Being the largest music & performing arts festival in the world, how could i resist not being part of it since I’m here in UK. Taking place over 3days during the last weekend of June, I was treated to plenty of interesting sights and sounds. What made it more unique for myself was the whole camping experience – last 2 music fests I went for (WOMAD and Rainforest Music Festival) involved more civilised sleeping arrangements.
This year Glastonbury attracted over 177,000 people (137,000 were ticket-holders) to the festival grounds covering 900acres. Somehow if felt like we were transported into a totally different world where normal society rules do not exist. These are the top 10 highlights from my Glasto weekend:-
#10 – Walking till we drop
It was amazing how much walking both Hema & myself were doing over the 4days at Glastonbury. Besides moving between music stages to catch the acts we wanted to see, there were plenty of other offerings such as the crafts & green lifestyle over at the Green Fields, sculptures from scraps at Trash City and circus acts.
(Quirky sculptures at Trash City)
(Chilling out at Tipi Village)
Sometimes it took us close to 40min to move from one music stage to the next due to the distance and crowd, so being the kiasu pair we were practically planning our day ahead with makan and toilet stops included between the music acts. Walking around the whole day in wellies does not help either. No wonder the two of us returned to camp daily worn out after midnight and had no further intentions of checking out the night scene. Have to admit being “older” did influenced the choice of sleep over grooving the night away.
#9 – Culinary offerings
Rare sight to see so many food stalls open 24hours inside the festival grounds. Obviously the need to feed the thousands of festival goers and crew-members was a priority to avoid any trouble by hungry mad people. It is even harder to find a decent 24hour food stall in central London city, compared to the variety of choices at Glastonbury that weekend.
Even though there were plenty of stalls dishing out your typical festival food – burgers, fries, potato jeckets, pizza slices, sandwiches, giant yorkshire pudding with mash+sausages etc, finding decent food without all the high salt or fat content was a challenge. Our makan hunt uncovered some gems like fresh vegetarian pizza cooked over open charcoal oven, lamb tajeem couscous, scones with fresh cream+strawberry jam at Tree Cafe and plenty of healthy joints at the Green Fields.
Gorged myself silly with vege & fruits upon returning back home on Monday onwards, after 4 days of deprivation.
(Enjoying coffee with freshly baked scones with cream & strawberry jam over at The High Tree House)
(Cider bus definitely one of the favorite joints amongst the festival goers)
#8 – Toilet nightmare
Does not take rocket science to figure out how clean toilets will be with over 170,000 people packed into an gated area, with plenty of beer and cider drinking amongst the party-goers. The communal toilets do get cleaned out on a daily basis, but not a popular place to be as the hours went by.
Had a chance to buy a Shewee when we arrived on Thursday afternoon, but somehow our quest in the next few days couldn’t bring us back to the stall that sold it. Probably it was sold out by Thurs?
Thus the art of hovering over the toilet seat became all important. And ability to hold your breath throughout the whole exercise because the stench was unbearable. Definitely not a pretty sight when you looked down beyond the toilet pan and into the huge open tank below holding all manners of human waste and rubbish. Thought of taking a pic of it, but somehow the imagery will be too traumatizing.
(One of the more decent toilet nearby Acoustic Stage)
#7 – Trying new things
Besides training our bladder to go at certain times and sniffing out relatively decent toilets, we actually spent a good hour taking a salsa dance class at one of the smaller stages in Dance Village. Nigel May, an accomplished teacher took us through several basic salsa moves. Other than his comical presentation, he had a solidly built body which can really move – feast to the eyes, yum!
After going through the basic steps, music went on and we were practising under Nigel’s instructions. The fun part was changing partners, which happened every now and then during music intermissions. Enjoyed the opportunity to dance with a lovely man who obviously knows his moves, and easily guided me through the various twists and turns.
Looking back, it was actually comical that we even survived doing the salsa in our wellies!
#6 – Glorious sunshine
Glastonbury has always been well-known for its wet and muddy days. 2007 was notable for its heavy downpour which created plenty of muddy terrains and even kick-started the sport of mud wrestling. Because of this, I was well prepared with my trusty wellies and weather-beaten waterproof jacket.
(Showing off our trusty wellies)
Surprisingly to everyone, weather has been wonderful throughout the weekend. Continuous heavy rain on Thursday evening created several muddy spots and spattering rain on Friday was the worse we encountered. The skies brighten up by Sat morning onwards and we enjoyed the hot, sunny conditions to the end.
Didn’t even realise how intense the sun was until I looked at the mirror on Monday to stare back at a sunburnt face. Not a pretty sight though since it was a clear division on between the lower & upper part of my face from wearing a cap. Thank god for cool Aloe Vera gel to calm the redness down.
(Sunny weather over at Pyramid Stage)
#5 – Camping out
Was actually looking forward to the idea of staying out in the opens, since the it has been 2 years since my last wilderness challenge at Gunung Tahan.
There were plenty of camping zones to choose from, ranging from quiet areas to being right next to the stage sites. Family camping areas were also available, Glastonbury is surprisingly quite popular amongst family despite its wild appeal.
Both Hema & myself settled on the sloping part of zone A, which was an excellent choice since it was more quiet and clean from any build-up of mud. It actually took us quite a while before we found our decent spot since there were plenty of tents set up when we arrived on Thursday midday. The whole place resembled a refugee campsite due to the haphazard arrangements. Blessed the poor souls who had to set up camp right next to the communal toilets.
