It had been four lonely years since I’d last ventured to Worthy Farm for what’s widely acknowledged as the greatest musical festival that ever was. And the Glastonbury Festival really is something quite spectacular. From Bolan to Hendrix to Bowie and Baez through to The Smiths and The Cure, Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage, today one of 80 stages, has seen it all. This year even saw James Blunt grace the stage for a second time. After much thought and many a sleepless night I decided to sacrifice the last Evolve and whatever happened on the last Friday of the past academic year just to be there.
Musically, the big names were out in force this year, fronted by Kings of Leon, Jay-Z and The Verve who were suitably backed by Foals, Dizzee Rascal, The National and The Cribs to name but a handful. Owner, organiser, philanthropist and all round lovely person Michael Eavis had to fight off considerable ‘controversy’ from sceptics, mostly in Jack Martin, concerning the appointment of Jay-Z, who I’m told is quite the prestigious hip-hop hero, as Saturday night’s headliner.
Somewhere up North Noel Gallagher remarked “I’m not having hip-hop at Glastonbury. It’s wrong.” Only the NME listened. Nevertheless, the show continued as whilst on route along the A39 Jo Whiley kindly informed me that the final few tickets for the weekend had indeed, against all the indie-odds, sold out. I was excited. I’d somehow managed to wangle a pair of press tickets for the festival so expenditure on food and drink proved gratifyingly low. I was preparing myself for the most celeb-fuelled weekend of my post-Facebook life.
Personally, I was most intrigued to see just what Ben Folds, Emmy the Great, Laura Marling, Vampire Weekend, The Last Shadow Puppets, Mystery Jets, Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit and Mumford and Sons had to offer the temporary refugees dispersed across Shepton Mallet. What’s more, my irreplaceable personal tutor had even picked out Elbow and The Raconteurs as another two acts not to be missed, and he wasn’t wrong. Jack White would even join Alex Turner on stage come the Saturday.
I was soon camped comfortably behind the main stage surrounded by the almost rich and famous. I should probably mention at this point, as I simply can’t hold it in anymore, that over my four day stay in BA4 4BY I was joined in the very plush VIP toilets by none other than Tim Lovejoy, Neil Morrissey and the chubby one from The Wombats. I’m told he’s called Michael Murphy. On Thursday night, Mr. Eavis threw a highly decadent party to sweeten the ladies and gentlemen of the press, which that night included myself and esteemed Boarite Chris Wells. KT Tunstall had even been roped in from her caravan to appease The Daily Mail readers. It was here where I cheekily asked Eavis to book Steven Patrick Morrissey for the 2009 festival, to which he replied that the deed had already been done. I smiled as we went about saving the world in our separate ways. Before too long, free Carling had got the better of me and I was drunk enough to retire to my tent, casually spilling red wine all over the place.
Before long it was Friday morning and I’d fallen in love with Glastonbury all over again. And who better to start the proceedings than a revitalised Kate Nash who drew an unbelievably large crowd to the Pyramid for 10:50am, given the general drunken euphoria around the site the night before the morning after. Things did take an unfortunate turn soon afterwards with The Feeling, Worthy favourites The Subways and The Gossip all performing. I, however, was elsewhere, indulging myself in a superb career-spanning set from Ben Folds before Foals came along prompting the biggest dance of the day during triumphs ‘Cassius’ and ‘Balloons’. I’d seen Yannis Philippakis backstage earlier that afternoon donning his Topshop shirt and jeans tighter than Duncan Bannatyne whilst playing about with his seemingly unmanageable 80s locks.
Away from the obvious nature of The Enemy and The Fratellis there was plenty on offer from The Blockheads acoustic performance to fine sets from Lupe Fiasco and Lightspeed Champion. The latter band’s protagonist, Devonte Hynes, spent much of his afternoon playing around with his signature hat behind the press tent. Every little fiddle helps. That night, Kings of Leon played as they always have, and probably always will, with great competence and style but with little rhetoric or charisma. New songs, old songs, good songs and bad songs all featured. It was job done, with the airing of ‘Fans’ and ‘California Waiting’, but only just.
