Glastonbury 2013 Review – Naughty but Nice

Glastonbury Pyramid Stage 2013

Glastonbury Pyramid Stage 2013

It feels like a distant memory now, but it wasn’t that long ago that we were frantically scrambling over the last few remaining Glastonbury Festival coach package deals, with just minutes left before the window of ticket resale opportunity slammed shut.

On top of this ordeal, the festival had been on sabbatical for a year. As you can imagine things had been pretty tense and on the run up to the event we were displaying all the usual signs of Glasto-Fever: sweaty palms, shivers, glazing over while someone’s speaking and continually reminding them that you were going and they were not.

Then finally, quicker than you could say Glastonbury Festival Of Contemporary Performing Arts Two Thousand and Thirteen – Operation Big G-Day had arrived…


Friday was the official start of the festival, and with it came the good weather. To kick things off we sat up on The Park hill viewing point to watch King Krule, an act I’d been hoping to catch over the summer. As his croaky Jazz Folk vocals drifted upstream, we enjoyed a traditional Glastonbury breakfast of Shiraz, olives and feta and looked out over the metropolis of tents, stages and stalls in all their resplendent glory.

Re-lubricated and topped up on nutrients, we headed over to The Blues. This was a lively, upbeat shanty town, packing speaker-stacks that wouldn’t have looked out of place at the Notting Hill Carnival. We skanked for a bit to the roughneck rhythms of Glaswegian sound boys, Mungo’s Hi-Fi, before popping over to The Gully for party starters the Dub Pistols and their suped-up Break-Beat covers of Peaches and Gangsters. They finished on Mucky Weekend, but with the sun still shining Messy Weekend seemed more appropriate.

We’d planned to see living legend Seasick Steve next, but our dancing shoes were on now, so the reckless fools that we are, we went across to the Pyramid Stage instead to see if UK Grime superstar Dizzee Rascal’s comeback was as underground as he’d promised in all his verbose hype.

Four songs in and we weren’t at all convinced. Sacking off the Rascal, we decided to  place our hopes for a boogie into the talented hands of the Godfather of Groove himself, Nile Rodgers, who was playing the West Holts stage.

After being taken through a discography of Disco classics and agreeing that it was unlikely that the volume was likely to increase or Daft Punk were going to put in the rumoured guest appearance, we decided it was time to ramp our rave up to the next level. The Naughty Corner and Shangri La were beckoning.

I won’t even attempt to describe the insanity known as Shangri La in a single paragraph. You can read about that here in our chat with the creative director Debs Armstrong.  For me this is where the true spirit of the festival lives on and the best fun is to be had. If you’ve never been, then your first experience of this area really should be both after dark, and after a good few sherbets – otherwise, as Mr Eavis told Prince Harry – “you won’t get it”.

It was relatively early, and we managed to swerve the stampeding Shangra-lites and went for a stroll around Block 9, ending up in The London Underground, a run-down tower block with a night club inside and a flaming tube-train protruding from the fourth floor. We ventured in and were welcomed by some Old School Hardcore breaks and bleeps from Nick Rascall, before Double 0 took over the controls and ripped the dance floor apart with his stomach-curdling selection of crack-head Jungle. Absolute filth lashed wild on the audience.

We spent the remainder of the night being swallowed, chewed-up and spat out of the twisting labyrinth of venues, installations and alleyways that make up Shangri La – Block 9, The Common and The Unfairground. Then we dived straight back in for more, like a tag-team of deranged, yet flamboyant wrestlers who didn’t know when they were beaten.

I don’t recall going to bed that night/morning. Just being woken by some sleep fairies softly speaking “come on love you can’t sleep out here – you’ll catch your death” as I lay half in and half out of our tent. With a tuck and zip, they kindly made sure I was snug and secured our abode, before fading away into an aphotic abyss of bass and chatter.


Day three and we were ejected from our tent by the clammy heat of the stark morning sun, and we were greeted by the sleep fairies from the previous night – our neighbours. Heads held high, we gave them a big thank you and then marched up to The Gully to soak up the Roots and Reggae happy vibes of  the Only Joe sound-system. Then it was on to the John Peel stage for the Indie Techno Funk of Jagwar Ma, another name I’d been looking forward to seeing for the first time.

We were determined to see more of the festival’s alternative entertainment, so we went to grab a pint of the much talked about Hot Spiced Cider. To be honest I wasn’t sure what to make of it. It reminded me of mulled wine or perhaps winter Pimms, but I think it had a positive effect. Our journey continued on to the Circus Field, where we planned to trade in our lukewarm apple sauce for an ice cold cocktail in the sun, whilst catching the entertainment provided by some clever alternative escapologists and Titan the talking robot.

