Glastonbury Blues

Back in 1970, a blues festival they attended in Bath inspired a dairy farmer and his wife to start up a festival of their own. Michael and Jean Eavis held the first Glastonbury Festival on their Pilton Dairy Farm just a day after the death of Jimi Hendrix. Approximately 1,500 people turned up and paid one pound sterling to listen to the likes of Marc Boland and Al Stewert. Festival goers this first year also received free milk from the farm.

Fast forward to the year 2000. Glastonbury has become a pop culture tradition in the UK. Live coverage on BBC radio and television brings the event to everyone. Tickets for the event sell out before artist line-ups are announced. This alone makes it an interesting musical event as interest and participation is not based on big name bands or flavors of the month.

Those who can’t or won’t purchase passes have perfected ways of breaking in. Holes are cut into fences, tunnels are dug and security measures are compromised when wristbands are counterfeited and hand stamps are forged. Some estimates say an additional 100,000 people manage to attend the festival without purchasing tickets. While the intention of this festival is less about making money and more about creating community, the gatecrashers have jeopardized the future of Glastonbury Festival. Glastonbury 2001 would see Michael Eavis canceling the event in order to prepare for 2002. Extra security measures and strictly enforced Heath and Safety regulations require that gatecrashers be excluded from the 2002 Glastonbury Festival.

This year the message was loud and clear on radio and websites. If you do not have a ticket, please do not turn up. It seems no one wants to see Glastonbury Festival fade permanently into history. The security measures were successful, the crowds manageable and crime was almost completely prevented. Long Live Glastonbury!

On a personal note, and to give you the PopTart take, I kept a journal of my Glastonbury weekend. No one ever has the same experience there and every year is different. It is impossible to see it all, but with a little effort I saw a lot.

Please note: any references to drugs and alcohol are not intended to encourage or condone inebriation. What I participated in and experienced was all done in the name of journalistic research.

Friday June 28
Day One

Yesterday I prepared myself for my first expedition as a camper at the Glastonbury Music and Arts Festival. I purchased a tent, a sleeping bag, a packet of baby wipes, three packets of cigarettes and a bottle of vodka. I also packed a sports bottle, anorak, cork screw, sweatshirt, sunscreen, flash light and rubber mallet.

The sun is shining. Amazing! I have seen what the mud can be like and I do not want to be camping in that!

I am the first one here from my group. It is up to me to secure five tent spaces ideally in a circle. Panic has set in, as there are no spaces left in our “hospitality” area.

OK. I have now grabbed one spot and erected my tent. There are a few pieces of the tent left over but it stands and for a first timer I am pretty proud. I also met a friendly camp steward who clued me into a new area they may open up. I might have to move to be with the others but that’ll just give me more tent erecting practice.

A few of the others have arrived and we are scrambling for space. Hopefully that new area will open up. We are setting up the other tents anyway. The guys hit the bar for beer and I have found some Glastonbury Guides. There is so much to do and see this year including a great list of bands on 17 stages. Time to make a plan.

Our friendly steward has just told us we can move. Woo Hoo! We’re the first ones into the new area so we have a good tent circle set up away from the loos and not too close to the main pathway, but conveniently close to the bar. The site has filled up around us very quickly. I am eager to hear some music. Bush were rocking the Pyramid stage while I set up my tent the first time. I wonder if Gavin Rosdale had his shirt off. That’s always nice to see. It is unusually warm for an English summer. No doubt (ha ha) he’ll be hanging around for the weekend as fiancé Gwen is on tomorrow afternoon. I have heard many bands say they play Glastonbury because they like coming to Glastonbury. Isn’t that nice?

The Doves are on later. Mustn’t miss them!

PS: the rubber mallet is making friends. It was worth lugging the extra weight just to see the joy on people’s faces when I say they can borrow it. It seems knocking tent pegs in with shoes (against the advice of tent instructions) is generally the rule.

Music, finally!

After circling all the bands I want to see in my Guide I convince the group to head over to the main stage also known as the Pyramid stage. Someone told me it is here all year round, but they use it as a cow barn when the dairy farm is working.

