glastonbury festival diary [2005]

part 1: it's raining, so i'm writing. except when i say "it's raining" i mean it's raining. it started at about 5am with the longest thunder boom that i've ever heard. the sky truly cracked into a thousand tiny pieces, pieces that are now falling down upon us en masse. here is your fucking storm. me and my big mouth ey? i've never even heard thunder this loud before. it's like we're crashing into the moon. that would explain the rising tides and the flash flooding. also the biblical sky. the thing is, the festival site is built on clay, so glastonbury is turning into a lake. just like the good old days when the tor was an island. there's no electricity on site, it's all been shut down. either that or the sky has stolen it, all that power has to come from somewhere. maybe it's come from all your accumulating bad karma from all your evil deeds.



up until now it's been beautiful, if not a little unbearable (but then isn't that the case for everything beautiful?). we arrived on wednesday amidst glorious and deadly sunshine (ba-boom). no clouds and no shelter. tents up, beers out, everyone's happy. we went for the obligatory festival special - an awesome mountain of curry, pakora and bhaji. this is something i'll regret later, because back at the tent we'd eaten some thai mushrooms. it didn't seem like a big deal at the time. not really.

everything that follows is all grant morrison's fault.

it started off fine of course, that's why we ate another one. i was enjoying 'the specials' and other assorted ska. we crossed the festival site to watch the goonies, except it's actually showing tomorrow night. the smoke looks like mist and the cinema field is eerie, a spooky blue light illuminates the field. i'm finding myself amusing. they should put me on a stage. but too many things look like the moon. and all the lines carry on too far. there is a grid over everything. the world is turning into a wireframe and i can see every colour broken up into its red, green and blue constituents. this is okay, it's how your eyes work right? it's all fine until we find ourselves in this horrible trippy uv-overdosed biodome. i drink tea that tastes like custard, because it does. and the girl who served me knew that i have problems with foreign girls. she preys on it without mercy. her stupid face is burnt onto my retina and i just want to leave, but everytime we try we end up back here again. sitting on this undulating floor. all i need to do is go to the toilet and that's fucking horrible. it's dark and taxing and nicola's pancake is bleeding as she tries to cut it with her wooden environmentally friendly fork. as she cuts it, its insides spill out onto the plate. red chocolate blood. and the colours in here are horrible. they've done it on purpose. if i wasn't tripping it'd be quite trippy. then we're waiting for ben, me and nicola are, and we can't decide what to do. i'm hot and then i'm cold. then i'm going to the toilet again. but it's dark and taxing. we need to be distracted from this weirdness and we've been waiting for far too long, however long it's been. a second of infinite length. or was it us who just ran off and abandoned them? does that make any difference? i have a problem that needs to be solved, and i need more toilet roll. by the end of the night i have toilet roll in every one of my pockets so i know where to find it and i wont run out. my bowles are dying, trying to get out, and i'm worried that if i fall asleep i will shit myself. not that i could sleep anyway. now, i know time is passing because everytime i go to the toilet the moon has moved (although in the opposite direction to which it moves when i stare at it). this is all cyclic and everything is related. i try to list this in my head but it's too linear, so i try to make a meta-list. i curse grant morrison, and an hour later an invisbles cell actually walks past me, and they're dressed as the scooby gang (i swear). but for now everyone looks like zombies in the pale fluorescent light, their faces contorted from taking too many drugs. everyone is fucked on drugs. but everytime i go outside i feel better. so i sit on the toilet and the inside walls are dribbling. then they start to bubble and the paint blisters. like the world outside is burning. it's fascinating, and how everything is so clear and vivid. when i look at my hand it is aging, the skin thinning tight around my bones. when i turn my hand over it gets fatter again. this is when i realise i'm holding a pure white dead rat. it's head back, mouth wide open and teeth sticking up into the air. then along the floor run four white mice, they've been caught in the freeze frame. after this i have to seek help. i'm fine, it's just that i want to sleep. i'm waiting for a morning but time is a lost concept. i wake my mum. and when the sun finally rises it's over an edward scissor hands pastel village and i'm talking to a monkey who wont shut up. i'm losing my ability to think in so many dimensions. i hated it, but now it's frustrating that it's slipping away.

