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By Tom Page on 6.7.2023

What happened when Little Tom went to Glasto’

The likeliness is that if you were interested in Glastonbury, you’d have followed the coverage on the BBC during and after the event itself. I did this when I got back to relive some of the highlights and I can assure you that the coverage wasn’t even close to showing what a phenomenal festival it is (aside from maybe when the camera pans out and you see the crowd, a long ‘Ooooo’ no doubt leaving your mouth). So here I am, finally recovered, to tell you what it’s like to go to the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts. With a bit of luck I’ll give a better review than the 407 staff from the BBC managed to put together.

I bought my tickets a long time ago (sometime in October I believe); way before even a hint of who would be appearing was announced. I love gigs and love festivals even more but rarely get a chance to go, something always popping up or not having the cash, so was determined that this year would be different. The moment the tickets went on sale I bought 2 without hesitation, after all this was Glastonbury and even though the line up probably hadn’t been created, it was going to be good. This is my first tip and it goes for everything to do with the festival: Get in early! The tickets cost £175 plus £5 booking fee and I really believe that it’s the best value festival you can ever go to. The ticket includes transport from a drop off point, camping from Wednesday to Monday and two programs – one which is a nice glossy magazine and the other which is a handy little book which you can hang around your neck. Lovely stuff.

I then waited for a long time until the line up was announced a month before the stat date. I was overjoyed. With Jay Z controversially headlining the year before, Glastonbury had gone back to its roots with Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and Blur headlining on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday respectively. A whole host of other acts filled the bill: Lady Gaga, Dizzee Rascal, La Roux and Kasabian complementing the older classics. The weather forecast was mixed but looked much more promising than years past – things were shaping up nicely.

We set off early on Wednesday morning to get to the drop off point as soon as possible and avoid the inevitable traffic. It was pretty painless and after a short wait we hopped onto the coach that would drive us straight into the site. We had decided previously on where we would pitch our tent and did so in the Wicket Ground which is located with the other ‘quieter’ camp sites in the North East of the site. The sun was shining gloriously and once our tent was pitched we went exploring.

Glastonbury is big. 1,100 acres laid out like Stone Henge and it takes roughly an hour to walk from one side to other (it inevitably took me longer because I’m quite short…) but there are so many things to do, so much to see on your way that you really don’t notice how vast it is. Until you get to the opposite wall, turn around and see just how far you’ve come. I’d love to have had a pedometer just to see how far I’d walked though it may well have broken on the Saturday. This is my second ‘Glasto-tip’: Don’t try and do it all in a day! We wanted to see everything and even though we did, we were knackered and didn’t quite recover for the duration of the festival. You’re there for a long time, walking here and there to see this and that and will cover the whole of the site as a matter of course during the week. It rained Wednesday evening for 11 hours, turning the whole site into a swamp. Awesome, Glastonbury mud.

We did the same on Thursday, eagerly looking around and getting an idea of where things were although we were gifted with a surprise appearance from Newton Faulkner in a little tent. This is one of the great things about Glastonbury; artists make appearances randomly in nice little venues. The only way you find out about these is luck. You hear someone say something about Bruce Springsteen appearing here or Damon Albarn singing there and, more often than not, that’s exactly what happens.

There are plenty of places to eat at Glastonbury and you should never go hungry. Most meals cost £6 and are quite hearty but you can get smaller nibbles for a few quid if you get peckish. Glastonbury is an ethical festival and the food reflects this, you’ll have no trouble getting a fair trade coffee or a vegan dinner. There are also giant Yorkshire puddings filled with sausage, mash and onion gravy or traditional Chinese noodles. To wash all this down there is more alcohol than you can shake a stick at or numerous places selling fresh juice and smoothies.

On Friday, the music started. N.E.R.D. was the first act that we saw and they were great, whipping the crowd into a frenzy in the glorious sunshine. Technical problems had meant a delay in them starting, much to Pharrell Williams’ annoyance. This paled in comparison to the fact they were cut off mid song after ignoring the time limit imposed due to the aforementioned technical problems. Pharrell came down to the crowd and continued to finish the song by shouting as loud as he could. No one could hear anything he was saying but we loved it none the less. Even with a jumpy start it was great and I was thoroughly looking forward to the rest of the weekend. We trudged over to The Other Stage (the second biggest stage) to see a certain Lady Gaga. Her show was as outrageously grand as her wardrobe; a particular highlight was the song ‘Poker Face’, initially played on a grand piano and then seamlessly blended into the version we all know was fantastic. The night was capped off with Neil Young, who I can now say is one of the greatest acts I’ve ever seen. He’s certainly not getting any younger but his skill and talent are as brilliant as the days of Woodstock. He ended with ‘Rockin’ In The Free World’, playing the final chorus about 10 times. Every time you thought he’d finished and the lights went down he came back with more passion and drive. I loved him.

