Way back in 1999 my friend Scott phoned me up and told me he’d managed to win a couple of free tickets to the full weekend of the Glastonbury Festival and would I like to go along with him. It took me all of 2 seconds to say yes and before I knew it I was driving from Yorkshire down to Bristol (where Scott lived at the time) and on towards the festival!
I’d never been before but often had Radio 1 on over the weekend listening to the great lineup of bands. The previous year had been memorable for the torrential rain and mud although at the time I agreed to go along the thought of spending the weekend knee-deep in mud hadn’t occurred to me…
When we got near the venue we found ourselves driving at walking speed and enormous queues of traffic heading into the distance. Everybody seemed to be in cars packed full of camping equipment, quilts, deck chairs, cans of cheap lager and people with happy smiling faces. We eventually managed to get in to park, grabbed our gear and headed into the venue itself. As we got nearer we could hear very loud music rumbling in the distance and the vastness of the area became clear. I’d been to outdoor raves before in my younger days (I should probably write about that some time) but the scale of Glastonbury was enormous. When we got through the gates we were presented with tents as far as the eye could see:
We pitched our tent and then headed over to the main stage to see REM – who were awesome! After that it was getting dark and we thought we’d have a wander around the place to get the feel of it. Having done that we decided to head back to the tent and get some sleep – and then we realised we couldn’t find it! After a couple of hours of aimlessly wandering around in the dark thinking we might have to give up on finding it we eventually did, rolled into our sleeping backs and fell asleep.
The next morning we were greeted with scorching sunshine! Looking at the line-up in the information booklet we got on arrival we realised just what an awesome list of bands were there. We knew we wouldn’t be able to see all we wanted as a lot of them clashed but we made a good go of it. The full line-up is handily reproduced here and if you’re about my age you’ll agree it was great. I’ll always remember sitting in the sunshine watching Beth Orton play, my only worries being not getting sun-burnt! Speaking of the weather the only time it rained was a short shower right at the time Travis played their classic song “Why does it always rain on me?” – which I swear happened!
So we watched the likes of Travis (great live and a lot of banter – oh, and they’re Scottish of course), The Cardigans (great songs but Nina, the lead singer, had absolutely no stage presence or charisma at all), Super Furry Animals (fantastic show), a bit of Cast (not bad) and then we shifted over to see the Manic Street Preachers who were absolutely brilliant. They gave one of the best performances I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen many many bands since). I’d never been much of a fan before but from that set onwards I’ve loved them!
Following a day of superb entertainment we headed off to get some sleep for the final day (finding the tent first time). And what a day it was! We watched the likes of Dogstar (not an interesting band apart from the fact that Keanu Reeves played bass for them, quite well I believe), The Corrs (I fell in love with Andrea Corr on that day and would leave my good lady in a heartbeat if I had a chance with her – so nothing to worry about there then!), Lenny Kravitz (who was surrounded by some very talented musicians and gave a surprisingly good show) and The Fun Loving Criminals (who were rather entertaining).
It was all over in a flash and we saw a lot of great bands and met some interesting people. It was a fantastic experience, although if I’m honest it was nice to get away from it all, back to the real world and away from so many people in a confined space. I’d never seen so many people with dreadlocks, tattoos, clothes made from hemp and other “alternative lifestyle” indicators in one place!
I gather though that Glastonbury has changed quite a lot since I went. Tickets back then cost about £80 for the weekend and are now double that, which I’m sure has priced a lot of people out of it. It’s a lot more commercialised than it used to be and is targeted at a different type of person than 10 years ago – it was the student set and now it’s overrun by the prawn sandwich brigade. I suppose that’s the way of the world these days, which is a shame, but if people go along and have a great time then who am I to say it’s a bad thing? You won’t catch me going again (unless someone comes up with free tickets), but I’ll still be tuning in on the radio and TV to hear the bands and reminiscing about a weekend in the sunshine in a field in Somerset. Happy days. 🙂