that's my drug story. and you'd understand it better if i reordered the words in the last paragraph alphabetically.

i spent a lot of the next day sleeping. finding shade was hard, we had to return to the cinema field where it all began. we played some hackysack amongst the stones. it's hot again. everyone is breathing in nitrous oxide like it's the new poppers. a strange craze. and as the sun begins to set we go looking for a dance. the glade was good for a short while. some sangria later and we've found a very packed dance tent, too packed. and then the magical spiegeltent appears (or at least a carbon copy), the coolest place in the world. i love dancing on wood and i wish i could salsa. it was the best dance..

and back to the now, the heavens have opened. showering us with liquid wrath at a rate of an inch an hour. it is this bad. i know that by tomorrow you will have seen all of the photos. a river runs by our tent, an actual gushing river. there are tents below us that are completely submerged underwater. people stand and stare. every third person has the saddest face, they look like they've lost everything. i guess for the weekend they kind of have. we brave the markets in search of food and are ankle deep in water. all you can see is water. and later, when the water soaks into the ground, all there will be is mud. it's ten minutes before it rains again. cold hellish rain. unforgiving water of doom. yes, it is this bad. there is nowhere for it to go. some people are still smiling though - fuck it, it's a festival. we eat soggy mash and i'm falling in love with my new boots. everytime the sun comes out there is a chorus of euphoric cheers. there just isn't this much water in the sky.



we watch a man with a giant orange ballon on his head doing some bad juggling. it then took us the best part of an hour to cross the site to see your code name is milo. they were okay - a poor mans glassjaw at best. it doesn't rain again but the damage is done. for bloc party we are too far back and i'm getting too frustrated to enjoy them. instead we get to the john peel tent early. let me tell you something about mia, she is fucking amazing. she puts on the best show in the longest time. she is confidence and hardcore. fat, dirty and subversive. the bass makes you want to dance like a bastard. mia will rule the world. and if you squint she looks like she's wearing pajamas. after this we make our way over the chaos below to watch the killers, from a distance. we talk loudly over their entire set and i suspect i'm getting drunk. this is what we call "quality ben time". we saw most of the white stripes but it's nothing that engrosses me. wouldn't you rather a pint of hot and spicy cider? we chat to random people, i do my best 'chicks on speed' impression. i become one of those weird drunk people, or worse. we ate something outside a partying wine stall. the people going mental for some shit house music. is this the best hang out on a friday night around here?

i wake up feeling rough, but at least it isn't 70 degrees celcius in my tent. it's all cool.



part 2: the traffic is moving, like when you look at a waterfall from really far away. i'm not as bothered as everyone else - so keen to get out of the festival that they've forgotten to switch their engine off. make poverty history. save the environment. whatever rocks your boat. what bobbie gillespie said last night before he was dragged off stage, "you're all just fucking hippies". we are going nowhere in every direction.



i'm happy to be going home but right now i could float in this field forever. i've barely washed for a week and my feet are beaten. it smells of manure (i'm telling myself 'manure' because it seems better than human shit) and it's hot. hot like a bastard, but it's also beautiful. you could be worse off. you could be queuing for a coach. or, you lost your tent and all of your belongings to a flash food and your weekend's been ruined. or, your family's been killed in a tsunami and the fact that i just bought a roll containing lettuce for £2 is beyond comprehension.



the local daily q paper has a whole page sponsored by duracell, the non-rechargeable battery. and when i see a 'make poverty history' poster side by side to a row of ipod adverts i can't even laugh. what would the point be? holding hands in a field wont save the world but at least you were there, right? saving the world by being a fucking hippy. i just found an abandoned bag of toilet rolls. it has made my day.

but now the festival site is in ruins. the flooding has made what is usually a horrible mess even worse. rows of abandoned tents are left in tatters, people's belongings strewn across the still marshy ground. it's a pretty depressing site to say the least. i'm just happy that the clean-up people are so thorough. one year i'm meaning volunteer for this horrible job, i think it'll be really worthwhile. cleansing the land of the other people's hedonistic waste.



