, but also personable, enigmatic and touching. He soon has us all in the palm of his hand. He tells us one song was written about Glastonbury. “I don’t want to go home,” runs the lyric, “’Cause I’m already home.” I don’t want to go home either. This place gets me every time. When he hits his broken utopian anthem “Nitrous” I become tired and emotional (and very happy), its melancholic sweetness making my eyes glisten and more. “If you see old nitrous man/ Selling laughter from a can/ Go tell him that the dream still fits the plan.” It does, it really does. I wipe my cheeks hoping no-one can see what’s going on behind my mirror shades. This is indeed the Glastonbury I’m part of.

Drained by Nick Mulvey, Finetime and I head back to camp. He lies down for “a moment” which turns into an hour and a half of much-needed nap. I close my eyes but snoozing doesn’t come so I head out and gather supplies, returning with a beer and a Greek wrap of haloumi, salad and, yes, sausage. Finetime rises revitalized and we crack into the red wine box he bought back on Friday before the deluge. It tastes most excellent so we pepper ourselves with Energizer Z and 1989 Nippynots, dressed up, fired up, ready for Kasabian and the final push to Moscow.

When we arrive at the Pyramid, Kasabian have already begun. We stand quite a way up the field. I don’t usually come this far back but the sound quality is loud and solid, and the view across the crowd, especially once the lights play over them and their swaying flags and standards after the sun goes down, makes for a spectacular sight. Kasabian are much maligned in hipster quarters, lumped in with the Stereophonics, Embrace etc as unambitious bloke-rock. I’ve never understood this. They’re a band who plunder electronic music in a way none of their peers does, smashing it into glam stomp, Krautrock, pop and a whole lot else. They’re sometimes bullishly cocky, sure, but the best of their music has a contagious pizzazz. I suspect the same thing will eventually happen to assessment of their work as happened to Led Zeppelin. Did you know all the hipsters and critics loathed Led Zep when they were around? I didn’t. By the time I came to them in the Eighties, their reassessment was already in full swing. I can already hear squealing London hacks in 2020 revealing their gauche wonder that Kasabian have good songs.

We already know that. Their set is astounding fun, a great time, with singer Tom Meighan clad in a white dinner jacket, shades and a bowtie. We rock along to “Shoot the Runner”, enjoy a Serge Pizzorno cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”, sing “Happy birthday to you” en masse to a grey haired, bearded roadie, watch Noel Fielding rush about clad as “Vlad the Impaler”, simply drink up the bawdy electro-rock of the songs from their first and their latest album (“Stevie” is a swaggering future classic), and they end with Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You” mutating into the entire field terrace-chanting along to “LSF”, the humming chorus carried across the site long after they’ve finished.

glasto 2014After Kasabian it’s the traditional Sunday night blow-out for Finetime and I. In many ways Glastonbury Sunday night is my favourite bit, the survivors reveling, raising the roof one last time, the site stripped of those who headed off to go back to work Monday. Those left, by the nature of things, have a greater commitment to the crazed hedonic spirit that’s now rife. We head for both Blues and Sonic, two West Holts dance stages, the latter featuring Above & Beyond, but remain unmoved until we reach the Cornish Arms where we hook up with my old pal Pestilence again for Faraway Popping Candy and dancing like zongoid witch doctors to Brighton turntablist extraordinaire JFB (pictured right) who’s laying down an amazing mash-up of Hendrix, hip hop and anything he can lay his hands on.

From there we catch the final moments of DJ Breach at the WOW! Stage, another West Holts dance party, and then head up to The Park where a portable sound sytem is playing house which tickles Finetime’s fancy, but we end up in the Stone Circle as the sun rises – glasto 2014of course! - sitting among the fires, embracing herbalization and the endless, endless hiss of nitrous oxide. We walk back to the tent singing “Wham Rap!” and laughing, laughing, laughing. Life is so good.

Once back at camp I lie down. It is fully light outside but that’s when I saw them, I saw stars.

Tuesday 1 July

Having taken many hours to travel home on Monday I slept like a dead man. I spend part of the next day cleaning up my gear. There is Somerset dirt on boots and other items. I tap great chunks of it onto my small bed of French beans. This is Worthy Farm mud, who knows what it contains? Maybe I shall grow magic beans. Whether I do or don't, some of Glastonbury 2014 is in my back garden, the rest of it, my own version, at least, is in my head, and that'll have to do until next year.

It’s great to see the Glastonbury walk in action, the wanna-be-dignified rolling gait of the high-functioning alcoholic


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