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Wednesday 30th June 2004

Muddy Funsters: Edited Notes from Glastonbury 2004

All times are approximate...

Wednesday

6pm My clock-watching has become offensively obvious. Hoisting the hamper packed with quails' eggs and roast swan onto my back, I slip unnoticed from the office. (An aside: has Glastonbury really changed that much? This is an article from 18 years ago.)

6.55pm Paddington. The 'special service' train to Castle Cary I'm planning to catch is so special that it has had to be cancelled. I manage to catch up with another one at Reading.

9.30pm Bit of a queue to get through the fuckoffsuperfence. An over-enthusiastic jobsworth rifles through every last pocket in my rucksack. You're not getting my shoes off mate.

'Do you have anything in there you're not supposed to have?'
'No' I say.
'You know what I mean?'
'Yes.' This is getting tedious.
'Well, if you do it's much better I find it than the lads inside. They've had nothing to do for two days and'll fuck you up if they find anything.'

Nice. So much for the Glastonbury spirit.

9.45pm I am beginning to suspect that Matt is some kind of modern day miracle worker (like Derrin Brown). Not only has he single-handedly erected two tents in rain and a howling gale, but he's also managed to save a space for a third tent, which I proceed to try and put up. After a few farcical minutes of missing pegs and wildly flapping canvas, I wonder if pissing into the wind would achieve more.

Thursday

7.30am The tent is shaking, the roar of wind and rain echoes through its shell-like interior. I struggle down to the Joe Banana's blanket stall and buy wellies for Claire and myself, and, on Matt's behalf, a pair of gum boots for Sally.

9.17pm Portugal have equalised. The jingoism and tension that has made me feel slightly uncomfortable throughout the match climax, and I decide to boycott the rest of the game. Unfortunately it seems I can't avoid it - the whole site rings with the groaning of supporters and the background roar of the Estadio da Luz.

10.30pm I meet Claire at 'Pedestrian Gate A'. Hooray! We head back to the tent, where we discover Sally has also arrived. Everyone's here. Time for the festival.

Friday

4.45pm Badly Drawn Boy must be rather hot in that woolly hat. Maybe it's an affectation, or maybe he's slightly unstable, as his increasingly random mumblings between and during songs suggest.

5.10pm Ah ha! Off-stage celebrity sighting number 1: Howard Marks.

6.05pm Groove Armada sound good, but I only have the energy to sit on the ground and listen, in the lovely sunshine. And there's my first spotting of public nudity at the festival, just passing. Charming.

9.00pm onwards The Avalon Stage is a tiny, out-of-the-way stage, but an early arrival means that Claire and I are right at the front, leaning against the barriers, as Lamb come on. They play for an incredible hour - it is amazing, intimate, perfect, charged with emotion, owing to Andy confirming the band's imminent split at the start of the gig. He cries, shouts, crowdsurfs, twiddles knobs and plays his bongos. Lou's beautiful voice is a sensation and her performance is inspired. This is the best gig I've ever been to, without exception.

10.45pm Oasis have a hard act to follow, but they're doing OK. The only problem is that I enjoyed Karaoke more when I did it in Hong Kong, and I have a suspicion that Paul McCartney will have the upper hand when it comes to sing-a-long classics. Still, all together now, 'Maybe, I don't really want to fookin' know...'

Saturday

7.00am Despite yesterday's sunshine, that constant pattering sound isn't the near-by buzzing of the electricity pylons, but unpleasant rain, falling from an unpromising grey sky. I decide to stay in the tent for a few hours.

2.35pm It's amazing how quickly the grass gets pounded into submission, and dark brown porridge appears in its place. Thank god we aren't up here in this beastly mud and oomska without Wellingtons. It's also lucky that we have a third tent in which to store all soiled garments.

4.30pm But not as lucky as this: Matt, Claire and I are trudging to the Cabaret tent with the intention of seeing Stuart Lee's amusingly sarcastic act, when we hear 'Heaven' wafting over the trees. A quick splash over to the Jazz World stage finds Lamb playing an unscheduled acoustic set. Fantastic!

9.05pm Damien Rice strums away self-indulgently. 'He's no Jeff Buckley', I remark to Claire.

9.11pm Mr. Rice begs to differ, launching into 'Hallelujah'. Still, he's no Thom Yorke.

9.19pm Rice pleases the crowd with a version of 'Creep'.

