Hell is a place called Glastonbury

by Charlie_East_West on June 28, 2013

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Liam Gallagher: “I fucking hate Glastonbury. I’m only here for the money. It’s fucking shit. I’ve got to wear fucking wellies.”

It is Glastonbury weekend. I will therefore allow myself a sharp intake of breath. This weekend around 150,000 so-called music worshippers will pitch up in a tent, yurt, camper van, or hotel somewhere deep within the West Country. Well done Michael Eavis – you have created a monster. For what was once a genuine festival of music and anti establishment musical protest has now become a corporate shindig in association with Hunter Wellies, Radio 2, Pimms, Chris Evans and Jo Whiley. If you are going this weekend, good luck. I expect you will end up vomiting in the mud while listening to Mumford & Sons, whilst trying to work out what the hell happened to your life. Success lies in the choices.

Despite loving music, and going to a variety of gigs, I know from experience that Glastonbury will look like a bit of a blast if you are 21 and go with the intention of running around a field with paint on your face and mud on your arse whilst sleeping in an under sized tent alongside 150,000 other lost souls who are pretending to have fun. Unfortunately, I am no longer 21. I do not like to voluntarily put paint on my face and increasingly, I dislike any form of discomfort or even mild inconvenience – so that probably rules out the tent. I only just manage to win an internal fight with myself to go camping with my own kids. I prefer to be comfortable at all times.

The 2013 Glastonbury line up falls into three categories – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good:
The Arctic Monkeys
Nick Cave
Rufus Wainwright
Jake Bugg
Billy Bragg
Vampire Weekend
Chic ft Nile Rodgers
Bobby Womack
Alabama Shakes

The Bad:
Mumford and Sons
The Vaccines
Hurts
Ben Howard
Chase and Status
Michael Kiwanuka
The Lumineers
Newton Faulkner
Editors

The Ugly:
The Rolling Stones (2013 version)
Sir Bruce Forsyth (yes – this is not a typo)

There is something for everyone. The line up veers between Radio 2 / Radio 1 / Radio 6 – but because of the mouth-wateringly high price tags attached to the ticket (standard ticket costs over £200) – this festival will be largely the preserve of the middle aged middle classes and a number of students and Generation Y’s who are living off Daddy’s trust fund.

The whole thing feels corporately false. As I have mentioned before (*see the curse of Jo Whiley for more details), symptoms include – pretending to be youthful and cool, glamping it up at a corporate music festival by arriving in a gigantic 4×4 or helicopter, sleeping in a fucking yurt, wearing pink Hunter wellies, deck shoes, and generalised boho-chic attire, and seeking out the performances from Coldplay, Mumford & Sons, Snow Patrol and Ellie Goulding, and finishing the weekend off by going to a refreshing spa resort. The type of person who only buys two albums a year. In 2013 they will probably buy Daft Punk and Mumford & Sons. Nothing else.

Apart from the Jo Whiley brigade, There are a few other notable Room 101 entrants lurking around a huge music festival. First of all, those idiots who think that a suitable way to experience the festival is to take a folding chair and a picnic hamper and plonk themselves in front of the main stage all day long. They sit through every act, only standing when a band plays a song they recognise from Radio 2 (Fix You, by Coldplay is an obvious example) at which point they whoop, bop around for a little bit, and then sit back down on their large derrieres to drink a warm Pimms. Wrong festival guys – you should hop along to Proms in the bloody Park). Secondly, those London media types. Yes, you know the ones – arseholes with designer clothes, sunglasses on the forehead, a designer beard to cover up their own facial ugliness, and using social media like a bragging version of tourettes syndrome to crow about the “vibe” of the festival. They all work for advertising agencies, got their tickets from a client, and they end up lording it up in the hospitality tend. Tools.

Each to their own, but being a son of the soil, I naively still think that fields are for cows, sheep, horses, pigs, and whatever crop happens to sprout out of the ground. When the likes of Mumford & Sons sprout up from the ground and decide to put their own blot on the landscape and cause indiscriminate amounts of noise pollution, then it really is the time to get the irrigation systems out and spray them all away.

How would you like it if 100,000 cows spent a weekend walking around your house? It would still be a better noise than bloody Mumford, and the smell would still be more pleasant than the Glastonbury Festival.

I stand accused of pissing on the bonfires of the festival goers. I probably come across as a grumpy old man. Personally, I do not give a flying fuck. Glastonbury is now my idea of hell. If someone expected me to camp out in a muddy field, in the pissing rain, in the company of thousands of Hunter boot wearing strangers, bumping into Jo Whiley, shitting in a hole, eating terrible food, and being forced to listen to Ben Howard, I would expect to be given a rifle and one last request. My request would be a simple one. A pair of ear plugs.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Elliott June 28, 2013 at 11:55 am

So you’re a fan then Charlie!