anyway, saturday started slowly. after a pointless search for breakfast and disbelief at the length of both the welly queue and the cashpoint queue (you could literally spent all day between the two of them) we went to see goldie lookin chain. the sight of that many idiots jumping about on stage is funny enough, they're definitely more of a live band than an album band. they're their own little party. the tour bus must be a nightmare. we stick around for the kaiser chiefs and they put on a good show but i'm not fused. ditto to chaz and dave. i fall asleep, still suffering from tiredness and bad vodka. considering i've only got an average of four hours sleep a night i think i'm doing fantastic. i sleep through the "rabbit rabbit rabbit" song. then wandering back to the tent we catch some of the vagina monologues. it was really good but then so was my cup of chai.



hanging out with lots of people is great, but it doesn't half get frustrating when you're trying to get somewhere. i split off for kasabian so i can dance like a bastard. after being too far away for bloc party i was determined to get a good spot on the ridge. stuck in the mud, perfect view, loud as fuck. kasabian make me feel hard, i don't know why. their sound is a force. at the end of their set i'm glad that i got myself lost. i meet up with everyone back in the hare krishna tent where more people are dancing their hearts out. the plan for the rest of the night is complicated. i follow everyone over to the peel tent to see a disappointing 'go team' set, the pa is totally fucked, it's not their fault. i had to leave after a few songs anyway. i vaguely hear coldplay playing at the bottom of the hill as i head back over to the leftfield tent. i didn't really want to see babyshambles, but to be fair they put on a fucking hectic show. it was a tasty bit of chaos. i never knew who pete doughnut (or whatever the fuck his name is) was anyway. i bump into hugh from dave's comics and then ben appears (after two nice people giving out leaflets on how to make the world better - unfortunately they smelt of god). we watched some chris t-t, nice to see him on foreign turf (not as foreign as luxembourg, but still). 'preaching to the converted' was great and it was nice to hear someone saying something more intelligent than "everybody hold hands".

the night is still young but there's no hope of getting on the ghost train. we watch the human kaleidoscope instead. french inventiveness, we're floating in the middle of a tiny but very full theatre watching the birth of the universe. or some shit, whatever. it was fun but easily topped by the miniscule of sound. would you believe in all the years i've been coming to glastonbury i'd never been in it before? fifteen of us rammed in, dancing to marilyn manson. the air thick with dry ice, when the chorus starts the carpeted walls shake and i can smell poppers. a strobe goes off and this could easily be a festival highlight. on exiting the fresh air is amazing. we slowly wander through the festival and drink tea in a secluded and sombre spot. considering the amount of chaos going on in this valley the air is so still. i think it's bed time.



part 3: it's now much later. i'm sitting in my office trying to remember what happened, so far removed from when i was actually sitting in that field and exposed to the sun, actually knowing what the experience felt like. weeks have gone by. i'm about to make a whole load of stuff up, and you're going to have to take it as given. don't expect much, to me glastonbury is on a par with a reasonably good christmas. many of the many fantastical and novel exciting things at glastonbury are rather passe to me, i've been seeing them before. but anyway, this is what happened next.

it's sunday, and what would be a beautiful morning pulls you out of your tent gasping for air. as soon as the sun has risen you're being slowly boiled like a frog. the mornings are horrible, let's be honest. you get back at four am and sink into your sleeping bag. desperate for sleep, only to be kept awake by some asshole called tim, or duncan, or brian. some twat who has taken too much speed and drank too much lager. he's shouting all night at a pair of girls who giggle cringingly at every stupid fucking thing he says. every few minutes you feel the need to get up and punch him to death. all of a sudden it's tomorrow and all you want to do is sleep for another two hours, but there's no chance of staying in your tent. and there's no shade.

