Glastonbury 2003 Diary Day Two (Saturday)

On Saturday morning, there are posh loos with – joy of joys – hot running water, allowing me to wash my face before making a cup of tea outside the tent. Rob texts me to say that he and Richard have gone to eat at Lulu’s in the hospitality tent. My appetite doesn’t tend to kick in until later, so, when they return, we go for a wander around the site. After careful perusal of the food on offer, I go for the ‘top scram’ all-you-can-eat breakfast at the noodle bar at the far end of the site, near the acoustic stage – egg, bacon, sausage, eggy bread, beans and brown sauce, with a mug of tea thrown in – all for a fiver. This keeps me going until mid afternoon. By the time I’m ready for a dump, though, all but one of the hospitality flush toilets is blocked (gormless people using newspaper rather than toilet paper, evidently) necessitating a long queue, during which I read ‘The Guardian’ from cover to cover. By evening, they’re closed down and replace with portaloos – late arrivals will probably think the flush toilets and hot water are some kind of an urban myth.

I watch a few minute of proficient urban blues from Ben Andrews on the Pyramid Stage, then go for a walk around Green Fields, the alternative heart of the festival, which includes kids’ areas, healing fields, a teepee field and so on. This time, I even make it to the ‘sacred space’ where a single young black guy is wandering round endlessly muttering the incantation ‘pills, weed’. I’m not tempted by the hash brownies, but wander over to the Mojo beer tent by the Acoustic stage for a pint of Mystery Tor (the beer in the other bars is abysmal).

Later, Tony Benn is his usual, smug, self-congratulatory self in the Left ‘debate’ but the others think he’s great (and I agree with most of his arguments, it’s his style that annoys me), so I keep my opinion of him to myself. Jimmy Cliff goes down well in the scorching heat but does one of those endless crowd participation numbers that gets on my nerves, so Richard and I head over to join Rob at the Other Stage (hence missing The Harder They Come but never mind) and watch most of The Thrills. When we watched them at the Social last year, my mate Mike said they were overhyped, but he could see them headlining Saturday afternoon at Glasto – and here they are doing just that. The frontman has got better at communicating with the audience and they’re pleasant in an undemanding way, going down well despite their first album not being out for another two days.

The Thrills’ reception is as nothing to that for The Polyphonic Spree – nearly thirty exuberant people in red robes singing sub-Flaming Lips epics to the sunshine. They’re made for a steaming hot summer afternoon at Glasto and, for the first half hour, I really enjoy them, as do the crowd. I can see why friends have been keen to persuade me to go and see them at Rock City on Wednesday. After forty minutes, however, I’m getting bored, and wander off during their endless, yet-more-of-the-same final number.

Richard’s keen on seeing Radio Four, punk rockers from New York, so the three of us hike up to the New Bands tent to check them out. They’re OK, but, after four numbers, we’ve seen enough and go for a beer. Rob and I are big fans of the Libertines, whose lead singer and songwriter, Pete Doherty, has gone AWOL, and agree to check out their Other Stage appearance at 6.50. They’ve got a substitute guitarist and sound right, apart from the vocals, but the spark has vanished. Live, the couple of times I’ve seen them before, they were anarchic and very, very exciting, reminding me of the one time I saw The Clash, 25 years ago. On Saturday afternoon, we agree to leave after half an hour, even though they haven’t yet played their best song, What A Waster. Then they start playing it but the performance is so uninspired, we keep going. Sad.

I decide to check out a bit of Supergrass who I’m quite fond of but have never seen live. I get a good spot, but they fail to achieve lift off, so I head back through Hospitality to join Rob and Richard for the heavily anticipated Kings Of Leon. The others think these are the bees’ knees but I’m unimpressed and slink back to the Other Stage for some Arthur Lee and Love. Arthur is playing the entirety of one of my favourite albums Forever Changes and, normally I’d be there for the whole thing. But I have a ticket to see him do it all over again at Rock City on Tuesday (bought before I knew he was on at Glasto), so I restrict myself to just two full numbers, finding him on fine fettle, then head over to the Cabaret tent.

Yes, it’s my mission this time to visit every single tent at the festival (except the cinema – I don’t see any point in watching movies at a performing arts festival) and, while I don’t like Bill Bailey’s stand-up quite enough to fork out fifteen quid to see him, I’m happy to catch his act for (sort of) free. Unfortunately, lots of other people have the same idea and are standing five deep outside the tent, barely able to see. Bailey is already on, five minutes early. I slowly worm my way in until, by the end of the set, I’m standing inside the tent (where there’s room for one row of standers, while everybody else sits) with a good view. For some reason, he does a short set with endless encores. It’s mildly amusing rock/philosophy parody stuff, but nowhere near as side-splitting as his turn in the brilliant Black Books TV series. I leave after the positively final encore (he comes back for one more, despite having over-run). I’m having a good time, despite not having seen any complete sets (unless you count Tony Benn’s contribution to the Iraq ‘debate’) but now it’s time to see my second truly great band of the weekend.

(I should point out that, had I not seen them four times in the previous three years, I would undoubtedly have gone to see The Flaming Lips on the Pyramid Stage that evening. After REM, they’re probably the best live band in the world. I don’t because I know their current act backwards and also because the area will be heaving – as far as I’m concerned, it’s not worth seeing even the best band in the world if you have to do so at a huge distance. Tonight’s headliners, Radiohead, are the main reason that this year’s festival sold out in eighteen hours, instead of the usual two or three weeks. I have no interest in seeing Radiohead. I mean, The Bends has some good moments but I don’t like anything after it – I had my prog-rock period in the 70’s and don’t need another one thank you very much, but we’ll discuss that tomorrow.)

My final stop of the evening is The Other Stage, for the wonderful Super Furry Animals. I have never seen less people at the Other Stage, even early in the day, but those of us there (many, unlike me, Welsh) love the band and greet them raucously. They play a great but somewhat low key set (it doesn’t help that their video projector packs in) of their best songs. I’m much nearer the front and the crowd are much less crazed than when I saw them four or five years ago. During the closing, ecstatic, The Man Don’t Give A some idiot starts throwing water at us. It’s cold and I’m annoyed. Only after a couple of minutes do I realise that the huge security chasm in front of the stage means I’m a mere five people from the barrier and the water is being thrown by security minders meaning to calm the steaming, dehydrated masses who would normally be at the front for the headliner on a Saturday night. Me, I’m jumping about to get warm. The band come back on dressed as Yetis for the last, wild bit and it takes me less than a minute to get back to the tent. Rob’s left Radiohead after half an hour saying they were dull. Kind of an odd end to a Glasto Saturday night.

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