Glastonbury 2003 Diary Day Three (Sunday)

On Sunday, I go for a morning walk, taking breakfast at the same noodles place as yesterday – evidently local suppliers have run out of eggs (25,000 consumed – that’s one for every six people – didn’t the egg people know we’d want more?) so there’s no fried egg or eggy bread but there is fried bread, fried mushrooms and an extra sausage (plus bacon and the excellent bubble and squeak I forgot to mention yesterday). I read my cheap copy of ‘The Observer’ (‘REM triumph’) then set off to see what’s happening. In the Circus tent, the Heart And Soul Experience are beginning – an exuberant, slightly strange set from a group of young performers with Downs syndrome. I watch the first few numbers then take in The Carnival Collective on the outdoor stage. While I’m watching, a bowler hatted man with a raining umbrella walks by and I get wet (no, I wasn’t on drugs – he was one of many ‘walkabout performances’ – a little later I see the Beatles on stilts, dressed as the cover of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and singing Help).

Rob and I pack up our tents at midday, dumping our stuff in the other two’s, then go and see My Morning Jacket. Their lead singer has so much long hair covering his face that he looks like one of the Super Furries in their Yeti costumes the night before. Other new bands have disappointed but MMJ are tremendous, with a much harder sound than on their The Tennessee Fire CD, which is all I know of theirs. The singer has a sweet, powerful Southern voice. Good songs, too. Forty minutes shoot by.

Next comes my prog-rock moment. I saw most of my favourite bands of that ilk when I was a teenager (starting with the Pink Floyd touring Eclipse, the prototype of Dark Side Of The Moon, the tickets for which were a fourteenth birthday present, if you want to work out my age). However, there were two I missed: Led Zeppelin (the story of how I failed to get tickets for the LZIV tour is one of the great unwritten tragedies of my life, but I made up for it a little by seeing Robert Plant and Priory of Brion at Glasto 2000) and Yes. I was a big fan of Yes until getting Tales From Topographic Oceans for Christmas just after it came out. I dutifully played the double album for weeks before realising that the only thing I liked on the entire four sides was the chorus on side two. I didn’t listen to them again for twenty odd years.

That said, if you ignore their decidedly dodgy lyrics, Yes made some pretty great music before ’74. They were playing the One World stage, their first Glasto, and I might as well see them. I wasn’t alone in this. I kept overhearing people with the same plan, so all four of us got there early. Not that early, but the previous band were still playing – technical problems. It was scorching – so hot, I’d finished my drink before Yes finally came on, forty minutes late. So hot, I shoved a handkerchief in the back of my baseball cap in a crude imitation of a desert rat, to protect my burning neck. So hot and crowded that, by the time the set was properly underway, I was watching it on my own. But that’s another story.

Jon Anderson is a small, irritating bloke from Accrington with a deeply unconvincing transatlantic accent and no dress sense. The band looked really old (except for Rick Wakeman, who, from a distance, looked like he’d had a facelift). Steve Howe and Chris Squire could convincingly join the pension queue in my local post office. But they sounded fantastic. I soon forgave Jon A’s cosy, cloying, sub-Paul McCartney peace and love introductions. For the band played most of my favourite old songs (plus a couple of new ones and ‘Don’t Kill The Whale’ – well, you can’t have everything) climaxing with Heart Of The Sunrise and an encore of I’ve Seen All Good People and Roundabout. I think it was during the transcendent And You And I (written about Anderson’s wife, whom he proudly announced he was still married to) that I spotted the lead singer off stage, back left behind a speaker stack during one of the instrumental sections, waltzing with his wife. Any remaining animosity for him faded away. The huge crowd (of which I was one of the younger members) went mental. Folks, forgive me for the temporary lapse in hipness, but it was a real Glastonbury moment. Theirs was also the longest set by any band that weekend. A triumph.

After that, I tried to get a pint of real ale but the Mojo tent had sold out and was selling the same crap as everywhere else – if you could get served, which I couldn’t. I went to catch some of Beth Gibbons, who was forty minutes late herself, giving me time to get a decent spot. The acoustic tent, despite having doubled in size since 2000, was crowded as hell. Beth was OK, but her folky guise doesn’t set me alight, so I left early to grab a pint and a pasty before loading the car.

I was pretty replete with music by now and would have happily gone home, but one of our number is a mate of the Manics (his contacts got us the Hospitality tickets) so we had to stay for the beginning of their set. I’ve seen the Manics three times, so decided to check out one of my favourite new bands, Sigur Ros from Iceland, on the Other Stage, and was glad I did. They got a huge crowd and played an absolutely gorgeous set (the twenty-five minutes I saw, anyhow) of ethereal, haunting music, that left me on a Glastonbury glow, despite the encroaching rain.

We hurried back to the car, got out of the site in next to no time (a stark contrast to my four hour wait to leave the first field in 2000) and sped back to Nottingham. A big up to Rob for doing all the driving. I was in bed just after two. The large bath I had on Monday morning was one of the best of my life.

A good Glasto? A classic, most people seem to reckon. Musically, it was as good or better than 2000. The weekend was certainly shorter, making it less exhausting. I’m spoilt now. If I go again, it’ll have to be with one of the Hospitality tickets, if I’m lucky enough to be offered them. Less walking, much less distance to drag your camping gear. But I guess the main point this year was that the security fence made the whole event safer: comfortably crowded rather than dangerously so, contributing to a particularly friendly atmosphere. It keeps out many of the more anarchic festival regulars as well as hardened crims, though. The fence, combined with the instant sell out meant that those who got in were, inevitably, amongst the better organised, middle class types, with more oldsters. I suspect that’s unhealthy in the long term. I believe Michael Eavis is looking for ways around it. Finally, it was good to go without a book to write. Since Festival is something of a documentary novel, it covers the negative aspects of my 2000 experience as well as the positive ones, so I’m glad to offer this new diary as a corrective and update to the previous ones. Regular readers of this new web-site (please do come back) shouldn’t expect such detailed entries in future though – when do you think I’d have time to write my fiction?

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