So, unexpectedly I spoke with one of the readers of the blog today. I wasn’t sure anyone was really reading it, so to hear positive feedback and comments was very cool and really made me feel good. I’ve known that I needed to finish the write ups of the trip. But in a way leaving something undone has sort of been a way to not completely put this in my past.
The experience was so unique and different from my normal daily life that in a small way leaving this a bit undone has prolonged the experience and allowed me to reflect about it under the guise of “thinking about my next post”. While I will eventually wrap the actual writing about the trip, the “beyond” part off the title will give me license to keep writing and musing about music and concerts.
But for now…there’s still more Glasto to talk about!
I awoke Sunday and stumbled out of my tent knowing this was my last day of music at the festival. The tents around me were now dusty and trash was strewn about. There was a sort of refugee camp feel with shellshocked (and still hung-over) attendees wandering about with glazed eyes. A few folks were already packing and slipping away quietly, their jobs and real lives beckoning them to try and beat the traffic queues predicted for the next day.
The toilets were truly grim today. The first set that I arrived at being too horrible to even enter and close the door. I walked a bit further and found a marginally better one that seem to have been cleaned sometime in the past few days. The worst of a challenging part of the entire experience. But, I survived it one more time, gathered my gear at the tent and headed out.
I listened to a bit of Frightened Rabbit at the Other Stage, acceptable but not memorable. As I write this a couple months later I couldn’t tell you the name of a single song they played. Not horrible or anything…just didn’t impress much. I maybe should have stayed to hear the Hold Steady, but the sun was hot and I moved along to the West Holts Stage for a second performance of The Bees. Different than the more intimate setting for the Queens Head Stage on Friday. But, songs like “Listening Man” still broke through and were very appealing to groove to while I sat on an empty bench.
Restless, after most of their set I moved along to the Avalon Tent and plopped my folding chair in a shady spot to hear Kristy Almedia. Nice voice and some fun arrangements with a tight band. Not compelling to have sought out any of her CD’s, but a nice interlude on a relaxing morning.
I took a break to grab some pizza and then bought some ice cream that I ate in the cool shade of the Queens Head tent. None of the bands had started up there, so it was uncrowded and I could sprawl in the shade and simply relax….(sensing a them for the morning?…relaxation).
While resting there I made this note:
Going to Glastonbury is hard, and it should be.
Just like life you have to experience the bad as well as the good.
Bad choices aren’t the end, you recover and move on.
Sunday morning was obviously my day to get philosophical….
I decided to join up with the eFest folks for Ray Davies. I got to the Pyramid Stage early and listened to about half of Slash’s set. Quite good overall and well suited for a sunny afternoon at Glastonbury. He capped the set with Sweet Child O’ Mine and Paradise City. A couple of real serious crowd pleasers there for sure.
The eFest folks found me at the meeting spot and we headed over to grab a space to the right of the stage near a delay tower for Ray’s set. I’d seen the Kinks way back in 1979 in San Francisco, but never since…even though I enjoy Ray’s writing very much. For this show he brought along a chorus to do the choral arrangements off his last CD. It was BRILLIANT! The power of all those voices propelling songs like Victoria, See My Friends and All Day & All of the Night was a high point of the day for me so far.
Here’s his complete setlist:
‘I Need You’
‘Dedicated Follower Of Fashion’
‘I’m Not Like Everybody Else’
”Til The End Of The Day’
‘After The Fall’
’20th Century Man’
‘You Really Got Me’
‘See My Friends’
‘The Working Man’s Cafe’
‘The Village Green Preservation Society’
‘All Day And All Of The Night’
The Kinks had been the original headliner of Glastonbury in 1970 and had cancelled to be replaced by T-Rex. So, it was fitting that he came back to celebrate the 40th and Ray dedicated the set to his former bassist Pete Quaife who had left the band (and the music business) in 1969 and had passed away the previous Wednesday. A few tears were shed by Ray (and many in the audience) as he further dedicated “Days” and “Waterloo Sunset” to his old friend near the end of the set.
Waterloo Sunset had been running through my mind each time I ended up at Waterloo Station while in London. And this emotional performance of the song pretty much cemented it as the theme song of my trip. I’ll never hear it again without thinking of that near perfect moment surrounded by strangers and folks that I barely knew, yet who all shared a kinship and a connection. I think that’s the “Glastonbury moment or Glastonbury experience” that people talk in hushed tones about. The unexpected way that worry and stress falls away and life outside the festival at that moment fades away. I can say for certain that Ray was more inspired in that field then he was a week later opening for Bob Dylan at Hop Farm. His set there was similar and decent, but lacked the emotion and magic he found that afternoon on the Pyramid.
