Glastonbury 2005 – The Gory Details
My Weekend With Keira, Gwyneth and Kate
OK, before I go any further, an apology: at the festival we had the opportunity to kill Vernon Kay and we failed to act. I am truly sorry. With that confession out of the way, on to my time at Glastonbury (this will probably be quite an unnecessarily lengthy account, more for my benefit â€“ it was such an amazing time that I want to get everything down before I start forgetting stuff).
Troy and I motored down to Glastonbury on Thursday morning, amazed at the lack of traffic. He’d managed to dig out the compilation tapes I’d done for our visit to the festival in 1990 (back then tickets were Â£36 and four of us arrived in a packed Morris Minor!), which gave us a good laugh on the way down; tracks ranged from Big Black to the Muppet Show, The Wedding Present to The Blue Aeroplanes.
You know that episode of the Simpsons where Homer becomes a Stonecutter, and gets all the perks such as the secret shortcut into the staff car park? That’s what it was like having hospitality tickets and parking passes. We drove straight onto the site and parked up (not quite as many Porsche Cayennes in the Hospitality car park as I’d imagined) and saunterd in to the hospitality entrance where we picked up our wristbands (no ID checks, no queuing, no searches). Bliss. We emerged to find ourselves just a few minutes stroll from where we were camping in the hospitality area between the Pyramid and Other stages.
It was a blazing hot day, so we strolled through the camping area, past the flushing toilets and hospitality marquee, until we found a shadier spot under some trees by the stream (at this stage a charming water feature rather than a potential muddy torrent of death). After setting up the tent and saying hello to our neighbours, Troy and I decided to go and meet some friends who were working on a market stall. This is where the beauty of hospitality tickets showed itself â€“ being camped in pretty much the middle of the site with exits in several directions meant we could get around really quickly.
We soon found the girls and all headed up to the Green Fields for lunch, where we met a few more people. Lunch consisted of spicy lentil mush and vodka in a lovely shady tent.
Next stop was the cider bus, at which point the girls had to get back to work, so Troy and I found a cool spot to sup our cider/vodka combo. Little did we now that within 24 hours this same spot would be under two feet of water. Once we were nice and merry, we headed back to Campo Relaxo around 2.30pm, where some of our neighbours invited us to join them.
I had reservations about the type of people who’d be in the hospitality campsite, but our neighbours turned out to be a really nice bunch. On one side were Mick & Karen, and on the other side were A.J. and John Paul, and beyond them were Noel and Sarah. We all piled over to Noel and Sarah’s, where Troy and I made a start on one of the boxes of wine we’d brought, and the others got stuck in to the slab of larger than had mysteriously found its way there from the hospitality marquee.
At around 7pm Troy and I headed over to the hospitality marquee in search of food. There was a very good singer performing in there, going through all the crooner classics, with his two young kids watching and dancing in front of the stage. Very sweet.
After the crooner finished, we got some more drinks and pottered in the hospitality “beer garden”. It was at this point we found ourselves chatting with Micheal Eavis.
Me, utterly pissed: “Michael, thank you!”
ME, looking confused: “What for?”
Me: “Hosting the festival, it’s great!”
ME still looks confused.
The rest of the conversation’s a bit of a blur, and all I remember was that he seemed like a very nice guy. Definitely one of the festival highlights for me, although not, I suspect, for Michael Eavis.
In fact, the rest of the night’s a bit of a chemical blur… I vaguely remember us sticking our heads in to say hello to the three people on the Make Poverty History double decker, and them inviting us in for a chat… then there’s a big blank until sitting round the fire with our neighbours at Campo Relaxo.
Well I’m sure everyone’s heard all about the storm by now, so there’s not much I can add. Nearly 6″ of rain in as many hours. The thunder and lightning woke me at about 6am, and for about the next five hours I slept intermittently, peering out of the tent every time the loud crashes woke me. I’ve never experienced a storm like it â€“ the torrential rain, ground shaking thunder and flashes stayed right overhead for hours â€“ it’s the first time I’ve ever felt concerned by lightning (there were lightning strikes fairly nearby, and we were right by trees). This was definitely not your usual British weather… and served to underline the dangers of climate change.
