Glastonbury 2009 - The Worlds Craziest Musical Milkshake

Published: 08 July, 2010 - Featured in Skin Deep 181, January, 2010

We made it, finally, albeit a bit drunker and resultantly even more jubilant than expected. And the festival site spread out before us for ages. So now what? Find the gate. Check. Show the ticket. Check. Receive wristband. Check. Rain. Indeed. Prepared? Only time will tell if that 86p shower curtain I bought at ASDA to protect my crappy tent from the rain may or may not be worth every pence! 

It’s true, what they say, about the mud. Which of course indicates a presence of rain.  Now add tents. And hippies. And rockers. Tattoos, and music - endless tidal waves of music. Now multiply the presence of your single body by 190,000. Stir gently, and bake for five days in occasional beloved sunshine. This, my friend, is Glastonbury, an annual music event of epic proportions, with a history that bears witness to its much deserved title of the granddaddy of them all. And this granddaddy doesn’t fuck around.


Born to Michael Eavis in 1970 at Worthy Farm in South West England, and originally named the Pilton Festival, this rebel child grew quickly into its teenage years in the 1980s when it started to become an annual fixture centered around good music and global awareness. Since its inception, The Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts has made generous contributions to various charitable organizations, and now primarily to Oxfam, Greenpeace, and Water Aid. These three charities are now the major directive of the Glastonbury festival - an organization that donates all of its profits each year to the global betterment of life on earth. A brilliant reason to party, if you ask me.


Okay, so Friday; mad Friday. How on earth will I cram it all into one day? How will I possibly experience the musical goodness of Fleet Foxes, Skream & Benga in the Dance Village, Animal Collective, Fucked Up, Lilly Allen, White Lies, Lady Gaga, The Ting Tings, The Specials, The Streets, and freaking Neil Young - all in one day? Is that even physically possible? If it were to be possible anywhere in the whole wide world, THIS would be the place, this Glastonbury. So I tried, and I failed miserably, although I don’t find much misery in great sets, some immediately back-to-back or gently overlapping, from Fleet Foxes, Lady Gaga, The Streets, and Neil Young, and a feisty dessert in the Circus Big Top from the Fire Tusk Pain Proof Circus. There’s nothing like a little fire breathing and playful mutilation to top off your delicious milkshake of a day at Glasto.


By Saturday morning, there was just about 140,000 of us on site, like ants in an ant farm, shifting through the veins of this massive dairy-cow-farm turned musical-wonderland. One can wander from the Pyramid Stage to the Queen’s Head, past the thumping heartbeat of the Other Stage and out southward to stroll through the playful fields of the Park. Then there’s the Glade, the Jazz World Stage, the Circus Big Top, Cabaret, Fields of Avalon, the Dance Village, and John Peel Stage; and then the otherworlds, known fondly to the crazies (with whom I’d like to associate myself) as Trash City, Arcadia, and Shangri-La.


And there is laughter everywhere; the humans are happy. Playful interaction in all directions. And every person I stop and talk to is lovely - really lovely - and tattoos are about - not as many as I had expected (or secretly hoped for) - but the ones that were out were beautiful indeed.  Most of the work was on men, and sleeves, and most were more than happy to partially disrobe to share. Just the way we like ‘em. There was a beautiful traditional piece by Sam Boyce from Timeless Ink in Salisbury, a psychedelic dragonfly from Rob Sutherland at Tattoo Living Image in London, an impressive peacock sleeve by Charissa at Jolie Rouge in London, and a brilliant chance encounter with Rob Holliday, guitarist of The Prodigy, donning tattoos from all over the world, but primarily done by Paul French at John Armstrong Tattoos in Redditch, England. And Adee, who’s almost completely covered in work from Alex Reinke and Boog, both freelance artists in London and Los Angeles, respectively.


