Glastonbury 2004: reports and reflections
Tired, muddy and very, very happy
Report and all photos by 'Tort', July 2004
What sort of an idiot sets his alarm for 4:30am so that he can spend just an extra few hours sitting in a muddy field on the other side of the country? I was on the road by 5 and despite some pretty horrendous driving conditions round the M25 I was parked in Pilton by 9:30 & still had time to stop en-route for breakfast.
It was pissing down & blowing a gale! So I hung on in the car until the rain relented a bit before loading up my magnificent tubular steel, pneumatically tyred, £17.99 from my local garden centre, sack trolley and set out on the long slog down the railway track toward the Dragon Field.
Before I'd got much more than half way there I had already bumped into William & Stig & we were very impressed to find Bees & Aqua had already fully constructed their gargantuan tent, which formed the focal communal point for Camp Urban, by the time we had got there.
Tent erected with relatively little difficulty we cracked a few tinnys & then I mooched off to reacquaint myself with the site and the Brothers Bar Pear Cider.
It really is Babycham you know!
I remembered to confirm this with a member of the bar staff before their nectar had its usual mind numbing effect on me.
A chunk of Wednesday afternoon was taken up accompanying blues back to her car in the Eastern Car Parks for a beer run. It's bloody miles!
I really don't know why anybody would park on that side of the site out of choice!
Wednesday evening was a mixture of a very pleasant Bar-B-Q with my friends on the Longhotsummer website combined with several reconnaissance missions to the Cider Bus for numerous pints of hot & spicy – one or two too many if the truth be told judging by the banging in my head the following morning.
Further wandering ensued into Lost Vagueness and the Greenfields and finally the Stone Circle where a few early bongo artistes and fire poi aficionados were demonstrating their skills around the campfires.
The rain and most of the wind of the previous day had abated and we were treated to a glorious summers day, so having seen blues off home I took the opportunity to make a rare venture north of the pylons and took lots of photos of the views across the site from the farm and various camping fields as well as mundane things like toilets, bank machines, property lock ups etc, so that I can point at pictures next year when the fresh crop of Glastovirgins on the official site (TOS) ask what all these things are like.
I then headed to the Cider Bus for the pre-determined Urbanites meeting & cider guzzling / group hug / bongo-bashing session. Several pleasant hours were passed beneath the hanging baskets of Babylon.
In the evening I really wanted to go and see the football but as I was somehow roped into being part of the organising “committee” for the TOS meeting in Jazzworld I was obliged to at least make an appearance there.
And having met up with so many shiny happy people from both TOS and the Mindless Banter offshoot website from efestivals, the football was pretty much forgotten about – just as well by all accounts.
I wandered back to Camp Urban for some warmer clothes at about 10 with the cheers & groans from the football crowd echoing around the valley, to find everybody there had just been tipped off that Pronghorn were doing an impromptu set in the Lost Vagueness Ballroom.
And very excellent they were too, closing their all too short set with their 100mph punk banjo driven rendition of “Ace of Spades”.
The rest of the evening consisted predominantly of a search for the missing William including a visit to the Pennards Medical Centre.
We finally located him crashed out at somebody's campfire with 13 missed calls on his mobile!
Why is it that people still assume that the festival doesn't start until the first band hits the Pyramid Stage on the Friday morning? Not sure why but I happened to be there for this monumental occasion.
Ralph Myers & The Jack Herren Band did a lot of drumming and that was about it really.
Spree on Jazzworld were far more my bag of nuts with their mix of drum and bass, sax and soothing female vocals. Sunray got his groove on.
My one “must see” for Friday were Oi Va Voi on the Avalon Stage and they didn't disappoint with their rocked up version of traditional Jewish folk music. Despite the 1:30 start they got one of the best receptions of the weekend and deservedly so.
I then took a bit of a stroll around the Greenfields & Greenpeace area and took plenty more photos.
I caught some tribal dancing on the Tadpole Stage from some Papua New Guinean tribesmen who were also demonstrating for freedom rights for East Papua.
