Glastonbury Festival, Pilton, Somerset, England 22-26 June 2022
Glastonbury eh. It’s a monster; a monster with many heads, but a lovely beast. It isn’t all about seeing bands in a conventional way, although the tented stages give a bit of that. Sitting around in the sun, with a beer, in a field and hundreds of metres from a stage can be as enjoyable as seeing a gig on the front rail – that sense of community and the big event.
The site is now so enormous it’s best not to race around too much or you’ll just get frustrated. I thought it was huge in 1987 on my first visit, but there were only 60,000 people then: there are three or four times that now.
So much is written about this monster-fest and there is so much coverage to be seen live and on iPlayer that these notes can only introduce my limited meander through, with a photo selection to illustrate. Every festival goer carves their own path through the musical mayhem and other entertainment. I couldn’t even begin comment on the art, performance and entertainment around every corner.
Armed with the Glastonbury app and ‘Clashfinder’ I picked my way around a course of about 40 plus miles over five days, sometimes with part or all our group of 10 glamping just off the site, with my wife or on my own for those ‘I gotta see it’ performances. You need to plot your own course. Back home later I watched loads more on iPlayer and there are always regrets but you can’t be everywhere.
We got in place on the Wednesday. It was a ‘find your feet day’, get your wristbands day and get your bearings. No music to speak of.
Thursday was once again frustrating (I was here in 2019 and 2017, the last two). Thousands of people trying to see some bands, any bands, but the site isn’t geared up to deal with these huge demands until it all opens up and the main stages and tents get going on the Friday.
A few drinks and a wander to the BBC Introducing Stage. Unfortunately, that afternoon introducing dance music – not for me. Then the entire site started to descend on a stage tent at the central green where Mel C was appearing! I turned back early on for some more dance music torture. A few of the others joined me and after a few songs on the little stage opposite with real guitars, again we went on a long hike, this time down to The Truth Stage in the South East corner to try and see Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs. The constrained area with high metal walls was really busy and just kept filling. Another stage to the right, separated by a bar and more metal sheeting, blasted out hip hop, so one ear was getting one band and the other the sound we’d come for. We gave up after a handful of songs and made our way back through a maze of dance stages and temporary clubby type arenas and settings, including The Meat Factory, a flaming derelict building with sounds pumping out of it. We weaved our way back through the jaw droppingly imaginative visual experiences and the mind blowingly awful audio. A lot of people like it. Each to their own. I don’t get it.
Friday was the grand opening and I headed for The Other Stage for The Libertines. A very big crowd and moving around to get and retain a view was hard going…but we were off and running. Three days of wandering, sitting, standing, laying, drinking. Wonderful.
A slow shuffle around to The Other Stage and out, got me to the main Pyramid Stage for Ziggy Marley. Lovely atmosphere. Better view. The large crowd dancing. I should have stayed but missed the end to see the start of Blossoms‘ set back on The Other Stage. I’ve seen them several times, including here on this stage in 2017. A happy mood. I missed the excitement of my wife Sally being talked at from the stage after she offered lead singer Tom Ogden some suncream – we met him later to add to the moment.
I did leave early though as I was intent on finding new boys Inhaler in the John Peel tent. A great set – well supported and one of my Friday highlights. I caught their breakthrough song on my phone which is here on my YouTube Channel: My Honest Face. Unmistakeably
Bono’s son but he doesn’t mention it. Great band. Seen them twice since.
After that I went down the front at the Pyramid Stage for
Wolf Alice – squeezed right in surround by young women enjoying some laughing gas. The band had been tweeting their anxiety for the previous 24hrs having been held up in the US with flight delays. They made it. A bit of light rain didn’t dampen a tremendous late afternoon performance.
I moved back up the hill a bit to find friends and watched Robert Plant & Alison Krauss. Enjoyed the sounds but not a sniff of an old Led Zeppelin song so I was a little disappointed given the stage, slot and audience.
Sam Fender followed on the same stage. Two really good albums to work with now, so he can deliver a longer set of substance. A singer songwriter with some rock’n’roll power. Missed the end – I’d seen him before – as another bucket list band that had dodged me for years was on the increasingly favoured surroundings of the John Peel tent: The Jesus and Mary Chain. A glorious dark mix of feedback and indie hits. I sat down against a side pole later on in the set and got bitten by something on the back of my knee which led to a nasty reaction and a leg next day like an elephant. Still, I got to hear April Skies, Some Candy Talking, Just Like Honey and Happy When it Rains live.
I had decided I would go and see Foals on The Other Stage to finish off Friday. I watched about four songs and thought these are not for me. I’d been oversold this one. I trudged off to see Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott but as I neared the Acoustic Stage everyone came pouring out. Messed up there.
Today was a lot of wandering, drinking, grazing and people watching but not much serious band watching. I didn’t have much of a plan. I was led to the packed and overflowing John Peel tent to find young singer songwriter Holly Humberstone – an exceptional talent which the bulging tent occupants were clearly already aware of. I sat outside the tent and couldn’t see her even on a neck craning forage in – just heard her. You do need to get in place early, especially if an artist on a small stage pulls a big crowd in.
After that I went wandering. I found Egyptian Blue on the BBC Introducing Stage. I’d seen them supporting at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea and well worth a look, now with increased confidence.
I eventually made the hike over to The Park Stage. Radio 6 darlings Squid played to a big crowd and I couldn’t resist being involved.
Next a beer in one of the bar tents up there – more live music inside – and back to the mainstream, The Pyramid Stage, and found some of my festival buddies for a really top-notch Noel Gallagher and the High-Flying Birds set – a smattering of Oasis songs brought on the singalongs.
After that, an hour’s gap until Sir Paul McCartney….but everyone just hung on to their spaces. I had to see him didn’t I – never thought I ever would. Over the next hour the whole area just got busier and busier. A trip to the gents, no liquids now – hold your place. It was rammed. Nowhere to move to.
A huge set with guests Dave Grohl and Bruce Springsteen. It was well paced with some remarkable Beatles songs played in these incredible surroundings. I was so pleased to have been there and it was genuinely emotional. I don’t know about McCartney but I was knackered by the end. My legs had given up – effect of the Jesus and Mary Chain insect bite kicking in – and I had a go in somebody’s chair who took pity on me.
A new start on Sunday and first band we watched was on The Other Stage – armed with lightweight camping chairs, ice cream and cartons of chilled white wine, three of us pitched up a fair way back, with a bit of room. A good spot to relax for three sets in a row: Sea Girls, Lianne La Havas and Declan McKenna.
Back to The Park Stage for me after that as I went in search of Jarvis (Cocker) followed by Jack White. The area was swamped but I found a spot to gaze at these legends.
Then my focus of the day: I had to get to see Aussie punk rockers Amyl and the Sniffers. Their Comfort to Me album is a belter and I had played it to death. Back to the John Peel Stage nice and early and I went down on the front rail. Great position. Great atmosphere and considerable excitement.
I even took a video to capture the moment. A top moment: Guided by Angels. (My YouTube Channel link.)
I felt I had done what I came for and nothing could better that for the day. Weary, I headed back via the closing set on the Acoustic Stage: Suzanne Vega. I saw her on the main stage here in 1989. It was the first time I ever saw double – drinking white wine in the heat – and after watching the ‘Suzanne Vega twins’ for about half an hour I had to crash out in our tent pitched in view of the stage. It felt appropriate to give her my more sober attention some 33 years later. Very good and all the well-known songs.
That was it. Glastonbury 2022…well my wander through the monster and snapshot of it. I saw one of the four headliners and there must be 20 major bands I wish I’d seen….in fact I’d love to have another go with the same line-up.