And so it begins. A wealth of us have spent a fuckton of money on festival tickets in order to give our summers some semblance of worth, something to do, an event to remember. But this price is nothing. I laugh in the face of anyone who thinks the price of going to a festival amounts simply to the face value of the ticket.
I mean, let’s face it, no one turns up to a festival with simply their entrance ticket, the intention of staying awake for four days, and a can-do attitude (and if you’re thinking “no I really do”, then you’re a monolithic bellend).
Aside from our tickets, we’ve all had to fork out for all manner of shit. There’s the tent, of course, which, if you’ve ever braved a festival before, you’ll know you need a decent one not to completely ruin your experience. Then there’s things such as transport – I mean, how exactly are you getting to the arse-end of nowhere to go and see Catfish and the Bottlemen perform a half-hearted set of their new album? That’s costing a fair bit.
And we’re not even done. Because there’s food when you’re there (you will spend 50 quid on burgers, no matter how much you think that camping stove and bag of Pot Noodles will see you through). There’s souvenirs (because the glittery hotpants were really worth it). And there is, of course, alcohol. You can usually take a load into the camping field with you, but good luck smuggling it into the music arena. You’re there a good ten hours a day and you’ll have to suffer the £5-a-pint prices for that whole excruciating time.
But if I’ve not already put you off enough, and you’re still reading, then fair play – you’re one of the hardcore. You really are determined to enjoy this year’s festival season. And I can’t blame you – persevere, and it’ll be one of the most marvellous weekends of your life.
But for what you can’t make, Nouse has you covered. Our writers will be giving you their personal festival diaries from this summer to give you a hopefully detailed idea of each offering the wonderful world of music festies has to offer. And we’re starting with the big ‘un, the behemoth: Glastonbury Festival.
Now for anyone who hasn’t done Glasto before, it must be accepted that when you enter the gates of Worthy Farm, it is, essentially, another world.
You’re greeted by an inexplicably painful walk from your car, through an immense amount of mud, to even get into the festival. But when you do, you see 5 days of ridiculousness open up before your eyes: over 100 stages, actual nightclubs, humungous mechanical spiders, fireworks, bonfires, bars and so much cider.
After setting up a tent as near to the entrance gate as we could get (yes it was far from the main stage, but after hauling 400 cans it was bliss), there was nothing to do but explore the expansive Glastonbury site.
And expansive is an understatement. We went through the Green Fields, where you can find some of the most amazing vegetarian food known to man, phone-charging exercise bikes, and all sorts of other hippy shit. We went through The Park, home to an iconic Glastonbury ribbon tower, a Jamaican rum bar, and a life-size statue of a tongue, before finally arriving at the peace-inspired Stone Circle for their official festival opening ceremony.
We were given rather large candles, not the greatest of gifts to a legion of pissheads, to sit and stand around. Which we did, although admittedly apprehensively. This was followed by an impressive performance of somehow intimidating Oriental music, and a simply breath-taking firework display, before our drunken eyes were mesmerised by the alighting of a giant wooden phoenix atop of the Glastonbury hill.
As a five day festival, we all knew we still had another day free to explore the weirdest and wackiest realms of the festival without missing any of the main acts.
The day consisted of exploring even further a site which, to actually experience properly, would’ve taken weeks, encompassing a laser lake (I still don’t know what this is), a giant badger, a fake motel playing the greatest of dance hits, and a statue of a rabbit with tits.
The evening saw an impressive DJ set from Annie Mac open the BBC Introducing Stage, including an array of upcoming dance acts. Another traipse around the festival led us to the Spike Bar (or as we christened it, the ‘fairy bar’), to witness an incredible enclave of foliage, trees, and twinkly lights that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a set from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Like Neverland but instead of Peter Pan and Tinkerbell there were drunk men clutching cans of lager and wearing bucket hats.
And then, it was time to seek out some of the festival’s majestic adult playgrounds, perhaps the most lauded of which is Shangri-La. An absolute trek to get to from our tent literally on the opposite side of the farm, you cannot help but be stunned by towering walls adorned with massive (and enjoyably controversial) posters of key political figures such as Boris Johnson obscured by the word “CUNT”, or one of David Cameron at a pig farm. Flashing lights and booming dubstep were everywhere as I walked through it, when I decided I was on nowhere near as suitable a level of inebriation as other revellers, and trekked back to my tent.
