The days immediately following a festival are supposed to be when you pay the price. Your legs ache. Your sunburn stings. Your mystery rash (contracted either from hugging a raver, or urinating in a bush) deepens to a curious shade of fuchsia. Your internal organs burst into tears, and your serotonin pathways scream “no more” to you.
Well, I can’t deny that, two days after returning from Glastonbury, I’m feeling pretty tender. Not only am I physically wrecked, but I’m also contending with a broken phone, a lost debit card, a lost door key, a dismal bank balance, and a subtle layer of grass and mud coating most of my possessions.
That said… it was Glastonbury. My five days at Worthy Farm were so bloody amazing (not a word I use lightly) that the aftermath feels like a generous trade off.
There’s always the danger, when you’re really, really looking forward to something, that it’ll fail to live up to expectations. I contended with this possibility as I counted down the days, considering it might be safer to approach the festival with caution. If you turn up anticipating nothing more than an overpriced camping trip – populated mostly by double-barreled trustafarians and unwashed crusties in tie-dye T-shirts – then you won’t be wildly disappointed.
That said, I’ve wanted to go to Glastonbury for as long as I’ve liked music, and by the time last Wednesday swung by I was practically pie-eyed with excitement.
I’d been told to bring no real itinerary, which turned out to be sound advice. While you technically could spend your time powering from one stage to the next, in doing so you would risk turning Glastonbury into a military operation.
As a result, my festival turned out to be surprisingly light on bands. I saw just seven or eight acts in total, figuring I could watch the ‘best bits’ on youtube later. You only have five days here, and you could be doing literally ANYTHING – why would you spend them crammed into a human battery farm by the Pyramid Stage watching some lacklustre act from a NOW! album run through their highest-charting warblings?
So, with the caveat that I didn’t really do Glastonbury ‘properly’ (i.e. I have no insight into any of the headliners, and couldn’t care less about the Kanye debacle) here are some of my personal highlights:
It ain’t all about the guitar bands. Apart from the likes of Jungle and Todd Terje (who were fantastic), the trippy Chemical Brothers set (even better), and the late night areas (generally too knackered to face these), we killed a lot of time at the Beat Hotel.
The Beat Hotel is a haven of bright colours, house beats and frozen cocktails. Yeah, so it may be ‘more like Magaluf than Worthy Farm’, according to one particularly snobbish reviewer. But there’s nothing that says ‘summer holiday’ like dancing on a multi-stage podium in the blazing sunshine with a strawberry dacquiri in your hand, a neon wig on your head, and someone’s discarded NOS canisters around your ankles.
Through refusing to structure your time, you clear the day for an adventure. We’d start out with a loose plan (let’s go to the Healing Fields and get our fortunes told! Let’s check out the band at West Holts at 2:30pm!), but before we knew it, that plan would unravel into the most off-the-wall kind of tapestry.
On Friday, for instance, I did the following:
- Get up early, and trek up the hill to see the campsite in panorama before it awoke
- attend the Charlatans’ surprise festival opener
- gravitate back to the Beat Hotel
- watch this old punk on a hidden stage among the trees
- dance to Wu-Tang Clan in an R&B tent, followed by some 70s boogieing in a pop tent
- stop off at the Hare Krishnas’ for some free lentil slop and lessons in 1960s counterculture
- go positively apeshit to Jungle
- befriend some randos while sheltering from a freak rainstorm
- dance-walk past Mark Ronson en route to see Hot Chip
- drink enough 7% cider to fell a farmer
- move on to the grubby, subterranean excesses of Block 9 and Shangri-La before hiking the several miles back to bed.
Everyone at Glastonbury is nice. To someone like me, a hard-bitten Londoner of seven years’ standing, the lack of aggression was conspicuous: in everyday life, it’s there all around you, an ever-present low-level hum.
Even at other festivals, you have to watch your back. I’ve been to festivals where the sniffer dogs are out in full force, officious numskulls discard your water bottles, and everyone looks about half a Stella away from pushing you into the mud.
Here, not so. I know it’s a cliché to talk about the ‘vibes’ at Glastonbury, but we used the word ‘vibes’ a lot. People chat to you. We got to know a small child named Obsidian, and two old local yokels who claimed to have drunk 130 units of lager each since Wednesday. A guy gurning next to me at the Chemical Brothers accidentally picked up my bag, and was practically prostrate in apology.
Saturday night in particular evinced the goodness in the universe: I somehow got lost on the way back to my tent, and after two hours of wandering round in circles, a girl (serendipitously, a geography teacher) stopped and helped me out. You don’t get that kind of thing on the Old Kent Road when you’re trying and failing to find a night bus.
The opportunity to peacock it up in utterly ridiculous clothing
Would do this every day if I could.
J/k, they were admittedly pretty bad. Smelt, and looked, a bit like an explosion in the bowels of hell the day after it had eaten a strong curry.
I know that people like to sneer at Glastonbury c. 2015, but screw it. This was Disneyland and Christmas and school’s-out-for-summer to me. I’ll be back next year, if I can get tickets, for more of the same – hopefully with less of the losing and breaking all my worldly goods.
British freelance journalist living in the Netherlands