Thursday, 3 July 2008

Glastonbury 2008 Pt 1 - The Great Unwashed

Despite all the crows from the naysayers and ill-informed armchair pundits with a one-way ticket to negative town (see below post), Glastonbury 2008 was a sunny success. In the absence of a captivating lineup (obviously The Verve was just the booking agents clowning around, but the rest?), Glastonbury - thanks to its unique atmosphere - remains the UK’s premier music festival. But with all the media hyperbole during and after the festival there’s one thing that I want to to make clear: Glastonbury is not for everyone.

Camping sucks. People smell and what they discharge smells even more. Oh and there's mud too. If you’re a princess, a cry-baby or a spoilt brat don’t go, you’ll hate it. And that’s fine.

Unfortunately, the BBC’s strangling, smug and aspirational coverage and the glamorisation of the festival by Heat Magazine et al has convinced thousands to go who end up moaning and complaining. The flip side of this is that thousands who consider the above personae non gratae have lept atop their high horse and decided not to attend because of their influx. The effect being that Glastonbury is now perceived as uncool. This factor along with last year's weather, which underlined to the Heat readers that Glastonbury is probably not for them (designer wellies were noticeably down this year) and the subsequent doom mongering publicity resulted in uncharacteristically slow ticket sales this year.

That the Pyramid and Other stage lineups stunk to high heaven didn’t help either. A direct comparison of Glastonbury with the headliners at Coachella or the exciting new music showcased at Primavera Festival in Madrid borders on the embarrassing.

But for me, the Glastonbury experience transcends bad smells, bad weather and bad main stage lineups. For every eye-watering stench of ammonia there's a heart warming chat with a guy who’s shat his sleeping bag three times; for every rain shower there's a trip to the Somerset Cider Bus; for every Jay-Z on the Pyramid Stage there's a Squarepusher in the Glade.

Fundamentally, sleeping in a tent, drinking cider and not washing for the most part of a week is a real leveller. The general public are suddenly phenomenally less annoying, and the atmosphere around the site this year was as special as ever. The Park area, in its sophomore year, has undoubtedly breathed new life into the festival, harnessing the feeling of a boutique festival within the festival itself and showcasing new(ish) acts like Santogold, MGMT and White Denim.

My highlight of the weekend was on Saturday night at the Park where Battles blitzed through their repertoire of calculated but chaotic math-rock. Now finally reaching the end of over a year of consistent touring, the band were as enthusiastic as ever. The set was regrettably cut short due to “scheduling difficulties”, but the band had already afforded the tiny crowd a memorable set.

Battles - 'Leyendecker' (download here or listen below)

Words: SS

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