Escaping The Mud Bath - Glastonbury 2007

Trip Start Sep 05, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Before leaving to go travelling, festivals had become a major fixture of my summers. I had been to Glastonbury in 2004 and 05 and when they took a year off in 06 I was happy as I wouldn't miss it while I was away. So naturally I was keen to attend the festival again when it returned in 2007.
So by December I was already looking forward to it. I started checking the eFestivals website every few days for news and rumours.

In the last few years the organisers have tried to stamp out touting by introducing new security measures. This year they took it a step further by requiring everyone to pre register with a passport photo which would be printed on the ticket. I was sceptical but it did seem to work in deterring the touts, at least until the tickets arrived anyway. Pre registration was only available in February and around 400,000 people applied for a chance to buy one of the 135,000 tickets!
By the time the tickets went on sale I really wasn't that interested anymore and was thinking about missing it and going to Roskilde Festival in Denmark instead. The Glasto lineup really wasn't very good (from my point of view anyway) and had too many identikit Indie bands that all sound the same.
The tickets went on sale at 9am on Sunday 1st April and I had decided that if I was up by then I'd try to get a ticket. My Dad woke me up at 10:30 saying, "So you're not getting a ticket then?" I decided that since I was now awake I may as well give it a go and found my mates online frantically attempting to get tickets. By the time I finally got to the purchase page all the normal tickets had sold out and I had to get a coach package. An extra hassle but at least I still got to go.
Gradually as the festival drew closer I became more excited. A few bands I liked appeared on the on the lineup and it started to look better. Train tickets to Bristol were purchased a month before the festival (to save a lot of money, UK public transport is ridiculously expensive) and then the only thing I needed to worry about was the weather. The forecast got progressively worse until it was time for me to leave and face the music.

First Days At The Festival
I arrived in Bristol in the afternoon after a thoroughly uneventful 2 hour train trip from Guildford and went off to ASDA to purchase a few essentials. We had decided to cut back on what we took this year as we always take too much and the food is really good at the festival anyway. Just a few snacks and a crate of beer this time.
Come 8pm we ordered a pizza from the restaurant down the road and wandered down to collect it. Just as we were about to leave it started to rain, and I mean RAIN! I haven't seen a storm that powerful in the UK for years! Full on monsoon downpour with lightning galore. The road was flooded and we were soaked by the time we got back to the flat. The rain subsided after about 10 minutes but the damage was done. I was now fully resigned to the fact it'd be another mud bath!
The next morning we were all up reasonably early and ready to set off for the festival. After a quick blitz around ASDA again and a Mc D's for breakfast the guys dropped me off at @Bristol to wait for my bus while they sped off to Pilton to setup the tents.
When I arrived at 11am there were a handful of people waiting to get their bus. Come 1pm it looked like a refuge camp with hundreds of people (at least 500) littering the street. Spirits were high at this stage and you could tell everyone was eager to get to the festival.
1pm came and went and my bus still hadn't arrived. Slowly buses started arriving and the crowds of people thinned. Come 2:20 my bus finally turned up and I was on my way. The journey from Bristol only takes about an hour but I didn't get on site until after 4pm. Glasto is in a very rural area and the roads just can't handle the sheer amount of traffic that fills the roads on the Wednesday/Thursday.
I didn't receive my ticket until I exited the bus and I could see why some people were selling them on eBay. The photo quality was terrible! Too small to make out an distinguishing features and covered in white splodges. It could have been anyone on the ticket. The stewards letting people on site didn't really care either and needs a serious re-think before next year. I think the best idea is to add a computer terminal at the gates. They already have to scan the ticket under a UV light to check for watermarks. Add a barcode that can be scanned at the entrance and display your photo on screen. Far easier and cheaper than photos on tickets.
Anyway, one plus point of getting the bus was I arrived next to the field we camped in so no 4 mile treks across the site weighed down with luggage! For people who don't know much about the festival the site is massive. It's the biggest festival in Europe, if not the world. This year the site was increased to a whopping 1000 acres! It takes over an hour to walk from one side to the other and that's without the hassle of people and tents in the way! The capacity was also increased by 43,000 this year and was at maximum capacity as far as I am concerned.
On arriving I met up with my mates and found where we were camped. They had already erected my tent so I dumped my stuff and cracked open a beer. Time to start the festival! We were camped miles from nowhere in the top corner of the site as our normal field had turned into a family compound with 10ft wire fences and guards! Not happy.
After an hour or so we set off to wander around the enormous site. The first thing that struck me as different this year was the police presence. There were mounted police for the first time and covert camera tents to catch thieves in the act. For the rest of the afternoon we sat around the Jazz World Stage drinking Brothers Bar cider from 2 litre bottles. It was a great afternoon especially as the sun was shinning. I was so knackered though that I was back at the tent just after midnight. Chris F who had left shortly after me was feeling the effects of the cider and took 4 hours to find our tents! He had wandered round most of the site completely lost tripping over guy ropes before finally finding his tent. At the end of the first day I was still in good spirits and looking forward to the next day.
Thursday is always a nothing day at Glasto and this year was no different. At about 5am I heard it start raining and it was still going when I woke up at about 9. We were all a bit annoyed and didn't really want to do anything.
At about 11 there was a break in the clouds and we decided it was time to get up and get something to eat. One of the best places we found in '05 was a café called Common Ground next to the Acoustic Stage. We called it Jesus Ranch because it was full of Christian propaganda. The only problem is the acoustic field is miles from all the other stages.
We had nothing better to do so headed there for a fajita before it started pouring again. Once the rain had subsided we went for a bit of a wander to get reacquainted with the site, mainly to check out what food was available this year. Contrary to what you may believe the food at Glasto is generally of a good standard. We had a rule that if you avoided any stall with a beige sign then you'd be fine. There was food from all around the world as usual. Thai, French, Italian, Jamaican, Welsh.....bit of everything really.
By now the rain was starting to churn up the mud and we decided to head back to the tents for a fire over more cider. The fire wood wasn't very good quality this year and we had a massive log that would never light. We also take a separate cheap tent every year to hold the fire wood and booze, we call it the "tent of woe". At the end of Thursday I was still reasonably happy and looking forward to the start of the festival proper.

