Friday 28 June 2013, 12:26
As Scotland’s favourite banana-booted Glasgow comedian once sang, “If it wasnae for your wellies, where would you be?” Well, if you happen to enjoy festival season, which starts in earnest this weekend at Worthy Farm in Pilton, Somerset, then you would be in trouble. Because as all denizens of these musical celebrations can attest, no matter how encouraging the weather forecast may be you would be well advised to leave blind optimism at home in favour of a steely eyed pragmatism that should be part of your very DNA if you happen to live north of the British map.
Yes, after a fallow year, Glastonbury is upon us once again. And besides the obvious, that means another few days of concentrated merry-making, singing and lighter waving, drink, love in confined spaces and arrests (a very microcosm of life itself!). And if the sun doesn’t shine then of course it means mud, too. In my days as a student, I spent a summer touring festivals to work behind the bars as a volunteer for a charity organisation dedicated to donating their takings to various social causes. It was certainly charitable of them to allow six University mates though the gates at Glasto, free to roam where we pleased after finishing our obligatory six-hour shifts each day. That year, 2000, I recall seeing Coldplay perform on the Other Stage (wide-eyed and about to release their first album, seemingly unaware of how huge they were about to become), Travis headlined, as did David Bowie (before his self-imposed exile), and The Chemical Brothers had me dancing to a type of music I haven’t moved to since.
I also remember being struck by the sheer enormity of the land; a city of revellers united in a sense of community no matter their background or musical persuasion, required to travel great lengths to move from stage to stage, field to field. Glastonbury has a certain magic to it that just cannot be denied, and one that makes any trudging through mud or braving of the elements worth the effort. I returned to the festival in 2003 almost by accident, gatecrashing on a friend’s guest pass whilst we were on a record store tour at the very infancy of my own musical career, and managed to catch only one day of the weekend on my way to London. But what a day it was, culminating in an incendiary performance from Radiohead that left me wondering if it could ever be bettered. To this day I haven’t been able to answer that, preferring to watch the festival from the comfort of my own armchair (the toilets are less terrifying and the beer much cheaper at my place), but I do hope to return one of these days.