Then it was time for the triple hitter on the Pyramid stage – Elvis Costello, Primal Scream, and headline act The Stones. Some may snub the Pyramid, but I think it’s always worth getting a good stint in over the weekend, especially when the sun is setting. It’s a sight to behold, and you could bet your last case of beer that every cool kid, hipster, crusty and their dog were going to be out in force on this special night.

We sat up on the hill overlooking the Pyramid as maestro man Elvis Costello took to the stage. As he sang about burying the Thatcherite ideal in Tramp the Dirt Down, we wondered if the BBC would ban this one too. Next up were Primal Scream and their feel-good Indie Funk classics such as Moving On Up and Get Loaded, which translated into a halcyon atmosphere laced with meaning. Then it was show-time for  main event, The Stones. Jagger sang about how a girl he’d met from Glastonbury had fleeced him of all his ecstasy, and shared how he’d been to “Shangri Laaaa” in the way only his pouting rubber lips can.

An hour into The Stones and we felt we could confidently say “we were there”, so we sloped off to check-in at the Beat Bar Hotel for a Deep House DJ duet from the Zero 7 brothers. Still hungry for more bass laden beats, we headed over to the Arcadia stage for Fatboy Slim, hoping that another rumour that we’d caught that Daft Punk would be playing next might also make our dreams come true.

As Mr Cook chopped in the obligatory “fucking in heavens” into his mix, we bathed in the irony of Arcadia’s incredible fire-shows conflicting with the stated green mission which Glastonbury had projected to the media of a carbon zero festival. Slim exited the arachnid audio-structure and we waited eagerly to see who the mystery guest might be. Our blind faith was blighted as Chase & Status took to the stage, so we headed down to The South East Corner to see what other naughtiness we could find.


With not much eating taking place over the previous few days and determined to take in some more of the festivals sights, we decided to go on a food fest. But first it was time to work up an appetite and soothe our heads, making our first port of call a walkabout around the Healing Fields, where we sampled nettle tea and other herbal delights. We tried our very best to tip-toe delicately over the slumbering hippies, as we found a place watch a carpentry workshop and wondered if cabinet-making on cider was a short cut to A&E.

After the remedies had worked their natural magic and we were suitably refuelled, we went off to spend some time by The Other stage where Public Image Limited were playing. Lydon wearing his best new-age traveller regalia, finished off with his usual snide, sneer demeanour. He gave the air a verbal punch – “not so corporate after all” as he walked off stage. This seemed to be aimed at Eavis as opposed to the crowd – after another dairy deal are we Jon?

We nipped across site to see another buzz-band of the moment I’d been looking forward to seeing, Public Service Broadcasting. They were playing in the Williams Green Tent, a venue reminiscent of a quaint village green. We sat outside the marquee with the vintage samples combined with Indie sounds booming out through the open sides, while we topped up on more festival tiffin.

It was then time to head back to The Other Stage for American Grunge legends The Smashing Pumpkins. I’d heard lots about them over the years, but didn’t really know much about their music. We were comfortable where we were, so we hung around for a musical education and were pleasantly surprised as we rocked out into the early evening.

None of the Sunday headliners were really doing it for us, and our disco shoes had seen better days by now. We also had an early coach to catch the following morning, so unashamedly we made our way back to the ranch, and crashed on what was left of our air-bed. Full-bellied and content with our messy, but not so mucky weekend, The XX relieved the sleep fairies of their duties, and lullabied us into the land of nod as we listened from our tent.

Summing up

Glastonbury Festival is a lot like an ocean. A gigantic, organic fluid mass that can sometimes seem overwhelming, and should be thoroughly respected at all times, else it will have you. A delicate seductress who offers you in with a beautiful show of all her charms, but spurn her with disrespect and she can transform into a cruel mistress indeed.

The festival seems to be surrounded by an ethereal synchronicity, as if the scales of coincidence have been weighted somehow in your favour. We summoned up a friend we’d been unable to contact all weekend merely by muttering her name, making her materialise out of a crowd of 140,000 people. We hung out with a lone, partying barman called Mark, and right after he left us we were served bottles of Coke branded with his name. Finally after a late night, philosophical discussion about penguins, a group of lads appeared in fancy dress as these rock hopping creatures.

The festival still manages to retain some of its original, non-corporate feel, even though it has transformed into a truly monolithic event. However, you won’t find much in the way of anarchy around the main stages these days. If that’s your tipple then you’ll need to head to the Naughty Corner.

There was a lot of good emerging talent, and of course The Stones and Brucey, but otherwise the line up wasn’t killer. But who cares, this is Glastonbury. The real stars of the show are the festival’s spirit, the people, and some of the edgiest and out-there venues known to the whole of party-kind.

For more information, see our Glastonbury Festival Guide.