Live Music + Gig Reviews

Glastonbury 2009: Day 1 @ Worthy Farm, Somerset

25 June 2009

Glastonbury 2009: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Glastonbury. It’s probably the biggest music festival in the world. With that in mind, we sent a brace of writers down to Somerset to marvel at the carnage that takes place when you pack a hundred thousand tents into one small farm. Glasto virgin Gideon Brody and old hand Rob Watson pair up to deliver life and death at Glasto 2009…

Intimidating perhaps isn’t the word that springs immediately to mind when describing the family-friendly and eminently cuddly granddaddy of music festivals. Nevertheless, it can be a little overwhelming; the sheer scale of the site, stretching over and beyond the horizon is, at the very least, awe inspiring.
A patchwork of blue and red tents sprawl across the land like the world’s largest picnic blanket, swamped under a sea of people. There are a lot of tents. So much so that finding somewhere to make my temporary festival home quickly turns from an assiduous pursuit for the perfect pitch to a desperate hope that I can find any space big enough.

A couple of hours later, tent haphazardly assembled on suspiciously marshy grass and location vaguely noted, I try to get my Glasto bearings. Standing like yellow and blue circus tops the John Peel and Dance stages seem suddenly rather small, and barely capable of holding the fervent crowds that will pass through over the coming days. Already though, the festival atmosphere – and curiously intoxicating local scrumpy – is taking hold, merry revellers lounging prostrate under gathering clouds.

Walking eastward along the old railway track, everything suddenly starts to make more sense. Passing northward along the main market stalls to the more traditional spiritual heart of Green Future and the Healing Fields, I’m struck by the colour and life that surrounds me, and suddenly Glastonbury ceases to be tens of thousands of flimsy pieces of canvas and turns into a carnival of all humanity that is near biblical in its scale. The Israelites perhaps didn’t walk across the desert in hot pants and lame novelty t-shirts, but if they had, it probably would have looked similar.

An atmosphere more hectic and rushed than I had expected, stalls are overrun with people in search of waterproofs, camping accessories and other last minute lost or forgotten items. Looking at the sky, I quickly snap up a waterproof jacket and realise that the question on most people’s minds is not how Springsteen’s set will go or who is playing the Queen’s Head stage, but “Is it going to rain?”

And then, quite suddenly, the atmosphere changes; people are murmuring in groups, checking phones, looking at each other bewildered. Something about Michael Jackson. Ill. Dead? People are drunk. It’s a festival. Silly rumours like this have a habit of spreading. But then I check my phone and it’s true. Michael Jackson is dead; and yet, the death of one of the most iconic figures in music can’t dampen the mood. In fact, on the eve of the festival proper, the night becomes even more of a celebration. And the rain comes down.

Retiring to my tent, I listen to raindrops pelting the canvas. Sleep doesn’t come easily, the violence of the weather making me feel like a lost sock being tossed in a tumble-dryer.

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