Glastonbury, The Biggest Show on Earth
Reported by Craig Gunn
Submitted 21-06-17 16:15
In less than 24 hours I will be queuing in the baking sun to get into Glastonbury Festival 2017. I have been going since 2000 and I am particularly excited by this year’s event, it being the last until 2019. With my car packed and bags ready to go, I present to you a round-up of what I am looking forward to!
Glastonbury has announced the full line-up and timings for this year’s Shepton Mallet bonanza. Social media commentators pointed out all the TBA slots, which sent the Twitterati into speculation overdrive. Liam Gallagher and Johnny Depp have since announced their attendance, even though Liam was poking the hornet’s nest with hints at an Oasis comeback earlier in the month. Riding on the crest of his popular wave, Jeremy Corbyn is set to put in an appearance on Saturday, probably arriving on a unicorn, to address the crowd and introduce popular US rap duo The Jewels on the Pyramid Stage. In these final few days it seems unlikely that Arcade Fire (with a mysterious gap in their tour schedule) or Daft Punk may make late announcements, but we live in hope. Those that were lucky enough to get tickets are lamenting the clashes between the myriad of acts on the 86 different stages over the 1,100-acre site. As the unofficial Glastonbury Harderfaster reviewer I am going to sort skip the wheat and chaff of the line-up and look at the event from the perspective of a fan into all things electronica, so strap in.
I plan to get down to Pilton via the Blue Route on Thursday morning around 10am, taking advice from the organisers and missing the chaos that is Wednesday arrivals and heading for my regular glamping option of Tangerine Fields. Things were not always as nice for me with my airbed, phone charger, hot shower and private bar – all at a premium price, as my first visit to Glastonbury in 2000 involved me tunnelling in via a £5 entrance fee and someone chucking my bag over the fence, (apologies to Emily and Michael Eavis for my miscreant past).
Once I have passed through the extended security gates I will enjoy my first taste of music at my favourite haunt - The Glade. It’s a beautiful spot nestled amongst the trees and is a central junction from which you can explore many other areas on the site. It’s a hop, skip and a jump from the ‘Other Stage’, ‘Stone Circles’ and the many other ‘alternative’ fields. The Orb, hosting a night of experimental shenanigans, kick things off at 6pm until midnight - but whilst I’m in that vicinity I will probably stick my head in to visit Ben Coda aka Ipcress in the Glade Lounge for some Breakbeat Psy at 10pm, and finish my evening with Dave Seaman, Darren Emerson and John Digweed for the Bedrock take-over in the Glade Lounge until about 2am, at which point I will begin the hour long walk back to my tent, via ‘BLUES’ to catch the last of Seth Troxler who finishes at 3am. I’m planning a relatively early night, I say this every year with the caveat that good intentions rarely come to fruition.
The event ‘real’ kicks off Friday morning and I will be heading to the Pyramid Stage for the grand start at 10:45am with Hacienda Classical, which promises lush string arrangements of house classics, like the recent Pete Tong thing at the Proms. A jaunt over to the Other Stage for Charli XCX could be in order or I might bypass the crowds and visit the Dance Areas for the first time – not to experience anyone specifically but check out WOW (hosted by rapper Normksi), John Peel, and West Holts for their various sounds.
As the Friday afternoon rumbles on, and if I’m not distracted by food stalls selling everything from samosas, pulled pork to Cornish pasties – I’ll chill for a bit at one of the many boozers where fine ale and cider are served; recommendations include the live DJs at ‘Bimble Inn’, ‘Deluxe Diner’ or ‘The Cider Bus’ and I may take in some political naysaying in ‘Speakers Forum’ featuring topics such as Fake News and Political Reform. From 4pm the Stonebridge Bar is hosting the crew from the BBC TV Show ‘People Just Do Nothing’, as the Kurupt FM lads recreate the ‘Champagne Steamrooms’, so I may go there to throw up some ‘K’s’. As the evening draws closer I’ll be aiming for the John Peel Stage to see Future Islands and the start of Clean Bandit before heading to Pyramid stage for Radiohead, my first headliner of the weekend who rarely disappoint in that huge arena. To finish off the day I’ll probably nip back to the Glade for A Guy Called Gerald before making a bee-line for the 01:45am set of Boys Noize at the large mechanical spider and fire show that is the ‘Arcadia’ stage.
