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Glastonbury 2009 – A Scorching Hot Success

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Being a festival so epic in stature, you might think that Glastonbury would neglect cutting-edge dance music in favour of rock and indie. You’d be wrong. Glastonbury takes pride in providing its faithful crowd with a mix of the classic and contemporary, bringing some of the best talent—both established and up-and-coming—that dance music has to offer. As well as the Dance Village—an entire area devoted to dance music with a wide-reaching line-up and superb atmosphere—there are plenty of other hidden gems for keen clubbers to stumble upon whilst exploring the expansive site. As we watched the sunrise from the van window casually cruising past Bristol early Friday festival morning, I almost believed the rumours that this year’s Glasto was all about a heatwave and no wellies or windshields were required. An hour later, driving into Glastonbury admiring my flip-flops and dreaming about the prospect of one hell of a golden tan, the heavens opened up and the familiar sound of thunder and pouring rain began to smoothly batter the van, waiting for the tents to come out and face not only the local music, but a stream of waterproof challenges.  As I squelched through the mud pretending I enjoy being barefoot and that my inappropriate footwear was all part of a masterplan to keep me as close as possible to nature, I wondered whether it was all really worth it, especially when the stench from the long-drop bogs unintentionally reminded me of the unhealthy, primitive state of the overused, under-cleaned toilets. This year may have been all about the legends, but first there had to be time for muddy self-indulgence, which of course found me heading straight over to the Acoustic Stage, where the likes of Benjamin Taylor, David Saw and the naturally nice Newton Faulkner were gently stirring the crowd into a folk inspired frenzy, with a mixture of velvet vocals, subtle percussion and seriously appreciated finger picking.  With one eye on John Peel, in a crowd filled with as many children, teenagers and students as ageing hippies and old time rockers, I watched David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash take on the Pyramid stage and croon their classics to perfection, gazing around at their admirers trying to figure out how many saw these men when they were merely boys at Woodstock. I tried to mentally block out the Michael Jackson tribute tracks being played at various sympathetic bars and visually distracted myself from the emergence of bizarre slogan t-shirts which rapidly went on sale as soon as the first headline broke, emblazoned with delightful chunks of wit such as ‘I was at Glastonbury when Michael Jackson died’. The Geordie quintet, Maximo Park pleased all the Northern rockers with a 45-minute stint which included sing-along festival-pleasers such as ‘Limassol’, ‘Graffiti’ and ‘Apply Some Pressure’ and there were plenty of younger brands to keep the trendsetters happy. Lily Allen provided her usual brand of high energy fun and was a fine antidote to all of the others taking themselves far too seriously, Jason Myraz was both hypnotically engaging and utterly adorable with the crowd behind him from the start and waving lighters at the finish chanting his chart-topping debut, ‘I’m Yours’. East London rapper, Dizzee Rascal gave a heavy dose of urban vibes to all the rap fans and taught the rest what bouncing was all about with an energetic set punctuated by sing-alongs including ‘Jus’ A Rascal’, ‘Sirens’ and ‘I Luv U’ while Nick Cave proved that his dark brand of moody genius still define him as one of the greatest songwriters of our time. The nation may have been mourning the man behind the moonwalk, but when Neil Young hit the Pyramid stage on Friday night with ‘Hey Hey, My My’, opening a set crammed with anthems and much desired classics, I knew exactly why I was still there, rocking in the free world. He may be fat, balding and anything but young, but Neil’s refusal to burn out like so many of his generation was more than justified by his dazzling performance, proving he deserved to dominate the summer’s favourite stage, and that he is certainly not down to the wire or planning on fading away any time soon. Closing with a Beatles cover, Young summed up the spirit of this year’s festival and set a very high bar for the other acts to follow. And there was of course one icon more than up for that challenge. His name isn’t Rolf Harris. There are many alternative methods I have tried to clear up a hangover in the past, but gridlock in the Jazz World arena in 32 degrees heat trying to shake off the Saturday morning hangover hell was a mistake that was unfortunately shared by 120,000 other people. Rolf’s incessant cheeriness didn’t help matters. Luckily the cider did, so I started to appreciate the change in weather and work my way back to my peak in time for a man who doesn’t have the capacity to disappoint or any interest in a paintbrush. As a self-proclaimed, immensely dedicated, die-hard Bruce Springsteen fan, I could never begin to pretend that there is an ounce of objectively towards my thoughts on his performance, but by every objective measure and by the reaction of the crowd which turned out in force to see The Boss do his thing, he gave a truly awe inspiring performance with more charisma, talent, stamina and presence than the big Pyramid has seen in years. Blinding sunshine provided the perfect backdrop to classics such as ‘Dancing in the Dark’, ‘Born to Run’, ‘Prove It All Night’ combined with newer tracks such as ‘Radio Nowhere’ and ‘Working on a Dream’, all striking the right chords with a heaving, hungry crowd who had turned out in force to see the man behind the myth strut his much praised stuff. Despite the crowd’s lack of imagination and desperate chants for ‘Born in the USA’, Springsteen refused to churn out that particular crowd pleaser for the masses, but still gave two-and-a-half hours of undiluted, working class magic and left everyone wanting more, despite breaking his time limit with two massive encores. The Springsteen extravaganza was followed by Emily’s party, which saw men dressed as mushrooms and women wearing very little at all, gel together through mud, sweat, music and eccentric strokes of madness, ensuring that everyone lucky enough to be there, wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. There was no sign of the party ever coming to a close as we made our way towards the top of the hill to watch the early morning sunrise and gaze in awe at the novelty of Glasto basked in atypical glory, with its very professional, clean tepees glistening like beacons in the distance. After a strong, overdue coffee from the 24 hour breakfast bar, a dose of star studded reggae seemed like the ideal way to start a Sunday morning, and New York’s finest, Easy Star All Stars were more than ready to provide a wake up call. A mixture of smooth, funky classics and their unique twist on tracks from the likes of Pink Floyd, Radiohead and the Beatles, provided the perfect warm up for a crowd still reeling from the magic of Springsteen and waiting for Status Quo to rock all over their world.  The Quo could do no wrong and with Tom Jones loitering on the peripherals for his 16.00 slot, it was clear the housewives and grandmothers had no intention of leaving early. After a six year break which has been mainly focused on family, the odd biography and some serious cheese rolling, Blur proved they still had what they needed to close a fantastic festival in fantastic style, belting out their greatest hits with guts and enthusiasm to defy even the bravest critics. The last time I saw them was at the peak of their Parklife glory and as they sang ‘For Tomorrow’ it reminded me of the brilliance of Britpop and their place in history as one of the greatest bands of a generation. There will always be purist whingers who complain that Glastonbury is now a pit of commercialised Babylonian capitalism and for those willing to part with £6 for a murky Soya burger whilst wearing a new £20 MJ T-shirt and staying in a shiny piece of shelter dripping in luxury convenience, it probably is. But for the freewheelers amongst us who feel happiest away from the conventional trappings of Planet Reality, who for one weekend can roam freely absorbing the raw diversity of some of the world’s greatest artists, listening to punk poets and lefty speakers sharing their thoughts, views and revolutionary ideals, looking at visions of the future in solar powered showers and stinking heaps of compost, joining the fires, trail-blazers and bongos at the Stone Circle after dark, I know exactly why I do it. It was the perfect end to one of the most exciting and colourful festivals around. Whether immersed in the craziness of Dance Village or Trash City, chilling at the Other Stage or taking in the sights and sounds of the Pyramid Stage, Glastonbury is always an experience. And it’s one that invariably lasts longer in the memory than a host of similar events. What more can you ask for?

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