Well, it had to happen. The best laid plans came unstuck at the first hurdle and, as I was struggling to gather all my things together and, most importantly, fit them into the bloody suitcase, I decided to get the last train from my local station to connect with my Victoria train at Brighton. After giving myself plenty of time to walk to the station, I arrived there to find that my train had been cancelled. The one day I don’t check the train before I leave home and it’s cancelled. This, of course, meant that I was going to miss my Victoria train, when then meant that I would miss my train from Paddington to Castle Cary. Still, stiff upper lip and all that. I’ll get there eventually, just not as early as I was hoping. It’s not as if I’m going to miss any music. I’m now relaxing on my train from London to Somerset with a bottle of Marks & Spencer’s Norfolk Bitter (it’s not just any Norfolk Bitter, you know), thinking about what the next few days are going to entail, so I’m well on my way.
Firstly, I hope I enjoy it. That seems like a ridiculous thing to say, doesn’t it? Why would I spend hundreds of pounds and have a weekend away from my loving family if I wasn’t certain that I was going to enjoy it? Well, it’s my first Glastonbury and I’m just about to turn 38 years old. I have a bad knee, thanks to a motorbike accident a few years ago, have recently had a nasty bout of sciatica and, frankly, I’m starting to think that festivals are a younger person’s game. However, I’m not camping, I’m staying in a nice inn in nearby Shepton Mallet. I don’t give a damn if people don’t think that I’m doing the festival properly, this is the only way I would and probably could do it – and stand a hope in hell of gaining pleasure from the experience. Still, at least I’m not on the site pretending to camp in a luxury tent with a bed, fridge, shower and concierge. Besides, I’m going to be spending at least 36 hours at the festival over the next three days. Quite honestly, I think that’s enough to gain the “full experience”. It’s not as if I’m a festival virgin either. I’ve done the Isle Of Wight in 2012, V Festival (Staffordshire) in 2009 and Bestival a few years before that. Oh, and Guilfest. But I’m not sure that even counts. It’s going to be interesting to see how Glastonbury, the big behemoth of them all, compares.
There are so many opinions flying around about the festival (it’s too big, it’s too commercial) that it’s difficult to tell which are informed opinions based on genuine experience and which are the mutterings of people priced out of the festival (or simply not lucky enough to get tickets during the chaotic and randomness of the online sale) and feeling bitter. There are a lot of people who claim that it was much better in the “old days” when you could climb over a fence and get in for free. You know, I’m sure it was brilliant to see Glastonbury for free, but that’s hardly a fair, sustainable economic model with which to ensure the continuing success of the festival, is it? Also, it’s a lot safer these days, with drug pushers and opportunistic criminals now virtually all but shut out by a tight fence of security. It may seem like overkill to some people, but the security allows safe numbers to attend and the revenues to ensure lots of acts from the biggest to the smallest to be booked. That’s what it’s all about for me, the music. That’s why I’m currently on one of First Great Western’s finest HSTs, to get the opportunity to see around thirty bands over the space of three days. The great thing about festivals is that it’s often the acts you don’t expect to enjoy so much that you end up loving and having the fondest memories of.
I do actually sympathise with the people who say that it’s too expensive. £205 is a lot of money, especially when times are really hard for so many ordinary people, and I struggled to afford the price of my press ticket, which was even more expensive. Half of the price was a very generous birthday present, which helped me out enormously. However, my argument would be that, while it’s expensive, it really is fantastic value for money, with hundreds of acts spread out over three days (for the main event) and the Saturday night headliners alone, The Rolling Stones, are commanding around half that for the cheapest priced ticket at their Hyde Park gigs this summer (not to mention the extortionate prices of their gig at the O2 last winter). Also, and this is a big one, they allow you to bring your own food and drink into the festival, including alcohol. Quite honestly, this is a massive money saver. Not only does it mean that you’re not restricted to whatever the beer tents are selling, you can save an absolute shed load of money, if you enjoy a drink whilst watching the acts, as I do. At the Isle of Wight festival last year, there was a choice between Carling and Strongbow, probably my most despised brands of both lager and cider. Frankly, I’d rather drink the Devil’s salty piss from the purple, veiny source than either of those two, but I still ended up sulkily forking out £4 a pint for something I really didn’t like. Only on the first day, though. The other two days were a happier affair with a half bottle of dark rum bought from the Co-op by Newport bus station smuggled in via my wellies which, mixed with Coke, led for an altogether cheaper and more pleasant experience. This year, although I don’t intend to drink that much (not if I want to sensibly write about it afterwards), I’ll still have a healthy supply of Stella Cidre and water on me, meaning that my daily drinks expenses will run to about a six quid, instead of triple that.
There are so many acts I’m looking forward to – The Rolling Stones (I’ve never seen them live before), Elvis Costello (I’ve seen him six times this month alone), Mumford & Sons, Arctic Monkeys, Rufus Wainwright, Billy Bragg, The Proclaimers, I Am Kloot, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, The Hives, Seasick Steve, Sinead O’Connor, Ed Harcourt, The Strypes… and that’s just the start of it. I’ve made rudimentary (OK, for anyone who knows me, very detailed) plans for what I want to see, but I’m going to leave myself open to changes, if better offers come up or if, for example, David Bowie happens to do a secret set the same time that I was going to see Dry The River. Hey, it’s unlikely, but you never know. Radiohead turned up unannounced two years ago, so anything can happen. There are already some wonderful artists I’m planning to miss, such as KT Tunstall. I’d love to catch them, but they simply clash with an act with a little more pulling power. The one thing I do remember about my previous festival experiences is that sometimes plans can change because you’re knackered and don’t want to walk to another stage to see an act, just to have to walk back to where you were for your next scheduled artist. It sounds dreadfully lazy, but after maybe ten hours of standing around on tired feet and legs, it’s true. Whatever happens, I’m determined to make the best of this (perhaps once in a lifetime) weekend and I hope you enjoy sharing my experience, vicariously. I’ll certainly do my best to make it as interesting and entertaining as I can without, you know, just making stuff up.
Your viewership is important to me. I realise there are other Glastonbury ‘blogs you could have chosen, so I thank you for choosing mine.