Saturday morning is generally a slow and sedate affair for me – having taken another hot shower, cooking on my Trangia stove (the Bear Grylls within me) a full English breakfast and necking a cold ale by 10am I will probably take the first couple of hours to bimble around. Slowly winding through the alternative fields, Croissant Neuf, Greenpeace, Small World Stage etc. before taking lunch at the Stone Circles and something from the Chai Tea Shop. You need these moments at Glastonbury – it’s a long weekend with thousands of paces (yes I will be checking the Garmin) so don’t be a slave to the line-ups. Give yourself a break before the serious stuff happens.
Talking of which, Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra on the Pyramid could be a nice segue to 2:30pm when Thundercat rock it at the West Holts Stage. Staying in that area we also have Space Dimension Controller at WOW! and the reggae Ska sounds of Toots and the Maytals. John Peel is not far from here and after seeing DJ Shadow’s epic set a couple of years ago I’ll catch a few tracks at 7:30pm before punting on over to the Glade to see the end of Way Out West (with Nick Warren and Jody Wisternoff) followed by Sasha & Digweed epic 3-hour set. Post this I will head to the Shangri-La areas, renamed this year with an ECO disaster theme for some proper clubbing). I have no idea where this night will take me on to, but wherever it is I expect to up until the sun rises which I shall take at the Stone Circles.
Sunday for me is an ad-hoc affair. But as the weather promises to be SORCHIO for the first time in yonks, I shall do a bit of shopping at some of the amazing stalls and thank the sun-god for blessing us with my mighty tan. Highlights for me could be Rag’n’Bone Man on the Other Stage, Kiefer Sutherland doing a set on the Avalon Stage, Jamie Jones and Bicep at WOW! And finally some Moderat and Justice at the West Holts to round off with some banging French electro-disco. Of course I may be swayed by Barry Gibb and Chic, who take the headlines Pyramid slots if I want some real original disco and finish the weekend with a massive glitter ball and fireworks. Perfect.
For those new to Glastonbury, all I can say is that my plan is really just a whistle stop tour of what I might see. A vague one at that. I haven’t mentioned the random walkabout acts, the toilets, the Circus tent, the secret sets, Ed Sheeran, The XX, Katy Perry, the amazing décor and light shows. Glastonbury has a myriad of things to offer and I’d be fortunate to see just a small part. It is a kaleidoscope of colour, humanity, music, art, food, drink and overall a quintessentially British affair that is of epic proportions. Each year I find something new and enriching about the event, I hope for good weather – it makes a huge difference to the general vibe. Put simply……I can’t frickin’ wait!
Top 10 Tips for Surviving Glastonbury
1. Choose your campsite carefully and book early
Your choice of site can make or break your trip, go with a personal recommendation and do some research: what facilities are on site? At Glastonbury - camp on a slope and sleep uphill works best – or face being a water obstacle at the bottom of the hill on a drenched weekend.
2. Where is my Tent?
Arriving late and tired at a campsite, to pitch an unfamiliar tent in the dark is not recommended, so do this in good light. Looking for something like a tree that can silhouette in the moonlight is useful when trying to re-locate your tent – or create a massive flag pole with something original on the tip so you can easily find your site. I am sure an effigy of President Trump will be skewered and over-used this year. For those brave taking souls taking your own tents at least unpack them to check components before departure.