The Music
I won't bore you with all the details about the bands as it's not really very interesting. All that happens is you stand around watching from afar, vaguely interested in what they are playing, so I'll only mention the bands that were really good.
As I mentioned before there weren't many bands that I was really interested in seeing but the 2 I most wanted to watch clashed! Arcade Fire vs Cat Empire, big stage vs tiny tent. I chose to watch The Cat Empire and I'm so glad I did! The Avalon tent was tiny and completely packed to the rafters. It's probably got a capacity of around 2-3000 and there were at least that many outside the tent trying to get in!
Cat Empire were without doubt the best band I have ever seen at a festival. The tent was rocking and I danced my socks off to great ska music. The largely Aussie crowd were fantastic and everyone knew the words to all the songs which made it more like a club gig than a festival tent. It was so hot that by the time the band finished there was sweat dripping off the roof and I had to pour a bottle of water over my head to cool down when I got outside! This was followed by Bjork to make a good night even better.
Other than the Cat Empire the only other band I wanted to see was Fat Freddy's Drop and I saw a bit of their set in the Roots tent. It was ok but there were so many people I couldn't get inside and the sound quality was so bad I couldn't hear the singing.
Other bands worthy of a mention are: Manic Street Preachers, John Fogerty, Rodrigo Y Gabriela and Hiromi's Sonicbloom.

Festival Mentality
When I woke up on Friday and it was raining I wasn't in the best mood. This mood got progressively worse over the next 2 days and by the time Sunday arrived I was ready to leave.
Whatever the organisers say about the drainage working and it not being as bad as '05 they are lying or deluding themselves. There was the same amount of rain as last time but it was far worse this time.
What made this years festival worse was the near constant rain. A lot of incorrect information is around regarding how bad the flooding in '05 really was. Yes it rained for 12 hours on the Thursday night and caused flooding 3ft deep in certain areas of the site but most of the site held up ok. However that was the only time it rained and the remaining 3 days were scorching.

This year it rained on-and-off for 5 straight days. The ground didn't get any respite and as a result it was an absolute quagmire! Over the 5 days we figured out there were 4 different types of mud:
Hard Mud - Mud that has been compressed by thousands of people walking over it and hardened to form a slippery slope.
Thick Mud - Really sticky mud that went up to your ankles and tried to rip your boots off. Probably the easiest to walk on but time consuming.

Rock Mud - The main thoroughfares around site were of this type. A thin layer of mud on top of rocks. Painful to walk on.
Wet Mud - The absolutely disgraceful 1ft deep water around the John Peel Stage that we called the field of Aids. God knows what was in that water and what diseases you could catch from touching it!

Even though I had a horrible time I did laugh more in the 5 days at the festival than I had in the last year. It was so terrible that bitching about it with my mates was brilliant. We had all been before, the vibe was completely different this year and I really felt like I had outgrown the festival life. It was my 4th festival, 3rd Glasto in a row and it was time for me to hang up the tent (left in the field) and hand over the baton to someone else next year.

So thats it. I'm officially retired from festivals!


So I've been back a week now and had time to reflect. As usually happens the memories fade and you start to remember the good times and forget the bad. I was chatting to someone in the pub the other day who went to her 10th Glasto and will still be going next year! She was even working on site for free as she couldn't get a normal ticket!

It started to sound appealing again but now I've thought about it again I am determined not to go next year as I'd be depriving a ticket from someone who really wants to go. It'd have to be a seriously good lineup to lure me back again next year.

The main thought I had when I was there was the amount of money I had spent on the festival and where else I could have gone. In total (inc tickets, bus, train, food, booze) I spent over £300! For this much I could have bought a flight to Hong Kong or had a crazy week in Europe. Instead I was in a field in Somerset in the rain watching bands I didn't care about. Oh well at least I've learnt now!
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