Janet (j4) wrote,

Glastonbury 2004: "And you will know us by the trail of mud"

First, the music.

Bands/artists I saw (at least bits of):

Elbow, Groove Armada, PJ Harvey, Franz Ferdinand, Goldfrapp, The Levellers, Matt Sage, Attila the Stockbroker (both with and without Barnstormer), John Otway (with and without his Big Band), British Sea Power, The Rutles, Hothouse Flowers, Paul McCartney, Yeovil Town Band, English National Opera, Cara Dillon, John Cooper Clarke, Simon and Oscar (from Ocean Colour Scene), Suzanne Vega, Morrissey, Bonnie Raitt, Orbital.

Every year I think how expensive tickets are for Glastonbury, but then when I work out who I actually saw I figure that seeing over 20 bands means I get my money's worth on the ticket price. And that's before factoring in all the other excellent stuff that goes on.

Mind you, I couldn't write a review of more than half of those gigs, if that. What have I come away with from them? Singing in Elbow's 'Cast of Thousands' for the second time... a superbly bouncy and shouty gig by the Levellers, who fortunately aren't ashamed to concentrate solely on the older (good) stuff and ignore the later (lame) stuff... marvelling at Attila playing punk bass recorder, which is not something you see every day... boggling at the fact that Otway can still do somersaults across the stage from the top of a stepladder at the age of 50+, and that (bless him) he's still all excited about his TWO HITS... bouncing to the Rutles and being glad (if amused) to see that I wasn't the only one who knew all the words... and deciding that I really ought to buy CDs of Franz Ferdinand and Goldfrapp.

Bands/artists I annoyingly missed for one reason or another (mostly time-clashes or simply not seeing them in the listings):

Concretes[1], Chemical Brothers, Tindersticks, Love with Arthur Lee, Scissor Sisters (twice!), Sister Sledge, Jamie Cullum, Joss Stone, Zero 7, Show of Hands, AFX, Squarepusher, Murray Lachlan-Young, Chumbawamba, Billy Bragg, Simon from the Levellers doing acoustic stuff in the Leftfield[2], James Brown, Ella Guru, Neck, Supergrass, Gomez, Belle & Sebastian, Raveonettes, Space Ritual, Divine Comedy[3].

[1] Okay, I didn't know I wanted to see them until I heard them on Mark Radcliffe as I was driving home. They are seriously cool, though.
[2] No idea if this ever even happened; I was there at the right time, waited for a while, but something entirely different was happening...
[3] But they're playing the Cambridge Folk Festival so it was a deliberate decision to miss them this time so I'd be able to see other bands instead. Mind you, the Levellers are playing Cambridge as well... but they're, like, The Levellers! Bounce!

Next, the other stuff. I try to catch as much of the random circus stuff and general 'happenings' as I can, and this year was no exception (though the weather took some of the fun out of wandering around just seeing stuff) -- a semi-naked man juggling chainsaws, two girls in slightly Spanish-looking frilly costumes with one playing Eastern-sounding music on a clarinet (the music wove its way through the crowds and the mud like a glimmer of sunshine, I wanted to follow it but it never quite seemed to be going in the same direction as me) and the other playing a tambourine; four people in kangaroo costumes on springy stilts; a man carving owls out of wood with a chainsaw; the woman making larger-than-life human sculptures out of recycled waste; the giant factory built of scaffolding and steampunk dreams which was recycling aluminium cans into coins (complete with commentary: "Da-ger! Da-ger! Really fucking hot!"); people rolling a 20ft beach-ball on a string around a field so that kids (and adults!) could dive underneath it (yes, I tried it, it feels ... well... almost exactly like being run over by a giant beach ball); the people doing live re-enactment of the Matrix (complete with extra legs sewn on to their costumes for the bullet-time fight scenes). I even managed to fit in a tour of the Glastonbury Museum -- a caravan full of a ragbag of 'finds' from Glastonbury (Rizlas, cotton-buds, bits of fabric, old chewing gum, boots, all kinds of garbage, all meticulously labelled and documented), the tour of which was given by a rather librarianish lady. An archeological dig was in progress outside the caravan, and there was a policeman hovering outside whose hat featured a piece of tape saying "polite line: do not get cross". The museum was a time-capsule, a cross-section of the festival, a thing of shreds and patches, a silly-serious reflection on the delusions of grandeur which our dreams persist (as they must) in having. (It was also, of course, a caravan full of random junk. Which is rather the point. What remains when the glamour -- in the faerie sense -- is removed.)

Finally, the weather. I have to admit that trudging through welly-sucking sludge for days on end, mile on mile, accreting blisters and ankle-aches and a fine patina of muddy dust, is not the most joyful way to spend a weekend. And the rain was miserable, and the boggy mire which the fields became was less-than-appealing, and wading through ankle-deep slurry to get to a chemical toilet is really not the best start to the day. And tempers fray when sleep is impossible, food is expensive, and sitting down is impractical to say the least. But shiny skirts went some way towards brightening the landscape, and an endless supply of flapjacks helped the food situation, and sleep -- well, I suppose one can manage without sleep for a few days. And blankets are snuggly and warm.

I think my mum enjoyed herself in the end, though I sort of lost touch with her as a result of the phone fiasco. I spoke to her on the phone the day after I got back (I will gloss over the four hours it took to get the car off the site, not to mention failing to get back to Cambridge until midnight on the Monday) and asked what her highlights had been (and I don't mean the fetching shade of red that she'd spray-dyed her hair), and she raved at me about "When Worlds Collide", a collaboration between the Muffin Men and the Ensemble 10:10 who were playing the music of Zappa. I'd never heard of them. She also mentioned the bouncing kangaroos, and it transpired that either we'd both seen a different tiny child in a white fairy dress being picked up by one of the kangaroo-people, or we were unknowingly standing a mere few metres away from each other at one point. And this is the beauty of Glastonbury: paths merge and diverge and cross and pass like ships in the night, silver threads weaving and entwining and unravelling their way through a labyrinth of experience; everybody's trip is different, but part of the same tapestry. The loom forces the threads apart to make them into whole cloth.

The fireworks at midnight on Sunday were incredible. A flurry of white-hot magnesium-feathered angels glittering in the darkness, soaring and diving, and finally -- because this is the way the story always ends -- flying too close to the sun.

Perhaps in the end I am just a pair of muddy boots in the corner of somebody else's painting, driving out of the frame.
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