Where’s my fucking helicopter?
I am an intrepid explorer. I am a filthy Shakesperian joker. I am a luxury spa mud wrap. A bass wave inside a bass cone inside a bass bin. Vibrating. Welcome to Glastonbury 2011, sludge and mud and rain and sun and music, sweet music. It’s Friday and by 10am the tent is up, by 2pm we have already seen two of my favourite bands (Metronomy, Two Door Cinema Club), by 4pm the rain has set in for the day and we begin the mantra as we march around a mercilessly soggy site – love the mud, love the mud, let it slide you to your destination. And it really works if you work with it, move, slip, clog, slide. We’re on our way to Fleet Foxes on Other. They are majestic in wellingtons and muted browns and greens, like Robin Hood’s merry men in an iD photo shoot. They are shy and unassuming when not playing, transcendent and magnificent as soon as they hit the first perfect note. Of course the standout song for me is the existential, Glasto-perfect Blue Spotted Tail: “Why in the night sky are the lights hung, why is the earth moving round the sun, floating in the vacuum with no purpose not a one, why in the night sky are the lights hung.” It continues a 40-odd year tradition of cosmic musings of various calibres in the these very fields. U2 continue the theme by introducing their show with David Bowie’s 70s drifter Space Oddity before flashing up slogans deconstructing modern life: Everything You Know Is Wrong and the Bono/God-friendly Religion Is A Clue, before thanking all of us in the mud and the driving rain for the life they have had. It feels like a swan song, some kind of ending. Of course they know how magnificent One and I still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For and Far Away, So Close and a whole bunch of other songs are. Equally they must know that they haven’t written anything that’s any good since Beautiful Day. They end with a snip of Coldplay’s Yellow, which is beautiful and prompts one of the most wonderful things about Glasto, the mass sing along – look at the stars, see how they shine for you, there’s that cosmic theme again. And finally, they play their first ever single, Out Of Control, that came out only nine years after the first festival. Round, like a circle in a spiral, floating in space, endings and beginnings. I am a diesel generator generating bass energy. I am a pulse, a wave, a scientific certainty. I am an idea that must come to fruition. I am the future perfect, the tense, the giant fence, world without boundaries, games without frontiers, as long as we’re inside, are we locked in or are they locked out? I am a self-medicating Avalon virus check. I must be deleted. I am a cyber-attack, a challenge-response code. I am a time-bomb waiting to explode. I am a message from another world wrapped in another world. We’re in Avalon, the far fields, by the wall, like 1989 never happened. We’re in Kreuzberg, Avalon, home of the surreal, the make-believe, build-your-own future. It’s a soft nightmare,a living work of art, a stroke of genius, a pre-fab, post-apocalyptic, post-acid house, drugged-up, over-dosed, end of the world playground that makes the real festival feel like real life. It’s another level, it’s Morpheus’s red pill, the twisted wonderland. It’s genius, cracked. Back in our other reality, still inside the perimeter, but not out of our heads, metaphorically, we’re loving the Balearic Folk Orchestra, covering acid house classics with acoustic guitar and mini-harp. We’re loving Nicolas Jaar for his cool and his cool band and his don’t care attitude, but we’re disappointed it’s not more live, too much backing track is a little lazy. Unlike James Blake who is real and raw and heartfelt and meaning it, whatever it is, he has it. I am a disc, spinning. I am a DJ, I play old school new school because jack is back and it sounds like it did then, but more, well, more now somehow. It’s Sunday grubby Sunday. Oh, and the sun is shining, turning the mud to glue then flat baked brown, like walking on crusty bread. We catch Low Anthem on the Pyramid and can’t help crying along to their amazing version of Cohen’s Bird On A Wire, four souls crowded round one microphone, four souls joined by sound waves. And today is all about voices, and all of it’s all about voices, the sounds of humans expressing themselves, because those are always the good ones, the live ones, the real ones, the ones that play with our feelings. And so we’re in a Cornish pub, somewhere in the shopping streets, drinking Tribute and singing along with Fishermans Friends, an a capella group from Cornwall – I want to go home, I want to go home, feel so broke up and I want to go home. And, perhaps, after the final headliner, that’s the only safe thing to do. Beyonce’s show is pure cabaret, imagine the MTV Awards recorded in a field of mud and you’re there. She stares into the camera lens and tells us (and the watching world on TV) how she can’t believe she is here, how she needs a moment to get her breath and take it in, before launching into her gut-wrenchingly awful new single, urging us to sing along. I bet it sucks to be you right now, we chant dutifully. There is no sense of irony as she continues to churn out turgid drivel as if made to perfectly soundtrack the end of capitalism. It’s like reverse mad, so brilliantly awful, so shiningly perfectly disdainful, eyes in turn confident, staring, then empty, then pleading, then desperate, please buy my, please buy me, please buy my music, please believe in this thing that’s so vacuous, so empty, like the space that surrounds us, like another level of stupid, down the rabbit hole, beyond avalon, perversely crazy and completely in the real. There is information collected on camera, there are probabilities and improbabilities. And the days are so long and fruitful, and everything sort of ends up being about endings, about the past and the future, round, like a circle in a spiral. From the Spirit of 71 to the skittery, off beat, internal rhythm and bass of Blake. U2s journey from punk to pomp to politics. From the difficult adolescence of Pulp to the slo-mo push and swagger of Jaar. It’s about an end to things, things we used to love, like CDs, things we still love, like books, and the start of something else. The future in a young girl’s eyes, a world we’ll never really understand, emerging, like a butterfly from the ruins of our former promised land. Now where’s my fucking helicopter.