Here’s how it sounded and looked:
I didn’t want to hang out for Jack Johnson as I planned to see him in London in a few days. I moved along to the Other Stage and heard a bit of “We Are Scientists”….sadly “we may be scientists, but we aren’t that good” was my take on them. I mean it wasn’t awful, but the lead singer had the foulest mouth outside of John Cougar back in the 80’s I’d ever heard. I’m not a prude…but, it was noticeable in it’s pointless excess. I shot some photos and then headed to my tent for a rest, some food and a couple calls to the US to say hello to family. In the distance MGMT played…which judging by what I heard…from a distance was the best way to listen to them.
While I chilled in my tent I made some note of “Things I Learned at Glastonbury”:
- Drink lots of water
- Take wellies and sunscreen…you never know what you’ll get.
- hen you see the milk tractor, buy a pint.
- No matter what you choose, you’ll miss something while doing something else…it’s okay.
- Others will make different choices and think they were better….they were, for them. Your choices were perfect for you. Celebrate them and appreciate all the good stuff you experience.
- Camp a reasonable distance from the toilets and upwind…trust me on this…
- Your clothes will get filthy, you may want to burn them or throw them away. Polish them up and hold onto them. That grime is part of the experience you’ve had at the Festival. Wear it proudly and remember where that T-shirt took you.
- Share what you brought and let others share with you. Both actions enrich your experience and your life.
- Assume you may never pass this spot again, so appreciate the moment while you’re there, but look forward to the next one and don’t spend too much time in the past. Those moments help define you, but they aren’t all you are or can be. Enjoy, accept and move on.
- There’s always another great song to hear in the next bar or stage down the road. You might miss it if you stand still for too long and live in the past.
- Don’t try to see everything, there’s too much for you to ever take in. Appreciate what you have and accept you can’t have it all.
Down to my last few hours, I made some decisions. I’d try to see folks I couldn’t easily see at home. Thus, I skipped Faithless, LCD Soundsystem Julian Casablancas to see Toots and the Maytalls at West Holts. A phenomenal set of reggae played in the late afternoon fading light to a happy crowd. Here’s a taste of an absolute legend from Jamaica:
You can see a bit of how happy the crowd was, that song was a highlight as was 54-46 (That’s my number), Pressure Drop and a very effective version of the John Denver song Take Me Home Country Roads….(look it up, it’s really good).
After Toots I headed to the LeftField Tent to see Paul Heaton. Now a lot of folks will have no idea who that is…he anchored the Housemartins in the 80’s and then went on to form the Beautiful South. Well known in the UK, not so much in the USA.
A brilliant writer who writes similar to someone like Graham Parker….a nice glossy sheen of music with a serious bite if you dig into the lyrics. Having missed any chance to see either of his previous bands, I knew this was a rare chance for me. He didn’t disappoint at all. From the Housemartins days he did both Build and Flag Day, neither of which I ever thought I’d get to hear live. Plus, he did a nice selection of solo songs off of “Cross Eyed Rambler” and his new CD “Acid Country”, including a biting song called “Everything is Everything” about the pervasiveness of advertising in this modern age. Brilliant stuff and he was joined on his last song by Billy Bragg, another obscure UK pleasure of mine to listen to.
Here’s a music video link because the quality of most of his live stuff on YouTube is poor. Either bad picture or sound on most I sampled.
When his set ended I saw that I might have time to catch some of Jackson Browne if I rushed to the acoustic tent. I’d already decided to avoid the crowds at Stevie Wonder, as I’d seen him previously here in So Cal (he was awesome). I heard a snippet of Rodrigo y Gabriela, who sounded great, but I didn’t stop for at West Holts. Then, I could hear Stevie in the distance next singing “…if you really love me…”
Tempting, but I pressed on.
I reched the acoustic tent finally where David Lindley was jamming away. I’m not sure how long he’d been playing but Jackson wasn’t on stage yet. Amazingly, there were less than a thousand people there (guessing). I walked right up to the barrier and took a spot stage right in front of David….amazing! My timing was perfect as Jackson Browne climbed onstage and he and David did a stunning version of For Everyman leading into Warren Zevon’s Carmelita, Sit Down Servant (a gospel song) and then The Pretender.
The Pretender was a very important album to me back when I was a confused teen and my mom was dying of cancer. The emotion of the whole thing hit me very hard, and I stood there overwhelmed to tears by hearing that song in that setting. A couple songs later he did Late for the Sky and I was again flooded with memories and emotions, both of the struggles and rewards of the past few days, but also with an overall feeling that went well beyond Glastonbury and touched upon years of memories.
I don’t think I could have planned a better ending to the Festival if I’d tried. As I’ve said before, it’s chance, luck or just serendipity that leads you to those moments at Glasto. I was buoyed by his set so much that I hardly felt my achey muscles and sore feet as I walked back to my tent.