Hours later it soon became clear that Saturday very much belonged to, not One Night Only, but Jay-Z. A little like Eastenders, everybody was talking about him from Avalon to the Queen’s Head. Pre-Z though, I was terrified by a seemingly possessed James Blunt before The Courteeners quickly cheered me up. Solid sets from Black Kids and Vampire Weekend soon followed, before the beauty of Elbow’s Guy Garvey’s songwriting took over Worthy Farm. Well, the Other Stage at least. I’d decided to choose Hot Chip over the ever-precarious Amy Winehouse, as the crowd at the Other were transformed into an alternative dance class for bespeckled scenesters. Even Wiley joined in the fun. Usually drink. Usually dance. Usually electropop. Soon enough, it was time for Shawn Corey Carter to steal the show, and that’s exactly what Mr. Jay-Z did. I didn’t have a clue what was going on, or what was being said, but it wasn’t difficult to see that this was something special. Forget Oasis, Jay-Z is Glasto’s newly crowned songbird.
It was all the more frustrating then when Sunday’s bill-toppers, The Verve, missed the point all together performing a pretentiously flawed set to the most disillusioned crowd of the weekend. In fact, one needed to look as far down as the Park Stage for some indie-folk-pop release thanks to Mumford and Sons and Laura Marling. The former songstress was preceded, and even joined, Mystery Jets for another of the weekend’s highlights on former single ‘Young Love’. Back on the main stage, John Mayer was on show to woo a surprisingly small and subdued crowd with Neil Diamond and Leonard Cohen also present to croon as sunset approached.
I’d also spent the weekend on a bit of a culinary mission. Assuming the role of an undergraduate Jamie Oliver, I was keen to see how the other half not only live, but eat. More specifically, how many portions of fruit and vegetables any famous faces I spotted had consumed that day. Given that I was at Glastonbury, where all you can buy are chips and expensive chips at that, I wasn’t holding out too much hope. My most amusing encounter came with political stalwart, Andrew Marr, who sheepishly confessed to having had no fruit or veg before quickly sliding away into the distance. Marr’s poor score had been matched the day before by chief Arctic Monkey, Alex Turner, who spent much of his weekend hand in hand with his love interest, Alexa Chung. (I’d also earlier eyed the aforementioned Kate Nash with her leading man Ryan Jarman.) Turner later asked me where he could get an apple from to get him off the mark. I didn’t know. I don’t even like apples and before too long he was running after fellow puppet Miles Cane who was being driven into the sunset.
Top of the class, quite predictably, came Emmy the Great, who’d already reached the magic five by lunch time on the Sunday. And as it happens she’s quite the fan of carrots. Johnny Flynn too wouldn’t be outdone, scoring full marks when I caught up with him after one of several brilliant low-key shows across Glastonbury’s best kept secret Shangri La. Elsewhere, the dynamic duo behind We Are Scientists, Keith Murray and Chris Cain, could only manage two portions between them and one of those was a poxy salad. It was a sorry state of nutritional affairs, but one I had expected and soon accepted.
Perhaps my greatest moment of the weekend (outside the obvious musical realm) took place backstage when I stumbled across the world’s greatest actor of all time – Detective Superintendent Peter Boyd himself – Mr. Trevor Eve. I was beside myself and utterly besotted by the 57 year old’s Topshop cardigan and sheer brilliance that surrounded him. His wife is quite the looker too. Quietly aware of the need to forge an acceptable Facebook album, or ideally two, from the festival I knew a shot with Eve would prove a highlight and indeed it did.
2008’s festival had spawned its doubters but come June none of the press’ pathetically persistent badgering mattered. Glastonbury’s irrepressible mentality has always relied upon much more than just the music. It’s about Kelly Osbourne spending three days wandering around the backstage enclosure longing to be photographed by someone, anyone, it’s about the rain, the Green fields, the dodgy sound, the extortionate lager, leaking tents and the never-ending nights you’ll never forget. 177,500 people ventured to this summer’s Glastonbury, and I was one of them. Until next year then, Mr. Eavis.