Waking up on a Glastonbury Friday was a pretty amazing feeling. I’d had two days of anticipation, walking around the site and seeing the eerily empty main music stages, so the chance to actually start seeing what I’d made the bollock-aching trip down to the South-West from Merseyside for was more than exciting. Well, until we all found out we were out of the EU and the rain started pouring torrentially.
Still, the music started with an impressive set on the Other Stage at 11 in the morning from Mancunian indie icons, James. I couldn’t help but feel uplifted by what was an incredibly upbeat set, and their performance of 1993 hit ‘Laid’ (you’ll know this song if you’ve seen any of the American Pie films) prompted a unanimous singalong and was a personal highlight. Also, have a look on iPlayer for lead singer Tim Booth’s visually disturbing dancing. Like an epileptic at a Skrillex gig.
Next up were Two Door Cinema Club at the ever-iconic Pyramid Stage, playing what I assume was a decent set considering I and my three companions elected to dance drunkenly to the side of stage and, amongst other things, apply glitter and receive fake tattoos.
Suitably glittery, inked, and pissed on white wine and Strongbow Dark Fruit, I went to explore some of the amazing eating establishments Glastonbury has to offer (over 250, to be precise). After a glorious curry at a Thai food stall (which I would return to twice more over the weekend), two decent sets at the Other Stage from Editors and The Lumineers, and a whole lot more cider, the Glastonbury spirit was well and truly flowing.
At 8 o’clock on the Pyramid Stage were the first band I brought my elbowing skills and fought to the front for: Foals. Always a popular festival band, their set was electric as ever, and after sustaining a number of bruises during ‘Inhaler’ and ‘What Went Down’, I departed the Pyramid Stage in ecstatic mood.
But I was now left with a dilemma as to what to do regarding a Friday night headliner. The Pyramid’s offering was Muse, a band who I happen to think are, well, how do I put this – shite. Yes, well done for playing your instruments well, but Matt Bellamy’s voice is horrible and they’re essentially just a fancy lights show.
So they were off the cards. Elsewhere were Disclosure, Sigur Ros and Underworld, the latter of which we actually planned to go and see, mainly because my favourite film is Trainspotting and the chance to lose my shit to soundtrack tune ‘Born Slippy’ was hard-on inducing.
But we were distracted by something called Arcadia – a gigantic mechanical spider that shoots balls of fire from the top and contains a DJ booth at its very centre. My memory of who the DJ was or what particular kind of dance music they were playing is a blur, perhaps due to copious amounts of Frosty Jack’s and Lambrini (I’m a classy guy). But this didn’t really matter. The entire thing was beyond mesmerising; a feast for the senses as the magnificent combinations of heat, light and sound sent us happily back to our tent after the first proper day of Glastonbury 2016.
Waking up on Saturday, we were met with the grim realisation that, despite taking a stupendous amount, we were running low on alcohol. This meant one of two things – making the horrendous walk back to the car park to drive to the nearest supermarket, or queuing up every time we wanted a drink and paying the ridiculous prices to boot.
In the end, we decided penny pinching beat physical pain and took the gruelling walk to the car park to drive to a Tesco’s in nearby village Shepton Mallet. Suitably armed with another cornucopia of ale (not making for a pleasant walk back, mind), we felt prepared enough for the next two days.
I arrived back to Worthy Farm disappointed, however, at having missed Wolf Alice’s set. This left my first act of the day down to Madness on the Pyramid Stage, who didn’t remotely disappoint. The ska legends were always going to be the kind of band to get the crowd dancing and singing along, but I don’t think I’ll forget how they managed to make me perform a two-tone shuffle dance in mud-sodden wellies during ‘Baggy Trousers’ for a long time (and nor will anyone who witnessed it).
