The festival experience started on the delayed 20:15 train service towards Glastonbury on the Wednesday evening due to pikeys nicking the signalling cable near Iver. Despite the ensuing problems at Paddington this worked out well as I happened to sit next to a member of a Glastonbury band, Nu from The Yearner Babies. It was great to hear about an up and coming band who were due to play two sets over the weekend and at a number of other festivals over the summer whilst she was enthusiastically filing her nails, which I was told essential for all violinists.
Rather than head down with every man and his dog (animals no longer allowed on-site) on the Wednesday we headed down early Thursday morning, arriving at the festival site at 6:30. With no traffic or queues to park this was definitely a good plan and it didn’t take too long to find a place to pitch our tents and pop ours up, whilst our neighbours were still fast asleep. With the music on Thursday’s limited to the smaller tents and predominantly in the evening we had an opportunity to get the rest of our supplies from the car, relax in the sun with a few ciders getting to know our Scottish neighbours who took the coach down from Edinburgh and meet up with some other friends. The stages which were open were packed so it was nigh on impossible to get in anywhere or near to the stage. However, we did manage to see Beardyman on the WOW! stage who is without doubt the best (and only) beatboxer I have ever seen. Singing/making noise to classic tunes such as Golddigger and Stevie Wonder’s Superstition (the first of many for the weekend) clearly demonstrated the talent this guy has (check out Kitchen Diaries on Youtube for further evidence) and a number of people who initially thought it was a rather strange DJ set were amazed . It was a fantastic way to start the festival and a real highlight so early on in the proceedings. The huge crowds in the dance village soon inspired us to move elsewhere and we passed the next few hours smoking shisha in the Glade bar, a real bargain at £7.50, and drinking Chai in Green Futures.
After freezing during the night and starting to cook as soon as the sun came up (the downside to pop-up tents) we managed to get ourselves up and ready for the first real day of music. There was only one act who we and seemingly the rest of Glaso wanted to see – the Aussie legend, star presenter of Animal Hospital, artist to the queen and inventor of the wobble board, the man him-self – Rolf Harris. On route to what would have surely been the best act of the weekend a call from a friend changed our plan. Mumford & Sons were playing a secret gig at the BBC Introducing stage, as advertised on a small sheet of paper outside the tent. We joined the small crowd and waited patiently for Jo Whiley and the band. Although they only played three tracks (including one song twice) the catchy folk songs which are so characteristic of the smaller tents throughout the site were very well received.
After some tasty jerk chicken and rice and peas (the food at Glasto is consistenly good) we moved to the Green Future field, past the unremarkable Stranglers who were playing on The Other Stage. We caught the end of Rodney Branigan in the Small World tent, who wowed the crowd and wouldn’t come back for an encore because he couldn’t beat playing two guitars at once! After that were Mazaj, a two-member band who specialised in Arabic music. The female member did not exude enthusiasm and was perhaps focussing on playing, bored or jealous of the belly dancer who came on stage.
Next up were Bombay Bicycle Club in the John Peel tent, who we watched from afar whilst soaking up the sun and played a fantastic samba version of Always Like This. We headed back to the tent for a bit of rest, but could still hear Kele who played some of his new up-beat songs and then some classic Bloc Party tracks. After re-charging our batteries we headed to the Pyramid Stage and saw the New Yorkers Vampire Weekend who entertained the crowd with their sing-along tunes such as Holiday and Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.
Soon after finishing their set we joined the rest of the crowd moving to see Florence and the Machine on the Other Stage. To get a good view we watched from the Railway Track, a long distance from the stage but a fantastic view of the crowd. Florence really worked the crowd and seemed to be having the time of her life. Her covers of Candi Staton’s You Got the Love We and Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain were superb and she will almost certainly be back for years to come. As the evening approached we moved on to the dance areas, starting with a sunset performance by Hybrid in the fantastic tree lined Glade tent, and then the Dance East tent where Zane Lowe played a DJ set to warm up the audience for Chase and Status. The tent packed out in anticipation of this band who are emerging as one of the biggest dance acts in the UK. Joined by other artists such as London rapper Tinnie Tempah the base shook the crowd into action and by time Plan B arrived and ended their set with perfect renditions of End Credits and Pieces the crowd were ecstatic.
In recent years there has been a large influx of rappers in to the Glastonbury festival and on Saturday morning it was turn for East London boy Tinchy Stryder, albeit more of a pop act than hardened rapper. His catchy songs were a pleasant start to the morning, but it wasn’t soon long until we left in search of some proper rock at the Other Stage, starting with Reef. It’s a shame to be well known for one particular song, but at least it’s a great one – Place Your Hands went down a treat. Things got heavier next with Coheed and Cambria and the disappointingly small crowd welcomed something different. The band must have been baking in the afternoon sun but the lead singer, a Hurley lookalike from Lost, still managed to blast out a number of familiar and not so familiar songs that metal heads appreciated as much as those who weren’t.