10.30pm onwards Macca performs a dazzling array of covers, including Joe Cocker's 'With a Little Help from my Friends', Tiffany's 'I Saw Him Standing There' (except he substitutes 'him' for 'her', the cheeky scouse scamp), the Will Young/Gareth Gates love-in 'The Long and Winding Road' and Guns 'n' Roses' 'Live and Let Die' (accompanied by impressive pyrotechnics). The Droopy-Eyed Left-Handed One also plays touching tribute to the Thickly-Eyebrowed Quiet One and the Speccy One in a populist high-quality set, that would have even Osama Bin Ladin tapping his feet, had he managed to get a ticket this year.

Sunday

1.30pm This is the sound of the Zutons. And it's alright, but I get a bit bored and wander off after a while to have my fifth Cheese/Spinach/Mushroom crepe of the weekend.

2.25pm The Divine Comedy are performing with aplomb. Neil Hannon's straightforward political opinions make a pleasant change from the tiring bombast heard elsewhere on Worthy Farm.

'The UK Independence Party...they're a bunch of nobs aren't they?'

Then he plays a cover of the Queens of the Stone Age's 'No-one Knows'. The wag.

3.30pm I go for my second wander around the Green Fields and the Stone Circle: 'Insect Circus!' 'Pointless Maze!' 'Weave your own fence.' 'Tie your own dye'. 'Hash truffles - get your hash truffles!' 'Mushrooms, lovely mushrooms!' 'Wrens' livers! Otters' spleens!'. And so on.

4.05pm I'm wandering carelessly through the Tipi field, wondering if I'd like to live in a wigwam. And there she is - a few yards away with her children: Louise Robinson (nee Rhodes), soon to be erstwhile singer and lyricist from Lamb...we'd like to know a little bit about you for our files.

4.06pm It's no good, I'm too shy. I can't muster the courage to go and say hello to her. She rounds up her two little boys, glances at me briefly and moves on.

4.15pm I excitedly tell Claire about my non-encounter and the way I'm being eaten up inside by regret.

6.45pm I bump into Matt and Sally, a couple of wine bottles happier. I excitedly tell them about my non-encounter and the way I'm being eaten up inside by regret.

6.50pm Matt and Sally wander off and I think about my non-encounter and the way I'm being eaten up inside by regret. I become conscious of the music blaring out from the near-by Radio 1 stage. It sounds like the discotheque at a wedding. I investigate - and it's no wonder, they've let someone's uncle behind the decks. Hang on, that's Fatboy Slim!

7.35pm I realise that Belle and Sebastian's likeable summery music can't stop the rain. Unfortunately, neither can my 'waterproof' anorak.

7.50pm The sun is shining again, apparently as a result of the collective will of 112, 500 festival-goers. And look - there's a pretty rainbow.

9.40pm 'She walks down the street with a short dress on / which sometimes exposes the tip of her dong'. Thanks, Goldie Lookin Chain.

10.15pm I meet up with everybody near the cider bus. I excitedly remind them about my non-encounter and the way I'm being eaten up inside by regret.

10.16pm I realise my frequent lament is becoming tedious to some people, and I resolve to keep it to myself, at least until I leave Somerset.

11.00pm onwards We have decided to avoid the music headliners and head to the previously unheard of 'Dance and Fire Stage' to watch Bill Bailey's act. It is hilarious. Perhaps it's owing to the slightly befuddled state of my mind at the moment, but I'm giggling like an imbecile, possibly slightly embarrassingly. My highlight is Bailey's rendition 'Zippy-de-do-dah' as performed by Portishead.

Monday

7.15am Wake up. Pain. I try to take the tents down. It's slow going as I feel as though there is a flock of belligerent midget puffins in my head, who won't let me stand up straight. Also, suddenly, mud seems to be over everything. I'm sure it was only on the ground before.

3.00pm After a lot of queuing, both at the site and Castle Cary station, followed by a couple of train journeys, I find myself standing at a cross-roads in Clerkenwell. There isn't a blade of grass or tree to be seen. Or a speck of mud. Surely that's not right.

49 - posted at 14:31:09
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Wednesday 9th June 2004

The other night I went to the 'Gala Opening' of the Camden film festival, marked by a showing of the Ealing comedy The Ladykillers. The foam red carpet, fixed to the sticky linoleum floor of the Odeon with black gaffer tape, and a free glass or two or cheap plonk certainly gave me a glimpse of how celebrities live - and the place was peppered with them, from Trigger off Only Fools and Horses to Richard Bacon.

Before The Ladykillers, a predictable, but watchable and vaguely thought-provoking short film about homelessness and skag was aired. The director, who when taking questions from the audience afterwards seemed rather bemused as to why part of his M.A. was being exhibited, did an admirable job of retaining custody of his art in the face of assaults from those crass questioners who wanted to claim it for their own various pet causes (something which Camden borough is over-flowing with) - he just about managed to stumble back to his seat with the artistic integrity of his film intact.