All of this - a whirlwind - for five straight days - all is happening simultaneously. It’s only Saturday morning, and the wish list today includes the likes of: Spinal Tap, Kasabian, The Script, Tinariwen, Dizzee Rascal, The Gaslight Anthem, Maximo Park, Crosby Stills & Nash, Baaba Maal, Franz Ferdinand, Bon Iver, Pendulum, and The Boss himself: Mr. Bruce Springsteen in the house, ya’ll. The scope of the set list for Glastonbury is enough to drop a field of jaws, but to be in the midst of it all is another experience altogether. So I take a shot of Spinal Tap, then Dizzee, catch a Somerset sunset from the hill, sip down a cold pint of Crosby Stills & Nash, a nibble of Bruce, a shot of Franz Ferdinand, and I finish it all off with a beautiful chill from Bon Iver. Music overload. Mind orgasm. Sunburn.


But then somehow Saturday doesn’t end - it gently morphs into Sunday through a foggy haze of perpetual campfire and drumbeats. No Glastonbury experience is complete without a sunrise spent at the stone circle, in the company of good friends. The stone circle was built on the site in 1990, not as ancient as most would think based on its looks, and it unites the site with the history of the surrounding land. You can gaze at the Tor, worship it if you like - it sits up top a nearby hill, with St. Michael’s Tower atop of it - the legendary home of the Holy Grail. What is really going on here? Ah. The sunrise. Yes, the hazy sunrise was beautiful indeed; pastels washing over the site, drums and whispers in the air. Laughter. Kisses. Fire. A sense of communion and connection with each other and the earth, and the life in this event.


If it’s all sounding a bit hippy dippy - not to fear – there’s a bit of everything at this place. And for one who’s into the tribal vibe of Tattoo Festivals – there’s plenty of that lovin’ to go around as well, and plenty of artwork and installations to effectively blow your mind. The real freaks were to be found in the beating heart of the festival - the bizarre world of Shangri-La. And the Mad Max types were swarming in Trash City amongst mutant cars, blazing pyrotechnics, and a music venue that turns your existence into that of a pinball - bouncing furiously through a life-sized pinball machine complete with drumming robots.


And this crazy, blurry marathon continued. Because now it was Sunday. Sleep called. And I answered, if only briefly, and then proceeded to sipping coffee and gawking at the final day’s line-up. Bat for Lashes, The Prodigy, The Black Eyed Peas, Glasvegas, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Tom Jones, Madness, and a recently re-united Blur. And that, of course, is only a small piece of a very big, and scrumptious, pie. Holy shit.


I switched things up a bit on Sunday, and headed up to the park to catch a bizarre and prog-a-licious set from Perhaps Contraption at a quirky little venue called the Rabbit Hole. And then made my way back down to the big stages to catch Nick Cave, Blur, and The Prodigy - all of whom rocked the house like it was nobody’s business.


So the festival began, and continued, as a blur of music, smiles, beautiful people, rain, sun, mud, wellies, circus freaks, and did I mention music? Yes. Louder music, food, fun, costumes, charities, volunteers, villages…there’s really no other festival on earth that this one compares to. Maybe if you take bits and pieces from all the great ones, and throw them together - maybe then.


And the presence of the charities adds a special glow here indeed. Blue smiling Oxfam faces, weaving through the crowds at timely intervals, visually promoting awareness with every grin - a statement urging world leaders to sign up to a fair and safe deal in the lead up to Copenhagen in December, a UN Climate Conference of great importance. And Greenpeace is there too, talking it up with the festivalgoers, probably over a pint or two, about the cessation of the building of coal-fired power stations, halting airport expansions, and other climate change tasks you can tackle. And a petition was available for you to sign, if you like, headed in the direction of Gordon Brown, demanding that he take action on a huge global issue. Did you know that 40 percent of our global population is without access to a toilet, of any kind? Yeah. They are. And Water Aid thinks that’s shitty. Action is needed, indeed, and Water Aid is here, raising awareness with the festival’s cutest toilets.


Sunday wrapped itself up with a massive downpour from the skies, and some late night soggy wandering through Trash City and Arcadia - observing all the fellow holders-on - none of us yet ready to admit defeat and let it all go. But Glastonbury 2009 was quickly approaching its expiration date, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Soon the exodus traffic would begin, the tents would come down, the stages would be dismantled, and the farm returned to its natural state, until next year.


So another year of mud and mayhem is in the books - only this time we’ve added it to our books - and we think you should as well. Clear your ears, and bare your skin, the granddaddy is calling!


More information on Glastonbury can be found on the official festival website at 



Text and photography: Brittany App


Skin Deep 181 1 January 2010 181