This was my second Glastonbury. I was there last year when the clouds decided to empty the contents of the Atlantic onto Worthy Farm, causing the punters to evolve into aquatic beings. I realised we are all powerless to the will of the weather and there is no amount of British grit that can overcome the pervasive effect of the elements. No matter… we were fairly blessed by what 2017 had to offer. This year Glastonbury was no longer a place in which, during the trek from John Peel Tent to Shangri-La, you begin to ponder the true meaning of solid ground and in your drug induced dreams you fantasize about pavements.
My opinions of Glastonbury fluctuated to the extremes over the five days. It started on Wednesday when I began to realise the two heavily contradicting sides of Glastonbury: the loving, holistic, spiritual side and the side of self-indulgent, coked up and unconcerned debauchery. The first innocent instance came at the opening ceremony which coincided with the summer solstice –a momentous occasion for druids and drugged up teens alike. The congregation of the Stone Cirlce, waiting for the sunset, were shocked to attention as a wailing woman at the top of the hill started to serenade us to the backing of African drums interspersed with Native American speakers from Standing Rock and a Chinese Dragon. It goes without saying I was confused as to the message they were trying to send. We were then asked to pray to the spirits of the directions as the speaker sincerely chanted ‘blessed be the moon and the the stars, blessed be the earth… blessed be the fairy folk’ interrupted by ‘YEAHHH… big up the fairy folk’ from somewhere behind me. A more vulgar comparison came later, when, in area called Block 9, I was taken aback by the thoughtfulness of a placard. It apologised for any similarity between their venues design and Grenfell tower, and urged everyone to donate. Then, as if purposefully trying to lower the tone, a group of the grimmest, bulkiest men blundered their way through the queue proudly harassing every female in the queue, shouting ‘oh, I’m looking forward to seeing you ladies inside… don’t you bloody know it’ as if that was attractive.
Over the next few days, apart from being disappointed with Radiohead’s performance (I have since watched Dizzee’s performance and I had abandoned Thom Yorke), I found it impossible to ignore the waste. It makes you wonder if it is all worth it? No amount campaigns for nuclear disarmament by Mr. Eavis or videos pleading people to not leave their tents or litter will make a dent in the reckless hedonism, consumption and waste. It’s so overwhelming that I felt it almost converted me -someone who considers themselves pretty environmentally conscious- into the ‘fuck it’ attitude.
(Also, as a side note, do we not think ostrich burgers is taking it a step too far? Especially when your van states ‘We Love Ostriches.’ No you don’t, you are responsible for their death.– [can be deleted just want at least someone to read my anger])
Clearly I wasn’t in the sunniest disposition towards Glastonbury, but Saturday warmed me to it; bringing me to tears on multiple occasions. It started with Afriquoi, who never fail to disappoint with their four-to-the-floor, hyped African anthems. My sobbing bizarrely commenced in response to some stunning acrobats and continued through to Loyle Carner’s heart wrenching set. I feel an odd affinity with him, but I think anyone would be moved by his performance. After an intimate rendition of his song Florence, the set climaxed with him inviting his mother on stage and lifting her into his arms.
I was working for Songlines which meant overseeing the artist signings at the West Holts Stage and Saturday night meant The Jacksons. It was tense amongst the team, each Jackson has their own manager and different requirements big crowds were expected. However, it was all over in moments, they came and shook the team’s hands, signed for 5 minutes and were gone quicker than you can blame it on the boogie, leaving 50 odd fans hanging. Later at the Pussy Parlure came the seminal moment of the weekend, in the form of Mykki Blanco and her incredible DJ. It was so punk, so queer, so lively, and possibly the most engaging performance I have ever seen as Mykki moshed with the crowd, angrily rapped at us with her wig in her mouth, climbed onto the bar to perform of her single Loner and spent the moments after the performance talking and mingling amongst the crowd.
As is probably routine, Sunday was a day of reflection. I happily yet poorly attempted to salsa along to the charismatic Orchestra Baobab, and then likewise to the funky and powerful Oumou Sangare, whose backing dancers/singers are now possibly my favourite people on the planet. I continued to muse on what Glastonbury means to me whilst listening to Moderat’s melancholy beats and as I watched side stage as one of the guys from Justice essentially stood on the crowd’s heads as he milked his outro. I briefly stopped my contemplation as Ska Vengers, the last act I saw of the festival, completely blew me away with their highly political and relentless Ska/Rap infusion.
It’s a good rule of thumb to not share the thoughts crafted in between the hours of 3am and 7am. But, as I insisted on staying up till the sun rose, in solidarity with my girlfriend who had a shift from 12-8am at the CND lock up, those thoughts ended up being the culmination of Glastonbury for me. The contrast between what goes on at the top of the hill, with Strummerville, The Stone Circle and the Teepee Field, as opposed to what goes on at the bottom, where much of the careless waste and the classic dirty antics occurs, cannot be put aside. However, I feel it’s when these two worlds collide in unison that the real Glastonbury moments are created. When an old, heavily bearded man said to no one in particular as he motioned toward the gurning youth in the Field of Avalon ‘These people… they are my homies’ or when suddenly crowds of people begin parading behind a Hare Krishna procession all line-dancing joyfully to their repetitive chorus it feels like it might all be worth it, maybe even worth £288…
Words by Nick Hann