Sunday 21 June 2015

Glastonbury 2015 - Preview

Trying to write a preview of Glastonbury Festival (or to give it its full title – The Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts) is as impossible as trying to stifle a yawn. Not that there’s anything remotely yawnsome about the festival itself – except the punishing tiredness that may kick in after it’s all over. For Glastonbury is huge – you probably know that much. In fact the way we like to think of Glastonbury isn’t one gigantic festival, it’s like many festivals within one festival; and because of that every person who goes will have a very different experience as they search for pleasure. Some will just watch the big stars on the Pyramid and the Other Stage (the ones the media tend to focus on, giving in our opinion a rather sanitised and unrealistic view of the festival) some will take in a little bit of everything, whilst others will see very little live music all weekend, instead exploring the many other weird and wonderful attractions the festival has, from cabaret to circus to political debate to craft and so much more. We’d need to write a novel to cover everything and the internet is already full of stuff about the event. 

However, if you’re going this year and are a Glastonbury virgin we recommend you read our tips from last year (here) which still all hold true.

What we would like to tell you about, if you’re at all interested, is our own personal history with the festival.

Breaking More Waves first trip to Glastonbury was in 1994. It was the year that the Pyramid Stage burnt down just a few days before the start date and had to be replaced with an alternative structure. In those days there wasn’t the massive internet scrum there is now for tickets. In fact the internet didn’t even exist. We purchased our tickets by sending a cheque (£59 for a ticket) to a PO Box number and picked them up from a lady sitting in a caravan on the site when we arrived. 

There used to be a phrase that ran something along the lines of “if you can remember Glastonbury you probably weren’t actually there,” and it’s true that we remember very little of that year. Not because of some hedonistic attempt to get off our faces on drugs, but just that we’ve been to so many festivals since that they all blur into each other. Things that we do recall are that it was blazing hot, that we saw Pulp, Blur and Oasis (who were virtually bottom of the bill at that point) all perform stunning sets on the second stage as Brit Pop began to accelerate towards 90’s domination, that Bjork was an incredible bundle of dancing prancing energy and vocal brilliance, that M People captured a polished joy that demonstrated that Glastonbury was no longer a festival for just crusties and hippies, that on Sunday morning part of the site was shut off as there had been a shooting incident, that elsewhere we heard that someone died of a drugs overdose (the first ever death on site) and most importantly that whilst we were there the first cracks in the relationship with the person we were living with and thought was going to be our life partner appeared. By Christmas that year we had separated.

Since that time, we’ve been back to Glastonbury a number of times – not every year, but on average about once every three years. We’ve experienced some of the most apocalyptic weather and conditions we’ve experienced in a tent at Glastonbury. The mud of 1997 and 1998 in particular was horrendous. 

After Glastonbury 1997 the first ever Breaking Waves fanzine was published. It was 38 pages long and contained a 19 page review of the mud bath event in diary form. Reading back now it seems that our highlights were Daft Punk, Radiohead and Dennis Pennis having to fill for the The Prodigy when something went wrong with their equipment and they had to leave the stage. In 1998 we went with our new girlfriend, her first Glastonbury, and had to endure a river running through the middle of our tent. The fact that she didn’t complain once and just got on with things probably explains why she’s still our partner (and mother of our 2 children) now. 

In 2003 we took our children to their first Glastonbury and had a very different experience – spending the mornings relaxing in the sun in the kid’s field, with ‘headliners’ such as Bodger & Badger before catching the likes of REM, Radiohead (again) and the Flaming Lips on the Pyramid stage at night with our children drifting off to sleep in pushchairs. Everything about it was glorious and it was probably the first time ever that we really didn’t want to come home afterwards. That was the year we really found that ‘Glastonbury spirit’ that people talk about; a spirit of humanity coming together, co-operating and appreciating each other, whatever their views on the world outside. 

12 years on and with the children now teenagers we’re beginning to believe they are charmed – they’ve now been to over 20 festivals and have yet to experience any sort of major mud bath – in fact they’ve only had to wear wellies (because of wet grass more than anything) for just 1 of those festivals they have attended. They also seem to have found a little bit of that Glastonbury spirit themselves, being pretty empathetic kids who seem to be far more tolerant of differences than many people from generations above them. They give hope for the future.

More recently, Breaking More Waves was invited to become one of the music writer judges for the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition, for which we receive a complimentary ticket for the festival as thanks for helping filter through some of the thousands of entries that are submitted for the competition every year. The last two years this ticket has been a press ticket meaning that we’ve been able to camp in the reserved hospitality campsite on site giving us privileges such as showers, ‘real’ flushing toilets and a hospitality car park that is close to the site. It’s something we’re extremely grateful for, getting that bit older and having slummed it in some pretty horrendous conditions at other points of our Glastonbury history.

We feel like we’ve grown up with the festival. We’re guessing that this is not uncommon for those who have been going for many years. We’ve watched it get bigger and cater for the mainstream masses , and its undoubtedly become safer in many respects (not only in some of its main stage music selections but the actual site itself – the installation of the super fence may have alienated some, but when lives were being put at risk without it, it needed to happen), but at its heart the old fashioned alternative hippy spirit still resides there, or at least as close as you can get to it in these days of corporate greed, social media that’s often anti-social and lifestyles that in the main seem to be all about the individual rather than society. Glastonbury (in the main) brings us back to a concept of society – albeit one that is drunk, wasted and hungover.

If you’re going this year, have a fantastic time however you choose to experience the festival. Look after those you’re going with, and make friends with / keep an eye out for strangers there as well. 

Musical tips? Oh go on then. The Unthanks with an orchestra to wash away your hangover at 11am on Saturday opening the Pyramid Stage (streaming below), Kate Tempest (various stages) delivering her optimistic words and beats and of course, Lionel Richie if only to see if he starts with Hello. If he does, we'll probably cry and laugh at the same time.

The Unthanks - Flutter

Lionel Richie - Hello

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