I also saw a little bit of Dragonsfly with their pipes, fiddles, lutes & small band of country dancers in Croissant Neuf.
Back to the Avalon Stage for Blackbud who apparently came top of 3,000 young hopeful bands in a competition to play at the festival.
A traditional 3-piece of guitar/vocals, bass & drums & with a combined age of no more than 50 they are the most gifted bunch of youngsters I've seen since I caught The Music's set in the New Bands Tent a couple of years ago.
Good luck to them. I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more from them very soon.
Having already gone through a battery each for both my camera & phone I popped in to see my friend Aspen on the Other Stage Info stall for a re-charge and caught a bit of Badly Drawn Boy's set while I was there.
I then wandered back to Pyramid for Groove Armada and bumped into my old festy mates Julian & Shaun from Barnsley. More cider & general catching up while the Armada played an excellent set, culminating in “Superstyling”.
I also caught the start of PJ Harvey's set which sounded pretty cool as well.
Back to camp to gather the troops for the evening's entertainment at Jazzworld. I saw Ojos de Brujo at WOMAD last year and loved their mixture of modern dance and traditional Spanish flamenco styles. If anything they were even better this time around. We stayed glued to the Brothers Bar while Michael Franti & Spearhead put on their usual stylish performance.
We then whiled away a very pleasant hour or two sitting around the gas burner & eating olives at Wolfie's Tipi before the fortysomethings in the group wandered off to the Gaia Space Dome in Lost Vagueness to catch the very wonderful Kamel Nitrate with their drop dead gorgeous dancer Scarlet Sahara providing additional entertainment.
We danced until the sky was light and enhanced by a rainbow before finally crashing out at about 6am.
The overcast skies meant I actually managed a full 4 hours sleep before I dragged myself from the tent to the sound of bagpipes playing further down the field.
I caught a little bit of the Resonators on the Avalon Stage & the Quantic Soul Orchestra on Jazzworld on my way toward the Other Stage Info point to pick up my now fully recharged batteries (thanks Aspen).
Then a quick dash through the rain back to Croissant Neuf and a front row seat for right on lefty bog door sticker appliers Seize The Day.
There was barely room for the packed out tent for the audience to perform the “Shackle Shuffle” & and more & more sodden souls poured in as the rain did likewise outside.
I made another quick sprint down to Avalon for didgeridoo playing Aussie technoheads Lunaloop with their hula hoops & spangly outfits that left very little to the imagination and then it was back to Croissant Neuf for Biggles Wartime Band.
I won't even start to describe them. You had to be there!
Towards the end of their set I was the asked the time by a young lady who I don't think quite believed me when I said I had to be at a wedding in half an hour.
But I did, so a quick dash back to the tent to change into pinstripe strides, dickie bow & spangly waist coat (all courtesy of Banardos) then down to Lost Vagueness for Chris & Chelle's wedding in the Chapel of St Elvis the Divine, the Reverend Larry Love of Alabama 3 officiating.
More chinwagging with lots of old friends from my efestivals days ensued.
Next up on the must see list was Hot Club of Cowtown on the Acoustic Stage but I caught a little bit of funksters Antibalas on Jazzworld and John Spiers & Jon Boden (acoustic guitar & accordion folk) at the Bandstand en-route as I splashed through the mud in all my finery.
Hot Club were superb.
I first saw them on Jools Holland's New Years Eve Hootenany (sp?) show and while I'd never claim to be in any way a Country & Western fan I just loved the fiddle / guitar / slap bass style of the Texan trio.
I hooked up again with the Urbanite crew during the set & we hung around for the start of the Rutles which really wasn't our cup of tea at all so we decided on taking in a bit of Cabaret Stage comedy.
John Otway was just in the process of finishing his 1,947th Glastonbury appearance as we wandered past the Fire & Dance Stage in the Theatre Field and the comedy was frankly crap so we tucked into more pear cider and headed on up to Avalon.