Once the rain finally started to ease off, Troy and I had breakfast in the hospitality bar. When we returned to our tent we found that all our neighbours were packing up and moving their camps to a different field. They’d been told by the stewards that the stream next to us was in imminent danger of bursting its banks; sure enough the storm had caused the stream, now a fast-flowing river, to rise about five feet. We figured if it rose another 12 inches we’d lose our tent, but decided to take a chance and check back on it in an hour. Thankfully our gamble paid off, and our tent stayed dry, although unfortunately our cool neighbours were later replaced by less friendly ones (I stood open-mouthed on Saturday morning when I emerged from the tent to see our new neighbours had left copies of Harpers & Queen scattered around their picnic blanket!).
By 1pm the sun was starting to break through, so we decided to head off to meet the girls and find some lunch. I donned my waterproofs, walking boots and gaiters, hoping they’d be as effective as wellies. We learned that the girls’ shower at the back of the stall had been struck by lightning, just 15 minutes after someone had been in it.
After lunch we went for a wander with Charlie and Chloe, surveying the damage and enjoying the inevitable comedy mud moments. Not much grass left by now, although the mud was still more liquid than gloopy. Rivers were running across many parts of the site, and large lakes had formed in places. After a while we stopped trying to take the driest, most solid routes and just went straight from A to B, regardless of the conditions underfoot. Despite some people losing their tents and belongings, and the unpreparedness of others (it’s a farm, in the UK â€“ bring some waterproof boots or wellies), everyone seemed in great spirits. I guess the mud is a great leveller. Not nice to hear about fire brigade divers searching tents for bodies though.
After lunch Troy and I dumped our waterproofs and met up with some of the others to head down to the John Peel stage.
At about 4pm Troy and I decided to take advantage of our Very Important status and retire to the backstage bar at the dance tent for a Guinness and a cup of special tea. Troy met Norman Cook many years ago, just after the Housemartins broke up, and advised him that leaving the band was a big mistake. Sadly we didn’t see Fatboy so he could receive more sagely career advice from my friend. We did however get to relax in a giant deck sofa â€” like a deck chair but 5 feet high and wide enough for about 4 people.
From the bar we popped into the glamourous Pussy Parlure, held in a great Spiegel Tent to enjoy the Bingo Karaoke, which was a little hard to play in our condition but great fun nevertheless. By 7.30pm we were a bit pooped, and sauntered up to the diner in Lost Vagueness, then on to Green Futures for a little spiritual rejuvination, which we found in the form of a cup of tea in a tent with some hippies. There was a cliched new age couple (man with long grey hair, woman in tie-dye with baby strapped to back) playing some rather cliched new age music (bongos, didjaridoo, keyboard, songs about gaia and mother earth etc.), which was actually really peaceful and nice.
Feeling refreshed we then went down to watch Roots Manuva (very good) before going on to the White Stripes. Plenty of reviews elsewhere, so just a quick summary: they rocked. Still think they’d be better if Jack stopped doing his one-man-band bit and hired a few more musicians. And lost the silly voice thing and Wacko Jacko look.
An early night was called for, so spent a while dinking with the celebs and media wankers in the hospitality bar before crashing out in the early hours.
I woke fairly early on Saturday, and wandered over to the hospitality marquee to get some breakfast and watch the second half of the Lions game. Troy joined me soon after, and we decided that we needed a champagne brunch to kick start the day (and more importantly, as they accepted cards at the bar, to conserve our rapidly-dwindling cash). Our plan to watch Hayseed Dixie and GLC went a bit pear-shaped, but at least we caught some of the Kaiser Chiefs (very good). On our way out of the backstage area we did bump into GLC, and saw Lauren Laverne and Vernon Kay getting ready for a broadcast from the TV rock garden patio.
