As readers of my bucket list will be aware, Glastonbury Festival has been something I’ve wanted to go to for years, and this was the year I managed it.
First, let me kill the idea that it’s a festival for kids. It’s not. Far from it. Even before I went I was unrepentant when faced with the “Aren’t you too old for that?” question. My reply was: “If Mick Jagger is not too old to headline the Pyramid stage on Saturday night then I’m sure as hell not too old to stand there and listen.”
For those of you who read my previous post ‘Are Festivals for You?’ (and if you haven’t, why haven’t you?) then you will know that the average age of the audience at Reading Festival was somewhere between a short jail term for a wayward teacher and having a proper job which does not require pinning stars on your chest, asking if you want chips with that and commanding everyone to ‘Enjoy!’
Glastonbury was a very different kettle of fish. I regularly was not the oldest person in my immediate eyesight. OK I accept that is not as far as it once was but surely that makes my point all the stronger. There were certainly far more over 40s and 50s (and possibly over 60s unless hippie life had just treated them harshly) and far fewer under 20s than at Reading.
And it’s not just about music either, there’s a circus. film tent, market stalls and craft workshops to name but a few of the alternatives to the 30-odd music stages hosting diverse bands for 12 hours every day of the three day event.
Clearly the highlight was The Rolling Stones who gave a masterclass to every other band on how to win an audience, keep them and send them back to their tents believing they had just been part of history.
Mick Jagger was still remarkably mobile for a septuagenarian, not quite the parody of himself he’d become in recent performances. Keith Richards prowled the stage like a lion well aware he would never be replaced in the herd – although giggling after every sentence was perhaps a clue that he’d found a suitable alternative to sanatagen. Ronnie Wood just kept wandering to the front of the stage every now and again to prove what a fantastic guitarist he is, even during a guest appearance by former Stone Mick Taylor. And the inimitable Charlie Watts looking like a serial killer in a cardigan, made the drum kit his own.
But with a back-catalogue like theirs it’s much easier to play an endless stream of hits – a problem which affected Mumford and Sons the following evening when they blew their two hits too early and ended up borrowing ‘With a little help from our friends’ for their finale.
The hippie fraternity is still there but perhaps not in the numbers that helped The Levellers storm the main stage in 1994, which might be why a similar folky ensemble struggled so much this year.
Yet despite my learning experience at Reading I still picked up some snippets of information and interesting observations while in Somerset, which I’d like to share with you. Perhaps because of the location, I was nevertheless amazed how popular cider is among festival goers. There wasn’t a Belgian beer to be seen and I only spotted a couple of cans of Old Speckled Hen the entire weekend.
At Reading I was struck by how many places were offering to charge mobile phones for £5 an hour. At Glastonbury big business had stepped in to snuff out the budding entrepreneurs. EE had a recharge tent where you could go to charge your phone and try out their 4G network to stream video from the Glastonbury app. Ironic, given I would imagine the average Glastonbury goer could far more easily afford £5 than the kids at Reading. By the way there are no poor people at Glasto with an above average number of Clarissas who had presumably arranged for someone else to ride their pony over the weekend.
The longevity of Glastonbury – started in 1970 (the day after Jimi Hendrix died) – prompted me to recall some old adages and sayings. I wondered if they still held true.
I was reminded of the phrase that some people were so poor they did not even have a pot to p*ss in. I can certainly vouch for the fact this is very important if you want to avoid wandering about in the dark, tripping over tent guide ropes, cider cans and other debris on your way to the toilets after one or two of the aforementioned ciders.
It’s important you can ‘hold your drink’ was another piece of guidance I was given many years ago. This year all Glastonbury-goers received an email saying alcohol was allowed to be taken on site but you must be able to carry it yourself without the aid of a trolley or other wheeled device. See! Still true all these years later. In fact I would go further and say that if you ever intend to drink more alcohol than you are capable of carrying, it’s likely to be too much.
‘Shoes matter!’. They certainly do if it’s a mudbath. Good sensible wellies and boots were well in evidence. Most of them Hunters of course. In fact I’d have worn mine but after only a couple of years infrequent use they have split on a seam. (Not impressed – if there is anyone out there from Hunters.)
But by far my favourite line overheard during the long weekend was uttered by a girl in a neighbouring tent. Out of nowhere, and presumably while she was busying herself in her tent, I heard her say: “I fuc*ing love faffing. I could do it all bloody day. It’s so relaxing.” Well said love. (Oxford English Dictionary definition of ‘faff’ – ‘spend time in ineffectual activity’. Origin late 18th century.)
Perhaps the world needs more faffers and fewer people who interfere when you’re not harming anyone. Faff on my friends.
The Barefoot Bohemian