And then to the main feature. Its quintessential 1950s Britishness (despite the screenwriter being an American) and the bright sunshine in which it is mostly shot, sit pleasantly at odds with the dark, cruel humour lurking at the centre of the film. In this strange lost world of post-war London, Alec Guinness's chaotically-teethed, madly-barneted professor rents a room from the charming but slightly senile Mrs Wilberforce, a widow living in a subsidence-ridden house near St Pancras station. He plans to execute a heist with the help of four associates (including a young Peter Sellers and an excellent Herbert Lom), using the unwitting old dear as a key component in the caper. Naturally, she gets wind of what's going on, and the rest of the film concentrates on the five crooks' attempts to work out how to deal with her. The film becomes more explicitly sinister towards the end, as Alec Guinness and Herbert Lom creep around in a twilight wasteland, hunting each other down through the swirling smoke of passing steam engines.

I don't revisit old films enough - The Ladykillers was a pleasure to watch, plagued only by the affected laughter of the idle trustifarians who had managed to drag their Evisu clad, frappachino-bloated frames from their minimalist West London / ShoHo pads northwards, in order to irritate other cinema-goers, no doubt before sloping off towards some ghastly gastro-pub to bark loudly at each other about their plans to make a cutting-edge film in sepia about neglected urban doorways on newly acquired state-of-the-art digital camcorders, thus proving to themselves that they work for a living. But I digress.

Perhaps feeling slightly insecure at the prospect of hob-nobbing with said style gurus, I decided to forgo the delights of the Gala drinks reception, and instead wandered home, clutching my complimentary goodie bag of organic snacks and a free pen.

48 - posted at 13:16:32
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Tuesday 1st June 2004

"I'm scared of everyone so I must be a liberal"

Last week I enjoyed the shambling misanthropy of Dylan Moran, as he wheeled around the stage on the final London date of his Monster II tour. The content of much of his wine and cigarette fuelled ramblings (although the cigarettes seemed to be waved around rather than smoked, and the wine glass stayed almost full throughout the performance) was as old as the hills (foreigners, the difference between men and women, Brits abroad) and may have given Moses cause to smile when he caught Sinai's latest stand-up act, in between parting the Red Sea and growing a beard, but rightfully shouldn't have raised much of a titter from the audience at the Palace Theatre in 'London's glittering West-End' (it's the way the neon of strip joints and kebab shops glitters across the surface of newly laid vomit on the pavement). But there is something about Moran's delivery, including his surreally inventive way with words (to him, children are "midget drunks") and the curious intimacy he strikes with the audience, that makes his act almost consistently funny - plus I'm always going to enjoy watching an outspoken misanthrope banging on for an hour and half. He's good-looking too, apparently.

Closer to the end of the week, as Matt has once again beaten me to reporting, Gomez played the Hammersmith Apollo. Another very good gig - Gomez seem to look exactly the same as they always have done: like physics undergraduates. They also sound exactly as they always have done, which was perfect, because live, they sound great. There was one problem with the evening though, which is often a problem with gigs. I was standing fairly near the stage. During the more upbeat numbers, I glanced forward jealously at the people in front of me, dancing, moving around and generally making the most of the opportunity to drink in the atmosphere and enjoy themselves. And I tried to, but it just wasn't the same - because standing dead in front of me were two blokes standing stock still with their arms crossed. The inflexible wall of T-shirt meant that I just couldn't really get into it. After a few songs, with our frustration increasing, Claire and I weaved forward, this time ending up only a couple of metres from the stage. But, yet again, we were unlucky enough to be stuck behind two skinheads, who, although within gobbing distance of the stage (to use their own value judgements), appeared to be paralysed. I remember a similar frustration seeing Moby a while back - his music is, of course, much more dancey than Gomez's. Everyone around me was moving and dancing, except for two hairless builders, standing as if frozen by the rig lights and simply staring resolutely forward. I don't have a problem if people want to watch a gig motionless, or gently toe-tap from the sidelines - I've done it enough times: but not right at the front. What's the point of them just standing there? Why don't they stop blotting the atmosphere, in a shaven-headed-over-sized-Ben-Sherman-shirt sort of way and slouch off outside and chat with the touts (I'm sure they have about the same level of interest in the music)? That way they can let me, and everyone else down at the front, get on with enjoying slightly tired student-blusey-rock, which I did, immensely (having again ducked forward past the second immovable wall).

And, talking of skinheads, I'll leave the last word to Dylan Moran, chatting to a trio of them: "Hey you know when you're doing your usual threesome thing you do of a weekend, and the moonlight's bouncing off your heads and your arses and everything, does that not get a bit confusing?"

47 - posted at 08:20:54
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