Interesting to see what other people brought along to the campsite – cartons of beer, big pillows and duvets, camping canopies complete with foldable camp chairs equipped with beer can holder. Some even brought along wheelbarrow to cart all their belongings and we even spotted several people dragging along their small suitcases on wheels over the rough terrain.
Must count our blessings that we set camp near a tent with a gnome at the end of its flagpole. It became our beacon to locate our small red 2-man tent amongst the sea of tents out there. Only other marker we had for our lovely tent was a small M’sian flag, which should have ideally been flown higher if not for a good flagpole and a sturdier tent to prop it up.
(Our humble tent amongst the chaos – Hema was still enjoying her beauty sleep)
(Check out the thousands of tents pitched up to the distant horizon)
(Trusty gnome flown by our neighbours which became our beacon for home)
#4 – Alternative lifestyle
Being inside Glastonbury gave people opportunity to let loose and live a lifestyle they always yearn for. Other than the occasional coppers maintaining general peace and safety, everyone is free to do what they desire without any judgments from others. There seemed to be 2 major groups of people at Glastonbury – the serious bunch who came for the music and green messages and the party animals who sleep through the day and dance the night away till the crack of dawn.
Indulging in all manners of escapism is not uncommon, loads of people were high from alcohol and drugs even in the early hours of the day. Probably 6 out of 10 people were holding cups of cider, beer or wine at any given time. Plenty of bars around to keep people well hydrated!
On the other end, there were plenty of opportunities where people can take part in a healthier lifestyle, particularly in the Green Fields. One can choose to lead a simple life within the Tipi Field, meditate inside the Peace Dome, partake in organic food & drinks and learn more about ways to help the world around us.
(Hippies drawing attention to their cause)
#3 – Fashion
One can witness plenty of quirky dressings amongst the festival goers. Many do it for pure fun, others crave for the attention from the public and media.
Some people came prepared with their costumes which include fullbody cow suit with overflowing pink nipples in front and the favorite pirate look. One can still glam up at Glastonbury with plenty of stalls selling variety of accessories and clothing. No shortages of big overflowing wedding gowns for the ladies, neon coloured tutus with matching neon headbands or wigs, big straw hats, weird sunnies and fairy wings.
(One of the many stalls selling bits & pieces to glam up – hats were everybody’s fav)
#2 – Energy of the Crowd
Main reason why any sane person would brave the crowds for an open air concert is to join in the camaraderie with your fellow revelers. Singing and dancing along to the tunes, there seemed to be a shared energy flowing through all of us. Especially more so when the band bother to connect with the audience. Enjoyed the way how lead singer from Crowded House interacted with the crowd the whole time, and even managed to get the security guards in front of the stage to wave and smile for the camera.
(Crowd scene during Crowded House performance at Pyramid Stage)
What better way to end Glastonbury than to dance the night away with thousands of festival goers. Electrifying performance by Groove Armada with their upbeat music and coordinated video images and lighting created the perfect atmosphere for the crowd to sweat out for over an hour.
By chance we managed to find another great energetic crowd congregating at Chai Wallahs, which was a cafe that served no alcohol but various blends of tea, coffee and food. It was the music being dished out that was fantastic, and soon we were being treated to the stellar of OneTaste (onetaste.ideajunction.co.uk) which had everyone jumping on their feet and begging for more. If not for the fact that we need to wake up by 5.30am for our coach bus ride back to London at 7am, we could have stayed all night at Chai Wallahs.
(Grooving to the tunes of OneTaste at Chai Wallahs)
#1 – Music
Opportunity to experience over 1,000 artists at more than 20 venues, what more can one ask for?
Notable performances include KT Tunstall, Seasick Steve, Crowded House, Mark Ronson, John Mayer, Suzanne Vega and Groove Armada. Though her music is enjoyable, watching Amy Winehouse live onstage really reinforced the crazy lifestyle she has taken to over the last few years. She was definitely high on drugs, alcohol or both and you can sense the crowd was just awaiting the moment she trip onstage with her 3in heels or for her beehive hairpiece to fall apart.
(Amy Winehouse on stage before her dizzying final moments)
And choosing to watch Jay-Z over Massive Attack was not so much for the music but what surprises he may reveal after all the media attacks against the organiser to choose a hip-hop rap artist as the festival headliner. He kick-started well with a cover of Oasis’s Wonderwall – probably in retaliation to Noel Gallagher who mock Jay-Z’s inclusion. But being in the middle of a packed crowd with teenagers shouting at the top of their lungs was not the most pleasant experience.
Best musical performance for me was watching Xavier Rudd live onstage from the front row. Have been listening to his music on my iPod, but never saw him perform before. Didn’t realise that he actually play most of the instruments by himself with only another drummer onstage with him. Amazed at how he moved effortlessly between singing and playing the didgeridoo and harmonica while plucking away on his electric guitar. Pure magic!
(Xavier Rudd performing his magic over at Avalon Stage)
Glastonbury for me have been pretty mellowed, as most people do go overboard with their wild antics and getting totally trashed from all the booze and drugs. Would probably have gone that path if I was 10yrs younger, now it’s more the music & atmosphere that interests me more. Am looking forward to more summer music fests…….if only the sunshine ever come along?!
More pictures can be found at http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=43879&l=21d09&id=650084814