Magazine article The Spectator

Glasto Etiquette

Magazine article The Spectator

Glasto Etiquette

Article excerpt

After I got back from Glastonbury this year, I did as I always do and watched it on TV (BBC3 - which did an excellent job, apart from playing way loo many Manic Street Preachers songs), trying to pretend I was still there, worrying about the bands I'd missed but which looked as if they'd been rather good (e.g. The Flaming Lips), and seeking confirmation that someone somewhere had thought the same thoughts about the things they'd seen that I had.

Mogwai, for example. Mogwai are a fairly obscure, miserable-sounding instrumental rock band from Scotland and I doubt honestly they'd be up many Spectator readers' street, but during their magisterially epic set they brought me about as close to perfect happiness as I imagine it's possible to get. Twice, in fact. The sun had just come out after a grim morning (Glastonbury is a 900-acre clay bowl and you really don't want to be there when it rains) and I stood there with my shirt off, arms stretching upwards, massive grin on my face, so delirious with joy that sometimes I found myself laughing out loud and sometimes almost crying. And I wasn't even on major hallucinogens.

At moments like these what you want, obviously, is someone to tell you that you're having as good a time as you think you're having. I tried the Fawn first but it wasn't enough. What I needed was a complete stranger, probably someone from a bit nearer the front of the stage, where the fans tend to be a bit more dedicated. So I abandoned the Fawn and went in search.

Talking to complete strangers is probably the thing I love most about Glastonbury. You catch someone's eye or maybe home in on an overheard snippet of your neighbour's conversation in the Tiny Tea Tent and bang - you're in there, chatting like old friends about anything and everything. It's the etiquette. Everyone's there for a good time and everyone's your friend (apart from the occasional gang of drunken hard men, who've missed the point and go round trying to pick fights with people they think are staring at them but who in fact have just had too many mushrooms). My favourite exchange this year was with a delightful policeman wearing fake dreadlocks under his helmet. I asked him whether it was allowed and he said, 'I expect you've spent the weekend taking drugs and that's not allowed either.'

Anyway, this is roughly what I was after during the Mogwai set. But I had reckoned without the problem of the Pyramid Stage, which is that, being the main one, it tends to attract the straightest and most mainstream of the crowds. This has, of course, been exacerbated by Glastonbury's stricter entry policy. …

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