We listened to the Doves play their ethereal rock’n’roll while the sun shone on our faces. The guitars sounded so good as their sound traveled over the warm cow pasture. It was a perfect festival moment.

Back at camp, now. The last of our party has arrived with a self-inflating double bed. I think that may be cheating.

Drinks are starting to flow from the bar and from tents. Cannabis is now a Class C drug and that seems to be working for almost everyone here!

Attempted to eat dinner. Had some bad chips. How can you mess up fried potatoes? I will taste those all weekend. The loos aren’t too bad yet, but the sun is warming them up so watch out! I must try to find better food tomorrow. There is so much to choose from in the market areas. I have seen signs for Mexican, Thai, Indian, Italian and Vegetarian cuisine. There is an Ostrich burger stand on the way to the Jazz World Stage. I won’t be going there, but it’s popular.

Drinking and dancing is on the schedule tonight. Bands end at midnight, but DJ’s play until sun-up in the Dance tent and the Rizzla tent.

Must sleep now.

Saturday June 29
Day Two: 8:00a.m. Sunburned. Ouch.

Somehow we did not leave our camp circle until late last night. Everyone packed for a self-contained party. We managed to stumble up to the Pyramid stage to see the end of the Faithless set. They are always great outdoors but their sound this year was particularly wonderful. The pulsing white lights lit up a smiling crowd. Seemed everyone was coming up on his or her tipple of choice. My group held on to each other like school kids crossing the street and weaved our way around the fields.

Ozomatli finished the live music portion of the evening over on the Jazz World Stage. Thinking back through the clouds of my hangover, I am amazed we covered so much ground (literally) in the dark, drunk night. The festival site is about 1.5 miles wide and eight miles around. I am glad for my hospitality pass if only because I would never have made it to my tent if I were camped up on the perimeter of the site as thousands are. By the looks of those stumbling around early this AM many did not make it home.

I have just been informed that I was dancing on a table in the Rizzla tent at 3:00a.m. Oh well, I am sure I was not the only one.

Day Two: Afternoon.
Water and fruit and a bit of sun have eased the pain. Many in line at the loos looked like I felt. I supposed the nice weather encouraged many to over-indulge on the first night. I am not sure if I can make it to Sunday. I froze in my tent for three hours and then boiled when the sun came up.

Just heard some of the White Stripes set. They played the main Pyramid stage and looked ridiculous, as they were lost among the equipment for later bands. The screens, however, made them look like super rock stars. It was an eclectic set — a bit hit-or-miss like their albums. I thought of John Spencer more than once while watching Jack White. I have just remembered having a debate last night in the bar with some label folk as to whether Jack and Meg White are brother and sister or husband and wife. More than one drunk “friend of a friend of theirs” said they were brother and sis. Some one even wrote in my notebook: JACK IS MEG’S SISTA NO BROTHER — REMEMBER! But I think whoever that was was way too drunk and/or stoned to be a reliable source.

Tonight I plan to sneak off-site and sleep at the pub with my husband, courtesy of the BBC. I’m too wimpy for the constant camping thing. Plus it sucks being alone in this loved-up atmosphere. Couples everywhere. I bet some only met last night. Glastonbury romances are common and I bet Glastonbury babies are, too! Speaking of babies, I’m seeing a lot more families this year. It may be because it is easier to see people when walking around because the gatecrashers have been controlled and the site is actually accommodating everyone. Or it may be because it feels safer this year with the new fence.

We have just wandered up to the stone circle. It is at the top of the site at least a mile from the main stage. These special rocks are warm to the touch. They are similar to Stonehenge, which is not too far from Glastonbury. To reach it, I walked through the Healing Fields, where there are yoga and massage tents, arts and crafts stalls and acoustic music performances.

With all that goes on in these upper fields, known as the Green Fields, it is possible to spend the weekend at Glastonbury festival not seeing bands. Considering that the tickets for this festival always sell out before the artist line-up is announced it is easy to imagine that many people do just that.

Passing through the Greenpeace area I noticed that there is no trash on the ground. This is one of the characteristics of this festival; people do not just pay lip service for the weekend, but actually practice what they preach.

