Glastonbury… Live From A Couch

Art & Culture

So another year, another 5 days of revelry over in old Pilton come to an end. We’ve seen the flags, the rubbish on the floor, the blonde girls in denim cut-offs, the pictures of professional turner-upper Alexa Cheung and the comments about it being a ‘middle class’ festival. This ridiculous quote points out a basic and very obvious fact, if you can afford to lay out £200 for a ticket, £100 for travel and roughly £400 to spend while there, surely all festivals are middle class, the pre-occupation with class and weather are things not even worth thinking about….making this opening paragraph equally as useless…so let’s move on…

Glastonbury first came onto my radar in 1994, the first year it was shown on TV. It seemed like another world. Due to it being televised throughout the festivals’ entirety, they had to fill the gap between the bands by showing the likes of John Hegley’s poetry set, a stoned Joe Strummer playing acoustically round a camp-fire, comedian Malcolm Hardy’s infamous naked balloon dance, John Peel's endearing attempt at live television presentation and the earnest but worthy attempts at reminding viewers that there's a political aspect to the festival and of course, flags! 

The coverage now sanitises the event. There’s no footage of the dance areas at all, bar the quick mention of Arcadia or Shangri-La , no Mark Thomas waxing lyrical, nothing about the vibe up at the stone circle, no mention of the psych line-up at Williams Green where Bevis Frond and Toy probably performed the best sets of the weekend, no theatre stage fun, nothing of the guy who plays honky tonk piano on a vintage bicycle, the guys on stilts dressed as police pretending to arrest people, the group of 40 trolls stealing hugs from passing people, the creepy robot face men who take a dance from you, the village disco tea and cucumber sandwich set playing their fave hits of yesterday with informative information about each track being played on dusty 7 inches, the chain-smoking tea ladies selling hot cuppas for 30 pence, the 20 kid dance troop performing urban dance to “Planet Rock” next to the tweed clad gents having a peaceful game of cricket….

No, none of that, just highly unlikeable presenters relaying things they were advised were amazing by their team, Nick Grimshaw twerking with someone famous for being the offspring of someone who was famous in the 80s, while some well-known actor you wouldn't expect to be there getting involved (in the VIP area with their bodyguard), Yayyy crack on, you're just like us and we are one big fucking happy family, up until 7am Monday morning obviously, then we revert back to hating you.

This was the first time I haven’t attended for some time, when returning from the event last year it became obvious that the Beeb had ramped up its footage, there were hours of footage available on I-Player for a whole month, this is a great thing.

So with deep seated and very vocal jealousy about not going, and the fifteen pound ‘cancellation fee’ Glastonbury stole from me (along with my Castle Carey dreams) still feeling as painful as rubbing salt into an axe-wound, I delved into the footage, the live streams, TV and 6 Music coverage, and pretty soon a few things became very apparent.





A.      Mainstream Media don’t know shit.

Their coverage could be applied to any festival, only the name changes. How come these so called papers get the significant amount of blags every year when all they come up with is how some actress you’ve never heard of looked really classy eating a burger – AND WORE WELLIES. The mainstream media’s footage peppers an inherent lack of musical knowledge, with a fixation on so called celebrities being there, resulting in something almost as creepy as Nicholas Witchell’s ‘career’ stalking the Royal Family. The time spent not following celebs backstage (80%) was spent watching the headliners ONLY, then adding a quick visit up to the Stone Circle fucking up everybody’s chilled vibe in the process.

B.      Black People don’t play the Pyramid Stage unless they’re session musicians.

Kelis’s latest album, the Dave Sitek produced ‘Food’ is purpose made for early Saturday afternoon Pyramid Stage scheduling, putting her there was a really canny move, but with only Rudimental and De La Soul (also on early afternoon sets), it’s a low key showing for black artists on this stage.  With the Pyramid Stage programmers seemingly hell bent on sucking on a pop dick, surely a booking for Pharrell, Laura Mvula, Bruno Mars or even Aloe Blacc would have addressed this misbalance.

C.      Girls on guys’ shoulders and idiots with flares are totally NOT ok.

The girl thing is an old issue but flares seem to have recently replaced the gas capsules, you know, the ones you inhale then throw on the floor to choke the cows months after you’ve dumped them there…yeah, that’s them.

Flares of the trouser variety, fine, a bit 1989 but you know, whatever. The other flares are dangerous, they are FIRE, fire burns people and while you get the attention your prickish me-me-me attitude seeks, you are causing a health and safety risk by potentially burning people around you…oh, but you’re seen on the TV footage so you don’t give a fuck? That’s ok then.

The girl on guys’ shoulders thing does serve a purpose, albeit in an incredibly arrogant way. Girls are on the main, shorter than guys, girls can’t see, guys don’t care, the girls on guys shoulder thing tends to be exclusively for the Pyramid Stage but this is a cavernous space, so go further back onto one of the hilly areas and result – stuff can be seen.

For each shot of the girls on guys’ shoulders, you could tell this wasn’t to get a better view of The Black Keys copying Jack White copying when he was good in The White Stripes, it’s solely to get onto the video screens or TV footage. The girls on guys’ shoulders thing is as sickening as seeing a someone take a selfie, which in itself is like watching someone please themselves down below…but using a camera. The girls on guys shoulders thing could be classed as the girls fighting back, using guys to obscure the view of other guys, but let’s not gendercize this shit, get the hell down.



D.      The BBC coverage is a total misrepresentation of the Festival.  

What rankles about the BBC coverage, (not including 6 Music who did a sterling job across the site) was a drastic lack of anything beyond the ‘bigger tents, it’s as if Pyramid/Other/West Holts/Park/Peel and Introducing were the only places with any music, making their coverage misrepresentative of the whole festival.  With Jo Wylie acting (as usual) as if she’s just discovered the concept of music which she’s kindly sharing with us and giving us a hot tip about a brand new band she’s just dragged from the obscurity, we might like them too, they’re called Metallica. Other Beeb presenters acting as some kind of musical authoritarians but not actually giving us anything new, Anna Calvi who by the sound of the set played on 6 Music performed one of the best sets of the weekend but managed to get just one song showed at about 1.40am.

I learnt nothing new from the footage apart from an act called Jungle who were pretty good and the heavily hyped Royal Blood look worthy of the attention. Other Beeb authoritarians such as Lauren Laverne told me everything was amazing, varying the pronunciation of the word to indicate how amazing they were – so Arcade Fire  were amaaaaaaaazing, Elbow – amaazing, Disclosure – amazzzing,  Kasabian (a band 3 albums past their prime) were amaaaaaaaaaaazing, she didn’t see anything else but if she had, it would have been amaaaaaaaaaaazing. 

Apart from the obligatory 5 minutes about NYC downlow's gayness or Block 9's urban decay probably on, on a Saturday night, there was nothing about the things that truly make this stand out way beyond the other festivals. no comedy, weird performance art, no midgets in wedding dresses being interfered with by a giant dressed as a fox, no wonky theatre, no tiny psych bands… etc etc.


Not having shown these things is good in a way because it means those Pyramid stage bores who find the existence of Ed Sheeran acceptable don't know about places like William's Green or Toad Hall, but seeing as the BBC blags about 600 tickets, this kind of blanket footage of Pyramid/Other/Holts/Peel/Introducing falls shockingly short of what I expect the BBC to be doing. If each set they showed didn’t have the artist hollering Hello Glastonburyyyyyyyyyyyyy during their set, this could have been footage from Reading, Bestival or the nadir of all UK fests V and where’s the magic in that?

Chris Todd