so we snuck off to the hare krishna tent. their breakfast can save your life. i sat on one of their marvelous sofas and slowly began to feel human again. chatting to some welsh girl whose name i'll never remember. was it porridge we ate? or just gloop? some starch and fruit. semolina? sago? it's awesome whatever it is.

the next few hours are an exhaustive daze. we wander or we sleep or we do whatever. we see chris t-t play again in the leftfield tent, his new songs cause equal cheers and teeth sucking. he started with my favourite song so i'm totally sold. yeah, something about giraffes. then at some point we go and see soulwax, who are decked out in headache inducing black and white stripes. they're pretty good but i think i prefer them on record. after this we head over to the main stage and actually manage to meet up with my parents before brian wilson. i'm sipping fresh lemonade and falling asleep in the sun, jumping up for the hits, obviously. not that i ever really liked the beach boys all that much anyway.



so i've had "daft punk is playing in my house, in my house" in my head all weekend and now i'm semi-determined to go and see lcd soundsystem. we trek over to the respective tent and stop to get a really crap cheese baquette and salad thing. i have to go back and ask for salad. i feel cheap but y'know, the guy should have given me some like the woman did for ben. in the distance we can hear the awful sounds of garbage. even the old good songs sound terrible. then we find out lcd sounsystem have cancelled and been replaced by the woman from dubstar's new band. i'm sure they're not this bad, but everyone is disappointed and leaves. must be their hardest gig ever i swear.



we head over to see primal scream, who i vaguely mentioned earlier, what with bobbie being dragged off stage. truth be told it wasn't the best gig ever. it's just that i like some of their songs in a kind of fucked up way. i want to kill some mud to 'miss lucifer' but it wasn't too be. kowalski was a mess, more the stage's fault than theirs, but it rocks enough for me. then bobbie starts getting offensive. it's amusing to me but i think everyone has had enough. i'd get pissed off if i was shouting about a police state and every fucker was simply holding hands. last band of the festival is basement jaxx, another band i don't really like but can fully enjoy. some bands are just fun. they have the beats and the energy. and when they start singing "it's bananas, b a n a n a s" it can really make your night.



however much fun basement jaxx were though, i needed the toilet too bad and had to retreat. escaping from crowds at glastonbury is a fucking nightmare. everyone is such a hater. they couldn't have hated me more if i'd whipped my dick out right there and pissed on their feet. so i had a good piss and purchased myself some hot spicy cider. the perfect glastonbury drink, you all know this. i then happen to bump into my parents, sitting on a bench in the middle of the markets. i love these weird chance meetings. we share some cider, it's awesome time. then i meet back up with ben for a last chance night of glastonbury craze. i sit staring at the end of a weird silent cabaret. it's being played out in slow motion, people walking backwards and out into the crowd while a half naked woman hangs from a trapeze. it's all very arty, intriguing and beautiful. i can't remember if i'm drunk or tired, but what we really wanted to do was see the end of the festival out with muddy bop muddy. it's traditional that he's the last act on in the comedy tent. "rice", etc. but he is nowhere to be seen. shop has been shut and the tent is cold, dark and empty.

we wander through lost vagueness but daren't stop anywhere, it's far too busy and the people are crazy. then we're back on the railway again, being bustled along, until an attractive looking path goes off to left into the darkness. candles light the way into a tea tent, a small marquee full of strange bubbling vats and test tubes - a chemisty lab of herbs and spices. we sit down armed with chai as a woman plays guitar far too quietly. the ground is a red sea of people, all crashed out and beautiful. my flash accidently goes off and i feel like i've ruined everyone's weekend. really, i'm just a little embarrassed. a fire slowly burns and there's the loudest and most peaceful background noise. soon we'll become too tired and dazed to escape so we leave along another dark path, the sky barely visible through the tightly knit trees. a horribly confident guy has started singing horribly confident songs on his horrible guitar. his floppy hair, sickening grin and pretend modesty are too much. we didn't leave a second too soon.

by now we must be back at the camp. crawling into bed. the sleep of four nights desperately trying to catch up. there's a feeling that you've seen enough, but there's so much still out there. either way all i can do is fall asleep.



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