Following the Cockney stalwarts on stage were The Last Shadow Puppets, comprised of Arctic Monkey Alex Turner and troubadour Miles Kane. The band had drawn a massive crowd for their set at the Pyramid; all the more impressive when considering the fact they’ve only just released their second album. The duo proved any doubters wrong with a set that proved to be one of the highlights of the weekend, comprising tunes from latest album Everything You’ve Come to Expect, some old favourites from The Age of the Understatement, and a superb cover of the late, great David Bowie’s ‘Moonage Daydream’, even if they did do it all while dressed as garish 70s pornstars.
After another muddy trek between stages, plus the questionable purchase of flatcaps, and some of Chvrches’ enjoyable synthpop stylings on the Other Stage, it was time yet again for the dilemma of choosing a headliner to go and see. I was firmly in support of seeing New Order, although unfortunately my three fellow festival-goers wanted to see Adele’s set on the Pyramid Stage. Not wanting to look like a sad bastard dancing to ‘Blue Monday’ on my own, I bowed to peer pressure and went to see the London songstress.
And in fairness, I really enjoyed it. The worldwide pop icon proved once and for all that she could captivate such a large crowd, and did it in style, with her voice as spine tingling as ever, not to mention her contrasting, high-pitched cackle forever disarming and endearing her to the crowd.
But, then, it just didn’t feel like a headline performance. She is clearly an amazing performer, but I for one didn’t feel as pumped up as I’d like following a Saturday night headline set. Her kind of music doesn’t really lend itself to that as much as a rock band or even a rapper might, and perhaps is better suited to a Sunday afternoon slot. Although admittedly it might be a bit perplexing seeing Adele’s name below Jess Glynne’s on a festival line-up.
The last day. Both sad and relieving in equal measure. Because there’s one thing I’ve yet to really mention in this diary that most of you will know is synonymous with Glastonbury: mud. Lots and lots of mud. The muddiest Glastonbury on record, to be exact.
I’d managed to evade it mostly, other than for the odd near miss slipping and sliding here and there, and of course the strenuous effort it took to walk through it when travelling, well, anywhere on the festival site. But on the Sunday morning I managed to very nearly ruin the end of my festival by losing a wellie and stepping ankle deep into some of the squelchiest mud known to man.
Several baby wipes later, I was just about set for the day. Which started for us at the incredibly late time of 5 in the afternoon (the 4 days of binge drinking had taken its toll). Jeff Lynne’s ELO were playing on the Pyramid Stage by the time we’d finally made our way to the music stages, the finest point coming during the overwhelmingly ironic performance of ‘Mr Blue Sky’ that still prompted a mass singalong despite it absolutely pissing down.
Despite the upbeat songs lifting the mood massively, the subsequent trudge to the Other Stage to see Catfish and the Bottlemen seemed like an endless journey, with heads feeling delicate and legs weary from all of the extra effort needed to walk thanks to the super-sticky mud that swathed the festival site.
Catfish’s set was one of two halves. Aside from their clearly more hardcore fans at the very front of the stage, it seemed almost as if the crowd lost interest every other song (perhaps coinciding with the more mediocre tunes from their second album, The Ride). Although it must be said that every time I feared the set was dead, they’d draw the crowd back in, with ‘Cocoon’ being a particular gem.
And finally, after 5 days of mud, music and cider, it was time for the festival to draw to a close. Putting any of my cynical opinions of them aside, I geared myself up for Coldplay’s closing set on the Pyramid Stage.
The Glastonbury veterans are no novices in working a crowd, headlining the festival for this their fourth time. And bloody hell they put on a show. LED wristbands made for stunning lights throughout the crowd, a breath-taking spectacle. Coldplay’s many anthemic (‘Fix You’, ‘Yellow’, etc) tunes made for some amazing singalong moments uniting the audience. But the real nuggets of gold closing Glastonbury 2016 were the guest spots, first from Barry Gibb of The Bee Gees who performed ‘Stayin’ Alive’, and second from festival organiser Michael Eavis, who came on to sing Sinatra classic ‘My Way’ to 150,000 revellers.
Eavis could never have imagined that the ‘Pilton Pop, Folk and Blues Festival’ he set up all the way back in 1970, which 1,500 people attended for a mere quid a ticket, would grow into the highlight of the live music calendar as it is today. But as a punter who enjoyed every second of the weird and wonderful world that is Glastonbury Festival, I for one am glad that it has.