Though I find myself in agreement with one or two aspects of your post (Jo Whiley, some of the media luvvies, Mumford, Coldplay etc), you’re nowhere near what it’s all about.

I’m not sure where to start. It’s all things to all people. Some like sitting in front of the main stage all day. Others hang out at the circus big top, the kids field, the acoustic stage, the green fields. Or just wander about. The things not on the bill are always what stays in my mind. the south east corner is a late night heaven for those of a particular bent. It’s degenerate, anarchic, exciting and hugely enjoyable.

The site is vast; the super fence (a necessary evil once festivalling become so popular, and yes, mainstream) is 8.5 miles long. It’s 800 plus acres of glorious farmland.

I’ve been there in the pissing rain and baking hot, and all points in between. I’ve only once not loved every minute; 2000, when the old fence was breached and too many people got in for free.

There’s things I don’t like; litter, queuing for food/bar/loo, but hey, you’ve all day, relax, talk to a stranger.

In short, I love it and am at my most happy there.

Mrs E says I’m a grumpy old bastard sometimes. She doesn’t say it when I’m there.

I’m going to hazard 2 assumptions:

1. I’m older than you.
2. You’ve never been.

How did I do?

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Charlie_East_West June 28, 2013 at 1:52 pm

I am 39 and have never been – but I have done T in the Park a few times. I loved it as a student, hated it as an adult.

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Ray_North June 28, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Charlie – you got busted!
I have to say though a brilliant worded article and I agree that the notion of Glastonbury kind of makes me tired now – unless I was truly allowed to go fucking mental for a few days and I was able to ignore many of the corporate types who frequent it now – which I think is what Geoff and Mrs E manage to do.

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Charlie_East_West June 28, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Not busted. I have done my time at huge festivals. I cannot imagine that the Big G is any different to T in the Park. Each to their own. Vive la difference!

If I went to Glastonbury, then I would get really stuck in to anything that was not corporate, and anything that allowed me to get up to lots of bad things…

I think my final straw was “accidentally” ending up in the Shamen tent….

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Shhh July 1, 2013 at 5:04 pm

I’ve been to both, and T and G are wildly different, and I’ll be able to confirm that again when I go back to T in a few weeks’ time.

I think, after having gone to the G for the first time this year, I’m actually more impressed with T in general, for it’s lack of pretention. You’re there to have fun, get wasted, listen to whatever music you want, do whatever you want (I often bring a book for being pasty white, when the sun gets too much), and generally have a good time.

G is so overwhelmed with forcing you to enjoy this ‘best place on earth’; there are good bits, there are great bits, but the bad bits are terribly hypocritical and they leave that awful taste in your mouth – The Guardian/Brothers/Tuborg sponsored liberal anti-consumerism fest.

There’s a lot of good in it, I met some great people, but I also met some right arseholes – the native-American headdress-wearing uni students who saw me struggling with my tent in the wind, sat, watching, and then aggressively complained about me leaving so much rubbish behind. In a field of rubbish.

It’s got two sides to it, but with the protection of the Guardian (who printed their money-off vouchers on the back of the MAP of the grounds they gave away free… nice move you stingy bastards) and everyone aged 18-25, you’re not going to be able to criticise it without some kind of Dispatches-type investigation…

But yeah T, I’d go to again in a shot, G? … I’ll come back to you on that one when I’ve recovered.

Shhh July 1, 2013 at 5:05 pm

* Meant to say Guardian anti-capitalism fest. but consumerism works there too. You get my drift, they want to you go again the money-making machine… by spending 20 on a t shirt and 5 quid on a towel.

Alec June 28, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Haven’t been since 92 but they were the best of times. It’s the best festy. I believe you can still have campfires. There is so much…I know people who spend the entire time in the green field and never go anywhere near the main stages. 89 was the first time for me and the last time the travellers were let in free…and now we have glamping and plastic hippies.

Womad is pretty good too

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Ray_North June 28, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Alex I remember very fondly meeting you, I think by accident at Glasto in 1989 and chilling out with some very interesting cigarettes! Happy days.

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Charlie_East_West June 30, 2013 at 8:22 pm

Also…another Room 101 – couples who decide to increase their visability to a TV camera and lessen the visability of others. Case Study: that classic Glastonbury pose of a woman perched on the shoulders of her boyfriend. I am willing to bet that these people are in the first year of their relationship.

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Charlie_East_West July 1, 2013 at 10:30 am
Charlie_East_West July 1, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Shhh – great comments. You hit the nail on the head. T is for a gigantic piss up and rock music. I suspect G is for forced fun.

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Charlie_East_West July 1, 2013 at 5:40 pm

Right then…I think I need to sample to argue. Who is up for Glastonbury in 2014? ;)

Then again….perhaps not.