Unable to move due to the extreme heat we stayed for Imogen Heap, who surprised me at least by being English. She was clearly an enthusiastic and talented musician and was actively engaged with all of the other musicians on stage. She also got the crowd involved particularly for Hide and Seek, familiar to fans of The OC. After a walk around the impressive Arcadia, Shangri-La and the Unfair Ground areas we returned once again to the shaded and spacious Small World Tent in Green Futures. We dozed away to Tina Brackman, a British guitarist living in New Zeeland who said her songs always send people to sleep but didn’t seem too offended. She had tragically lost a hand in an accident, but soon returned to music which has been a massive part of her life. Her confident performance and chirpy persona was made it a very worthwhile performance.
After waking up we moved to the Leftfield stage for Frank Turner, along with hundreds of other fans, many of which had already seen him twice elsewhere during the weekend. His popularity was soon understandable as he managed to strike a perfect balance between playing music and interacting with the crowd. Credit must also be given to a young guy called Olly who was picked out from the crowd to play the harmonica and did a fantastic job and a friend of Frank called Barbs who joined Frank for the entertaining Hot Chicks and Bacon Sandwiches.
The final act of the night was Muse on the Pyramid Stage and the massive crowd were not disappointed with both the music and show offered by this headliner, despite a lack of acrobats, hot air balloons and UFOs (having seen them at Wembley Stadium before)! We were waiting for the inevitable guest appearance at some stage during the set and when The Edge came on and joined them in playing Where The Streets Have No Name the crowd went wild – a fantastic evening which was extended in Cocktails and Dreams, where a guest appearance by Limhal (80s popstar) kept everyone entertained, even if most of us didn’t know who he was!
It was the final day and we were sad to be packing up but glad to not be spending another night in our nightmare pop-up tent. Thank god it didn’t rain – these tents are surely not waterproof! Having practiced putting the tent back in the bag (N.B. it took us almost an hour on our first attempt) we managed to pack it away in a record time of about 2 minutes, much to the disappointment of our friends and neighbours. On route to the car we took a break and watched Paloma Faith on the Pyramid Stage, whilst enjoying some refreshing ice creams from the ideally situated ice cream van. She certainly can’t be knocked for enthusiasm or entertainment value and her soulful and poptastic tunes such as New York and a cover of Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime went down really well with the early morning crowd. After the stress of carrying everything back to the car we joined 30,000 other fans to the football field near the cinema. There were 50,000 fans in another field near the dance area so it must have been brilliant for non-fans who could enjoy a crowdless festival, at least for a couple of hours. If we won the atmosphere would have been brilliant, but the abysmal result and missing acts such as Slash, Temper Trap and Holy F*** meant that it really was an afternoon wasted. Never again….The rest of the afternoon was spent at the Pyramid Stage. First up was Jack Johnson who was background music to chatting with a friend from Switzerland (apologies to any fans near-by). Faithless then took centre stage and Maxi Jazz seemed overwhelmed with the fantastic reception from the growing crowd who waited in anticipation for classic tunes such as Insomnia and We Come One. We were not disappointed, but a later night time set would have been much more appropriate. The final act of the night and of Glastonbury 2010 was Stevie Wonder, but rather than watch the legend of motown we made our way home to avoid the mass exodus of people at the end. We got home in good time and watched the footage the next day – not the coolest way to end the weekend, but perhaps a rather sensible plan.
The 40th Birthday Glastonbury will certainly go down in festival history as one of the best in history, but then again it is fantastic every year whether you are watching on TV or there in person. It really does have everything to offer – ecelectic mix of music, headliners who are unlikely to play anywhere else, a variety of events going on all day and night and fantastic food. Like any other festival you will always have some fantastic memories and some regrets. Here are a few of mine:
Top acts of the weekend: Frank Turner, Chase and Status, Beardyman, Mumford & Sons and Muse
We shouldn’t have missed: Slash, Mumford & Sons in the John Peel tent, The Temper Trap, Dizzee Rascal, Rodrigo y Gabriela, The Yearner Babies (I really should have gone to see them after meeting a band member) and Toy Story 3 3D Advance Preview (a field full of hippies wearing 3D glasses must have been fantastic)
Next time we’ll give it a miss: England football matches, pop-up tents, the heat (although it’s better than rain) and Radio 1 coverage of the festival on the way home (no live Stevie Wonder!)