Saturday was chock-a-block with acts and the heat was about a million degrees (quote me on that). We started the day as you always should – with a hearty fry up and VV Brown (she’s come a long way since we showcased her talent in The Venue earlier this year…). We then legged it over to Jazz World to see the legend that is Rolf Harris. It seemed like the whole of Glastonbury came with us and a ‘one in, one out policy’ was implemented right from the start. Crazy scenes for the man from down under. Spinal Tap turned it up to 11 soon after over on the iconic Pyramid Stage, Jarvis Cocker joining them on bass for some of the songs. Next came Dizzee Rascal, a man who I have now seen live on 3 separate occasions despite not owning a single song of his. He is a fantastic crowd pleaser though and it’s a remarkable sight to see everyone go bonkers to… well… ‘Bonkers’. No falling off the stage this time though, just a polished performance from a man who knows how to fix up and look sharp (see what I did there?).

I wanted to see La Roux, being a fan of 80’s electro-pop, but the crowd at the Dance Stage East was so enormous that I couldn’t hear anything let alone see. I didn’t mind much and saw some Paolo Nutini and then headed back to catch the end of Crosby, Stills and Nash whilst I set myself up for Kasabian. Now, it’s not that I dislike Kasabian and they did do a great set, there’s just something missing for me which means I always feel slightly disappointed when I see them. No doubt others loved them; I just can’t warm to them as I can other bands. I left just before the end to see the start of Pendulum, who I absolutely love. The crowd went wild, flares were being set off, people were jumping and I was loving it. A mix of Metallica and Slam topped off one of the great performances of the weekend. The night ended with Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band. I will freely admit that I didn’t have a clue what most of the songs were but the man has a great presence and amazing voice and it really didn’t matter that I only knew a couple of songs because it was great just to be there and listen to him. Alas, Mr Springsteen overran his set by a good half an hour but there was no way the organisers were going to pull the plug on him as they had done with N.E.R.D. despite the fines they would incur.

Sunday. Sunday, Sunday, Sunday. Remember the million degrees I spoke about on Saturday? Turns out sitting in it for hours on end is not a great idea. There’s another Glasto-tip: Respect the weather! I woke up, was rather sick due to sun stroke and proceeded to feel like I was just going to fall down for the rest of the day. I went back to bed, waking up in time to see Tom Jones at 4:15 in the afternoon. Whoops. I trudged to the Pyramid Stage to see a master at work and was not disappointed with Jools Holland providing his own blend of musical brilliance from the piano. Knickers were a plenty and some guys decided that they would play along to ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On’ much to the delight of the crowd.

I then headed over to see Will Young in one of the smallest venues of the festival, The Avalon Stage. It was a brilliant atmosphere and the man is a great performer, engaging with the crowd at every opportunity. After a long sit down and a lot of water we headed back to the Pyramid for the final time to see the eclectic Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. This was really just a buffer however as we eagerly anticipating Blur. I was gutted that Blur and The Prodigy clashed but decided that I really had to see Blur and I’d see The Prodigy another time… Hopefully. Blur rewarded my loyalty with the best set of the weekend, an amazing light show and Damon Albarn at his very best. The sight of 180,000 singing along to ‘Tender’ was all too much for the front man and he had a heart-warming cry for a little while before promptly thanking the crowd. They ended on ‘The Universal’ and the crowd erupted, a fantastic end to a truly great weekend.

The Monday was simply a formality. We got up at 5am to pack away the tent in light rain and headed back to the drop off point (remember my first tip about being early?). After a bit of a wait the coach collected us and drove us away. My Glastonbury adventure was over but I knew the tickets for next year would be released in a couple of months. I can’t wait to become one of those people who go year in, year out no matter what.

And so concludes my review. Hopefully that’s given you an insight into what the famous festival is like but you can head over to the official Glastonbury page at http://www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk/ for photos and coverage. Cheers for reading and maybe I’ll see you there next year!

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