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Rampton July 2, 2013 at 3:14 am

Charlie East West,

You are a curmudgeonly pretentious twat to spout off the way you have here, about something you have no experience of. I really don’t understand people like you who seem to revel in slagging something off using a huge pile of assumptions. How did you ever get to be a writer?
Me? I’m 52 years old, been enjoying Glastonbury (mostly) ever since I first went in 1977 and whilst it has obviously changed a lot over the years, it does what a festival is meant to do: it is festive. I’ve never felt forced to enjoy myself there. I’ve always managed that myself or with friends. Sorry chum(p) but you just come across like one of those knee jerk idiots who uses contention to be noticed. Charlie, you are an attention seeking missile talking out of yer arse. In my humble opinion of course. And so might I be of course, except I’ve actually been there so think that gives me a ad more credence than you chap! Good luck with T if you ever go again – maybe next time you’ll notice the branding and commercialism all over that site eventually.

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Charlie_East_West July 2, 2013 at 8:43 am

Rampton. You are correct. I need to experience Glastonbury before spouting off against it. So tonight, I will recreate Glastonbury by putting on some face paint, go into my garden, put on a water hose, roll around in the mud and listen to crap music with my wife perched from my shoulders. We will finish the evening by sleeping in a yurt. I will save £200 in the process.

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Geoff Elliott July 2, 2013 at 3:10 pm

It’s Tuesday July 2nd. I’m back in the office after a day of rest, recovery and celebrating my eldest daughter’s birthday. Every now and then I get a reminder of something which happened over the weekend and a smile appears on my face. Only at Glastonbury.

Mine was short this year. Work and the aforementioned birthday meant that I didn’t arrive on site until 9pm on Friday. I left at 5pm on Sunday. So, 44 hours only. But what a 44 hours. Found Mrs E, the rest of our party plus another group of friends within 30 minutes of getting on site, just in time for the Arctic Monkeys to come on stage. Was serenaded at the gates by a large group of stewards singing a song of welcome as I came in. Lovely. Met an Aussie guy on the 20 minute walk in and chatted with him about life and festivals. He’d been sent back to his tent by his girlfriend to fetch Jaegermeister. And he’d not spilt a drop on his way back. We parted at the entrance to the Park, I never saw him again but we’d had a great chat.

That’s the sort of place that Glastonbury is.

I got to bed about 6am Saturday morning, after a brilliant night wandering about the south east corner. The NYC Downlow in Block 9. A very in your face gay nightclub with major attitude. Didn’t quite find the right music but had a top time looking for it.

Saturday was spent wandering about in the Green fields, it’s a good deal more peaceful there than the main stage areas. Saturday night was spent with the Rolling Stones. I hadn’t been convinced it would be a great show but I was wrong. They’d no right to be that good. Going through the motions it was not. An earlier night, a little less full on and a mellow Sunday morning and afternoon. Matthew E White on West Holts, John Otway in the Cabaret tent.
Last memories are of sitting high up in the Park field, with K T Tunstall playing away in the Crow’s Nest and gazing out and across the site. The best view there is.

I’ve returned, refreshed, exhausted, uplifted, senses overloaded, happy.

Looks like I was right with my assumptions……

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Charlie_East_West July 2, 2013 at 6:49 pm

Brilliantly put Geoff. Your posting highlights everything that is good about a music festival.
My original posting was aimed at the corporate influences, and also a few acts and individuals that I feel should not represent the so called ethos of Glastonbury.

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Mrs E July 2, 2013 at 8:14 pm

I read with interest your assumptions about Glastonbury and quite frankly if you’ve never been you have no idea what you’re talking about – its nothing like any other festival and that’s what makes it so special – I’ve been nineteen times I can comment.

Once again a fantastic time.

Mrs E

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Charlie_East_West July 2, 2013 at 8:40 pm

Guardian journalist, Suzanne Moore, (as previously highlighted) went to Glastonbury this year, and she was pretty scathing about Glastonbury.

Also – as previously stated, I may not have been to Glastonbury, but, I have been to many music festivals over the years, so I know my onions on this issue. All my points raised apply to every festival that I have attended. So – what makes Glastonbury any different?

I recognise that any music festival will have many good things to offer – all I am doing is pointing out a few of the negative issues.

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Mrs E July 2, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Sorry but I too have been to loads of festivals and there is nothing quite like Glastonbury.

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Charlie_East_West July 2, 2013 at 9:13 pm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2013/jul/01/saw-rolling-stones-60s-glastonbury

Suzanne Moore clearly shares some of my presumed concerns…

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Big Rich December 28, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Well said.Im sick of Glastonbury.Its more like a concentration camp.
The days of psychedelia are gone and it used to be an alternative for people who couldn’t afford a conventional holiday.
All the money it costs now would be better spent renting a villa in spain.

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