Glastonbury 2014 review: A moment caught in time

Glastonbury 2014

Glastonbury 2014

And so it passes for another year. You’re left once again with that strange sensation of feeling extremely satisfied, while not being entirely sure why, other than the white stripe left on your arm from the absence of a wristband. That’s if you’ve taken it off by now – of course.

You Know What?

This year seemed to pass quicker than ever. One minute you’re frantically rushing around like a headless chicken, making sure you’ve got all the necessaries sorted for the best five days of your life. Then before you know it poof –  in a puff of smoke, white light and sound – it’s gone. You’re back at work with the normals, whose only interest seems to be in how much rain and mud was there, and if the toilets stank. Yes it rained. In fact it pissed it down, so we huddled together like penguins and sang Agadoo, but you know what? It was fucking mega and I’d do it all again tomorrow.

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It’s all a bit of a blur now and I can remember very little. If there’s any truth in the old time flies adage, then the rate at which the festival passed must mean I had an absolute blast. Can I recall any of it? It’s been a few days now and we’ve been piecing it together so here goes nothing.

The Madness Commences

Wednesday and Thursday were all about finding your feet, re-familiarising yourself with the site and getting in the zone, which wasn’t too hard.  The run up to Glastonbury is always a roller coaster of emotions. First excitement, then exhaustion from all the excitement, then an element of fear and panic creeps in as you wonder if you have the stamina to cope with a 120 hour, or thereabouts, non-stop party. Then you arrive, and it’s as though you’ve never been away. You slip into it like a favourite pair of old jeans.  It feels so different from your everyday world yet perfectly natural. Almost as if this is how things should be all the time – all of life’s shackles fall away as your feet connect with this motherland’s soil.

The first thing we noticed was that The Glade stage was back in its home by The Other stage, and Arcadia had moved to a new location just behind The Park, which just so happened to be near where we were camping. At least Arcadia’s flames would keep us warm at night. Not that there was going to be much opportunity for sleep, as their Funktion-One sound system was definitely firing on all cylinders this year.

There’s no live music for the first two days, so we crawled the various bars and venues, caught up with old friends, made a few new ones and necked our stash of beers while they were still relatively cold.

If Music is the Food of Love

Friday for us started with the Queen of the 80’s, Blondie. Half-way through their set they broke into the Beastie Boys’ Fight For Your Right. The crowd knowingly shouted the words to this classic party anthem, as although the main event had only just started, the party was already in full swing by now.

Original Hippy Hoppers De La Soul had the pleasure of the sun’s company as they hyped up the Pyramid Stage crowd with their eclectic feel good Funk and excellent crowd interaction. They had everyone waving their hands in the air, except for one reluctant security guard – number 242, we love you – who they singled out. The camera suddenly honed on him, and the crowd egged him on until eventually he cracked and joined in, sending everyone into wild raptures.

Next up were Rudimental. A guilty pleasure perhaps, but with the Friday feel-good factor flowing freely through us we were on a roll, so decided to hang around for more uplifting sounds and Dance mayhem. Halfway through their set they were joined on stage by Ed Sheeran. Shortly after the skies blackened and lightening crackled across the clouds, as they were just about to burst into their last song Feel The Love – then the power was cut for health and safety reasons. Now I’m not gingerist, some of my best friends are orange, but one can’t help but wonder if the Glasto Gods might have been more forgiving if Rudimental had not brought out the red-headed warbler.

It’s good to catch at least one headliner on the Pyramid stage over the weekend and for us it was all about Arcade Fire on the Friday night. They looked almost as good as they sounded and their electrifying Indie Disco set the scene perfectly before our traditional Friday late night meander around the South East corner.

Morning has Broken

After a few hours violating God’s will in the deepest darkest depths of Shangri Hell and its twisting labyrinth of neighbouring districts, we headed up the Stone Circle to catch our first sunrise of the Glasto 2014.

Here we sat round a fire with a white witch and her apprentice fire keepers who were there to protect the trees and gardens from Babylon – and us from ourselves. We were joined by a rabble of various random ravers including a lad who’d lost his mates, tent and phone, but seemed perfectly happy as he continued to dance to the disco still inside his head. We chilled with some Cardiff lads who had a Tupperware tub full of a completely harm free rolling tobacco they had cultivated named Belgian Waffle. Only at Glastonbury.

We found it hard to tear ourselves away from our new found friends, but as the sound checks had already begun we thought we’d better get some shut-eye. We could have hung around to hear Nick Mulvey sing about selling laughter from a can, but with the sound of a thousand nitrous bottles still hissing in our ears we decided better of it.

