Ok, so we’ve reached the end of another Glastonbury festival, and it’s now mandatory to say that it was a ‘classic’, and ‘the best Glastonbury ever’. But the think is, I really don’t think it was.
For a start, it bothers me that, even at my advanced age, all of the acts headlining the pyramid stage – Neil Old (did you see what I did there…?), Bruce Springsteen, Blur – were older than I am. It also bothers me that, after the borderline-racist reaction to Jay Z headlining last year, the headliners on all three of the main stages (Pyramid, Other Stage, John Peel Stage) were predominantly white. The TV presenters were banging on, as they always do, about how ‘diverse’ the festival was, and taken as a whole I’m sure it was, but there doesn’t seem that much diversity involved in having Friday and Saturday night both culminate in a performance by an aging rock dinosaur. (To be fair, Springsteen is more of an aging pop-rock dinosaur…)
The more I think about it, the more age seems to be an issue. It’s been traditional for a few years that there should be a kind of ‘heritage’ act on the pyramid stage on the Sunday, but this year pretty much the whole Sunday line-up on that stage were ‘heritage’ acts – Status Quo, Tony Christie, Tom Jones (that’s two cabaret singers on the same bill), Madness, Nick Cave, Blur. It’s pretty hard, with a bill like that, to claim diversity, I think. Especially when the headliners on the Other Stage (The Prodigy) and the John Peel Stage (Echo & The Bunnymen) were bands who have also left their major successes behind them.
The other thing that makes me think it wasn’t very diverse is that, with the exception of Nick Cave, there was no must-see act on the pyramid stage for me, across the whole weekend. Status Quo are always entertaining, if I’d had the chance I probably would have wanted to see Spinal Tap, and Blur would have been worth a look, but none of them are bands that I would have particularly gone out of my way to see. In fact, that wasn’t just a problem with the pyramid stage. Looking across all 24 stages, there were very few acts I would have wanted to see (though, of course, once you start getting down to the smaller stages I haven’t heard of most of the acts, and I might have thought loads of them were brilliant).
On Friday, there were only three I would have been interested in – Bloc Party (headliners on the Other Stage), The Streets (2nd on the bill on the Jazz/ World stage – why? The Streets don’t play either jazz or world music), and British Sea Power (2nd on the bill on the Avalon stage, and hence clashing with The Streets). On Saturday I’d have found slightly more to occupy my time: Franz Ferdinand (headliners on the Other Stage), Jarvis Cocker (headlining the John Peel stage, hence clashing with Franz Ferdinand), The Wonder Stuff (headlining the Avalon stage – make that a 3-way clash), and Stereo MCs (headlining the Glade, so that’s now a 4-way clash – it would have been rather irritating to realise that all 4 were on at the same time). Sunday would have been pretty thin: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (2nd on the bill on the pyramid stage), Glasvegas (2nd on the bill on the Other Stage – ooh, good, another clash), and Robyn Hitchcock (2nd on the bill on the Queen’s Head stage – so that’s another 3-way clash).
10 bands over 3 days isn’t really that great, especially when you consider that it would have been reduced to 4 that I could actually see because of clashes. Given a total ticket price of £184.50 (including booking fee, and post and packing), that would work out at a fairly hefty £46 per gig, which really wouldn’t seem like good value. And I’d’ve been doing an awful lot of hanging around, too.
The thing is, I’m sure other years wouldn’t have been as bad. Certainly my memory of watching it on TV in previous years is that I haven’t been able to watch everything I wanted to because of clashes. This year it’s been a question of trying to find something I could bear to listen to (this included Neil Young’s one good song, Rockin’ in the Free World), and actually looking forward to the inane chatter between the presenters instead of screaming at the TV ‘It’s a sodding music festival! Stop chatting and show the bloody music!’
No, I really don’t think this year was a classic Glastonbury. Still, it’s pretty much academic anyway, since I’m unlikely ever to be one of nature’s festival-goers, especially to one like Glastonbury that would involve sleeping under canvas. To steal a line of Rufus Wainwright’s when he was asked the same question – I go in for a different kind of camping…