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3. Pack Smart
Whichever festival you intend to visit this year, there will be the customary hike from car park to your chosen tent pitch. At Glastonbury that could literally be a three mile walk, in deep mud, carrying a 40kg backpack and a wheelbarrow of cider. So you will definitely need wet weather gear and Wellingtons, one change of underwear and some warm clothes for the evening as temperatures can plummet even in late June after midnight. With recent security scares, festival organisers have already warned of lengthy delays getting on to the site so this year pack as light as possible…do you really need a wheelbarrow of beer that will get warm and miss out on that lush cold stuff served on tap inside? When keeping warm at night (and yes it does get cold there in June) insulation underneath you is just as important as your sleeping bag. An extra duvet or blanket over your airbed or camp bed can make all the difference. Also, try to do something active before you get in your sleeping bag, making that final visit to the shower blocks for example. This will help you get warm before you fall asleep. Finally, thick socks, hats, neck gaiters and thermals all help you walking around in the cold early hours
4. Make lists
Even experienced campers can forget the odd important item out of the dozens that must be packed. Items like bin bags, loo roll, pillows, suntan lotion, a hat, insect repellent all make life much more pleasant, yet are often forgotten.
I am NOT a fan of Wet Wipes, preferring a full strip down wash under the drinking water tap with the nub of a bar of soap. To save weight I have cut my toothbrush in half and only take the absolute end of the paste. Forget acres of cans of beer – select hard liquor, as it is light and can be drunk warm or cold. I’d recommend Rum, plus a few limes, to keep away scurvy and mask flat cola.
6. Forget Following the Schedule
Once settled onsite you will head to one of the many gates to queue for access and your wristband onto the site. A welcome pack varies from year to year, but always contains a map with the set times and stages. If you are uber-cool and can keep your phone powered all weekend you can and do the same from an app. Novices will trawl this schedule hoping to see a million and one bands they have vaguely heard of - forget it. Glastonbury is massive and will usually entail miles of walking. My advice, take a hit, and plot on a stage for a few hours – heck you might see something good you were not expecting to see, so pace yourself.
If you know a Trangia from a Hexi, you’ll probably be bringing freeze dried space food, army ration packs and a Bear Grylls approach to festival life. If, however, that sounds like an absolute hassle, Glastonbury offers literally thousands of food and drinks outlets with People’s Choice winners Buddha Bowls and their signature curry dishes, to West country pies at the Cornish Pasty Mine on offer.
8. Late Night
Once the fireworks go up to signal the headline act closing the Pyramid Stage there is a mass exodus of people heading to after-party venues like Shangri-La, Glasto Latino, The Common, Unfairground and Block9. Please bear in mind that between 10.30pm and 3.00am, access to the South East Corner will be from the South East corner of Bella’s Field. It might be worth considering heading out there much earlier to guarantee your prime dancefloor position!
9. Good Causes
Glastonbury has always supported charities like Oxfam, Greenpeace and WaterAid - do your bit by conserving your resources, not urinating on the site, choosing eco-sound produce and basically being kind, tolerant and nice of your fellow human being. Glastonbury is truly unique in the variety of punter it attracts with general good vibes and love around…
Glastonbury is a long event - up to 5 days - don’t forget your sunblock as even in cloudy weather you still may get burnt and there is a serious lack of shade coverage on site. Whilst we wholeheartedly encourage having a good time with your pals - make sure you stay hydrated, drink alcohol in moderation and look-out for those around you as we all need a hand from time to time. If you have any health issues, don’t be worried about contacting one of the stewards or head for one of the well-marked Medical Areas. Be Safe!
Images courtesy of Craig Gunn and the HarderFaster Archive. Not to be reproduced without permission.
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Other Features By Craig Gunn:
I survived Glastonbury 2015
HarderFaster Guide to Glastonbury 2015
The Speed of Sound
THREE ‘BRINGS’ THE CROWD TO LOST DAWN
Cracking the Global Code with Greg Downey
The views and opinions expressed in this review are strictly those of the author only for which HarderFaster will not be held responsible or liable.