No sympathy for the devil: Glastonbury 2014

Last week I was lucky enough to return to Glastonbury festival for the fourth time. Every year, when those of us lucky enough to be able to attend are preparing ourselves, the internet is awash with all manner of articles discussing the pros and cons of the festival. While many of these are well researched articles, many are, unfortunately, written by people who have either never attended, or have attended but had their memories tainted by a bad experience.

Now I’m no expert on Glastonbury, not by a long shot, but I thought I would write a post talking about my experiences there – partly to give you an idea of why I truly believe Glastonbury is the greatest festival around, but also because maybe if I keep thinking, talking, and writing about it, the cruel reality that there is a year to wait before the next one won’t properly sink in.

That makes sense, right?!


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So first things first, the rain.

Yes, sometimes it rains at Glastonbury, it’s a festival based in the UK after all. The first Glastonbury I attended, back in 2010, was unseasonably hot and dry, but each year since then has seen at least a little bit of rain. I get the impression however that this year; the extent of the bad weather has been massively overhyped by the media.

Out of the 5 full days we spent in Glastonbury, only once did we get caught out in the rain, on the West Holts Stage during the Daptone Super Soul Revue. We got a bit damp but did we whinge and moan about it? No, we put our hoods up, got a bit wet and enjoyed ourselves anyway.

The other times it rained we either went into a tent to see one of the acts on under shelter, or we got under our gazebo. Some of my fondest memories of this year’s festival took place under that simple gazebo – we would lower the roof, huddle together and let the fun times roll.

When it wasn’t raining, it was hot and sunny, so the sporadic rain didn’t dampen our spirits at all.

As for music, you truly are spoilt for choice at Glastonbury – there really is something for everyone. My personal approach is not to try and structure my time there by telling myself I have to see certain bands. Instead, I just tend to wander around between main acts, watching whoever it is that I happen to stumble across.

My only musical disappointment from the festival was the fact that Chromeo had to cancel due to illness, and were replaced by Twin Atlantic, who I have zero time for.

My list of musical highlights, on the other hand, is so long I could be here all day: De La Soul, Arcade Fire, Disclosure, Black Keys, Charles Bradley, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Paolo Nutini, Little Dragon – the list goes on and on.

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Glastonbury goes so much further than just music though, and for me, that’s the main appeal. From the moment you arrive until the moment you leave, you are subject to a full frontal assault on each of your senses.

To truly enjoy the festival for what it is and have the best possible time, you need to completely immerse yourself in the entire experience, soaking up everything it has to offer. Go and watch an unknown band or DJ in a random tent, wander around the Healing Fields and chat to some friendly hippies, watch the sun rise from the Stone Circle, buy something unusual and delicious from one of the endless food stalls, dance till you can’t stand – do whatever you want, just do it with positive vibes and you’re guaranteed to have a great time!

Leave your inhibitions at home, they have no place here.

I wish I could write a play by play account of my time in Glastonbury, but my memories are understandably hazy. So I’ll just list a few that stand out in my mind instead:

  • Taking a moment to remember the poor, unfortunate chairs that failed the Captain’s test, you will be missed
  • Getting up to all sorts of shenanigans underneath the gazebo
  • Wandering around in “the hate suit”, and chatting to complete strangers
  • Dancing the night away in The Lounge
  • Sunday night’s “Liquidation Sale” – EVERYTHING MUST GO!
  • Crowning the 2014 “King of the Hill”, after an impressive 2pm return from the Stone Circle
  • Witnessing Cooper’s personal hell in Shangri-La

After 5 solid days and nights off the grid, I made my solemn return to reality, a broken, empty shell of a man. I was tired, unwashed, my blisters had blisters, and I’m still pretty sure I caught trench foot. But you know what; I wouldn’t change a single thing.

There is honestly something magical about Glastonbury, and I couldn’t have picked a better bunch of people to enjoy it with! (You all know who you are, you bunch of reprobates)

I think the best way to sum up Glastonbury is to pinch a quote from the late, great Hunter S Thompson…

“No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride…and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well…maybe chalk it off to forced conscious expansion: Tune in, freak out, get beaten.”

Roll on Glastonbury 2015!