The intention was to finish the evening off with Toots & the Maytals but as 1 Giant Leap were due on stage 15 minutes earlier we thought we'd see a bit of their set first.
However 1 Giant Leap were so sublime and hit the spot so perfectly that I for one just simply couldn't have pulled myself away if Hendrix himself was appearing in the next field. Michael Franti's guest appearance was the icing on the cake.
We finished the evening again in Lost Vagueness which was so rammed that we couldn't get anywhere near the ballroom for Chumbawumba so we spent another couple of hours jigging around to the eastern beats at the Gaia dome while others trudged through the sea of mud around us.
By Sunday morning my poor ancient and decrepit knees had pretty much given up the ghost but I managed to stumble along with the rest of the crew toward the Pyramid Stage for the opera.
A massive portion of pie, mash & mushy peas was probably only the second reasonably substantial meal I'd remembered to eat since Wednesday's Bar-B-Q & my daily visit to the lovely clean & quiet longdrops in the Acoustic field was equally satisfying.
I've never seen live opera before so it would have been churlish to have turned up the opportunity. Despite the fact that the performance of Ride of the Valkyries was in English it would have been very difficult to follow the story line were it not for the subtitles that conveniently appeared on the giant screens to either side of the stage.
Despite my initial reservations I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it and the ENO were well worth the lengthy ovation they received.
A quick stroll round to the Other Stage for some laid back Sunday lunchtime verbal tomfoolery with Divine Comedy. We all sang along to “Alfie”. I thought about going to see When Worlds Collide but was waylaid by a combination of jigging about to some dirty techno in the Glade, chilling out with the Hare Krishnas and a bit of the Shorn Rah Spectaculah on the bandstand.
The bloke who I assume to be Mr Rah looks like he failed an audition for Sigue Sigue Sputnik while his Spectaculah would have been more in keeping with ENO's orchestra earlier in the day. Another juxtaposition (Aqua's favourite word of the weekend).
More Urbanite cider quaffing at the Bus before a mad dash to shelter from yet another downpour as ex-Gongsters Here & Now played the Avalon Stage & Moose got on with her knitting.
This was followed by the long march back to the Acoustic Field for a couple of pints of Nelson's Revenge while Mr Moose & I delighted in the scouse rantings of 70's drainpipes, raybans & massively coiffed punk poet icon Mr John-Cooper Clarke.
He recited classics like “Hire Car” & “Are You The Business?”, while somehow succeeding to look and sound identical to how he did more than quarter of a century ago.
Blues was back onsite so I met her and a few others in the Common Ground café just as the skies threw it down yet again and even more forcefully than they had managed before.
We wandered back to camp before I headed out again to see teen hero Nik Turner and other ex-Hawkwind members in Space Ritual.
They cranked out all the old classics like “Masters of the Universe” and “Orgone Accumulator” before finishing with the obligatory “Silver Machine”.
My festival experience finished on another high with Bakka Beyond in the Croissant Neuf narrowly getting the nod over Orbital's final bow. I've seen the Hartnoll's twice before at Glasto but always missed Bakka.
However their high energy celtic-african crossover style was simply breathtaking as was the vocal gymnastics of the 2 female singers and every bit worthwhile missing the Orbital and the fireworks for.
I ambled back to camp a very happy soul and snuggled up with a refugee blues who had sneaked into my tent while I was out dancing the last dregs of energy out of my weary limbs.
Having spent 6 and a half hours stationary in the car parks a few years ago I tend to use Monday as an opportunity to scour the stalls for the traditional presents for the Tort tribe.
The mud by this stage was thick & clinging & just starting to irk me a little & having struck camp and hauled all my gear back along the railway line I was ready for home.
But the traffic was going nowhere fast so I went back in and snoozed in the sun for a couple of hours before meeting up with William and Stig & a few others in the Tiny Teas Tent and helping them back to the car with their gear.
It was 6:15 when I finally fired up the engine but after a couple of double-backs it was nearer 8 O'Clock before we hit tarmac and were properly on our way home, tired, muddy & very, very happy.