WWL At Glastonbury: A Review In Photo Form
That’s me, myself and I up there. Stephen W. Thomas. Glastonbury. Apologies if I look grumpy, but that is a) my neutral face, so shut the hell up, and b) the result of 72 hours of exhaustion. 2011 was the greatest hits of Glastonbury – the year where the Eavis family brought back some of the most historic acts of the past 41 years. The Spirit of 71 stage presented us with bands who had played the festival forty years ago. The Park Stage relived two of the more legendary Glasto sets of the 90s with their ‘secret’ appearances by Radiohead and Pulp. And the weather provided us with memories of every extreme we’ve ever seen at the festival – the miserable rain, the toffee/fudge mud and the sweltering, sweltering heat. Let’s look back at 2011 through photos, and some stories of our… more interesting experiences.
We’d been wishin’ and a-hopin’ for weeks in the run-up to this year’s Glastonbury, but as the train drew closer to Castle Cary it was painfully obvious what was in store, the rain dragging itself staggered along the glass of the windows. Cue a weekend of lost wellies, over-priced ponchos and over-enthusiastic cheers whenever the sun came out. Which made Sunday very, very noisy.
Some bands, fortunately, are made for the rain – Bright Eyes drew a large crowd for his vaguely emo folk-rock, and angry songs like ‘Lover I Don’t Have To Love’ worked well in the cool drizzle come Friday afternoon. There was a suspicious amount of songs featuring the word ‘rain’ or some deriative scattered across the set. Either Conor Oberst was angling his set in a very specific direction, or he’s a bit of a miserable sod. Not our place to say, mind.
This is a cage. With a disco ball inside. Not that this is remotely evocative of Glastonbury’s stand on dancing – after all Kool and the Gang headlined West Holts on the Sunday. A day earlier Janelle Monaé had dragged a thousand feet from the mud as they stomped and twisted to tracks from her debut album The ArchAndroid and a cover of The Jackson 5′s ‘I Want You Back’ that sounded eerily like the original in many ways.
In fact, the best stage all round for dancing and moving and being a little bit surprised was West Holts. We’ve said it once or twice over the years (including in our mini review earlier in the week), but West Holts is the BBC4 of Glastonbury. The gang above are enjoying a much-welcomed burst of sunshine that came both literally and by way of Fool’s Gold, whose summery tones lightened the moods of everyone in the field on Saturday afternoon.
The biggest treats of Glastonbury often come from the smallest acts. Not the insect circus hiding in the Avalon film, but the unsigned acts making their way in the only way unsigned acts can – by playing bloody everywhere. The Worry Dolls, who we go on about endlessly on here played a storming set on Wednesday afternoon that resulted in an unplanned encore. That’s Zoe sitting above, tuning the ukelele on which she had learnt all of their songs the night before (a banjo had seemed to unwieldy for the festival). Twin Brother played the BBC Introducing stage Friday morning. Emily and the Woods stole some hearts with her humble Acoustic stage set – including a delightful ‘Single Ladies’ cover. Incidentally, catch The Worry Dolls at our Folkroom gig on July 20th. That wasn’t a plug. That was me doing you a favour.
I tell you with some certainty that this isn’t true. I trekked 40 minutes through the mud to Coach Gate A in order to bring you that info, but that’s just what I go through for you guys.
A lesson in festival journalism. It’ll take you just seconds to find shots of this year’s Glasto in which people are stranded in great lakes of mud, or covered in it as though they woke in a great silt lake. Do not be fooled, sofa-festivalists of the world! Though the mud was pervasive across the festival, it was stodgy and sticky mud, not big wet mud. The above shot is one of only three puddles or so on the whole site, and the girls walking through it are doing so purely for the benefit of a camera just out of shot. So, yeah. Class dismissed.
Some refreshing optimism as someone speculates on a special guest in the dance arena.
Laura Marling gets a bit of a bum deal during her set on the Pyramid stage.
Saturday at the festival, and some-time WWL contributor Rob has arrived onsite with a PR colleague also called Rob (who, for sake of ease, shall now be called Mark). The two are down only for the last two days in order to sort out some press for a few acts playing. Mark can’t quite get the pass he needs, so after we drop off their stuff in my tent, where we’ll all be sleeping for the remainder of the festival, he and Rob head off to try and arrange something.
Later on, Rob and I meet up and catch Coldplay’s set (which, much to our mutual surprise, is utterly engaging). Afterwards we head over to Shangri-La with another friend. We wander the sordid streets of the temporary city, jive in a jive bar and at half two we go our separate ways and Rob and I head back to our tent. We reach it around 3am, but Mark isn’t there yet. Fair enough, Glasto kept us out til 3, and the music will keep going til 5am. We fumble our way into our respective sleeping bags and drop asleep in no time at all.
When I awake briefly at 4am the tent is already vaguely lit by the half light of the pre-dawn hour, and I am relieved to see that our tent is filled to capacity, myself and the two other bodies, deep in slumber. I go back to sleep. By Rob’s own account, he woke up at half 5 and saw much the same thing. He fell asleep once more.
We wake around 7, and only Rob and I are in the tent. We reckon Mark must have gone of to do some PR work or something, but just to check if he’s left us a message we both switch on our phones. There is a message on each – the same one, sent as a joint text. It goes roughly like this:
“Guys – couldn’t get the pass I needed and couldn’t find the tent. Am driving back to London.”
We look at the bottom of our messages. 1:30am.
WE SPENT TWO HOURS SHARING A TENT WITH A STRANGE MAN.
I spent the last few days hoping that when I got my Glastonbury photos developed there would be a self-shot of our mystery man leaning of Rob and I, giving a massive thumbs up. He certainly had the chance – when we woke in the morning my camera was lying where he had been. Oh well.
There were rumours rumbling around the site all weekend. Arcade Fire were gonna play! (False) Pulp were gonna play! (True) Radiohead were going to play! (True) Prince was gonna play! (You had me going there, Sam…). My favourite rumour was that Marcus Mumford was the illegitimate son of the above fox. But then, I made that up, so I would like it.
And so that was our Glasto for 2011.
Two years til the next one.