Glastonbury: Day 4

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For reasons that will become obvious, I wasn’t able to continue blogging while I was at Glastonbury, but thought I should still write down what happened to me there. Saturday was an eventful day.

It all started like every other morning. I awoke to find myself cooking inside my own tent. While the temperature outside was often unbearable between around 8am and 4pm, the temperature inside the tent felt almost lethal. As soon as I woke up, there was the imperative to get ready and get out as quickly as possible, as if something inside was telling me my life depended on it.

When I was outside, I was determined to go out and get some good photos. When I was around the Arcadia area the night before, it was impossibly crowded and very difficult to get anywhere. I walked up to Block 9 to get some daylight photos of the New York street and incredible tower block I’d seen last night, before going to areas that were too crowded to previously reach, including Shangri La with its detailed maze of seedy alleyways, like walking through the set of a 1980s film based in a dystopian future.

It was getting unbearably hot and my last phone battery was flagging, so I picked up my spare battery and went to the Chill and Charge tent to recharge both of them. Inside, a party of 6 or 7 South Korean girls (including, predictably, 2 or 3 I fell instantly in love with) were watching their team in the World Cup. They were playing Uruguay and, inspired by the group’s presence, everyone around was cheering South Korea on. But alas, they were knocked out of the tournament. The girls took it well and left the tent in good spirits, determined not to let it spoil their weekend. I felt that was a good lesson for all of us England fans for the following day.

Myself and three others from the camp decided to head over to the Cabaret Tent to watch Kevin Eldon. He was the only comedian I really wanted to see and having seen him a few years earlier, thought he would be one of the highlights of the weekend. Sadly, when we got there, his name was nowhere to be seen on the listings outside. For some reason or another, he had cancelled his performance. We trudged off down to another of the performance tents where Norman Lovett, Holly from off of Red Dwarf, was about to come on. This’ll be good, we all thought. I had planned to see The Cribs after Kevin Eldon, they had blown me away every time I’ve seen them before, but decided to stay for this as I’ll definitely see them again some time but probably won’t get the opportunity to see much comedy all weekend.

As soon as we sat down, something didn’t feel quite right. There was some sort of delay and the compare, who I’m sure was a good enough comedian, was desperately running out of material. It was only slightly less embarrassing than when Ricky Gervais had to fill time during the Diana Concert. He had run out of things to say and wasn’t getting much joy from the unresponsive and, in all likelihood, exhausted crowd. Lovett eventually came on stage and things got even worse. I’ve seen clips of his act before and believe him to be a fine, minimalist comedian, but here it just wasn’t working. He was constantly distracted by the very loud music coming from nearby tents and stages, and there was beginning to be a real frostiness in the room as he addressed every person who got up to leave. It’s always much worse when this happens to someone you’ve always liked and we all agreed that he should get a lot of respect for simply persevering. He started to pull things round by pulling most of the crowd, previously sat spread out around the large tent, together in front of the stage but we decided to spare ourselves any further pain and make a quick, unnoticed exit.

It was good timing, because we came across two fascinating acts outside. First there was a large robot, singing and dancing with onlookers. I’ve seen him before some time ago when walking along the South Bank and enjoyed seeing everyone’s reactions. We then chanced across a human beatbox performer starting his show. He had one of those pedals used to record and loop audio (very similar to what Thom Yorke was using yesterday) and built layer upon layer of vocals to produce an impressive sound. I particularly enjoyed a song he improvised about a nearby fish and chip stall, with the workers looking on and grinning.

I had a bit more of a stroll around the site, taking more photos as I went. I met a group of people dressed as flowers being chased by people dressed as bees, who posed for me. I also got a great photo of two people dressed as robots, looking like Daft Punk. One of them looked at my camera and asked in a Stephen Hawking voice about the primitive technology. I wanted to come back with a funny “in character” reply but my mouth was parched and I could barely speak, so instead collapsed in a fit of giggles at the ridiclousness of the situation.

It was time to go to the Pyramid Stage to watch Muse, one of the bands I had been looking forward to seeing the most. As I found a good spot, not too near the front or too far back, I started taking photos, messing around with the manual exposure settings and finding that I could get much better results than usual. While Muse were playing a terrific, crowd-pleasing set I was dancing and singing along while occasionally stopping to get some fairly close-up shots of Matt Bellamy and the rest of the band. I was surprised at how good the pictures looked, much better than shots I’d usually take from much closer range. Towards the end of the set, The Edge came on for Where The Streets Have No Name. I’ve never been much of a U2 fan and wasn’t looking forward to them headlining, but I had to admit that it felt like a very special moment, simply for the happiness that was in the air. The set then finished with an intense Knights of Cydonia, every Guitar Hero player’s hand twitching as it reached the climax. It was an amazing set, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a band more suited to the epic proportions of the Pyramid Stage. The highlight was a simple tune-up which turned into tens of thousands of people singing House of the Rising Sun.

I went back to the camp feeling great and as we all sat around the campfire I felt energised and ready for more. A few of us went up to the Park to visit the Rabbit Hole, but it was too crowded. I took a few photos of the viewing tower lit up at night when the battery ran out on my camera. I head back down to the camp and, without thinking, threw my camera in my tent and then headed down towards the main shops to find some batteries.

As I was out, I decided to explore the far end of the site around the John Peel tent, where I hadn’t been yet this year. I climbed up the hill opposite the Pyramid stage. It was the area I camped in back in 1998 and 2005 and felt a bit like home. Up at that high point, I could see all around and took a few moments to absorb the majesty and beauty of the festival at night. I then went back down to where the stalls were, a different genre of music coming from each. At 2:24am I tweeted this:

I love about walking through #Glasto at night: Within a minute I’ve heard some 80s Acid House, James Brown and the theme tune from Friends.

I felt carefree and happy. This, I was sure, was not just the best festival I’ve been to, but potentially one of the best weekends of my life. I returned to camp with a spring in my step – or at least I would have if I wasn’t for the fact that I was exhausted, my legs felt like crumbling and my back hurt like hell. I sat around the campfire with the few that were still around for a while before going to bed.

When I got there, I found that my bags had all been tipped out, the tent was even more of a mess than usual. I quickly realised that my camera was gone, along with my spare phone batteries and my house keys. I was shocked and very upset. I spent so much of my day with just that camera to share my experiences with and was so pleased with the photos I had taken. But I was too tired to spend too long thinking about it. It was time to go to sleep and hope that things would improve in the morning.

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