Glastonbury Festival 2011

Venue: Worthy Farm, Somerset
Date: 22nd - 27th Jun 2011

Glastonbury 2011, just like those before it, was always going to be playing Russian Roulette with the weather. During the preceding fortnight no two forecasts were the same and all changed on a daily basis. There was only one option; pack light, waterproofs and wellies. Within an hour of the gates opening we had the lot; cloudy/drizzle/torrential/sunny/dry. Spread these out over five days and that is exactly how it was.

By Friday the place was a mud bath. Up to a foot deep in the best places and up to a foot underwater in the worst. Yet even though the sun had no inclination whatsoever of doing so, the Glastonbury spirit shone through and by the time Two Door Cinema Club took to the Pyramid Stage what fell from the sky was irrelevant. Now, the cynic in me says it was a lucky slot (third on at 13:30) but you can't deny them one of, if not the, biggest Pyramid crowd of the weekend. They pulled it off too. The band are clearly stoked and mention on numerous occasions that this is easily the biggest crowd they have played to. And when Alex requests that everyone climbs on each others shoulders, the crowd duly oblige. Standing firm, cemented in the mud below.

The crowds thin for the Glastonbury debut of Staten Islands Wu-Tang Clan. The unmistakable vocals of Method Man introduce them "Glastonberrrrry"; arriving on stage in the whitest of white basketball boots with matching white dressing gown clearly 'borrowed' from the previous nights hotel. They pound their way through the majority of '36 Chambers' and throw in a few few of their solo greatest hits including 'Triumph'. Which is clearly what it is. After a dozen more "Glastonberrrry's" and a dozen more "ODB RIP's!!!" they leave. A true Glastonbury performance.

As the evening draws in the wellies are holding firm and my spirit, albeit aided, shows no sign of waining. Bright Eyes, Fleet Foxes and Mumford and Sons bring in the night on the Other Stage before the long trudge through the Dance Village to the John Peel Stage to see in the morning with DJ Shadow. Perched in a sphere behind his turntables he throws out the breaks and beats he's renowned for. Of course we're treated to the likes of 'Six Days' and 'Organ Donor' but it's the imagination and improvisation that we've come to see and we are not left disappointed.

When the main stages close there is only one place to head for. The South East corner. The home of Arcadia, Shangri-la, The Common, Block 9 and The Unfairground. These works of art have grown both in size and popularity over the years which has lead to the introduction of a one way system in and out of the area. This goes against the whole Glastonbury sense of freedom but, it's a safety measure, and from experience it really was an accident waiting to happen. It hasn't worked though. The way in is so far out of the way that instead of controlling the flow of people it's simply putting people off visiting there. And people need to see this. It is simply incredible; the design, the imagination. It's inspiring. I will only spoil it by trying to explain it. Get yourself there. Or failing that there's always YouTube.

Saturday brought with it its own challenges. Copious amounts of cider throughout the last few days has meant the first visit proper to the toilets. The chemical cubes were out of the question. I'm not precious about these things. They were just full. Overflowing in fact. The long drops is was. The mud thinned as you drew close. From a tacky adhesive to a mousse, to liquid. That was the worst part. When in it was almost a pleasure.

Once done it was back on the cider and back over to the John Peel stage in time for Yuck. The sound in this tent is always top notch and lent itself well to both the lo-fi guitars and gentle melodies that their debut album offers.

As the sun threatened to make an appearance it was over to The Park Stage for Mr Coxon, The Walkmen, a totally forgettable set by Tame Impala and the unannounced Special Guests. It wasn't that long ago that secret sets were possible. Before smart phones you had to take your chance. But by the time Jarvis came on stage and said "Surprise!" 50,000 people knew exactly what was coming. Pulp were back at Glastonbury. "We didn't know quite what to bring" said Jarvis, "so we brought the sun!" And as it set over our shoulders, the biggest crowd ever seen at The Park Stage hung on his every word and sang out every line from a perfect greatest hits set.

The night was set up nicely. Lee Scratch Perry in the glade before a drunken wobble around some lesser known areas and a sample of some real ale before catching the sunrise from the Park chill out area.

Beyonce Sunday was soon upon us. The sun had decided to stick around and quickly went about drying the vast majority of the site. By the time Joy Formidable took to The John Peel stage the floor was available to rest your festival weary legs. Not that there was much sitting going on during this set. Of all the acts I've seen at this years Glastonbury, Ritzy Formidable is the one I want to drink with. As her guitar clattered against the giant gong I was willing to bet my wellies that the party doesn't stop until she goes to bed.

As I sat at the other stage watching TV on the Radio and Eels I was faced with my only musical dilemma of the weekend. I hadn't seen a headliner on The Pyramid Stage. My head was at a place that could quite willingly accept an hour or so of pop trash, some fireworks and light entertainment. Plus there was always the chance that Jay-Z might make an appearance. I was almost there but opted for Queens of the Stone Age and a few more ciders up at the Kasbah.

During the early hours of Monday morning as I returned to my tent for the last time I stopped for a moment to take in the haze of activity sprawled in front of me. I watch as people rush about making the most of the final few hours; others pack up their tents and make for the exits. The sky is glowing; broken only by the remaining smoke trails from fireworks. The air is thick with smoke and smells of burning wood. To my right the fluorescent glow of the viewing tower. To my left the seemingly eternal heartbeat of the dance village and directly ahead the constant beam of light emanating from the tip of the Pyramid Stage. All being played out to the squealing sound of laughing gas escaping rapidly from balloons. I feel sad knowing that in less that twenty four hours the place will be empty. The stages will be dismantled, the flags will be removed and the cleanup will begin. Goodnight Glastonbury. See you in 2013.

Steve C

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