Troy and I then strolled up to the Acoustic Stage with our folding garden chairs (invaluable for resting the legs with all the mud around) and vodka to watch Chas ‘n’ Dave. They were great fun, had everyone singing along. We seemed to miss that “everyone holding hands feel-good moment that changes the world” though â€“ probably just as well, as it would only have brought out my cynicism about Live8.
After our cockney knees-up, with only twenty quid left between us, we thought we ought to go find a cash machine. This led us through the Kidz Field, where I spotted a sign saying “Pretending to be an aeroplane is allowed in this area”. Unfortunately Troy captured my reaction on video. We gave up on the idea of getting cash when we saw the queue, but at least we were afforded a great view over the site.
After making a pit stop at Campo Relaxo, we gave in to nostalgia and headed out to watch Echo & The Bunnymen with some more of our special tea. They were pretty good, although I think Mac might have been having problems with his voice. By the end of the set I had definitely boarded the spaceship, which became apparent as I tried to eat beef nachos with a spoon back in the hospitality bar.
From Friday onwards, there was definitely a different atmosphere backstage, thanks to the large number of media and corporate types, whose aim seemed to be to create the Pilton Hilton. There were quite a lot of people whose boots were suspiciously clean, as though they’d not even ventured outside the backstage area. It felt as though a large minority were there just to network or tick Glastonbury off from their social calendar.
This was particularly evident on Saturday night, when it became obvious that lots of people just turned up at the festival that evening to party backstage. As the wanker ratio in the backstge bar became too high, Troy and I decided to head back out to be with the real festival-goers.
We met up with the girls at 9pm and popped over to the drum’n'base in the East Coast tent. This meant missing New Order, but to be honest I think I was more in the mood for the dance tent. I particularly enjoyed the inflatable octopus suspended from the ceiling.
We met up with some more people round the corner from the Pyramid stage, where we stood chatting and not being impressed by Coldplay. They really are the musical equivalent of beige. I’ve just read the Dan Silver’s review of the show in the NME, which starts out:
If you were to boil the whole of Glastonbury down into a thick goo, refine it further and shape it into a band, you’d end up with Coldplay.
What utter twaddle. If you took a pat from one of farmer Eavis’s cows, blended it with 40 gallons of water, thickened it up with some cornflour, then shaped it into a band, you’d end up with Coldplay: bland and inoffensive in small doses, but lacking any substance and a little bit shit. This next line just goes to prove that the reviewer is clearly just a little bedwetter without first idea of what he’s talking about:
…morale across the site is lower than the Crazy Frog’s genital’s. It’s as though all of Worthy Farm is praying for a miracle from Saint Christopher Martin…
Er, eh? Leaving aside the sub-Jeremy Clarkson attempt at humour, was this guy at the same Glastonbury festival I was? Sure a few people had bad experiences with their tents, but the vast majority of people took it in their stride, and certainly everyone I saw or spoke to was having a great time. Now I remember why I stopped buying the NME years ago.
Anyhow, when Coldplay finished we had a sudden rush of something (not blood, perhaps enthusiasm?) to the head of our own, and a load of us piled up to Lost Vagueness, grinning and laughing. Can’t really remember much else about the night, although we did get chatting to two girls in the queue for the toilet and find they were from our old home town. And we caught Bobby Friction, but missed the Scissor Sisters’ secret DJ set. The next thing I remember is going in search of friends to lend us money at 5am, having given up on the queue for the cash machine near Pennards. Still, the photo of me and Troy at 1am is probably worth a thousand words.
Sunday started rather slowly, with breakfast in the backstage bar to the sounds of the Yeovil Town Band, then a couple of hours crashed out in the sun drinking wine and celeb spotting (a few movie and TV stars, musicians, DJs and, er, George Galloway).
Didn’t make it to Van the Man, but apparently he was shit anyway, so that’s OK. Come late afternoon I faced the first major musical dilemma of the festival: Brian Wilson versus the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain versus Jem. Now Brian Wilson’s a living legend etc., but Troy and I went to school with Jem’s sister and thought it would be good to catch up with her. We returned to the bar backstage at the dance village to mull it over, and ended opting for Jem in the John Peel tent. Her music’s not really my cup of tea, but she was good and the packed audience was appreciative.