Saturday, it’s a Saturday

The previous seventy two hours of hard partying had begun to take its toll on us making Saturday day-time a bit of a write-off. We managed to get up in time to catch the end of Robert Plant bang out Whole Lot Of Love and Rock and Roll. For someone who has achieved so much and played so many big gigs, he was surprisingly humbled and grateful by the turn out and the crowd’s reaction.

We headed to Goldfrapp on West Holts which thankfully was much louder than last year where we heard a poor Nile Rodgers performance. West Holts is great, because you can have a little sit down if you’re a bit shagged. We were joined on our bench by a couple of wannabe hipsters, spotless and without a hair out of place, who mocked the yoofs’ haircuts, and made disapproving comments about a mother who’d ‘allowed’ her seven year old son to fall over in the mud. Not cool guys. Then they got up and danced so we sniggered at their oh-so-serious dance moves. Not cool either, but they deserved it.

We were tempted to go and see if Metallica got houmous’d off the Pyramid Stage, or if a gaggle of greasy bikers had stormed the fence and rode in on choppers chaining all the bear huggers. However, our poor little pegs had had enough for one day so we headed for the comfort of the cabaret tent for another little sit down. Turns out John Cooper Clarke for was in full poetic flow. Result, as I’ve wanted to see him for some time. His dry and satirical words, wrapped up in his dulcet Northern tones, wound us down nicely before we headed back to camp to get a good nights kip in for the final day.

Easy like Sunday Mornings

Sunday morning came as a shock. Where had the time gone? One minute we had the whole festival in front of us, now there was only a few hours of joy left. We decided we better make the most of it. The main event of the day time was of course Dame Dolly Parton. She seemed to draw a bigger crowd than the Stones did year, with a lot of guys adorned with false breasts and wigs on making up the numbers. Maybe they hadn’t yet come down from the NYC Downlow, but obviously they were paying homage to Dolly. It started off quiet, but after a bit of chanting the sound man turned things up and we could hear it at the back. Dolly has since expressed her appreciation of everyone singing along, but where we were standing the only word people seemed to know was Jolene, which was repeated as required and everyone remained quiet for the rest of the song.

We regrouped for Bonobo on West Holts to hear their delicate Dance beats as the sun came down and we took the opportunity to take some group Glastonbury sunset snaps. The weekend was seen out with Massive Attack who for some reason I’d never seen before. I’d forgotten how downbeat some of their work can be, but they closed with a few of their more uplifting tracks including Teardrop, Safe From Harm and the timeless Unfinished Symphony. With another box ticked it was time to head back to camp, so we could be up in time for the early morning hike back up to the coach park.

Summing up

The Glastonbury experience is different every year with everyone taking away a different memories and moments. Even though we arrived earlier this year than in previous ones, the event seemed to rush by quicker then ever before. This was possibly because we over-planned our schedule and were running around the whole time, trying to fit everything in.

We met a scouser in his late 50’s who’d been many times before. His strategy was to just pick one band per day and wander around the rest of the time. That’s cool if you’ve been ten or fifteen times, but as I’ve only been a few, I’m still at that toddler stage in Glastonbury terms –  over excited and wanting all of it now.

As a balance, maybe next year I’ll pick a stage where there are one or two bands on I like and I’ll just plonk myself down for the entire afternoon or evening, rather than running between stages all day and night.

Of course there was a lot more cutting edge hipster music at the festival then mentioned above, but as most of these acts were up and coming bands who’re gigging and festivaling relentlessly, this means many more opportunities to see them again in the future. For me Glasto is all about seeing the greats. Those once in a lifetime bands that you’ve never seen before, and probably never will again, giving world class performances laced with decades of experience. Robert Plant, Bryan Ferry, Dolly Parton, and Metallica – if we could have been arsed with the latter – were the highlights of 2014

Shangri-la and much of the South East corner seemed more rammed than previous years, and the queues put us off entering many of the venues. It could certainly do with increasing its capacity, but we’re not sure how they would do this and you certainly wouldn’t want to move it from its current location. The maze it creates is too much fun for all concerned.

So we missed loads, but that’s Glastonbury. The amount of music, entertainment, culture and naughtiness on offer is astronomical, and it’s impossible to see it all in one weekend. You’ll always come away with a little niggle that you could have done this, that or the other. We could easily have managed another couple of days. Perhaps they should open the gates to everyone on Tuesday? Or perhaps go Coachella style, and spread the festival over two weekends. There are certainly a few nice camping spots nearby where you could crash in between parties.

Only one thing for it, we’ll be trying to cram it all in again next year.

For more information view our guide to Glastonbury Festival.