Is This The Way The Future's Meant To Feel?

Glastonbury 2003

Thursday. Finished packing after getting home from work and drove from Cambridge to Glastonbury. There was rather less traffic than rumour had suggested - indeed it was the most trouble-free long distance drive I can recall. After a bit of telephone faffing Andrew found us and guided us to where the kittens were camping - we ended up pitching our tent around 1am. I was glad we practiced putting up the tent in the garden on Wednesday. Although it's sold as a three-man tent it really fits two plus their luggage. Anyway, after chatting for a bit we went to bed.

I was reminded somewhat of something that occurred to me a while ago; we are "living in the future" in that many things we find normal now were the stuff of science fiction only relatively recently. It didn't even occur to me to wonder whether mobile phones would work in a field in rural Somerset...

Friday. I woke up with a rather stiff neck and (probably referred) pain down my shoulder, which I didn't quite manage to shift for the rest of the stay, though the location and severity shifted around quite a bit. The first thing that improved it was a firework - when I heard the woosh of it going up I thought it was a tent zip so the bang was even more of a surprise, and the resulting jump seems to have loosened things up a bit.

Anyway we made our way over to the Pyramid stage (the main one) to see the Inspiral Carpets. I thought they looked a bit unimpressed with the audience reaction for the first track or three but both the band and the audience cheered up after that, mood apparently improving as precipitation increased, strangely enough. Dancing in the rain was fine, though when the music stopped the rain carried on, which was a bit less fun.

Suede were a band I'd heard of a bit more than the above. However they seemed lack the same sort of spark, and just didn't seem to quite get through to the audience somehow. I enjoyed a couple of songs that I knew a bit though.

R.E.M. were the big name on Friday night, and were absolutely stupendous. I'll remember the feeling of tens of thousands of people singing along to Losing My Religion for quite some time. The band seemed to be having fun too.

Saturday. Woke up still achey, but crawled out of bed eventually. We went off to see Jools Holland and meet an old friend of LNR's, but I got a bit bored and went off for a wander. I came across some nice wooden sculptures, including a one of partially excavated dragon bones. There was a sign up about demonstrations of more carving, but I never made it back at the right time.

I carried on through to the stone circle, and up the hill beyond to the boundary, where it was possible to see out over most of the site. A great view and I regretted not bringing my camera. (If I had, I'd have been paranoid about it getting stolen or damaged the entire time. So no pictures, sorry...)

After that I caught up with LNR again and we went off to see Supergrass, more or less as it became cold enough that I had to go back to the tent and get some more layers, not a great piece of planning. However they were still going when I got back and one or two pieces were familiar.

Following them were the very strange "Flaming Lips", who opened by playing O Fortuna while a bunch of people in furry animals suits danced on the stage. The Latin went, the animals stayed. They were quite odd. I don't think I'd seek them out again.

Dinner was fish and chips with sugar and vinegar on, which I'd be more sarcastic about except I very nearly made the same mistake myself later on. Then LNR, Mike and I plunged into the depths of the crowd to see Radiohead. Hoping to get to the front was in retrospect perhaps not realistic, but we got pretty far forward. We ran into some endearingly enthusiastic teenagers who'd lucked into some band passes, and were completely blown away to see Radiohead live.

The fight between the pigeon-on-a-stick and the hulk-on-a-stick while we were waiting was amusing. A 1-all draw l-)

Radiohead were stunning when they came on - new stuff and old favourites. I really enjoyed being in the thick of things, and was interested in the way the crowd changed behaviour as it went from stand to jumping - suddently it was possible for a suitably determine person to rush forward rapidly, whereas when still they had to push through slowly with elbows.

Another "living in the future" moment: going to big music festivals, bouncing around in tightly packed crowds to loud live music, were always things that other people did, and failing that something I'd do in the future rather than right now. Well, my life's been changing rapidly recently, and Glastonbury as a whole and the Radiohead gig in particular are major milestones in one the threads of change.

Sunday. Woke up without really having had enough sleep; we were pitched in one of the less quiet parts of the festival (even when the dance tent wasn't up and running). LNR and I wandered around for a bit; then I went back to the tent to doze for a while, and she headed for the Acoustic stage where a few things she wanted to see were happening.

My sunburn was getting quite bad by this stage so the rain was quite welcome. The festival wasn't as muddy as its reputation would have you believe; I didn't see a single mud-covered person, in fact. Anyway I had my doze and felt much better for it, and headed off to see the Ozric Tentacles. As seems to have been a bit of a pattern they took a little while to really get the audience going, though they seemed to have an easier start (but then being on a smaller stage in one corner of the festival, a much larger proportion of the audience would have been there specifically to see them than at the main stage, where many people just stayed all day no matter who came on). The music was good and so was the lightshow, including the dirty trick of syncing a strobe light to the beat, visually eliminating 90%+ of the movement in the dancing of everyone around you.

After that I wandered lazily back towards the Pyramid stage, feeling generally content. Stopped to dance a bit to an odd little band on a small street-centre stage, and bought a T-shirt with flashing lights on the front. All this was punctuated by SMSs from LNR, who was apparently having a good time.

Anyway the big name on Sunday night was Moby, whose music I'd been introduced to by my brother late last year and instantly liked. After a slightly patchy start he seemed to get the measure of the audience, with enjoyable results. The encore was a cover of Creep, a big Radiohead favourite thay they'd not wanted to play (...and therefore had been asking for someone else to play instead). More singing along by the assembled masses.

Monday. After some slightly fragmented sleep we woke up as the kittens got moving at 6am, Juliet having to be in work in the afernoon(!) It turned out there'd been an unwelcome visitor in the night - a handbag nicked and the outer door of our tent left open (though the worst LNR and I had of it was that her boots got wet). Anyway the two of us struck camp and walked back all across the site and most of the car parking to our car. There was a bit of a queue to get out but it wasn't too sluggish and we were soon on our way, stopping regularly at service stations as I was pretty tired. The traffic was again good on the way back, except for a slowdown on the way past Stonehenge, as far as I can tell entirely due to people slowing down to look at it.

I had a good time and I would go again l-)

RJK | Contents