After chatting to a promoter and his wife backstage for a bit, we had the best pies in the world from Pieminister (they have a stall in Borough Market and do overnight delivery. Whoo-hoo!). We then headed back to Campo Relaxo to pick up the remaining red wine, but got sidetracked by the hospitality bar. By now we had two pounds between us, so decided to get a decent round in on our cards. Double G&Ts and tequilas each. However when we came to pay, we were told the single card machine had gone down, so the barman let us have them on the house!
We got chatting to a few people who were there from a charity. Very friendly, fun bunch (one of them told us that she’d almost taken a guy’s ear off with a champagne cork as he was giving the health and safety talk earlier), but it did mean we missed The La’s (we’d decided on them in favour of Primal Scream).
However I’m so glad we made it out for Ian Brown, because he was awesome. Everyone just went wild when he started off with 4 Roses’ tracks (I Wanna Be Adored, Sally Cinnamon, Made of Stone, and Waterfall). Normally Ian Brown can’t sing to save his life, but that night he sounded great. His choice of solo stuff was pretty good too, and he had everyone eating out of his hand. Sadly the ending was a bit weird, the the crowd demanding an encore only for Brown to come back out to say he couldn’t because of the licence curfew. Nevertheless it was an amazing gig.
After Ian Brown, Troy and I nipped round to see Chloe and Charlie, who were working until 3am. Soon after I decided to board the spaceship once more, and the two us found ourselves heading in the direction of Lost Vagueness again. We got as far as the Tipi Field, at which point we decided to pause and soak up the loveliness. The dozens of tepees were glowing with lights inside them, and people were sat around a fire in the old tree trunk in the middle of the field. No idea how long we spent crashed out there, but eventually we realised we were getting a bit cold, and staggered up to Lost Vagueness. Wandered up and down taking in the sights and sounds there for a while, before deciding to peek into the Chapel of Love & Loathe.
For those of you not familiar with the Chapel, from the outside it looked rather like the Titty Twister in From Dusk Till Dawn. From the inside it looked even more like the Titty Twister. A “vision of Babylonian excess and exotic amusements”. It would have looked pretty breathtaking normally, but in the state we were in it was just insane. We arrived at the tail end of a DJ set, and there were fantastic podium/pole dancers in mad costumes just to our right, and great visuals on the ceiling. And then the zombie pirate swing band came on… My god, there aren’t enough adjectives to describe the scene, and sadly we didn’t get any photos (although there is a video of me staring in disbelief at the surreal scene). The band were amazing, and the female lead singer was out of this world, pausing to do some fire eating during one song.
Unfortunately we’re not sure who the band were. I thought they were called something like the Flaming Buddhas, but Googling/Technorati haven’t yielded anything helpful. If you know who the zombie pirate swing band were, please, please leave a comment â€“ they gave me one of the most unforgettable, brilliant nights of my life!
Update: Thanks to Jim from the Lost Vagueness Chapel for taking the time to let me know that the zombie pirate swing band were Lucifire and the Flaming Doo Dits. If you ever get the chance to see them, don’t hesitate â€“ they were simply amazing. Thanks to everyone at the Chapel for putting on such a breathtakingly good night.
2008 Update Finally got round to uploading this short clip Lucifire and the Flaming Doo Dits at Lost Vagueness in 2005. Not a great quality clip, but I think the look on my face and Troy’s cackle gives you an idea of how much fun they were.
We staggered out of the Chapel after the zombie pirates (I’m guessing at about 4am), dazed, confused and very, very happy. Our spaceship was heading back to earth at this point, and we went over to meet the girls (who’d just finished work) up at the stone circle to drink some red wine and stuff and watch the sun rise over the valley. Magical.
We slept till mid-morning on Monday, and reluctantly packed up our gear and left. Luckily it only took us about 45 minutes to get off site, but that’s when the poltergeist in the car made its presence known (electric windows going down of their own accord, ABS warning lights, and even a tyre change off the M5).
Roll on 2007.