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Monday, 18 April 2011

Glastonbury 2011

I can't remember what year it was, but I can clearly remember the closing day of my first trip to Glastonbury.
I woke up in my tent and the sun was shining through and filling it with light.
I stumbled bleary eyed into the day ahead and from where my compadres and myself were camped looked down a hill to the actual festival site itself.
There was pockets of mist lying in the hollows and it looked like a shanty town brought into a more modern existence.
A rural bladerunner community. All canvas, corrugated iron and sleeping neon signs rising from the befogged walkways.
Spreading out from it there were the army of tents haphazardly pitched anywhere and everywhere.
It was as silent as the festival gets and I had a contemplative moment when it dawned on me that I didn't want to leave. I really didn't want to leave. This wasn't a nagging thought, but a firm mental nudge telling me not to leave this place.
I searched my mind as to why and came to the conclusion that maybe for the first time ever I had felt comfortable in my own skin.
The festival had provided me with a place were I could be the 100% unadulterated me.
My life of being boredom, pushing at the boundaries of living a village life, being confused and out of step with my so called peers and feeling like a cuckoo in the nest of my own family had been left behind.
For just under a week I had existed in a state of constant freedom with what appeared to be a majority of like minded people.
I'd gotten high, drank too much, danced till my legs gave way, lay in the sun and yes these are all things that virtually everyone was doing, but I also wandered around on my own, spoke to strangers, hung out with hippies, rastas and punks for short bursts of time and just drifted from one happy encounter to the next.
Everywhere I went was a phantasmagorical journey to new delights.
Glastonbury at that time had a magical quality to it. It was a place where anything could happen, and did.
People talk about the rise of the internet and how no matter how random a thought is that you can type it in and find a reference to it somewhere, and pre internet that's what I felt about Glastonbury.
Whatever you wanted it was there. You just had to look.
In this canvas city the world had been condensed and stored and I was allowed entry to it and I ate it all up.
I did go home though.
Then I returned the next year, and the year after that, and after a few more years it lost its appeal for me.
I had changed. We all do, but Glastonbury had changed quicker than me.
We had grown apart.
The bands and artists booked to appear had become increasingly mass friendly and the little curiosities that you would find in the little glades, the corners and the tents within the site seemed to become less and less anarchic and more structured.
Then there was what felt like a tipping point and for me the consumerist aspect outweighed the bohemian vibe that the festival had always prided itself on.
It no longer felt like home.
I'm sure people still derive a great deal of fun from attending it, of course they do, but it's a music festival now.
One that it is hard to differentiate from all the other music festivals. When at one time it was my annual pilgrimage to counter culture nirvana.
So today I looked at a little update about the line up and I see U2, Beyonce and Coldplay are headlining this year.
Nothing wrong with any of them if that's your thing, but for me they are bands that people with no real musical appreciation like.
The big hitters that peer at you from the shelves of the supermarket and get snapped up to be played in the car by people of a certain age who became dislocated from the excitement that music can provide.
They're safe options, popular options for a certain demographic and they are also the antithesis of what Glastonbury was and a shining example of what it has now become.
Once we flocked to it to sip at the fountain of a classless alternative culture.
Now it's the one stop event of the year for dad rock fans and the twenty somethings who live in the city, and whose stamping ground is the exclusive wine bars and nightclubs where the hoi poloi are excluded from
I mourn the passing of what once was. I sincerely do.
Top Left - Then. Bottom right - Now.

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