Throwing Shapes and Losing Mates at Glastonbury Festival

Shangri-La - Brothers in arms - Who's propping who up?
Shangri-La 2011 – Brothers in arms

Around this time of year as the sun teases from behind a blanket of clouds, my thoughts always turn to Summer festival season.

I’ve been fortunate to have been to some interesting gigs in the past – Oasis in Belfast (Liam spitting on the crowd), Eric Clapton at Slane Castle (electrical fault halfway through his Layla solo), even the legendary 80’s icon that is Lionel Richie and his inimitable collection of cheesy tunes couldn’t hold back my snake hips.

But the granddaddy of all festivals is where I’d had by far the most fun – Glastonbury. Granted, it’s had piss poor competition from the Reid’s in recent years as far as festivals go. I’ve been to Oxegen more times than I’d care to admit which goes to show that even if the lineup is stellar, it doesn’t always equate to a good festival atmosphere.

Glasto on the other hand, always delivers. The music is almost a side note because of the eclectic wide variety of performers and entertainers on display. I’ve been fortunate to attend twice and had mixed fortunes on both occasions.

The first in 2011 when I arrived late to the festival as it bucketed down from the heavens. Erecting my tent on a movable mud slide was the best I could do given I was half pissed already. After getting frustrated and with darkness falling I gave up trying to build my little palatial home for the weekend and ended up crawling inside the tent, soaked to the bone and using it as a makeshift sleeping bag.

When the music started however, all of that was forgotten and we treated to the likes of Coldplay, Beyonce, U2 but best of all, Don McLean on a Saturday afternoon in a rare dazzle of sunshine as he strummed out Vincent, one of my favourite songs of all time.

Glastonbury Entrance 2014
Glastonbury Entrance 2014

In 2014, my brothers and I once again set off this time to do things properly. Namely, we’d buy more booze, a trolley to carry the booze into the camp site and bring plenty of poncho’s and snacks.

In a word, we were prepared.

The weather has a way of ruining such plans though and my tent had a hole which allowed the rainfall on that first night to soak my sleeping bag. Easily rectified of course.

Unlike my first night at Oxegen festival in 2008 when, caught short, and not knowing where the toilets were decided to piss into an empty beer can, which I ended up knocking over inside the tent.

I’ll always have fond memories of getting lost in the sea of people at Glastonbury and being spat out stumbling upon a little gem of an act, or comedy performer or some bizarre feature that you’d never expect to see by getting off track.

Visiting places like the infamous Shangri-La when sober is a weird experience. It’s an amazing community and the diversity of artists/performers/punters and staff all make the festival so special. Makes the current furore over one artist, Kanye West headlining the main stage a bit silly in my opinion.

Most of the best acts I saw over that sober weekend in 2014 were playing in much smaller arenas and I went out of my way to see them (although the one exception was Dolly Parton). I remember seeing Hozier and he performed to a crowd of a couple hundred and he seemed really shy and nervous on stage. He was so enamoured by the positive response by the audience at the end of his gig that he took a selfie of himself on stage with his back to the crowd.

Infamous Glastonbury Toilet
Infamous Glastonbury Toilet

Who could have predicted his meteoric rise since then?

I’ll always have great memories of the festival especially from 2014 when I wasn’t doing my usual drunken pinball impression and bouncing off the walls.

I think smaller venues are the way to go though – more intimate. Besides, I’m not sure I could hold a jobby in for another weekend at Glastonbury.

The toilets are almost as famous as the music.

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