Day Two: Saturday evening
The walk and several stops at bars along the way have cured our hangovers. The joke was on us when we realized that the bars out in the general areas were cheaper than the “hospitality” bar. Serves me right for camping with record executives.

Although drugs are officially discouraged at Glastonbury, there seems to be a relaxed atmosphere about chemically altering ones mind. Many market stalls offer herbal Ecstasy, herbal peed, and other “natural” highs. A few hippies were selling chocolate hash truffles on the path to the Green Fields.

Day Two: 9:00p.m.
We have finally seen something on the Other Stage! The Beta Band blew my wet socks off! They have grievously disappointed me in the past so this set was a lovely surprise. Again, everyone seems to be high on something, be it spliff or pills or just fresh air and sunshine. Loved-up is almost an understatement.

That’s our Brown Acid message of the weekend!

My Saturday night finished off with Mano Chau on the Jazz World Stage. They were not as gobsmacking as Beta Band but the crowd was pushing up the sky and bouncing like toddlers. No amount of hooting and hollering could get the set extended as they strictly enforce the curfew on the stages. The working crews have to save some energy for the last day.

We’re heading back to the bar so I can refill my sports bottle. It has been the best accessory. Last night it carried vodka and cranberry, this morning it was water and tonight Guinness. I thought I needed some iron for strength.

The second best accessory has been my mobile phone, without which I would have been separated from friends all weekend. The advent of text messaging has revolutionized the festival mobile revolution. No more screaming into a mouth piece while being drowned out by rock music.

Day Three: 2:00a.m.
I have bailed out of my tent and into my husband’s B&B. I need the toilet, a shower and some lovin’ in that order. Maybe I’m too old for this festival thing.

Sunday, June 30
Day Three: noon
Brazil won the World Cup! I am heading back on site. Generally, there is no re-entry after leaving site. For those working (and those married to those working) there is a complicated system of wristbands, hologram tickets and checkpoints. The security in place this year is like no other festival I’ve seen. And it has made a noticeable difference. Not only was it not constant pedestrian traffic jams on paths between stages, but there was a lot less riff raff. Crime was down and we didn’t encounter any dodgy drug dealers on the bridges. (I’ve been told that in previous years they were like Trolls lurking around the dark bridges over the farm’s water supply).

Despite my restful night indoors I’m exhausted. Today looks like a gentle meal at one of the nice cafes I found yesterday, a Guinness and some Pink Floyd. I am on my own as my all my mates have run home. Some bailed yesterday but most packed up and hit the road in order to beat the traffic and get some rest before work on Monday. Those that remain are the hardcore Glastonbury goers. Many will stay well into Monday and ease their way home dreaming of next year.

Sunday 6:00p.m.
Just when I thought it was all over I stumble into Fat Boy Slim! On my travels to find food I was passing by the Radio 1 Soundstage, which had been sounding good all weekend. But it sounded really good just then so I stayed for a boogie. As I joined the modest crowd in front of the large speakers I noticed the smiling DJ, Mr. Cooke. He was having a fantastic time and soon I was, too. Nothing like a good dance at an impromptu gig to get the tummy rumbling!

Sunday 8:00p.m.
Pink Floyd, or more accurately Roger Waters doing Pink Floyd. The drizzle has started and I have my layers on. The crowds here in front of the stage are engulfed in puffs of smoke from small campfires and very large spliffs. Comfortably Numb sums up Sunday evening at Glastonbury.

Monday 12:00a.m.
I got a ride home. I want to get to my own bed before my Festival buzz wears off.

During my illustrious television career I had the chance to work on many American festivals such as Woodstock ’94 and ’99, Lollapalooza and the H.O.R.D.E tour. First and foremost at all of these festivals was the musical line-up. Second was money. Michael Eavis and the rest of the Glastonbury organizers put integrity and charity first. Any year a profit is made it is donated to several major charities such as Oxfam, Greenpeace and Wateraid. Ethos like that influence the vibe of the festival as does the beautiful surrounding. Even in the year of mud and rain the rolling hills are beautiful and the fresh air inspiring. The public’s response to Glastonbury’s pleas of peace and honesty this year has saved the festival. We all look forward to 2003.

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